Some Thoughts on “Forged”

Is Ehrman’s case against biblical authorship sound? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Upon moving here, I went to the library and wanting to invest a good deal in NT studies as well, started ordering several books. Some of which were by Bart Ehrman, and the one I will be starting to deal with today is “Forged.”

Ehrman’s subtitle of the book is about why the biblical authors are not who we think they are. There are some ways this is misleading. To begin with, very little of the book is actually dealing with the Bible. You can read about the Acts of Paul or the Gospel of Peter, but these are not biblical authors.

On the other hand, the majority of it is about the New Testament. Ehrman does speak about forgery in the OT, such as in the case of chapters 40-55 of Isaiah, the book of Daniel, and Ecclesiastes. These are not really argued for, as much as they are footnoted. So far, I have not seen any arguments either against the authorship of the gospels themselves. It has mainly focused on Peter and Paul.

Not that this would damage the case for the resurrection in any way. The books that we need, namely 1 Corinthians and Galatians, to make the case for the resurrection are entirely safe and Ehrman himself would argue that this is Pauline. At this point the question is raised, how does he know?

Ehrman will regularly write about how non-authentic Pauline material is recognized supposedly, but he has not said how the real deal is spotted. Now I do not doubt, for instance, that Paul wrote Galatians, and Ehrman himself says he knows of no one who questions that. What the average layman however, who Ehrman says he wrote this book for (Page 10), wants to know is how we can know that.

When he comes with this question, so far I have found nothing that will give him a good answer. Many of us in apologetics know that when dealing with cults, one technique we teach is to let people know the real so well that they can recognize a fake right away. Ehrman needs some steps to show that we know that we have the real.

Ehrman also writes about verisimilitudes that take place in the NT. These are little messages thrown in that can make the letter look authentic. For instance, in 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to get his books that he left behind and have them brought to him. These can also include personal greetings. These are done to make a letter look authentic.

The problem with saying this is that there is no doubt that a forgery could have such statements in it, but the reality is also that authentic letters can have those as well. One could point to Romans about Paul’s traveling plans in chapter 15 and one could even argue if they wanted to that perhaps the long list in chapter 16 is to make the whole letter look more authentic.

One main explanation for a lot of differences is the use of secretaries. Ehrman makes the case about 2 Thessalonians, which he thinks is a forgery, and how ironic it is since it warns against a forged letter, and how it has a statement in it about Paul writing with his own hand which does not show up in any other letter.

Well geez. I have a scenario in mind that makes this very plausible. Paul is using a secretary, perhaps writing from prison as he has often been said to do. Paul knows about a forger using his own name to try to impersonate Paul so Paul writes them a message through the secretary and at the end says “Let me sign the end in my own distinct handwriting so they will know it was from me.”

This seems perfectly plausible to me and yet Ehrman seems to say that since the letter ends this way and no other one does, that this would go against its authenticity. In fact, when he gets to secretaries, Ehrman indicates we don’t really have examples of long letters like epistles, which would mean we can’t argue conclusively either way, but surprise surprise, Ehrman chooses to argue as if it’s conclusive that secretaries would not be used this way.

I hope to have this one finished by tomorrow so hopefully I can conclude everything, but for now, color me still unpersuaded.

In Christ,
Nick Peters