Books and Authors, New Testament

Christian Forgeries

Christian Forgeries

I’ve been getting a number of hits from people searching for the term in the title.  I would guess that most believers are not aware that the history of Christianity is chock full of forgers and frauds.  (This would also be the case in any popular religion)  After all, who doesn’t want to speak for God, eh?

My first recommendation would be to snatch up a copy of New Testament Scholar, Bart D. Ehrman’s newest book, entitled “Forged: Writing in the Name of God”. This is a hard-hitting book about early (and later) Christian writings that are either known to be forged, thought to be forged or just falsely attributed to someone who did not write them (Like the canonical Gospels which aren’t technically forgeries, since they’re anonymous).  It is written in a language for the mainstream audience.  It is not only about forgeries, but provides various examples of early and later Christian fraud.  He’s goin’ to H-E-double-hockey-sticks for this one, for sure.  Looks like there’s gonna be a GREAT biblical studies department down there.  I can’t wait.  I have tons of questions.

When the book came out, the Christian apologist Ben Witherington stepped all over his own credibility, intentionally misrepresenting information, in an obvious attempt to discredit Dr. Ehrman, (Standard Christian apologist tactic) which I discussed briefly in a previous post.  What I found ironic about that particular debacle is that the use of this type of tactic is the very theme of the book that Witherington hisself was reviewing; intentional deception.  Can I get an Amen?

The thorn in Witherington’s side, to borrow a Pauline analogy, is the predominant opinion in biblical studies that, hold on to your britches, the Christian Bible contains forgeries.  Not only does the Christian Bible likely contain forgeries, but early Christianity is full of writings that were forged or falsely attributed and successfully passed off, to one group or another, as legitimate.  It even looks like some Christians forged writings to respond to other Christian writings that were also likely forged. (Ain’t that a hoot?)

So let’s begin here.  IF the predominant view of the professionals is that the Pastoral Epistles were not written by Paul, that majority view is not without value.  Would anyone be foolish enough to attempt to argue that the unknown author of the Pastorals actually thought that he WAS Paul?  Of course not.  If they were not written by Paul, but specifically identified Paul as the author, that my friends, is what we call forgery.

There are a number of very good reasons why this is the prevalent view.  If one is genuinely interested, one would serve themselves better by actually researching the topic, not just believing what some unknown person on the internet says.  But let me get one started on the track to discovery with a few pieces of information for one to corroborate.  I’ll do this chronologically.

  1. Marcion, in the second quarter of the second century, who was absolutely obsessed with Paul, was the first Christian to actually compile a closed canon of scripture (selecting some, disregarding others).  The Marcionite Canon included ten of “Paul’s” letters; heavily edited, including a couple of “Pauline” letters that may have forged by Marcion himself; an edited version of the Gospel of Luke; along with his own writings.  The Pastorals were not included in his canon.
  2. Irenaeus, writing in the third quarter of the second century, is the first person to quote the Pastorals.
  3. The Pastorals are not represented in the earliest collection of Paul’s letters known as Papyrus 46.  (dating c.200CE)
  4. The earliest known fragment of the Pastorals, which contains a few verses from Titus and dates to the end of the second century or the beginning of the third century, is known as Papyrus 32.
  5. In Clement of Alexandria’s, Stromata 2:11, “There we read…” (That’s my Harold Camping impersonation) “the heretics reject the Epistles to Timothy”.  So someone by the third century is already saying that the Epistles to Timothy are NOT authentic.

There are also a number of internal reasons for thinking that the Pastorals are not authentic, which are found in almost any critical discussion of their authorship.

I’ll key in on one particular aspect for this post, but there are others.  This will focus on the vocabulary of the Pastorals.  Rather than bluster and blather with my own opinions, I’m going to simply quote and close with two resources.  One will be Ehrman’s 2011 book, “Forged” and the other will be L. Michael White’s 2004 book, “From Jesus to Christianity”.

