I finished reading chapter four of Bart Ehrman’s, Jesus, Interrupted, late last evening. The chapter is entitled, Who wrote the Bible?
I have to be honest, I went to bed last night angry at every Christian pastor I have ever had in my life. I was angry at the Baptists, the Evangelicals, the Episcopalians, and the Lutherans, both the liberal ones and the orthodox ones. I was ready to throw out my Bible! Why? Listen to Bart Ehrman tell why in the following excerpt from his book:
Bart Ehrman: Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only eight almost certainly were written by the authors to whom they are traditionally ascribed: the seven undisputed letters of Paul and the Revelation of John, which could be labeled homonymous, since it does not claim to be written by any particular John; this was recognized even by some writers of the early church.
My views about the authors of the New Testament are not radical within scholarship. To be sure, there are debates among scholars about this book or that. Some very fine scholars think that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, or that Jesus’ brother James wrote James, or that Peter wrote I Peter. But the majority of critical scholars has long doubted these ascriptions, and there is scarcely any debate about some of the books of the New Testament, such as I Timothy and 2 Peter. These books were not written by their putative authors.
Doubts about the authorship of writings that became the canon were raised in the early church, but in the modern period, starting in the nineteenth century, scholars have pressed the arguments home with compelling reasoning. Even now many scholars are loath to call the forged documents of the New Testament forgeries—this is, after all, the Bible we’re talking about. But the reality is that by any definition of the term, that’s what they are. A large number of books in the early church were written by authors who falsely claimed to be apostles in order to deceive their readers into accepting their books and the views they represented.
This view that the New Testament contains books written under false names is taught at virtually all the major institutions of higher learning except strongly evangelical schools throughout the Western world. It is the view taught in all the major textbooks on the New Testament used in these institutions. It is the view taught in seminaries and divinity schools. It is what pastors learn when they are preparing for ministry.
And why isn’t this more widely known? Why is it that the person in the pew—not to mention the person in the street—know nothing about this? Your guess is as good as mine.
Gary: What?? Most of the books in the New Testament were not written by the apostles or disciples of the apostles, as we have all been taught since Sunday School?? There are blatant forgeries in the New Testament??
What haven’t any of my pastors or churches told me this??
When I woke up this morning, I remembered that I had had the same gut-wrenching reaction while reading Bart Ehrman’s, Misquoting Jesus. And what lesson did I learn from that experience: Always listen to both sides of an argument!
So here is the “other side of this argument”:
Tuesday, April 14, 2009