It is often said, even by critical scholars who should know better, that "writing in the name of another" was widely accepted in antiquity. But New York Times best-selling author Bart D. Ehrman dares to call it what it was: literary forgery, a practice that was as scandalous then as itis today. In Forged, Ehrman's fresh and original research takes readers back to the ancient world, where forgeries were used as weapons by unknown authors to fend off attacks to their faith and establish their church. So, if many of the books inthe Bible were not in fact written by Jesus's inner circle - but by writers living decades later, with differing agendas in rival communities - what does that do to the authority of Scripture?
Ehrman investigates ancient sources to:
Ehrman's fascinating story of fraud and deceit is essential reading for anyone interested in the truth about the Bible and the dubious origins of Christianity's sacred texts.
©2010 Bart D. Ehrman (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers
Another Bart Ehrman book I've thoroughly enjoyed. I learned plenty along the way and enjoyed the writing and presentation style. I got slightly frustrated with the repetition of certain points and phrases, sometimes word-for-word, particularly in the first half of the book. I also felt that the author slightly over-played some of his arguments and played down (though didn't ignore) one or two more credible counter-arguments, but perhaps that's always going to be the case (and is probably more true for other authors who stick to a far more conservative line!). Nonetheless, I was hooked through to the end. Now it'll no doubt be another all-too-long wait for his next book!
Why should someone write in the name of Peter, or Jesus?
This is a question that matters deeply to the author. This is not a book by one of Christianity's many enemies. Nor is this a lightweight romp to poke fun at people's beliefs.
Bart D Ehrman painstakingly distinguishes between false attribution (which may have been made in good faith) through scribal insertions and plagiarism to "pseudepigraphy" -- which he makes the strongest case for calling by its right name: forgery. As he says: "Whoever added the final twelve verses of Mark did not do so by a mere slip of the pen."
Scholars have defended pseudepigraphy as writing "inspired by" (say) Peter or Paul. But these "inspired" forgers often contrived to make Peter or Paul say things they hadn't -- and wouldn't. Things which conspicuously contradicted the apostles' views expressed elsewhere. Pseudo-Paul's controversial prohibition against women speaking out in church is a case in point, as is the vitriolic anti-semitism of the so-called "Gospel of Barnabas" (Barnabas being Paul's close companion, best-placed to know his real views).
No claim is ever made, or refuted, without several citations from classical authors, as with the often-heard opinion (never supported by evidence) that writing under the name of a famous person was condoned in the ancient world. It wasn't: the author quoting well-known classical authors such as Horace enraged on finding themselves its victims, plus citing instances where people caught at it were censured, dismissed or severely punished.
The book is well summed-up in the author's own words: "It may seem odd to modern readers, or even counter-intuitive, that a religion that built its reputation on possessing the Truth, had members who attempted to disseminate their understanding of the Truth through deceptive means. But it is precisely what happened. The use of deception to promote the Truth may well be considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the early Christian tradition."
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