 –Forged, Bart D. Ehrman, HarperOne, 2011, p.98
“The vocabulary and the writing style are very different from those of the other Pauline letters.  In 1921 the British scholar A. N. Harrison [I think that may be P. N. Harrison] wrote an important study of the pastoral letters in which he gave numerous statistics about the word usage in these writings.  One of his most cited set of numbers is that there are 848 different words used in the pastoral letters.  Of that number 306–over one third of them!– do not occur in any of the other Pauline letters of the New Testament.  That’s an inordinately high number’ especially given the fact that about two thirds of these 306 words are used by Christian authors living in the second century.  That suggests that this author is using a vocabulary that was becoming more common after the days of Paul, and that he too therefore lived after Paul.”

From Jesus to Christianity, L. Michael White, HarperSanFranciso, 2004, p. 428
“In regard to the vocabulary, for example, of the 848 total words contained in the Pastorals (excluding proper names), 306 (or about 36 per cent) do not occur anywhere else in the genuine letters or even in the debated letters (Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians).  Out of these 306 words, 175 do not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, while 211 appear regularly among mainstream Christian writers of the second century, notably the apostolic fathers.  In contrast, the vocabulary within the Pastorals is quite consistent across all three letters.  Certain terms, such as “piety” (Greek eusebeia), “sound doctrine,” “heretical,” “Jewish,” “widows,” or “the Savior” as a regular epithet of Jesus, do not occur at all in Paul and are generally more reflective of second-century developments in Christian theology and church organization.”

-New Testament scholar, James McGrath’s review of Ehrman’s “Forged”.
(As always, the comments are worth reading as well)



5 thoughts on “Christian Forgeries

  1. For a chronological presentation on Christianity and its impact upon society, download: Man’s Search For Spirituality by E Christopher Reyes. Available FREE on the Internet.

    Posted by E Christopher Reyes | April 3, 2014, 8:25 pm
  2. Interesting. I need to reread the books that Paul most likely wrote according to scholars first, then read the ones that were probably forged. That will make the difference much clearer. Amazing.

    Posted by Larry "TXfreethinker" Jones | May 9, 2011, 1:59 am
    • I have found that separating the historical Paul from the Paul of Christian legend does indeed make all the difference in the world.

      Here’s another fun piece of Pauline trivia related to the topic of this particular thread. Ask any Christian how Paul died and they will likely state matter-of-factly that he was beheaded in Rome. Then ask them where they got that idea. It’s not in the Bible. It’s from a second century work of fiction, in which the author was busted for making up stories about Paul.

      “This book, Tertullian tells us, was composed shortly before his time in honour of Paul by a presbyter of Asia, who was convicted of the imposture and degraded from his office. The date of it may therefore be about A.D. 160. The author was an orthodox Christian.”

      In the very same sentence that claims Paul was beheaded, it is also claimed that milk sprayed out of his neck instead of blood.

      “And when the executioner (speculator) struck off his head, milk spurted upon the cloak of the soldier. And the soldier and all that were there present when they saw it marvelled and glorified God which had given such glory unto Paul: and they went and told Caesar what was done.”

      The reality: We don’t know what happened to Paul. The accounts we have are all legendary. He appears to have simply disappeared from the historical record after writing the Epistle to the Romans, in which he planned to take a bunch of money he had collected back to Jerusalem.

      Posted by Xcntrik | May 9, 2011, 2:04 pm
  3. Hey Xcntrik, I really enjoy reading your stuff. I don’t comment often, but I like to lurk. I’m going to H-E-double hockey sticks for liking your blog for sure.

    Posted by byroniac | April 29, 2011, 1:18 am
    • I appreciate you spending a little time with me, Byroniac. I have found that the history is much more fascinating that the devotional aspect of Christianity could have ever been. When rejecting the claims of Christianity, the first reaction seems to be to just dump everything and start over, but the reality is that not much has influenced Western culture more than the Bible and Christianity. The Bible is a really fascinating book. The next reality is that Christian pastors and apologists intentionally mislead people and I think it’s a good idea to try to separate the facts from the fiction, if we are ever going to successfully climb out of the Dark Ages.

      Posted by Xcntrik | April 29, 2011, 5:57 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: