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Writing in the Name of God— Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

Bart D. Ehrman

To Sierra, granddaughter extraordinaire

Introduction: Facing the Truth 1. A World of Deceptions and Forgeries 2. Forgeries in the Name of Peter 3. Forgeries in the Name of Paul 4. Alternatives to Lies and Deceptions 5. Forgeries in Conflicts with Jews and Pagans 6. Forgeries in Conflicts with False Teachers 7. False Attributions, Fabrications, and Falsifications: Phenomena Related to Forgery 8. Forgeries, Lies, Deceptions, and the Writings of the New Testament Notes


Searchable Terms Acknowledgments About the Author Other Books by Bart D. Ehrman Credits Copyright About the Publisher




ON A BRIGHT SUNNY DAY in June, when I was fourteen years old, my mom told me that she and my dad were going out to play a round of golf. I did a quick calculation in my head. It would take them twenty minutes to get to the country club and about four hours to play eighteen holes. After a bit of downtime, they would drive home. I had five hours. I called up my friend Ron down the street to tell him my parents would be gone all afternoon, and that I had snuck a couple of cigars out of my dad’s consistently full stash. Ron liked what I was thinking and said that he had cobbed a few cans of malt liquor and hidden them out in his bushes. The joys of paradise opened before us. When Ron came over, we headed upstairs to my bedroom, where we threw open the windows, lit up the cigars, popped the cans of brew, and settled in for an afternoon of something less than intellectual discourse. But after about ten minutes, to my horror, we heard a car pull into the driveway, the back door open, and my mom yell up the stairs that they were home. The golf course was crowded, and they had decided not to wait forty minutes to tee off. Ron and I immediately switched into emergency gear. We flushed the cigars and the beer down the toilet and hid the cans in the trash, then pulled out two cans of deodorant and started spraying the room to try to cover up the smoke (which was virtually billowing out the window). Ron snuck out the back door, and


I was left alone, in a cold sweat, certain that my life was soon to be over. I went downstairs, and my dad asked me the fated question. “Bart, were you and Ron smoking upstairs?” I did what any self-respecting fourteen-year-old would do: I lied to his face. “No, dad, not me!” (The smoke was still heavy in the air as I spoke.) His face softened, almost to a smile, and then he said something that stayed with me for a long time—forty years, in fact. “Bart, I don’t mind if you sneak a smoke now and then. But don’t lie to me.” Naturally I assured him, “I won’t, dad!” A Later Commitment to Truth FIVE YEARS LATER, I was a different human being. Everyone changes in those late teenage years, of course, but I’d say my change was more radical than most. Among other things, in the intervening years I had become a born-again Christian, graduated from high school, gone off to a fundamentalist Bible college, Moody Bible Institute, and had two years of serious training in biblical studies and theology under my belt. At Moody we weren’t allowed to smoke (“Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” the New Testament teaches, and you don’t want to pollute God’s temple!), drink alcoholic beverages (“Be ye not drunk with wine,” says the Bible; it didn’t occur to me that it might be okay to be drunk with bourbon)—or, well, do lots of other things that most normal human beings at that age do: go to movies, dance, play cards. I didn’t actually agree with the “conduct code” of the school (there was also a dress code, and a hair code for men: no long hair or beards), but my view was that if I decided to go there, it meant playing by the rules. If I wanted other rules, I

8/357 could go somewhere else. and the life. and Jesus himself was “the way. it was possible. and the Spirit. Objective truth was all there was. It was through our objective knowledge of the truth that we knew God and knew what God (and Christ. But more than that. we believed in objectivity. we studied the truth. We were heavily committed to the truth at Moody Bible Institute. and everything else) was. and the truth shall make you free. we expected the truth. and we had access to it. One of the ironies of modern religion is that the absolute commitment to truth in some forms of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity and the concomitant view that truth is . Objectivity was real. “What is truth?” As followers of Christ.” as Scripture says. I would argue. As Jesus himself had said. And at Moody we were nothing if not serious and earnest. studious. we were in a different category altogether. with a capital T. that there is no one on the planet more committed to truth than a serious and earnest evangelical Christian. We believed in the Truth. better than average student with little clue about the world or my place in it and no particular commitment to telling the truth to a nineteen-year-old who was an extremely zealous. pious (self-righteous). There was no such thing as a “subjective truth. Truth to us was as important as life itself.” Something was true or it was false.” Along with our commitment to truth.” Only unbelievers like Pontius Pilate were confused enough to ask. we sought the truth. rigorous. the true “Word become flesh.” No one could “come to the Father” except through him. we preached the truth. we had faith in the truth. We vowed to tell the truth. Personal feelings and opinions had nothing to do with it. even today. I went from being a fourteen-year-old sports-minded. “Thy Word is truth. “You shall know the truth. the truth. committed evangelical Christian with firm notions about right and wrong and truth and error. it was attainable.

even if. instead. as can be seen by anyone willing to suspend disbelief and look objectively at the evidence. The search for truth takes you where the evidence leads you. and that the worst thing you can do is to believe something that is false. The term “apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia. but that the Christian message is demonstrably true. and truth has caused so many well-meaning evangelicals problems over the years is that they—at least some of them—really are confident that if something is true. then it necessarily comes from God. you can verify the “objective” truth of religion. you don’t want to go there. Christian apologetics is devoted to showing not only that faith in Christ is reasonable. without mistake in any way. proof that God was active in the world (miracles!). it means. but with an unrepentant view of truth. at first. in theory. to make a “reasoned defense” of the faith. I was devoted to the field of study known as Christian apologetics. as it turns out. I know. which does not mean “apology” in the sense of saying you’re sorry for something. . and God. I was intensely interested in “objective proofs” of the faith: proof that Jesus was physically raised from the dead (empty tomb! eyewitnesses!). The reason this commitment to evidence. I’m one. has been the ruin of many a poor boy. it leaves you in the wilderness outside the evangelical camp. to paraphrase a not so Christian song. So if. proof that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. Before moving outside into the wilderness (which.9/357 objective and can be verified by any impartial observer have led many faithful souls to follow the truth wherever it leads—and where it leads is often away from evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity. is a lush paradise compared to the barren camp of fundamentalist Christianity). As a result. Objective truth. objectivity. where does that leave you? If you are an evangelical Christian. and then it turns out that the religion being examined is verifiably wrong.

D. especially claims about the Bible. But as someone who believed that truth was objective and who was unwilling to believe what was false. I took Greek. But it was not long before I started seeing that the “truth” about the Bible was not at all what I had once thought when I was a committed evangelical Christian at Moody Bible Institute. The Bible was a very human book. From there I went to Princeton Theological Seminary to study with one of the great scholars of the Greek New Testament. and I came to see that the Bible was not divine truth without remainder. I prayed about them. After I graduated from Moody and went to Wheaton College to complete my bachelor’s degree. because I wanted to believe the truth. The more I saw that the New Testament (not to mention the Old Testament. I was passionate about my studies and the truth that I could find. But eventually I saw that in fact they could not be. the divine truth. the more troubled I became. I read everything I could get my hands on. I read all I could. the more I realized that the “truth” was taking me somewhere I very much did not want to go. This was a problem for me. I came to think that the Bible could not be what I thought it was. At Moody. I studied them. I took semester-long graduate seminars on single books of the New Testament. During my years of graduate work I studied the text of the New Testament assiduously. Bruce Metzger. The Bible contained errors. where the problems are even more severe) was chock full of discrepancies. I wrestled with these problems.10/357 The more I studied the evangelical truth claims about Christianity. I thought that all discrepancies could be objectively reconciled. I wrote papers on difficult passages. minutely. studied in the original language. intensely. . so that I could read the New Testament in its original language. it was not completely true. I did a master’s thesis under his direction and then a Ph. I sought spiritual guidance. And if it contained errors.

not a single path to the divine. because religion was not particularly concerned with what you believed about the gods and because all of these religions allowed. but not to practitioners of religion (unless they were also interested in philosophy). for example. It also contains what almost anyone today would call lies. even encouraged.11/357 But the problems didn’t stop there. beliefs that had to be affirmed. who were neither Jewish nor Christian—did not have creeds that had to be recited. They could all be right! There were many gods and many ways to worship the gods. ancient religions didn’t require you to believe one thing or another. Moreover. the others were wrong. That is what this book is about. Truth was of interest to philosophers. or scriptures that had to be accepted as conveying divine truth. This is one of the features of Christianity that made it distinctive among the religions of antiquity.” Pagan religions—by which I mean the polytheistic religions of the vast majority of people in the ancient world. Religion was all about the proper practices: sacrifices to the gods. there was very little sense that if one of the religions was right. Most people today don’t realize that ancient religions were almost never interested in “true beliefs. of . Truth in the History of Christianity ONE COULD ARGUE THAT the obsession with truth in parts of evangelical Christianity today was matched by the commitment to truth in the earliest years of Christianity. This view—the dominant view of antiquity—stands completely at odds with how most of us think about religion today. the worship of many gods. Eventually I came to realize that the Bible not only contains untruths or accidental mistakes. As strange as this may seem to us today. and set prayers.

and he created the world). unlike the other religions. which were eventually embedded in highly ritualized formulations. and so on. your city gods.1 The Christian religion came to be firmly rooted in truth claims. Moreover. is that Christians insisted that it did matter what you believed. As a result. Among the many things that made Christianity different from the other religions of the Roman Empire. It insisted that it held the Truth.” and that if you were wrong. about eternal life (everyone will be blessed or tormented for eternity). with the partial exception of Judaism. if Muslims are right. Christianity. about salvation (it comes only by faith in Christ). how to make the boy or girl next door fall madly in love with you. and how to live well: how to make sure the rain came and the crops grew. Do you believe that this view is true instead of that one? What is your authority for saying so? The ultimate authority was God. how to lead productive and fruitful lives. if Free-will Baptists are right. They were concerned about the present life. The worship of Zeus was no more “right” than the worship of Athena. Roman Catholics are wrong. such as the Nicene Creed.12/357 course. Christians from the very beginning needed to appeal to authorities for what they believed. and so on. how to survive in a hard and capricious world. you would be punished eternally in the fires of hell. But the majority of Christians came to think that . and that every other religion was in Error. this truth involved claims about God (there is only one. of course. or your family gods. Apollo. how to get enough to eat and drink. if Jews are right. that believing the correct things could make you “right” and believing the incorrect things could make you “wrong. Christians are wrong. about Christ (he was both divine and human). for example. In our view. But not in the ancient world. Another key difference between religions today and in antiquity is that the ancient polytheistic religions were not overly concerned with the afterlife. Buddhists are wrong. how to survive illness or combat. was exclusivistic.

An even bigger problem was the fact that different leaders of churches.3 Even though this might sound like a perfect solution to the problem. One could know what the apostles taught through the writings they left behind. the solution raised problems of its own. could claim they taught the apostolic truths. But when the apostles died out. For one thing. who instructed their successors. So the authoritative truth could be found in the apostolic writings. not to mention different Christians in their congregations. as some could claim divine authority for what they taught and others could claim divine authority for the completely opposite teaching. so that these leaders had authority equal to God himself. but . as churches multiplied. But these “truths” stood at odds with what other leaders and teachers said were the teachings of the apostles.2 Several problems with this view arose. however. Thus most Christians did not stress personal revelation to living individuals. they insisted that God had revealed his truth in earlier times through Christ to his apostles. The apostles at the beginning of the church were authorities who could be trusted.13/357 God did not speak the truth about what to believe directly to individuals. One involves a reality that early Christians may not have taken into account. who chose his apostles. How was one to get around these problems? The obvious answer presented itself early on in the Christian movement. each of them could no longer claim to have as its leader someone who had known an apostle or even someone who knew someone who once knew an apostle. there would be enormous problems. where was one to go for an authority? One could claim—and many in fact did—that the leaders of the churches who were appointed by the apostles could pass along their teachings. These authoritative authors produced authoritative teachings. If he did. God sent Jesus. Instead. who passed along the sacred teachings to ordinary Christians.

e. No one would take the Gospel of Jehoshaphat seriously. and they contradicted the teachings that had become standard within the church. the authors of these writings could not actually have been who they claimed to be. you could not very well sign your own name to the book. or even Jesus? The answer should seem fairly obvious. The views found in these writings were often deemed “heretical” (i. and James. or an inspired apocalypse describing in detail the fate of souls after death. Most of the apostles were illiterate and could not in fact write (discussed further in Chapter 2). Peter. Peter. Another problem is that writings started to appear that claimed to be written by apostles. James. and no one (other than. an authoritative letter describing what Christians should believe or how they should live. and you wanted to write an authoritative Gospel about the life and teachings of Jesus. as even the early Christians realized. but that contained all sorts of bizarre and contradictory views. and Mary and his brothers Thomas and James. they were at odds with one another.14/357 that scholars today are keenly aware of. Apocalyptic writings describing the end of the world or the fate of souls in the afterlife appeared in the names of Jesus’s followers John. Paul. But why would authors claim to be people they weren’t? Why would an author claim to be an apostle when he wasn’t? Why would an unknown figure write a book falsely calling himself Peter. Philip. Letters appeared that were allegedly written by Paul (in addition to ones that he actually did write). say. Thomas. In many instances. they conveyed false teachings). If you wanted someone to read it. If your name was Jehoshaphat. They could not have left an authoritative writing if their souls depended on it. Some writings emerged that claimed to be written by Jesus himself. and Paul.. Philip. your parents and siblings) had any idea who you were. Gospels were in circulation that claimed to be written by Jesus’s disciples Peter. you called .

But even though it was not an illegal activity. In the ancient world forgery was a bit different from today in that it was not. . Or Thomas..e. in which an author did not indicate who he was. The authors of some of the books of the New Testament were not who they claimed to be or who they have been supposed to be. The crucial question is this: Is it possible that any of the early Christian forgeries made it into the New Testament? That some of the books of the New Testament were not written by the apostles whose names are attached to them? That some of Paul’s letters were not actually written by Paul. Mark. In other words. Or James. Ancient authors who talked about this practice of writing a book in someone else’s name said that it was both lying and deceitful and that it was not an acceptable practice. Many early Christian writings are “pseudonymous. against the law. It is often said—even by scholars who should know better—that this kind of “pseudonymous” (i. In some instances that is because an anonymous writing. but by someone claiming to be Paul? That Peter’s letters were not written by Peter? That James and Jude did not write the books that bear their names? Or—a somewhat different case.15/357 yourself Peter.” The more common word for this kind of writing is “forgery” (I give more precise definitions of these terms in Chapter 1). and John? Scholars for over a hundred years have realized that in fact this is the case. it was a deceitful one that involved conscious lying. Luke. Mark. and John were not actually written by Matthew. as the ancients themselves said. you lied about who you really were. falsely named) writing in the ancient world was not thought to be lying and was not meant to be deceitful.” going under a “false name. technically speaking. was later named after someone who did not in fact write it. Luke. Part of what I’ll be showing in this book is that this view is flat-out wrong (see Chapter 4). as we will see—that the Gospels of Matthew.

on the other hand. and the books they produced were forgeries. claiming to be someone he was not. that they were ultimately in the right. at least in their own minds. if they read this one. by ancient standards these authors engaged in fraudulent activities. to calling this authorial activity lying and to call the literary products that resulted forgeries. is not intended for my fellow scholars. John (see Chapter 7). They may have thought and believed. Let me conclude this introduction simply by saying that I have spent the past five years studying forgery in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is. pointing out the really interesting aspects of the problem by highlighting the results of my own research and showing what scholars have long said about the writings of the New Testament and pseudonymous Christian writings from outside the New Testament. neither book actually claims to be written by a person named Matthew or John. As I will explain at length in the following chapters. some scholars have long been reluctant. most of the scholars who have actually read what ancient authors say about the phenomenon have no such hesitancy. As I have already intimated. The present book. In other instances it is because an author lied about who he was. The book you’re reading now is not that scholarly monograph. who. will be doing so simply out of curiosity.16/357 Matthew probably did not write Matthew. and even opposed. . But as we will see in later chapters. especially but not exclusively within Christianity. or John. It is true that the ancient authors who lied about their identity may well have felt they had a clear conscience. for example. that what they did was completely justified. What I try to do in the present book is to discuss the issue at a layperson’s level. The scholarly monograph to come will be much more thoroughly documented and technically argued. in other words. that they had very good reasons for doing what they did. My goal all along has been to write a detailed scholarly monograph that deals with the matter at length.

.17/357 instead. who on some level is. the general reader. intended for you. interested in the truth. like me.

at an early age he discovered an artistic ability that led him to a career of forgery. having been caught forging lunch vouchers. But he had a number of aliases. The Hitler diaries consisted of some sixty books of handwritten notes that Hitler himself had allegedly made during his time in power. first by Stern magazine in Germany. and the people to whom he sold the Hitler diaries were not assiduous in making a background check. from June 1932 to the very end in 1945.1 The forger of the diaries was a West German named Konrad Kujau. even before he perpetuated the biggest con job of modern times. Ironically. He spent some time in jail as a young adult. his friends called him Connie. authenticated by one of the world’s leading experts on the Führer. Kujau had grown up as a poor working-class fellow. twenty-five years ago now. As odd as this might seem. The diaries had been purchased for millions of dollars. at Rutgers University. But just as they started to appear. they were shown to be worthless forgeries. then by Rupert Murdoch for English publishing rights. the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. For collectors . forgery was on everyone’s mind at the time.CHAPTER ONE A World of Deceptions and Forgeries WHENEVER I TEACH ABOUT FORGERY. I think back to my first lecture on the subject. The diaries of Adolf Hitler had been discovered. Only a few months earlier forgery had been front-page news for weeks in major newspapers around the world.

a general in the East German army. excesses. When Stern had come into possession of the books and decided to publish them in 1984. long enough.8 million for his efforts. successes. and one such collector. and rambling thoughts. despite an initial suspicion that they must be a hoax. who. but the plane had been shot down and its pilot killed. companions. he blotted them with tea and repeatedly slapped them on the table. had read authoritative biographies of the Führer to get his facts more or less straight. and had painstakingly produced the accounts over a three-year period in the early 1980s. had ended up with the diaries. They had allegedly been smuggled out of the East by his brother. there was a plausible explanation for how they had managed to survive the war. encounters. Collectors of memorabilia later paid for the materials. We have a number of documents and paintings that Hitler produced. Hitler had several metal boxes filled with his personal effects flown out of Berlin. at least. who had learned to imitate Hitler’s handwriting. but nothing like this. But in fact it was all a hoax by Kujau himself. To make the pages look aged and worn. they contained numerous pieces of accurate data and lots of asides and irrelevancies that one would expect in a personal diary. . loves. and the boxes ended up in private hands. became convinced of the authenticity of the books upon a quick perusal of some of their pages. The documents looked old. an account of his daily activities. named Konrad Fischer (an alias for Konrad Kujau). to be paid $4. It was well known that when defeat was imminent.19/357 of Nazi memorabilia. such a discovery would be priceless. Local villagers near the wreck site pillaged the plane. And he fooled the experts. hates. And there were so many of them! What forger would go to that much trouble? Moreover. the publishers consulted with Trevor-Roper.

The forgery trade continues to thrive. not by ancient ones. The most common reason today. a crime by modern standards. Robert Frost. This eventually created a market for other forgers to produce and sell replicas of Kujau’s imitations. Lord Byron. and the ink were all of post-1945 vintage. The diaries were shown beyond any doubt at all to be fakes. I am often asked. forgeries in the names of George Washington. He emerged unrepentant. that he had not written a word of it.20/357 The day before the diaries were to be released to the public. Trevor-Roper started having second thoughts. however. and van Gogh—and selling them precisely as imitations. Over the course of the next few days. and spent a good bit of the rest of his life painting forgeries of great art—imitations of Monet. “Lots of people!” And for lots of different reasons. Kujau was convicted of forgery. and many. at the end of Kujau’s life he produced an autobiography. called Die Originalität der Fälschung (“The Originality of Forgery”). after Stern had announced the most significant historical find in decades. of course. Forensics experts found that the paper. Forgeries in the Ancient World WHEN I GIVE PUBLIC lectures on forgery. which was never published. however. many others continue to flood the market. the glue. though. as recent literature on . but he has many hundreds of lesser-known colleagues and disciples. “Who would do such a thing?” The answer is. a different book appeared in his name. is to make money. Konrad Kujau may be the most infamous and egregious case in point. evidently in all truthfulness. and spent several years in prison. historians showed that the diaries were filled with errors. other specialists were brought in. As a climax to this seemingly never ending story. Rembrandt. Kujau claimed. as we’ll see. Abraham Lincoln. Instead.

He eventually earned the epithet “Renegade. is a ruse that he pulled on a fellow literary scholar. produced to make Heraclides look bad. There was a good deal of that kind of activity in the ancient world as well (and far fewer forgery experts who could detect a forgery if they saw one). and started to think that his earlier philosophizing about pain was bogus in the face of pain itself.” because he had a falling out with his fellow Stoic philosophers when he came to realize that his philosophical views did not jibe with real life as he experienced it. Stoics taught that people should remove themselves. The most famous account is the well-known case of Dionysius the Renegade. his former teacher but eventual opponent. from the pain and anguish of this life to experience inner tranquility of spirit. mentally and emotionally. The ruse involved a forgery. Other scoundrels today will occasionally forge a document just to see if they can get away with it. But then he became very ill. This too is something that occasionally happened in the ancient world. and it was a pure set-up. Dionysius was a literary scholar and philosopher of the third century BCE. This was for a simple reason: Christian books were not. Dionysius for a long time subscribed to this view.21/357 modern forgery so aptly attests. for sale. who had no reason to doubt its authenticity. by and large. although it was not a major factor within early Christianity. The play made its way into the hands of Heraclides. What he is most famous for in the annals of history. experienced a good deal of pain. 2 . claiming that it was the work of the famous Greek dramatist Sophocles. Heraclides of Pontus. These forgeries are almost always produced in order to be sold as authentic. however. So he left the Stoics and was called by them a renegade.3 Dionysius wrote and put in circulation a tragic play he called the Parthenopaeus. Heraclides eventually quoted it to illustrate a point about Sophocles.

and apocalypses (these are the four literary genres of the New Testament). did not believe it and insisted that Dionysius was lying. Even so. but it takes time. that in fact he himself had written it. however. We find nothing quite so hilarious or outrageous in the writings of the early Christians. numerous Gospels. we still have numerous forged documents that emanated from the early church. Heraclides was still not convinced. letters. Oh yes. they spelled the name Pankalos. But Dionysius had an ace or two up his sleeve. there is an account allegedly written by Peter that gives a detailed narration of . In fact. there is scant evidence to suggest that any Christian authors forged documents simply in order to see if they could get away with it. Many of these noncanonical books are fascinating and still worth reading. there were plenty of early Christian forgers who produced lots of forged documents. probably for lots of reasons.22/357 This is just what Dionysius was hoping for. he is caught at last.4 Among the Gospels. The other line was completely decisive: Heraclides is ignorant of letters and is not ashamed of his ignorance. which happened to be the name of Dionysius’s male lover. He triumphantly confronted Heraclides and told him that the play was forged. all of them claiming to be written by apostles. for example. The first formed a poetic couplet: An old monkey is not caught by a trap. Heraclides. Acts. As I pointed out in the Introduction. a chance to show up his opponent. and so Dionysius showed him two other acrostics embedded in the lines of the text. He showed Heraclides that if he took the first letter of a series of lines in the first part of the play and strung them together as an acrostic.

All of these books claimed to be authentic. In it Jesus walks out of the tomb supported by two angels who are as tall as mountains. This book was fabricated by a church leader in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the second century. There is such an account in the Gospel of Peter. behind them. which showed not only that Paul was on intimate terms . This is striking because—most readers have never noticed this—the New Testament Gospels do not narrate the resurrection. books that narrate the adventures of Jesus’s apostles after his ascension. and his female companion Mary Magdalene. but each of them was classified as a “forgery” by other early Christians who did not believe the apostles had actually written them. out of the tomb. Today we still have extensive copies of Acts of John. emerges the cross. Seneca. to have eternal life. There were also forged letters. however. although Jesus is taller still. Andrew. Other “apostolic” Gospels tell yet other amazing stories about Jesus or record bizarre teachings supposedly spoken by him. Gospels allegedly written by Jesus’s brother Thomas. and Thomas as well as fragments of earlier works that no longer survive intact.5 Most church leaders did not appreciate fabricated documents. They do say that Jesus was buried and indicate that on the third day his tomb was empty. Tertullian. Peter.23/357 the resurrection. indicates that the person was caught and put on trial in the church for producing the account and then unceremoniously removed from his leadership position. but they do not narrate the account of his actually emerging from the tomb. There are also noncanonical Acts. We know about it because a famous church father. including a set of letters between Paul and the most famous philosopher of his day. his disciple Philip. which speaks out to God in heaven. followers of Jesus must refrain from sex even if married and avoid marriage altogether if single. such as the Acts of Paul. But there were plenty to go around. in which Paul preaches that.

Others. Is there any evidence that forgery was . as it turns out. These are just a few of the documents that were disputed in the ancient world. Some early Christians claimed they really were written by apostles and belonged in the New Testament. on the other hand. Most of the books of the New Testament. but were forgeries. but others thought they had been forged for the purpose of making Paul look good. Others insisted that they were not written by apostles. though. by Jesus himself. of heaven and hell and the respective blessings of the saved and the gruesome torments of the damned.24/357 with the greatest minds of the empire. and even of Jesus. almost made it into the New Testament. and fourth Christian centuries. but also that he was respected and revered by them. claimed it was forged.6 Early Christian Forgeries MOST OF THE INSTANCES I have just mentioned are forgeries from after the days of the apostles themselves. third. were written during the first century. This book. Some later church leaders maintained that these letters were authentic. and of Peter. There were also debates over the authenticity of other letters of Paul. as there were church leaders well into the fourth century who claimed that it was Scripture. including a fascinating account discovered in 1886 in a tomb in Egypt. So too forged apocalypses dotted the Christian literary landscape. How many other such documents were there? We will never know. Some of these other writings still survive. a firsthand account allegedly written by Peter in which he is given a personal guided tour. At present we know of over a hundred writings from the first four centuries that were claimed by one Christian author or another to have been forged by fellow Christians. from the second.

Readers naturally assume that the author is not doing precisely what he condemns. knows of a letter in circulation claiming to be by Paul that is not really by Paul. in which the passage appears. gives instructions concerning how the church is to be organized and run by its leaders. at the end of the fourth century. in eight volumes. and it comes to us from the pages of the New Testament itself. Three hundred years later. This lengthy book. But there is a terrifically interesting irony connected with this passage. including two to the Thessalonians. is itself widely thought among scholars not to be by Paul. why would it warn against a forgery in Paul’s name? There can be little doubt about the answer: one of the “tricks” used by ancient forgers to assure readers that their own writings were authentic was to warn against writings that were not authentic. even though he was not Paul.25/357 happening in this earlier period? In fact. Who would create such a forged letter? Obviously someone who wanted to advance his own views about when the end would come and decided to do so with the authority of Paul. there appeared a book that scholars have called the Apostolic Constitutions. This other letter allegedly teaches an idea that Paul himself opposes. in other words. The author. In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians we find a most intriguing verse in which the author tells his readers that they are not to be led astray by a letter “as if by us” indicating that the “day of the Lord” is almost here (2:2). There are thirteen letters in the New Testament that claim to be written by Paul.7 We have other interesting instances of this phenomenon in early Christian literature. even though it claims to be written by him (we’ll see the reasons for thinking this in Chapter 3). there is very good evidence indeed. who was allegedly the fourth bishop of . The book claims to be written by a man named Clement. Is 2 Thessalonians itself a forgery in Paul’s name? If so. Second Thessalonians.

and so on. But in reality the book was written three centuries or so after Clement himself was in the grave. For now I’m interested in noting that this is not simply a finding of modern scholarship. More than that. No matter how one understands the matter. In other words. but are not. If scholars who think that 2 Thessalonians was not written by Paul are wrong—that is. an early “pope”). as with 2 Thessalonians. then this book itself is a forgery in Paul’s name that was floating around in the church.. “I. John. appointed by the apostle Peter himself to lead the great church. Why insert this instruction? Once again. looking into evidence that a number of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people who are claimed to be their authors. if Paul really wrote it—then it shows that Paul himself knew of a forgery in his name that had come to the Thessalonian church. it is a forgery. One of the most fascinating instructions of the real-life author of this book (we don’t know who actually wrote it) comes at the end. Are there other forgeries from the earliest of Christian times? I deal with this question at length later in the book. With 2 Thessalonians we are presented with a particularly interesting situation. Either way. Peter. the book shows that there were almost certainly forgeries in Paul’s name in circulation all the way back during the time of the New Testament writings. “I.” say to you this. the book is called “apostolic” Constitutions because it passes along the advice and instructions of the apostles of Jesus themselves.” say to you this. there must have been Pauline forgeries already in the first century.” say to you this. it is because by doing so he throws his readers off the scent of his own deceit. But if the other scholars are right. he’s telling his readers not to read books such as the one they are reading. James. where he warns his readers not to read books that claim to be written by the apostles.26/357 Rome (i. an apostolic forgery. That is.e. often in the first person: “I. A number of the books of the New . that Paul did not compose 2 Thessalonians.

Dionysius’s argument was compelling and continues to be compelling to scholars today. He maintained that the writing style of the book is so different from that of the Gospel of John that they could not have been written by the same person (modern scholars differ from Dionysius only in thinking that the Gospel too was probably not written by John). because the book quotes an apocryphal book called Enoch as if it were authoritative Scripture. in other words. Egypt. in part.”10 Peter. according to the church father Eusebius. was also debated in the early church. had a number of predecessors who had argued that Revelation was written not by a different man named John. the son of Zebedee. Dionysius thought there must have been two authors of the same name who later came to be confused as the same person. allegedly written by Jesus’s own brother. did not actually write it. who were arguing over which books should be included in Scripture. argued that the book was not actually written by Jesus’s disciple John.9 The book of 2 Peter was rejected by a number of early church fathers. The most famous instance is the book of Revelation. among the Christian scholars of the second to the fourth centuries. named Dionysius. but none more straightforwardly than the notable Christian teacher of Alexandria Didymus the Blind. but by a heretic named Cerinthus. who argued that “the letter is false and so is not to be in the canon. who forged the account in order to promote his false teaching that there would be a literal future paradise of a thousand years here on earth. . But it is interesting that Dionysius.27/357 Testament were disputed already in early Christianity. according to the famous fourth-century Christian scholar Jerome.8 The small letter of Jude. Some Christians argued that it was not authentic. A thirdcentury Christian scholar of Alexandria. according to Didymus. even though the author claimed to be Peter. as discussed by both Jerome and Eusebius.

In short. and they wanted to know which books were written by their alleged authors and which were not. An “orthonymous” (literally. practically no one approved of the practice of forgery.11 The book of Hebrews was particularly debated. We begin with a very important discussion of the terms that I will be using. and often heated debates in the early church over forged documents. we need to take a step back and consider the phenomenon of forgery in the ancient world more broadly. it was widely condemned. even in books that were themselves forged (such as 2 Thessalonians and the Apostolic Constitutions). “rightly named”) writing is one that really is written by the person who claims to be writing it. Most of this book will focus on examples of forgery in early Christianity. The Terms of the Debate THE FIRST TWO TERMS are especially technical and. As we will see more fully later. there were long. There are seven letters of Paul. some claiming that their contents showed that he did not write them. protracted. Early Christians realized that there were numerous forgeries in circulation. the book does not explicitly claim to be written by Paul. it is important to know what they mean. That will be the focus of the rest of this chapter. on the contrary. The book was finally admitted into the canon only when nearly everyone came to think Paul must have written it. For centuries its Pauline authorship was a matter of dispute. To make sense of the early Christian forgeries. out of the thirteen in the . however.28/357 Other Christian teachers disputed whether 1 and 2 Timothy were actually by Paul. although I won’t be using them much. but there are hints at the end that the author wants readers to think that he’s Paul (see 13:22–25).


New Testament that bear his name, that virtually everyone agrees are orthonymous, actually written by Paul. A “homonymous” (literally, “same named”) writing is one that is written by someone who happens to have the same name as someone else. In the ancient world, the vast majority of people did not have last names, and a lot of people had the same first names. This was as true among Christians as it was for everyone else. Lots of people were named John, James, and Jude, for example. If someone named John wrote the book of Revelation and simply called himself John, he wasn’t necessarily claiming to be anyone but himself. When later Christians assumed that this John must be the disciple John, the son of Zebedee, it wasn’t really the author’s fault. He just happened to have the same name as another more famous person. The book is not forged, then. It is simply homonymous, assuming that John the son of Zebedee did not write it, a safe assumption for most critical scholars. It was included in the canon because of this mistaken identity. Other writings are “anonymous,” literally, “having no name.” These are books whose authors never identify themselves. That is, technically speaking, true of one-third of the New Testament books. None of the Gospels tells us the name of its author. Only later did Christians call them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and later scribes then added these names to the book titles. Also anonymous are the book of Acts and the letters known as 1, 2, and 3 John. Technically speaking, the same is true of the book of Hebrews; the author never mentions his name, even if he wants you to assume he’s Paul.12 The term “pseudonymous” (literally, “falsely named”) is a little more slippery, and I need to explain how I will be using it. Technically it refers to any book that appears under the name of someone other than the author, but there are two kinds of pseudonymous writings. Sometimes authors simply take a pen name.


When Samuel Clemens wrote Huckleberry Finn and signed it “Mark Twain,” he was not trying to deceive his readers into thinking that he was someone famous; it was just a pen name to mask his own identity. So too when Mary Ann Evans wrote Silas Marner and signed it “George Eliot.” This use of a pen name did not happen a lot in the ancient world, but it did happen on occasion. The Greek historian Xenophon, for example, wrote his famous work the Anabasis using the pen name Themistogenes; and the Greek philosopher Iamblichus wrote his treatise On the Mysteries under the made-up name Abammon. In these instances there does not appear to have been any real attempt to deceive readers into thinking that the author was someone famous.13 The other kind of pseudonymous writing involves a book that is circulated under the name of someone else, usually some kind of authority figure who is presumed to be well known to the reading audience. For this particular kind of pseudonymous writing I will be using the technical term “pseudepigraphy” (literally, “written under a false name”). A pseudepigraphal writing, then, is one that is claimed to be written by a famous, well-known, or authoritative person who did not in fact write it. But as it turns out, there are also two kinds of pseudepigraphal writings. Sometimes a writing was published anonymously, with no author’s name attached, for example, the Gospel of Matthew. But later readers and copyists asserted that they knew who had written it and claimed it was by a well-known, authoritative person, in this case the disciple Matthew. In writings of this sort, which are wrongly attributed to a well-known person, the author is not trying to deceive anyone.14 He or she remained anonymous. It is only later readers who claimed that the author was someone else. This kind of pseudepigraphy, then, involves a “false ascription” a work is “ascribed” to someone who didn’t write it.


The other kind of pseudepigraphy does involve a kind of intentional deceit by an author. This is when an author writes a work claiming to be someone else. This is what I am here calling forgery. My definition of a forgery, then, is a writing that claims to be written by someone (a known figure) who did not in fact write it. Over the years I have had several people object to my use of the term “forgery,” and I well understand the hesitancy of other scholars to use the term. In modern times, when we think of forgery, we think of highly illegal activities (forging precious stones, money, or books for profit) that can send a person to prison. Ancient forgers were not as a rule thrown in jail, because there simply weren’t laws governing the production and distribution of literature. There were no copyright laws, for example. But ancient authors did see this kind of activity as fraudulent, they recognized it as deceitful, they called it lying (and other even nastier things), and they often punished those who were caught doing it. So when I use the term “forgery,” I do mean for it to have negative connotations, in part because, as we will see, the terms used by ancient authors were just as negative, if not more so. My use of the term “forgery,” however, does not say anything about the legal status of the document in question or the criminal activity of the author. It is a technical term referring to one kind of pseudepigraphal writing, one in which an author knowingly claims to be someone else. One of the overarching theses of my book is that those who engaged in this activity in the ancient world were roundly condemned for lying and trying to deceive their readers. Motivations for Forgery


IF, AS I SHOW later, forgery was widely condemned, why did people do it? And how did they justify what they were doing in their own eyes? Those will be two of the leading questions for the rest of this chapter. The question of “why” they did it is a bit complicated, and here I need to differentiate between two ideas that people sometimes confuse in their minds. These are the notions of “intention,” on the one hand, and “motivation,” on the other. I think the difference between the two can be easily explained. If my wife asks me, “Why are you going to the store?” I could give a variety of answers. One answer might be, “To buy something for dinner.” Another might be, “Because there is nothing in the fridge.” These are actually two different kinds of answers. The first indicates what I intend to do once I’m at the store: I intend to buy some food for tonight. The second indicates what is motivating me to go to the store in the first place: I am motivated by the fact that there is no food in the house. Intentions are not the same as motivations. The “intention” is what you want to accomplish; the “motivation” is the reason you want to accomplish it. This is also the case when it comes to forgers and their forgeries. There is a difference between a forger’s intention and motivation. A forger’s intention, in almost every instance, is to deceive readers about his identity, that is, to make readers believe that he is someone other than who he is. But he may have lots of different reasons (motivations) for wanting to do that. Authors have always had numerous reasons for wanting to write a forgery. In the modern world, as we have already seen, the principal motivation is to make money, as in the case of Konrad Kujau and the Hitler diaries. This does not appear to be the main reason for forgeries back in antiquity. The market for such “original books” was limited then, because the book-selling industry was so modest—books could not be mass-produced and


widely published. Still, there were instances in which forged books could turn a profit, as we learn from a famous author named Galen, a second-century physician who lived in Rome. Galen was extremely learned and one of the most prolific authors from the ancient world. This was a world that did not, for the most part, have public libraries for people to use. But on occasion a local king would start up a library, principally for scholars, and there was sometimes competition among libraries to acquire greater holdings than their rivals as a kind of status symbol. The two most important libraries in antiquity were those of Alexandria in Egypt and Pergamum in Asia Minor. According to Galen, the kings who built these libraries were keen to increase their holdings and were intent on getting as many original copies as they could of such authors as Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Having original copies of these writings was important in an age when scribes could and did make mistakes when reproducing the text. If you had the original, you knew you had the author’s own words, not some kind of error-ridden copy botched by the local scribe. So these two libraries were willing to pay cash on the barrelhead for original copies of their coveted authors’ works. You’d be amazed how many “original” copies of Plato, Aristotle, and Euripides start showing up, when you are willing to pay gold for them. According to Galen, forgeries started to appear by unscrupulous authors who simply wanted the money.15 We have seen another motivation, or combination of motivations, in the case of Dionysius the Renegade. One could argue that Dionysius perpetrated his fraudulent play, the Parthenopaeus, principally in order to see if he could get away with it. Or he may have done it to make a fool out of his nemesis, Heraclides. We have other instances in the ancient world of a similar motivation, to pull the wool over someone’s, or everyone’s, eyes. As it turns out, some such motivation may still be at work in our


world today, as some scholars have thought that one of the most famous “discoveries” of an ancient Gospel in the twentieth century was in fact a forgery by the scholar who claimed to have discovered it. This is the famous Secret Gospel of Mark allegedly found by Morton Smith in 1958.16 Other authors forged documents for political or military ends. The Jewish historian Josephus, for example, reports that an enemy of Alexander, the son of King Herod, forged a letter in Alexander’s name in which he announced plans to murder his father. According to Josephus, the forger was a secretary of the king who was “a bold man, cunning in counterfeiting anyone’s hand.” But the plan back-fired; after producing numerous forgeries, the man was caught and “was at last put to death for it.”17 Political forgeries were usually not treated kindly. But sometimes they worked. In the third century the Roman emperor Aurelian had a private secretary, named Eros, who had incurred his master’s anger and was about to be punished. To forestall the outcome, he forged a list of names of political leaders whom the emperor had supposedly decided to have executed for treason and put the forged list into circulation. The men on the list rose up and assassinated the emperor.18 Sometimes the motivation for a forgery was less political than religious—to defend religious institutions or practices or to defend one’s religious claims against those of opponents. One of the more humorous accounts occurs in the writings of the secondcentury pagan author Lucian of Samosata, a brilliant wit and keen critic of all things hypocritical. One of Lucian’s hilarious treatises, Alexander the False Prophet, is directed against a man named Alexander, who wanted to set up an “oracle”—that is, a place where a god would communicate with humans—in the town of Abunoteichos. Alexander was a crafty fellow who knew that he had to convince people that the god Apollo really had decided to communicate through him, Alexander, at this newly


founded place of prophecy, since he planned to receive payments for being able to deliver Apollo’s pronouncements to those who would come to inquire. So, according to Lucian, Alexander forged a set of bronze tablets and buried them in one of the oldest and most famous of Apollo’s temples, in the city of Chalcedon. When the tablets were then dug up, word got around about what was written in this “miraculous” find. On these tablets Apollo declared that he was soon to move to take up residence in a new home, in Abunoteichos. Alexander then established the oracle there and attracted a huge following, thanks in no small measure to the forged writings in the name of the god he claimed to represent. An example of a Jewish forgery created to support Judaism can be found in the famous Letter of Aristeas.19 Aristeas was allegedly a pagan member of the court of the Egyptian king Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BCE). In this letter “Aristeas” describes how the king decided to include a copy of the Jewish Scriptures in his expanding library, and so he made arrangements with the Jewish high priest in Israel to send scholars to Egypt who could translate the sacred texts from their original Hebrew language into Greek. Seventy-two scholars were sent, and through miraculous divine intervention they managed to produce, individually, precisely the same wording for their translations of the Scriptures. Since the Letter of Aristeas is allegedly by a non-Jew, giving a more or less “disinterested” account of how the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, it has all the appearance of stating the facts “as they really were.” But in reality, the letter is a forgery, written by a Jew in Alexandria in the second century BCE. It was written, in part, in order to show the divine inspiration of the Jewish sacred texts, even in their Greek translation. As already intimated in earlier examples, sometimes forgeries were created with the express purpose of making a personal

even though he had nothing to do with it. who indicates that an enemy of the famous philosopher Epicurus. this is one of the best-attested motivations for creating forgeries in the ancient world. Anaximenes wrote a treatise in the writing style of Theopompus.36/357 enemy look bad (as with Dionysius the Renegade) or getting an opponent into serious trouble (as with the person who forged a letter to King Herod). These forgeries simply added fuel to the fire. As it turns out. The Roman poet Martial. Pausanias. Theopompus became very much a persona non grata. to provide hope for their readers. In order to strike out at his enemy. and Thebes. Once the treatise circulated in these cities.20 Even more slanderous is an episode reported by the historian of philosophy Diogenes Laertius. claims Pausanias.22 Other forgers produced their work for more noble ends. forged fifty obscene letters in Epicurus’s name and put them in circulation. An apocalypse (from the Greek meaning a “revealing” or an “unveiling”) is a text that reveals the truth of the heavenly realm to mortals to help them make sense of what is happening here on earth. a rival named Diotimus. Sometimes this truth is revealed through bizarre and highly . One of the most common forms of forgery in Jewish writings around the time of early Christianity is the literary genre known as the apocalypse. In this treatise he spoke abusively of the citizens of three chief Greek cities. Sparta. Athens. as reported to us by a Greek geographer of the second century CE. author of a large number of witty and very funny poems. complains in several places that others have forged poems in his name that were either very bad or in very bad taste. Anaximenes was a clever but ill-natured fellow who had a quarrel with a famous public speaker named Theopompus.21 Or consider the case of Anaximenes. precisely in order to make Martial himself look bad. Epicurus already had a problem with having a (totally undeserved) bad reputation as someone addicted to pleasure. for example. naming himself as Theopompus.

They assumed false names precisely because their writings would prove more effective that way. and even Adam! Scholars typically claim that these books cannot be considered forgeries. everything is going according to plan. . Enoch. and natural disasters are crushing the human race. In Jewish circles we have apocalypses in the names of Daniel. that is. the literary genre requires them. and he will intervene in the course of things here on earth to restore peace.23 In Christian circles we have apocalypses in the names of Peter. At other times the author is said to be taken up to heaven to see the ultimate truths of the divine realm that make sense of the horrible events transpiring here on earth. even though wars. and joy forever. famines. If people will simply hold on for a little while longer. their trust in God will be vindicated. The reality is that ancient people really did believe that they were written by the people who claimed to be writing them. Even though things seem to be completely out of control here on earth. to be written by someone who would “know” such things. These books are meant to inspire hope in their readers. Abraham. An example is in the book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. Paul.37/357 symbolic visions that the author allegedly sees and that are explained by some kind of angelic interpreter. someone highly favored by God. even though there is rampant pain and misery and suffering. and the prophet Isaiah. But I think this view is too simplistic. A Christian example is the book of Revelation in the New Testament. even though things seem to be completely removed from God’s hand—despite all this. because writing them pseudonymously was all part of the task. as seen repeatedly in the ancient testimonies. more or less. justice. Apocalypses are almost always written pseudonymously in the name of some renowned religious figure of the past. God will soon make right all that is wrong.24 The authors of these books knew it too. epidemics.

for example. it was to get a hearing for their views. If you were an unknown person. We know this because ancient authors actually tell us so. signing it Plato or Aristotle. but you were not a famous philosopher. a pagan scholar named David. if you wanted to write a philosophical treatise in which you dealt with some of the most confounding ethical problems facing the world. Quite simply. so that through his influence he can get his work accepted. you might write the treatise and claim that you were.”25 . This motivation was at work in both Christian and non-Christian circles. a famous figure. an authority. a well-known author. a commentator on the writings of Aristotle. but in fact were living a hundred years after Jesus and didn’t have any real access to what Jesus said. he writes in the name of someone who came before him and was influential. but the name of a famous religious figure (the Apocalypse of Daniel). If you wanted to narrate a Gospel of Jesus’s most important teachings. For example. you wouldn’t sign it with your own name (the Apocalypse of Joe). but so they could learn the truth—one way to make that happen was to pretend you were someone else. you would write down the sayings you found most compelling and claim to be someone who had actually heard Jesus speak. but had something really important to say and wanted people to hear you—not so they could praise you. indicated: “If someone is uninfluential and unknown. If you wanted to produce an apocalypse explaining that suffering here on this earth is only temporary and that God would soon intervene to overthrow the forces of evil in this world. and you wanted people to realize this was a message that needed to be heard and proclaimed. calling your book the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Philip. yet wants his writing to be read. Thus.38/357 This relates to the single most important motivation for authors to claim they were someone else in antiquity.

” and so. he said. He confronted Salvian with the matter. for example. and if he himself wrote a letter to the churches. But somehow Salvian’s bishop came to suspect that Salvian had written it.”26 By writing in the name of Timothy. he used that name to show that he wrote for the honor of God. on the other hand. Salvian was outraged by the worldliness of the church and by church members who were more concerned with personal comfort and wealth than with the demands of the gospel. literally means “honored by God. There is nothing in the story to suggest that Salvian’s bishop accepted this excuse with equanimity (the story is related to us by Salvian. His views were important enough for him to adopt a false name. was that he was a nobody. The name Timothy. and Salvian admitted that he had done it. though. the famous companion of the apostle Paul four hundred years earlier. and so he wrote an explanation for why he had produced a pseudonymous letter. Or as he put it in his written defense. not his bishop). So he wrote a letter called Timothy to the Church. On the contrary. Written in an authoritative style. the author had “wisely selected a pseudonym for his book for the obvious reason that he did not wish the obscurity of his own person to detract from the influence of his otherwise valuable book. But Salvian was a defensive fellow. In the fifth Christian century. with his wife. His main defense. Salvian made lots of excuses.39/357 This is the case with the one instance we have of a Christian forger who was caught and who later explained in writing what he did. a church leader named Salvian lived in Marseille. he hoped to get a reading. to express his devotion to God by renouncing the world and taking on an ascetic form of life. As did many others in his day Salvian decided. As defensive individuals often do. if the bishop was like every other reader from the ancient world . no one would pay attention. the letter seemed to its readers actually to have been written by Timothy.

they were successful. Forgers’ Techniques WE ARE NEVER TOLD how Salvian’s bishop came to realize that the letter allegedly by Timothy was in fact written by his presbyter. ancient scholars who were invested in detecting forgeries did not have the sophisticated methods of analysis that we have today.40/357 who comments on such things. if not by Paul. of Princeton University. An ancient scholar frequently could tell that a literary text was not by the same author who wrote another text (e. Most of the time. intricate analyses of writing style. Very few forgers in the ancient world were actually caught red-handed. Even more important.g.27 The reasons should seem fairly obvious. and so on. that the book of Revelation was not written by the same author who wrote the Fourth Gospel). But it is probably not too hard to figure out. forgers went out of their way not to get caught. For one thing. Anthony Grafton. which suddenly appeared out of nowhere. But it’s much easier to say who did not write a book (Paul did not write Hebrews) than who did write it (Ephesians. Since he was a literate person. he may have put two and two together and realized that this letter. The letter addressed major concerns that Salvian himself had had and that he no doubt had articulated repeatedly among his fellow churchgoers and the church leaders. was written by whom?). with our computers. he may well have written other treatises on this and related subjects. Salvian. was a modern production written pseudonymously.. In one of the fascinating modern discussions of forgery. databases. he was not at all pleased that Salvian had lied about his identity. so that he was familiar with his writing style. shows that over the centuries the art of . If his bishop knew Salvian’s ultimate concerns and had read his other writings.

The fact that a forger tried to imitate an author’s style can make it difficult to detect forgeries. The term “verisimilitude” refers to a statement. were not involved in the business of forgery. But the reality is that some people were more skilled at it than others.41/357 forgery became increasingly refined as the art of detecting forgery improved its methods. in principle. a comment. For highly educated authors. of course. so too most people can’t sound “just like” Aristotle.28 Ancient forgers typically used several methods to escape detection. The most highly educated people in the empire were trained to do this as a matter of course. use of sentence fragments. or an off-the-cuff remark that makes a writing look “very similar” to what you would expect the alleged author to .29 Most of those people. the better forgers got at avoiding detection. which in turn drove the forgers to improve their craft. A second trick of forgers was to include verisimilitudes in their writings. First and most obviously. this matter of imitating writing style was almost second nature. and every style. anyone forging a document in the name of a well-known author did his level best to imitate the author’s writing style and vocabulary. Less skillful imitators simply recognized unusual words commonly used by an author and used those words a lot (sometimes much more than the author being imitated). a regular exercise involved writing an account or a speech in the style of a famous author or speaker. The better scholars became at recognizing a forgery. This compelled the scholars to refine their methods. in the advanced education of “rhetorical” schooling that the upper-class elite received. or Paul. Just as most people today couldn’t forge a Rembrandt if their life depended on it. can be imitated. use of participial phrases. Others tried to imitate the distinctive ways the author used grammar: sentence length. and so on. Everyone has a distinctive style of writing. Plutarch.

and in this dream he was told to dig a deep hole on the south side of the oak tree in the field . it’s a kind of verisimilitude. remembered experiences you’ve shared. Why fabricate names of recipients. at this time. in this situation. the forger warns his readers not to read forgeries. be sure to say hello to your mother for me.42/357 have said.” If a book shows up this week claiming to have been written two hundred years ago. it certainly sounds as though you’re sending it to those experiencing persecution! Why ask for a personal favor from a person you’re writing to. Forgers sometimes begin or end their writing by describing what has led to the book’s disappearance and discovery. One final technique used by some forgers involves a “discovery narrative. the pseudonymous author tells his readers not to read pseudonymous writings. Why? In part because it makes readers less likely to suspect that the book they have is itself a forgery. if you’re not actually sending it to people experiencing persecution? Because if you say that. one might well wonder where it has been all this time. an author might begin a book by explaining that he had a dream. and so on? All of these add credibility to your writing.”) Because there’s no better way to make it look as if the letter is authentic. if you’re not really writing to that person? (“Hey. Or to be more precise. and don’t forget to bring that book that I left at your house. James. even if you’re writing three hundred years later to no one in particular. your past relationship with these recipients. We’ve already seen one kind of verisimilitude in our earlier discussion. For example. even if in fact they were not actually sending it to anyone. Why say you’ll be praying for the letter’s recipients during their time of persecution. That is. Forgers would make personal comments about the recipients of a letter. making it look as though you really are writing this person. In both 2 Thessalonians from the first century and the Apostolic Constitutions three hundred years later.

” “It wasn’t looked down upon. Inside the box was a deteriorating manuscript. Later. and this is it. I deal at greater length with what some scholars have claimed about this phenomenon in order to avoid thinking of such books as forgeries. What is here is a book not written by James.”) simply haven’t read what the ancient sources say about it.43/357 across the stream from his farm. When he dug the hole. because it has been hidden all these years. Throughout this book it will become quite clear from the ancient writings themselves that even though forgery was widely practiced. This will come in Chapter 4. a revelation given directly by Christ to the apostle James and hidden from the world until now. . As it turns out. The book is not widely known. he found an ancient wooden box. but by a forger claiming to be James. many New Testament scholars who make pronouncements on forgery (“It wasn’t meant to be deceitful. after we have had two chapters of data to help us assess these claims. which could easily be multiplied. it was also widely condemned and treated as a form of lying. I want to give just a few examples. He has now copied this manuscript out by hand. and here it is. who has conveniently included an explanation for why no one has ever heard of this book before. To get us started here. Except it’s not really here. But now it has come to light. Ancient Views of Forgery I HAVE ALREADY INDICATED that scholars are sometimes loath to use the term “forgery” for pseudepigraphal writings in which an author claims to be someone else. of how ancients thought and talked about the practice of forgery.” “No one thought of it as lying. as “copied” by the discoverer of the manuscript. The book then claims to have been written by James.

In the window were two men arguing about a book that was allegedly written by Galen! One man was heatedly arguing that Galen had in fact written the book. By far the dominant discourse in the ancient world opposed forgery and saw it as a deceitful and illicit practice. which I will discuss at greater length in Chapter 4. whom I mentioned earlier. In one of his surviving writings. As he relates it. the practice of forgery thrived in antiquity. So he went home and wrote a book. but that doesn’t stop a lot of people. Galen gives an autobiographical account in which he tells of detecting a forgery.44/357 The first thing to note is that in virtually every instance in which an ancient author mentions forgery. Despite the condemnations of it. and Augustine. One of the more famous stories of forgery involves the second-century Roman physician Galen. Forgery was so widely condemned in antiquity that even forgers condemned . Among Christians we have outraged complaints about forgeries in the writings of Origen. Did Galen think it was an acceptable practice for someone else to write in his name? Obviously not. There are a few exceptions. This episode warmed the cockles of Galen’s heart. That doesn’t mean that people didn’t engage in the practice—adultery is usually seen as a deceitful and illicit practice today. who was incensed that other poets tried to pass off their own work (which he considered vastly inferior) as his. he was one day walking down a street in Rome and was passing by a bookseller’s shop. which we still have today. since in fact he had not written the book. Jerome. I earlier mentioned the poet Martial. Nor did anyone else who discovered forgeries in his own name. he condemns it. that Galen could not have written it. for reasons we’ll see. But these exceptions really are exceptional. Sometimes the book is called How to Recognize Books Written by Galen. the other was insisting that the writing style was all wrong.

” with connotations similar to our modern word “bastard.30 That forgery was widely condemned in antiquity can be seen by some of the terms that were used to describe the practice. Some scholars have argued. that it was a common and accepted practice in schools of philosophy to write a philosophical treatise and sign your master’s name to it (Plato. And that is certainly true. etc. There can be no question which connotation applies to ancient forgeries.” In Greek the two most common words to describe literary texts whose authors falsely claim to be a well-known figure are pseudos.45/357 forgery—as we have seen in the case of 2 Thessalonians and the Apostolic Constitutions. When a person speaks something that is false. some scholars have stressed that pseudos does not have to have the negative connotation of a bald-faced lie. a falsehood. strenuously. you will find a tongue-tied scholar. knowing that it is false. Pythagoras. The person who wrote the Gospel of Peter.”31 With respect to the first word. which means “a falsehood” or “a lie. since it is sometimes used simply to indicate information that is incorrect. As we will see in Chapter 4. there is little evidence indeed that this happened.). But it means that only in contexts in which those speaking the falsehood do not realize that what they are saying is an error. which means “an illegitimate child. in some contexts. but without much evidence. pseudos always means what “lie” means in English: an intentional falsehood with the intent of deceiving hearers or readers into thinking that it is right. most of which were at least as negative as the modern term “forgery. claiming to be Jesus’s disciple Simon Peter. In almost every instance. Ask a modern-day scholar who claims that in antiquity this was a widespread practice to cite an ancient source for it.” and nothos. and that no one looked askance at this practice. some sixty years after Peter’s death—did he realize that he was not in fact Simon Peter? Unless he was a . rather than your own.

then the child does not “belong. So too with a literary text. If it goes under the name of an author who did not in fact produce it. So it is called a nothos.46/357 lunatic.” “to falsify. not neutral.” Contrary to what some scholars have claimed (again. in antiquity.” “to adulterate.” or a “bastard. Consider the motivations for forgery mentioned earlier. Forgers who wanted to see if they could get away with it. He intentionally claimed to be someone he was not. In Greek that would be called a pseudos.” “a lie.” “to counterfeit. then of course he did. would scarcely have tried to make their ploy transparent and obvious. but does not carry the same connotations as the Greek word.” “an illegitimate child. and they show what ancients thought about the practice of forgery. If a child born out of wedlock is raised by his mother and her husband (who is not the child’s father). to see if they could pull the wool over someone’s eyes. An author who produces a writing in the name of someone else has produced a “false writing. words that mean “to lie. an illegitimate child. The logic of the term in the context of forgeries is clear. It is often translated “spurious. in English we would call it a lie. the child had no legal rights. If they wanted to . but derives from someone else. This has been long recognized by the real experts in ancient forgery. might seem a bit puzzling.” by blood. Moreover. they are not related. nothos.” Similar words are used by Latin writers for the act of forgery. which refers typically to a bastard child. for example.” which may be accurate enough. The other term. Both of these terms are negative. see Chapter 4) forgers in the ancient world typically wanted to deceive their readers by claiming to be persons of authority and standing. then it is not actually related or legally connected to that person.” “to fabricate.32 And a moment’s reflection shows why this must be the case. they would have truly wanted to deceive people. a text that does not belong to the author claimed for it. to his alleged father.

This oracle indicated that a certain group of islands would sink into the sea.34 . who had invented an oracle (i. say. But they were. he fled Greece and ended up in Persia. they wouldn’t get very far if everyone knew who they really were.e. If they wanted to justify a political institution or religious practice by citing the views of an authority or wanted to have their own views accepted as authoritative even if they themselves were completely unknown. And sometimes the reaction was even more hostile. it would make no sense to claim to be someone else knowing full well that no one would believe you. On yet other occasions Onomacritus was thought to have forged other oracles and was roundly chastised for it by other ancient authors. the reactions to forgers when they are caught show quite clearly that they meant to deceive. It is hard to understand why Onomacritus forged the oracle or why people were upset by it. such as Plutarch. Galen and Martial were incensed to find someone else claiming their name for writings they did not produce. Herodotus speaks of Onomacritus of Athens. and that people were not at all pleased when they discovered the truth. a prophecy from a divine being) and ascribed it to the ancient bard Musaeus. that they were often successful.47/357 make money by producing an “original” copy of. That forgery was not a transparent fiction is evidenced as well by the negative things people say about it in the ancient sources—the practice.33 In a puzzling and enigmatic passage. The first time we hear of a forger being discovered occurs all the way back in the fifth century BCE. Hipparchus. Moreover. a mythical figure thought to be able to predict the future. banished Onomacritus from the city. as I have argued.. in the writings of the famous Greek historian Herodotus. a dialogue of Plato. The ruler of Athens. is condemned in virtually every instance it is discussed.

35 This can be compared with the account already mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus. tracked Diotimus down and murdered him for it. by the Austrian classical scholar Wolfgang Speyer.48/357 Sometimes the punishment for forgery was even more harsh. who indicates that someone forged a letter in the name of Alexander. the forger was the king’s own secretary.” From all of the discussions of forgeries in ancient sources. Forgers who were caught were reprimanded or punished even more severely. a man named Zeno. When we are considering Christian forgeries. As we have seen. Forgers. among pagans. intended to deceive their readers. maintains: “Every forgery feigns a state of affairs that does not correspond to the actual facts of the case. and Christians. “was at last put to death for it. who presumably . who. Ancient authors who discuss the practice condemned it and considered it a form of lying and deceit. indicating Alexander’s plan to assassinate his father. Jews. Earlier I mentioned the fifty obscene letters that the philosopher Diotimus forged in the name of Epicurus in order to sully his reputation. According to one ancient source. Possible Justifications for Forgery THE MOST THOROUGH STUDY of ancient forgery ever undertaken. One of them. son of King Herod.”36 This view coincides perfectly well with the one I have been trying to make in this chapter. motivated by a range of factors. For this reason forgery belongs to the realm of lying and deception. Epicurus’s followers were not amused. Forgery was widely practiced in the ancient world. according to Josephus. in particular. but it leaves us with a problem. we are dealing with writings produced by followers of Jesus. I think we can safely draw several major conclusions.

or for a parent to deceive a child into taking some unpleasant medicine that will be good for her. notably Aristotle.38 Socrates also said that it is useful for a field general to lie to his disheartened troops in battle. in order to drive them to fight with greater valor. the question is silly. Surely they knew that lying and deception were wrong. for example. Did the forgers who perpetrated their fraud think that they were justified in lying? Is lying ever justified? I return to this issue in Chapter 8. Yet others think nothing at all about lying whenever they feel like it. stressed the importance of normally being truthful. What did people in antiquity think about lying and deceit? Asking what ancient people thought about lying is like asking modern people—it depends completely on whom you ask. thank you very much! Some ancient Greek philosophers.37 But most philosophers thought there could be exceptions. but for now I should at least set the stage by asking a more general question. As one ancient writer. Some think lying is never acceptable under any circumstances. reports Socrates as saying it is a good thing to lie to a sick son or a friend who wants to commit suicide. such as those doctors might tell patients for their own good or those rulers of a country might tell their people in order to ensure the healthy functioning of society. who as a whole were just as ethical as Christians. if you can stop the person from doing so. telling them that support troops are soon to arrive. of course. Why would any of them go against their own ethical views? On one level. Why would they do what they knew was wrong? And surely the question applies to pagans and Jews as well. Plato taught that some lies can be useful. Xenophon.49/357 ascribed to Jesus’s ethical teachings and the moral norms set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures. put it: “A lie is good when it . Heliodorus. All people do things they know are wrong. But I mean the question at a deeper level. others think that in some circumstances it is the ethical thing to do.

There are plenty of other examples in Scripture in which the lies of God’s chosen ones lead to good ends. If Abraham had not lied about his wife Sarah (“she’s my sister”). even though that’s what he told his prophet to proclaim. he obviously knew full well that the people would repent and that he would stay his hand of judgment. under any circumstances permissible to lie.50/357 benefits the one who speaks it without doing harm to the one who hears. but on deep theological understandings about what it means to be truly human in relationship to the God of truth. ever. God never did plan.40 But lots of other Christian thinkers. to overthrow the city. 12). both before and after Augustine. Or if Rahab the prostitute had not lied about where the Israelite spies were hiding. they may have been killed and the children of Israel may never have been able to conquer .” It is never.”39 But what about Christians? Weren’t they taught always to tell the truth? That is certainly what the great fifth-century church theologian Augustine taught in his two treatises devoted to “lying. who himself became fully human. thought otherwise. then.41 Both of them also pointed out that in the Old Testament. This view of Augustine’s was not based on a simplistic sense that it is always good to tell the truth. it is ethically justified. he would have been killed. Some. Origen—arguably the most important theologian of the church before Augustine—agreed with Plato about the “medicinal lie”: if a doctor’s lie will impel a patient to take her medicine. as well as his Alexandrian compatriot at the beginning of the third. God himself appears to use deception at times. Sometimes a deceptive statement can do a world of good. such as the important Christian thinker Clement of Alexandria at the end of the second century. When God told Jonah to proclaim to the city of Nineveh that in forty days it would be overthrown. and the nation of Israel would never have come into existence (Gen.

But in their own eyes. would probably have called them liars and condemned what they did. that they were someone else. 2).51/357 the promised land (Josh. and they were happy to lie in order to proclaim it. . deceitfully. had they known. their conscience may have been free from blame. Examples could be multiplied. and their motives may have been as pure as the driven snow. Their readers. Is that what forgers thought? That lying about who they were was worth it? That the good effects of their deception outweighed the bad? That the ends justified the means? I’m afraid we may never know what drove these people to do what they did. when they decided to hide their own identity and to claim. Sometimes lying is the right thing to do. We simply can’t peer into their hearts and minds to see what they were thinking. They had a truth to convey. deep down.

We allow for a kind of poetic license of distortion. I mean did this really happen?” I’d say no. are complex. it is “truer” than one that is just made up. This has been my view for many years. the dialogue. the individual scenes. “No. we often ask. I think we all recognize this deep down.” One could easily make the case that a movie can be true in a deeper sense even if it is about something that never happened.CHAPTER TWO Forgeries in the Name of Peter UP TO THIS POINT IN my discussion of ancient lying. and they’d continue to be puzzled. truth and its opposite. falsehood. and so. When we watch a movie. deception. But then they’d remember that I tend to have a different view of things. is this a true story?” And I’d almost always say yes. then we somehow feel assured and comforted that the events took place. We’d be watching a movie. and forgery I have been using the term “truth” in a very simple sense. and they’d say. . But even then we never think that absolutely everything found in the movie—all of the characters. “Is this something that really happened?” If the answer is yes. even if we haven’t given it a good deal of thought.” In reality. and so on—is absolutely and completely the way it “really” happened. even when acknowledging that the story is somehow “true. “Is this a true story?” By that we mean. and they’d ask the follow-up question. though. Dad. “Dad. to mean something like “correct information. as a story. and it used to drive my kids crazy when they were young.

As a young boy. we don’t find out what happened afterwards—was young George taken out to the woodshed? The story ends with George’s one-liner. there are all sorts of true stories that didn’t happen. I did it. then.53/357 As some of my readers may be.1 We know that this story never happened. but because we think the story conveys a “truth” that we want our children to learn. for unknown reasons. as everyone will admit. “I cannot tell a lie.” The way the story is normally told. George Washington. is a story that we know is nonhistorical. because the person who invented the tale later admitted to having done so. True Stories That Didn’t Happen EVERY GRADE-SCHOOL KID IN the country knows the cherry tree story. took a hatchet to his father’s cherry tree. usually known as Parson Weems. How can a story be “true” if it didn’t happen? In point of fact. Here. The truth claims of the story actually work on several levels. As a later biographer of Washington. But we still tell it to our children. if they think about it a bit. Who was George Washington? He was the father of our nation. Why? Not because we are trying to teach them about the facts of colonial history. When his father came home. I think. he saw the tree and asked. He was a Christian minister named Mason Locke Weems. even though he once had claimed that he received it from a credible eyewitness (a nice paradox: he “told a lie” in this story about not lying). On one level the story is a good piece of political propaganda for the United States. When I try to illustrate this with my students. “Who chopped down my cherry tree?” Young George answered. Parson Weems confessed that he made up the story. I usually rehearse for them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. What kind of person was he? He .

can in some sense convey “truth” even if it is something that “didn’t happen. flat-out deception. But the story of George Washington and the cherry tree functions on another level as well. They were stories intending to convey some kind of true understanding of the divine realm and humans’ relationship to it. that modern notions of fiction are much . his kind. one day when he was a kid…The conclusion is clear. Even if they did something wrong. It is better not to tell a lie. Ancient people also had a more nuanced sense of truth and falsehood. Or so the story goes. however. I would say that the story is false. I told the story to my kids because I wanted them to be like young George. My point is that fiction. and his deep concern for the wellbeing of others. they too had stories that they accepted as “true” in some sense without thinking that they actually happened. Really? How honest was he? Well.” Truth is more than simply correct information. This is a story about personal morality and responsibility.2 If I were to read a story about the childhood of Joseph Stalin that stressed his inherently sweet disposition. I wanted them to come clean and tell the truth about it. stories that convey messages that we do not accept as “true” based on our understanding of the world. Quite the contrary. as some scholars have emphasized. That does not mean. a man who would never tell a lie. and this is probably why most parents are glad their kids learn it. It is true. even historical fiction.3 Most scholars today recognize that the majority of educated people in ancient Greece and Rome did not literally believe that the myths about the gods had actually happened historically. there are plenty of kinds of falsehood: incorrect information. This country is founded on honesty. And ancients had their equivalents of modern fiction. This country is honest.54/357 was an honest man. This country cannot tell a lie. that there is no such thing as falsehood. It is better to be truthful and face the consequences than to live a life of dishonesty. gentle nature.

for example. The notion of “fiction” is very interesting. Free verse has neither. The difference between a modern biography and a modern novel. A limerick poem has clever rhymes and a surprising punch line. Ancient equivalents to modern fiction worked the same way. People didn’t tell and retell. to help them understand themselves and their world better. to be plausible—but they did not expect the story to match up to the facts of historical reality. we expect it to stick to the facts and not to convey historically incorrect information. If we read a book that claims to be an authorized biography of Ronald Reagan. Readers expected the narrative to make some kind of historical sense—that is. A short story is short. Both have characters and plot and other shared features that make them different from a haiku. is a matter of literary genre.55/357 more sophisticated and nuanced than anything you can find in antiquity. The characteristics of each type of genre represent a sort of . a novel is longer. But if we read a novel about a president of the United States in the 1980s—a book that touts itself as pure fiction—we may expect some kinds of historical verisimilitude (the president would not be shown surfing the Internet or checking his wall on Facebook). but for much the same reason that we read fiction today: for entertainment. of course. to learn something. but relies on the depth of the language to convey meaning. And so on. which correspond in many ways to the forms of fictional narrative that we have today. A genre is a “kind” of writing that fits certain expected forms. Scholars have long and protracted debates over what the notion of “genre” actually means. But in addition to myths ancient people had epic poems. and novels (sometimes called “romances”). legends. but for our purposes I think a fairly rough and ready description will suffice. but we do not expect to be given actual historical facts about an actual historical person. read and recite these forms of fiction simply because they thought they were literally true.

In ancient historical writing the matter was a bit more complicated. for the sake of being entertained.4 The reason fiction works is that. in an age before there were tape recorders. nonetheless. But if the events took place decades or even centuries earlier. When it comes to biography or historical writing. or even stenographers and same-day reporting. readers do not make this agreement. the possibilities given us by mass media and electronic modes of communication. It was very hard indeed to give an “accurate” account. In this case the author agrees to stick to the historical facts insofar as she can. readers agree to suspend judgment on the historical accuracy of the details of the narrative. how was a historian to know what the character actually said? There was. It is almost a contractual agreement in which the author provides what is expected for this kind of writing. Some of the best histories from antiquity are chock full of speeches given by their main characters. databases. readers are willing to make this tacit agreement with an author. Any breach of this contract is seen as a violation of the rules and is condemned. . data retrieval systems. in nearly all its forms. and readers expect her to do so. Ancient historians had to do their best to cobble together a plausible narrative of past events. while expecting. that the account will be historically plausible. no way to know.56/357 implied agreement between an author and readers. When it comes to fiction. however. in fact. In large part that was because in antiquity there simply weren’t the research tools available that we have today: extensive access to reliable sources. copious written records. Nowhere was this more obviously a problem than in recording the actual words of someone who lived a long time ago. though most historians tried. and readers are not allowed to expect anything other than what typically happens in this kind of writing.

letters. That is why the ancients were so interested in seeing whether books were “authentic children” of their named authors or “illegitimate” (notha). and so here again there was a kind of understood contract between author and readers. Historians should not make up stories or even the speeches delivered by the characters in their . a best guess. a superb historian such as the fifth-century BCE Thucydides explicitly states that he simply made up the speeches himself. So too ancient people recognized the difference between fabricated fictional accounts and historical narratives. But educated readers realized that this is what the historians were doing. and so on as “false writings” and “lies. treatises. the author would come up with his best guess at what a speaker said and readers would accept it for what it was. not really belonging to the person named as the author. unlike Thucydides. in which the real author and the real readers agreed not to take seriously the false name attached to a writing.” not as some kind of harmless and innocent fiction. As I have shown. did not appreciate it. Some scholars have thought that forgery was like that. Forgeries were literary texts in which the author adopted a kind of fiction without the permission of readers. recent scholars who have actually studied the ancient discussions of forgery indicate that this view is not right at all. when they found out. a kind of fiction comparable to the invention of speeches in a history. Ancient people treated forged historical narratives. Some historians. such as Lucian of Samosata and Polybius. There was no way of showing whether the historian got it right. And readers. What choice did ancient historians have? The best they could do was to invent a speech that seemed appropriate to the character of the speaker and the occasion and trust that it was a more or less close approximation of what was actually said. were quite insistent that historical narratives should indicate only what actually happened.57/357 For that reason.

instead. they are not accounts that falsely claim to be written by Peter. made up a lot of stories about historical figures. a second-century BCE Greek historian who wrote about Rome’s rise to power. In Christian circles this can be seen for nearly every historical figure of importance we know of: Jesus.e. In this chapter.58/357 histories. since I’m interested in books that claim to be written by Peter.6 . might be called “fabrications. By my definitions these stories are not forgeries. Peter. the historian is different from the “tragic poet” (i.. not just professional historians. inventing speeches and even narratives as they saw fit for their “historical” accounts. the author of fictional drama): “The tragic poet should thrill and charm his audience for the moment by the verisimilitude of the words he puts into his characters’ mouths. and other members of the apostolic band. let us begin by considering some of the stories invented about him. Stories About Peter WE HAVE A NUMBER of books from early Christianity that tell stories about Peter.” stories invented about Peter. but in fact were forged in his name. is that other historians did precisely what he opposed. before looking at books falsely attributed to him. Paul. These were almost entirely “made up” by one Christian storyteller or another. They. of course. succinctly states it: the historian should “simply record what really happened and what really was said. It is certainly true that people in general.”5 The reason a historian such as Polybius had to argue this point so strenuously. As Polybius. but it is the task of the historian to instruct and convince for all time serious students by the truth of the facts and the speeches he narrates.” For Polybius.

this one claiming to be written by Titus. They run off together and are never seen again. Peter assures his guests that God has the power to heal . describes the great miracles Peter performed after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension. The New Testament contains a letter allegedly by Paul to Titus. It is an intriguing letter. In one of the stories Peter is talking to a gathering of Christians in his home on a Sunday. But someone in the crowd asks Peter why he won’t heal his own daughter..” since he doesn’t believe that what has happened is in the girl’s best interest. A similar narrative can be found in a collection of stories about Peter’s missionary activities. simply called the Acts of Peter. He begs Peter to restore the girl to life. is not in the name of Peter. In its context the message is quite clear: it is far better to be dead than caught up in sexual desire. one can have salvation only by refraining from sex. as he demonstrates the power of his risen Lord and converts innumerable persons to the faith. they have brought a group of sick people for him to heal. and Peter does so. but in the name of Titus.59/357 One of the most interesting does happen to occur in a forged document. chaste life.e. A peasant brings his virgin daughter to Peter to be blessed. In the context of the forger’s discussion he cites a story about Peter that serves to illustrate his point. a forgery). But a few days later a visitor who claims to be a Christian comes to stay with the peasant and seduces his daughter. however. but the author of the story calls him “distrustful. This forgery. who is lying paralyzed in the corner. Or to put it more bluntly. asking that God do what is best for her. because it argues vociferously that the only way to have eternal life is by living an ascetic. the companion of Paul. She drops down dead. Peter says a prayer over the girl. The peasant is understandably distressed. probably written in the second Christian century. The account. About four hundred years later another letter appeared. And that’s the end of the story. which I argue in Chapter 3 is pseudonymous (i.

60/357 the girl. Greater miracles are yet in store. Peter then tells the story of his daughter. she apparently was beautiful as a child. But then he orders her to return to her corner paralyzed. The crowd rejoices and comes to believe. One of the miracles involves Peter and a smoked tuna. she became paralyzed. they reply. but for real. He asks the crowds if they will believe if he can make the dead fish come back to life. When she was young. until healed by Peter and converted to faith in Christ. should he choose to do so. not the other. A slave boy is ordered into the arena. lest she lead others astray. The neighbor went blind for his troubles. and each tries to convince the crowds that he. . But he is standing by a fishmonger’s shop and sees a smoked tuna hanging in the window. When she was ten. a magician empowered by the devil. and orders it to come back from the dead. Each of them can do miracles. Here again the point is perfectly clear: sex is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. throws it into a nearby pond. The Acts of Peter is chiefly built around a series of contests between Peter. The fish comes to life—not for just a few minutes. Simon is instructed to kill the boy. Peter and Simon the Magician are called by the local Roman official into the arena to compete in order to see who is the true spokesperson for God. Peter orders the girl to arise and walk naturally. then they will believe. Yes. and as an adult she would entice men to sleep with her. We are told that Peter has been trying to convince the crowds and is having little success. So he removes the tuna from the hook. but before he could sleep with her. even if it means being an invalid for life. To prove his point. stands for the truth. But the girl had to remain paralyzed. The crowd is both amazed and distraught. And she does so. she would lead many astray. the representative of the true God. by the mercy of God. Peter learned in a vision from God that if she remained healthy. a next-door neighbor attempted to seduce her. and a heretic named Simon.

The crowds converge on him and stone him to death as an impostor.61/357 and Peter to raise him from the dead. the people “venerated Peter as a god. not to be outdone. they were multiplied as Christian storytellers fabricated legendary accounts of the great heroes of the faith in the second and third Christian centuries. raises the man fully from the dead. and she desperately wants Peter to raise him back to life. he has simply moved his head. Peter challenges Simon to a duel to see who can raise the man. From that hour on. Her son has died.” The climax of the story comes when the heretic Simon announces to the crowds that he will prove his superior power by flying like a bird over the hills and temples of Rome. Stories like this can easily be multiplied. the dead man raises up his head. Peter then has his chance. and the boy is immediately restored to life (the man of God has the word of life). While the crowd looks on. They prepare to burn him at the stake. He speaks a word. he will be able to raise him up and make him talk. But Peter tells the boy’s master to take his hand and raise him up. Did they also . The crowds are convinced that Simon is the true power of God. and lo and behold. If Simon is truly from God. Simon goes through several shenanigans: standing next to the dead body. and has him speak. he stoops down three times and stands up three times. he is true to his word and takes off. Peter. He crashes to the ground and breaks his leg. Simon speaks a word in the boy’s ear. In fact. When Simon is unable to do so. flying like a bird. A wealthy woman then comes up to Peter and cries out for him to help her as well. and Peter must be an impostor. and he falls down dead (it is the heretic who speaks the word of death). It is Peter who has the true power of God. calls out to God and deprives Simon of his power in mid-flight. But Peter shouts them down and points out that the man has not actually been raised from the dead. So they made up stories about Peter. When the day of his feat arrives.

and hidden agendas that dictate how he tells his narrative. A writing in the name of Peter could authorize one set of views in the name of a great “authority. Eusebius is an invaluable source of information for Christianity’s first three hundred years. all of which needed apostolic “authority” behind them. theological perspectives. He often needs to be taken with a pound of salt. that he has personal views. because we actually knew of its existence for centuries. Different Christians had competing assumptions. before it turned up in an archaeological dig near the end of the nineteenth century. In those cases we get primary sources preserved for us from authors living before his time. Nor are there many doubts about why they invented such writings. But he is especially valuable when he quotes verbatim from the earlier sources that were available to him. The Church History.” since his ten-volume book. I say that it has been rediscovered.62/357 make up writings by Peter? There seems to be no doubt about that either. was the first narrative account of the early Christian church. In this account Eusebius traces the spread of the Christian movement from the time of Jesus down to his own day.” Noncanonical Writings Forged in the Name of Peter THE GOSPEL OF PETER One of the most significant Gospels to be rediscovered in modern times is the so-called Gospel of Peter. as scholars have increasingly recognized. For many of his narratives. that Eusebius very much puts his own slant on his accounts. his Church History is the only source we have. practices. .” named as its “author. In no small measure it is for the reason we have seen. and theologies. outlooks. Eusebius is often called the “father of church history. the early fourth century. It is true. Our earlier source of information was Eusebius.

In particular. “to seem” or “to appear”) maintained that since Christ was fully divine.7 As bishop of one of the largest communities in Christendom. a man named Serapion. In Book 6 of his Church History Eusebius tells the story of an important bishop of the large church in Antioch. But he did so without reading the book himself. Serapion had under his jurisdiction the churches in the villages and towns of the surrounding area. When he returned to Antioch. near the end of the second century. Serapion’s response was that Peter. Docetists (from the Greek word dokeo. He attributed the division to petty squabbling and learned that it may have had its roots in the Gospel that was being used in the church. and luckily this is one of those instances in which Eusebius actually quotes a primary source. Why then did Christ “seem” to be human? For docetists. He only seemed to do so. of course. was a disciple of Jesus. God doesn’t suffer). Some docetists claimed that Christ’s body . he learned from several informers that the Gospel in fact was a problem—it contained heretical teachings. including the church in the town of Rhossus. Docetists maintained that Christ was not a real human being in two different ways. The story concerns a Gospel of Peter. Luke. Mark. or John (Gospels that he doesn’t mention). it was used by a group of Christians known as docetists. Christ didn’t have a real flesh-and-blood body and didn’t really suffer and die. Serapion indicates that while making the rounds of his churches. it was all an appearance. Syria. any Gospel that he wrote must be perfectly acceptable. he could not have been fully human and could not have really suffered (people suffer.63/357 direct access to earlier Christian authors whose writings have otherwise been lost. On these grounds he allowed the parishioners in Rhossus to continue using it. he visited Rhossus and found there was a division in the congregation. but a Gospel of Peter. It was not Matthew. a writing of Serapion himself.

some parts were not. So some people might have mistakenly thought that the Christ was a human who really died. When Serapion received word that the Gospel he had previously approved might contain docetic teachings. and so he procured a copy to read. and without knowing what Serapion’s book said.64/357 only seemed to be human. it is difficult to know if what we now have is the same book he had. because he was buried with a sacred book (modern scholars are less sure that he was a monk. The Christ was a divine being who descended from heaven and came into Jesus at his baptism (the dove that descended on him and went into him). In a kind of appendix he gave a list of the offensive passages. before Jesus died. Then. Eusebius quotes from the letter in his Church History. and during the winter months of 1886–87 a French archaeological team working out of Cairo was digging in the tombs. To the northeast of this city are three cemeteries. The Christ was divine and could not suffer. but there was also a different being known as the Christ. because it was. The other docetic view is a bit more complicated. but that was only Jesus. . That is very much to be regretted. They uncovered the tomb of a person they took to be a monk. but unfortunately he does not include the appendix with the portions that Serapion found objectionable. and he wrote a letter to the Christians of Rhossus disallowing its use. It maintained that there was a real man Jesus (flesh and blood like the rest of us). during an archaeological dig near the city of Akhmim in Upper Egypt. for a Gospel of Peter has been discovered in modern times. Serapion decided that the book was forged. phantasmal (like Casper the Friendly Ghost). empowering him to perform miracles and deliver his divine teachings. he came to think that even though most of the account was perfectly “orthodox” (a “right teaching”). Sure enough. the Christ left him to return to its heavenly home. in fact. he was naturally disturbed. The modern discovery occurred in 1886 or 1887.

written in Greek on vellum (pages made out of animal skin). and it contains a small anthology of four texts.” Herod (the Jewish king). This Gospel maintains even more emphatically than the Gospels of the New Testament that the blame for Jesus’s death falls squarely upon the Jewish people and their leaders. Our earliest Gospel. It is sixty-six pages in length. Since they did not wish to wash. with beginning. One key difference can be seen already in this opening verse. written later. nor did Herod or any of his judges. In the New Testament. The book itself was highly significant. This anti-Jewish emphasis is part of a trend we can see developing throughout the early Christian tradition. It starts in the middle of a story. it is only in the Gospel of Matthew that we have a story of Pilate washing his hands at Jesus’s trial. is a Gospel that was previously unknown. and end.65/357 almost anyone could have been buried with an important book). crucifixion. declaring himself “innocent of this man’s blood” (27:24). “…but none of the Jews washed his hands. Mark. With the passing of time. the fact that the Romans killed Jesus retreats into the background. Matthew says nothing about anyone else washing or refusing to wash his hands. But that is stressed here. When we come to the Gospel of Luke. . And who does not wash their hands? “The Jews. That can be seen simply by looking chronologically at the Gospels of the New Testament. Pilate stood up. and his (Jewish) judges. The first of these. and resurrection of Jesus—alternative in that the story differs in remarkable ways from the accounts in the New Testament Gospels.” What follows is an alternative account of the trial. occupying the first ten pages. seems to suggest that the decision to have Jesus killed is shared by the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor Pilate (although even here Pilate’s hand seems to be forced). and the Jewish leaders and Jewish people are made increasingly culpable. middle.8 The Gospel is not a complete text.

it is the Jews themselves who actually kill Jesus. The Jewish authorities crucify Jesus and take him off the cross. Somewhat notoriously the Jewish people (this is only in Matthew) cry out. came to be used for horrible acts of Christian anti-Semitism down through the Middle Ages. .66/357 Pilate actually declares Jesus innocent three times—so that the fault for his death falls on the Jewish leaders who demand it. ‘Do everything that I ordered you to do to him’” (v. And then John says that Pilate “handed Jesus over to them to be crucified” (19:16). as time goes on. More significant still. And so. and even today. 2). the Jewish people are willing to accept the responsibility and consequences of Jesus’s death and to pass the responsibility on to their descendants. The author is quite clear that they are the ones who are at fault: “They brought all things to fulfillment and completed all their sins on their heads” (v. it is the Jewish king Herod: “Then King Herod ordered the Lord to be taken away and said to them. Now it is not even the Roman governor Pilate who orders Jesus crucified. This verse. “His blood be upon us and our children” (27:25). has Pilate wash his hands to declare that he is innocent in the shedding of Jesus’s blood. and the Jewish people and their leaders become increasingly guilty. The Gospel of Peter is even later than John. In other verses of this account the Jewish mistreatment of Jesus is intensified. for Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew. goes a step farther. the last of our canonical Gospels. 17). In other words. within the Christian tradition Pilate becomes increasingly innocent in the death of Jesus. Here we are told that the Jewish people rejected Jesus as their king and declared that “we have no king but Caesar” (even though God himself was to be the king over his people). In this distortion of historical reality. The Gospel of John. of course. written at about the same time as Luke. and here Jewish responsibility is heightened further.

One of the big questions of this Gospel is whether Jesus himself experiences any torment. Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish Temple burned to the ground as divine retribution against the Jews for their sinful act of killing God’s messiah. that when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE after a Jewish uprising. Here in the Gospel of Peter the Jewish people themselves recognize their guilt and their imminent punishment.9 The idea is that a crucified man would die more quickly if he could not push up with his legs to relieve the pressure on his lungs and breathe.67/357 the Jewish people realize that what they have done is wrong and that they will be punished for it: “Then the Jews. 25). so that he would die in torment” (vv. found among Christians in the second century and later. as if he had no pain. The judgment and the end of Jerusalem are near’” (v. ‘Woe to us because of our sins. as happens here. but this one. 11 we are told that Jesus was “silent. saying. but religious ones. In the Gospels of the New Testament Jesus is crucified with two others. because in fact he did not have any pain? That his body was a phantasm? . In addition to the anti-Jewish character of this account. there are a number of other interesting legendary features. By not breaking the criminal’s legs they prolong his torment. it was not for political or military reasons. what wrong has he done you?” The soldiers get angry at the man and order “his legs not be broken. 14–15). the elders. and the priests realized how much evil they had done to themselves and began beating their breasts. This is a reference to the view. the Savior of the people. But in this Gospel there is a curious incident. In v. When those who crucify Jesus gamble for his clothes.” Is it possible that this is one of the verses that Serapion found potentially objectionable? That Jesus appeared not to have pain. one of the “evildoers” being crucified with him maligns them: “We have suffered like this for the evil things we did.

however. the kind where the divine Christ leaves the human Jesus to die alone?10 The most striking passage of the Gospel comes at the very end. “My power. why have you forsaken me?” as. The one they are supporting—Jesus obviously—is taller still. while the stone in front of the tomb rolls aside. rather than crying out. and is buried. his head reaches above the sky. in the Gospel of Peter a very peculiar sequence of events occurs while the guards are looking on. When Jesus is about to die. “Yes. we have a giant Jesus and a walking. in the Gospel of Mark (15:34). The two heavenly men enter the tomb. “Have you preached to those who are asleep?” And the cross replies. But unlike in Matthew. a passage that provides us with something we never find in the New Testament Gospels: an actual account of the resurrection. Two of them are so tall that their heads reach up to the sky. The heavens open up and two “men” descend. And a voice comes from heaven asking. a guard is posted at the tomb of Jesus to make sure that no one comes to steal the body. As I pointed out in Chapter 1. and on the third day the women go to the tomb and find it empty. “My God. you have left me behind!” And then we are told. dies. As happens in the Gospel of Matthew.” So. say.68/357 A later verse is equally puzzling. behind them. But there is no story in the Gospels of the New Testament about Jesus coming out of the tomb alive. they look up and see three figures emerge from the tomb. he instead cries. the cross itself emerges from the tomb. O power. the canonical Gospels do not narrate the resurrection of Jesus. but in none of the other canonical Gospels. Jesus is crucified. In their stories. Terrified. he was taken up.” Doesn’t this sound like the other kind of docetism. And then. at the resurrection. “When he said this. does have such a story. The Gospel of Peter. talking cross. my God. . But while they are talking. the soldiers go off to wake the centurion to tell him what has happened.

the son of Alphaeus. The disciples are still grieving over what has happened. for . This is a forgery. right in the middle of a sentence. of course. And there it ends. What is clear. The Gospel continues by indicating that the Jewish authorities go to Pilate and urge him to cover up the story by ordering the soldiers not to breathe a word of what they have seen. and each one returned to his home. the twelve disciples of the Lord. This is an author claiming to be someone he is not. Simon Peter. Then we have the concluding sentences of the Gospel: “But we. And with us was Levi. teachings. to be highly symbolic. is written in the first person.69/357 The narrative is meant. But there is no way he was Peter. life. grieving for what had happened. and my brother Andrew. The author claims to be Peter. But I.” that is. Then comes an account of the women going to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. from the final verse. miracles. 59–60). the news of the salvation brought to those who are “asleep. is that this Gospel. only to learn that he has been raised. whom the Lord…(vv. Divine beings are often portrayed as gigantic in ancient texts. unlike the Gospels of the New Testament. to those who are already dead and waiting for the salvation to come. took our nets and went off to the sea. and so on before the account of his Passion and resurrection. not knowing yet about the resurrection. And the cross is said to have proclaimed its message. The reason Simon Peter could not have written this account is that it almost certainly dates to the second century. The reason the account seems to start in the middle of a thought and definitely ends in the middle of a sentence is that the person who created this book of sixty-six pages—probably in the sixth century—had only a fragmentary account in front of him. Jesus is the tallest since he is the most divine. ministry. wept and grieved. at least sixty years after Peter had died. Virtually all scholars agree on this. It is impossible to say whether the complete Gospel of Peter included stories of Jesus’s birth.

as the Gospel described by Serapion evidently was. And certainly this Gospel fits that bill. no sooner than the beginning of the second century. Jesus still has a miraculous body and divine power at the resurrection. and the talking cross. the heightened anti-Judaism fits better with the second century. Moreover. that isn’t really the same thing. where he looks as if he has anything but a real body that has just suffered the agonies of crucifixion! . Scholars debate whether the author of this Gospel had access to the stories of Matthew. Luke. It is by and large perfectly acceptable from an orthodox perspective.” My own view is that the Gospel would not need to be actually docetic in order to be the Gospel mentioned by Serapion. So the phrase about being taken up may simply be a euphemism for “he died. there are numerous parallels with one or the other of the Gospels throughout. the giant Jesus.70/357 compelling reasons. such as the robber whose legs were not broken. When it says that Jesus was silent on the cross “as if” he felt no pain. and John. then he was obviously writing after them. for example. when it became common. For one thing. Mark. This would include the major account of Jesus emerging from the tomb. If he did use them. In part the debate has been over whether this is really a docetic account. And to say that “he was taken up” may not mean that the Christ had left Jesus. but several verses might easily lend themselves to a docetic reading. that is. for Christians to blame the destruction of Jerusalem on the Jews themselves for killing Jesus. These too suggest it is a later account. as saying that he did not feel pain. it is often argued. but he found some “additions” that were troubling and that could be used by docetic Christians. there are the highly legendary aspects of the story. at least in his eyes. for example. Scholars also debate whether this is the Gospel of Peter that was known to Serapion. Serapion admitted that most of the Gospel was perfectly orthodox. Some scholars have their doubts.

Moreover. but only if they converted to Judaism. keeping kosher. to make its incredible and antiJewish narratives seem completely credible. in this understanding. of course.71/357 Whether or not this is Serapion’s Gospel. this salvation applied equally to Jews and Gentiles. such as his brother James. Paul. and for both men and women it meant observing the Sabbath. This is a forgery in the name of Peter. who focused on converting Gentiles (nonJews). For Paul. But Peter didn’t write it. Gentiles were. that it was the God of Israel who had brought salvation to those who kept his teachings. in part. On the other side were people like the apostle Paul. so that one did not have to be a Jew to be a follower of Jesus. and the disciple Peter. according to this view. a person had to be Jewish.11 THE EPISTLE OF PETER Many scholars have thought of the early Christian church as seriously divided. no doubt. Jews could keep it if they chose (and as a Jew he himself kept it). and following the other Jewish laws. as found in the Jewish law. In this modern schema. And it’s not the only one. it is certainly a Gospel of Peter. but Gentiles were not . Jesus was the Jewish messiah sent from the Jewish God to the Jewish people in fulfillment of the Jewish law. James and Peter are often thought to have been more “true” to Jesus’s original message. Naturally. the law had passed away. For men that meant getting circumcised. to be a follower of this Jewish savior. On one side were the Jewish followers of Jesus. welcomed into the community with open arms. It claims its authority in the name of Jesus’s closest disciple. that believing in the death and resurrection of Christ was the only way to have a right standing before God. taught something quite different. who was the head of the church in Jerusalem. For these early Christians.

especially by followers of Christ. then. Through Paul. it was an admission that Christ’s death was insufficient for salvation (see 2:15–16. in the (orthonymous) letter to the Galatians. It goes way back to earliest Christianity. For Paul. But I do want to say that this idea that there was a split between their views is not just a modern notion. in the second Christian century. or the Epistle of Peter. it is true that Paul established churches made up of Gentiles and that he insisted that these converts not keep the Jewish law. God had given the law. Other Christians did indeed disagree.12 This . any Gentile who tried to keep the law completely misunderstood that salvation comes from Christ’s death alone. Later. and it was the law that was to be followed. It is not necessary here for me to evaluate this common understanding of the relationship of Paul to the apostles before him. This was the national law for Israel. there continued to be groups of Jewish Christians who insisted that the law certainly had to be followed by anyone who wanted to belong to God’s people. for example. particularly James and Peter. Historically speaking.72/357 supposed to keep it. This was the law that told people how to live. 21). This split in the early church between the (now) minority of Jewish Christians and the dominant majority of Gentiles can be seen nowhere more clearly than in a writing forged in Peter’s name called the Epistula Petri. the church largely filled up with Gentiles who did not see themselves as Jewish and who worshiped the God of Israel without following his law. to be received by faith. Keeping the law was worse than irrelevant. Only Jesus’s death and resurrection could bring salvation. This is a case he makes quite strenuously. and it had nothing to do with salvation. Many of them were Paul’s opponents in his various churches. it was the law that Jesus himself taught and fulfilled. and he never changed his mind.

That is completely false. this group of writings falsely claims (hence “Pseudo”) to be written by Clement. a letter supposedly written by Peter to the brother of Jesus. They are. and other technical questions. James. As implied by its scholarly name. appointed to his position by none other than Peter. It was written later. years after the New Testament writings had been completed. The Clementine books clearly were not written by the historical Clement. was widely thought to have been the fourth bishop of Rome (or pope). and performs miracles.73/357 book is not to be confused with 1 Peter or 2 Peter in the New Testament. “Peter. gives speeches. forged. For over a century scholars have strenuously debated what sources the books used. The Pseudo-Clementines have a highly complicated literary history. These include miracle contests with the archheretic Simon the Magician. even though they are (allegedly) narrated by him in the first person. says the author. as we saw earlier. whom we saw earlier. for Jesus himself had indicated that “not one jot or tittle will pass away from the law” and .” attacks Christians who interpret his message as saying that the Jewish law is no longer in force. head of the church in Jerusalem. But the basic character of the writings is clear. who. The author. The Epistle of Peter is found as a kind of introduction to group of writings that scholars call the Pseudo-Clementines. especially as he converts to Christianity through Peter’s preaching and then journeys with Peter as the apostle spreads the gospel. because they might be misinterpreted or altered. These are accounts of the travels and adventures of Clement. In one set of these writings the adventures of Clement are prefaced by the Epistle of Peter. how the various writings are related to each other. but only to a select group of trustworthy people. The Acts of Peter may have been one of the sources for these stories. therefore. The letter instructs James not to allow Peter’s writings to be handed over to just anyone. but long after his death.

and Paul. THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER I will not be talking at length in this book about how we got our twenty-seven books of the New Testament. is an author who saw Paul as the enemy and his “lawless and absurd” doctrine as heresy. then. 2). For this author.13 In the history of the early church found in the book of Acts. instead. Paul has misrepresented the gospel. Paul not only disagreed with Peter. an interloper who has misinterpreted Peter. 5:17–20). to prefer “a lawless and absurd doctrine of the man who is my enemy. This. that is. The author forged the letter in Peter’s name in order to make his point. According to this letter.74/357 that it would be eternally valid (see Matt. 15). This is not the case. they agree on every major point. It is someone who preaches to the Gentiles. Without naming him.” It does not take a lot of thought to realize who the enemy is whom “Peter” is opposing. and most important. for the author of the Epistle of Peter. for example. insists on a gospel apart from the Jewish law (a “lawless doctrine”). how the . and claims that Peter himself subscribes to that view (see Gal. Here we have a view of Peter and Paul very much at odds with what we find in some of the writings of the New Testament. one of Peter’s opponents in particular has led “the Gentiles” to reject Peter’s “lawful preaching” and. Jesus’s closest disciple. they wholeheartedly concur that Gentiles do not need to be Jews to be followers of Jesus (see Acts 10–11. he was wrong. however. they stand arm in arm in the mission to spread the gospel. And on what authority does the author claim this? On the authority of Peter himself. Here there is a clear split between Peter. Peter and Paul see eye to eye. this author is talking about Paul.

In the New Testament Apocalypse of John. earthly realities. these mysteries have to do with the fate of souls in life after death.15 From authors such as Eusebius. He stood in a long line of Christian authors who used the motif of a tour of the afterlife in order to make whatever important points they wanted to stress about life here on earth. As it turns out. which obviously ended up being included. Both books are apocalypses. though. Dante did not invent the idea.e. Most readers are familiar with the idea of a tour of heaven and hell from Dante’s Divine Comedy.75/357 canon was formed and how some writings came to be included and others left out. in which an author is given a secret revelation about the divine. we know that there were Christian communities as late as the fourth century who thought that the Apocalypse of Peter should be included in the canon. or alongside it.. as has been decided already in heaven. however. Here again we knew about the book for centuries before it was available. however. that there were some writings that were a “close call. just as there were others that nearly were left out. the book of Revelation). This book describes a personal tour that Peter is given of the realms of the blessed and of the damned. In the noncanonical Apocalypse of Peter. Our earliest example of this kind of writing is the Apocalypse of Peter. One of the books that nearly made it in is called the Apocalypse of Peter. either in place of the Apocalypse of John (i. heavenly mysteries that can make sense of the mundane.” that nearly made it in but did not. but finally made it in. Plenty of other books describe this process at length. these mysteries have to do with the future course of history to be unfurled on earth.16 The Apocalypse of Peter is very different from the Apocalypse of John.14 I can say. it was another of the four texts found in the sixty-six-page book uncovered by archaeologists near .

a number of the damned are tortured in ways that befit their characteristic sins. of what happens to souls after they die. the description of the realms of the blessed is a bit stereotyped and brief. which gives an even fuller account. for example—that is. Peter himself. There are. But then the discussion shifts to a description. The men they seduced are hanged by a different body part over the flames. Egypt. In Peter’s vision. the men cry out. “We didn’t know it would come to this!” The overarching message of this book is quite clear and not altogether subtle: if you want to enjoy the amazing blessings of paradise and avoid the horrific torments of hell. They ask Jesus about what will happen when the world comes to an end. in 1886–87. How do we know? Because someone who has observed the realms of the damned has told us. In order to get . Since then an Ethiopic version has been found. however. In this case. either in the place of torment or the place of eternal bliss. so that the punishment fits the crime. Anyone with any creativity and imagination can invent lurid and detailed descriptions of the torments of sinners. after all. Jesus’s right-hand man. As sometimes happens in these personal tours of heaven and hell. as you might imagine. Women who have braided their hair in order to make themselves attractive to men so as to seduce them are hanged by their hair over eternal flames. Those who have blasphemed against the ways of God. are a different matter altogether. The narrative begins with Peter and the disciples talking with Jesus on the Mount of Olives (see Mark 13). given in some graphic detail. sinned by what they’ve said—are hanged by their tongues over eternal flames.76/357 Akhmim. only so many ways you can describe eternal. It’s fantastic! What more can one say? The realms of the damned. and he provides them with a brief account. don’t sin! This message conveys a reliable and incontrovertible truth: those who fail to follow God’s will face eternal torture. ecstatic joy.

No one knows how many once existed. but in the name of the chief disciple. the Apocalypse of Peter—are not the only fabrications about Peter and forgeries allegedly written by Peter from the early church. an apostle of Jesus Christ. the Pseudo-Clementine Writings. Both claim to be written by Peter. Here again we have a forgery in the name of Peter. “Peter” was not a personal name before Peter was given it as a nickname by Jesus himself. According to the Gospels. And these are just the ones that we still have today. in light of this extensive use of Peter’s name to authorize others’ views. the letters of 1 Peter and 2 Peter.17 There is no doubt that the author is claiming to be Jesus’s closest disciple. Peter. that any forgeries in the name of Peter made it into the New Testament? As it turns out. “Petrine” Writings in the New Testament THE BOOKS I HAVE talked about here at some length—the Acts of Peter. Producing books in the name of Peter was a virtual cottage industry in the early church. the Gospel of Peter. But Jesus indicated that he .” to Christians whom he calls “exiles” in five provinces in the western part of what is now Turkey. the author writes in the first person—not in his own name.77/357 his point across. a collection called the “Preaching” of Peter. this disciple’s real name was Simon. Is it possible. two books bear Peter’s name there as well. the Epistle of Peter. but there are solid reasons for thinking that Peter did not write either one. There were others: other “Acts” of Peter. two other apocalypses of Peter. 1 PETER The book of 1 Peter is allegedly written by “Peter.

they “have had to suffer various trials. So he called him “Rocky.” or “Peter” (see Matt. the opposition seems to come from former friends and neighbors who do not understand or appreciate the Christians’ new lifestyle.” because they “share in the sufferings of Christ” (4:12–13). which are much. In fact. put on trial for their faith. The author assumes that his readers themselves are undergoing persecution and that they will be experiencing yet more in the future. So the author of 1 Peter is certainly claiming to be “that” Peter. This is borne out by his comment in 5:1. much longer.” he tells them.”19 This matter of suffering is the key theme of the book. the word “suffering” occurs more often in this short five-chapter letter than in any other book of the entire New Testament. that he was personally a “witness of the sufferings of Christ. as if something strange were happening. and martyred.” but they are to “rejoice. which is removed from the joyful . there were no other persons named Peter until later times when Christians started naming their children after the great apostle. They should not therefore be “surprised at the fiery ordeal that is coming…. But over the past twenty years or so scholars have begun to stress that the book of 1 Peter never says much about “official” persecution. such as happened when the emperor Nero imprisoned and then executed Christians in the city of Rome in 64 CE. including the Gospels. blaming them for starting the horrible fire that destroyed much of the city. 16:13–18). a fire that his own arsonists may have set. The older view was that the author was dealing with official state persecutions. because through being “tested” their faith will be refined and become “more precious than gold that is…tested by fire” (1:6–7).” But that is all to the good. Instead. Scholars have long debated what kind of suffering the author has in mind. “Now for a little while. where Christians are arrested.78/357 would be the “rock” (Greek petros) on whom the church would be founded.18 So far as we know.

The author ends his exhortation to be steadfast in the face of adversity by indicating that he has written his letter “through Silvanus. Rev. A good deal of the exhortation and encouragement to his readers is based on a sophisticated interpretation of key passages in the Old Testament. 17:5). 6–9.g. which also destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. but to suffer only for doing what is right (2:20). to do nothing to warrant any opposition. That is to say.79/357 celebrations of pagan religions (4:1–5). quoted. Babylon was the city that was seen as the ultimate enemy of God among Jews. 3:10–12. e. leading to local opposition to Christians that could at times turn nasty. By the end of the first century. 22. If this is the case. suspicious. in Greek.e. Christians stopped attending pagan festivals to form their own secret societies. and husbands (2:18–3:7).. and hateful. it makes sense that the author stresses to his readers that it is important for them to be obedient to the government and governing officials (2:13–15). a true Christian) and by sending greetings from “she who is in Babylon. Christians and Jews had started using the word “Babylon” as a code word for the city that was the enemy of God in their own day. 2:3. to show good conduct among outsiders (2:12). in fact as its first bishop—the first pope. of course. as can be seen. given the later traditions that associated Peter with the city of Rome. then.. in 1:24–25. 24–25. 14:8. The author. to be devoted slaves. who is also chosen” (5:13). since it was Babylon that had defeated Judah and destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in the sixth century BCE. is claiming to be writing from the city of Rome. But tradition also indicates that Peter was martyred in Rome under Nero in 64 CE. the so-called Septuagint (the legendary origins of which are described in the forged Letter of Aristeas discussed in Chapter 1). the city of Rome. Would it make sense that he would be . a faithful brother” (i. in the year 70 (see. This makes sense. Scholars have long realized what this last bit means. wives. and pagans became upset. for example.

greedy. His chief concern is that there are false teachers in the community who have twisted the true message of the gospel.21 a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. The author indicates that they will suffer like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and like the inhabitants of the entire world in the days of . It was written by someone claiming to be Peter. This highly vituperative attack calls their teachings “destructive heresies” and says that they. exactly.” But more than that. we should first look at the second letter in the New Testament written in Peter’s name.80/357 calling Rome “Babylon” before the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem in the year 70? By the time that catastrophe hit. it was not Simon Peter. The author insists that he himself was there to hear these words. he claims personally to have been present at the “transfiguration” scene narrated in the Gospels. 17:1–8). James. He introduces himself as “Simeon Peter. and exploitative. they teach. very good grounds for thinking that Peter did not actually write this book. without ever explaining what.20 The author certainly claims to be Peter. Most of chapter 2 is devoted to maligning these persons. where Jesus was transformed before the eyes of his disciples Peter. brought to him by the “voice…of the majestic glory” (1:17). Whoever wrote 2 Peter. “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (see Matt. Peter was long dead. and John and began speaking with Moses and Elijah. 2 PETER There is less debate among scholars of the New Testament about the authorship of 2 Peter than for any of the other books sometimes considered forgeries. the opponents. The author wants there to be no doubt: he is Peter. Before explaining some of those grounds. As it turns out there are other. even more explicitly than in the case of 1 Peter. are licentious. before a voice came from heaven saying.

even if Jesus waits another three thousand years. not even a full generation had passed since the crucifixion. The parallels are so numerous that scholars are virtually unified in thinking that the author has taken Jude’s message and simply edited it a bit to incorporate it into his book. That is to say. In addition to the false teachers. why hasn’t he come? A lot of time has passed. say these skeptics.81/357 Noah. This assault on his opponents. carousing. he still is coming “soon.” contains numerous verbal similarities to what can be found in the New Testament book of Jude. the year 64 under Nero—there was still eager expectation that Jesus would return soon. the “false prophets. they too will be destroyed.” And on and on. Paul himself.” Jesus has in fact delayed returning simply to give people a chance to repent before the coming destruction. having forgotten that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as one day” (3:8). “scoffers” have appeared who mock the Christian view that Jesus is soon to return from heaven in judgment on the earth. By the time 2 Peter was . One of the reasons virtually all scholars agree that Peter did not actually write this letter is that the situation being presupposed appears to be of much later times. as they do with all the other Scriptures. He calls them ignorant and says they are “blots and blemishes. reveling in their dissipation. to their own destruction” (3:16). which the ignorant and unstable people twist. taught such things in “all his letters. In other words. When Peter himself died—say. and everything goes on just the same as before! The author replies that these unbelievers are ignorant and deceived. the author tells us. It was only with the passing of time that the Christian claim that all would take place “within this generation” (Mark 13:30) and before the disciples had “tasted death” (9:1) started to ring hollow. unslakable for sin.” He says they have eyes that are “full of adultery. If he was supposed to come soon.

24 Today.23 And there is one more compelling reason. This could not have been during Paul’s lifetime. Simon Peter. Just about everyone we know can read the sports page and copy out a page of a novel if they choose. William Harris.22 and early church tradition indicates that both Peter and Paul were killed during the reign of Nero. shows that modern assumptions about literacy simply are not applicable to ancient times. and these letters were being considered on a par with the Old Testament “Scriptures” (3:16). the author of 2 Peter is writing at a time when there was already a collection of Paul’s letters in circulation. the 1989 book Ancient Literacy.82/357 written. But the phenomenon of massive and widespread literacy is completely modern. These are among the reasons for thinking that 2 Peter almost certainly could not have been written by Peter. Moreover. especially in rural Palestine. There are excellent grounds for thinking that Peter could not write. we live in a world where nearly every child goes to school and learns to read and write. Before the industrial revolution. where Simon Peter was born and raised? Scholars of antiquity have been diligent over the past twenty-five years or so in trying to understand every aspect of ancient literacy and education. in modern America. and Literacy WHAT DO WE KNOW about literacy and the ability to write in the ancient world. In what is now the classic study. Christians were having to defend themselves in the face of opponents who mocked their view that the end was supposed to be imminent. Ancient Palestine. it is still right around the corner by God’s calendar. professor of ancient history at Columbia University. societies had no compelling reasons to . So “Peter” has to explain that even if the end is thousands of years off. everything is still on schedule.

And all of them were in the upper classes. the social and economic elite. in the ancient world virtually everyone was high or low. a center of learning.25 Today we learn reading and writing together. “let alone write.83/357 invest enormous amounts of money and other resources into creating a literate population. Most of these 10 percent were men. reading and writing were taught as two different skills. the “middle class” is another invention of the industrial revolution. only about 10 percent of the population was reasonably literate. but at least a letter. It was only with the development of the industrial world that such a thing became both desirable and feasible. who had the leisure and the money (well. Hebrew. By the “best of times” he means Athens. I know this full well personally. very low). who were naturally a very low class indeed. When I say that few people could read. French. helping with correspondence. There is nothing inherent in learning to read that can necessarily teach you how to write. The only notable exceptions were slaves. And the vast majority of people in the ancient world were in the lower classes (to the surprise of many. German. or teaching the children. Lower-class people did not learn how to read. at the very best of times. I can read Greek. and we naturally assume that if people can read. When upper-class people were educated. let alone write. But that’s because of the way we have set up our educational system. during the days of Socrates and Plato (fifth–fourth century BCE). as might be expected in a highly patriarchal society. they can also write—not necessarily write a novel. their parents had the money) to afford an education. at the height of its intellectual power. so that they could carry out household duties that required literacy skills. Harris argues that in the ancient world. such as taking care of the household finances. . but who were sometimes educated at their masters’ expense.” I mean to signal something else quite significant about the ancient world. or very.

speak the local language. Aramaic. very few people indeed were able to perform these skills in a language other than the one they were raised with. I’m saying that far fewer than 1 percent of the population could do it. Greek. and that since they could read. that in Palestine Jewish boys all learned to read so that they could study the Hebrew Scriptures. And that was in the very best of times. it is often argued that in Palestine most adults were bilingual or even trilingual. they could probably write. have shown convincingly that none of these assertions is true. I’m not saying that just 1 percent of the population could do such a thing. able to read Hebrew. Moreover. the people who could compose an ethical essay. Very. most thoroughly researched.26 After examining all of the evidence. I learned how to read all of them in graduate school. The fullest. Hezser concludes that in Roman Palestine the best guestimate is that something like 3 percent of the population could read. It is sometimes thought that Palestine was an exception. so I could read ancient documents in their original languages and modern scholarship in the languages of Europe.84/357 and a range of other languages. but I cannot compose a letter in any of these languages. let alone a well-argued treatise. Most people in the ancient world could not read. however. Most people outside of the urban areas . But I never learned how to write them. And in this case by “write” I mean that most people—even if they could copy down words—could not compose a sentence. and communicate well in the language of the broader empire. and that the majority of these would have been in the cities and larger towns. or an involved religious treatise were highly educated and highly exceptional. And those who could read often could not write. a learned philosophical discussion. On the contrary. Recent studies of literacy in Palestine. and most widely influential study of literacy in Palestine during the period of the Roman Empire is by Catherine Hezser.

Moreover. for the entire first century CE (the time of Jesus and Simon Peter). land deeds. the northern part of what we think of as Israel. that’s not true either. Some smaller towns and villages may have had a literacy level of around 1 percent.. not even close. educated compositions other than tax documents. As it turns out. Those who learned to read learned how to read Hebrew (not Greek). they would have spoken Greek. but Justus’s don’t survive.” it was overrun by Gentiles in Jesus and Peter’s day. And what is more. so to get along. these literate people were almost always the elite of the upper classes. All the rest . we know for certain of only two authors in Palestine who produced literary works (i. far more people could read than could write. Was Peter in Josephus’s and Justus’s class? No. if there were lots of Gentiles in Galilee. And according to a common kind of logic. Sepphoris and Tiberias. We still have Josephus’s writings. once again. We know of no other literary authors for the entire century.): the Jewish historian Josephus and a man named Justus of Tiberius. or marriage certificates.85/357 would scarcely ever even see a written text. The people who knew how to write were primarily men who were priests. Both of these men were in the upper echelons of society. everyone must have spoken Greek. was occasionally called “Galilee of the Gentiles.27 Chancey has studied every archaeological find from Galilee from around the time of the first century. and draws a decisive conclusion: the Gentiles in Galilee were almost exclusively located in the two major cities. and both were inordinately well educated. etc. In fact. What about Greek education in the land of Peter’s birth and up-bringing? It is sometimes assumed that since Galilee.e. has read every single piece of writing from the period of any relevance. The most recent thorough studies of Gentiles in Galilee have been undertaken by the American scholar Mark Chancey.


of Galilee was predominantly Jewish. And since most of Galilee was rural, not urban, the vast majority of Jews had no encounters with Gentiles. Moreover, Greek was not widely, let alone normally, spoken. The vast majority of Jews spoke Aramaic and had no facility in Greek. How do all these findings affect our question of whether Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter or any other books? Was Peter among the very upper echelons of the educated elite of Palestine who could compose letter-essays in Greek? Apart from the legendary accounts I have mentioned, all we know about Peter’s life comes to us from the New Testament. What we principally learn about him is that before he was a follower of Jesus he was a fisherman from Capernaum in Galilee. In order to evaluate Peter’s linguistic abilities, the place to begin, then, is with Capernaum. A full summary of what we know about Capernaum from Peter’s day is provided by an American archaeologist of Palestine, Jonathan Reed.28 On the basis of archaeological digs and historical sources, it is clear that Capernaum was a historically insignificant village in rural Galilee. It is never mentioned in any ancient source prior to the Gospels. It is scarcely mentioned by any sources after that. It was discovered by archaeologists in the nineteenth century and has been excavated since then. In the time of Jesus it may have had anywhere between six and fifteen hundred inhabitants, so say a thousand. The archaeological digs have revealed no evidence of any public buildings whatsoever, such as shops or storage facilities.29 The market for buying food and other necessities must have been held in tents or booths in open unpaved public areas. The town is on none of the major international trade routes. The Roman roads in the area date from a hundred years after Peter’s life. There is no trace of any pagan or Gentile population in the town. There are no inscriptions of any kind on any of the buildings. Reed concludes that the inhabitants were almost certainly


“predominantly illiterate.” Archaeologists have found no building structures or materials associated with social elites from the first century (e.g., plaster surfaces, decorative frescoes, marble, mosaics, red ceramic roof tiles). The houses were roughly constructed out of stone basalt, and mud or clay was used to fill in the gaps; they probably had thatched roofs. In short, Peter’s town was a backwoods Jewish village made up of hand-to-mouth laborers who did not have an education. Everyone spoke Aramaic. Nothing suggests that anyone could speak Greek. Nothing suggests that anyone in town could write. As a lower-class fisherman, Peter would have started work as a young boy and never attended school. There was, in fact, probably no school there; if there was a school, he probably didn’t attend; if he did attend, it would have been in order to receive rudimentary training in how to read Hebrew. But that almost certainly never happened. Peter was an illiterate peasant. This should come as no surprise, really. As it turns out, there is New Testament evidence about Peter’s education level. According to Acts 4:13, both Peter and his companion John, also a fisherman, were agrammatoi, a Greek word that literally means “unlettered,” that is, “illiterate.” And so, is it possible that Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter? We have seen good reasons for believing he did not write 2 Peter, and some reason for thinking he didn’t write 1 Peter. But it is highly probable that in fact he could not write at all. I should point out that the book of 1 Peter is written by a highly literate, highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their Greek translation, the Septuagint. This is not Peter. It is theoretically possible, of course, that Peter decided to go to school after Jesus’s resurrection. In this imaginative (not to say imaginary) scenario, he learned his alphabet, learned how to sound out syllables and then words, learned to read, and learned


to write. Then he took Greek classes, mastered Greek as a foreign language, and started memorizing large chunks of the Septuagint, after which he took Greek composition classes and learned how to compose complicated and rhetorically effective sentences; then, toward the end of his life, he wrote 1 Peter. Is this scenario plausible? Apart from the fact that we don’t know of “adult education” classes in antiquity—there’s no evidence they existed—I think most reasonable people would conclude that Peter probably had other things on his mind and on his hands after he came to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. He probably never thought for a single second about learning how to become a rhetorically skilled Greek author. Some scholars have suggested that Peter did not directly write 1 Peter (as I’ve indicated, almost no one thinks he wrote 2 Peter), but that he indirectly wrote it, for example, by dictating the letter to a scribe. Some have noted that the letter is written “through Silvanus” (5:12) and thought that maybe Silvanus wrote down Peter’s thoughts for him. I deal with this question of whether scribes or secretaries actually ever composed such letter-essays in Chapter 4. The answer is, “Almost certainly not.” But for now I can say at least a couple of words about the case of 1 Peter. First off, scholars now widely recognize that when the author indicates that he wrote the book “through Silvanus,” he is indicating not the name of his secretary, but the person who was carrying the letter to the recipients. Authors who used secretaries don’t refer to them in this way. But why not suppose that Peter used someone else, other than Silvanus, as a secretary? It would help to imagine how this theory is supposed to work exactly. Peter could not have dictated this letter in Greek to a secretary any more than he could have written it in Greek. That would have required him to be perfectly fluent in Greek, to have mastered rhetorical techniques in Greek,


and to have had an intimate familiarity with the Jewish Scriptures in Greek. None of that is plausible. Nor can one easily think that he dictated the letter in Aramaic and the secretary translated it into Greek. The letter does not read like a Greek translation of an Aramaic original, but as an original Greek composition with Greek rhetorical flourishes. Moreover the letter presupposes the knowledge of the Greek Old Testament, so the person who composed the letter (whether orally or in writing) must have known the Scriptures in Greek. Is it possible, then, that the historical Peter directed someone to write a letter, basically told him what to say, and let him produce it? To that there are two responses. First, it would seem that if someone else actually composed the letter, it would be that person, not Peter, who was the author. But the other person is never named. Even in Paul’s letters that are coauthored (almost all of them) he names the others, even though he probably wrote them himself. In this case, Peter would not have even written the thing. And it should be remembered that there are good grounds for thinking that the letter was written after Peter had died, since it alludes to Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. But even more compelling is this. Where in the ancient world do we have anything at all analogous to this hypothetical situation of someone writing a letter-essay for someone else and putting the other person’s name on it—the name of the person who did not write it—rather than his own name? So far as I know, there is not a single instance of any such procedure attested from antiquity or any discussion, in any ancient source, of this being a legitimate practice. Or even an illegitimate one. Such a thing is never discussed. There are plenty of instances of another phenomenon, however. This is the phenomenon of Christian authors writing pseudonymous works, falsely claiming to be a famous person. Ancient scholars would have called a book like that a “falsely


inscribed” writing, a “lie,” an “illegitimate” child. Modern people would simply call it a forgery.

CHAPTER THREE Forgeries in the Name of Paul
WHEN I BECAME A BORN-AGAIN Christian in 1971, I was eager to read and learn all I could about the Scriptures. I had no idea at the time that there was such a thing as biblical scholarship, or that there were books written by real experts who had mastered the relevant ancient languages—Greek and Hebrew, for example—and plumbed all the ancient sources for years on end in order to provide historically accurate accounts. I was just as happy with a good novel about, say, Jesus or Paul as with something serious. And novels, of course, make for easy reading, just the sort of thing I liked. During the preceding year one of the best-selling biblical novels of all time had appeared, Taylor Caldwell’s Great Lion of God, a fictional account of the life of the apostle Paul. For eight months it had been on the New York Times bestseller list, and as far as I was concerned, if that many people read it, it must be accurate and informative. So I devoured it. It was only later in life that I realized just how much fiction there was in this “historical” novel. I remember, years after, fervently hoping that I hadn’t gotten too much of my “common knowledge” about Paul from this fantastical account. The one episode that stuck with me over the years involved Caldwell’s attempt to explain why Paul was so ripe for conversion to become a follower of Jesus after being such a violent persecutor of the church. The way she mapped out the scenario, roughly, was this. As a very young teenager Paul was extremely


zealous for his Jewish faith and strove mightily to keep the Jewish law. But at one point he succumbed to an irresistible temptation. It involved a tryst out at the local lake with a dark-haired slave girl. This sexual encounter created an enormous burden of guilt in the young Paul, which he tried to assuage by becoming even more hyperreligious. As a young man, he heard of the followers of Jesus, who were preaching that salvation can come to people who do not keep the law. Salvation comes simply through faith in Christ. Paul became incensed and got official permission to oppose and persecute them. This was a further way of working out his own personal guilt; by engaging in religious zeal he assuaged his conscience. But he found that the harder and harder he pressed for keeping the Jewish law in all its rigorous details, the more overwhelmed he was with guilt for having broken it. Then he had a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus. He realized for the first time both that he could not really keep the law and that he did not need to. Jesus brought a release from the deeply hidden guilt within him, and out of profound gratitude he threw himself with equal zeal into being a missionary for the church rather than its persecutor. Caldwell’s long book was a compelling read, especially for an eager teenager wanting to know more about the truth of his newfound faith. As it turns out, though, the entire plot is a fiction. There is no historical record of Paul’s sexual fling at the local pond and no indication that he felt tremendous guilt over being unable to keep the law, even though a lot of Christians continue to misinterpret Paul that way. We have a reasonable understanding of what Paul thought, since he has left us some letters (all in the New Testament). When he talks about his Jewish life before Jesus, even though he does indicate that he was extremely zealous for the law, he makes it quite clear that it was not because of guilt over being unable to keep it. On the contrary, Paul indicates that as a faithful Jew he was “blameless” in keeping the law (Phil.

it was not to resolve internal conflict and guilt. called the Acts of Paul. even the law. Having the true account from the horse’s mouth (or in this case the Great Lion’s) has never stopped people from telling fictional accounts about Paul.93/357 3:6). of course.e. was as worthless as “garbage” (as he puts it in Phil. and his amazing miracles.” and they normally were not tolerated. Ancient Fictions About Paul OF ALL THE CHRISTIANS who have ever lived. Many of the ancient fabricated accounts can be found in a book that has survived the ravages of time only in bits and pieces. We still have a number of ancient legendary accounts. had access to Paul’s own writings and could have known what he actually said about his life before Jesus. When he became a follower of Jesus. made-up stories) much as they saw forgeries (false authorial claims): they were pseuda. just as we have for Peter. In the case of Paul we have a record of someone actually being caught red-handed fabricating stories about him and being punished for it.. probably no one has had more stories told about him than Paul. and everything else. Probably the most famous part of the story involves Paul’s conversion of a wealthy young woman named Thecla. . 3:8)1 Taylor Caldwell. But probably the reality of his life didn’t make as good a story as the idea of the tryst with the slave girl. who abandons her fiancé to become Paul’s devoted follower. It was because he came to realize that Christ’s death was the only thing important for salvation. The narrative describes the missionary activities of Paul. “falsehoods” or “lies. his preaching. Ancient people saw fabrications about historical figures (i.

though. but decides on the basis of what she has heard to abandon her wedding plans and follow Paul. Sex is forbidden. Rejected and angry. who lives next door. She is engaged to a wealthy and prominent man. in the Acts of Paul. she throws herself in and declares herself baptized. Finally she reunites with the apostle Paul. There he preaches a sermon. This applies not only to single people. In another city she resists the sexual advances of an aristocrat and once more is condemned to death. God performs another miracle. Here. that she might die before she has been baptized into her new faith. She is upset. but to no avail. and Thecla escapes intact. happens to be sitting in her second-floor window and overhears the sermon. She miraculously escapes and becomes Paul’s follower. This time she is to be thrown to the wild beasts. preserved through remaining sexually chaste. Her mother and her aggrieved fiancé try to dissuade her. Seeing a vat of water filled with man-eating seals (whatever those might be). Thecla. The full account was very popular among some Christian groups in the early centuries. But it is a sermon quite unlike anything Paul himself teaches in his own letters in the New Testament. I’ve given just a brief sketch here of this fairly long and interesting story. but also to those who are married. they turn her over to the authorities to be burned at the stake for violating social custom. And it caused quite a stir among church leaders who were offended by the significant role . and is authorized by him to do so. where his message always concerns the need to believe in Jesus’s death and resurrection for salvation. can inherit the kingdom. The rest of the story is about her adventures with Paul and her persecutions. informs him of her desire to spread the word of the gospel. Only the pure in heart and body. the apostle’s message is one of sexual abstinence.94/357 Paul is said to have arrived in the city of Iconium and to have been welcomed into the house of a Christian named Onesiphorus.

through no less significant a figure than Paul. who around 200 CE wrote a treatise on baptism. The alternative perspective of the Thecla story led to some serious divisions in the church. and misogynist Tertullian. it is true to say that he was treated as forgers were also . he wrote a book with fabricated stories about Paul. that the male leaders of the churches should be married. At the same time. the story cannot be used to authorize women’s baptism practices. He was caught fabricating the account. most churches reserved such ministerial duties for men. the story is not about a forger.2 We know this because the first time an ancient author mentions the story. it is in order to oppose it. seemed to authorize women to engage in them.3 Scholars frequently cite this brief but fascinating passage from Tertullian in order to show that forgers were not welcomed in the church. By the second century. for Tertullian.95/357 it gave to Thecla as someone who could baptize (herself!) and preach the gospel. In fact. only men should be allowed to baptize. The writer was the famous Christian theologian. Moreover. the “gospel” of Paul in this text is all about sexual abstinence and the avoidance of marriage. This Asia Minor presbyter did not write a book claiming to be Paul. Thus. even though she was a woman. It is about a fabricator. for Tertullian. But unfortunately. defender of the faith. I wish that were the point of the story. Tertullian argues that this story of Thecla was fabricated and had no historical value. But these stories. In this treatise he attacks women who used the story of Thecla as a justification for practicing baptism since. In other churches it was taught that the family was important. that their wives should have babies and be submissive to their husbands in all things. he says the author of the story was an elder (“presbyter”) in a church of Asia Minor. was put on trial in the church. since I think it is true that forgers were not welcome. and was relieved of his duties.

we know of other forgeries that once existed. He was severely reprimanded for not speaking the truth. With good reason a number of scholars have argued that the presbyter did not actually invent these stories about Thecla. The author or editor who wrote them down was found out. but simply retold them. since they are not historical. somebody made up the stories. when he produced his account. did they also make up writings allegedly by Paul? This is the question we asked about Peter in Chapter 2. all of them.96/357 generally treated. an even bigger menace to the church’s unity was coming from a completely . Some of these forgeries survive. FORGERIES PERPETRATED BY MARCION You might think that someone of Paul’s stature would have been a unifying influence on the early church. written to “authorize” certain views in the name of this great author. And the consequences were not good. so far as we can tell. but have since been lost. Noncanonical Writings Forged in the Name of Paul IF CHRISTIANS MADE UP stories about Paul. editing them for his own purpose. as we will see later in this chapter when we return to the stories. and the answer here will be the same. But in any event. nothing could be farther from the truth. At about the time the presbyter of Asia Minor was propounding stories about Paul that led to splits over the role of women in the church. This may well be the case. As it turns out. the stories were floating around in the oral tradition for a long time before the end of the second century. There are numerous forgeries in the name of Paul from the early church. In other words.

It involved the teachings of one of Paul’s greatest early admirers. After he amassed a good deal of wealth. Rome. in a Christian household. in the early second century. We still have this work.97/357 different direction. he left Asia Minor for the capital city of the empire. and so Marcion was raised. Marcion came from the city of Sinope on the southern coast of the Black Sea. the second-century teacher and theologian Marcion. who wrote a five-volume refutation of Marcion’s teachings. He preached his “gospel” (literally. Marcion saw this contrast between the law of the Jews and the gospel of Christ in extreme terms and pushed the contrast to what he saw as its logical consequences. His father was reportedly a bishop of the local church. They were deemed heretical (“false teachings”) and destroyed.4 It is unfortunate that we no longer have any of Marcion’s own writings. Scholars have traditionally dated Marcion’s time in Rome as 139–144 CE. and he himself became an entrepreneur as a young man. but only by having faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. What we do have are the writings of his opponents. His family was from the upper class. Paul. the “good news”) to Gentiles. apparently in the shipbuilding business. It was in Rome that Marcion developed his distinctive theological ideas. including especially the already-mentioned Tertullian. where he joined the church and participated actively in its ministry. telling them that Christ’s death could bring a reconciliation with God for all who have faith.” as Paul puts it). Marcion was especially attracted to Paul’s idea that a person is made right with God not by doing the requirements of the Jewish law (the “works of the law. Where there is law. emphasizes that no one can be right with God through the works of the law. in such books as Galatians and Romans in the New Testament. . and it is a gold mine of information about one of the most divisive persons in the history of the early church.

and child in it. One day. wrathful God—not evil. just ruthlessly judicial. which they incurred by breaking the law. This good God. woman. first by destroying the city of Jericho (Josh.e. There were literally two Gods. was that the God who gave the Jewish law must not be the God who saved people from their sins. The Old Testament has nothing to do with the gospel of Paul. So the Old Testament God was perfectly justified in condemning everyone to damnation.98/357 there is no gospel. we are told in the Old Testament. chose Israel to be his people. No one was able to keep this law.” and “Pray for those who persecute you”? It doesn’t sound like the same God.. 6). The God of the Old Testament sent his prophets. and then gave them his law. was a God of love. on the other hand. the Old Testament God was not the same as the God of Jesus and his apostle Paul. Salvation comes. Elisha was verbally harassed by a group of boys making fun of his bald . mercy. to save people from the wrathful God of the Old Testament. They are contrary things. In it he showed that there were severe inconsistencies between the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus and Paul.” “Turn the other cheek. He instructs them to go into the city and slaughter every man. The necessary conclusion. for example. The God of the Old Testament. by believing in Jesus’s death. In other words. orders the Israelites to take over the promised land. superior to the God of the Jews. who says. and forgiveness. however. Is this the same God. Because it’s not. for Marcion. The God of Jesus. asks Marcion. sent Jesus into the world in order to die for the sins of others. the “contrary statements”). then. one of whom was Elisha. He was a just. Marcion argued that the God of the Old Testament was the Jewish God who created this world. The law and the gospel are fundamentally distinct. Marcion set out to prove his doctrine of the two Gods by writing a book called the Antitheses (i. “Love your enemies.

Elisha called the wrath of God down upon the boys. just as every other created being does. 8:3). otherwise he would belong to the God of the Jews. This was apparently a version of the Gospel of Luke. “Let the little children come unto me”? No. who stated that Jesus came into this world “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. He only seemed to be. Jesus could not belong to this created order. Moreover. there are two different Gods. For this view he could again appeal to the writings of Paul. How could that be. instead. a collection of books he considered sacred authorities. There was no Christian Old Testament.” So Marcion included. that is. directly. Is this the same God who said. it was all an appearance. and two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them to death (2 Kings 2). as the other part of his canon. Marcion is the first Christian of record to have insisted on a distinct canon of Scripture. He could not be born into this world as a flesh-and-blood being. physical human being. in his letters Paul constantly refers to his “gospel. was made up of two sections. Since the Jewish God was not the true God. For Marcion. if Marcion’s views of Paul and Jesus were right? Marcion had . the so-called pastoral letters. Marcion’s canon was remarkably short by most standards. For that reason he was not an actual. In other words. his book was not part of the Christian Scriptures. Since the God of Jesus is not the God of the Old Testament and is therefore not the creator of the world. One part consisted of Paul’s letters. a Gospel account of the life of Jesus. Marcion was a docetist (see Chapter 2). from the true God. all the ones in the New Testament except 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Marcion apparently knew ten of these. Jesus must have come from heaven. The canon.99/357 head. The problem with this eleven-book canon is that even these books quote the Old Testament as an authority and seem to affirm the creation as coming from the true God.

and so Paul was commissioned to set things straight. named after the Italian scholar. The apostles before him had altered Jesus’s teachings. this wide misinterpretation of Jesus’s message had affected lots of other Christians. He believed that after Jesus left this earth. the followers of Marcion. Marcion then edited his eleven books. misinterpreting his gospel message and turning it around to affirm the goodness of the creator God and his creation. that Jesus was not really born and is not really human. had forged two books in the name of Paul. as opposed to the canons of Marcion and other heretics. and so on—altered the texts and inserted false views into them. . including the scribes who copied the writings of Paul and Luke. This text is called the Muratorian Canon. the disciples. who discovered it. his followers. no longer survive. changed his teachings and went back to their old Jewish ways. They never fully understood Jesus’s teaching that the creator was not the true God. That is why Paul had to be called to be an apostle.100/357 an easy answer to that.5 Among other things the Muratorian Canon indicates that the Marcionites. Marcion and his followers had other books forged in Paul’s name. they will represent even more forcefully than the books of Marcion’s canon his distinctive views about the two Gods. But we can be relatively certain that if they ever turn up. a letter to the Christians in the city of Alexandria and a letter to those in the town of Laodicea. Scribes who did not understand the truth—that there are two Gods. In addition to these eleven books. Muratori. the non-human Jesus. eliminating from them portions that seemed too Jewish. regrettably. These letters to the Alexandrians and Laodiceans. These eleven books had in fact been miscopied over the years. According to Marcion. a text that discusses which books belong in the true cannon of Scripture. and the salvation he brought. We know this from a fragmentary text that comes to us from the second century.

It is an orthodox forgery of the second century. whom we have met before. as teaching a docetic view of Jesus. It sets out the claims of the two false teachers. Everyone familiar with the New Testament knows that it contains two letters by Paul to the church in Corinth. But Paul did not write it. But orthodox Christians forged documents of their own. We have far more of this kind of forgery. 3 Corinthians is now found in the Acts of Paul. that it is wrong to appeal to the Old Testament prophets. penned in the name of Paul to oppose heretics like Marcion.101/357 3 CORINTHIANS It was quite common for “orthodox” Christians (i.. It is a fascinating book.6 Like the stories of Thecla. for example. What most people do not know is that outside of the New Testament is a book called 3 Corinthians. since orthodox writings were more likely to be preserved for posterity. called 1 and 2 Corinthians. Christians who accepted the theological views that eventually became widely accepted throughout Christianity) to charge “heretics” (those who taught “false teachings”) with forging documents in the names of the apostles in order to support their views. forged in the name of the Corinthians. even if they were not actually written by their alleged authors. that there will be no future resurrection . The Corinthian Christians were disturbed by what they were hearing and wrote to Paul asking him to correct the heretical teachings and to come in person to straighten out those who had succumbed to them. that the creator God is not God over all). This letter to Paul. namely.e.. and Cleobius.e. is the first part of 3 Corinthians. The Gospel of Peter. that God is “not almighty” (i. two heretics came to Corinth propounding their false views. Simon the Magician. We will see much more of this phenomenon in Chapter 6. According to the account. was charged with being heretical.

Marcion devalued human “flesh.” because he rejected the idea that the creator of this world is the true God. At least one aspect of the alleged teachings of Simon and Cleobius. is the one who made fleshly beings. that he was not born of Mary. and in it “Paul” argues strongly against the heretical views being propounded by the false teachers. does not sound like Marcion. but are “heretics” with views very similar to Marcion’s. As we have seen. Either some of Marcion’s followers thought that the Jewish God had created the world through powerful angelic intermediaries. Since the Old Testament is not part of the Christian Bible. Paul goes on to stress that Jesus really was born of Mary and came in the flesh in order to redeem all . one cannot appeal to the prophets. however. So too Christ could not have had real flesh and was not actually born. This letter is much longer than the one from the Corinthians. or the fictitious opponents of the Corinthians are not followers of Marcion per se. “who were together with the Lord Jesus Christ at all times.” In other words. that the world was not created by God. And the creator. and that the world was not created by God. of course. his message is not unique to him. Much of this sounds like the teaching of Marcion. that Christ did not come to earth bearing real flesh.” Marcion maintained that it was created by the God of the Old Testament. This stands in contrast to Marcion.102/357 of the flesh. The rest of 3 Corinthians is Paul’s letter in response. who opposed the false teachings of the other apostles who corrupted Jesus’s message. the followers of Marcion did not believe that the afterlife would be lived “in the flesh” there would be no physical resurrection at the end of time. who saw Paul as the apostle par excellence. As a consequence. but by angels. Paul stresses that the message he preaches is the one that he received from the other apostles. and the creator God is not the true God. for Marcion. their teaching that the world was created “by angels.

8:1–9). who was intent on opposing the false teachings of the heretics. does so by teaching ideas about the flesh that are contrary to what the real.g. and the prophets were his spokespersons. like most Jews and Christians in his day. historical Paul taught. This emphasis on the “flesh” is very interesting. which had been raised from the dead (see. either reward or punishment. humans would face judgment.. this author emphasizes the importance of flesh as a creation of God that will be raised. Unlike Paul.” On the contrary the “flesh” meant something completely different for Paul. The human body would be raised from the dead. But Paul did not call the body the “flesh. That is to say. One recent study of 3 Corinthians has shown that the forger. thought that at the end of this age there would be a bodily resurrection.103/357 flesh and to raise people from the dead in the flesh. The true God is the creator. THE LETTERS OF PAUL AND SENECA A completely different agenda is found in a much later forgery of Pauline letters that was destined to become quite influential . in their own bodies. but also a bit ironic. 15). in Paul’s name. the “flesh” needed to be overcome. since it was controlled by sin. In other words. even though he is trying to correct. teachings he thinks are false.7 Paul himself certainly believed that God had created this world and that at the end of time he would redeem it. when theologians began thinking that flesh and body were the same thing. And that has happened here in 3 Corinthians. It meant that part of human nature that is controlled by sin and is alienated from God (see. but the flesh had to die. e..g. Rom. This somewhat technical understanding of the term “flesh” came to be lost in later orthodox Christianity. For Paul. 1 Cor. e. Paul. this is an instance in which a forger claiming to be Paul represents a point of view that is contrary to Paul’s.

One would hope for some good juicy gossip between the greatest thinker of the first century and the greatest apostle of the church. none of the other great thinkers of his day mentions him. the other six are Paul’s responses. Why does he appear to have been a great unknown in the Roman Empire. many Christians—not just Marcion—considered Paul to be the most important figure in the religion after Jesus. They are meant to show that Paul was well placed and well respected by intellectuals of his time. These fourteen letters repair the damage. the great spokesperson. But over the years Christians wondered why. Paul was understood as the great apostle. A number of Seneca’s philosophical writings were widely read in antiquity. Eight of the fourteen are allegedly Seneca’s letters to Paul. Modern readers of these letters are often a bit disappointed that their contents are so meager. His writings were widely read. “Seneca” in his first letter praises Paul for his “wonderful exhortations to the moral life” and indicates that these are divine . for example. He was in the upper crust of elite and powerful society. one of the real intellectual giants of the early Roman Empire. and his thought was deeply appreciated.104/357 on later Christian thinking about Paul. But with one exception the letters are not meant to provide fabricated stories about life in the imperial palace. if Paul was such a brilliant and astute thinker. and a good number of them survive today. By the end of the second century.8 Seneca was widely recognized as the greatest philosopher of his day. as he was the tutor and later the adviser of the emperor Nero. But nowhere in these writings does he mention the existence of Christianity or refer to Jesus or any of the great leaders of the new faith. the great theologian of the church. outside of the Christian church itself? Sometime in the fourth century an unknown author sought to address the issue and did so by forging a series of fourteen letters between Paul and the Roman philosopher Seneca.

Paul. of course. Seneca had almost certainly never heard of Paul. And he indicates his distress that Christians and Jews were being executed because of it by Nero. destroying 132 palaces and 4. then. since it appears to be the last one chronologically) Seneca expresses his sincere regret that Paul has been condemned to death even though he is innocent. This is a reference to the tradition that Paul was among the Christians martyred by Nero. in his response. Seneca has spoken the truth! In another letter Seneca praises Paul’s “sublime speech” and his “most venerable thoughts” and indicates that the emperor Nero himself has read the letters and has been moved by Paul’s sentiments.” Here we have. Christians of later centuries took these writings with extreme seriousness. which he himself may have had started. an unjust ruler “who takes pleasure in murder and uses lies as a disguise. . and that the famous philosopher. who blamed them for starting the fire that burned the city of Rome. It later became a commonplace that Seneca knew the apostle Paul and his Christian message. was entirely open to the gospel of Christ. In Letter 11 (sometimes numbered 14. not just a set of forgeries written in the names of Paul and Seneca centuries after they were dead. is historically bogus. yes.” But the emperor’s days were numbered. But it makes for a good story three hundred years later. and he would pay the penalty by enduring eternal torment: “This accursed one will be burned in the fire for all. simply indicates that. All of this. Seneca states that the fire burned for six days. but also a fabricated account of how such an eminent philosopher both appreciated Paul and held him and his fellow Christians innocent of the charges of arson brought against them in 64 CE.105/357 teachings not spoken so much by Paul as through him by God.000 apartment buildings. In only one letter is there any historical reference of interest. the greatest mind of his day.

SO with Paul. 1 and 2 Corinthians. Philippians. All of the writings attributed to Paul from outside the New Testament were forged. There is scarce reason to doubt that they actually were written by Paul. They all claim to be written by Paul.106/357 “Pauline” Writings in the New Testament AS WITH PETER. There is greatest scholarly agreement about the first group of three. The other three are usually assigned to three different authors. Are there any Pauline forgeries within the New Testament? Here again there is a broad scholarly consensus. Virtually all scholars agree that seven of the Pauline letters are authentic: Romans. There are thirteen letters that claim to have been written by Paul in the New Testament. Scholars have called these six the “deutero-Pauline” letters. and so I begin by discussing why scholars have long considered them to be forgeries. These seven cohere well together and appear stylistically. Three of them—1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—are so much alike that most scholars are convinced that they were written by the same person. Galatians. theologically. 1 Thessalonians. Outside of the New Testament there are numerous fabricated stories told about him and a number of writings only allegedly by him. But six of these were probably not written by Paul. The other six differ in significant ways from this core group of seven. meaning that they have a “secondary” standing in the corpus of Paul’s writings. and in most every other way to be by the same person. THE PASTORAL LETTERS: 1 TIMOTHY AND TITUS AND 2 . and Philemon. nearly half of the New Testament books.

Before showing why most scholars consider them to be written by someone other than Paul. who claims to be Paul. Most of the letter provides instruction on how Christians are to conduct themselves and interact with one another. the offices are to be occupied only by men who are married. and how to relate to material wealth. The three letters have many striking similarities to one another. for example.107/357 The letters of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus have been grouped together and called the “Pastoral epistles” since the eighteenth century. but they are also three distinct letters with. whom he has left behind to be the leader of the church in the city of Ephesus. In the letter “Paul” gives Timothy instructions pertaining to how to run and organize the church. in which. marriage is forbidden and certain strict dietary restrictions must be observed. just as the authentic letters of Paul each has a distinct purpose. are not recent converts. In particular. I should give a brief summary of each letter. is allegedly writing to church leaders. He is to oppose groups of false teachers who propound wild theories involving “myths and genealogies” and who promote a kind of rigorous ascetic activity as a spiritual exercise. The name derives from the subject matter. to instruct them on their pastoral or ministerial duties in their respective churches. In a strident passage . three distinct purposes. how to pray. Summary of the Letters First Timothy claims to be a letter from Paul to his junior colleague Timothy. how to behave toward the elderly and widows. for example. the author. Among the sundry problems addressed by the author of 1 Timothy is the role of women in the church. and live upright lives. as I show in a moment. probably. his companions Timothy and Titus. He is to make sure that only the right kind of person is appointed to the church offices of bishop and deacon.

for example. He writes Timothy to encourage him in his ongoing pastoral duties and his rooting out of the false teachers who have infiltrated the church. They. and pregnant. is how things simply ought to be. as seen from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden. instead. it is written to a different situation. “Paul” expresses a good deal of love and concern for Timothy in this letter. a different companion. older women. younger men. In other words. through teaching. Paul writes to have his representative correct those who are delivering false teachings. almost as if it is a Reader’s Digest version of the longer letter. are “to keep silent. which again involve “genealogies” and “mythologies. it is far and away the most personalized of the Pastorals.108/357 the author indicates that women are to be submissive and not to exercise any authority over a man. women are to be silent. But she. And he hopes that Timothy will be able to join him in Rome soon.” He also gives instructions to various groups within the church: older men. was deceived by his wife. Even though 2 Timothy is addressed to the same person. But it is addressed by Paul to Titus. It was all the woman’s fault. The book of Titus sounds very much like the book of 1 Timothy. younger women. bringing some of his personal possessions. submissive. when the first man.” This. In this case Paul is allegedly writing from prison in Rome (we’re never told where 1 Timothy was written). the woman. The First Scholarly Suspicions About the Letters . who is allegedly the pastor of the church on the island of Crete. Eve. for the author. Adam. by “bearing children” (2:11–15). he has been put on trial and is expecting a second trial soon in which he will be condemned to death. and ate the forbidden fruit. and slaves. can still be saved. assures the author.

were extensively argued to be forgeries. Schleiermacher was one of the most important Christian theologians of the nineteenth century. in the history of modern scholarship. They maintained that there were many divine beings in the divine realm that had all come into existence at some point in eternity past.109/357 These three letters are particularly significant for our discussion. According to . including 2 Timothy and Titus. they sound like heresies of the second century generally called “Gnostic. Gnostics did not believe there were just two Gods. In other words. He was famous for defending the Christian faith against its “cultured despisers” and for developing distinct theological views that influenced theologians well into the twentieth century. Instead. and that this world was created when one of the divine beings fell from the divine realm and came to be entrapped in this miserable world of matter. There are still scholars today who specialize in studying the works and teaching of Schleiermacher. and so this kind of religion is called Gnosticism. Gnostic Christians maintained that this world is not the creation of the one true God. Salvation will come to the spark only when it learns the truth of where it came from and who it really is. In Greek. because they were the first books of Paul that. Schleiermacher argued that 1 Timothy used words and developed ideas that were at odds with those in the other letters of Paul. the word for “knowledge” is gnosis.” Like Marcion. The big moment came in 1807 with the publication of a letter by the German scholar Friedrich Schleiermacher. Among his many writings is an open letter sent to a pastor in 1807 in which he tried to demonstrate that 1 Timothy was not written by Paul. Moreover the false teachings attacked in the letter do not sound like anything we know about from Paul’s day. But unlike Marcion. the inner element of the divine within us needs to acquire the true and secret “knowledge” that can set it free.9 The Gnostic religions taught that some of us have a spark of the divine trapped in our bodies.

not. second-century Gnostics. Christ brings salvation by providing the secret knowledge.11 For about a year or so before I started writing this book. but fascinating to those of us who are abnormal scholars. but also that the other two pastoral letters were written by the same person. urging their followers to treat the body severely. Instead. Much of it is tedious to normal human beings. as by a different author from the others. I myself began to be increasingly inclined to take this view.110/357 Gnostic Christians. by dying on the cross. and that this person was not Paul.10 I should admit at the outset that some recent scholars have argued strenuously that 2 Timothy is so different from the other books that it should be considered separately. But then I did some further . such as the non-Pauline vocabulary. Schleiermacher argued that the “myths and genealogies” opposed in 1 Timothy sound like the mythologies propounded by these later. in what was eaten and in avoiding the pleasures of sex. All three were forged. I simply give a few reasons for thinking that all three letters were written by the same person. possibly Paul himself. Current Scholarship: Are the Letters Forged? An incredible amount of scholarship has been devoted to the pastoral letters just in the past thirty or forty years. forged in the name of Paul. And since the goal of salvation was to escape the trappings of the human body. this shows that it was a later production. many Gnostics were rigidly ascetic. for example. for example. In connection with the other problems of the book. I can’t summarize it all here. Soon after Schleiermacher wrote his open letter-essay. other scholars came forward arguing not only that he was right about 1 Timothy. two centuries removed from Schleiermacher.

ones that Paul himself never used. then read 1 Timothy. there is no other letter of Paul that begins this way. made a list . For one thing.111/357 serious research on the matter and am now thoroughly persuaded that whoever wrote 1 Timothy must have written 2 Timothy. The reason is that they share way too many verbal connections and similarities for these to be accidental. What is striking is not only that these phrases and many others like them are found in these two letters. To do so would have required the copyist not only to know which words and phrases were important in the first letter. herald. an apostle of Christ Jesus…to Timothy…grace. Both letters have words and phrases in common not found in any of the other letters attributed to Paul: the “promise of life” “with a pure conscience” “from a pure heart” “guard the deposit (of faith)” Paul is an “apostle. mercy. and teacher. And even more important.” 2 Timothy: “Paul. I suppose it is theoretically possible that a very astute student of Paul in the first century read through all of Paul’s letters. but that they are found only in these two letters. and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s why one of the letters isn’t being written by a copyist using the other as his model. an apostle of Christ Jesus…to Timothy…grace.” They are virtually the same. Just consider how they begin: 1 Timothy: “Paul. Either these are by the same author. mercy. or one author is copying the writing of another. but also which of these words and phrases were.” And on and on and on. and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. there are tons of verbal agreements of a similar sort. simultaneously. made a list of words that occurred in them. But there are reasons for thinking it is not the work of a copyist.

uses different words on different occasions. especially given the fact that about two-thirds of these 306 words are used by Christian authors living in the second century. but not the first. Everyone.12 That is one of the reasons scholars from the nineteenth century on have been convinced that Paul did not write the letters. The vocabulary and the writing style are very different from those of the other Pauline letters. That suggests that this author is using a vocabulary that was becoming more common after the days of Paul. after all. But it really stretches the imagination. and that he too therefore lived after Paul. and most of us have a much richer stock of vocabulary than shows up in any given letter or set of letters we write. compared the two lists. Of that number 306—over one-third of them!—do not occur in any of the other Pauline letters of the New Testament. It’s just that those terms were not terms used by Paul.13 A number of scholars have called Harrison’s use of statistics into question. since. . N. It is much easier to believe that whoever wrote the one letter had his favorite terms and used them in the other letter as well. probably not too much stock should be placed in mere numbers. One of his most cited set of numbers is that there are 848 different words used in the pastoral letters.14 At the same time. you can make statistics say just about anything you want them to say. In 1921 the British scholar A. and in almost every study done. That’s an inordinately high number.112/357 of important words there. as we all know. and decided to write another letter to Timothy using lots of words and phrases that occurred in the second list. it is clear that the word usage of the Pastorals is different from that in Paul’s other letters. Harrison wrote an important study of the pastoral letters in which he gave numerous statistics about the word usage in these writings. But the arguments over word usage have gotten increasingly refined over the ninety years since he wrote.

In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is insistent that people who are single should try to remain . such as “righteousness. The author of the Pastorals also uses the term “faith. That may be true. In books such as Romans and Galatians faith refers to the trust a person has in Christ to bring about salvation through his death. the term describes a relationship with another. Or take a completely different idea. The term “faith” was of supreme importance to Paul.” that is. So too with other key terms. some ideas and concepts in the pastoral letters stand at odds with what you find in the letters that Paul certainly wrote.” that is what he means: doing the things that the Jewish law requires. Paul was concerned about whether you kept the Jewish law as a means to salvation (you should not). not if you did good deeds for it. but means something different by them. Same word. For one thing. This author is concerned to show that by being a morally good person you cannot earn your salvation. however. keeping kosher. The term occurs this way six times in 1 Timothy alone. such as getting circumcised. For example. marriage.” Even more significant. When Paul talks about “works. doing good deeds for other people. and observing the Sabbath. sometimes this author uses the same words as Paul. and the author speaks of works as “good works. showing that this author is not Paul. the Jewish law is no longer even an issue. we have seen that Paul was highly concerned with arguing that performing the “works of the law” could not contribute to one’s right standing before God. faith is trust “in” Christ. It was not the Jewish law that could bring salvation. In the Pastorals. different meaning. but the death and resurrection of Jesus.” But here it is not about a relationship with Christ. In other words. faith now means the body of teaching that makes up the Christian religion. but it is a completely different idea from Paul’s. That is “the faith” (see Titus 1:13).113/357 The problem is that a large number of factors all seem to point in the same direction.

that was the sign that the end had already started and that the future resurrection of the dead was about to take place. His reason is that the end of all things is near. this commemorates the “first fruits” of the harvest. exactly. because with him the resurrection has started.114/357 single. but it certainly doesn’t mean what Paul meant! Probably the biggest problem with accepting the Pastorals as having come from Paul involves the historical situation that they seem to presuppose. This is an agricultural metaphor. And for the Pastorals? For women. though. That’s why Paul called Jesus the “first fruits of the resurrection” in 1 Corinthians 15:20. thought he was living at the very end of time. we’re told in 1 Timothy 2 that they will “be saved” by bearing children. in the Pastorals it is required that people (at least church leaders) be married. not to establishing their social lives. and people should devote themselves to spreading the word. It is hard to know what that means. Jesus is the first fruits. the Spirit . In the meantime. Or think about the basic issue of how a person is “saved. only through the death and resurrection of Jesus can a person be saved. In Paul’s letters it is better not to be married. The farmhands celebrate the first day of harvest by throwing a party that night. And when do they go out to get the rest of the harvest? The next day—not twenty or two thousand years later. 4:14–18). like Jesus before him. at least. According to Jewish thinking the resurrection was to arrive when this age had come to an end. But how does that square with the view in the Pastorals? Here the author insists that the leaders of the church be married. and very soon everyone—all the dead—will be raised for judgment. Paul thought that in this short interim period between the resurrection of Jesus and the end of time. When Jesus was raised from the dead. That is why Paul thinks he himself will be alive when Jesus returns from heaven (see 1 Thess.” For Paul himself. just as he is. Paul. the church has to grow and survive in the world.

for which we have the best documentation—he wrote to deal with them. women were equal with men. and there was gross immorality—some men were visiting prostitutes and bragging about it in church.115/357 of God had been given to the church and to each individual making up the church. . and the Spirit gave the person a spiritual “gift. “In Christ there is neither slave nor free. There was equality. He exhorts them to begin behaving in an ethical fashion. Slaves were on the same level as masters. for example. and there were harsh disagreements over major ethical issues. about the future resurrection. the worship services were chaos. so that in the church all were equals. None of the gifts was paltry or insignificant. the church of Corinth. He urges them to use their spiritual gifts for the mutual good. There were divisions and episodes of infighting. It is interesting to read his correspondence with the Corinthians. To address these severe problems. others of healing. He appeals to them to act as a unit. When a person was baptized. The church was in a mess. others of speaking in angelic tongues. Paul appeals to the church as a whole and to the individuals in it. Some people denied that there was to be a future resurrection. 12:13). and one fellow was sleeping with his stepmother. neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). such as whether it was right to eat meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. some members were taking others to civil court. others of prophecy.” Some of the baptized were given the gift of teaching. He chastises them for not accepting the proper teaching. he or she received the Spirit (1 Cor. They all mattered. When problems arose in one of Paul’s churches—for example. 12–14). All of these gifts were meant to help the Christian community function together as a unit (1 Cor. others of interpreting those tongues. Everyone in the church was equally endowed with a gift. That’s why Paul could say.

are pseudepigraphal. In a hierarchical system there is no equality.116/357 The one thing Paul does not do is write to the leaders of the church in Corinth and tell them to get their parishioners in order. Here you have the pastors Timothy and Titus. If the one is forged. There were no bishops or deacons. in this brief time before the end came. You have to specify how people should relate to one another socially: masters to slaves. You simply need to get along for the short term. You have hierarchy. sometime this month—there is no real need for a hierarchical system of organization and leadership. You have to have leadership. because whoever wrote 1 Timothy also wrote 2 Timothy. each of whom had a gift of the Spirit. You have to have someone run the show. Here you do not have individuals endowed by the Spirit working together to form the community. and you need to settle in for the long haul. The end was coming soon. I’ve tried to show that this view can’t work. You have to have teachers who can root out the false teaching in your midst. which is closely tied to 1 Timothy. Why is that? Because there were no leaders of the church in Corinth. If you expect Jesus to come back soon—say. There was a group of individuals. so too is the other. For the historical Paul. you have a different historical situation than you had in the days of Paul. You have to get organized. organization. Contrast that with what you have in the Pastorals. things will be different. But that’s not what you find in the historical Paul. You have the church leaders: bishops and deacons. structure. husbands to wives. but that 2 Timothy may stem from Paul. parents to children. some scholars have been willing to concede that 1 Timothy and Titus. there is leadership. there was not going to be a long haul. That doesn’t mean the two letters are addressing the same concerns or were written for the same . That’s what you find in the pastoral letters—churches settling in for the long haul. As I said at the outset of this discussion. There were no pastors. But if Jesus does not return. That is to say.

of those propounding “myths and genealogies” in 1 Timothy and of other false teachers who claimed that the resurrection “had already happened” in 2 Timothy. it just means the same author wrote them.15 But why does an author forge letters like this? Why Were the Pastoral Letters Forged? The most obvious answer is that the author is someone facing new problems in a generation after Paul. who gives compelling evidence that this kind of “verisimilitude” (as I called it in Chapter 1) is typical for forgeries. In a very interesting and influential study. and he wants to deal with them in the name of an authority who will be listened to. it is hard to see how it could be forged. problems that Paul himself never addressed. then. for example. would a forger tell his alleged reader (who was not actually his reader!) to be sure to bring his cloak to him when he comes and also the books he left behind (2 Tim. Why. Norbert Brox. even though it is not. The personal notices in 2 Timothy (there are fewer in Titus and fewer still in 1 Timothy) serve. to convince readers that this really is written by Paul. But one point sometimes raised is that there is so much personal information in 2 Timothy. And who in Paul’s churches has greater authority than Paul himself? So the author dealt with the problem of false teachings. 4:13)? This objection has been convincingly answered by one of the great scholars of ancient forgery. Some scholars have thought that something even more precise may have occasioned these forgeries. the American scholar Dennis MacDonald argues that the pastoral letters were written to oppose the views .117/357 purpose. for example. He also dealt with problems involving church leadership and with problems over with the roles of women in the church. He did all this by pretending to be Paul. Making the letter sound “homey” removes the suspicion that it’s forged.

It is true that the Acts of Paul. The Acts of Paul was probably written by the presbyter of Asia Minor some decades after the Pastorals were produced. In the Pastorals women are to be silent and submissive. But the stories recorded in the Acts of Paul had been circulating for a very long time before the presbyter in Asia Minor fabricated his account. The stories the presbyter used may have been much older. and it may be right. where the Thecla stories are now found. church leaders in fact are required to be married.118/357 that were in circulation in the stories connected with Thecla. as we have seen. marriage is disparaged. women will be saved only by having babies. Could one of them have been written to authorize a contrary view under the authority of Paul? In the Acts of Paul. it is hard to say. they are not allowed to teach or exercise authority. But for many scholars the biggest problem with it has to do with the dates of the materials. In the Acts of Paul sexual activity is condemned. sexuality. In the Pastorals sexual activity is urged. In the Pastorals marriage is encouraged. only by remaining chaste can you enter the kingdom of heaven. the views found in the Thecla stories contrast with the views advocated in the Pastorals. In the Acts of Paul women—specifically Thecla—are allowed to teach and exercise authority. MacDonald argues that the letters were forged by someone who had heard the stories about Thecla and wanted to set the record straight from Paul’s “true” point of view. Some Pauline Christians thought that women should be treated as equals and given equal status and authority with 16 . were probably written later than the Pastorals by as much as seventy to eighty years. So a different historical reconstruction may be more plausible. Since the pastoral letters are directly opposing the views found in the stories incorporated into the Acts of Paul. Paul’s churches were split in lots of ways. It goes like this. One of the splits involved issues of sex. And in remarkable ways. but without corroborating evidence. and gender. This is a very appealing argument.

but as a proponent of women.” by which they meant “in theory. than the fact that Jesus was soon to return from heaven to take me and my fellow believers out of the world. the relations of slaves and masters. religiously.119/357 men. He packaged all of these sundry issues in a set of letters and wrote them in the name of Paul. parents and children. for example. These Christians were keen to tone down Paul’s own emphasis on women. and one of them decided to write a set of letters. This other side told stories about Paul that supported their views. at the “rapture” before the final tribulation came. It lived on. Thecla.” not in social reality. But not everyone was convinced and not everyone accepted these letters as coming from Paul. the Pastorals. and so on. did not have them (it is hard to know if he was aware of them). there were few things I was more certain of. seeing Paul as an opponent of marriage and of sex. Other Pauline Christians thought that women were equal with men only “in Christ. We read all . since Paul did say that “in Christ there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). and these stories eventually came to center on one of Paul’s key converts. 2 THESSALONIANS When I was a conservative evangelical Christian in my late teens and early twenties. At one time in the second century both sets of documents were in wide circulation. Moreover. the fabricated stories about Paul and Thecla and the forged letters of Paul that eventually came to be included in the New Testament. the need to suppress false teaching. the other side of the split over the role of women was not destroyed by the appearance of the pastoral letters. forging them to provide them with the authoritative voice they needed. He had other issues he wanted to address as well: the nature of the leadership in the church. Remember that Marcion. that authorized his view in Paul’s name.

in the twelfth century. Paul himself thought the end was coming in his lifetime. had to happen before the end of the 1980s. at any time. All of this. and finally the United States converged in a massive confrontation leading to an all-out nuclear holocaust. the latter of whom previously enjoyed a career writing books with his wife. in the second century. What most of the millions of people who believe that Jesus is coming back soon. the European Union. Nowhere is this more clear than in one of the letters we are sure . apart from the Bible. about sex for Christians. as Scripture itself taught. These books were coauthored by Jerry Jenkins and Timothy LaHaye. in the late nineteenth century. This was a prominent view among conservative Christians in the early twentieth century. in just about every century. Lindsey wrote with assurance about what was about to transpire in the Middle East as the superpowers of the Soviet Union. in the eighteenth century. we were told. On the recent book-selling front. don’t realize is that there have always been Christians who thought this about their own lifetimes. was The Late. in the first century—in fact. right before Jesus returned. But that hasn’t stopped people from writing about how the end will come very soon now. Beverly.120/357 sorts of books that supported our view. dwarfing the sales of the Harry Potter books has been the multivolume Left Behind series. written by the fundamentalist Christian Hal Lindsey. Based on a careful (or careless. And now there is no Soviet Union. depending on your perspective) study of the book of Revelation and other biblical books of prophecy. about those who will not be taken in the imminent rapture. Great Planet Earth. in our lifetime. It obviously never happened. Few people today realize that the bestselling book in English in the 1970s. The one thing that all those who have ever thought this have had in common is that every one of them has been demonstrably and irrefutably wrong. China. in our own day.

Had they lost out on their heavenly reward? Paul writes to assure the survivors that. no. when Jesus returns in glory on the clouds of heaven. but now a completely different problem is being addressed. It is precisely this emphasis on the suddenness of the reappearance of Jesus. “sudden destruction will come upon them” (5:2–3). Paul had taught them that the end of the age was imminent. because some of them had become disturbed over the death of a number of their fellow believers. 1 Thessalonians. When he converted these people. but you can’t predict the exact moment. unexpected event. even those who have died will be brought into the kingdom. claiming to be Paul. coming right away. then we who are alive. who remain. which will catch people by surprise. Certain things have to happen first. In fact. There will be some kind of political or religious uprising and rebellion. This too is a book written about the second coming of Jesus.” and when people think that all is well. argues that the end is not. Paul wrote the Christians in Thessalonica. That day will come “like a thief in the night.121/357 he wrote. “the dead in Christ will rise first. He goes on to say that it will be a sudden. The Thessalonians should be alert and prepared. will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17). The readers have been “led astray” by a letter that has apparently been forged in Paul’s name (2:2) saying that “the day of the Lord is at hand. in fact.” The author of 2 Thessalonians. that they were soon to enter the kingdom when Jesus returned. because. that makes the second letter that Paul allegedly wrote to the Thessalonians so interesting. it is possible to know that it will come very soon. as with the labor pains of a pregnant woman. and an Antichristlike figure will appear who will take his seat in the Temple of . Read the verse carefully: Paul expects to be one of the ones who will still be alive when it happens. But members of the congregation had died before it happened.

17 It is particularly interesting that the author of 2 Thessalonians indicates that he taught his converts all these things already. 1 Thessalonians? Compare the scenario of Jesus’s appearance in 2 Thessalonians. then how can one explain 1 Thessalonians? The problem there is that people think the end is supposed to come any day now. Paul probably did not write 2 Thessalonians.122/357 Jerusalem and declare himself to be God. He taught that a whole sequence of events had to transpire before the end came. Only then will the “Lord Jesus” come to “destroy him with the breath of his mouth” (2:3–8). At the end of the letter the author insists that he is Paul and gives a kind of proof: “I Paul write this greeting with my own hand. If that’s the case. as 2 Thessalonians insists. when the end will come like a “thief in the night. This is the mark in every letter of mine. That makes one feature of the letter particularly intriguing. This means that “Paul” had been dictating his letter to a scribe who had written it all down. the Thessalonians can rest assured they are not yet at the final moment of history when Jesus reappears. . when he was with them (2:5). They will know when it is almost here by the events that transpire in fulfillment of Scripture. until the end. where they obviously think that they were taught something else. according to which it will be a while yet and preceded by recognizable events. then it is passing strange that he never reminds them of this teaching in 1 Thessalonians. with that of 1 Thessalonians. when Paul signed off with his own hand. based on what Paul told them. In other words.” who appears when people least expect it. There seems to be a fundamental disparity between the teachings of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. But according to 2 Thessalonians Paul never taught any such thing. which is why so many scholars think that 2 Thessalonians is not by Paul. if that is what he taught them. Moreover. But can this be by the same author who wrote the other letter. it is the way I write” (3:17).

then. which maintains. I regularly offered a course on the life and teachings of Paul.18 I used the book because I disagreed . appears to be another instance of a Pauline forgery. But perhaps the queen doth protest too much. One of the textbooks for the course was a book on Paul by the conservative British scholar F. knowing full well that he was someone else living later. But it is not how most of the undisputed letters of Paul end. after all. he suggests. claiming to be Paul. come. and Paul and everyone else had died in the meantime. The words are hard to account for as Paul’s. tries to soothe his readers not to be led astray by a forged letter (“as if by us. What is peculiar is that the author claims that this is his invariant practice. Second Thessalonians. So an author provided some reassurance by forging a letter claiming that the authentic letter was a forgery. what seems relatively certain is that someone after the time of Paul decided that he had to intervene in a situation where people were eagerly anticipating the end. authenticating this letter as really his. including 1 Thessalonians. in Paul’s name. Some scholars have taken the question of forgery a bit farther and suggested that when the author. Bruce. that the end is right around the corner. he did so by penning a letter in Paul’s name. Whether or not that is right.123/357 Readers of the letter could see the change of handwriting and recognize Paul’s. that they were neglecting the duties of daily life (3:6–12). someone living later wanted to disabuse readers of the message Paul himself had taught about the imminent end. the forger is actually referring to 1 Thessalonians! That is. EPHESIANS When I was teaching at Rutgers in the mid-1980s. so eagerly. F.”). but they make sense if a forger is trying to convince his readers that he really was Paul. since it did not. as opposed to the forged one mentioned in 2:2.

carefully comparing what Ephesians says with what Paul himself says in his undisputed letters. I wasn’t so sure. Ephesians may sound like Paul. After laying out this theological set of ideas in the first three chapters (especially chapter 2). Christiaan Beker. Beker was a formidable scholar of Paul. By the time I was teaching at Rutgers. But the more I studied the matter. Not only did he think Paul wrote it. one of the truly great studies ever to be published on the matter. Ephesians is written to Gentile Christians (3:1) to remind them that even though they were once alienated from both God and his people. when I was just starting out in my studies. in Christ. that in fact Ephesians represents a serious alteration of Paul’s thought. Today the majority of biblical scholars agree. when I took the course. and in harmony with God. I was sure Paul had not written the letter. Bruce thought about the writings of Paul was that Ephesians was the most Pauline of all the Pauline letters. the Jews. I became increasingly convinced.124/357 with just about everything in it. F. years earlier. Jews and Gentiles can now live in harmony with one another.19 Beker was thoroughly convinced that Paul had not written Ephesians. large differences and discrepancies appear. they have now been reconciled. but when you start digging a bit deeper. In the late 1970s he wrote a massive and influential study of Paul’s theology. One of the things F. That’s what I once thought too. they have been made right with God and the boundary that divided Jew from Gentile—the Jewish law—has been torn down by the death of Christ. and I thought it would be a good idea for my students to see a different side of the story from the one I told in class.20 At the time. Then I took a course on the New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary with Professor J. he thought it encapsulated better than any other letter the heart and soul of Paul’s theology. the author turns to ethical issues and discusses ways .

we learn that believers were separated from God because of sin. but just on the surface. Paul includes himself as someone who. certainly looks like Paul’s writing. which is about the same length). it just isn’t the way Paul wrote. The reasons for thinking Paul did not write this letter are numerous and compelling. the opening statement of thanksgiving (1:3–14)—all twelve verses—is one sentence. for example.” This doesn’t sound like the Paul of the undisputed letters. Galatians has 181 sentences. was carried away by the “passions of our flesh. It’s like Mark Twain and William Faulkner. well higher than average (50 percent more than Philippians. pointed sentences. 9 of them are over 50 words in length. In addition. who says that he had been “blameless” with respect to the “righteousness of the law” (Phil. again with only 1 over 50 words. but have been made right with God exclusively through his grace. 116 altogether. Here. they both wrote correctly. the sentences in Ephesians are long and complex. has 102 sentences. but you would never mistake the one for the other. 3:4). Compare this with Paul’s own letters. For one thing. for example. Ephesians 2:1–10. for example. oddly. There’s nothing wrong with extremely long sentences in Greek.125/357 that followers of Jesus must live in order to manifest the unity they have in Christ. In Greek. Some scholars have pointed out that in the hundred or so sentences in Ephesians.21 But the main reason for thinking that Paul didn’t write Ephesians is that what the author says in places does not jibe with what Paul himself says in his own letters. The book also has an inordinate number of words that don’t otherwise occur in Paul’s writings. as in Paul’s authentic letters. Paul usually writes in short. not as the result of “works. the author does not speak about .” But here. Philippians. only 1 of which is over 50 words. before coming to Christ. doing the will of the flesh and senses. even though he is talking about the relationship of Jew and Gentile in this letter. the writing style is not Paul’s.

it’s what they will have when Jesus returns on the clouds of heaven and delivers his followers from the wrath of God. God made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (2:5–6).” That simply was not the issue Paul addressed. They had “died with Christ. this author indicates that believers have already been “saved” by the grace of God. It is a future physical event yet to occur. Paul was extremely insistent on this point. and they “will be raised” with him. One of the reasons he wrote 1 Corinthians was precisely because some of the Christians in that community took an opposing point of view and maintained that they were already enjoying a resurrected existence with Christ now. He speaks. when Jesus returned and all people. Paul was emphatic in his own writings that Christians who had been baptized had “died” to the powers of the world that were aligned with the enemies of God. not something that had already happened. living and dead. Paul devotes 1 Corinthians 15 to showing that. at Jesus’s second coming. of salvation apart from doing “good deeds. physical event. would be raised up to face judgment. instead. no. the resurrection is not something that has happened yet. Christians have not yet been raised with Christ. that the resurrection of believers was a future. Relatedly. As it turns out. Here believers have experienced a spiritual resurrection and are enjoying a heavenly .126/357 salvation apart from the “works of the law. Moreover. That would happen at the end of time. But contrast this statement with what Ephesians says: “Even when we were dead through our trespasses. that they already were enjoying the benefits of salvation. and most significantly. Salvation is not something people already have.” But they had not yet been “raised” with Christ. That’s why in Romans 6:1–4 Paul is emphatic: those who are baptized “have died” with Christ.” as Paul does. the verb “saved” in Paul’s authentic letters is always used to refer to the future.

knowing full well that he wasn’t Paul. He accomplished his goal. Unfortunately. by producing a forgery.” Unfortunately the author does not detail what this philosophy entailed and leaves only hints. not angelic beings. The author opposes them by emphasizing that Christ alone. when you look carefully at Ephesians. This book was apparently written by a later Christian in one of Paul’s churches who wanted to deal with a big issue of his own day: the relation of Jews and Gentiles in the church. he used a book that Paul almost certainly did not write. Colossians has a lot of words and phrases that are found in Ephesians as well. One reason the author does not explain in detail what these false teachers taught may be that the people reading the letter knew full well whom he had in mind and what they were saying. that is. On the surface it looks like Paul’s work.22 Colossians has a different agenda and purpose from Ephesians. In fact. This is precisely the view that Paul argued against in his letters to the Corinthians! In point after point. it stands at odds with Paul’s own work. COLOSSIANS Much the same can be said about the book of Colossians. but not when you dig deeply into it. Evidently the false teachers urged their listeners to worship angels and to follow Jewish laws about what to eat and what special days to keep as religious festivals. This author is especially concerned with a group of false teachers who are conveying some kind of “philosophy. is a divinity worthy of worship and that his death put an end to the need to keep the law. believers in Christ were already above all human rules and .127/357 existence in the here and now. He did so by claiming to be Paul. so much so that a number of scholars think that whoever forged Ephesians used Colossians as one of his sources for how Paul wrote. for him.

Just to give you a taste: How often the letter uses “adversative conjunctions” (e. Philippians. 45 times. Among other things.g. Philippians. 1 Thessalonians. The lists go on for many pages. Philippians. strings of genitives. Colossians. “although”): Galatians. The reasons for thinking the book was not actually written by Paul are much the same as for Ephesians. They were still responsible for living moral lives. “because”): Galatians.” “as”) to introduce a statement: Galatians. participles. This does not mean. with innumerable considerations all pointing in the same .128/357 regulations. 31. 20. Colossians. and 1 Thessalonians.23 Bujard analyzed all sorts of stylistic features of the letter: the kind and frequency of conjunctions. the writing style and the contents of the book differ significantly from those in the undisputed letters of Paul.g.. Philippians. 19. “that.g. Colossians. relative clauses. Far and away the most compelling study of the writing style of Colossians was done by the German scholar Walter Bujard nearly forty years ago now. So the final two chapters outline some of the ethical requirements of the new life in Christ. 1 Thessalonians. 29. however. 84 times. 1 Thessalonians. only 8. experiencing some kind of mystical unity with Christ in the here and now. The differences between this letter and Paul’s writings are striking and compelling. infinitives. only 3. How often the letter uses causal conjunctions (e. only 9... 20 times. How often the letter uses a conjunction (e. because they were already raised with Christ in the heavenly places. that Christians could live just any way they please. He was particularly interested in comparing Colossians to Paul’s letters that were similar in length: Galatians. looking at all sorts of information. and scores of other things. 11. 52.

Others have suggested that since Paul in some of his letters mentions coauthors. then. Some scholars. forging a letter in his name. the author indicates that Christians have already been “raised with Christ” when they were baptized. such as the Letters of Paul and Seneca. But the majority of scholars acknowledge that. And here again. not past (see Col. despite Paul’s insistence that the believers’ resurrection was future. letters claiming to be written by Paul. Some have argued that they differ from Paul’s own letters. because they were given by Paul to a secretary to write. six others are probably (or for some scholars. 2:12–13). for example. What we have here. possibly these other authors were responsible . There are plenty more reasons. certainly) not by Paul. Others are a matter of serious scholarly discussion. but in fact written by someone else. Conclusion WE HAVE SEEN THAT there were a number of Pauline forgeries floating around in the early church. Some of these letters are acknowledged as forgeries by everyone on the planet. for example. though. whereas there are seven letters in the New Testament that Paul certainly wrote. have been reluctant to call these deutero-Pauline letters forgeries. for some of the reasons I have laid out here. the content of what the author says stands at odds with Paul’s own thought. but is in line with Ephesians. is another instance in which a later follower of Paul was concerned to address a situation in his own day and did so by assuming the mantle and taking the name of Paul. Here too. but the arguments can get a bit dull after a while.129/357 direction: this is someone with a different writing style from Paul’s. who used a different writing style from Paul’s.

130/357 for writing the letters. since all the ideas originated with the teacher himself. . I try to show why in the next chapter. accounting for their differences. as an act of humility. And yet others have claimed that it was common in philosophical schools for disciples of a teacher to write treatises and sign them in the name of their teacher. But I think they are all wrong. These are all interesting proposals.

including the following: God is not a human being. For this.” or inspired. God] will not deceive. for correction. let alone anything approaching a lie.” If Scripture is “breathed out. 6:18) . I knew for a fact that there could not be any forgeries in the New Testament. then it obviously cannot have anything wrong in it. 23:19) The Glory of Israel [i. so that by two unchangeable matters. 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God [literally. for reproof.. which God. (1 Sam. by God. is God-breathed] and is profitable for teaching. and for training in righteousness. that he should lie. who never lies. who breathed forth the text. in which God cannot lie…(Heb. promised…(Titus 1:2) He guaranteed it by an oath. we knew all the key verses. (Num. 15:29) In hope of eternal life. In no small measure that is because God himself.CHAPTER FOUR Alternatives Deceptions to Lies and WHEN I WAS A GOOD conservative evangelical Christian at Moody Bible Institute in my late teen years. My view of Scripture was deeply rooted in Scripture itself and above all in that classic statement of the Bible’s own inspiration. does not lie.e.

As a conservative evangelical I had come to the Bible assuming certain things about it even before reading it. at least by conservative evangelical scholars. and so naturally I found no mistakes. then it obviously didn’t have mistakes. . For that reason there can be no forgeries in the Bible. a mainline Presbyterian school that stresses critical scholarship more than uncritical dogmatism. And if it has to be that way. because the Bible couldn’t have mistakes. involves lying. error. I claimed it couldn’t have mistakes. on the other hand. backed up by a few proof texts. Therefore Scripture does not and cannot contain lies. but simply on the basis of what other people had told me. it is that way! Can the Bible Contain Lies? I OBVIOUSLY CHANGED MY view on the matter. God does not and cannot lie.132/357 Scripture says that it is inspired or breathed out by God. I brought the belief in an error-free text to the Bible.1 This conservative evangelical view is still very much held by some scholars today. therefore. I was studying in a master’s program at Princeton Theological Seminary. And how did I know that the Bible couldn’t have mistakes? Not on the basis of any examination or investigation of the Bible. well then. not on the grounds of what actually is true. Three years after I graduated from Moody. couldn’t really be a mistake. But I should emphasize it is a view that is built on theological premises of what has to be true. or lie.2 For conservative evangelicals. Anything that looked like a mistake. And if it couldn’t have mistakes. the Bible has to be without mistake. Forgery. It was at Princeton Seminary that I came to think that I had previously been approaching the Bible in precisely the wrong way. because there couldn’t be any.

whatever else it might be. in the second century BCE. And eventually they came to involve not just little details. in part. So too the book of Ecclesiastes.133/357 But why should I have believed this view was true? There were plenty of other Christians who believed other things. it makes better sense to approach it the way one approaches books. And then they started to multiply. here and there. but very big questions and issues of real importance. I came away convinced that the Bible. or car instruction manual has absolutely no mistakes in it before reading it to see whether it does or not. If what we have is not an error-free book. then it is not a book that God has delivered to us without errors. The author of . Human books from the ancient world sometimes contained forgeries. It was there that I realized that since the Bible is a book. But there is no way it was written then. Moreover. and only then decide whether it could? I know that many evangelical Christians think that this is backwards and wrong. why not see if it does. The book of Daniel claims to be written. Scholars for over a hundred years have shown clear and compelling reasons for thinking that it was written four hundred years later. chemistry textbook. This is certainly true of the Hebrew Bible. If God created an error-free book. then the book should be without errors. writings that claim to be authored by someone who did not write them. before looking to see if it does. by the prophet Daniel during the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BCE. Rather than thinking that the Bible cannot have mistakes. by someone falsely claiming to be Daniel. There are certainly books in the world that don’t have any mistakes in them. that questioning the Bible is questioning God. But I don’t see it that way. is a very human book. the Christian Old Testament. But no one would insist that a particular phone book. as I studied the Bible I began to see the errors. especially at a place like Princeton Theological Seminary.

So far we have considered two books that falsely claim to have been written by Peter and six that falsely claim to have been written by Paul. so much so that they sound like common sense to some people. Among other things. technical term when dealing with the Bible? Or maybe. as critical biblical scholars today agree.134/357 this book does not come out and say his name is Solomon. they have no qualms calling them “forgeries. In other words. there are numerous instances in the New Testament. he is claiming to be Solomon without using his name. Or it is stated that allegedly pseudepigraphal letters can be explained by thinking that . many scholars are reluctant to call the books what they are: literary forgeries meant to deceive their readers. it is widely claimed that the practice of making false authorial claims was acceptable in philosophical schools in antiquity and so was excusable for a follower of Peter or Paul. Sometimes I think it is a bit strange that when some scholars refer to books with false authorial claims outside the New Testament.” but when they refer to such books within the New Testament. who is the king in Jerusalem. but he does say that he is the son of David. Sometimes they do so with explanations that have become extremely common and widespread. instead. it is better to call a spade a spade.” Maybe it is better to use the more antiseptic. But there is no way he was Solomon.3 Whereas there are a couple of forgeries in the Old Testament. and that he is fantastically rich and wise. In this chapter I deal with the ways some scholars have tried to get around the problem that the New Testament contains forgeries. We are dealing with precisely the same phenomenon whether a book came to be included in the canon or not. It is a striking phenomenon that even though scholars far and wide agree that these books were not actually written by their alleged authors. they call them “pseudepigrapha. This book could not have been written until six hundred years after Solomon’s death.

And what a remarkable statement! If the author did not want to deceive anyone and in fact did not deceive anybody. before emphasizing just how wrong this view is. these forgeries were never meant to deceive anyone. and they were not condemned. there is very little evidence to support either view. One highly respected author of the 1920s. along with some interspersed comments. They were not lying.”5 What evidence does this scholar provide for these claims? None at all. claimed that the author. Is Forgery Deceitful? A MISTAKEN SCHOLARLY COMMONPLACE A surprising number of scholars have claimed that even though the Bible may contain forgeries. Let me give several examples of scholars who make statements of this sort. it is not. in a classical study of the pastoral letters. he was not consciously deceiving anybody. As we will see. According to this view. ancient authors who assumed a false name were not trying to lead their readers astray. I need to address another point of view often asserted by scholars. they were not being deceitful. It is hard to understand how anyone who has actually read any of the ancient discussions of forgery can make such claims.4 Before dealing with such explanations. that ancient authors who assumed a false identity were not actually trying to be deceitful. But this view is so widespread that it has become a complete commonplace in New Testament scholarship. who called himself Paul even though he was someone else. necessary to suppose that he did deceive anybody. indeed. “was not conscious of misrepresenting the Apostle in any way. why is it that every known interpreter of these .135/357 Peter and Paul used secretaries to produce these writings.

It is important to remember what ancient people called “this kind of pseudonymity”—they called books like this “falsely inscribed writings.”7 This sounds like a sensible approach indeed. misrepresenting himself as someone else? Or take this comment from a scholar writing in the 1990s about the pseudonymous authorship of 2 Thessalonians: “This kind of pseudonymity should not be labeled as ‘forgery. It was a mark of humility. He never looks at what ancient people called this practice or considers what they had to say about it. when they assume that the author who claims to be Paul really was Paul? Or consider the statement of an author from the 1970s who tells us: “Pseudonymity was a frequent feature in early literature. But this raises an enormous question that this scholar can’t answer. There was nothing immoral about it. took shelter under a better-known name. and we shall see that in all probability the author of 2 Thessalonians. and the authors of comparable pseudonymous documents. why didn’t he simply write anonymously? Why did he attach a false name to his work. But this scholar never does so.136/357 letters for over seventeen hundred years was deceived. more often in fact. We should try to assess such writings by the standards that were accepted in the environment in which they originated. as many continue to be today.” and “bastards”! .”6 This author is at least right about one thing: forgery is frequent in ancient literature. being too diffident to write under his own name.’ This latter qualification implies a negative moral judgment. But is it like “modern anonymity”? This is a rather odd thing to say about the practice. to evaluate the writings by ancient rather than modern standards. it was simply the equivalent of modern anonymity. Why not say it is like “ancient” anonymity? Books were written anonymously in the ancient world as well as in the modern one.” “lies. the author. If an author who was writing out of humility did not want to mention his own name. did not consider their writings as products of fraud.

who sees the work as a forgery. paradoxical as it may appear. the situation is somewhat different: these works . critical readers want to know what evidence the author cites that the practice was “accepted” and that it was not associated with “forgery and deception. however.”8 Once again. In the case of New Testament pseudepigrapha. That might apply in the case of a work written to propound some heretical doctrine. Consider one of the most recent commentators on Colossians. Why? Either because the author—even though he’s an otherwise reputable New Testament scholar—is not familiar with what ancient people actually said about forgery or because he doesn’t dare cite what they said. It should be emphasized once again that the last option [that Colossians was not written by Paul] does not necessarily carry with it the stigma of fraud or forgery. since what they said runs counter to what he says.” But he cites none. but maintains it is an “honest forgery” (as opposed to a dishonest one): The evidence from the ancient world makes it necessary to distinguish dishonest forgery. Other scholars have allowed their theological views to cloud their historical judgment.137/357 Representative of this same line of thought is the work of a recent scholar who is dealing with the fact that the author of Ephesians falsely claimed to be Paul. and what might be described. There is no reason to think of the device of pseudonymity in negative terms and to associate it necessarily with such notions as forgery and deception. This scholar states that such a false claim “was a widespread and accepted literary practice in both Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures…. and therefore rejected. undertaken for nefarious and malicious ends. and as noted above many such works were later to be stigmatized as apocryphal or heretical. as honest forgery….

if no one was deceived. All of them maintain that what I’m calling forgery—the claim of an author to be someone other than who he really is—was not a deceptive practice. That these views are wrong should be clear even from my brief examination of the ancient evidence in Chapter 1. then how would they get . Well. second-. or fourth-century orthodox Christians agreed with the views found in the book of Colossians and decided that it should be included in the Bible. all of them base their views on statements to that effect by earlier scholars rather than on an examination of the ancient sources.9 In other words. however. Other authors. So their honesty or dishonesty is rooted in circumstances completely outside of their own control. and all of them choose not to provide a single stitch of evidence. They witness to what the Church believed. who espoused views that later Christians rejected. were dishonest forgers. third-. or punished? And if the purpose was not to deceive readers. And how would the authors themselves know that centuries later their views would be accepted or not? Well. abused. If forgery was never thought of as wrong. what exactly was the purpose? Just consider the motivations that drove authors to claim to be someone else. obviously.138/357 came to be recognized by the Church as valid and authentic witnesses to the genuine Christian faith…. then its author was an honest forger. if later. Some forgers did it to see if they could get away with it.10 AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE All of the scholars I have just quoted have three things in common. why is it that in every known instance of a person being caught he is either reprimanded. they’d have no way of knowing.

the person who allegedly wrote the text. But if readers knew that the alleged author wasn’t the real author. after having surveyed all the ancient discussions. But what would be convincing if the authority turned out not to be the person he claimed to be? Other forgers. None of them makes sense if the forgery didn’t “work. probably the majority among Christians. how could this tactic possibly work? Some authors forged documents for military or political ends. if nobody was taken in by the device of pseudepigraphy. These other scholars have actually read what ancient sources say about the practice. But if no one was fooled. asked the rhetorical question of the first group of scholars I mentioned: “How can it be so confidently known that such productions ‘would deceive no one’? Indeed. states explicitly: “Contemporary scholarship on . who knew the ancient sources like the back of his hand. But if it was known that the alleged author didn’t actually write the book—if it wasn’t really written by Plato or Peter or Paul—why would anyone bother to read the book? You can go through all the motivations I have documented from the ancient sources.”11 One of the finest German scholars to discuss forgery in the ancient world. who would pay the money? Others used forgery to cast aspersions on the character of another. Metzger. to convince people in the name of an authority to engage in some kind of violent action or coup.” that is. if no one was fooled. produced their work in the name of someone else in order to make sure that their views would get a wide circulation. it is difficult to see why it was adopted at all. And as I’ve said. the fact that people were fooled can explain the negative and sometimes violent reactions by readers who realized they had been fooled. Norbert Brox. My own teacher. Bruce M.139/357 away with it? Some did it to make money. This is why there is another set of scholars who talk about forgery and call it what it is—an intentional deceit.

Scholars who do so can be grouped into three major schools of thought. purely routine and acceptable practice. it was because he had been inspired to do so by the Spirit of God. For this person who believed he was inspired. instead.. . give reasons and special circumstances under which the use of a false name was an acceptable practice in antiquity.”13 Pseudepigraphy as an Accepted Practice OTHER SCHOLARS WHO DO not want their readers to think badly about forgeries (especially the ones in the Bible) do more than simply make blanket statements that forgers were not being deceitful. When stated baldly. an apostle). this sounds very much like a theological claim (and possibly not a very good one). indicates plainly at the very beginning of his massive study of the phenomenon: “Every kind of forgery misrepresents the facts of the case.”12 And the leading authority of forgery in modern times. PSEUDEPIGRAPHY IN THE SPIRIT One view that was popular among scholars for years was that when an early Christian author wrote a book in someone else’s name. the Austrian scholar Wolfgang Speyer.g.140/357 forgery shows beyond any doubt that literary forgery even at that time raised the question of its own morality and was not at all tolerated as a common. These other scholars. you could simply think that the person believed he was moved by the Spirit to write in the name of an early Christian authority. You do not have to think that the Holy Spirit literally inspired a person to write this way. and to that extent forgery belongs in the realm of lying and deception. the words he wrote came from an impeccable authority (e. but it is not necessarily that.

because it was the Spirit who was speaking through them. but…it would have amounted to a falsification even to name this tool. Our very first author was Paul. this was not a skillful trick of the so-called fakers. who claimed that the earliest Christian “prophets” believed they were inspired by the Spirit and so spoke forth a kind of “prophetic word” whose authority was not themselves. Eventually Christian “authorities” began writing down these prophetic words. but only the authentic witness. the apostles. the Holy Spirit. instead.e. The author.141/357 One of the chief proponents of this view was the German scholar Kurt Aland. the Lord. but the logical conclusion of the presupposition that the Spirit himself was the author. For one thing. because…it was not the author of the writing who really spoke. as if his personal authority could back up an idea or words provided by the Spirit. Aland claimed: Not only was the tool [i. but the Holy Spirit.14 Despite the one-time popularity of this view among some scholars. But an author could not write in his own name. was a kind of tool used by the Spirit (in the author’s belief) to convey its own message. As a result: When pseudonymous writings of the NT claimed the authorship of the most prominent apostles only. in order to guarantee the highest possible reputation and the widest possible circulation for their work. . it doesn’t make sense to say that in the earliest Christian tradition authors refused to use their names. and he uses his own name.. the human author] by which the message was given irrelevant. it has never really caught on widely.

. or Paul. it doesn’t explain why an author would falsely claim one name instead of another for himself. REACTUALIZING THE TRADITION The next explanation of how pseudepigraphal authorship could be seen as an acceptable practice is a bit more complicated. is simply not convincing. that is. but to suggest that the views represented in the document were those of this older authority. why not give no name at all? As a result. but it doesn’t explain the one thing that it is trying to explain: early pseudonymous writings. In particular.” A “tradition” is any point of view. “Thus says the Lord. A technical term for this kind of procedure is “reactualizing the tradition. as I suggested. it argues that if an author understood himself to be a later representative of points of view held by a famous earlier author (who since had died. A tradition is “reactualized” when it is made actively relevant (reactuated) to a new situation. or James? Or. although interesting. he could write a document in that person’s name. if he were still living to deal with the new situation that had arisen since his death. The purpose was not to claim that he really was that person. or Paul. if authors wanted to claim that it was the Spirit speaking through them.” or “Thus says the Spirit”? Why would they claim to be some other human—Peter. for example). Or at least they would be that authority’s views. teaching. why would he call himself Peter? Why not John. that they were not grounding their message on their own authority. why wouldn’t they simply say.142/357 Second. In a nutshell. or story that is passed down in writing or by word of mouth. this explanation. this view can explain early anonymous writings. or James—knowing full well that was not who they were? That is to say. If it was the Spirit that inspired the writer.

There was no intention to deceive. and it has been applied by some scholars to the phenomenon of pseudepigraphy in the New Testament. on the grounds that doing so made them leave their senses and behave irresponsibly. Fifty years later. Peter and Paul had no “intention to deceive” and did “not in fact” deceive anyone.”15 You can probably see one of the key problems with this view. everyone who read these letters thought that Peter and Paul wrote them. but also the use of drugs. he has “reactualized” the tradition. The new author. because in his eyes that is what it was…. pseudonymity was “an acceptable practice.” because a pseudepigraphal author continuing an older author’s tradition “could present his message as the message of the originator of that stream of tradition. condemning not just alcohol consumption. For seventeen hundred years. And here again we’re left with the question: What is the evidence that “reactualizing the tradition” by assuming a false name was a widely followed and acceptable practice? . not intended to deceive.143/357 Suppose a highly influential author in 1917 condemned Christians who drank alcohol. In other words. he is not so much claiming to be that person as to be continuing the tradition of that person. That at least is the theory. This new author stands in the tradition of the older author and makes the tradition applicable to the “actual” situation he is addressing. living in 1967. If the people who forged the New Testament letters of. a different problem has arisen—people have started using hallucinogenic drugs. and almost certainly the final readers were not in fact deceived. many centuries) was in fact deceived. writes an essay claiming to be the famous and respected author from 1917. A new author wants to tell Christians that they are not to do any such thing. By claiming the name of the author from 1917. say. As one British scholar has argued. we again are left with the problem of why everyone (for many.

144/357 The chief proponent of this view is the American scholar David Meade. living even later. Isaiah 40–55 was transmitted as part of the book of Isaiah. since it can explain how authors could make false claims about . So too the final eleven chapters of Isaiah.16 Meade argues that the evidence for this practice comes from the Hebrew Bible. But. He is indicating which tradition—Peter’s—he sees himself belonging to. the author of these chapters was not trying to deceive anyone into thinking he was really Isaiah of Jerusalem. for example. but about their “authoritative tradition” (i. who was not really Peter. he says. The author of 2 Peter. in Meade’s view. Meade argues that he was simply claiming to belong to the same prophetic tradition as Isaiah of Jerusalem.e.D. As Meade notes. about which tradition—Isaiah’s—they were continuing on for the new day. For example. He is not meaning to lie about it..e. Chapters 40–55. authors are doing something very similar.. claims to be Peter not because he wants people to think he is Peter. As Meade puts it. were almost certainly written by someone else living a hundred and fifty years later. when it comes to the New Testament. for writings of various authors to be passed along under the name of the person who started the tradition that they saw themselves belonging to. who published his Ph. about who originally penned their books). during the time when the nation of Judah was in captivity in Babylon.) Meade finds this kind of tradition in other parts of the Hebrew Bible as well and so concludes that. dissertation on the topic. which were written by yet a third author. from a century and a half earlier. A number of scholars have been attracted to this theory. It was customary. by calling these later authors “Isaiah” Jews were not making a claim about the “literary origins” of their writing (i. Hebrew Bible scholars for over a century have maintained that the book of Isaiah was not composed completely by the famous Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eighth century BCE.

and it seems to fit into the ancient Jewish tradition of authorship. it may be that it was someone else who put the two bits of writing together. he read Isaiah in . embracing this view. first. There is no record of anyone from the ancient world ever acknowledging this view.145/357 themselves without lying about it. Moreover. or with the author of Ephesians. he was not a Jew himself. But even more problematic is the fact that writers of the first century. supporting this view. who claims to be Peter.. most of the evidence doesn’t actually work. We’re not sure who wrote Isaiah 40–55. so that the author of what is now Isaiah 40–55 wasn’t making any authorial claim at all. or promoting this view. We don’t know if he himself physically added his own writings to the writings of Isaiah of Jerusalem (e. say. second. but was simply writing anonymously. But there are very big problems with the theory. No ancient author even mentions this view.g. nowhere does the author of Isaiah 40–55 ever claim to be Isaiah. reflecting on this view. when the New Testament books were being written. For one thing. did not know that Isaiah 40–55 was not written by Isaiah of Jerusalem. on the same scroll) or if he simply wrote his book using many of the ideas of his predecessor. This is in stark contrast with. speaking about this view. it was probably an Israelite living during the Babylonian captivity. That is to say. the author of 2 Peter. How would a first-century person such as the author of Colossians have any idea what had happened with the writings of Isaiah five hundred years earlier? He was living in a different country and speaking a different language. other than to say that. who claims to be Paul. it was widely assumed that Isaiah wrote all of Isaiah! This notion that later authors were reactualizing the tradition is based on twentieth-century views of authorship of the Hebrew Bible that no one in the ancient world knew about. it was not Isaiah of Jerusalem and. Quite the contrary.

many of which were at odds with one another. lies) and notha (bastards). And they would have labeled the other author’s books pseuda (falsehoods. then. Should we think. What would each of these authors have called the other? They would have called the other author a liar. who claimed to be representing Paul’s proclamation even though he wasn’t. when he wasn’t? Absolutely not.146/357 Greek rather than Hebrew. and for him all of Isaiah was written by Isaiah. They were Gentiles. who claimed to be Paul even though he wasn’t. where these authors have their roots. and the author of the Acts of Paul. Such . How would proponents of a tradition have reacted toward others who claimed to be from that same tradition. They have just the opposite views of women and their roles in the church. Would the author of the Acts of Paul find it acceptable for the author of the Pastorals actually to claim to be Paul. PHILOSOPHICAL SCHOOLS One other reason Meade’s explanation of forgery fails is that most of the authors of the New Testament were not part of the Jewish tradition. yet had something different to say? Just think of the author of the Pastorals. would that justify his claim to be Peter? What is the logic of claiming actually to be the person whose views you accept? One of the reasons this logic is faulty is that there were lots of Christians representing lots of points of view. Even if it were true that the author of 2 Peter understood himself to be continuing the tradition of Peter. that early Christians who accepted the view of the Pastorals would find it acceptable for the author of the Acts of Paul to put words into Paul’s mouth that he didn’t speak? Of course not. There is a yet another problem with this view. So other scholars have tried to find grounds for legitimizing pseudepigraphal writings in the pagan tradition.

147/357 scholars sometimes claim that it was common for disciples of a philosopher to write treatises and not sign their own name. They state it as a fact. we read the following: “Pseudonymous documents. was done as an act of humility.19 But one of the . were set in circulation because disciples of a great man intended to express. but the name of their teacher. or the pastoral letters. by imitation. so many New Testament scholars have said so! But ask someone who makes this claim what her ancient source of information is or what ancient philosopher actually states that this was a common practice. that authors felt that their ideas were not actually theirs. it is alleged. to give credit where credit was due. to write in the name of a philosopher who was one’s patron could be seen as a sign of honor bestowed upon that person. New Testament scholars often claim that this can explain why someone claimed to be Paul when writing Colossians. This. for example. More often than not you’ll be met with a blank stare. but had been given to them by the leader of their philosophical school. Ephesians. The scholars who do mention ancient evidence for this alleged practice typically point to two major sources. neither of these commentators actually provides any evidence that this was a common practice in philosophical schools. And why do they think it’s a fact? For most New Testament scholars it is thought to be a fact because. well. as happens so often. especially letters with philosophical content. In one of the standard commentaries on Colossians. they attached their master’s name to their own writings. So.”17 A more recent commentator on Colossians and Ephesians states something similar: “Viewing Colossians (or Ephesians) as deutero-Pauline should not be mistakenly understood as meaning that these documents are simply examples of forgery. their adoration of their revered master and to secure or to promote his influence upon a later generation under changed circumstances.”18 I should point out that. For example.

then. The other reference to a tradition in the philosophical schools does say what scholars have said it says. in Arabic. I don’t either.148/357 two says no such thing. As it turns out. after all. The forgers are called “shameless people” who “fabricated” “false books.” I should point out that. who is alleged to have said that in the school of the ancient philosopher Pythagoras (who lived eight hundred years earlier) it was a common practice for disciples to write books and sign their master’s name to them. they were simply books written by Pythagoras’s followers. But I have a colleague who does. and twelve books were “forged” in the name of Pythagoras. an expert in medieval Islam. Carl Ernst. This. and most New Testament scholars don’t read Arabic.” The two hundred books are not said to have been written by Pythagoras’s followers in his name. This one is in the . in Porphyry’s other writings as well as in this passage. since it is. and he condemns the forgeries. Porphyry doesn’t say anything about followers of Pythagoras writing books and then signing his name to them. he shows a keen interest in knowing which books are authentic and which are forged. This is the third-century Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry. including the Old Testament book of Daniel.21 I doubt if any of the New Testament scholars who refer to this statement of Porphyry’s has actually read it. because it is not in his surviving Greek writings. I asked Professor Ernst to translate the passage for me. Instead. two hundred books were written by his followers. The twelve books are condemned for using Pythagoras’s name when he didn’t write them. it is only in an Arabic translation of one of his works from the thirteenth century.20 This statement by Porphyry is a little hard to track down. which he thinks could not have been written by an Israelite in the sixth century BCE. is one of the two ancient references sometimes cited by scholars to indicate that the practice of writing in a master’s name was “common. he says that Pythagoras himself wrote eighty books.

3. Paul. it would have had to be widely known. In his account of Pythagoras’s life. no one else seems to have known it for eight hundred years. As a result. Iamblichus refers to what happened only within one of the many philosophical schools. 2. Iamblichus was living two hundred years after the writings of 1 and 2 Peter and the DeuteroPaulines. Pythagoras’s followers] referred everything to Pythagoras. and that they did not ascribe to themselves the glory of their own inventions. except very rarely. that they [i.e. But it wasn’t. For this tradition to have made an impact on such a wide array of early Christian authors. and others: 1. another Neoplatonic philosopher from about the same time as Porphyry. He makes no claims about a wider tradition in philosophical schools outside of Pythagorean circles. Philip. More specifically. there is nothing to suggest this view was widely known. .. James. Iamblichus says the following: “This also is a beautiful circumstance.149/357 writings of Iamblichus. Quite the contrary.”22 There are lots of problems with taking this one statement as an indication of what “typically” happened in the philosophical schools of antiquity as a model for what the Christian authors did when claiming to be Peter. The tradition is not mentioned by a single author from the time of Pythagoras (sixth century BCE) to the time of Iamblichus (third to fourth century CE). There is no reference to this tradition existing in the time of the New Testament writings. and called it by his name. For there are very few whose works are acknowledged to be their own. Thomas. It could scarcely have been seen as a widely accepted practice at the time.

lived more than two hundred years after Paul and Peter) cannot at all be taken as evidence of what happened in the days of Pythagoras and his students (six hundred years before Paul and Peter).150/357 4. His followers wrote in their own names. Iamblichus’s comment is completely casual and off the cuff. New Testament scholars need to revise their views about philosophical schools and their impact on the forgery practices of early Christians. The vast majority of the writings of the Pythagorean school were not done in the name of Pythagoras. None of the other philosophers or historians who talk about Pythagoras and his school prior to Iamblichus says any such thing about pseudonymous works written in his name. I would suggest that . there is reason to think that what Iamblichus says in fact is not even true of the Pythagorean school:23 a. b. let alone what happened commonly in the philosophical schools. He may well simply have thought this is how it worked. the brief and casual comment by Iamblichus (who. To cap it all off.25 For these reasons. let alone what probably happened in early Christianity.24 As a result. First. when Iamblichus’s statement can be checked. c. it appears to be wrong. As recent scholars of Pythagoreanism have pointed out. he was writing eight hundred years after Pythagoras and would have had no way of knowing that what he was saying is true. it must be remembered. d. There is almost nothing to suggest that there was a tradition in these schools to practice pseudepigraphy as an act of humility.

on theological grounds. It explains why 1 Peter seems to have a different writing style from 2 Peter. It explains why the views of the disputed “Pauline” letter of Ephesians seem to differ so radically . one that says that in a number of cases what appears to be forgery in fact is not. But other times he may have asked his secretary to rework his letter to improve the style. At still other times an author may have simply told a secretary to write a letter for him. For that reason. There is one other school of thought to consider. so that both the contents and the style of the letter are the secretary’s. that some books that appear to be pseudonymous in fact are not. on historical grounds. who actually was who he claimed to be. the authors of early Christian writings should not be thought of as lying when they claimed to be someone other than who they were. you will find it expressed everywhere in biblical commentaries on the deutero-Pauline and Petrine letters. that there could be no such thing as forgery in early Christianity. in these scholars’ opinion. The Secretary Hypothesis THE THREE GROUPS OF scholars I have mentioned all think that under certain conditions pseudepigraphy was an acceptable practice in antiquity. They are claiming.151/357 scholars have latched onto this idea simply because it gives them a way of talking about what happened in the literary tradition of early Christianity without saying that early Christian authors were guilty of forgery. That is because the real author. even if the ultimate “authority” for the letter is the author who is named. The scholars who argue this are not claiming. Sometimes the real author may have dictated a letter word for word to a secretary. and the secretary wrote in a different style from the author himself. used a secretary. This is a very popular theory.

Richards considers all the other great figures of the empire known to have used secretaries (Brutus. Virtually all of the problems with what I’ve been calling forgeries can be solved if secretaries were heavily involved in the composition of the early Christian writings.” Tertius does not mean to say that he was the “author” of the letter. It is a full and very useful study. most of which have been discovered in Egypt over the course of the past century. And he considers what early Christian sources themselves have to say about letters and secretaries. once again.26 Richards looks at all the evidence for secretaries in the ancient world. “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” (6:11). Pompey. that it simply does not have credible evidence to back it up. called The Secretary in the Letters of Paul. He diligently peruses the letters of the most famous letter writer of Rome. Paul also used a scribe for his letter to the Galatians. Randolph Richards. He looks at every reference to secretaries he can find in the ancient letters that still survive on papyrus. There is no doubt that the apostle Paul used a secretary on occasion. Whole books have been devoted to the question in recent years. For most of these letters Cicero used secretaries. for example). Despite the popularity of this theory. I am going to argue. He was the scribe who wrote what Paul told him to write. One of his secretaries tells us that he has written the letter! In Romans 16:22 we read. the statesman and philosopher Cicero. “I Tertius. Commentators are widely agreed that Paul had dictated the letter to a secretary. since at the very end he tells his readers.152/357 from the views of the undisputed letter to the Romans. and Marcus Aurelius. but here at the end he was writing the final bit himself. the one who wrote this letter. because he had . The fullest and most exhaustive is by E. greet you in the Lord. He used larger handwriting either because he wasn’t as skilled at writing as the secretary.

Richards claims. 2 Peter. So what is the evidence that it worked this way? There is no doubt about Richards’s first category. Most of the time a secretary simply recorded what the author dictated to him. then it would make sense that different letters by the same “author” might read very differently from one another not just in writing style. but in content. the words are his words. in some kind of shorthand while the author spoke at natural speed. the author was really the author. even if the author signed off on what he had written. or for some other reason. syllable by syllable. either slowly. The same evidence applies to the authors of 1 Peter. so that all the words and thoughts were actually the secretary’s. There is abundant evidence—you can read it all in Richards’s study—that authors often dictated letters instead of writing them out themselves. and in fact to all the other early Christian writers. or at least occasionally. Did the secretaries contribute to the contents of the letter? This is easier to say. Richards states.153/357 problems with his eyesight and so wrote larger letters. Other times a secretary was asked by an author to correct the grammar and improve the style of what the author either wrote or dictated. . When that happened. but the thoughts are his thoughts. a secretary actually composed an entire letter on behalf of the author. And sometimes. a secretary was a kind of coauthor who contributed his own thoughts and ideas to a letter. Did Paul use a secretary for all of his letters? It is impossible to say. the grammar is his grammar. On occasion. all of the evidence we have suggests that the answer is no. No problems there. In his study Richards argues that secretaries were used in four distinct ways for the writing of letters. If secretaries actually did commonly. or something in between. work in these latter ways. Despite what scholars often claim. He didn’t himself put pen to papyrus.

consuls. very wealthy and powerful and inordinately well educated. which would put them way ahead of most people of course. stereotyped letters typically found in Greek and Roman . and then sign off. They do have the stylistic features of ancient letters: the names of the author and the recipient. They were one page or less. Most commonly the author would say who he was. One very severe problem is the nature of our evidence. But they are so much more extensive than typical letters. Another problem has to do with the nature of the “letters” involved. Virtually all of it comes from authors who were very. the surviving private letters that were written by regular folk instead of the elite of society—do not give us any help in knowing about these other three categories. They are lengthy treatises that deal with large and complex issues in the form of a letter. or 1 Peter—are not like that at all. who may have been moderately well educated. and senators. in their theological expositions. and quotation of and interpretation of Scripture. indicate to whom he was writing. ethical exhortations. but far below a Cicero or a Marcus Aurelius. a thanksgiving. These New Testament “letters” are really more like essays put in letter form.154/357 It is with the other three categories that we begin to have problems. Most letters in the Greco-Roman world were very short and to the point. for example. The papyri—that is. indicate his information or his request. offer a brief thanks to the gods for the recipient. the body of the letter. These were the very upper class. and the closing. They had very limited content. The reason this is a “problem” is that the letters of early Christianity that we are concerned about—the letter to the Ephesians. the highest tier of the cultured elite: emperors. for example. It is a genuine question how relevant that evidence is for people who were of the lower classes. Bam-bam-bam and done. So evidence that derives from the brief.

marriage certificate. though it is very limited. Remarkably this is the one and only example that Richards mentions before concluding. It is difficult to know whether this procedure was used widely. sales receipt. or some other document.155/357 circles is not necessarily germane to the “letters” of the early Christians. But Richards then discounts the suggestion that Tiro coauthored the letters with Cicero and shows why the suggestion is probably wrong. a letter from the military commander Brutus and another from the emperor Marcus Aurelius. for example. Richards points to one possible example. It is true that illiterate persons sometimes required the services of a scribal secretary to draw up a land deed. Maybe other scholars (or Richards himself) will eventually be able to find some evidence. who coauthor a letter. With these caveats in mind. and that they occasionally (but rarely) used scribal secretaries to write brief stereotyped letters. letters written by Cicero and his secretary Tiro. There is a similar problem with the idea that secretaries sometimes composed letters themselves for someone else. what can we say about the three other categories that Richards lays out. “Evidently then…secretaries were used as coauthors”! It is hard to see what makes this “evident” when he hasn’t cited a single instance of it. as is . The evidence is all from the very top echelons of the upper class of ancient Rome. that secretaries occasionally were asked to improve the author’s style. outside of the circles of the ultrarich landed aristocracy. Even the upper classes would sometimes instruct a secretary to spin off a quick stereotyped letter for them to someone. or at all. When talking about the possibility that some letters were coauthored by both the author and his secretary. as he himself says. secretaries who improve an author’s style. or who compose a letter? There is some evidence. The evidence of the other types of letters—at least as cited by Richards—is virtually nonexistent.

for that matter—added to the contents of the letter. Sometimes a . Cicero.156/357 evidenced on several occasions by Cicero. That is why it is important to consider not only the style of writing. he was doing what no other person is known to have done in antiquity.. no one else. and unwilling to write a letter himself).e. When Cicero asked a secretary to compose a quick stereotyped letter for him and make it look as if it came from him. I don’t know of a single piece of evidence or a single analogy to suggest that Peter or Paul used a secretary who significantly—or insignificantly. when he was old.” On the contrary. and nuanced letter like 1 Peter or Ephesians. but also the contents when considering whether Paul did or did not write. much less presumed. he was owning up to the contents. it is only Cicero who did this. this secretarial method probably should not even be considered a valid option. perhaps singularly restricted to Cicero and to this time in his life” (i. finely argued.”28 There is certainly no such explicit reference in the deutero-Pauline or Petrine letters. according to Richards: “Nowhere was there any indication that an ordinary secretary was asked. say. Ephesians or 1 Timothy. So far as Richards’s evidence goes. But drafting a brief stereotyped letter is completely different from composing a long. carefully reasoned.27 What about other secretaries who may have composed a letter (not even a letter-essay) for another author? Again. tired. What evidence is there that essay-letters of that sort were ever handed over to a secretary to be composed? There is absolutely no evidence that I know of. or that Peter did or did not write 1 or 2 Peter. to compose a letter for the author. detailed. “without an explicit reference to the use of a secretary as a composer of a letter. As Richards himself says: “It is tempting to conclude that an authorinitiated request for deception was rare indeed. When a person claimed to write a letter. Richards hasn’t seen any evidence of it either.

not the Hebrew version. it also helps to think concretely about how the secretary hypothesis might explain how Peter himself could have written 1 Peter. then the secretary rather than Peter would be the real author of the letter. He could not have dictated the letter to a secretary. Other times what one finds in a letter cannot be plausibly explained as coming from the reputed author. As I pointed out in Chapter 2. And it does not seem possible that Peter gave the general gist of what he wanted to say and that a secretary then created the letter for him in his name. and second. and it does not appear to have been produced by a secretary acting on his behalf. which Peter himself would have been familiar with. Historians have to decide what probably happened in the past. we don’t seem to have any analogy for a procedure like this from the ancient world. a secretary could not be responsible for the difference. was a highly educated Greek-speaking Christian who understood how to use Greek rhetorical devices and could cite the Greek Old Testament with flair and nuance. That does not apply to the uneducated. because he was not trained in Greek compositional and rhetorical techniques. So Paul is probably in no way responsible for the disputed letter. because the letter contains sophisticated forms of argumentation and presentation that work only in Greek and presupposes knowledge of the Greek Old Testament. Aramaic-speaking fisherman from rural Galilee. Which is more probable—a scenario that does not have any known analogy (Peter asking someone else to write the treatise in . Whoever wrote 1 Peter.157/357 letter attributed to Paul is at odds with what Paul says elsewhere. as when Ephesians differs from Paul’s view of the resurrection of believers as found in his letter to the Romans. since. for example. illiterate. Since secretaries did not produce the contents of letters (at least letter-essays of this sort). first. and even more important. Nor could he have dictated the letter in Aramaic and asked the secretary to translate it into Greek.

Surely that’s the best explanation for what is going on here. not just the style. in the modern day. Pseudepigraphal writings include originally anonymous writings that were later wrongly attributed to wellknown figures. technically speaking. Pseudonymous writings include writings produced under a pen name. and these differences need to be constantly borne in mind. Forgery in antiquity was different from forgery today in some important respects. The same applies to the letters bearing Paul’s name that he did not write. forgery . Most important. even though they were someone else. since it happened all the time? Forgeries happened all the time. books whose authors claim to be well-known authority figures. simply can’t explain away the forgeries of the New Testament. these other terms are correct. The technical term for this kind of activity is forgery. These really are forgeries. as promising as it looks at first glance. These letters were not produced by secretaries. some of which may be found in the New Testament. but they are imprecise. They were produced by later Christian authors claiming to be Paul. differ significantly from the views of Paul himself. the secretary hypothesis. There were a large number of literary forgeries in early Christianity. Some scholars today avoid the term “forgery” and call these writings pseudonymous or pseudepigraphal. in which the contents. The books we are talking about are by authors who lied about their identity in order to deceive their readers into thinking that they were someone they were not.158/357 his name) or a scenario that has lots and lots of analogies. and none of the writings we have been considering fall into that category. As a result. Conclusion I CAN WRAP UP these first four chapters by making a series of summary statements.

Still. . lies. But this difference is not significant enough to require us to use a different term for the practice. were quite different from books today.” Multiple attempts by modern scholars to see the practice in a more positive light simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. and so the practice should not be thought of as illegal. Other readers may be inclined to acknowledge that the authors violated ancient ethical standards and are best described as I have done so here—as forgers. Neither explanation has adequate support in the ancient sources. but they were still forgeries. They were written on scrolls and were not mass produced. for example. on the grounds. Modern readers who are religiously committed to the teachings of the New Testament may want to excuse the authors who deceived their readers about their identity. “Books” in the ancient world. In the ancient world there were no laws against such things. Ancient authors called such works falsely inscribed writings. It is important to recall that ancient writers who mention the practice of forgery consistently condemn it and indicate that it is deceitful. for example. Forgeries in the ancient world were different in some ways from forgeries today. If we are to do so as well probably depends on a number of factors. The most common claims found widely. and “illegitimate children. that they were lying in order to achieve a greater good.159/357 connotes an illegal activity that can land a person in jail. are that this practice was widely accepted in philosophical schools or that the phenomenon can be explained by assuming that an author made use of a secretary who composed the writing himself. that doesn’t stop anyone from calling them books. and wrong. The negative connotations of the term are appropriate to the ancient phenomenon. inappropriate. both among scholars and laypeople.

JESUS is reputed to have said. Maybe all the Christians behind history’s hateful acts were acting in bad faith. maybe they were out of touch with the peace-loving teachings of the Good Shepherd of the sheep. sponsoring oppression. holocausts—all in the name of the faith. but a sword” (Matt. injustice. the mind-boggling sacrifices made to help those in need. did indeed bring a sword. as well it often has been and should be. tells his readers to “put on the full armor of God” (6:10–20). Some early Christians realized that the religion would be based on conflict. maybe they were violating the true principles of their own religion. crusades. but “against authorities. who. few religions in the history of the human race have shown a greater penchant for conflict than the religion founded on the teachings of Jesus. Truer words were never spoken. the countless acts of selfless love. 10:34). against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly . Their struggle was not against mortal flesh. Even so. But anyone with any grasp of history at all knows also just how violent Christians have been over the ages.CHAPTER FIVE Forgeries in Conflicts Jews and Pagans with IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. allegedly Paul. pogroms. against the cosmic power of this present darkness. Many Christians in the modern age think of their religion as peace loving. The author of the New Testament book of Ephesians. true to his word. inquisitions. wars. And no one should deny the amazing good that has been done in the name of Christ. “I did not come to bring peace on earth.

the helmet of salvation. Or. But it was a battle nonetheless. a lot at stake. Christians in the early centuries of the church were in constant conflict and felt under attack from all sides. They were at odds with Jews. There was. but with deception. the spiritual forces aligned against Christians manifested themselves in the human sphere. He also claims that the “fruit of the light” is found in “truth” (5:9). Christians entered into conflict not merely with spiritual forces. Truth was important for this writer. then. and “the sword of the Spirit. who considered their views to be an aberrant and upstart perversion of the ancestral traditions of Israel.” Against these cosmic enemies Christian believers were to put on the breastplate of righteousness. this advocate for truth produced a pseudepigraphon. had they known the author was not Paul. They were at odds with pagan . perhaps more accurately from the author’s point of view. Early on he refers to the gospel as “the word of truth” (1:13). which is the word of God.” This was not a battle. How ironic. against human enemies. but also with human ones. “Fasten the belt of truth around your waist” (6:14). the shield of faith. a “falsely inscribed writing.161/357 places. The book was written pseudonymously in the name of Paul by someone who knew full well that he was not Paul. Possibly the author felt justified in lying about his identity. but against the spiritual powers arrayed against God. He later indicates that the “truth is in Jesus” and tells his readers to “speak the truth” to their neighbors (4:24–25). then. after all. Falsely claiming to be an impeccable Christian authority. and it was on this level that the battles were actually fought. that the author has deceived his readers about his own identity. So some Christians went into battle armed not with truth.” At least that is what ancient critics would have called it. It is striking that in his instructions about the Christian “armor” the author of Ephesians also tells his readers. As historians of early Christianity have long known.

In the next chapter I take up the internal conflicts that plagued the Christian church from the beginning. the Jews and pagans opposed to the Christian faith. In all these battles. 11:1).162/357 peoples and governments. and his rejection by the Jewish leaders (Ps. 11:1). 9:1–2) and would be a great healer (53:4). The Old Testament said he would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:11). It predicted his triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the acclamations of the crowd (Isa. in Bethlehem (Mic. In this chapter I consider the conflicts with outsiders. Jesus did and experienced the things predicted. and that he would be raised in Nazareth. Forgery was used by one Christian author or another in order to fend off the attacks of Jews and pagans and to assault the views of other Christians who had alternative. as different Christian teachers and groups argued that they and they alone had a corner on the truth and other Christian teachers and groups flat-out misunderstood the truths that Christ had proclaimed during his time on earth. 7:14). 118:22–23). For these Christians it all seems so obvious. The Jewish Reaction to Christian Claims MANY CONSERVATIVE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS today cannot understand why Jews do not accept the claim that Jesus is the messiah. his cleansing of the Temple (Jer. 5:2). that he would have to flee as a child to Egypt and then come out from there (Hos. It predicted that he would minister in Galilee (Isa. . 62:11. so that he would be called a Nazarene (Isa. Zech. So of course he is the messiah. The Old Testament predicted what the messiah would be like. And they were most vehemently and virulently at odds with each other. aberrant understandings of the faith. 9:9). who considered them a secretive and unauthorized religion that posed a danger to the state. the “full armor of God” included weapons of deceit.

Isa.” It was originally. is that Jews throughout history have been no more illiterate. I should stress that a lot of Jews in the ancient world were not sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for a messiah. for example. blind. but there were different expectations of what this messianic savior would be like. it predicted his crucifixion for the sins of others and his glorious resurrection from the dead (Pss. or King Solomon. 53).1 The term “messiah” comes from a Hebrew word that means “anointed one. the Jewish readers have a point. Many Christians are surprised by this claim. a figure like King Saul. But there were groups of highly religious Jews around the time of Jesus who thought that God would send a messiah figure to deliver them from their very serious troubles. King David. of course. The king was literally “anointed” with oil on his head during his inauguration ceremony. but just read Isaiah 53 for yourself and see. Most ancient Jews rejected the messiahship of Jesus for the simple reason that Jesus was not at all like what most Jews expected a messiah to be. the term “messiah” in fact never does occur. just looking at this set of debates from the outside. Why don’t the Jews see this? It is in their own Scriptures! Can’t they read? Are they blind? Are they stupid? The truth.163/357 Most important. All these groups based their expectations on the Hebrew Bible. 22. 110. And one has to admit. in the Hebrew Bible. In the passages allegedly predicting the death and resurrection of Jesus. in order to show that . any more than most Jews today are. or stupid than Christians. The typical response of Jews to the Christian claims that Jesus fulfilled prophecy is that the scriptural passages that Christians cite are either not speaking of a future messiah or are not making predictions at all. used in reference to the king of Israel. Jesus did everything that was predicted. of course.

would be like. He would rule God’s people. a kind of cosmic judge of the earth who would engage the enemy with overpowering force before setting up a kingdom here on earth to be ruled by God’s chosen one. The followers of Jesus. a completely human being who was a powerful warrior and great ruler of God’s people. it would have been hard to imagine anyone less like the expected messiah than Jesus of Nazareth. For most Jews. claimed that he was the messiah. Ps. on the other hand.. as a result. as opposed to its political situation. some Jews thought that God would send a future king. who. These Jews thought that the future ruler of the people would be a mighty priest who would empower the people of Israel by teaching them the correct interpretation of the Jewish law.g. then. 2). Yet other Jews were principally focused on what we might call the “religion” of Israel. This future king. subjected to public humiliation and torture and executed as a low-life criminal on a cross. then. After a time. e. In short. empowered by God to overthrow the enemies and to rule the people of God with authority. by enforcing the observance of what God had demanded in Scripture. The one thing these conceptions of the future savior had in common was that they all expected him to be a figure of grandeur and might. would lead Israel’s armies against its enemies and reestablish Israel once again as a sovereign state in the land. more cosmically minded Jews thought that this future savior would be a supernatural figure sent from heaven. there were a variety of expectations of what a future “anointed” figure. a messiah. an anointed one like great King David of old. like David. was to be the messiah. Other. And who was Jesus? A little known preacher from backwoods Galilee who had offended the ruling authorities and was. when there were no more kings over Israel. .164/357 God’s special favor rested upon him in a unique way (see.

and resurrection of Jesus. then. and he conquered death at his resurrection. life. and so on) referred to Jesus. He. death. Jesus conquered sin at the cross. however. And arguing and arguing and arguing. Christians were certain that these passages (virgin birth in Bethlehem. But Christians continually struck back and kept arguing. death for the sins of others. Jews far outnumbered Christians and could easily overwhelm them. The earliest Christians became convinced of this claim. because Jesus was the messiah and the Scriptures predicted the messiah. and he is waiting to come back to establish his rule over the earth. According to this early Christian view. God had shown that Jesus was not just a lowly criminal or a powerless preacher. the evil powers of sin and death that were aligned against God and his people. The messiah would overthrow the enemies of God in a show of strength.165/357 But that is what Christians claimed. And he is coming back to finish the job. the Jewish expectations of the messiah were true. For followers of Jesus. the Hebrew Bible never states that the messiah would come twice. . because none of these passages actually speaks about the messiah. but also the significant events of his “first” coming. Scripture must have predicted not only the powerful aspects of the messiah’s “second” coming. therefore. But before doing that he needed to conquer the bigger enemies. Jesus had ascended to heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God. because they believed that Jesus was actually. So Christians scoured the texts of Scripture to find passages that could feasibly refer to the birth. that Jesus was the messiah. physically. is the messiah. raised by God from the dead. In the early stages. death itself. triumphal entry. God had in fact empowered him to conquer the greatest enemy of all. and Jesus’s life was anything but the glorious life of God’s anointed one. Most Jews were not convinced. And so there were deep and difficult conflicts from the beginning.

The proofs were all there. especially by Christians. books written in the names of authoritative figures of the past intending to show the brilliant truth of Christianity and the horrendous errors of the Jews. companion of the apostle Paul. There is a writing by the famous second-century Christian martyr Justin. They obviously misunderstood their own Scriptures. in which he has a debate with a Jewish rabbi and shows him the errors of his interpretations of his own Scriptures. Christians began to argue that Jews who rejected Jesus were just as responsible for Jesus’s death as the Jewish authorities who had originally called for it. God had rejected them. right in the Scriptures themselves! As battle lines became more firmly drawn and both sides dug in and used harsher tactics. claims that Jews have not only rejected their messiah. A sermon by Melito. so that the Old Testament is not a Jewish. As a result. Some of this literature we still have today. a Christian bishop of the late second century. Among the works produced by Christians in this back-andforth were a number of forgeries. Rejecting Jesus was tantamount to killing him. the Son of God. And so non-Christian Jews came to be known as people who had killed their own messiah—Christ-killers. they are guilty of deicide: they have killed God himself. And so it went. A letter allegedly by Barnabas. but a Christian book. but in killing him. and they had rejected their own God. not a mere mortal. as .166/357 Among other things. claims that Jews have always misunderstood their own religion by interpreting the law of Moses literally instead of figuratively. It was in this context that a significant amount of literature was produced by both sides. In particular there were a number of forgeries that stressed the true character of Jesus: he was a divine being. many Christian Jews couldn’t understand why non-Christian Jews didn’t see their point and didn’t accept the “fact” that Jesus was the messiah.

the leveling of the walls. The Gospel of Peter (discussed in Chapter 2) emphasizes that “none of the Jews” was willing to wash his hands to show that he was innocent of Jesus’s blood. especially as Christianity grew and was able to assert its power more convincingly. and the slaughter of the Jewish opposition in 70 CE. In these writings it was not the Romans. possibly written around 120 CE or so. to set forth this view. Anti-Jewish Gospel forgeries became increasingly popular with time. the first four Christian centuries. The Gospel of Peter is one of the earliest Gospels from after the New Testament period. not Pilate. or even the Jewish people themselves.167/357 acknowledged by the Roman authorities. a reference to the Roman war that resulted in the burning of the Temple. who were responsible for Jesus’s crucifixion. at least in part. And afterwards the Jewish people show their remorse for killing God’s chosen one and acknowledge that now God will surely judge them and bring destruction to their holy city of Jerusalem. but the Jewish leaders. and resurrection that falsely claims to be written by none other than . Some Resultant Forgeries THE GOSPEL OF PETER We have already seen one forgery that was written. THE GOSPEL OF NICODEMUS One of the most intriguing Gospels comes near the end of the time period I am considering in this book. death. In this Gospel it is the Jewish king Herod. who orders Jesus’s death. It is a lengthy account of Jesus’s trial.

the Jewish authorities are speaking with Pilate. on stories that had been passed down orally for two centuries before being written down. the rabbi well known to Christian readers for his important role in the Gospel of John as a “secret” follower of Jesus (see 3:1–15). believed to have been written by Nicodemus himself. his death. whoever he was. Pilate has his courier bring Jesus into the courtroom. There is no question that the account is far from historical.2 The Gospel of Nicodemus became an extraordinarily popular and influential book throughout the Middle Ages. The narrative is designed to show that Pilate was completely innocent of Jesus’s execution. Before Jesus’s trial. provided it with an air of authenticity. The divine character of Jesus is established at the outset of the narrative in one of its most interesting. that the Jewish leaders and people were completely at fault. and his resurrection. and that by rejecting Jesus the Jews have rejected God. As Jesus enters the room. as it was widely circulated in the Latin West and was eventually translated and disseminated in nearly all of the languages of western Europe. of course. But by claiming that it appeared first in Hebrew the real author. as it is rooted in later legends about Jesus’s final hours. The Gospel begins by indicating that Nicodemus had originally written the narrative in Hebrew. however. In fact. insisting that Jesus is guilty of crimes and needs to be condemned. It may well be based. and amusing. But the account was probably composed sometime in the fourth century. Inside the room are two slaves holding “standards” that have—as Roman standards did—an image of the “divine” Caesar on them. showing both that the narrative was very old and that it was (supposedly) based on eyewitness testimony. the standard bearers bow down before . scenes.168/357 Nicodemus. It was. the account appears to be an original Greek composition. three hundred years after Nicodemus’s death (assuming he was a historical figure).

and once again the standards bow down before him. the Jewish crowds showed that they were willing not only to incur the guilt for Jesus’s death. expresses puzzlement about why the Jews are so intent on seeing him killed. but to no avail. But they refuse. wanting him dead. The Jewish authorities are shown to be willfully blind to Jesus’s true .” When these words were first written centuries earlier. Pilate decides to try to get to the bottom of the matter and so tells the Jewish leaders to pick some of their own husky men to hold the standards and to have Jesus go out and enter a second time. The leaders choose twelve muscular Jews. in Matthew’s Gospel. The images of Caesar bowed down of their own accord to worship Jesus. By speaking them. That heightened form of anti-Judaism is already in evidence here. who grasp them with all their might. And just as repeatedly Pilate insists that he is innocent of all charges. and urges the Jewish leaders to allow him to release Jesus. The Jewish authorities declare that Jesus is an evildoer who deserves to die. You might think that everyone would get the point. six for each standard.169/357 him. Three times they express their willingness to assume responsibility by speaking the words of Matthew 27:25. but that would ruin the story. but also to pass along that guilt to future generations of Jews. so that the image of Caesar appears to be doing obeisance in his presence. in the Gospel of Nicodemus. “His blood be upon us and our children. Repeatedly throughout the course of the trial they accuse Jesus of wrongdoing and insist that he be judged. who reply that they had nothing to do with it. Jesus reenters the room. Pilate becomes terrified and tries to get Jesus off the hook. The Jewish authorities are incensed and malign the standard bearers. they already expressed anti-Jewish sentiment. Over the centuries the words were used by Christian opponents of Jews to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus and to inflict horrible acts of violence against them in retribution.

Pilate continued on as a brutal governor of Judea after the death of Jesus. In several of these writings we learn that Pilate not only repented of the evil deed. then. written some three hundred years after the events it narrates. Most of these are designed to show that Pilate was not at fault for the death of Jesus and that he felt considerable remorse after the deed was done. There is nothing in the historical record to . THE “PILATE GOSPELS” A number of writings from about the time of the Gospel of Nicodemus are in one way or another connected with Pontius Pilate and his role in the death of Jesus. Jesus is crucified at the instigation of the Jews and their leaders. and the Jewish leaders themselves are given incontrovertible proof of the resurrection through the testimony of reliable witnesses. to show that Jesus’s death was undeserved. when hatred of the Jews was a constant and disturbing aspect of what it meant to be Christian. Historically. Here. But to no avail. The rest of the account shows the truth of Jesus’s divine character. nothing could be farther from the truth. In later Christianity the conversion of Pilate became part of the accepted lore from the early church. that the Romans (who were on the side of Christians by the mid-fourth century) had nothing to do with the crucifixion. In the Coptic church Pilate was eventually canonized as a Christian saint. He is raised from the dead. No wonder an account such as this became so popular throughout western Europe in the Middle Ages. but actually became a believer in Christ. that it was completely the Jews’ fault. of course. and that by rejecting Jesus the Jews have actually rejected their own God.170/357 character. Even the emperor worships him (in the standards). is a forged account. And a number of witnesses are called who recount all the miracles he performed as the Son of God.

All of them. when Herod Antipas. Historically Pilate is known to have been the Roman governor of Judea. God’s judgment on sinners. The flood began to sweep her away. Herod Antipas is best known from biblical tradition for having beheaded John the Baptist. in the southern part of Israel. was the Jewish ruler of Galilee. If Pilate was not responsible for Jesus’s death.3 Here Herod indicates that he is sorry to learn that Pilate had Jesus killed. when her mother reached out to save her by grabbing her head. A number of them are allegedly written by Pilate himself. are forged. Herod states. then who was? The Jews. as retribution for his having taken the head of John the Baptist. in the northern part of the land. let alone felt regret over it. Herod. his own daughter has literally lost her head in a flood that arose while she was playing on the banks of a river. allegedly sent to Pilate. he states. so that the mother was left with just the child’s head in her hands. because he. fits their crime. The legends of Pilate came to be written in a series of documents that may go back to the fourth Christian century or even earlier. . That is the case in this letter forged in his name. by his colleague Herod Antipas. the Letter of Herod to Pilate. In later legends he is said to have regretted what he did very much. as it came back to haunt him. the son of Herod the Great (the ruler of the land when Jesus was born). the reason for his later exoneration and even exaltation in parts of the Christian church is reasonably clear. wanted to see him and to repent for the evil things he had done. In a bizarre incident that he relates. But her head was severed. Still. The Letter of Herod to Pilate The first document we consider was not said to have been written by Pilate.171/357 suggest that he even remembered having ordered Jesus’s execution. This came. but to him. however.

4 One might expect this letter to be a response to the first. The next day his body grows back to normal. will face judgment for what they did to Jesus: “Death will soon overtake the priests and the ruling council of the children of Israel. is portrayed as a convert who came to believe in Jesus after the resurrection.” because they “did not keep the commandments of the Lord or those of his Son. in fact. “Already worms are coming from my mouth.” The Letter of Pilate to Herod A second forged letter goes in the opposite direction. who according to the New Testament book of Acts was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12). but despite its title. the spear-wielding soldier). Not they. they have almost nothing else in common. however. then. and the fact that it names some of the same characters (Herod. That. rotting away even before he has died. So too the Roman soldier Longinus—the one who allegedly stuck a spear in Jesus’s side when he was on the cross—has met a grisly fate. In fact. and the lion then comes again. because they unjustly laid hands on the righteous Jesus. This will go on until the end of time. is the point of this second . He is condemned to a cave where every night a lion comes and mauls his body until dawn.” It is the Gentiles. so that he says. who will inherit God’s kingdom. the Letter of Pilate to Herod. whereas Herod and the other Jews “will be cast out.” Here the pseudonymous author appears to confuse this Herod with the later Herod Agrippa. as a representative of the Gentiles. from Pilate to Herod. rather than being subject to never ending torment for what he did. Pilate. is portrayed in a positive light. but the Jews.172/357 He himself is suffering. this second letter does not refer to the first and stands at odds with it at a key point. and Longinus. the recipient of the letter. Pilate. Here Longinus.

evidently in the early 60s CE. There he speaks with them. not Claudius. given the fact that it was Tiberius. after Pilate did “a terrible thing” in having Jesus crucified. written to explain Pilate’s role in the death of Jesus.” Here Pilate is not only repentant. Possibly this letter was forged so long after the fact that the forger did not have the facts of imperial history from two hundred years earlier straight (do you know who was president of the United States in 1811?). whom we met earlier. and then Pilate himself.5 It may seem strange for Pilate to be writing to Claudius. appear before the emperor Nero. the apostle Peter and the archheretic Simon the Magician. not only Longinus. When Pilate learns that Jesus has returned to life. raises him from the ground. he hears that he was raised from the dead. the Letter of Pilate to Claudius. and they become convinced of his resurrection. he is a Christian convert who will be considered fortunate by later adherents of the faith.173/357 letter. According to the narrative of the letter. One of the places the letter is preserved for us is in a fabricated account of the missionary activities of the apostles called the Acts of Peter and Paul. Procla and Longinus go to find Jesus in Galilee. When the emperor hears . in particular. and declares to him. but also Pilate’s wife. he falls to the ground in deep grief. Procla. but this time it is supposedly directed to the Roman emperor Claudius. all became believers. that when Jesus was raised. But then Jesus himself appears to him. The Letter of Pilate to Claudius We have another letter allegedly from Pilate to a Roman official. who was emperor when Pilate condemned Jesus to death (Claudius became emperor a decade later). “All generations and nations will bless you. In this account we are told that years after Jesus’s death.

the emperor Claudius. As “Pilate” states in the letter: The Jews. When he arose from the dead “the wickedness of the Jews was set aflame.” The Report of Pontius Pilate . Pilate has written this letter so that the emperor will know the truth and not be “led to believe the false reports told by the Jews. The idea that Pilate may have written a letter to the emperor to explain the death of Jesus was widespread in early Christianity. Then they (not the Roman soldiers!) crucified him. The themes of the short letter are very similar to ones we have already explored. and the letter then is quoted in full. that God would send them his holy one from heaven…through a virgin. According to the letter Jesus proved that he was the son of God by his many miracles.6 The letter I am discussing here is probably not the one referred to by these two authors. It is the wicked Jews who are responsible for Jesus’s death. They have been oblivious to the promises given to their ancestors. out of envy. he asks Peter how he can learn more about him. have brought vengeance both on themselves and on those who come after them by their terrible acts of judgment. Possibly this one was composed by a forger who thought that some such letter must once have existed. We have references to some such letter as early as the third century in the writings of the church father Tertullian and in the fourth century in the Church History of Eusebius. and to have it read aloud. and they will be punished by God for it.” so that they bribed the soldiers to say that Jesus’s disciples had stolen the body from the tomb. but the Jewish leaders told lies in order to have him executed. He does so. Peter suggests that he retrieve the letter that Pilate had sent to his predecessor.174/357 about Christ.

healing paralytics.”8 Again. there are earthquakes and the splitting of . At Jesus’s death a miraculous darkness covers the earth. These were amazing deeds. I know that the gods we worship have never performed such astounding feats as his. and so Pilate orders him crucified. Pilate was innocent of the entire proceeding. that Jesus had done many miracles. At three in the morning the sun begins to shine in full strength. made a report of everything that happened to Christ for Tiberius. as Pilate himself confesses: “For my part. who was himself already a Christian with respect to his most innermost conviction.175/357 A longer document called the Report of Pontius Pilate gives yet another letter of the Roman governor to the emperor. possibly the fourth century or so. soon after the death of Jesus.” Pilate goes on to indicate. however. “bringing endless charges against him” even though they “were not able to convict him of a single crime. it is doubtful if the surviving Report is the document Tertullian refers to. Nothing hard-hearted or malicious about this Pilate! But the “entire multitude of the Jews” (not just the Jewish leaders) handed Jesus over to him. and at his resurrection a miraculous brightness appears. in any event. raising the dead. but this time to Tiberius. cleansing lepers. the emperor at the time.” But the Jews are unmoved and threaten a riot.7 This letter appears to be much closer to what the early third-century Tertullian described when he claimed: “Pilate. Its chief claims. are similar to those of the other forgeries we have looked at in this chapter: Jesus was the miracle-working son of God who was wrongly condemned by the Jews to death. making the blind see. and so on. The Report starts by stressing that Pilate was administering the province of Judea according to “the most gentle directives” of the emperor. Scholars tend to date it to a later period. angels are seen in the heavens.


rocks, and great chasms form in the earth. All this spells disaster for the recalcitrant Jews: The light did not cease that entire night, O King, my master. And many of the Jews died, being engulfed and swallowed up in the chasms in that night, so that their bodies could no longer be found. I mean to say that those Jews who spoke against Jesus suffered. But one synagogue was left in Jerusalem, since all the synagogues that opposed Jesus were engulfed.

The Handing Over of Pilate
A final example of a “Pilate Gospel” is called the Handing Over of Pilate.9 This is not a letter, but a narrative that reports what happened to Pilate once the emperor Tiberius received his report of what had occurred at Jesus’s death and resurrection. The Handing Over seems to presuppose the existence of the Report of Pilate, but it is stylistically different and has points of disagreement with the earlier text. Scholars tend to think, then, that they were written by different authors. The Handing Over begins by stating that Pilate’s letter arrived in Rome and was read to Tiberius Caesar in front of a large crowd, who marveled to learn that the daytime darkness and worldwide earthquake they had experienced came as a result of the crucifixion of the Son of God. Caesar is “filled with anger,” and he sends soldiers to arrest Pilate to bring him to Rome. When Pilate arrives, Caesar puts him on trial and upbraids him for executing Jesus: “By daring to do this wicked deed you have destroyed the entire world.” Pilate protests his innocence, however, and insists that “it is the multitude of the Jews who are reckless and guilty.” Caesar replies that, even so, Pilate should have known better, since it


was obvious from Jesus’s miracles that “he was the Christ.” As soon as Caesar mentions the name Christ, all of the pagan idols in the senate house, where the trial is being held, fall to the ground and turn to dust. Here, as in the Gospel of Nicodemus, the gods of the pagans do humble obeisance before the divinity of Christ and come to naught. In this episode it happens just at the mention of Christ’s divine name. Pilate repeats that Jesus’s works showed that he was “greater than all the gods” that they worshiped. But he executed him “because of the anarchy and rebelliousness of the lawless and godless Jews.” Caesar and the senate take a vote and decide to destroy the nation of the Jews. They then send in the armies, who destroy the nation and take all the Jewish survivors to sell off as slaves. Pilate himself is condemned to death for his part in the affair. Before he dies, however, Pilate prays to God and pleads his innocence, once again saying that Jesus’s death was because of the “nation of godless Jews.” When he finishes his prayer, a voice comes from heaven—the voice of Christ himself—assuring Pilate of his salvation: “All the races and families of the Gentiles will bless you, because under your rule everything spoken about me by the prophets was fulfilled. You yourself will appear as my witness at my second coming.” When the executioner chops off Pilate’s head, an angel swoops down and takes it, presumably to carry it up to heaven.

The Purpose of the “Pilate Gospels”
The overarching points of these later Pilate Gospels should by now be clear. By exonerating Pilate in the death of Jesus, the accounts make the Jews, not just their leaders, bear all the guilt. The more innocent Pilate is, the more culpable are the Jews. According to some of the legends, Pilate is so innocent that he


becomes a devoted believer and follower of Christ. God is therefore angry with the Jews and punishes them for their crime against the Son of God. These writings were forged in a period that saw heightened animosities between Christians and Jews. Christians realized there would be no rapprochement with the Jews and there was little chance that most Jews would ever come to see the “truth” about Jesus, that he was the messiah of God, not just a lowly crucified criminal. This “truth,” then, is what prompted these Christian “false writings.” That is to say, a number of Christian authors chose to tell the truth about the divine Christ and about his wicked enemies, the Jews, by forging documents, claiming to be people they weren’t. Christian readers of these documents accepted them at face value as real reports from the time, instead of what they were, forgeries from later periods. The authors intended to deceive their readers, and their readers were all too easily deceived.

We have very few writings from early Christianity that claim to be by Jesus himself, and very few indications that Jesus could in fact write. But there are a few reports of his writing—even though this is not widely known, even among scholars—and a couple of surviving writings that he is (falsely) said to have produced. Even within the pages of the New Testament there is a record of Jesus writing. This is not a story originally found in the New Testament, however, but a later account that scribes added to the Gospel of John. In fact, it is in one of the best-known stories about Jesus, Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (8:1–11). In the story the Jewish authorities drag a woman before Jesus and indicate that she has been caught in the act of adultery.


According to the law of Moses, they say, she is to be stoned to death. But what does Jesus say? This is an obvious trap. If Jesus says, “Yes, by all means, stone her,” he is violating his own teachings on forgiveness and mercy. But if he says, “No, let her go,” he is violating the law of Moses. So what is he to do? Jesus, of course, always finds a way out of these traps, and he does so in this case by stooping down and writing on the ground. He then looks up and says, “Let the one without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” He then stoops back down and resumes writing. Gradually, ashamed of their own sins, all the Jewish authorities leave, one by one, until there is no one left to condemn the woman. It is a fascinating account, even if it was not originally part of the New Testament.10 But what is especially interesting for our discussion here is what Jesus does when he stoops down. He is not said to be drawing or doodling on the ground. He is literally said to be “writing.” The Greek term clearly indicates that he is writing words. This is the earliest indication that we have that Jesus was even able to write.11 One recent study of this passage in fact argues that it was composed years after Jesus’s death precisely in order to show that he could write.12 Several alleged writings of Jesus are mentioned by church fathers. Unfortunately, none of these forgeries survive. The fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions, for example, mentions books forged in Jesus’s name by the heretics Simon and Cleobius. It is hard to know if such books actually existed or if they were simply said to have existed in order to attack these false teachers for forging them. The fifth-century theologian Augustine, on the other hand, mentions a letter allegedly written by Jesus that probably did exist.13 The letter was addressed to the apostles Peter and Paul and endorsed magical practices. Augustine had no difficulty showing that the letter was forged, since Paul was not actually a disciple


during Jesus’s lifetime, but only after his death. Augustine plausibly argues that the forger had seen paintings of Jesus with Peter and Paul (such as one can still see, for example, in the catacombs of Rome) and made the false inference that Paul was one of Jesus’s earthly disciples. On that errant basis the forger made up a letter that Jesus allegedly sent to Paul along with Peter. Regrettably, we no longer have the letter.14 A couple of other writings, however, do survive in Jesus’s name from the first four centuries. Neither is probably best seen as a forgery, however, since neither seems to be making a serious claim to have been written by the historical Jesus himself. One is found in an account of Jesus’s death and resurrection called the Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea. According to this highly fictionalized narrative, one of the robbers crucified along with Jesus is pardoned for his sins and promised a place in heaven. From the cross, Jesus writes a letter to the angelic cherubim who are in charge of heaven, instructing them to let this fellow in when he arrives at the gates. This is a terrifically intriguing letter, but it really doesn’t seem as though the author intends for his readers to take it seriously as something written by Jesus.15 But I may be wrong. Another writing by Jesus is a document discovered in 1945 with a collection of Gnostic texts called the Nag Hammadi library, about which I say more in the next chapter. This document is written in the first person, in the name of Jesus, describing the true nature of his crucifixion and the true way of having salvation through him. It is called the Second Treatise of the Great Seth (the first treatise, if it ever existed, no longer survives). Even though Jesus claims to be writing this book, it is the resurrected Jesus writing from heaven. For that reason it is not exactly the same thing as a forgery in the name of the earthly Jesus. One brief letter that claims to have been written by the earthly Jesus, however, does survive. The letter was produced by


someone who probably wanted to deceive his readers into thinking that it really was by Jesus. If so, it is appropriately called a forgery. This letter is part of a correspondence between Jesus and a certain King Abgar, of the city of Edessa, in Syria. Our first record of this correspondence is in the Church History of Eusebius, who claims actually to have uncovered both letters in the Edessan city archives. Eusebius indicates that the letters were written in Syriac, but that he translated them into Greek. He then cites them in full.16 The first letter is from the “Ruler Abgar” addressed to “Jesus the Good Savior.” Abgar indicates that he has heard all about Jesus’s miraculous healings and has concluded that Jesus must either be “God…having descended from heaven” or the “Son of God.” In either event, Abgar asks that Jesus come to him and heal him of his illness (without stating what it is). He adds that this would be of benefit to Jesus as well, as he has “heard that the Jews are murmuring against and wish to harm” Jesus. Jesus writes a reply in which he indicates that Abgar is blessed for believing in him sight unseen and comments, “It is written about me that those who see me will not believe me, and that those who do not see me will believe and live” (see Isa. 6:9; Matt. 13:14–17; John 9:39; 12:39–40). In other words, the people among whom Jesus lived and worked (“the Jews” mentioned by Abgar) would not believe and would, therefore, not have life, but death. Jesus goes on to refuse politely Abgar’s request to join him in Edessa, as he has to “accomplish everything I was sent here to do” and then “ascend to the One who sent me.” Jesus does promise, however, that after his ascension he will send one of his disciples who will heal Abgar and “provide life both to you and to those who are with you.” I assume this final sentence means that the disciple will teach them the gospel, which they will then believe for eternal life. According to later legends Jesus fulfilled his promise to King Abgar.


An apostle was dispatched to Edessa, healed the king of his illness, and converted him and the entire city to faith in Christ. The Abgar correspondence accomplishes an end similar to that of the Pilate Gospels, but in a far more subtle way. Here too Jews are attacked for their opposition to Jesus and are said not be heirs of eternal life because they reject him. This letter too, then, represents antagonism against the Jewish people for their role in the death of Jesus. As a side note, the correspondence with Abgar appears to have had an interesting afterlife. As it was circulated throughout the early church, scribes changed it in places. Some of our surviving manuscripts of Jesus’s letter add a final line that informs King Abgar: “Your city will be blessed, and the enemy will no longer prevail over it.” This proved to be a very helpful promise to the citizens of Edessa. In the later fourth century a wealthy Christian woman named Egeria from the western part of the empire (either Spain or France) decided to go on a pilgrimage to visit all the sacred places of the Holy Land. During her journeys she kept a journal in Latin, which we still have today.17 On her travels, Egeria went to Edessa and saw the letters between Jesus and Abgar, as shown to her by the Christian bishop of the place. According to the bishop, when the city of Edessa had come under attack by the armies of Persia, the then ruler of the city had taken the letter of Jesus, which promised that the city would not be conquered, and held it up at the city gate. The attacking army was thwarted by the magical power of the letter and retreated, eventually returning home to Persia without harming a soul. Later a copy of the letter was attached to the city gate, and no enemy had tried to attack it since. This, then, was a very useful letter to have on hand, even if it was forged. Pagan Opposition to Christianity

There was rarely any need to “lie low. Before Decius. As it turns out.183/357 AS WE TURN FROM considering antagonism toward the Jews by early Christians to opposition occasionally found among pagans. as we have seen. persecutions were almost entirely local affairs. Christianity was no more illegal than any other religion. rain. and that as a result they had to go into hiding. lots of things. food. More often than not they were the result of mob violence rather than “official” opposition initiated by local authorities. none of that is true. Christians could be quite open about their faith. crops. that Christians could not confess their faith openly for fear of governmental persecution. It was not until the year 249 CE that any Roman emperor—in this case it was the emperor Decius—instituted an empire-wide persecution of Christians. The pagan gods were not thought to require much in return. no attempt throughout the empire to stamp it out. no declarations that it was illegal. and everything else that made life both possible and meaningful. In most times and places. drink. Strictly speaking. for example. They did not insist that anyone . But what was there not to approve? For pagans.” It is true that Christians were sometimes opposed by pagans for being suspicious and possibly scurrilous. It is widely thought that from its early days Christianity was an illegal religion. health. it was usually in order to placate the crowds. children. just as most “new” religions found opponents in the empire. prosperity. But there were no imperial decrees leveled against Christianity in its first two hundred years. When there was official opposition. in the Roman catacombs. it is important to clear up a few common misconceptions about early Christianity in the Roman Empire. security. Probably most important. pagans typically worshiped their gods because it was believed that the gods provided people with what they needed and wanted in life: peace. who did not approve of the Christians in their midst.

drought. or simply refused to do the very minimal requirements of public worship. destruction. declared that they were evil demons. did not behave in socially inappropriate ways. Christians. If a group of people in a community rejected the proper worship of the gods. The gods more or less demanded that they be worshiped in appropriate ways. were not treated as an exception.184/357 actually “believe” in them. It was an easy and helpful arrangement. then. their traditions were known to be ancient and venerable. The gods could make life very miserable indeed if angered. How. Moreover. then things were not good. But what happened when the gods were not worshiped. on the other hand. natural disaster. insisted the gods didn’t exist. were seen as an exception to the rule that the local and imperial divinities needed to be worshiped. They were known to perform sacrifices on behalf of the emperor’s well-being (rather than to him). The Jews. this group would be the most susceptible to blame if disaster hit the community. If people worshiped the gods. and they did not have complicated “laws” that had to be followed. they could bring war. would people react if some kind of disaster struck a community? Their natural assumption was to think that one or more of the gods was angry and needed to be placated. Even the Jews were widely seen as acceptable. death. the gods took care of the people. even though they worshiped just their one God. and they did no one any harm. and this was deemed appropriate. and more or less kept to themselves. The Christian church was just such a group. then. when they were ignored or flouted? Well. for example. Christians for the most part were either Jews who no longer . Other religions followed the ancient traditions that had been handed down in worshiping the gods. people were to perform the acceptable and traditional sacrifices that had long been part of their worship and say the prayers that were appropriate to them.

and there was nothing that could authenticate a religion or a philosophy more than a claim to having . Thus Tertullian’s famous lines about Christians being subject to persecution whenever disaster struck a community: They think the Christians the cause of every public disaster. someone who had been condemned by the state. straightway the cry is: Away with the Christians to the lion!18 Moreover. if the Nile does not send its waters up over the fields. If disaster struck a community that housed such Christians. of every affliction with which the people are visited.185/357 seemed to keep the ancestral Jewish customs (so in what sense were they Jews?) or Gentiles who had abandoned the worship of the gods for the worship of the God of Jesus. People in the ancient world loved nothing more than antiquity. that is. Christians worshiped a crucified man. unlike Judaism. the Christian refusal to participate in statesponsored worship was often seen as a kind of political statement that Christians were not concerned for the welfare of the state. if there is an earthquake. that Christians were more or less thumbing their noses at the judgment of the state? And even apart from that. if the heavens give no rain. they were the natural scapegoat for retribution. Wasn’t that a kind of political statement. If the Tiber rises as high as the city walls. Christians flat-out refused to worship the gods that had made the state great and that provided all the necessary and good things of life. This was considered antisocial and dangerous. For one thing. Punish the Christians and return to the gods’ good favor. wasn’t it a matter of sheer lunacy to abandon the tried and true religion of the state in order to worship a crucified criminal? Another problem was that. Other aspects of the Christian religion contributed to this perception. Christianity was such a new phenomenon. if there is a famine or pestilence.

were thought to be engaged in licentious and incestuous activities. that is. the weekly meetings as a rule took place either before the work day began. it was reported that at these love feasts Christians ate the flesh of the Son of God and drank his blood. or after it was over.” And they held periodic “love feasts” in which they celebrated the love of their god for them and their love for each other. there were also rumors about what happened at these meetings. whose meetings were not public. how much better could it get? Christians. And not only that. Christians were thought to be committing infanticide and cannibalism. the new was suspect. working classes. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a child? In addition to incest. brothers and sisters gorging themselves. before dawn. For one thing. and holding love feasts in the dark. Churches for the first two hundred years almost always met in private homes. to be secretive. There were no church buildings that opened up on Sunday morning for anyone interested in learning about the new faith. and the meetings themselves were private. after sundown. Only Christians attended. since the majority of Christians were from the lower. therefore. it was also seen as corrupt and perverted.186/357 ancient roots. probably getting drunk. when it was dark. Worse than that. The religion was thought by others. The old was venerable. These nocturnal meetings were rumored to be held among people who were “brothers” and “sisters” and who were known to “love one another” and to “greet one another with a kiss. And what was Christianity? It was the worship of a man who lived quite recently. If you wanted to start a rumor mill going about the early Christians. Christians did not hold open meetings that everyone could attend. in “modern” times. killing babies and then eating them. How could it possibly be true? Not only was this new religion seen as dangerous and false. .

in the shameless dark with unspeakable lust they copulate in random unions. but they were commonly leveled against Christians by their pagan enemies. This view.e. In one early Christian source called the Octavius. some by deed. sisters. They provoke a dog tied to the lampstand to leap and bound towards a scrap of food which they have tossed outside the reach of his chain. the tutor of the emperor Marcus Aurelius: On a special day they [i. but everyone by complicity. There.19 But these weekly activities pale in comparison with their periodic sacred meals.187/357 These charges may all sound extremely far-fetched. It is the blood of this infant—I shudder to mention it—it is this blood that they lick with thirsty . A young baby is covered over with flour. they begin to burn with incestuous passions. By this means the light is overturned and extinguished. all equally being guilty of incest. mothers—all sexes and all ages. celebrated with the new converts to the faith: The notoriety of the stories told of the initiation of new recruits is matched by their ghastly horror. The recruit is urged to inflict blows onto it—they appear to be harmless because of the covering of flour. we read of a pagan who expresses his disgust at what happens at the Christian nighttime services. flushed with the banquet after such feasting and drinking. the object being to deceive the unwary. derives from the famous pagan scholar Fronto. written by the third-century author Minucius Felix. according to Minucius Felix.. It is then served before the person to be admitted into their rites. and with it common knowledge of their actions. Thus the baby is killed with sounds that remain unseen and concealed. the Christians] gather for a feast with all their children.

and the fabric of society. That is why. to the extent that the gods could become upset and exact vengeance. these are their rites. through their grossly immoral behavior. “apology” in this context is not an attempt to say you’re sorry. it is no wonder that they opposed Christians. the judges ruling in the cases brought against Christians plead with them to recant their faith. and willing to take a public stand defending the faith.188/357 lips. Christians were seen as a threat to both the political health of the empire.21 These authorities’ goal was not to hurt the Christians. in virtually all the early accounts of the Christian martyrs. Starting in the second half of the second century. this is the victim by which they seal their covenant. but to convince them to stop being Christian.20 These were the kinds of charges that Christians had to defend themselves against. sometimes with violence. more foul than all sacrileges combined. If local mobs believed such things. Christians of course defended themselves against all such charges. and did so in a number of ways. it is by complicity in this crime that they are pledged to mutual silence. able to make sustained philosophical arguments and to write them down. which means “a reasoned defense. These were a new breed of Christian: literate. trained in rhetorical skills. intellectual pagans started occasionally converting to this new faith. these are the limbs they distribute eagerly. And if the masses were against the people who participated in the new religion.” Among the more famous Christian apologists of the second and third centuries were .” As we have seen. These intellectual defenders of the faith are normally called “apologists. highly educated. it comes from the Greek work apologia. what choice did local officials have but to oppose them as well? Local persecutions of Christians were designed less to punish them for their crimes than to get them to renounce their religion and return to the true fold.

their love for one another was chaste. The state survived and thrived not because of offerings made to dead idols. therefore. the Christians. a religion older than anything in either pagan philosophy or myth. many of them practiced lifelong chastity. for example—had emphatically declared Jesus not guilty. God had. even if married. The worship of a crucified man was not a statement of opposition to the state. rejected them in favor of his faithful people. It was in fact the true expression of ancient Judaism. the state representatives—Pontius Pilate. who had become manifest in his son Jesus. and highly moral religion that stood . they did not even allow abortion. shared views made sharper by the Christian message of the one true God. but were in fact fully supportive of the state. and his followers were far more ethical than anyone else. These authors insisted to anyone who would listen that Christians were not opposed to the state. Tertullian of Carthage. In fact. who had power and sovereignty over all. Rather than being a “new” religion.189/357 Justin Martyr of Rome. For the apologists. they were completely circumspect in what they ate and did not indulge in gluttony or drunkenness. Christianity was quite ancient. The best of the pagan philosophers. as a result. Jesus’s death was a miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the recalcitrant Jews. not only was it wrong to have sex with someone other than your spouse. for them. Of course they did not commit incest. quite the contrary. Jesus himself had taught an exceedingly high set of morals. Christianity was an ancient. but because of prayers made to the living God. Of course they did not support fornication or adultery. Of course they did not murder infants. in short. Of course they did not commit cannibalism. it was a sin even to want to do so. philosophically respectable. who had rejected their own messiah and therefore their own God. Athenagoras of Athens. according to some of the apologists. and Origen of Alexandria.

I want to correct mistakes that other scholars have made in discussing that phenomenon. I want to show the irony in the fact that lies and deception have historically been used to establish the “truth. Eventually this message caught on. This book that I’m writing now—what is its purpose? In fact.190/357 over against the false religions of both pagans and Jews. I want readers to think more deeply about the role of lies and deception in the history of the Christian religion. Here I need to stress a point I have not yet made. I want to tell interesting stories about intriguing and relatively unknown writings from antiquity. which included the production of forgeries. . It would be a mistake to think that an author must have produced a forgery for one and only one purpose. Christians had to fight for their religious beliefs and practices. and it is certainly not the case for forgeries either. once Christianity became the religion of the empire. Some Resultant Forgeries SEVERAL FORGERIES ALREADY SEEN A number of the forgeries we have already considered functioned as well in the apologetic defense of the faith against pagan assaults. there are multiple purposes. So too forgeries. As a rule they were multifunctional. This isn’t the case for other books. And one of the ways they fought was through their literary endeavors. Hardly any writing has just one purpose. Ultimately. I want to inform my readers about an important ancient literary phenomenon. Before that. I want to accomplish lots of things. I want to entertain my readers.” I want my readers to see that there may be forgeries in the New Testament. as more and more pagans converted to the faith. the apologists’ view would be accepted as obvious and commonsensical. though. In fact.

On one level these letters satisfied Christian curiosity. Take 1 Peter as an example. it is also meant to provide a defense . quite strenuously. How could the most significant theologian of the young faith not have been known to the other great minds of his day? These letters showed that in fact Paul was known and respected by the greatest thinker of them all. But it also functions to help Christians defend themselves against attacks leveled at them by pagans. the incomparable Seneca. How highly respected was it? The greatest Roman philosopher of the first century revered the apostle Paul and praised his uncanny insights. far from being a backwater religion of lower-class peasants. for example. comforts Christians of Asia Minor who are undergoing suffering. claiming to be Simon Peter. that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate declared Jesus to be innocent of all charges. But the letter is not only meant to provide comfort. But more than satisfying curiosity. that the appointed governor of Judea found Jesus innocent and crucified him only because the maleficent Jews forced him to do so. Christianity from the outset was a highly respectable philosophical tradition. That emphasis functions as a kind of Christian anti-Judaism. allowing Christian readers to conclude that Jews were wicked Christ-killers. In response to pagans who insisted that Jesus was a convicted criminal opposed by the Roman state. Here is a letter in which a pseudonymous author. Or consider the letters between the apostle Paul and the Roman philosopher Seneca.191/357 Take. Jesus was no criminal. Christians could argue that it wasn’t true.” These serve to show that the Jews were the ones responsible for the death of Jesus. and neither are his followers. They do so by emphasizing. these letters fulfilled an apologetic role in showing that. the group of writings that I have called the “Pilate Gospels. In a different way some of the earliest Christian letters—the New Testament ones allegedly by Peter and Paul—may well have served to try to ward off attacks from pagan antagonists.

In antiquity this book was sometimes called the Acts of Pilate. and Pilate proclaims his innocence repeatedly. of course. Jesus is innocent of the charges brought against him. This account is. acknowledging the divine character of Jesus’s miracles and life and finally ordering his execution only after being forced to by Jesus’s Jewish opponents. so that if they slander you as evildoers they may observe your good works and glorify God” (4:11–12). and so the author tells slaves to be submissive to their masters. For example. For this is the will of God: that by doing good you silence the ignorance of foolish people” (2:13–15). Pontius Pilate. Pagans claim that Christians are socially disruptive. husbands to treat their wives considerately. and so the author urges his readers: “Be submissive to every human institution for the Lord’s sake. maintain good behavior in front of the Gentiles. and all to behave well: “Do not return evil for evil or verbal abuse for verbal abuse. whether to the emperor as the one who is supreme or to overseers who have been sent by him for the punishment of those who do wrong and praise of those who do right. There was a very different function for one other forgery we have already looked at. since its first half records an account of Jesus’s death from the perspective of the Roman governor himself. from the very beginning. Pagans also charge Christians with living flagrantly immoral lives. wives to be submissive to their husbands. the Gospel of Nicodemus.192/357 against precisely the accusations leveled against the Christians that created the conditions for suffering. very sympathetic toward both Pilate and Jesus. Since these admonitions allegedly come from Peter himself—the most important leader of the early church—they take on special importance as representing the very core of the Christian message. and so the author urges: “Abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. but give a blessing instead” (3:8). . Christians are thought to be opposed to the government.

the Acts of Pilate that we now have (also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus) was produced precisely in order to counter the pagan Acts of Pilate. indicating that he fully deserved everything he got. THE SIBYLLINE ORACLES In ancient Rome it was believed that there had been. designed not only to tell the future. not guilty. A group of priests. The various writings attributed to the Sibyl were collected over the years and stored in one of the great sacred spaces in Rome. was an enormously popular and widespread book. the Sibyl had written extensive poems that were prophetic in nature.23 According to venerable tradition. She was extraordinarily long-lived. one in which Jesus is portrayed as innocent. then. in remote antiquity. This writing portrayed Jesus in an extremely negative way. According to Eusebius. as seen through the eyes of Pontius Pilate.22 This pagan Acts of Pilate. an antiChristian pagan book was forged called the Acts of Pilate. a prophetess who was known as the Sibyl. unfortunately it no longer survives. So impressed with this book was the Roman emperor Maximin Daia that he had it posted in public places throughout the empire and decreed that it should be used in schools for training children to read. Is it an accident that some years later an alternative version of the Acts of Pilate appeared.” were appointed to preserve and interpret these writings as the need arose and . eventually named “The Fifteen. and in which Pilate is shown to support Jesus and declare him divine. in the year 311. but also to tell rulers of Rome what to do in times of crisis. rather than oppose him and declare him worthy of death? In the opinion of a number of scholars. as a way of setting the record straight. according to the poet Ovid she lived a thousand years. the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.193/357 We may be able to isolate a more precise reason for the writing of this book.

A number of forged Jewish Sibylline oracles were brought together into a collection. and compatible with the best of the pagan religions. and the books of the oracles with it. were consulted some fifty times between 500 and 100 BCE. This Christianized version of the Sibylline Oracles was handed down through the centuries. they occasionally had to fight for their right to coexist with pagans and to defend their religion against pagan attacks. and after them Christians. . Today we know of only two brief sayings that probably belonged to this second group of Sibylline oracles. The tradition that there had once lived a pagan prophetess who could reliably foretell the future was so strong that the temptation to create oracles.25 These writers modified a number of the oracles by inserting their own Christian “prophecies” into them. or prodigy (i. By forging oracles in the name of the Sibyl. in her name proved irresistible to later peoples. especially to Jews. Eventually these too came to be destroyed. as they were called. they also added some entirely new oracles to the collection. when some highly unusual supernatural event seemed to occur).. which was later taken over by unknown Christian authors. and we still have twelve books of them today. Jews were able to claim that their religion was very ancient.194/357 as they were directed by the Roman senate. or prophecies. Jews were widely accepted throughout the empire. famine.e. As I have already pointed out. and an attempt was made to reconstitute the original writings.24 A great tragedy occurred in 83 BCE when the Temple of Jupiter was burned. and none from the first. in times of plague. in order to learn what the prophetess had said concerning what should be done about it. as attested by this most ancient of prophetesses. Some records indicate that the Sibylline oracles. The senate directed that other copies of the oracles should be collected from various places. especially the city of Erythrea. Even so.

The blind will see.. the twelve books are numbered somewhat out of sequence. .” She goes on to describe Christ’s death and resurrection. as are. But.g. those who cannot speak will speak. then. which is largely Jewish until the final section. consider the first book. she says. likened to mortal men on earth…. is a reliable ancient pagan prophetess who will tell the future.195/357 The Jewish and Christian writings forged in the name of the Sibyl were written over a span of some seven hundred years and were finally assembled by a Byzantine Christian scholar sometime in the sixth century CE. The book begins with the Sibyl’s statement: “Beginning from the first generation of articular men down to the last. as books 1–8 and 11–14. as many as put faith in him. After narrating the creation of the world and then all the generations of the human race. with abominable lips and poisonous spittings will give this man blows. I will prophesy all in turn. The deaf will hear. Some of these are Jewish. the Sibyl continues. and others are exclusively Christian (book 6 and probably 7). and the eventual destruction of “the Hebrews” for the evil deed they performed against Christ. some of them are Jewish books that have had extensive Christian insertions made into them (e. Just to give an example of how these apologetic forgeries work. such things as were before. incarnate. The Christian portions of the oracles forged in the name of the Sibyl predict the coming of Christ and attack Jews for failing to believe in this one who was to come. and as will come upon the world. Because of problems in how the books were copied over the centuries. to indicate the following: Then indeed the son of the great God will come. “Israel. in the Christian insertion. He will show eternal life to chosen men. books 1–2 and 8).”26 Here. He will cure the sick and all who are blemished. and the lame will walk. which contains a Christian insertion.

Savior. Possibly the most intriguing passage in the Sibylline Oracles comes in the Christian insertion in book 8. Among other things it shows that there was considerable forethought that went into the composition of the poem. and the consequences for Israel. and his vindication were not original to an ancient Sibyl. his rejection. but had been inserted into these writings or created whole cloth by Christian authors. The Christian Sibylline oracles were well known in antiquity. Cross.27 As you might imagine. made all the remarkable by the fact that it was allegedly constructed by a pagan prophetess living centuries before the birth of Jesus. That will cause great afflictions for you. But you crowned him with a crown from the thornbush and you mixed terrible gall for insult and drink. which represents a hymn to Christ: “I speak from my heart of the great famous son of the Immortal. his begetter. pagans intent on attacking Christians knew full well that these oracular “predictions” of the coming of Christ. for whom evil afflictions are in store: For with your hostile mind you did not perceive your god when he came before mortal eyes. If you take the first letter of each of these lines and put them together in sequence. hidden meaning. gave a throne to possess before he was born.” It goes on to talk about his glorious coming into the world. where a long section of prophecies forms an acrostic. they spell out the Greek words “Jesus Christ. his activities on earth. his rejection by the Jews. As early as Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century they are referred to as predicting the truths of Christianity.196/357 One of the more powerful passages in the surviving Sibylline oracles is the very short book 6. Son of God.28 This is one instance in which unknown forgers among the . to whom the most High.” This kind of acrostic is meant to have symbolic.

socially disruptive. They were also. Eventually. The entire ugly history of Christian anti-Judaism was the result. it became an unfair fight. it was local opposition to Christians among their former families. They were under attack. socially coherent and conservative. and for good reason. roundly condemned. they were having to ward off the attacks of pagans on the other. Far more than official persecution.197/357 Christians were rightly suspected. As Christianity grew in numbers and power. and this led not only to serious debate over the proper interpretation of Scripture but also to serious animosity. and the most moral beings on the planet. as almost always happened with forgers in antiquity. and flagrantly immoral. While Christians were fighting their Jewish neighbors on the one hand. friends. Many pagans viewed Christians as politically dangerous. the tensions increased. of course. and once that happened. Christians had to defend themselves against these charges by showing they were obedient members of the state. Christianity would get the upper hand. . Conclusion CHRISTIANS OF THE FIRST three centuries often felt themselves under attack for their faith. nonChristian Jews rejected the Christian message that Jesus was the Jewish messiah sent in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. The animosity heightened as Christian Jews felt that their non-Christian Jewish opponents refused to listen to reason and were obviously being either willful or blind. From the early years of the church. of course. and neighbors—and eventually mobs—that caused Christians the most problems in the early centuries before the Roman emperors came to be active sponsors of empire-wide persecutions in the mid-third century.

. as a consequence. they were as old as Moses. but also to provide a sense of antiquity for their own religious claims. to practice deception in order to establish the truth. as we have seen. Into this maelstrom of attack and counterattack. Christians were able simultaneously to declare the innocence of Jesus and his followers to governmental officials and other interested pagan observers. The ultimate goal of the church was to establish itself as true and.198/357 The two prongs of the Christian counterattack were. By claiming to be the true representatives of the ancient Jewish religion. of course. Christians were able to pass themselves off as superior moral beings of no threat to the social order. By painting the Jews as immoral haters of God. So once more we have one of the great ironies of the early Christian religion: some of its leading spokespersons appear to have had no qualms about lying in order to promote the faith. closely related. to show that all other religions were. some Christian authors introduced the weapons of literary forgery. Christians not only attempted to displace the Jews. By attacking Jews for rejecting their own messiah. who was older by far than any pagan lawgivers or philosophers. false.

) “Are the Gospel Accounts of Jesus Reliable?” (No. Politicians . My debate colleagues and I were good at it already as sixteen-year-olds. on topics of importance. “Can Historians Prove That Jesus Was Raised from the Dead?” (I always argue that. especially to evangelical Christians. forcing them to argue for a position they personally reject. they help undergraduate students learn how to mount arguments. It’s a great exercise. no. not completely. I also think debates can be useful pedagogically in the classroom. reasoned debate on a controversial issue. then turn around and argue the opposing side in the next debate. not really.) “Does the Bible Provide an Adequate Answer to Why There Is Suffering?” (No. So I have my students debate controversial topics in my course on the New Testament. I still do public debates around the country today. “Did Paul and Jesus Represent Fundamentally Different Religions?” “Were the Apostle Paul’s Views of Women Oppressive?” “Does the New Testament Condemn Modern Practices of Homosexuality?” Sometimes in setting up these debates I find out in advance which side students want to take (affirmative or negative) and then assign them to the opposite side. and see the strengths of a position they personally reject. In high school I was on the debate team and loved it. almost always with evangelical Christian scholars. assess evidence. no one can prove it.) And so on. able to take either side of a hot topic and argue for it.CHAPTER SIX Forgeries in Conflicts False Teachers with I’VE ALWAYS ENJOYED A GOOD.

I’ve come to realize something very significant. as far back as we have records. Anyone perceived as a false teacher was subject to verbal lashing. after all. that the opponents even had the right to call themselves Christian. and pulled out all stops to make their Christian opponents look reprehensible and stupid. Our earliest Christian author was Paul. and in virtually every one of his letters it is clear that he had opponents on all sides. They were. in many instances. to see that their opponents may actually have something important and persuasive to say. These debates were sometimes heated. about issues that mattered deeply to Christians. outsiders to the faith—pagans and Jews—were treated with kid gloves by comparison. said ugly things about one another. In my many years of formal debate and in my many more years of informal discussion. Christians called one another nasty names. Christians were in conflict with Jews and pagans over the validity of their religion. These internal Christian debates were often filled with vitriol and hatred.200/357 should try it sometime. as they argued over the right things to believe and the right ways to live. But the hottest early Christian debates were with other Christians. And our most heated arguments are almost always with friends and loved ones rather than absolute strangers. We tend to get in the hottest arguments about topics that we really care about and with people we are closest to. denying. Only rarely do we get intense and bothered about something that doesn’t matter to us. Christian arguments with false teachers in their midst happened a lot. Many Christian . As we saw in the previous chapter. Debates Among Early Christians THE SAME WAS TRUE with the arguments carried out by the early Christians.

201/357 readers over the years have failed to see the significance of Paul’s constant attacks on false teachers. These Christians attacked Paul both for thinking that Gentiles were superior to Jews in the . beyond dispute. but it certainly had extensive and avid supporters in its day. his followers were Jews. This view lost out in the ensuing debates. even within his own churches. he confronted Christian teachers who thought he preached a false gospel. he taught the Jewish law. replied his opponents. with different views. This was true even in the churches that he himself founded. whereas his writings became part of the New Testament. In the church of Corinth Paul’s opponents insisted that he was a weak and pathetic speaker who showed no evidence of being empowered by God. he and his views were under steady assault by Christians who thought and believed differently. And these opponents were not the same in every place. we would find that everywhere Paul went. But if we could transport ourselves back to the 50s CE. In the city of Rome Paul was maligned by Christian leaders who claimed he was not a true apostle. Just as key examples. he was the Jewish messiah sent from the Jewish God to the Jewish people—following Jesus of course meant being Jewish. is that virtually everywhere Paul went. had superior divine gifts demonstrating the supremacy of their message that true believers had already been raised with Christ to experience the power and joy of the heavenly existence in the here and now. on the other hand. One thing that these attacks show. They. because the writings of Paul’s opponents have not survived the ravages of time. Paul’s Christian opponents claimed that he had perverted the true gospel message of Jesus and his apostles when he insisted that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and become Jewish to be followers of Jesus. different locations produced different opponents. It is easy to miss this rather obvious historical fact. Nonsense. in the churches of Galatia. Jesus was a Jew.

again like Marcion. but in his own day the differences of opinion were widespread and highly threatening. Yet other Christians said that Jesus was God the Father himself come to earth. but two Gods. and that everyone else was wrong. Had one of these other groups won the debates. But he was not at all divine. In every early Christian community believers attacked other believers for their false beliefs. for example. This was a problem for a religion that claimed to stand for “the” truth. Other Christians. the world would be a very different place today. . unified truth of God. And so it goes—at every turn Paul had opponents. Some Gnostics said there were 30 divine beings. we know of powerful and influential Christian teachers like Marcion who maintained that there is not just one God. In the second and third centuries some Christians said that Jesus was the most righteous man who had ever lived and was chosen by God to be his messiah. maintained that Jesus Christ was two beings: a man Jesus and a divine Christ who came into Jesus to empower him for his ministry and who then left him prior to his death. If the followers of Jesus represented the single. it was anything but that. but throughout the entire first four centuries. including the Gnostics whom I’ve already mentioned. Just in the second and third centuries. insisted that Christ was completely divine and not at all human. We should not write these opponents off as fringe minority groups of no importance. And Paul was not the only apostle under fire. A human being can’t be divine. They were everywhere. Still other Christians. not just in the days of Paul. and Paul saw them as dangerous.202/357 church and for advocating a gospel that led to an immoral lifestyle. His views eventually won out. These Christians claimed that they were right. why was it that the Christian church was not single and unified? In fact. since the Christ cannot suffer. or 365.

The New Testament emerged out of these conflicts. Yet other Christians said that they had to be interpreted literally and followed literally. Or had called Israel to be his people. There were other Christians who insisted that the Jewish Scriptures were sacred. as they have turned up in archaeological digs and by pure serendipity. but also to be uniquely right—their view. but they didn’t have any apostolic writings to back it up? One thing they sometimes did—or. is that there was no New Testament. Only slowly. As a result. And all of these groups had books to prove it. they were destroyed and forgotten. The answer. arguably.203/357 At this same time there were Christians who denied that God had created the world. in modern times. when we think of early Christianity. they each claimed that their view of the truth was the view taught by Jesus himself and through him to the apostles. and their view alone. Early Christians were nothing if not radically diverse. represented the one and only divine truth. books allegedly written by apostles that supported their points of view. have ancient books come to light that support alternative views. As a corollary. as do some even today. of course. for example. often did—was to . as one of the Christian groups won the arguments and decided which books would be included in Scripture. Or had authored the Jewish Scriptures. What were Christian teachers to do when they were convinced that their particular understanding of Jesus and of the faith was true. Christians today may wonder why these various groups didn’t simply read their New Testaments to see that their views were wrong. we tend to think of it only as it has come down to us in the writings of the victorious party. Other books representing other points of view and also attributed to the apostles of Jesus were not only left out of Scripture. in the sands of Egypt. today. but were not to be interpreted literally. Yet all of these Christian groups claimed not only to be right.

As a consequence. Politicians today. have to be relatively sneaky. Nothing generated more literary forgeries in the names of the apostles than the internal conflicts among competing Christian groups. In the ancient world there was virtually nothing to stop flagrant distortion and misrepresentation. Forgeries Directed Against Unknown Opponents WHEN READING EARLY CHRISTIAN attacks on false teachers. so that both the writer and the readers know perfectly well what the opponents’ views are. How would anyone know. That is fine for ancient readers who know what the author is talking about.204/357 invent apostolic writings. We get only hints at . This kind of reconstruction is much easier to do today. and so we have to reconstruct their views from what their enemies say about them. when we have mass media and extensive reporting on both sides of any issue. But for those of us living two thousand years later it can be very frustrating. it is often difficult to know what exactly the opponents believed. These forgeries established apostolic authority for a group’s own views and attacked the views of other groups. That is because in most instances we don’t have any of the opponents’ own writings. and there are others that are yet to be considered here. Many of the forgeries that we have already considered do so at great length. as a rule. so that it is harder to flat-out lie about the other person’s view. without a newspaper or magazine article stating the opponents’ real views? In other instances the arguments against opponents are made for readers who have the opponents right there among them. That often doesn’t give one much to go on. the writer feels no need to spell them out. Try to imagine reconstructing one presidential candidate’s (real) views from what the other candidate says in order to attack him.

One scholar writing in 1973 pointed out that there were forty-four different scholarly opinions about what the false teachers under attack stood for. This is especially the case with forged writings in which the author pretends to be living in an earlier age. The author.205/357 the character of the false teaching and have to do our best to stitch it together from what little we’re told. they . They are simply an alternative perspective that the author maligns in order to set out the “truth” of his point of view. Several writings attack false teachings. In yet other instances an author may attack false views that he himself has made up simply as a foil for his own thoughts. COLOSSIANS This is the case with the letter to the Colossians. but it is well nigh impossible to say what the opponents actually believed. if in fact they really existed at all. urges his readers not to be led astray by false teaching: “See that no one makes you prey through philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition. including those of the New Testament. But whom is he arguing against? This is a classic case of scholars having almost no way to know. whoever he was. He goes on to charge his readers with what they should and should not believe and with what religious practices they should and should not engage in. The false teachings attacked are not necessarily views that anyone held. We have to contend with all such cases when dealing with the forged writings of early Christianity. Not that that has stopped anyone from trying. as we saw in Chapter 3. written in Paul’s name but almost certainly pseudonymous. according to the elemental spirits of the cosmos and not according to Christ” (2:8).1 In a five-year stretch in the early 1990s there were four major books written on the subject by expert scholars.

is opposed to all this. This short book is even more obviously directed against false teachers in the Christian community. They are unholy people who corrupt . in fact. there is no need for them to engage in ascetic practices. probably. for in Christ (not in angels) can be found the complete embodiment of the divine. 21–23). For some people have secretly snuck in who were written about long ago as being subject to this condemnation. My view is that we’ll never know for sure. They also allegedly urged their followers to lead an ascetic lifestyle. Moreover.206/357 each represented a different view. even though his view is. whether they really existed or not. the author explains the reason for his letter: Beloved. Why would an author claim to be Paul in order to attack these unknown opponents? Evidently because doing so allowed the author to malign people he disagreed with while setting out his own point of view. 2 JUDE Consider next the New Testament book of Jude. basing their views on divine visions they had had. Jewish Sabbaths and festivals (thus 2:16–18. The author. as urging their Christian readers in the worship of angels. as we saw in Chapter 3. What we can say is that the author portrays these false teachers.…I found it necessary to write to you in order to exhort you to struggle for the faith that was delivered to the saints once and for all. and observing. those who are “in Christ” have already experienced the benefits of the resurrection. different from Paul’s. He thinks Christ alone is to be worshiped. avoiding certain foods and drinks. After greeting his readers. claiming to be Paul.

they carouse together. 8–16). in his attempt to attack falsehood. denying our Lord Jesus Christ. twice dead. but the terms get nastier as you progress through the letter. 3–4) Here the opponents are described in rather nasty terms. Or possibly the author is simply using an imaginary set of enemies to set up a foil for his own teaching about the true nature of Christian faith. who boast with loud mouths” (vv. the author himself has apparently committed . because what they teach is false.207/357 the grace of our God. changing it into licentiousness. based on the rapid-fire name-calling that the author engages in. which was “once and for all handed over to the saints” (v. fault-finders. He certainly is filled with vitriol for his enemies. historical group. This should not be taken to mean that they deny being Christian. and they are “waterless clouds” and “fruitless trees. But his writing became Scripture. if they ever existed. In either event. In any event. Quite the contrary. (vv. they deny Christ. uprooted. Here again it is hard to say if the author is attacking a real. they are “grumblers. It is not too hard to imagine that they would say the same thing about him. By saying that they deny Christ the author is claiming that they aren’t really Christians. 3). following their own passions. Their writings. reject authority. were forever lost. They defile the flesh (whatever that means).” They are ungodly and do ungodly deeds. but it is impossible to put together a coherent picture of what these people actually taught. and revile the holy angels. throughout this book the author has nothing good to say about the opponents. Possibly the original readers of the book knew exactly whom he was referring to and what they taught. they are portrayed as Christian teachers. They are irrational animals. One point worth emphasizing is that even though these opponents have come into the Christian community (as members).

an author with a common name would typically identify himself (so that you would know which Jude he was) by mentioning a known relative. and by this claim he seems to be saying that he is the brother of Jesus. He claims to be Jude (v. But it is almost certain that the historical Jude did not write this book. If this Jude is identifying himself as the brother of that James. when the churches are already well established. the most infamous of whom. 1:19). the author speaks of “remembering the predictions of the apostles” (v. is Judas Iscariot. But here the author names not his father. obviously the brother of Jesus. he is living in “the last days” that they predicted (v. the apostles. the church in Jerusalem. for example. James.” Since most ancient people did not have last names. 1). And what James in the early church was especially well known? The most famous James was the head of the first church. This is someone living after the apostolic age. lived a long time before. The author of this short letter is almost certainly claiming to be that particular Jude. 18). then he is. but his brother. This must mean that James is the member of the family who is particularly well known. Five persons are named Jude (or Judas—same Greek word) in the New Testament. and when false teachers have infiltrated them and need to be rooted out. Like the . by the apostle Paul on several occasions (see Gal. One of the others is Jude. In contrast to them. mentioned throughout the New Testament. in Chapter 2). the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter. In fact. This James was the brother of Jesus.208/357 deception. by implication. the brother of James. because he identifies himself as “Jude. 17) as if they. Its author is living during a later period in the history of the church. There is another reason for being relatively certain that Jude did not write the book (referred to earlier. one of the four brothers of Jesus mentioned in Mark 6:4. almost always his father. of course.

whose vision of Christ on the road to Damascus authorized him to proclaim the true understanding of the gospel. Forgeries in Opposition to Paul PAUL WAS A LIGHTNING ROD for controversy not only during his own lifetime. In these cases. the pseudonymous writings countered Paul’s teachings. or at least teachings that were thought to be Paul’s teachings. Let alone write in Greek. Let alone compose a rhetorically effective letter evidencing detailed knowledge of ancient Jewish texts in Greek. So we have a range of Pauline writings that he did not in fact write: Ephesians. We have already seen that supporters of Paul forged letters in his name. 2 Thessalonians. This is an author claiming to be Jude in order to get Christians to read his book and to stand opposed to false teachers who hold a different view of the faith. Some Christians saw him as the greatest authority of the early church. but in . Others saw him as an outsider to the apostolic band. 2 Timothy. These pseudonymous authors obviously felt that Paul’s authority could prove persuasive in the context of the various controversies and struggles the Christian community was encountering. But Paul’s detractors also produced forgeries.209/357 lower-class Galilean peasant Peter. 3 Corinthians. These forgeries were not. 1 Timothy. written in Paul’s name. but also afterward. Colossians. of course. letters to Seneca. the lower-class Galilean peasant Jude could almost certainly not write. and no doubt numerous other letters that have not survived from the early church. an interloper who transformed the original message of Jesus and his apostles into a different religion far removed from the truth. whether they actually represented the views of the historical Paul or not. Titus.

proclaimed that Jew and Gentile were equal before God in Christ and that there was no need for followers of Jesus to follow the law. Peter’s withdrawal was an affront to the gospel. THE NONCANONICAL EPISTLE OF PETER One of these we have already considered in Chapter 2. The historical Paul himself indicates in his authentic writings that he and Peter were sometimes at odds. For Paul.210/357 the names of other authorities of high repute. This gospel. Peter’s withdrawal from Gentiles (to keep kosher) may have been simply an attempt not to make waves among Jewish believers who thought it was important for Jews to maintain their Jewish identity even after becoming followers of Jesus. on the other hand. the Epistle of Peter. Paul confronted Peter in public and called him a hypocrite for eating with the Gentiles when no Jewish brothers were present. as he reports it in the letter to the Galatians. This letter presupposes what was widely assumed in the ancient church and is still assumed by many scholars and laypeople today: Peter and Paul did not see eye to eye on the true gospel message. but refusing to do so when they arrived. where he indicates that Peter chose not to share meals with Gentile (formerly pagan) Christians in the city of Antioch when Jewish Christians arrived in town (see 2:11–14). It is very unfortunate indeed that we don’t know how Peter replied or who. who cast aspersions either directly or indirectly on the so-called apostle to the Gentiles. which appears as a kind of introduction to the Pseudo-Clementine Writings. got the better of the argument. in the general opinion. in his view. including kosher food laws. Presumably Peter thought these visitors would be offended by his decision not to keep kosher. This is nowhere clearer than in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. But it is clear . All we know is Paul’s side.

where the author. Paul. but actually writing long after his death. attacks a person whom he calls his “enemy. but who. Most of the books narrate his subsequent adventures while participating with Peter on his missionary journeys. Failing to do so meant a breech in true religion. is very much at issue in the noncanonical Epistle of Peter. In particular these accounts relate how Peter engaged in conflicts and miracle contests with Simon the Magician. according to Peter. a gospel that says one is made right with God apart from the law. as we have seen. “Peter. for Jews who believed in Jesus to continue observing the Jewish law. In some passages of these books it is clear that Simon is understood to be someone else—Peter’s real-life enemy.e. This tension between Peter and Paul over the keeping of the law.. the pope). This personal enemy of Peter has falsely claimed that he. is not an apostolic authority.” however.” that is. the apostle Paul. He is a false preacher. is a thinly veiled attack on Paul written by a Jewish Christian who thought that it was proper. does not agree with it and attacks his enemy for claiming that he does. then. and even necessary. these are a set of long narratives allegedly written by Clement. THE PSEUDO-CLEMENTINE WRITINGS A similar teaching is found in the Pseudo-Clementine Writings themselves. agrees with his false understanding of the faith. .3 If you will recall. claiming to be Peter. was a false teacher. in which he describes his travels. the fourth bishop of Rome (i.” This enemy has preached a “lawless gospel to the Gentiles. and his conversion to become a follower of Jesus.211/357 that he and Peter were sometimes at odds. his meeting with the apostle Peter. who claimed to be the true representative of God. Peter. This. and it is not at all clear that they ever reconciled over the issue. for this author.

Paul). he was beholden to no one. A second passage is even more condemning. Paul. Not a very affirming portrayal of Paul! Peter has followed in Paul’s missionary path.e. for example. But then Christ appeared to him and converted him. and Jacob.. the pious. As is well known. he started out as a persecutor of the Christian church. Abraham. Paul was not one of the original followers of Jesus. Ishmael. Paul was often said to have been commissioned to be an apostle by Christ in the vision he had on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9). as knowledge upon ignorance. the profane.” The first missionary to the Gentiles was “Simon” (i. telling him to become his missionary to the Gentiles. 1:6–9). “I have come after him [Simon/Paul] and have come in upon him as light upon darkness. and then Isaac. .212/357 Nowhere is this more clear than in several passages in the Pseudo-Clementine Writings known as the Homilies. he was necessarily inferior. So. had two children: the firstborn. Isaac then had two sons. Paul himself. Peter points out that there have often been pairs of people who appear in sacred history. And on and on through history. So too the father of the Jews. the superior. Anyone who preached a message contrary to his message was advocating falsehood rather than truth (Gal. the historical Paul. took this commissioning with the utmost seriousness and claimed in books such as Galatians that.17). was Peter himself. straightening out everything that Paul had gotten wrong. as healing upon disease” (2. He. The second. who claims. On the contrary. the first children born to Adam and Eve were the wicked Cain (first) and the righteous Abel (second). And among other things. who was. who was not to inherit the promises.4 In one passage Peter elaborates God’s way of dealing with the world from the very beginning. Esau. This pattern applies to the Christian mission field. argues “Peter. had the truth from Christ himself. since he received his gospel message directly from Jesus. The first to appear is always the inferior of the two.

the foundation of the Church. it is no authority at all. when you entertain opinions contrary to His teaching? But if you were seen and taught by Him. when you tell us that He appeared to you? And how did He appear to you. interpret His saying. pretending in his speeches to be what he is not.” then I ask. based on a single brief vision. what you are seeing. who am a firm rock. proclaim His utterances. really. For in direct opposition to me. For he does not know to whom he is trusting. “Why did our teacher abide and discourse a whole year to those who were awake?” And how are we to believe your word.e. “It is possible. 2:15–16). contend not with me who accompanied Him. and became His apostle for a single hour..213/357 this truth was that Gentiles were not to adopt the Jewish law in order to find salvation in Christ (thus Gal. love His apostles. The author of the Pseudo-Clementines heartily disagrees and portrays Peter himself as mocking Paul for his claims to have direct access to the teachings of Jesus. But he who trusts to apparition or vision and dream is insecure. For it is possible either that he may be an evil demon or a deceptive spirit. In Homily 17 Peter says to “Simon” (i. Peter continues with an argument that would seem hard to refute: Can anyone be rendered fit for instruction through apparitions? And if you will say. because you have no way of knowing. . Paul): You alleged that…you knew more satisfactorily the doctrines of Jesus than I do because you heard His words through an apparition…. you now stand. So if Paul’s authority is rooted exclusively in a vision. Visions cannot be trusted.

The apostle Paul. presumably. but awake. indicates that he was committed to keeping the Jewish law and appears to have insisted that the other Jewish followers of Jesus do so as well (2:12). But Peter was with him for months—a year!—not asleep and dreaming. 1:19). The best historical . And Jesus himself declared that it was Peter.214/357 Paul may have had a brief vision of Jesus. James was known throughout the history of the early church to have been firmly committed to his Jewish roots and heritage. one early source indicates that he prayed so often and at such length that his knees became as calloused as a camel’s. 15:7). This is a letter that claims to be written by someone named James. Paul is a late interloper whose authority rests on entirely dubious grounds.5 According to the New Testament he was not a disciple of Jesus during his lifetime (see John 7:5). Whether or not this is the view of the historical Peter is something we will probably never know. not Paul. In the early church it was widely assumed that this James was the brother of Jesus. he came to believe in him. It is the teachings of Peter that are to be followed. but he was one of the first to see the resurrected Jesus after his death (1 Cor. who personally knew James (Gal. or at least a later misinterpretation of Paul’s teachings. listening to his every word. No doubt it was his filial connection that elevated him to a position of authority in the church. He was well known for his great piety. not those of Paul. But it is certainly the view of Peter set forth in the forged writings known as the Pseudo-Clementines. who was the “Rock” on whom the church would be built. and because of that. JAMES In the New Testament itself we find a book that appears to attack Paul’s teachings. even as a follower of Jesus.

be slow to anger. Matthew 10:3–4 indicates that two of Jesus’s twelve disciples had the name.” a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel who are scattered throughout the Roman world. James was a very common name among Jews in first-century Palestine. and so on. watch their tongues. normally they are given additional identity markers. The author is particularly concerned with one issue. all you need is faith. They are to have faith and not to doubt. for them. suggesting he expected his readers to know which James he was.” The author of the book of James. This view is corroborated by the fact that he writes his letter to the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion. an issue that reflects a bone of contention with other Christians. control their desires and not to show partiality. James thinks this is precisely wrong. is writing to the dispersed Jewish Christians. then you obviously don’t have faith: . such as “James the son of Zebedee” or “James the son of Alphaeus. and among Christians as well. or show favoritism to the wealthy. does not identify himself further. that he is claiming to be the most famous James of all. so long as you believe. that if you do not do good deeds. the chief Jewish Christian. after heading the Jerusalem church for thirty years. seek wealth.215/357 records indicate that he died around 62 CE. James. Many of these admonitions seem to reflect the teachings of Jesus himself. from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. however. Some Christians are evidently saying that to be right with God. to endure trials. 5–7). The book contains a number of ethical admonitions that urge readers to live in ways appropriate for the followers of Jesus. doing “good works” is irrelevant to salvation. be jealous or ambitious. A number of people named James are in the New Testament. for example. There seems to be little doubt. however. To differentiate the two Jameses. then. Jesus’s brother.

my brothers. His evidence is Abraham. and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Show me your faith apart from works and I will show you my faith by my works.” . being by itself. if it does not have works. what use is that? So also faith. “You have faith and I have works. and one of you says to them. “And Abraham believed God. is a sharp invective against anyone who maintains that it is faith alone that can put a person into a right standing before God (in James’s words. is dead. that faith apart from works is barren? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works and faith was completed by the works.216/357 What use is it. But do you wish to know. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says. and it was counted to him as righteousness. and not by faith alone. You believe that God is one? You do well: even the demons believe. and they shudder. not just by what he believed: But someone will say. O shallow man. You see that a person is justified by works. that can “justify” a person). if a person says he has faith but has no works? Is faith able to save him? If a brother or sister is naked and has no daily food. This is shown above all by the example of Abraham. (2:14–17) The author goes on to argue that having faith apart from works cannot bring salvation and in fact is worthless.” And he was called a friend of God. (2:18–24) Here. then. “Go in peace. and the Scripture he quotes in support is Genesis 15:6: “And Abraham believed God. who was saved by what he did. father of the Jews.” without giving them what their bodies need. keep warm and be filled.

so we ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus.217/357 One of the reasons this passage is significant is that it sounds almost like a parody of something that Paul himself wrote. (Gal. In large measure that is because. The two authors use the same language (“justify. so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law. Thus Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. and they both cite the same verse. independently of whether or not they did the works of the law. 2:16. Genesis 15:6. that faith alone could not bring justification. but that faith in Christ alone was all that was needed. even though the letter uses the same terms as Paul. 3:6–7) For centuries scholars of the New Testament have maintained that the book of James is responding to the teaching of Galatians. James insisted that works were needed. James .” You see therefore that those who have faith are the children of Abraham. have called this reading of James into question. What is most striking is that Paul tries to demonstrate his case by referring specifically to Abraham and by quoting Genesis 15:6.” “works”). More recent scholars. some interpreters have insisted that James is contradicting Paul. Since Martin Luther at the beginning of the Reformation. Paul taught that it was faith in Christ that put people into a right relationship with God. Luther’s conclusion was that James had gotten it precisely wrong. in his letter to the Galatians. earlier. however.” “faith. Here is what Paul writes: We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. when he was trying to convince his Gentile readers that they did not have to do the works of the law in order to be justified (be made right with God). because no one will be justified by works of the law…. Abraham. they appeal to the same Old Testament figure.

and so on.” For him. One does not need to observe the Sabbath. When Paul uses the term “faith. he means something relational by it. What is one to make of that? Actually it is not too difficult to see what happened historically. but it doesn’t do them any good. Faith—intellectual assent to the propositions of the Christian religion—will not save anyone. by both “faith” and “works. He is clearly talking about good deeds: feeding the hungry. In other words. This. kosher food requirements. be circumcised if male. when James speaks of “works. This decidedly does not mean that the demons trust God. according to James. Even more striking. but who transformed his teaching that the works of the Jewish law could not . keep kosher food laws. and they shudder” (2:19). and so on. and so on. It can’t save a soul. an intellectual assent to Christianity that does not manifest itself in how one lives is of no use. such as the author of Ephesians. But would Paul disagree with that? Probably not. For James. but it is not really contradicting him. faith in Christ means trusting that Christ’s death and resurrection can restore a person to a right standing before God. however.” as we saw in an earlier context. faith does not have the relational meaning of “trusting someone. they simply have the intellectual knowledge of his existence.” It refers to intellectual assent to a proposition: “Even the demons believe [God is one]. even demons know that there is only one real God.218/357 demonstrably means something different by these terms. In Chapter 3 we saw that there were later authors. who claimed to be Paul. And so the book of James may seem to be contradicting Paul. clothing the naked (the two examples he gives). James means something different. comes “apart from the works of the law.” he is not referring to actions required by the Jewish law: Sabbath observance.” meaning that one does not have to do the works prescribed by the Jewish law in order to trust Christ. for Paul.

James reacted against that by arguing the opposite: you can’t have true faith without it being reflected in how you live your life. at least as they were being interpreted in his day. the teaching being opposed must have arisen later than the writings of Paul. not your life. but it is perfectly clear that his teachings are what he has in mind. It matters only what you believe. The teaching is indeed similar to the teaching found in Ephesians. what mattered was your belief. For an author like the pseudonymous writer of Ephesians. but was forged in his name. “Faith without works is dead. Paul’s teaching on “works of the law” was taken to be a general principle about “good deeds. James does not name Paul explicitly.” For these later Christians. These later Pauline Christians interpreted Paul’s argument that it was faith. that justified to mean that it doesn’t matter what you do or how you live. was another controversy over the teachings of Paul as they came to be reinterpreted in his churches after his day. doing good deeds does not contribute to making a person right with God. James therefore is reacting not to what Paul said but to what later Christians misunderstood Paul as saying. and to Genesis 15:6. They thought this teaching came from Paul. written after Paul’s lifetime in his name.219/357 bring salvation into a teaching that said “good works” could not save (see Eph. not his works. That is to say. But was he really James. not works. For one thing. which indicated that Abraham was justified by his faith. But it goes even farther than Ephesians. since the author of Ephesians would never have said that . 2:8–9. then. and so they too appealed to Abraham. then.” And Paul’s teaching about “trust in Christ” was altered into a teaching about “what to believe.” This. it is a later development of Pauline thinking in a later Pauline community. see also Titus 3:5). or was he someone else claiming to be James? There are excellent reasons for thinking that this letter was not written by the brother of Jesus. the father of all believers.

But this concern is completely and noticeably missing in this letter. The historical James. Or if he did learn to read. let alone a second tongue. the book could not very well have been written by him. Moreover. Whoever wrote it claimed to be James. was an Aramaic-speaking peasant from Galilee who almost certainly never learned to read. because that would best accomplish his objective: to stress that followers of Jesus need to manifest their faith in their lives. His concerns are not those of James of Jerusalem. is one we have seen before in relation to both Peter and Jude. it was to read Hebrew. This author. If he ever learned Greek. The real clincher. the one thing we know best about James of Jerusalem is that he was concerned that Jewish followers of Jesus continue to keep the requirements of Jewish law. He is intimately familiar with the Greek version of the Old Testament.) Whoever is writing the book of James is presupposing an even later situation found among Paul’s churches. two decades or so before Ephesians was written. He never would have become proficient in Greek. since without works faith is dead. He never would have learned how to write. This author has written a very fluent and rhetorically effective composition in Greek. He never would have taken Greek composition classes. He never would have gone to school. even in his native language. This book was not written by an illiterate Aramaic-speaking Jew. haltingly no doubt. But since the historical James was probably martyred in 62 CE. He never would have become skilled in Greek rhetoric. Just the opposite in fact! (See Eph. on the other hand. 2:10. or circumcision. claiming to be James. .220/357 it didn’t matter how you lived so long as you have faith. doing good deeds that show forth their faith. it would have been as a second language in order to speak it. though. is concerned with people doing “good deeds” he is not at all concerned with keeping kosher. He never would have studied the Greek Old Testament. observing the Sabbath and Jewish festivals.

1 and 2 Peter. as well as a book that scholars have as a rule been loath to label a forgery. . 4:3–4). misinterpreted the Christian message. whoever wrote 1 Peter. two of which relate to my claim. There are. But that’s Paul’s area. even though that is what it appears to be—the New Testament book of Acts. that the book was written to show that Peter and Paul were completely simpatico. the geographical destination of the letter is Paul’s. therefore. were on the side of truth. there were others who took Paul’s side and wanted to argue that he was in perfect harmony with the teachings of Peter and James. Paul would go to the Gentiles (Gal. The first has to do with the audience of the letter. here. a place where Paul had started churches. The letter is directed to Christians living in five regions of Asia Minor. not Peter’s. however. and that all three. and John). therefore. The one thing we know about the historical Peter’s missionary activities is that he went to the Jews in order to try to convert them to believe in Christ. they agreed that just as Peter was in charge of the mission to the Jews. What is striking about 1 Peter is that it is written to Gentiles. Nothing connects the historical Peter with these places. not Jews (2:10. Moreover.221/357 Forgeries in Support of Paul JUST AS THERE WERE forgers who wanted to emphasize that Paul stood at odds with the Jerusalem disciples Peter and James and that Paul. additional reasons. James. When Paul met with the “Jerusalem apostles” (Peter. it was not actually Peter. This is at least one of the overarching points of two of the books we already considered in Chapter 2. 2:6–9). 1 PETER We have seen a number of reasons for thinking that.

and the death of Christ brings salvation from sins (2:24. It is not convincing to mount a counterargument by saying this letter contains some differences from Paul’s own letters as . e. The moral exhortations of the letter sound like Paul’s. you would be hard pressed at times to say that this isn’t straight from Paul: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. These may all sound like things every Christian could well say. that Peter and Paul were at each other’s throats and represented different understandings of the gospel. just as Paul uses the same verse in Romans 9:25. for example. Philem. the missionary to the Gentiles in Asia Minor. in doing so it is trying to make Peter sound like Paul. 1 Thess. And most important.222/357 These features of the letter seem less odd when seen in the total context of what the letter is trying to accomplish. Silvanus and Mark (5:12–13). “For Christ also died for sins once for all. the theology espoused in the letter is the theology of Paul. that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (2:24). 3:18). The two people that the pseudonymous author names in the letter. 24).. are otherwise known as companions of Paul (see. 1:1.g. the righteous for the unrighteous. Hosea 2:25 is quoted in 2:10. the end of all things is at hand (4:7). Just as isolated examples. Why would it want to do that? Surely it is for reasons we have seen: there were other Christians who maintained. The use of Scripture in the letter is very similar to the way Paul uses Scripture. Christians are to be “subject to every human institution. for example. But when you look at the actual wording of the passages. even in the churches of Asia Minor. which could be multiplied many times over: it is faith that leads to salvation (1:9).” as in Romans 13:1–7. He writes a letter in the name of Peter that sounds very much like a letter of Paul. that he might bring us to God” (3:18). to show that Gentiles are now the people of God. Not for the author of 1 Peter. Not only is it providing comfort to those who are suffering for their faith.

each one has distinctive things to say.” who. 2 PETER Something similar can be said of 2 Peter. as he not only names himself “Simeon Peter” in 1:1. we are told. for “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2:8). As we have seen. “wrote to you according to the wisdom that was given to him. in the face of other Christians who argued that they were at odds with one another.” everything is in fact going according to plan. speaking about these thing in all his letters. Soon in God’s calendar is not the same as soon in ours. God has in fact put off the time of the end in order to provide more time for more people to be saved: “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation. which the unlearned and unstable twist to their own destruction. as they do with the rest of the Scriptures” (3:15–16). One can argue that about all of Paul’s undisputed letters. he more than likes Paul—he thinks Paul’s letters are Scripture. . This really is Peter! And he really likes Paul! In fact. is taught by “our beloved brother Paul.” This. claims the author. 2 Peter stresses that even though a long time has passed since Jesus declared that the end of all things would be “soon. The point is that this letter forged in the name of Peter appears to go out of its way to embrace views attested otherwise for Paul. Here we have a forger who wants to insist that the two great apostles of the church were completely on the same page in their understanding of the gospel. but stresses that he was personally present with Jesus on the mount at the transfiguration: “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty…for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2:16–19). In this case the author goes even farther out of his way to insist that he is Peter. in which there are matters hard to understand.223/357 well.

if anyone interprets Paul’s letters to mean that he and Peter disagree. Paul in this narrative does not start out as a follower of Jesus. Given the author’s interest in the conversion of former pagans to the new faith. Quite the contrary. They do this as well with the “other” Scriptures. into Samaria. One of the ultimate goals of this pseudonymous writer is perfectly clear: he very much wanted his readers to think that the apostle to the Jews and the apostle to the Gentiles had no differences of opinion. then. that the person who wrote this letter was not actually Peter. Paul is Peter’s “beloved brother. For this author. they have flat-out misinterpreted the letters. As the budding Christian church . It is a historical narrative that tries to explain how Christianity moved geographically from its beginnings in the city of Jerusalem. and then into other parts of the Roman Empire.224/357 There are several important points here. But Acts is concerned not only with the geographical spread of the religion. Except.” They agree on all essential points. Other Christians have misinterpreted (“twisted”) Paul’s letters. known in the early church as the apostle to the Gentiles par excellence. non-Jews. throughout Judea. but someone later claiming to be Peter. Paul’s letters speak the truth. however. The author is particularly interested in the question of how the Jewish religion of Jesus and his followers became a religion adopted by Gentiles. THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES The Acts of the Apostles is the earliest surviving account we have of the spread of Christianity in the years immediately after the death of Jesus. and Peter agrees with them. of course. but also with what you might call its “ethnic” spread. Among other things. it is no surprise that the ultimate hero of the story is Paul. this means that “Peter” considers the letters of Paul to be Scripture. until it finally reached the city of Rome itself.

Peter himself. however. a highly religious Jew who is authorized to hunt down and imprison anyone who professes faith in Christ.225/357 grows by fits and starts in its early months through the preaching of such empowered apostles as Peter. who is the main character of the book’s first twelve chapters. But then in one of the greatest turn-arounds in early Christian history—or in all of history. After meeting with those who were apostles before him—Peter and others—Paul devotes himself as zealously to propagating the new faith as he had once devoted himself to oppressing it. preaching the gospel. even before Paul’s missionary journeys. it also incurs the hatred of Jews who refuse to convert and see the newfound religion as blasphemous and dangerous. in this story. converting mainly Gentiles. and starting churches. there are some . firmly thinks no. halfway through the narrative. Paul travels throughout the Mediterranean regions of Asia Minor. some would argue—the great persecutor of the faith becomes its most powerful preacher. In no small measure this is because. in a vision. others think the answer is no. that Gentiles are to be accepted into the faith without becoming Jews (Acts 10–11). Peter in fact is the first to convert a Gentile. Early in his missionary work a major point of contention arises among the leaders of the church. Macedonia. personally. Don’t the Gentiles who are coming to believe in Jesus need to convert to Judaism. And so when a church conference is called to decide the matter in Acts 15. God has revealed to Peter. Eventually the chief opponent of the new faith is Saul of Tarsus. and Achaia (modern Turkey and Greece). if they are to be followers of the Jewish messiah? Don’t they need to be circumcised and to keep the Jewish law? Some of the Christian leaders think that the answer is yes. En route to persecute Christians in the city of Damascus Paul has a vision of the resurrected Jesus and comes to believe that the faith he had once opposed is true (Acts 9). visiting major urban areas.


outside, unnamed spokespersons for the view that Gentile converts should be required to keep the law. But the main insiders—not just Paul, but also Peter and James, head of the Jerusalem church—are completely on the other side and stand shoulder to shoulder in insisting that the salvation of Christ has gone to the Gentiles, who do not have to accept the Jewish law in order to be saved. Newly authorized by this unified decision, Paul goes back to the mission field and establishes more churches, before running into trouble with the Jewish authorities during a visit to Jerusalem. Most of the final third of the book of Acts deals with Paul’s imprisonment and trials as he attempts to defend himself, insisting that he has not been doing anything contrary to the Jewish law. He, instead, has always supported the law in preaching that Jesus himself is the Jewish messiah who has been raised from the dead (even though he thinks Gentiles are not required to keep the law). Paul eventually appeals to present his case before the Roman emperor, as he is entitled to do as a Roman citizen. The book ends with his journey to Rome and his house arrest there, where he is shown preaching to all who will hear while waiting for his trial. As should be clear from this summary, one of the overarching themes of Acts is that Peter, the hero of the first third of the book, and Paul, the hero of the rest, were completely aligned in every respect. They agreed on the practical question of whether Gentiles should be required to keep the Jewish law; they agreed on the need and approach to the mission to convert Gentiles; they agreed on every theological issue. To this extent the book of Acts lines up very nicely with the two other books of the New Testament we have already considered, 1 and 2 Peter, and against a number of books from outside the New Testament, such as the Epistle of Peter and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies. One could also argue that it stands at odds with what Paul


himself had to say in the book of Galatians, where Peter is not treated in a friendly way. As it turns out, there are many other differences between what the book of Acts says about Paul and what Paul says about himself in his letters. I won’t go into all the gory details here, as they are more fully discussed in other places that are easily accessible.6 Just with respect to Galatians, though, I might point out that, whereas Acts is quite clear that Peter realized, even before Paul did, that it was a good and right thing to share meals with Gentiles who did not keep kosher, in Galatians 2 this is precisely what Peter refuses to do when Jewish “brothers” show up in town. One could argue that Paul was right, that Peter was simply being hypocritical. But there is nothing in Galatians to suggest that Peter actually saw it this way or that he thought Paul was right about the matter. The historical Peter may have thought that sharing meals with Gentiles when Jews were around was wrong. If so, then the historical Peter thought differently from the way the Peter of the book of Acts thought. There are other differences between Acts and Galatians that are even harder to reconcile. Here I’ll mention just two. In Galatians Paul tries to convince his Gentile readers that it would be an enormous mistake if they were to become circumcised and begin following the Jewish law. He wants to insist that his understanding of this matter came directly from God, in the revelation he had of Christ that turned him into a follower. He did not—he emphatically and decidedly did not—get this message from those who were apostles before him, Peter, James, and the others. In fact, he stresses, after the vision of Christ that converted him, he did not even go to Jerusalem to talk with the apostles. He went away into Arabia, then back to Damascus, and did not go to Jerusalem for another three years (1:15–19). This makes the story of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts very interesting. Here we are told that Paul is blinded by his vision of Jesus on the road to


Damascus; he then enters the city and regains his sight. And what’s the very first thing he does when he leaves town? He makes a beeline straight to Jerusalem to see the apostles (Acts 9:1–26). Well, which is it? Did he stay away from Jerusalem, as Paul himself says, or did he go there first thing, as Acts says? Moreover, whom does he see there? Paul insists in Galatians 1:18–19 that in his fifteen-day visit he saw only two people, Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. Paul is emphatic on this point, which he stresses by swearing an oath: “What I am writing to you, before God, I am not lying!” (1:19–20). It’s not clear why he wants to stress the point so strongly. Is it because he doesn’t want anyone to think that his message was passed along to him by the original disciples of Jesus, most of whom he never met? In any event, what is clear is the contrast with Acts. There, when Paul arrives in Jerusalem directly after being converted, he meets with apostles and spends some time among them—not just with Peter and James, but apparently with all of them (9:26–30). These differences between what Acts says about Paul and what Paul says about himself can be multiplied time and again, especially if we were to turn to Pauline letters other than Galatians. One reason the differences matter is that Paul wants to distance himself from the apostles to claim that his message came directly from Christ, not from those who were apostles before him. The book of Acts, on the other hand, wants to insist that Paul conferred with the other apostles before he started taking his message out into the mission field. Moreover, for Paul the other apostles gave him no message that Christ had not already revealed to him. If the others, even Peter and James, disagreed with him, then they were disagreeing not with him, but with God, who had revealed himself to Paul through Christ. For Acts, on the other hand, there is no possibility of Paul and the others disagreeing. God informed them all equally of the truth of the gospel, and they all preach the gospel. It is the same message, the


same theology, the same practical conclusions: they are all on the same page, up and down the line. The other reason the differences between Paul and Acts matter is because Acts claims to be written by someone who was a companion of Paul. But given the numerous discrepancies between Paul’s letters and the book of Acts, that looks highly unlikely. The author of Acts never names himself, and to that extent he is writing anonymously. But church tradition, starting about a century after the book was written, attributed the book to someone named Luke. And why Luke? The reasoning is a bit complicated, but it goes like this. The first important point to make is that the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, both of them anonymous, were written by the same author. This is shown by their similar theological views, their shared vocabulary and writing style, and such clear indications as the opening verses of the two books, both of which are dedicated to someone named Theophilus. The second book actually indicates that it is the second of two books written to this person. Almost certainly, then, the author of Acts is the author of Luke. Acts is the second volume of a two-volume work. But why think it was written by someone named Luke? Even though the Gospel of Luke gives no hint as to its author, there are clues that surely must be intentional in the book of Acts. In four passages of Acts the author stops speaking in the third person about what “they” (Paul and his companions) were doing and starts speaking about what “we” were doing (16:10–17; 20:5–16; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:16). This is someone who is claiming to have been with Paul as a traveling companion during his missionary journeys. But he doesn’t say who he is.7 Readers over the centuries have thought, however, that his identity could be inferred. This author is someone who is especially concerned with the Gentile mission of the early church and who is particularly invested in showing that Gentiles do not have


to become Jews in order to be Christian. It is sensible to conclude that this person was probably himself a Gentile. So now we are narrowing the matter down a bit; the author is allegedly a Gentile traveling companion of Paul. Do we know of any such persons? In the letter to the Colossians we learn of three persons who were Gentile companions of Paul: Epaphras, Demas, and Luke the physician (Col. 4:12–14). Of these three, it seems unlikely that Demas could be the author, since we learn elsewhere that Demas “abandoned” Paul (2 Tim. 2:10). Epaphras appears to have been known as the founder of the church in Colossae (Col. 1:5–7), a church that is never mentioned in Acts. That would be odd, if its founder were the author. This leaves then one candidate, Luke the Gentile physician. So we have the age-old assumption that the book of Acts was written by Luke, a traveling companion of Paul. This assumption is found already in the late second-century church father Irenaeus. Irenaeus was writing a century after the book of Acts was produced. He is nonetheless the first surviving Christian author to make extensive reference to the book, and he indicates, based on his knowledge of the “we” passages, that “Luke was inseparable from Paul, and was his fellow-laborer in the gospel, as he himself clearly evinces.”8 Despite this ancient tradition, the problems with identifying Luke as the author of the book are rife. For one thing, the idea that Luke was a Gentile companion of Paul comes from Colossians, a book that appears to have been forged in Paul’s name after his death. To be sure, there is also a Luke named in Paul’s authentic letter of Philemon (v. 24), but nothing is said there about his being a Gentile. He is simply mentioned in a list of five other people. An even bigger problem presents itself in the fact that there are so many discrepancies between what Acts says about Paul with what Paul says about himself. I’ve mentioned only three of these discrepancies. There are many others.9 They involve just about every aspect of the


historical Paul. Paul’s theology and preaching differ between Acts and the letters; other differences are in Paul’s attitude toward pagans, his relationship to the Jewish law, his missionary strategy, and his itinerary. At just about every point where it is possible to check what Acts says about Paul with what Paul says about himself in his authentic letters, there are discrepancies. The conclusion is hard to escape that Acts was probably not written by one of Paul’s traveling companions. But why would the author then speak in the first person on four occasions? Anyone reading this book so far should have no trouble figuring out why. The author is making a claim about himself. He is not naming himself. He is simply claiming to be a traveling companion of Paul’s and therefore unusually well suited to give a “true” account of Paul’s message and mission. But he almost certainly was not a companion of Paul’s. On the one hand, he was writing long after Paul and his companions were dead. Scholars usually date Acts to around 85 CE or so, over two decades after Paul’s death. On the other hand, he seems to be far too poorly informed about Paul’s theology and missionary activities to have been someone with firsthand knowledge. If the author is claiming to be someone he is not, what kind of work is he writing? A book written with a false authorial claim is a forgery. Obviously the authorial claim in this case is not as boldfaced as in, say, 1 Timothy or 3 Corinthians, whose authors directly say they are Paul. But the claim of Acts is clear nonetheless; the author indicates that he was a participant in and eyewitness to Paul’s mission, even though he was not. It should not be objected that if the author wanted his readers to be convinced he was a companion of Paul, he would have been a lot more explicit about his identity, that is, he necessarily would have named himself or been more emphatic in his self-identification as a cotraveler with Paul. This kind of objection about what an author “would have” done is never very persuasive. For


modern readers to tell ancient authors what they should have done in order to be more convincing is actually a bit amusing. Why should the author of Acts have done anything other than what he did? How could he possibly have been any more successful at deceiving his readers? He was spectacularly successful doing it the way he did. Readers for eighteen hundred years accepted without question that the author was none other than Luke, the traveling companion of Paul. By inserting just a small handful of first-person pronouns into his account the author succeeded in producing a forgery that continues to deceive readers down to the present day. The reason for the forgery, in any event, is clear, or at least one of the many reasons is. This author wants his readers to think he is Paul’s companion and therefore has firsthand knowledge of Paul’s mission. Paul, in this account, agrees with the apostles before him, especially Peter and James, on every point of theological and practical importance. The earliest church was in firm and essential harmony. Peter and Paul were not at odds, as other authors were claiming. Together they declared that salvation has gone to the Gentiles, who do not have to be Jews in order to be Christians. Gnostic and Anti-Gnostic Forgeries

The most intense and vitriolic conflicts of the second and third centuries involved a variety of Christian groups that scholars have called “Gnostic.” Gnostic Christianity was a remarkably complex phenomenon, but for our purposes here I need give simply a broad and basic overview.10

word. intellect. In the Christian forms of Gnosticism (there were non-Christian forms as well).” A wide range of early Christian groups claimed that salvation did not come from faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. and how you can return. there was nothing material about him/it. We have a spark of divinity within us that originated in the heavenly realm. where you came from. deep inside. how you got here. Some of these divine beings generated yet other divine beings. Many of these groups described the fall of the divine sparks through complicated and confusing mythological tales that tried to explain how both the divine realm above and this material world below came into existence. that Christ taught. In many of these myths the originating point of all that is was a divine being who was completely spirit. the Greek word for “Wisdom”—fell from the divine realm . and so on. which means “knowledge. This divine being generated other divinities who were manifestations of his various characteristics: silence. life. truth. so that it can return to its heavenly home. The goal of Gnostic religions was to teach the secret knowledge needed to free this element of the divine. This knowledge was actually self-knowledge. But one of these beings—in some texts it is Sophia. the term “Gnostic” comes from the Greek word gnosis. it is Christ who comes from the heavenly realm above to provide us with this secret knowledge. Gnostics maintained that some of us are not just flesh-and-blood human beings. but that has fallen into the material world and become trapped inside our mortal bodies. until there was a populated realm of the divine. but from acquiring the secret knowledge. gnosis.233/357 As I mentioned in Chapter 3. Even though the myths of the various groups differed from one another significantly. knowledge of who you really were. There were a large number of Gnostic groups with a mindboggling array of different teachings and beliefs. many of them shared similar features.

One of these other beings ignorantly thought that it was the superior God and. Since in the Christian Gnostic systems it is Christ who comes from the divine realm to deliver this secret knowledge. In either way of understanding Christ. The goal of salvation is not to be put into a right relationship with the creator God. So the material world we live in is not a good place. inside human bodies. since they came into existence outside of the realm of the divine. Others claimed that the divine Christ entered into the man Jesus at his baptism and then left him before he died. Salvation does not come when this fallen creation is returned to its original pristine state (a return to the Garden of Eden). . This ignorant creator God is the God of the Old Testament. ignorant. but to escape his clutches. He was not a fleshly being. Some Gnostics maintained that Jesus only appeared to be human (like Marcion. The God of the Jews is not the ultimate divinity. The end of time will not bring a salvation of the flesh. This salvation comes when the sparks trapped within our bodies learn the secrets of how they came to be here and the knowledge of how they can escape. in order to return to his heavenly home. Like the other sparks of the divine. captured its mother and created the material world as a place to imprison her. he escaped the flesh and the material world. suffering. which houses it. he obviously could not be a part of this material world itself. who was not a Gnostic). since the Christ could not suffer. it will bring a deliverance from the flesh. he was not a real. it is a place of imprisonment. but is inferior. the God of the Jews. and possibly even malicious. with the help of the others. So we have the two forms of docetic thought that I mentioned in Chapter 2.234/357 and generated other beings who were not fully divine. and dying human who was returned to the flesh at his resurrection. flesh-and-blood. it comes by escaping this material world.

not inferior or evil.” and still others are collections of Jesus’s earthly teachings. and their own works were by and large destroyed. Some of them detail the mythological views of this or that Gnostic group. a few of which are in duplicate. Some of these writings were produced in the names of the apostles. The Gnostics ended up losing these debates. Gnostic forgeries. authors whose writings have been known and widely read for many centuries. These alternative anti-Gnostic views were taught by such prominent Christian authors as the second-century Irenaeus and the third-century Tertullian. they were seen as a serious threat by other Christians who maintained that there was only one God. GNOSTIC FORGERIES . and that salvation came in the body. not separate from the body.235/357 Because Gnostics who taught such views denigrated the material world and the God who created it. They are. in which he now lives and will live forevermore. that he had formed human flesh and would redeem human flesh. most notably in a remarkable but completely serendipitous uncovering of an entire library of Gnostic texts in 1945 near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi. Moreover. Christian opponents of Gnosticism maintained that Christ himself was a real flesh-and-blood human being whose real suffering and death brought salvation and whose resurrection was a resurrection in the flesh. It is only in modern times that Gnostic writings have been discovered.11 This so-called Nag Hammadi library contains forty-six different documents. others are secret revelations that Jesus delivers to his disciples after his “resurrection. others are mystical reflections on the nature of reality or of the human’s place in it. that God had made the world and that it was good. in other words. not an entire realm of divinities.

which are particularly interesting.” that is. the son of Zebedee). I will consider just two. the Lesser Questions of Mary (Magdalene).” talks about one particularly nefarious Gnostic group that he calls the Phibionites. the Apocalypses of Adam.13 But plenty of other Gnostic forgeries do.. but there is nothing Gnostic about it. which describes a mystical ascent of the apostle through the heavens.236/357 We knew about Gnostic forgeries for a long time before we actually had any of them. Among the Nag Hammadi writings that set forth Gnostic views in the names of the apostles is a Secret Book of John (i. And most famously of all there is the Gospel of Thomas. and so it too may be a different book. and Epiphanius.14 Rather than discuss all the Gnostic forgeries here. and the Gospel of Philip. which lays out in graphic detail one version of the Gnostic myth. The fourth-century heresy hunter Epiphanius. There are two apocalypses of James and the aforementioned Gospel of Philip. In his attack on this group Epiphanius reports that they used a whole range of pseudonymous writings. the Greater Questions of Mary. in a book that attacks eighty different groups of “heretics. the Books of Seth. for example. We also have a writing called the Birth of Mary. which was eventually accepted as “true” over against the teachings of “false gnosis. the view represented by such authors as Irenaeus. who was reputed in some regions of the early church to have been the twin brother of Jesus. Tertullian. a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus allegedly recorded by Judas Didymus Thomas.12 The Gospel of Philip was discovered at Nag Hammadi. and an Apocalypse of Paul. although it is impossible to know whether it is the same book that Epiphanius was referring to. including a Gospel of Eve. the Birth of Mary.e. None of the other books survives. narrated in the first person. but also argue against the view that eventually became “orthodox.” . because they not only attest a Gnostic point of view.

physically. where people are blissfully rewarded or horrifically punished. These “bishops and deacons” are dried up and barren channels who provide no life-giving water. This book is also written in the first person. It begins with a discussion between Christ and Peter on the day of Jesus’s death.13–14). In the opening dialogue Christ strongly emphasizes the need for proper “knowledge” for salvation and condemns Christians who lack this knowledge.15 The one we already examined emphasized strongly the bodily nature of the afterlife.237/357 The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter We have already seen one Apocalypse of Peter in Chapter 2. This is especially the case.12–13). Peter sees Jesus. The non-Gnostic leaders of the Christian churches who praise Christ are blaspheming him and are themselves both blind and deaf (73. But how wrong they are! “They do not understand” (76. At Nag Hammadi a second one was discovered. arguing that those who believe in the importance of the flesh. after which it narrates what “really” happened at the crucifixion. While Peter and Christ are talking. they think that it is the crucified Jesus who matters for salvation. The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter takes a radically different view. for how they lived in this life. But above the cross he . down below the hill where they are standing. allegedly by Jesus’s disciple Peter.28–35). “apparently” seized by his enemies and crucified. because they “hold on to the name of a dead man” that is. whether Christ’s own flesh or the fleshly life of humans. a secret revelation given to Simon Peter. saying that “they are blind and have no leader” (72. After Christ’s attack on those who value material existence and who think that his death brings salvation comes the narrative of the crucifixion. have completely misunderstood and corrupted the truth. This is one of the more bizarre descriptions of Christ’s death that you will ever read.

His flesh did not matter. and neither does the flesh of his followers. Salvation comes by accepting his true teaching.16 This book too is pseudepigraphal. Peter asks the Christ standing next to him what he is seeing.” Scholars typically take this figure to be Matthew.238/357 sees another image of Christ.” that is. The one above the cross is laughing at the ignorance of those crucifying him. author of the First Gospel. He is a spirit. is a Gnostic evaluation of the world and Christ’s place in it. . Christ replies that the one above the cross is the “living Jesus. The goal of the revelation is to emphasize the importance of self-knowledge: “Those who have not known themselves have known nothing. this one laughing at the entire proceeding. This view is presented through an impeccable authority. beyond suffering.” and the one on the cross “is the substitute.16–18). but those who have known themselves already have acquired knowledge about the depth of the All” (138. who cannot be crucified because he is not really a flesh-and-blood human being. Jesus’s twin brother. But they can’t. the stand-in for the real Jesus. it is said to be a revelation to Thomas. also found at Nag Hammadi. because they are blind and think that they can kill the Christ. but written down by “Matthaias. The Book of Thomas the Contender An even more direct attack on the flesh is found in another Gnostic writing known as the Book of Thomas the Contender. then. Considerably confused. In this book Christ gives a revelation just before he ascends to heaven. a firsthand account by Peter himself. or at least by a writing forged in his name. The body being crucified is “the abode of demons. Christ’s death is not what matters. which denigrates the material world and the human flesh. This. the stony vessel in which they live. the man of Elohim” (the name of the Old Testament God).

So too with humans: “The vessel of their flesh will pass away” (141. the desires of the body are not to be indulged. The one who hopes to have salvation in the flesh is therefore to be pitied: “Woe to you who hope in the flesh and in the prison that will perish. When you leave the pains and the passions of the body. which is separate from the flesh. produced in order to oppose the teachings of other Christians that fleshly existence matters. One of the overarching points of the book is that fleshly lusts entrap a soul in the body. you united with him and he with you. from now on and forever” (145.6–7). of course. The “orthodox” Christians who opposed them responded in kind by publishing forgeries of their own. It is the spirit. You will reign with the King.” Since the body is not to be redeemed. So the author exhorts his readers to seek for the salvation that comes by escaping the body: “Watch and pray that you may not remain in the flesh. But anything that changes will eventually dissipate and exist no more. you will receive rest from the Good One. as it comes into being through intercourse. ANTI-GNOSTIC FORGERIES Gnostics were not. however. the only ones who used forgeries to promote their views. .9–14). it survives by eating other creatures and changing. but that you may leave the bondage of the bitterness of this life…. It is another Gnostic forgery. This is not really a revelation to Thomas written down by Matthias. Moreover.239/357 Knowing oneself means knowing that the real you is not the “you” of your body. Christ points out that the human body is like that of all the animals. and anyone who succumbs to the fires of desire will be punished in the fires of the afterlife.

inferior divinity. a letter claiming to be written by Paul. who. But at least his own view is not hard to discern. in 3 Corinthians. but in fact written by an author living much later. 3 Corinthians. forgeries of the heretics are countered by a forgery of the orthodox. like the Gnostics. His overarching emphasis is that Christ came into this world that he might “save all flesh by his own flesh and that he might raise us in the flesh from the dead as he has presented himself to us as our example. then. It is hard to know exactly whom the pseudonymous author has in mind when he affirms the flesh of Christ and the salvation of the flesh.” For this author. the “Epistle of the Apostles. devalued the life of the flesh. Earlier I talked about 3 Corinthians being directed against Marcion.”17 This is a letter allegedly written after the resurrection by the twelve apostles.240/357 3 Corinthians We have already seen one forgery that could well have served an anti-Gnostic purpose. This was in fulfillment of what the prophets of the Old Testament had declared. Jesus Christ saved all flesh.” not some kind of lower. Epistula Apostolorum As a second and final example of an orthodox forgery I can mention a second-century book known as the Epistula Apostolorum. who had created the world and who was the “almighty. Simon we have met before . Jesus was really born of Mary. Possibly he is attacking all groups that held to contrary views. These prophets were spokespersons of the one true God. who name themselves and write in the first person. in opposition to the “false apostles” Simon and Cerinthus. Here.” and it will be in the flesh that his followers will experience ultimate salvation at the resurrection. Precisely in “his own body.

The letter presents a revelation that Jesus gives to the apostles after his resurrection. 29). “I…put on your flesh. 19).” Christ himself says. for example. a demon leaves no print in the ground. as noted by the apostle Andrew. in the Acts of Peter and the Pseudo-Clementines.” he insists (chap. Both are attacked for being filled with “deceit.” This charge is thick with irony. 50). that he had truly risen in the flesh. involving real. and he indicates that “the flesh of every one will rise with his soul alive and his spirit” (chap. Few documents stress as heavily as this one the importance of the flesh. maligned. who saw Jesus’s footprints on the ground after he had been raised: “A ghost. 11). in a writing that is forged in order to make its readers believe the apostles were really writing it. 24). Here he is accompanied by another notorious heretic. Anyone who teaches anything different (the authors of the Book of Thomas the Contender and the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter!) will suffer eternal punishment. of course. But here the emphasis is completely anti-Gnostic. This is a book that deliberately claims to be written by apostles who had been dead for a century. in which I was born and died and was buried and rose again” (chap. It is interesting that this book explicitly claims to be written against those who “deliberately say what is not true” (chap. Jesus is said to have had a real crucifixion and a real physical resurrection. Cerinthus. physical pain (chap. Conclusion .241/357 as the archheretic of the second century. for example. The apostles stress: “We felt him. much as the Book of Thomas the Contender and other Gnostic writings give the “secret teachings” of Christ after the resurrection.

it comes through escaping the flesh. there are many gods. Paul misunderstood the message of Jesus. world without end. he taught that the Jewish law continued to be in force. And on and on and on. . No. No.242/357 ONE OF THE MOST fascinating features of early Christianity is that so many different Christian teachers and Christian groups were saying so many contrary things. No. apparently. they also maintained in all sincerity and honesty that their views were the ones taught by Jesus and his apostles. The material world is the good creation of a good God. Christians intent on establishing what was right to believe did so by telling lies. No. he was totally removed from the flesh. There is only one God. They often said just the opposite things. What is more. No. Paul taught those other things. Paul was the true apostle. Peter taught that Christians were not to follow the Jewish law. Not only did those on every side in all of these debates think that they were right and that their opponents were wrong. It is not just that they said different things. No. produced books to prove it. Paul taught these things. books that claimed to be written by apostles and supported their own points of view. What is perhaps most interesting of all. No. Eternal life comes through the redemption of the flesh. Jesus came in the flesh. it comes from a cosmic disaster in the divine realm. in an attempt to deceive their readers into agreeing that they were the ones who spoke the truth. No. the vast majority of these apostolic books were in fact forged. they were completely at odds with one another. they all. Peter and Paul agreed on every theological point.

of course. or by removing evidence that can reveal the truth. Sometimes deception comes from hiding the truth. earlier president. or one of his lackeys. were fed misinformation about the threat to the United States posed by Iraq’s stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction. In all of these cases the forger intends to deceive and mislead people for his or her own purposes. works of art.CHAPTER SEVEN False Attributions. and possibly their elected officials. nonliterary kinds of forgeries as well: forgeries of documents (fake wills. driver’s licenses. as when James Frey stated that his book Million Little Pieces was . as happened when the American and British people. for example. There are many other ways to deceive people. other forms of identification). Fabrications. Sometimes deception comes when people make excessive claims about themselves or their work. We all know of other. a deception in which the author of a literary text claims to be someone else. marriage certificates. and Falsifications: Phenomena Related to Forgery THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK I HAVE focused on “literary” forgery. by distorting or not telling the whole truth. and so on. as when another. as our president did for months during the Monica Lewinsky fiasco. erased crucial portions of the Watergate tapes. Sometimes deception comes from doctoring the truth. money.

since only writings with clear apostolic connections could be considered authoritative Scripture. restricting myself specifically to literary forms of misinformation. nine of the books—fully one-third of the writings—were produced by authors who did not reveal their names. when in fact it was not. apart from the Internet). And sometimes deception occurs when someone claims as his or her own work the work of another. Sometimes. which are reaching epidemic proportions on college campuses around the country thanks to that boon and bane of modern human existence. when in fact it was fictional. Whereas some pseudepigrapha—writings under a “false name”—are forgeries. To round out my study of forgery. False Attributions IT WAS A LOT more common to write a book anonymously in antiquity than it is today. however. So. I would like to consider some of them in this chapter. others involve “false attributions” in this case someone other than the author claims that an anonymous writing was written by a well-known person. arousing the ire not only of millions of potential readers. that can be a form of deception (though not by the author). Other times it is just a well-intentioned mistake. for example.244/357 autobiographical. All of these alternate forms of deception were available in antiquity as well. it is the other kind of pseudepigraphy that I mentioned at the outset of my discussion. of course (well. The first is not necessarily a form of deception. Just within the pages of the New Testament. it was necessary to “know” who wrote these books. but also of the great Oprah herself. to be sure. four early Gospels that were all anonymous began to be circulated under . for example. the Internet. When church fathers were deciding which books to include in Scripture. in instances of plagiarism.

Some readers of Against All Heresies came to think that even though the book was anonymous. One of the great heresiologists—that is. Mark. from the early third century. that the names attached to them are not those of the people who actually wrote them. Just to give a simple example. The book of Acts was known to have been written by the author of the Third Gospel. So scribes who copied the book identified Tertullian as the author. Who then did? We do know of a . which we still have today. The anonymous book of Hebrews was assigned to Paul. But since the real authors made no claims for themselves. Luke. And three short anonymous writings with some similarities to the Fourth Gospel were assigned to the same author. the books are not forgeries. and John about a century after they were written. 2. in the third and fourth centuries there was a book in circulation called Against All Heresies. as scholars today agree. None of these books claims to be written by the author to whom they were ultimately assigned. for the moment. even though it never claims to be written by him. and 3 John. gives a description of thirty-two individuals or groups who held beliefs that the anonymous author considered false. They are simply false attributions—assuming. it must have been written by him. even though numbers of early Christian scholars realized that Paul did not write it. The book. so it too was assigned to Luke. Modern scholars are convinced on stylistic grounds that Tertullian did not write the book. and the book was added to the collection of Tertullian’s writings. and so were called 1.245/357 the names of Matthew. heresy hunters—of the early Christian centuries was Tertullian. MISATTRIBUTIONS BY MISTAKE Often in early Christianity anonymous writings were assigned to certain authors for fairly neutral reasons—readers simply wanted to know who wrote them.

which is that leaders of the church have divine authority and are not to be replaced at the whim or on the vote of a local congregation. For example.246/357 book with this title written by the church writer Victorinus of Pettau. The reality is that we will never know for sure. This is a long letter—sixty-five chapters in modern editions—that uses numerous scriptural and rhetorical arguments to make its point. who was active around the year 270 CE. Eventually the . Even though the letter claims to be written by the “church” that is in Rome. but there may not have been any ulterior motive in their assigning it to him. obviously someone wrote it. Some scholars have thought that this is the book we have. The church of Corinth is to restore its leaders to their rightful place. ATTRIBUTIONS MADE TO INCREASE AUTHORITY OF A WRITING THE In other instances the attribution of a writing to an author may have been made in order to add greater weight to its significance.1 Others have argued that it was written by an unknown author seventy years earlier. not hundreds of people serving on a letter-writing committee. so that the book we now have is a translation into Latin of an originally anonymous work. one of the earliest Christian writings from outside the New Testament is a letter sent from the church of Rome to the Christians of Corinth. They may simply have made a mistake. The readers and scribes in the ancient world who thought that Tertullian wrote it were almost certainly wrong. Anyone who acts against the leadership of the church is doing so out of profane jealousy. in Greek rather than in Tertullian’s Latin. urging them to reinstate a group of church elders who had been unceremoniously removed from office. Traditionally the book has been known as 1 Clement. half a century after Tertullian.

Some Christians thought that it should be included among the writings of the New Testament. It is safe to assume that the recipients of the letters knew who he was. later deemed to be part of the Christian Scriptures. all of which were originally anonymous and then later connected with the names of apostles and apostolic companions. Clement of Rome. of course. It is a book written by one of the great authorities of the early Christian church. or at least claimed. the letter enjoyed great success in the early church. that the books had been written with apostolic authority. That is almost certainly the case with the letters of 2 and 3 John.2 MISATTRIBUTIONS OF THE GOSPELS Yet other anonymous writings were. Jesus’s great disciple and apostle of the church. This is not simply a lengthy exhortation written by a group of unknown and unnamed individuals. unless it was known. Largely as a result of this attribution. This is the case of the four New Testament Gospels. It is always interesting to ask why an author chose to remain anonymous. These are private letters sent from someone who calls himself “the elder” to a church in another location. In some instances an ancient author did not need to name himself. who had been appointed to that office by none other than Simon Peter. Once the name of Clement was associated with the letter. it obviously took on greater force and persuasive power.247/357 letter came to be attributed to a figure we have met before in our study. because his readers knew perfectly well who he was and did not need to be told. allegedly the fourth bishop of Rome. and this is never more so than with the Gospels of the New Testament. Some have thought the Gospels were like that—written by leading persons in particular congregations who did not need to . That never happened. however.

If the Gospel stories about Jesus are claimed by a particular author. rightly or wrongly. It involves the way these narratives are written. All of these books are written anonymously.248/357 identify themselves. a new “messiah. These books take the story of God’s people from their conquest of the promised land (Joshua) to their ups and downs under charismatic rulers called judges (the book of Judges) and then under a series of kings (1 Samuel–2 Kings). But the history concludes with disaster. 7:14). they are seen as one person’s version of the story. Another option is that the authors did not name themselves because they thought their narratives assumed greater authority if told anonymously. In all four Gospels. Judges. The Gospels are written to . that he would always have a descendant on the throne ruling Israel (2 Sam. Many Jews expected that in the future God would fulfill his promise to David and bring a new anointed one. There is one reason in particular for thinking that this is what the Gospel writers had in mind. and 1 and 2 Kings. then in some sense they seem to lose their universal appeal and applicability. This biblical history includes a promise to the first truly great king. As a result the identities of the authors were soon lost. when the Babylonian armies wipe out the nation and remove the king from power (end of 2 Kings). because everyone knew who they were. Then later readers. names were still not attached to them. But then as the books were copied and circulated.” to rule his people Israel. 1 and 2 Samuel. rather than “the” version of the story. associated the books with two of the disciples (Matthew and John) and with two companions of the apostles (Mark the companion of Peter and Luke the companion of Paul). the story of Jesus is presented as a continuation of the history of the people of God as narrated in the Jewish Bible. The portions of the Old Testament that relate the history of Israel after the death of Moses are found in the books of Joshua. David.

To be sure. but from the ultimate enemies of God. which begins by quoting an Old Testament series of prophecies anticipating the coming of the messiah and then introducing Jesus as the one to whom these prophecies pointed. each in his own way. but by dying on the cross to bring salvation. which portray the birth of Jesus as a fulfillment of the predictions of Scripture. God created the heavens and the earth” John: “In the beginning was the Word.3 Rather than coming as a great king.249/357 show that in fact this new messiah is none other than Jesus (see Mark 1:1. It can be seen in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. He is the fulfillment of all that was anticipated by the authors and prophets of the Old Testament. for example. seem to be portraying the story of Jesus as a continuation of the story of the people of God. Mark. It can even be seen in the Gospel of John. the powers of sin and death. he came as a prophet speaking of the future kingdom of God. and it is portrayed in these books as continuous with the anonymously written history of Israel as laid out in the Old Testament Scriptures. He himself would bring this kingdom not by being installed as king in Jerusalem. This can be seen. which begins with a powerful poem about Christ’s coming into the world here at the end of time in terms highly reminiscent of the stories of the creation in the book of Genesis (Genesis: “In the beginning. in our earliest Gospel. This was a salvation not from the enemies of Israel. Jesus was different from the kind of messiah that other Jews were expecting. using imagery and language heavily dependent on Old Testament narratives to give their opening stories a “biblical” feel. This is the message of the Gospels. So it makes . and the Word was with God. and he is returning soon as king of the earth. John 20:30–31). The Gospel authors. Israel. like David. and the Word was God”). the Romans. Jesus conquered these alien powers at his death and resurrection.

so there must be four and only four Gospels. Lots of Gospels were in circulation. quotes verses from the Gospels. directed against the false teachings rampant among Christians in his day. just as the gospel of Christ has been spread by the four winds of heaven over the four corners of the earth. never named. Luke. in the writings of the church father and heresiologist Irenaeus. Mark. Luke. some only Mark. The author therefore had to be authoritative. they are never entitled. around 180–85 CE. but does not indicate what the Gospels were named. When the Gospels of the New Testament are alluded to and quoted by authors of the early second century. The authority of a Gospel resided in the person of its author. false teachers) have gone astray either because they use Gospels that are not really Gospels or because they use only one or another of the four that are legitimately Gospels. Christians who wanted to appeal to the authority of the Gospels had to know which ones were legitimate. and John. these books are simply known. and John. collectively. writing around 150–60 CE.” It was about a century after the Gospels had been originally put in circulation that they were definitively named Matthew.e. either an apostle himself or a close . This comes. and so on. Even Justin Martyr.250/357 sense for these Gospel writers to remain anonymous. The anonymity of the Gospel writers was respected for decades. legitimate Gospels could only be those that had apostolic authority behind them. Mark. but it is not difficult to see why orthodox writers like Irenaeus wanted to stress the point. and they are Matthew. At one point in these writings he insists that “heretics” (i. as the writers of biblical history were almost always anonymous. Irenaeus wrote a five-volume work.. for the first time. For Justin. typically known today as Against Heresies. For Irenaeus and his fellow orthodox Christians. as the “Memoirs of the Apostles. For Irenaeus.4 Modern readers may not find this kind of logic very compelling. Some heretical groups used only Matthew.

but of his deeds and experiences as well. But soon there were so many other Gospels in circulation that the books being widely cited by orthodox Christians needed to be given apostolic credentials. nearly half a century before Irenaeus. when Justin was writing. let alone Peter.. everything he says about these two books contradicts what we know about (our) Matthew and Mark: Matthew is not a collection of Jesus’s sayings. . but in Greek. around 120–30 CE. So they began to be known as Matthew.g. He also said that Peter’s companion Mark had rearranged the preaching of Peter about Jesus into sensible order and created a book out of it. In the year 155. on the basis of good authority. Why were these names chosen by the end of the second century? For some decades there had been rumors floating around that two important figures of the early church had written accounts of Jesus’s teachings and activities. Luke.6 There is nothing to indicate that when Papias is referring to Matthew and Mark. As for Mark. there is nothing to suggest that Mark was based on the teachings of any one person at all.251/357 companion of an apostle who could relate the stories of the Gospel under his authority. but was based on our Gospel of Mark. he is referring to the Gospels that were later called Matthew and Mark. presumably into Greek. it may still have been perfectly acceptable to quote the Gospels without attributing them to particular authors. We find these rumors already in the writings of the church father Papias. and John. Mark. it was not written in Hebrew. any more than it is the version of any other character in the account (e. Papias claimed. In fact. John the son of Zebedee).5 that the disciple Matthew had written down the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew language and that others had provided translations of them. there is nothing about our Mark that would make you think it was Peter’s version of the story. In fact. and it was not written—as Papias supposes—independently of Mark.

to Philip. the one thought to be most Jewish in its orientation. and so he could not be the Beloved Disciple. Thomas. Eventually. though. The process is not hard to detect for the First and Fourth Gospels. since they were not earthly disciples of Jesus and were rather obscure figures in the early church. John 20:20–24). and John. For one thing. Moreover. it should never be forgotten that there are lots and lots of books assigned to people about whom we know very little. James. The three closest to Jesus. Some scholars have argued that it would not make sense to assign the Second and Third Gospels to Mark and Luke unless the books were actually written by people named Mark and Luke. I’ve never found these arguments very persuasive. Since it was thought that Matthew had written a Gospel (thus Papias). a Jew. So he was assigned the authorship of the Fourth Gospel. who would have to have been one of Jesus’s closest followers. the son of Zebedee.252/357 Instead. to differentiate them from the “false” Gospels used by heretics. since Matthew was. were Peter. The Fourth Gospel was thought to belong to a mysterious figure referred to in that book as “the Beloved Disciple” (see. he was at one time Paul’s companion and was .. for example. Mark was far from obscure. it came to be seen as necessary to assign authors’ names to the four Gospels that were being most widely used in orthodox circles. e. and Nicodemus.g. just because figures may seem relatively obscure to us today doesn’t mean that they were obscure in Christian circles in the early centuries. James was known to have been martyred early in the history of the church and so would not have been the author. Peter was already explicitly named in the Fourth Gospel. after all. Furthermore. one of the Gospels was called by his name. in our early traditions. That left John. it derives from the oral traditions about Jesus that “Mark” had heard after they had been in circulation for some decades.

but eventually in the writings of Tertullian. ineluctably. The authors of these books never speak in the first person (the First Gospel never says. They are therefore not forgeries. he was assigned the Third Gospel. it should be remembered that its author also wrote the book of Acts. the author himself may have been a Gentile. the authors of these books are not themselves making false authorial claims. The authority of the Gospels was then secure: two of them were allegedly written by eyewitnesses to the events they narrate (Matthew and John). At the same time. This connection is made not only in Papias.8 For my purposes here it is enough to reemphasize that the books do not claim to be written by these people and early on they were not assumed to be written by these people. but false attributions. . whose interpreter Mark was.”7 With respect to the Third Gospel. As a result. They never claim to be personally connected with any of the events they narrate or the persons about whom they tell their stories. that any of these books was written by an eyewitness to the life of Jesus or by companions of his two great apostles. “One day. It does not appear. however. and there he implicitly claims to have been a companion of Paul’s. and invariably anonymous. Because Acts stresses that Christianity succeeded principally among Gentiles. who states explicitly: “That which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s. Later readers are making these claims about them. later Christians had very good reasons to assign the books to people who had not written them.253/357 thought to be Peter’s right-hand man. and the other two other were written from the perspectives of the two greatest apostles. Jesus and I went to Jerusalem…”). Peter (the Gospel of Mark) and Paul (the Gospel of Luke). so that what he wrote could be trusted to be Peter’s version of the Gospel. Since there was thought to be a Gentile named Luke among Paul’s companions. The books are thoroughly.

who was not John the son of Zebedee in any event. even though it was included in the canon of the New Testament by church fathers who thought that it was. if that can be imagined. Just to give one additional example. I might mention one of the most interesting books not to make it into the canon of Scripture.9 The letters 1. and 3 John sound in many ways like the Gospel of John. 2. however. This book was originally written anonymously. which had begun to experience a different range of problems from those presupposed in the Fourth Gospel. especially in the historical context they presuppose. Later Christian writers who accepted the books as sacred authorities needed to assign them to an apostle. For centuries there were Christians who thought the book should be included. Jewish-Christian relations may well have turned out even worse.10 This book is somewhat like a letter in that its author addresses a group of readers. but they are strikingly different as well. had been written by John the son of Zebedee. than they did. Assigning anonymous books to known authorities did not stop with the writings of the New Testament. Had it been included in Scripture. I think we can all be glad that it was not.254/357 OTHER FALSE ATTRIBUTIONS Very much the same can be said about the remaining anonymous books of the New Testament. Scholars are highly unified in thinking that Paul did not write the book of Hebrews. but it later came to be attributed to one of Paul’s closest companions and co-workers and so is known as the Epistle of Barnabas. and so it made sense to claim that they. but by a later Christian living in the same community. They were probably not written by the same author. like the Fourth Gospel. This book provides one of the most vitriolic attacks on Jews and Judaism from early Christianity. but it is really more like an extended essay. The point of the book is to show the superiority of .

The creation will last for six days—six thousand years—after which there will be a thousand-year period on earth in which God and his people will rule supreme. should be looked forward to and anticipated by God’s people.1–3). he saw that the people had already committed idolatry. In anger he threw the two tablets of the law down. he does not literally mean for them to avoid pork. When Moses descended from Mount Sinai with commandments in hand. he does not mean that everyone should be lazy one day of the week. But since they had alienated themselves from God.255/357 Christianity to the Jewish religion. And God never did renew the covenant with the Jews. When God orders the Jews not to eat swine. according to this author. the millennium. for example. According to the author of Barnabas.” The Sabbath commandment means that the Sabbath day. People should turn to God with their prayers not only when they are in need. including a new set of the Ten Commandments.7–8. the ancient Israelites broke the covenant that God made with them at the very beginning. The Jews. The seventh “day” needs to be understood symbolically. He means that people should not behave like swine. As a result the Jews had always misinterpreted their own laws. The author makes this point by maligning Judaism as a religion that is and always has been false. of course.1–4). this represented the breaking of the covenant (4. when Moses was given the Ten Commandments. but being silent when full. smashing them into bits. they never understood these laws and made the fatal mistake of assuming that God meant them to be taken literally instead of figuratively. were given more laws by Moses. all the way back to the time of Moses himself. but also when things are good (10. 14. bearing in mind that “with the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. grunting loudly when hungry. Jews misunderstood this message and . So too when God commands that the day of the Sabbath be observed. They were lost from that day on. That is because.

was to be escaped by Christians. some fifty years or so after the book was written. so that there was in fact no connection between them. The Old Testament God. Paul was thought to be the true representative of Jesus’s message.1–9). Christ represented a different God. If you’ll remember. the God of the Jews. As a result. In the later second century one of the biggest threats facing “orthodox” Christianity was the worldwide church established by Marcion and his followers. It could not have been written by one of Paul’s closest co-workers and companions. But why was it eventually attributed to him? No one knows for sure. Marcion took Paul’s differentiation between the gospel of Christ and the law of the Jews to an extreme. It is the followers of Jesus who have the true interpretation of Scripture. they never were the true people of God. but a Christian one. not worshiped by them. . the creation. but I think a good case can be made that some readers of the book wanted to make a particular point by the attribution. the inferior wrathful God of the Old Testament and the superior loving God of Jesus. and the law. And the Old Testament is not a Jewish book. because it did not appear until many years after his death—it is usually dated to 130–35 CE. Marcion had claimed Paul’s authority for his view that there were two Gods. Barnabas. Jews are not God’s people. possibly because the first readers knew full well who had written it. the one who understood that salvation comes apart from the Jewish law. This “letter” was originally published anonymously. Since Jews never understood the point. but to be understood figuratively. a point related to the arguments going on in Christianity in the second century. Barnabas goes through a number of the laws of the Old Testament to show that God never intended them to be followed literally.256/357 foolishly assumed that God meant for them not to work on Saturdays (15. Christians are.

In fact. one could argue that it takes precisely the opposite perspective. The Epistle of Barnabas takes a different perspective. He made that part up. It is the Christian book par excellence. It is truth from God. by association through Barnabas. because it proclaims the gospel of Christ—figuratively. as opposed to the Paul of Marcion. Whoever wrote 1 Timothy knew full well that he wasn’t really the apostle Paul. It is a fully Christian book. Fabrications AS I’VE INDICATED. then. whether or not they knew it to be true. it may simply have been a mistake or someone’s “best guess” about the author of an anonymous work. By assigning this popular tractate to Barnabas. who had claimed Paul as his own. opponents of Marcion were able to claim Paul for their view and to show that the apostle stood for an understanding of Christianity that was very much at odds with the views set forth by the chief heretic of the second century. rather than having nothing to do with Christianity and the message of Jesus. A false attribution is not necessarily a deception. who allegedly had nothing to do with the Old Testament and its laws. The same thing decidedly cannot be said about forgers. My hunch is that most writers who claimed that a particular. Why then assign the book to Paul’s closest companion? Because by doing so the book becomes the perspective of the real Paul. It is a proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Now Paul.257/357 Marcion therefore rejected the Old Testament entirely. The Old Testament in fact is Scripture. . the Old Testament has everything to do with them. claiming that it had nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus. Here. famous person was the author of this or that writing probably believed it was true. proclaims the true message.

he may think that what he says is historically factual. in which he performs such astounding feats as raising a smoked tuna from the dead. surely the person who makes up the story knows what he is doing. always. talking cross emerging behind him. These “historical” narratives are in fact fabrications. So too with the Acts of Paul (or the Acts of Paul and Thecla).” that is. Of course it is always possible that even in such cases the author who comes up with the story may think it really happened. even if his account is in fact legendary. fabrications are disseminated by anonymous authors who are not forgers.” In many instances. We have seen a number of made-up stories already in books that were forged. And sometimes stories just seem to appear out of nowhere. with a walking. it is fiction. This is not a historical narrative. it is not always clear that the person who writes this literature knows that it is made up. This was the case. someone ultimately. But at some point. As with false attributions. He may think that what he says is accurate. . When this involves historical narratives. but by living a chaste life. a “made-up story that tries to pass itself off as historical. where Paul is said to have preached a distinctive gospel of salvation that said a person is made right with God not through Jesus’s death and resurrection. however. which tells stories of Peter’s miracle-working contests with Simon the Magician. Whoever first came up with them—whether the author of the text or someone who told the story orally before the author heard it—was telling something that he possibly (likely? probably?) knew was not historically accurate. I would call it a “fabrication. with the accounts found in the Acts of Peter. for example. But in many cases. comes up with a legendary account.258/357 Other kinds of literature are “made up” as well. avoiding all sexual activity. Whoever forged the Gospel of Peter wrote the account of Jesus emerging from the tomb so tall that his head reached above the skies.

THE PROTO-GOSPEL OF JAMES One of the most historically influential set of such tales comes in a book called the Proto-Gospel of James. or as something else. and his other acquaintances. because it mainly narrates events that transpired prior to the accounts of Jesus’s birth and life found in the New Testament Gospels. This shows that for some ancient readers.12 Readers have called it a proto-Gospel. numerous fabrications circulated in the early church about Jesus and those connected with him: his family.11 The Proto-Gospel was enormously popular among Christians throughout the Middle Ages—even more popular than many books of the Bible. Mary. but either as false tales. her birth and early . or simply as entertaining narratives. it is often difficult to know whether readers of such stories took them as historical accounts.259/357 As with ancient myths (as mentioned in Chapter 2). in that they did not convey the “truth. But in many instances it is clear that some readers understood such stories to be “false” tales.” or as false histories. One need think only of Serapion’s reaction to the Gospel of Peter (see Chapter 2) or Tertullian’s harsh words about the Acts of Paul (Chapter 3). since they were so vociferously opposed in some circles. at least. It had a significant impact on the Christian imagination and on Christian art. his disciples. in that that they narrated events that did not actually happen. such historical fabrications were not thought of simply as innocuous fictions. Whether harmful or not. In either case. The book largely concerns Jesus’s mother. We have scores of such stories from the first four centuries of the church. in the views of their opponents they were harmful fabrications. In both cases the contents of the story were seen as objectionable and the account was charged with having been falsely fabricated in order to promote false understandings of the faith.

and surely he will become a laughingstock among his fellow Israelites if he marries such a young girl. A dove emerges from Joseph’s rod. they have all the unmarried men of Israel come together. Instructed by God. but miraculously conceives as a result of her prayers and the prayers of her husband. who do not need even to feed her. . The high priest gathers all the rods and takes them into the sanctuary. flies around. presumably because menstruation was thought to bring ritual impurity. since he is an old man who already has grown sons. Mary is anything but ordinary. When she is about to reach puberty. it is often dated sometime in the mid to late second century. each of them bringing a wooden rod. Surely Jesus’s mother was no ordinary person! And in this story. her conception and giving birth to Jesus. Anna. There are debates about when the book was first written. and a great sign appears. Her own birth is miraculous. As a young child Mary is inordinately special. who in this account is the son of Joseph from a previous marriage. Mary can no longer remain in the Temple. He is thus the one chosen to take the young Mary as wife. and lands on Joseph’s head. I have said it is forged. Her mother. One of the chief questions driving this narrative concerns Mary’s suitability for her role as the mother of the Son of God. So the priests gather to decide how to find her a husband. since she receives her daily food from the hand of an angel. is barren.260/357 life. but since it appears to know the Gospels of Matthew and Luke from the end of the first century and appears to be referred to by the theologian Origen at the beginning of the third century. she is taken by her parents to the holy Jewish Temple as a three-year-old and is raised there by the priests. because it falsely claims to have been written by Jesus’s half brother James. The next day he redistributes them to each man. the wealthy aristocratic Jew Joiachim. But Joseph is highly reluctant. Devoted to God from birth.

who refuses to believe that a virgin has given birth. sometimes giving completely new stories. Such Christians certainly thought these . to no surprise to readers. often amplifying the accounts found in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke (the only two New Testament Gospels that speak about the birth of Jesus). It has indeed. When she prays to God and asks for forgiveness. Some Christians based serious theological claims on them.261/357 The high priest convinces Joseph that he has no choice. but they arrive too late. of course. But Salome’s hand begins to burn as if it has caught fire. Coming to the cave where Mary had been left. Numerous other tales of the miraculous are found in the account. her hand is healed. all of them. she is told to pick up the child.” that is. they see a bright light and then an infant appearing out of nowhere. This is her punishment for refusing to believe in the power of God at the birth of Jesus. These are not accurate accounts of events that actually transpired. None is as odd or memorable as the account of what happens immediately after Mary gives birth to Jesus outside of Bethlehem. Were they read as historical accounts or simply as entertaining narratives? A case can be made that they were read both ways. originating in the pious imaginations of later storytellers or the author of the account rather than in historical events. She comes to the cave and decides to give Mary a postpartum inspection to see if her hymen has remained intact. such as the doctrine of the “perpetual virginity of Mary. The midwife is immediately convinced that this has been a miraculous birth and runs off to find a companion. Salome. Joseph is said to have gone off to find a midwife who can assist at the birth. and so he takes Mary in marriage. The stories about Mary and Joseph continue. When she does so. the view that Mary remained a virgin even after giving birth to Jesus. but later stories put in the guise of historical narrative. He finds one.

the book was a heavily reworked version of the Proto-Gospel. since there is obviously no way to climb the tree. Originally. that en route they stop to rest outside a cave. And it does so. Joseph upbraids her. ‘Praise the Lord from the earth. The author tells us that this fulfilled the predictions of Scripture: “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet in the Psalms. and Jesus’s mother. the family stops to rest under a palm tree. who said. out of the cave come a troop of dragons. He waddles and stands before the fearsome beasts. The two-year-old Jesus.” and surely many (most?) of them believed the events that they narrate really happened. It too claimed to have been written by Jesus’s half brother James. We learn. O dragons and all the places of the abyss. however. and Jesus blesses the tree for its obedience. telling it that as a reward one of its branches will be carried to heaven and planted in paradise. upper branches. Mary. is not the least bit afraid. But the young Jesus intervenes and orders the tree to bend down to give its precious fruit to his mother. When they see who he is. Straightaway an angel .262/357 accounts were “true. for example.13 Among the more interesting accounts of this narrative are the miracles Jesus performs when the Holy Family flees to Egypt after his birth. THE GOSPEL OF PSEUDO-MATTHEW The same can be said of the stories found in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. wishing there were a way to get some to eat.’” a reference to the Greek version of Psalm 148:7. they bow down in worship before him. Mary eats to her heart’s content. looks wistfully at the fruit in the high. It is called this because it was thought in the Middle Ages to have been written by Matthew himself. To the terror of Joseph and Mary. Later on their journey. however.

because it is the Sabbath and Jesus has violated the law by “working. the idols all fall over on their faces in obeisance to the true divinity in their midst. Beyond that.263/357 descends and removes a branch to take it to its new heavenly home. he comes himself and worships the child. what was he like as a child? The Infancy Gospel contains stories about Jesus between the ages of five and twelve. Jesus then stoops down and forms twelve birds out of the mud. another fabricated account of Jesus appeared. Once the family arrives in Egypt they have no place to stay. THE INFANCY GOSPEL OF THOMAS At roughly the time the Proto-Gospel of James was starting to circulate. A Jewish man who is walking by becomes upset. Inside this temple are 365 idols representing the gods who are to be worshiped. Jesus claps his hands and cries out to the birds to come to life and fly away. one for each day of the year. The account begins with Jesus as a five-year-old playing by a stream near his home in Nazareth. he has gotten off the hook . by his word alone. and so they go for shelter into a pagan temple. and Joseph rushes to the stream to upbraid the boy for breaking the Sabbath. Here Jesus is shown to be above the law and to be the lord of life. And it does so. In response. The young Jesus gathers some of the water of the stream into a pool and orders it to become pure. telling all his friends and his entire army that now the Lord of all the gods has come into their midst.” The man heads off to tell Joseph what his son has done. But when Jesus enters.14 Driving this narrative is a question that has been asked by numerous Christian throughout the ages: If Jesus was the miracle-working Son of God as an adult. Once the local ruler learns what has happened. today known as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. and they do so.

