Thursday, May 19, 2011

NT forgery!

My brother David sends me a link to an article claiming that "half of the New Testament has been forged."

This isn't news, really, and I wrote back to David just now:


Yeah, this is actually not new news. We talked about this sort of thing in religious studies. Many books of the Bible are associated with certain authors, like Paul, but were in fact written by people who belonged to schools of thought that were associated with those figures. So someone in the "Pauline" school might write an epistle, for example, and then dub the epistle as having been "written by Paul." Whether this means the epistle has been "forged" is a matter of debate, I think; attributing a piece of scripture to a prominent figure was a common practice thousands of years ago, and may not have had the taint (from bad intent) that "forgery" has today.

Scripture, as a genre, sits in a murky realm. Is it purely fiction? After all, many of the historical events in the Bible likely never happened, and many biblical figures (e.g., Adam, Eve, Abraham, and Moses) likely never existed. Is the Bible purely a symbolic narrative? If so, then how do we explain the parts of the Bible that do correspond to actual history (many names, dates, and places mentioned in the Bible are, in fact, historical)? It's a difficult question.


I could just as easily have noted that the existence of Jesus has long been called into question as well. And had I taken more time in replying, I might also have mentioned the problems with establishing the historicity of much (most) of the Buddha's life, not to mention the lives of many of his spiritual descendants (e.g., Bodhidharma, Hui Neng, et al.). The Apocrypha isn't the only body of work that's apocryphal.



Charles said...

You could also just as easily gone into further detail about how individual authorship was not that widespread a concept before the invention of movable type. This is something I deal with on a daily basis when I tell people that I study classical Korean literature and they ask me who favorite author is, and I have to say, "Well...." It's gotten to the point that I just pick an author to answer their question.

(Oh my God, best word verification word in a long time...

Squennis: (n) tennis played with a hard sponge ball that is soaked in water before each point)

Nathan B. said...

I saw a Reuters article about this, and I thought it ridiculous how sensationalized it was, as if any of this were anything new at all. Pseudonymous writing was widely-practiced at the time of the writing of the NT, and modern scholarship ascertained many decades ago that the NT itself has quite a number of books that are pseudonymously-written. (Pseudonymous writing also exists in the OT, of course, the late book Ecclesiastes being an excellent example.)

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm strongly opposed to pseudonymous writing.

Nathan B. Charles

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