” The child immediately withers on the spot. but to no effect. and you will never bear leaves or root or fruit. Joseph takes Jesus back home with instructions to Mary: “Do not let him out the door. for those who anger him die. and on three occasions he sends him off to teachers who try to instruct him. “You’ll go no farther on your way. Jesus starts using his power not to harm. who tells the boy. Big mistake. in effect. Mud birds? What birds? Another child who is playing beside Jesus takes a branch and scatters the water he has carefully gathered together. and proving to be remarkably handy with his miraculous skills around his father’s carpenter shop.264/357 with his father by destroying. curing his brother James of a deadly snakebite. But Jesus will not respond. Or teach him to bless and not to curse—for he is killing our children!” Eventually Joseph decides that Jesus needs to receive an education. Jesus curses him. “You unrighteous. In one instance the teacher tries to teach Jesus the alphabet. and practices reciting with him..” Eventually. This angers the young Jesus. however. any incriminating evidence. The parents of the boy carry him off with some harsh words for Joseph: “Since you have such a child. but to help: raising children from the dead. the first letter of the alphabet]. now you also will be withered like a tree.e.” The teacher gets angry and smacks Jesus upside the head. and he dies on the spot. Jesus is irritated and says to the boy. you cannot live with us in the village. until finally he says to the teacher. In the next story Jesus is said to be walking through his village when another child runs up to him and accidentally bumps him on the shoulder. irreverent idiot! What did the pools of water do to harm you? See.” And the child falls down dead. “If you are really a teacher and know the letters well. in Greek. tell me the power of the Alpha [i. and I will tell you the power of the Beta [the second letter]. The account ends with Jesus as a twelve-year-old in .

showing his intelligence and spiritual superiority in his discussions with the teachers of the law. But it is not clear that early Christian readers would have seen them that way. There never was a census under Caesar Augustus that compelled Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born. In fact. Such narratives can be found among the stories about Jesus’s birth. FABRICATIONS WITHIN THE CANON It should not be thought that Christians started fabricating stories about Jesus only after the New Testament was completed. death. after his death in the book of Acts. Or they may have been serious attempts to show how the miracle-working Son of God was active and filled with divine power even in the early years. Some of these fabrications made their way into the New Testament. they are already there in the familiar versions of Matthew and Luke. The stories may have been designed simply as good Christian entertainment. Jesus . there can be little doubt that some accounts were manufactured in the early years of the Christian movement. one does not need to wait for the later Gospels. mentioned above. there never was a star that mysteriously guided wise men from the East to Jesus. With regard to the stories of Jesus’s birth. It is hard to know what to make of these stories of Jesus the wunderkind. and resurrection as well as in stories about his followers. such as Peter and Paul. long before his public ministry. teachings. life. We could go to great lengths to talk about New Testament narratives that purport to present historical events. but are in fact invented stories. to begin seeing the fabricated accounts.15 Some modern readers have thought that they portray Jesus in a very negative light indeed.265/357 the Temple in Jerusalem. Herod the Great never did slaughter all the baby boys in Bethlehem. a story otherwise known from the Gospel of Luke.

They may not have meant to deceive others (or they may have!). Since I devote considerable attention to them—and to other fabricated accounts of the Gospels—in another recent book. or whether they. fabricated accounts. instead. and fabrication.16 It is almost impossible to say whether the people who made up and passed along these stories were comparable to forgers. I will not go into the details here. but alters it in some way. These may sound like bold and provocative statements. But many of these stories are not historical narratives. they deceived others spectacularly well. They are. omitting . In fact.266/357 and his family never did spend several years in Egypt. whether made up intentionally in order to prove a point or simply brought into being. For many.” This occurs whenever someone copies an author’s text by hand. when Christians passed along “information” about Jesus and those connected to him. Even so. who knew full well that they were engaged in a kind of deception. My guess is that most of the people who told these stories genuinely believed they happened. but they certainly did deceive others. however. there is another kind of deceptive literary activity that can be called “falsification. somehow. were like those who falsely attributed anonymous books to known authors without knowing they were wrong. Most readers still read the canonical accounts that way. Falsifications IN ADDITION TO FORGERY. many centuries it was simply assumed that the narratives about Jesus and the apostles—narratives both within and outside the New Testament—described events that actually happened. we should not say that these storytellers were not involved in deception. instead. but scholars have known the reasons and evidence behind them for many years. false attribution.

In most instances our earliest complete copies are from centuries after the originals. This is true for all books copied in the ancient world. necessarily. they were sometimes willing to pay sizable amounts of money for “originals” of the great classics. if you were to copy a copy of an original. Just about every copyist made mistakes in copying. And so it goes. rather than composing an entire document in someone else’s name. If someone were to copy Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and add a few extra verses that he thought up himself. In this case. The practice of altering texts in the process of copying them happened all the time in antiquity. You could never be sure if copies would be completely true to the original. when great kings wanted to start significant libraries in their cities. year after . That is very similar to what happens with forgery: someone writes his own words.17 In a world without electronic means of publication. or even carbon paper. a copyist has written a portion of a document and included it in the other person’s book. or just changing the wording. photocopy machines. All of the early Christian writings were. susceptible to the vicissitudes of copying. What we have are copies that have been made from copies of the copies of the copies. however. then the next person to read that manuscript would naturally assume that Paul himself had written the inserted words.267/357 something. We don’t have any original copies of any books of the New Testament or of any other early Christian book. without changes of any kind. but also the mistakes your predecessor made in copying the original. adding something. but attributes them to someone else. That is why. in most instances you would copy not just the words of the original. it was well-nigh impossible to ensure that any copy of a text would be 100 percent accurate. And whoever came after you and copied your copy would reproduce both your mistakes and the mistakes of your predecessor as well as introduce some mistakes of her own. As a result.

the changes that copyists made were simply an accident: the slip of a pen. that is. In the vast majority of the cases. He may also correct it incorrectly. the Infancy Gospel of Thomas or the Epistle of Barnabas. say. The only time mistakes are removed is when a copyist realizes that a predecessor had copied something incorrectly and then tries to correct the mistake. Sometimes. scribes changed their texts because they wanted to do so. say. I have talked about these kinds of changes in a couple of my earlier books and don’t want to belabor the point here. I simply give a few examples of the kind of thing I mean from the pages of the New Testament. either because they thought their scribal predecessors made a mistake that needed to be corrected or because they wanted to add something to the text (or take away something or change something).268/357 year. the misspelling of a word. change it to something that is different from both the copy he is copying and from the original that was first copied. one of the Gospels or Paul’s letters. The problem is that there is no way to know whether the copyist corrects the mistake correctly or not. century after century. the accidental omission of a word or a line. whether it is a book from the New Testament. This is the account in which Jesus delivers one of his most famous sayings: “Let the one without sin among . though. The copies will all differ. Instead. You can take any book of early Christianity and compare the surviving copies. In Chapter 5 I talked about the famous story found in later manuscripts of the Gospel of John about the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus for judgment. As I’ve indicated. We do not need to speculate that Christian scribes altered the texts they copied. it is one author passing off his own words as the words of a respected authority. The possibilities are endless. often in lots of minor insignificant ways and sometimes in big ways. or a book from outside the New Testament. this kind of falsification is close to forgery.

In Mark’s Gospel Jesus is certainly raised from the dead. And that’s where . “the women fled from the tomb…and they did not say anything to anyone. however. There are many other instances of this kind of thing in the surviving manuscripts of the New Testament. believes that Jesus was physically raised from the dead. In addition. that is not true. there is a man in the tomb who informs them that Jesus has been raised from the dead. therefore.” The story. the context makes much better sense. Moreover. for they were afraid” (16:8). Instead. was not originally part of the New Testament. It was added by a scribe. But what is most astonishing is what happens next. For these and numerous other reasons there is virtually no debate among New Testament scholars that this story. powerful. if you take the story out of John. The women go to the tomb three days after he was buried in order to give his body a proper burial. as the story immediately before the account flows better directly into the story immediately after it.” Strictly speaking. In other words. but the body is not there. is not found in the oldest manuscripts of the Gospel of John. the story breaks the flow of the narrative of John 7–8. where it is found. and he tells his readers as much. Mark. In this instance we are dealing with both a falsification of the text (making it say something different from what it originally said) and a fabrication (since it is a story that has been made up). The man at the tomb instructs the women to go to the disciples and tell them that Jesus will go before them to Galilee and that they are to meet him there. It is sometimes said by people who have not read the concluding chapter of Mark’s Gospel closely enough that it “lacks a resurrection narrative. and influential as it is. But instead of telling the disciples. as wonderful.269/357 you be the first to cast a stone at her. Another famous example occurs at the end of the Gospel of Mark. the writing style (in the Greek) is significantly different from the writing style of the rest of the Gospel.

I would dispute that claim. But . But Jesus never said these words. And. the scribes who changed the texts were not saying their words came from the pen of a known authority figure. it was widely thought that the Fourth Gospel was in fact by John and the Second by Mark. This ending is brilliant. But the disciples never learn of it. who do then see Jesus and become convinced he has been raised. There is definitely a resurrection of Jesus here. pick up serpents.270/357 the Gospel ends. because by the time scribes made these changes. It brings readers up short and makes them say. “What??? How could the women not tell anyone? How could no one learn of Jesus’s resurrection? How could Jesus not appear to anyone afterwards? That’s it? That’s the end? How could that be the end?” Scribes felt the same way. There are hundreds of significant changes in the manuscripts of the New Testament. and there is no account of Jesus’s meeting with any of them. Technically speaking. but let me here just mention one other. I think. They were added to Mark by a later scribe and then recopied over the years. and Mark never claimed he did. In an additional twelve verses the women (or at least Mary Magdalene) do go tell the disciples.18 This is a fabricated story that has been put into the Bible by a copyist who falsified the text. so that it became widely familiar to English Bible readers. different scribes added different endings to the Gospel. since both John from the first example and Mark from the second were written anonymously. In the previous examples one could argue that the falsifications were not exactly the same as forgeries. It is in these verses that we find the famous words of Jesus that those who believe in him will be able to speak in foreign tongues. The ending that became the most popular throughout the Middle Ages was found in the manuscripts used by the translators of the King James Version in 1611. and drink poison without suffering any harm.

pray publicly and openly in church. or teach in church. But just as 1 Timothy is forged. They are not to speak at all in church. Women are to be silent and submissive to their husbands. Someone added them to the passage later. just as the law itself says. These verses in chapter 14 were not written by Paul. also indicates that women are to be subject to men and not to exercise any authority over them (2:11–15). when just three chapters earlier he indicated that they could . and it flows much better. as we saw in Chapter 3. 1 Timothy. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Scholars have adduced many reasons for this view. For one thing. If they wish to learn anything. But this passage on women interrupts the flow of the argument. instead let them be submissive.271/357 there is no ambiguity about my final example. which. Women are not allowed even to ask a question in church. Even more. Immediately before these verses Paul is talking about prophecy in the church. immediately afterwards he is talking about prophecy. it is hard to believe that Paul would tell women that they could not speak in church here in 1 Corinthians 14. the verses seem to intrude in the passage in which they are found. These verses are very much like what one reads in one of the Pauline letters that is not authentic. since it involves one of the undisputed letters of Paul. One of the most hurtful passages for the cause of women who want to be active in the Christian church occurs in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35. This obviously makes it impossible for a woman to utter a prophecy in church. after the letter had been placed in circulation. Take them out. let them ask their own husbands at home. so too has this passage in 1 Corinthians been falsified. Here Paul is recorded as saying: Let the women in the churches keep silent. For it is not permitted for them to speak.

In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul urges women who pray and prophesy in church to do so only with veils on their heads. but permanently. how could they be told not to speak in chapter 14? It makes better sense that those scholars are right who think that the verses were not originally part of the text of 1 Corinthians. it has become an increasingly serious problem on college campuses. at least chunks of writing that are easily copied into a paper at a critical point.19 Plagiarism PLAGIARISM INVOLVES TAKING SOMEONE else’s writing and passing it off as your own. methods of detection of plagiarism have improved with advances in technology. If they were allowed to speak in chapter 11. This book represented the results of the labor of many years. Techniques of plagiarism have improved through the use of the Internet. Some years ago. Luckily.272/357 indeed do so. for example. It is sometimes claimed by scholars that plagiarism is a modern phenomenon without ancient corollary. As I indicated at the outset of this chapter. in which scholars worked to decide which of the sayings in . and it is oh so easy to find lots of things written about lots of topics—if not complete essays of approximately the same length as your required term paper. making the passage say what these copyists wanted it to say rather than allowing Paul to say what he meant to say. as many professors now use sophisticated software designed to identify it. put out by a team of scholars from the Jesus Seminar. Someone has falsified the book by adding the verses to it. anyone detected and convicted of plagiarism is dismissed from school. The penalties for being caught can be harsh. Not for a day or two. At my university. there appeared an influential and popular book called The Five Gospels.

Ancient authors knew all about plagiarism. A number of scholars who were not involved in the project. however. a famous Roman architect and engineer of the first century BCE. John. who. in book 7 of his ten-volume work on architecture: “We are…bound to censure those. For starters. consider the words of Vitruvius.” a mistake so outrageous that the scholars who produced it should have known better. This is in the Introduction to the book. Sayings that Jesus really said. publish as their own that of which they are not the authors. where it states: “The concept of plagiarism was unknown in the ancient world. Mark. writing a hundred years earlier. It is flatout wrong. who reports that historians near his own time who have stolen the writings of ancient historians and passed them off as their own have behaved in a “most shameful” manner. On several occasions the witty Roman poet Martial upbraided others for stealing his writings and copying them out .273/357 the Gospels of Matthew. and Thomas actually go back to the historical Jesus.”21 Or take the comments of Polybius. sayings that were not really like something he said were in gray. Those who do so engage in “a most disgraceful proceeding. borrowing from others. In my opinion. This incensed a lot of people. one of the great historians of the ancient Greek world. Most of the sayings in the Gospels were in gray and black. the volume contains at least one statement that scholars would call a “howler. Luke. the members of the Jesus Seminar typically got precisely wrong what Jesus actually said. were printed in red. sayings that he absolutely did not say were in black. sayings that were relatively close to something he said were printed in pink.”22 Some authors were incensed when their own works were plagiarized. in the opinion of these scholars. were more concerned by which sayings were in black. Apart from that.”20 I don’t know how anyone who has actually gone to the trouble of reading the ancient sources could say such a thing. and they condemned it as a deceptive practice.

because it intends to lead readers astray. It is an interesting question whether ancient scholars would have accused some of the early Christian writers of plagiarism. he indicates. plagiarism is deceptive. It was also true of Heraclides. whom we met in Chapter 1. what are we to say of the book of 2 Peter? Scholars have long recognized that chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 sound very much like the book of Jude. And it was true of the philosopher Empedocles.274/357 under their own name. because he was “convicted at that time of stealing his discourses. The issues tend to be complicated by the fact that possible instances of plagiarism involve borrowed texts that are anonymous.”23 In a number of places the historian of philosophy Diogenes Laertius speaks of philosophers and literary authors who tried to pass off the works of others as their own. as if they had composed them: “You mistake. “stealing” them and publishing them as if they themselves had written them. the plagiarists themselves often do not actually identify themselves by name. Forgers write their own words and claim they are the words of another. who think you can become a poet at no more than the cost of a transcript and a cheap papyrus roll. But in another sense plagiarism can be seen as the flip side of forgery. who was excluded from attending the lectures of the famous sixth-century BCE Pythagoras. moreover. plagiarists take the words of another and claim they are their own. who took several of Socrates’s dialogues from his widow and claimed that they were his own compositions. in its vitriolic attack on false and highly immoral persons who have infiltrated the . If so. Applause is not acquired for six or ten sesterces. you greedy thief of my works. of a disciple of Socrates named Aeschines.”24 Like forgery. who “stole” an essay from another scholar about the ancient Homer and Hesiod and published it as his own. Can a forger plagiarize? Maybe so. but are either anonymous or claim to be someone else. This was true.

Some scholars continue to hold to the view that Matthew was the source for Mark and Luke. but that is very much a minority position. but in other places hardly edited at all). Very close similarities exist between Jude 4–13. that the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew takes over the narrative of the Proto-Gospel of James. about the Gospels? Scholars since the nineteenth century have argued that the reason Matthew. without acknowledging where the story came from. 3:1–3. often in precisely the same words—is that they used the same sources. usually in the same sequence. and often words. in that they are not publishing someone else’s work under their own name. This is comparable in many ways to what the authors of the New .275/357 Christian church. What. In fact. but they share many of the same ideas. frequently verbatim. Ancient scholars who spoke about this phenomenon would have called this “stealing. There are not many extensive exact verbal repetitions. and Luke are so much alike—telling many of the same stories. strictly speaking. it is everywhere recognized today that one of them was a source for the other two. To that extent the later authors are not. publishing it in an edited form (sometimes heavily edited. she could well be considered to have plagiarized. then. plagiarizing. thoughts. In either case. 16–18 and 2 Peter 2:1–18. It is true that none of the authors names himself. If a modern student simply rewrote a text by changing many of the words but keeping all the ideas. we have one document that is taken over by others. Mark.” In modern parlance it is perhaps best to call it a kind of plagiarism. Almost all scholars think that Mark was used by Matthew and Luke. for example. But perhaps the issue is not so clearcut in this case. But they are taking over someone else’s work and publishing it as their own. without acknowledging her source. There are other instances of the phenomenon from outside the New Testament. I mentioned earlier in this chapter.

for example. or that the author of 2 Peter came up with the ideas and phrases found in his second chapter himself. that Paul told women that they had to be silent in church. Readers who read books that had been wrongly ascribed to apostles or their companions. that the tax collector Matthew wrote the First Gospel. indeed. or that contained passages or entire accounts that were “stolen” from the writings of earlier authors without acknowledgment—readers of all such materials were deceived in one way or another. falsifications. They had been deceived. Some were deceived into thinking that what they read was really composed by the people claimed as their authors. and the Didascalia. the Didache. involve deceptive practices. others were misled to think that the historical events that were narrated were actual historical occurrences. or that presented texts that had been altered by scribes. to use the ancient parlance—from earlier writings of the Christian tradition. Conclusion WHAT CAN WE SAY in conclusion about the forms of deception we have considered in this chapter? False attributions. Another book I mentioned in Chapter 1. it was taken over—stolen. from the late second century. combining them together into one large document. . from around the year 100. In every case they were wrong. from the third. taking over virtually wholesale three documents from earlier times. plagiarism—they all. the Apostolic Constitutions. the Apostolic Tradition. when they think. Just as people continue to be deceived. is even more flagrant.276/357 Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke did with Mark. But it was not. or that contained stories that were made up. and publishing it as if it had been information handed down directly from the apostles. fabrications.

A theologian who wanted to convince his opponents that his views were those of the apostles may well have claimed that the Fourth Gospel was written by John. A scribe who wanted a text to say something other than what it did may well have changed the text for just that reason. In sum. Forgery almost always involves a flat-out lie. just as historically inaccurate stories are made up all the time. 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. Sometimes scribes altered the texts they were copying by accident without meaning to do so. possibly. does not appear to be involved in every instance of these other forms of deception. knowing full well their own real identity. A storyteller who made up an account about Jesus in order to prove a point may well have known that he was passing off a fiction as a historical event. But it is precisely what happened. Whoever added the final twelve verses of Mark did not do so by a mere slip of the pen. But other instances probably involved a good deal of intentionality. stories were innocently fabricated. and some Christians took advantage of the full panoply in their efforts to promote their view of the faith. and it was all a mistake. It may seem odd to modern readers. Sometimes.277/357 One key aspect of forgery. Forgers claim to be someone else. without knowing if that was true or not. however. The use of deception to promote the truth may well be . In some cases it is hard to imagine how else the resultant deception could have come about. or even counterintuitive. without any intention to deceive. Sometimes anonymous works were simply attributed to people who were thought to have written them. That is not always the case with the comparable phenomena I have been discussing here. there were numerous ways to lie in and through literature in antiquity.

.278/357 considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the early Christian tradition.

just to give you a taste of the kinds of things that have been widely read. . Modern Forgeries. however. they come from modern forgeries that claim to represent historical facts kept from the public by scholars or “the Vatican. and Deceptions I DISCUSS FOUR MODERN forgeries here. that gap of time between when he was twelve and thirty? Is it true that he went to India to study with the Brahmins? Was Jesus an Essene? Don’t we have a death warrant from Pontius Pilate ordering Jesus’s execution? And so on. Their exposure. people often ask me about apocryphal tales they have heard. Instead. Very few of the apocryphal stories that people hear today come from the ancient forgeries I have been examining in this book. however. are that these mysterious accounts have uniformly been exposed as fabrications perpetrated by well-meaning or mischievous writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Lies. and the Writings of the New Testament WHEN I GIVE PUBLIC TALKS about the books that did not make it into the New Testament. Deceptions. has done little to stop laypeople from believing them. All four. Lies.CHAPTER EIGHT Forgeries.” The real facts. What do we know about the “lost years” of Jesus.

The book consisted of 244 paragraphs arranged in fourteen chapters. to the famous Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Hemis. In one year it appeared in eight editions in French. . Almost immediately it was widely disseminated and translated. by a Russian war correspondent named Nicolas Notovitch. His further travels took him to the district of Ladak. Spanish. the “lost years” before his public ministry. Notovitch starts the book by explaining how he “discovered” it. and Per Beskow.2 From this account we learn that Jesus went to India during his formative teen years. on the border between India and Tibet. While there he heard additional stories and was told that written records of the life of Issa still survived.280/357 and many others. The book was first published in France in 1894 as La vie inconnue de Jésus Christ. and there learned the secrets of the East.1 THE UNKNOWN LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST One of the most widely disseminated modern forgeries is called The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. the Arabic form (roughly) of the name Jesus. and three separate editions in the United States. a Swedish scholar of early Christianity writing in the 1970s. The book made a big splash when it appeared in English in 1926. a prominent American New Testament scholar of the mid-twentieth century. with translations into German. One edition was published in the United Kingdom. but as it turns out. it is safe to say. it had already been exposed as a fraud more than thirty years earlier. has a short attention span. and Italian. Edgar Goodspeed. The reading public. where he heard from lamas of Tibet stories about a prophet named Issa. are discussed and demolished in two interesting books by bona fide scholars of Christian antiquity. he was allegedly traveling in India and Kashmir. In 1887.

learning their holy books. He next visited Persia and preached to the Zoroastrians. This raised the ire of the Brahmins. he returned to Palestine and began his public ministry. it was published as a historically factual account and was widely believed as providing the key to the questions that Christians had long asked about the lost years of Jesus. in the presence of a translator who explained what the texts said. Although the narrative of The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ may sound like a rather second-rate novel. the language of Theraveda Buddhism. He produced two thick volumes. from whom he learned Pali. They then wrote down the full account. where those who had known Issa as a young man realized that it was the same person. came to be on friendly terms with the abbot. as a twenty-nine-year-old. But Jesus was completely disenchanted with the Indian caste system and openly began to condemn it. But after a couple of days he had a bad accident. armed with all the sacred knowledge of the East. written in Tibetan. He spent six years with the Brahmins. Jesus fled to join a community of Buddhists. and began to read them out loud to Notovitch. who decided to put him to death. while Notovitch took notes. When Jesus was thirteen. the abbot agreed to give him the full account. he joined a caravan of merchants to go to India to study their sacred laws. according to the account.281/357 Notovitch left the monastery without learning anything further. and mastered the Buddhist texts. When Notovitch inquired about the stories of Issa. He was carried back to the monastery to recuperate and. Finally. The narrative concludes by summarizing his words and deeds and giving a brief account of his death. the Vedas. What was he doing then? And how had he . The story of his life was then allegedly taken by Jewish merchants back to India. falling off his horse and breaking his leg. while there. The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ is the published edition of the careful notes that Notovitch allegedly took.

Moreover. and they had no books describing the life of Issa. he was certain that no such book as The Unknown Life existed in Tibet. Archibald Douglas. who showed that the tale of the “discovery” of the book and the stories it told were filled with insurmountable implausibilities. The tale was taken on by no less eminent an authority than Max Müller. Not only did he never read aloud a book about Issa to a European or to anyone else. The next year a scholar. . exactly. he had been a lama for forty-two years and was well acquainted with Buddhist literature. before scholars interested in historical fact began to question the account and to expose it as a complex hoax. who informed him that there had been no European with a broken leg in the monastery during his fifteen years in charge of the community. no one had been nursed back to health after breaking his leg. went and interviewed the abbot himself. She made inquiries and learned that no Russian had ever been there. J. however. Today there is not a single recognized scholar on the planet who has any doubts about the matter. the greatest European scholar of Indian culture of the late nineteenth century. that the crucified man was their former student? In 1894 an English woman who had read the Unknown Life visited Hemis monastery.282/357 acquired such extensive and compelling religious knowledge before beginning his public ministry? It was not long. why is it not found in either of the comprehensive catalogues of Tibetan literature? How is it that the Jewish merchants who went to India with tales of Jesus happened to meet up with precisely the Brahmins who knew Issa as a young man—out of the millions of people in India? And how did Issa’s former associates in India realize. Additional internal implausibilities and inaccuracies of the story are exposed by both Goodspeed and Beskow. The entire story was invented by Notovitch. If this great book was a favorite at the monastery of Hemis.

by an Eye-Witness. The account was first published in German. But not on the cross. in Latin. It was saved.” he did not expire. who translated the account into German. from a leader of the mysterious Jewish sect of the Essenes in Jerusalem to another Essene leader who lived in Alexandria. When he was crucified. 1919.3 The account comes in the form of a letter written. seven years after Jesus’s crucifixion. All elements of the supernatural are completely stripped away from the account’s description of Jesus’s life and death. according to this “eyewitness. English editions. Jesus is shown to have led a completely human life and to have died a completely human death. in 1849. however. in Leipzig. BY AN EYEWITNESS An equally interesting modern apocryphon. The narrative was then brought to Germany by the Freemasons. by a learned Frenchman. but with its ending and aftermath. The Latin letter was allegedly discovered on a parchment scroll in an old Greek monastery in Alexandria by a missionary who thought that its message was dangerous and so tried to destroy it. deals not with the beginning of Jesus’s adult life. He was taken from the cross and restored to life by Joseph . According to the account. Jesus survived his own crucifixion and lived for another six months. all claiming to be authentic. THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS. understood to be modern-day descendants of the Essenes.283/357 who earned a good deal of money and a substantial amount of notoriety for his hoax. There were also translations into French and Swedish. and 1975. Egypt. before his ministry. Jesus himself was an Essene. were published in 1907. The Crucifixion of Jesus.

yet it explicitly mentions. The women misunderstood that Jesus had been raised. Luke. And. Mark. these books were not known as a group of writings (“the four Gospels”) until the end of the second century. from a now rather obscure work of historical fiction written by the German rationalist K. but was . when in fact he had never died. He did die. The account indicates that it was written seven years after the crucifixion. which were unavailable to the forger. There are other considerable problems. and indeed the entire story. Today we know a good deal about this Jewish group. six months later. thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls. demonstrated that The Crucifixion of Jesus was virtually lifted. fellow Essenes. When the women visiting the tomb thought they saw angels. In 1936. Finally the exclusion of everything supernatural in the account is a thoroughly modern. there is no way an Essene in Jerusalem would write his account in Latin. 1800–1802). a modern scholar has shown where this concern. from the wounds he had sustained.284/357 of Arimathea and Nicodemus. For one thing. a famous German scholar of the New Testament. since they were discovered nearly a century after he produced his account. It has not been difficult for scholars to expose this Gospel as another fraud. in fact. Moreover. not an ancient one. by name. who knew the secret arts of healing preserved by the sect. wholesale. post-Enlightenment concern. of all things.” allegedly an Essene. Nothing in the story corresponds to the historical realities of the group. Here too Jesus was an Essene whose life had nothing supernatural about it and who did not actually die on the cross. H. and John. the Gospels of Matthew. Martin Dibelius. The Natural History of the Great Prophet of Nazareth (two volumes. these were Essene monks wearing their white robes. Venturini. came from. however. The “eyewitness. has no understanding of what the Essenes were really like. which were not written until forty to sixty years after Jesus’s death.

based on clear and certain evidence. all the way back in 1280. That is why the alleged discovery of an official copy of Pilate’s Death Sentence made such an enormous impact in Europe and the United States when it was announced in the mid-nineteenth century. or form. no references to his words or deeds. as is now being claimed with alarming regularity. Inside the vase was a copper plate inscribed in . It was soon exposed as a fraud. including the United States. that attest to the existence of Jesus. he does not appear in the records of the Roman people. A group of workers was said to have been excavating for Roman antiquities.285/357 revived by Joseph of Arimathea. that Jesus never existed.4 This does not mean. shape. as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity. when they uncovered an ancient marble vase. for many decades afterward. The author of The Crucifixion of Jesus simply took Venturini’s two-volume work. We have no birth certificate. But as with the vast majority of all persons who lived and died in the first century. Christian or non-Christian. agrees. THE DEATH SENTENCE OF JESUS CHRIST One of the striking and. Jesus’s name is not even mentioned in any Roman source of the first century. when in fact it was a modern fabrication. to many people. surprising facts about the first century is that we don’t have any Roman records. of any kind.5 The discovery was first mentioned in the French paper Le Droit in the spring of 1839. The Death Sentence was allegedly found on a copper plate discovered in the southern Italian city of Aquila. and tried to pass it off as a historical account. condensed it into a readable booklet. near Naples. He certainly existed. but it resurfaced again in Germany ten years later and repeatedly elsewhere. no descriptions of his death—no reference to him whatsoever in any way. no accounts of his trial.

Pilate. and he entered the Temple followed by a multitude carrying palm branches. a Roman official.286/357 Hebrew.” which had not in fact existed for many centuries. he never would have referred to Jerusalem as “the most holy city. a citizen. but it was rediscovered during the French occupation of the Kingdom of Naples in 1806–15. The term “Robani. a language he didn’t know. he was an enemy of the law.” used for three of the witnesses. but of Judea.” This is said to have happened in the seventeenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius (31 CE). “Pontius Pilate. he called himself the king of Israel. He was a seducer. appears to be a mistaken form of “Rabban. the word is spelled . Raphael Robani. would not have written in Hebrew. it was found to contain an official copy of Jesus’s death warrant issued by Pontius Pilate.” The reason for the death sentence was that Jesus had committed six crimes. the acting governor of lower Galilee” states that “Jesus of Nazareth shall suffer death on the cross. As a non-Jew. When it was published a couple of decades later.” March 27 is a modern form of dating unknown to the ancient world. When the text was translated.”6 A top-flight scholar such as Edgar Goodspeed had no difficulty exposing the entire document as a hoax. It made no sense for a Roman official to try to justify his conviction of a criminal to the Jewish people or to send the justification to the “tribes of Israel. and “Capet. he was seditious. The death warrant is signed by four witnesses: Daniel Robani. On the reverse side were directions for the warrant to be sent to all the tribes of Israel. Joannus Robani. he falsely called himself the Son of God. The plate allegedly came to be lost.” which means “teacher” the author probably made the mistake because in direct address. “in the most holy city of Jerusalem. it was touted as “the most impressive legal document in existence. on March 27. such as in John 20:16. Pilate was not the governor of lower Galilee.” In it.

Paul allegedly planned to go to Spain and then to Britain. he goes to Jerusalem. And there is no Hebrew word for “citizen. He tells the disciples that he too has had . the mother of Jesus. to the house of the disciple John. even though his hoax had wide success. for over a century. and Mary leads the disciples off to the Mount of Olives. Jesus appears from heaven and takes her in his arms. to go to Palestine. reflecting on her mortality. Mary prays for her death. where he finds Mary.” Joannus is not an ancient name in any of the relevant languages.” There are more problems. which. and the angel Gabriel appears to tell her that her prayer is to be answered. But he eventually decides.287/357 “Rabbouni. in both Europe and the United States. but these are enough to illustrate the case. along with seven of the disciples. among other things. the Anglican priest and physician Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie published a book called the Long-Lost Second Book of Acts. mentioned in Acts 28. When he arrives. among other things she has been the wife of Noah. Just before her death a storm comes. instead. describes the teachings of Mary. Capet is a French name. THE LONG-LOST SECOND BOOK OF ACTS In 1904.7 It is called the “second book” of Acts. the one who loved Siddhartha. the mother of Jesus. and later still the one who loved Socrates. the woman who loved Zarathustra. From her deathbed. An elderly woman now. because it begins by describing what happened to the apostle Paul after the events narrated in the New Testament book of Acts. Mary then divulges the secret doctrine of reincarnation. After being released from his Roman imprisonment. Whoever made this account up did a rather poor job of it. She herself has gone through seven incarnations. about reincarnation.

but also by scholars who may have had obscure reasons of their own. .9 In The Gospel of the Holy Twelve Jesus is said to espouse a strictly vegetarian view in opposition to those who kill and eat animals. Noah. But given the reading public. In this inventive narrative Jesus is said not to have eaten lamb at the Passover and to have fed the multitudes not with five loaves and two fish. This book is so obviously a fiction that it is hard to imagine its author expecting anyone to take it seriously.10 One could argue that hoaxes are created not only by obscure figures trying to sensationalize accounts of Jesus (Jesus studied with the Brahmins!) or to authenticate their particular worldviews (Jesus was a vegetarian!). and Socrates. Zarathustra. Among other things. as Abel.” and that “Guthrie doubtless thought it so transparent a device that it would deceive nobody. who knows? Goodspeed.11 Schonfield was a brilliant and widely acknowledged scholar of ancient Judaism. A book called The Confession of Pontius Pilate tells the story of Pilate going into exile in Vienna. where he feels deep remorse for what he did to Jesus and eventually commits suicide.288/357 several previous incarnations.”8 OTHER HOAXES AND DECEPTIONS There are of course many other modern apocrypha that try to report on what Jesus and those associated with him really did. but with five melons. thought that it was “simply a modern effort to claim that the Virgin Mary and Jesus himself endorsed the doctrine of reincarnation. at any rate. One of the wildly popular books about Jesus during the 1960s and 1970s was Hugh Schonfield’s The Passover Plot: A New Interpretation of the Life and Death of Jesus. this account refers to a story in which Mary Magdalene presents the Roman emperor Tiberius with an Easter egg dyed red.

Columbia professor Morton Smith. The disciples. Moreover. And it is not exactly a fabrication. And thus started Christianity.289/357 with a complete set of bona fide credentials. But his historical reconstruction of what really happened to Jesus reads more like a Hollywood production than serious scholarship. who writes in his own name. alternate version of the Gospel of Mark. one a detective-like narrative for popular . The author of the account. The plot failed. however. But as creative as it is. He would then be revived and appear to have been raised from the dead. He arranged to be drugged on the cross (when he was given the gall and vinegar. The account of the discovery appeared in two books Smith published in 1973. however. He died of his wounds soon thereafter and was reburied elsewhere. Smith claimed to have discovered a lost. is a serious historian and lets his readers know it. there is no historical truth to it. discovered the empty tomb and mistakenly thought they saw Jesus alive afterwards. They then proclaimed that he had been raised from the dead. in that he claims that he is basing his account on historical research. the case involving one of the twentieth century’s truly eminent scholars of early Christianity. Jesus had not counted on a Roman soldier spearing him in the side on the cross. again. The Passover Plot is not a forgery. As a final example I might mention. the major premise of the account is completely made up. he presents it as a historical study. In particular. He revived only briefly and was removed from the tomb by prior arrangement with coconspirators (not the disciples). he plotted with his disciples to feign his own death for the sins of others. so that his vital signs would slow down and he would appear dead. it was medicinal). The short story is that Jesus from an early age “knew” that he was the messiah and so manipulated events during his public ministry to make it appear that he was fulfilling prophecy. of course.

Needless to say. Clement of Alexandria. and in . he discovered a handwritten copy of a letter. in which he claimed that the author of Mark had published a second edition of his Gospel. a number of scholars have come forward to argue that the letter is not authentic.14 Christian Forgeries. His scholarly book provided serious evidence that this really was a letter from Clement of Alexandria and that Clement really did know of such a Gospel.12 In them Smith stated that in 1958. about Jesus and his relationship with a young man he had raised from the dead. We have instances of Christian forgeries not only today.” And for lots of reasons. stories that sound mysterious and strange.13 Other scholars. including those who knew Smith well. and Deceptions THIS ISSUE OF MODERN hoaxes brings me back to a question I have repeatedly asked in my study of forgeries: “Who would do such a thing?” I hope by now you will agree with my earlier answer: “Lots of people. that it was forged by none other than Smith himself. Smith’s books caused quite a stir. both coming to the same conclusion. hard-hitting research monograph for scholars. but on different grounds. This “Secret Gospel. And not just modern people. in Greek. and the debate goes on. by a second-century church father. Two books have been published on the matter in recent years.” as it came to be known. do not think so. but also in the Middle Ages.290/357 audiences and the other an erudite. Lies. in late antiquity. Smith argued that this relationship was homosexual and that it provided evidence that Jesus had engaged in sexual activities with the naked men that he baptized during his ministry. But since Smith’s death in 1991. included a couple of stories not found in Mark. while visiting a monastery near Jerusalem.

There are New Testament letters claiming to be written by Peter and Paul. From the first century to the twenty-first century. My particular interest in this book. letters. and just plain wrong. in most instances in order to authorize views they wanted others to accept. I’m not saying that the authors who engaged in this activity were necessarily violating the dictates of their own conscience. Books that were forged were called false and illegitimate. This practice was widely talked about in the ancient world and was almost always condemned as lying. for example. John. But what we have is more than enough to give us a sense of how prominent the practice of forgery was. When the real authors of these books claimed to be apostles. and forge documents. The authors who called themselves Peter. and James and Jude. All we know is that when ancient people talked about the practice. But these books were written by other. James. and apocalypses that claim to be written by people who did not write them. is with the forgeries of the early Christian church. treatises. they did not say positive things about it. They lied about it in order to deceive their readers into thinking they were authority figures. Philip. they were consciously involved in deception. or—pick your name!—knew full well they were not these people. unknown authors living after the apostles themselves had died. Paul. illegitimate. We have no way of knowing what they really thought about themselves or about what they were doing. falsify. . people who have called themselves Christian have seen fit to fabricate. We have numerous Gospels.291/357 the time of the New Testament. as the vast majority of them have been lost or destroyed. No one doubts that there were lots of them. Some of these writings made it into the Bible. Today we have only a fraction of the ones that were produced in antiquity. But authors did it anyway. of course. Thomas.

It was not to be engaged in. took precisely the opposite line.292/357 But one can imagine that the authors themselves may not have seen it this way. Most early Christians probably disagreed with Augustine. You should never lie. most notably Augustine.” a lie that serves a noble cause. no matter what. It is possible that many of the authors whose works we have considered. they try to justify what they did. period. that lying is the right thing to do in some instances (as mentioned in Chapter 1). Most of us see lying as a . Whenever we have a record of those being caught in the act. no one would take seriously a book written by Salvian. And after all. then that can be a good form of deception. The secondcentury author who fabricated the story of Paul and Thecla. mentioned earlier. held by many people still today. If a doctor needs to lie to a patient in order to get her to take the medicine she needs. And most people today probably disagree as well. both within and outside of the New Testament. In the ancient world. which is why he had to argue his point so strenuously. then that can be a good thing. even if a lie could guarantee that your young daughter would not spend eternity in the fires of hell. that was not enough to justify telling the lie. For Augustine. they were accepting the ancient view. Very. arguing that lying in all its forms was bad. If a commander-in-chief needs to lie to his troops that reinforcements are about to arrive in order to inspire them to fight more courageously. Very bad. Some lies are noble.” The fifthcentury forger Salvian of Marseille claimed he thought no one would think he meant it when he called himself Timothy and that he didn’t mean any harm by it. this view was based on the idea that there could be such a thing as a “noble lie. felt completely justified in what they were doing. whereas a book by Timothy might be widely read (see Chapter 1). but would enjoy the eternal bliss of heaven. claimed he did it out of “love for Paul. If so. very bad. Other Christian authors.

maybe the authors who forged these texts were wrong. Maybe it is okay for church leaders to lie to their congregations about their personal beliefs or their less than perfect past. Ethicists. if it will prevent him from going through great turmoil and pain. foreign intelligence. even if you would much prefer the consequences of telling the lie. to tell them that God exists even though they don’t actually think so.15 At the end of the day. philosophers. on when lying is appropriate and when it is not. to be willing to take the consequences of the truth. and religious scholars all disagree. Maybe sometimes it is okay to lie. to stand by the truth. this is a question that each and every one of us needs to decide for ourselves. even today. Maybe it is okay to lie to one’s parent about the prognosis after surgery. Maybe they should not have tried to deceive their readers.293/357 complicated matter. based on our own circumstances and the specific situations we find ourselves in. Maybe it is okay for a spouse to lie to her partner about her extramarital affair. if it will keep the beloved parent from worrying about dying before their time. shortfalls or windfalls. possible outcomes of policies. Maybe it is better always to tell the truth. . if they have to be seen as respected and stalwart leaders of the community. or the known outcomes of war—if the ends are sufficiently important to require lies instead of the truth. Maybe it is okay for parents to lie to their children about their own religious beliefs. Maybe it is okay for elected officials to lie about budgets or deficits. And if lying is justified in some instances. what better reason for lying than to get people to understand and believe the truth? What would make better sense than writing a book that embodies a lie about a relatively unimportant matter (who really wrote this) in order to accomplish what really does matter (the truth being proclaimed)? On the other hand.

g. in most circumstances. past. Maybe it is better for a spouse to tell her partner about an extramarital affair. that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To be sure.. But the reality is that most of our lies are not so weighty. and very distant past. if the alternative is to live a life of deceit and distrust. if. but to tell them what they honestly know to be true (e. Maybe. Maybe a dying parent (or grandparent. they too probably did not want to be lied to and deceived. truth is better than lying. it can save a life or keep someone from physical harm.” Possibly they felt that in their circumstances the Golden Rule did . on the whole. for example. then what they say about what to believe and how to live must be true. Maybe it is better for church leaders not to mislead their people.g. rather than mislead us so as to be authorized to do what they desperately want to do domestically or on foreign soil. Certainly the lies manufactured by the forgers of early Christian texts were not told in order to protect life and limb.294/357 Maybe children have the right to know what parents honestly believe. about God or the Bible). At the same time. or anyone else) has the right to know that death is imminent. Maybe it is better for our elected officials to come clean and tell us the truth. If these texts were produced by reliable authorities. To this extent they did not live up to one of the fundamental principles of the Christian tradition. realize that there are times when it might be right and good to lie. most people. True teachings were based on lies. They were told in order to deceive readers into thinking that the authors of these books were established authority figures. But for reasons of their own they felt compelled to lie to and deceive others. ancient and modern. taught by Jesus himself. the authors of these lies were no doubt like nearly everyone else in the world. sibling. about church finances or about their own sinful past) or what they honestly believe (e.. so he or she can prepare for the inevitable. present.

. it would certainly explain why so many of the writings of the New Testament claim to have been written by apostles. when in fact they were not.295/357 not apply. If so.

see also Tertullian Prescription Against Heresies. told with flair and in precise detail. See the discussion of the Gospel of Peter in Chapter 2. There were lots of Christians who held other views.” then it certainly could not have been produced by an established authority. . It was widely thought that if a writing promoted “false teachings. In other words. I am outlining here just the “orthodox” views that ended up winning the early Christian battles over what to believe. as we will see later in the book. 3. the decision about who authored a work (an apostle?) was often made on the basis of whether the teachings in the work were acceptable.NOTES Introduction: Facing the Truth 1. is found in 2. For further reflections.26. Chapter 1: A World of Deceptions and Forgeries 1. 2003). Irenaeus Against Heresies 3. as we will see. for example. The authoritative discussion of the Hitler diaries. Thus. 4.2–4. This is why there is such a close connection in Christian antiquity between the content of a writing and its claim to authorship. see my book Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (New York: Oxford University Press.

Jerome The Lives of Famous Men 4. For a collection of some of the most interesting. Great Forgers and Famous Fakes: The Manuscript Forgers of America and How They Duped the Experts. 1986). CO: Glenbridge. 3. 4. 9. For a more comprehensive collection. See also the discussion of ancient fictions about Paul in Chapter 3. 1774. 5. Selling Hitler (New York: Viking Penguin. see J. see Bart D. K. 2003). 2nd ed. Tertullian On Baptism 17. Comments on the Catholic Epistles (never translated into English). 6. Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press.52. 2. The story is told by the Greek historian Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Philosophers (5. 10. Clement of Alexandria Miscellanies 2.25. Didymus the Blind. 7.297/357 Robert Harris. The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon. Ehrman. (Lakewood. This is my own count. As we will see later in Chapter 3. 8. 11.92–93). For a fascinating account by one of modern times’ most adroit forgery experts. . in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 39. 1993). Elliott. 1996). some scholars have maintained that the allegedly forged writing the author of 2 Thessalonians is referring to is none other than 1 Thessalonians! Eusebius Church History 7.6. see Charles Hamilton.

TX: Baylor University Press. have seen a spate of publications by scholars arguing that Smith in fact forged the document. however. There may be some question. Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge. Gospel of. 1973). “Matthew.” For reasons for thinking that the Gospel of Matthew was not really written by the disciple Matthew. This has recently been argued in Clare Rothschild. Galen Commentary on Hippocrates’ On the Nature of Man 1.” Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday.42. however. Smith wrote two books about the discovery and its importance for understanding early Christianity and the historical Jesus. The Greek philosopher Plutarch maintained that Xenophon used the pen name precisely to lend more credibility to his account by having it written by an outside party rather than writing about himself in the first person. If so. John Meier. 16. Recent years. 14. 1973). 2005). The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel of Mark (New York: Harper & Row. Hebrews as Pseudepigraphon: The History and Significance of the Pauline Attribution of Hebrews (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. MA: Harvard University Press. 15. 1992). The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark (Waco. this is a pen name “with an edge. See especially Stephen Carlson. 2009). and 13. 4:618–41. one an intriguing detective-like story for popular audiences. .298/357 12. and in greater depth. see Chapter 7. and the other a hard-hitting analysis for scholars. about Xenophon.

MI: Baker. 10. 17.3. 10. who asked how the book of Enoch. 145. If there was a worldwide flood after 18. written by the famous figure Enoch—a man who never died. 20. 22. The Works of Josephus (Grand Rapids. Tertullian’s.72. Death.18. One of the most interesting discussions is in the writings of the church father Tertullian.26. 19.12.5. Die literarische Fälschung im heidnischen und christlichen Altertum (Munich: Beck. .33. See also my discussion in Chapter 8. 21. Josephus Jewish Wars 1. see R. that in this or any of the other cases I mention we actually know the real motivations of the forger.3. of course. Shutt.299/357 Peter Jeffries.3. I am not saying. The New Testament book of Revelation. 2 vols.” in James Charlesworth. See Wolfgang Speyer. 1971). (New York: Doubleday. 2:7–34. William Whiston. The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex. written by an unknown John. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.. Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers 10. CT: Yale University Press. 2007). 24. For an English translation. 23. Martial Epigrams 7. “Letter of Aristeas. ed. Pausanius Description of Greece 6. What we do know is that Martial read his motivations in this way. 7. trans. and Madness in a Biblical Forgery (New Haven. p. J. but was taken up to heaven while still living seven generations after Adam—could have survived down to his. is a very rare exception. own day. 1979). J. 1985).

300/357 Enoch’s time in the days of Noah. That is true. I. the Acts of Paul is not a book that claims to be written by Paul. see A. but for fabricating a fictitious account and trying to pass it off as a historical record. 1990). “A Unique Source for the Study of Ancient Pseudonymity. E. Tertullian was no dummy—far from it. Porphyry Isagoge pr.” Anglican Theological Review 16 (1934): 8–15. For the letter and a full discussion of it. wouldn’t the book have perished? Tertullian goes out of his way to explain how it could. but his crime was not committing forgery. in fact. Anthony Grafton. Why does Tertullian have to go to the trouble of explaining this? Because he genuinely believed that it was written by Enoch. The author was punished not for lying about his identity. It is anachronistic for modern-day scholars to think that ancients must have seen through the ruse of apocalyptic forgery and recognized that the books produced were simply following the requirements of the genre. He was one of the real intellectuals of the Christian third century. Haefner. 25. NJ: Princeton University Press. As I point out in Chapter 3 in greater detail. It is almost always claimed by scholars dealing with Christian pseudepigrapha that the author of the socalled Acts of Paul (or Acts of Paul and Thecla) was caught and punished. it claims to be a true account about Paul. 28. Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship (Princeton. . 27. 26. have survived the flood.

Pseudepigraphie und literarische Fälschung im frühen Christentum (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. NJ: Princeton University Press. to “fabricate”). The most thorough examination is now forty years old. 31. but it has never been equaled. 2001). Also valuable. . is Norbert Brox. some ancient authors described the penning of works in a name other than one’s own with the Greek and Latin equivalents of our verb “to make” (as in “to create. And all of them agree that forgers intended to deceive their readers. 2001). In Chapter 4 I deal with other explanations that try to sanitize the practice as well. Together these authors give a comprehensive survey of all the ancient sources on forgery.301/357 29. In addition.. including the claim that apparent forgeries can be explained by authors having used secretaries who used a different writing style and altered the content of what the authors wanted to say. Most New Testament scholars. alas. The most recent work along these lines is Armin Baum. 32.e. have never read it—Speyer’s Die literarische Fälschung im heidnischen und christlichen Altertum. let alone surpassed. Falsche Verfasserangabe: Zur Erklärung der frühchristlichen Pseudepigraphie (Stuttgart: KBW. 30. Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Princeton. See Raffaella Cribbiore. though considerably less thorough. Most work on forgery in early Christianity focuses on the question of whether any pseudepigraphical writings made it into the New Testament. 1975).” “to forge”) or “to make up” (i.

Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 4. Plutarch The Oracles at Delphi 407B. There are a number of interesting books on lying for a general audience. 1999). P. 38. Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity (Grand Rapids. Clement Miscellanies 7. 40. 35. Herodotus Histories 7. (New York: Vintage. Origen in his lost book the Miscellanies. Die literarische Fälschung. For lying in antiquity. MI: Brazos.18. 36. eds.302/357 33. 34. 2004). Chapter 2: Forgeries in the Name of Peter 41. 53. 3. Athenaeus The Banqueters 13. 3. Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. Xenophon Memorabilia 4.. . see especially the collection of essays in Christopher Gill and T. The fullest and most compelling study of Augustine’s view of lying is David J. 389B.6.14–18. Griffiths. translation mine. Heliodorus Ethiopica I. 37. 3rd ed.6. discussed by Jerome in Against Rufinus 1. Plato Republic 382C. George’s father is so proud of his son for speaking the truth in the face of possible adversity that he takes him into his arms and praises him to the heavens. Speyer. 39.611B. One of the most influential has been Sissela Bok. 1. p. 1–4. 9. Wiseman. In the fuller account of the story.

For English translations of these stories. I tend to think the former. 2 vols. I’m simply saying that a hostile reader like Serapion may well have thought they were meant docetically.10–12. are a different kettle of fish. Some scholars have argued that these verses are not actually docetic. and Wilhelm Schneemelcher. Eusebius Church History 6.12. The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon. It is debated among scholars whether it is the “evildoer” who is punished by not having his legs broken or Jesus. Exceptions may be some kinds of fantasy and science fiction. (Louisville. 7. pp. Elliott. New Testament Apocrypha. W. but even there plausibility is an important feature. 6. trans. collectively known as the Acts of Peter. Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (New York: Oxford University Press. Loeb Classical Library (New York: Putnam. 390–430. 1922). 2:271–321. see Bart D. even if they were not. Wilson. since it doesn’t make as much sense to think that the soldiers got angry at Jesus for something the other fellow said. McL. see J. 2010). 10. Here I’m not arguing that the author intended them to be read docetically. 4.56. 5. to no one’s surprise. K. 1993). postmodern novels.303/357 Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (Austin: University of Texas Press. 8. trans. R. Ehrman and Zlatko Plese. 9. KY: Westminster John Knox. R. Paton. Polybius Histories 2. 1991–92). For an English translation. from the sixth German edition. . 1993).

See the discussion of Gal. And so the book was pseudepigraphical. 2:620–38. and Significance (New York: Oxford University Press. 2 vols. Apocryphal New Testament. 2:493–94. see Wilhelm Schneemelcher. 14. see Bruce Metzger. from the sixth German edition. and Schneemelcher. New Testament Apocrypha. In Serapion’s view a false account such as the Gospel of Peter could not have been written by an authority such as Peter. The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning (Philadelphia: Fortress. 2003). 1991–92). Though not in Paul’s own writings. 16. 15. (Louisville. pp. I have taken my quotations from there. Eusebius classifies the Apocalypse of Peter among the notha—the “bastard. 1985). 1987). 593–612.” forged writings—rather than among the books he accepts as canonical. KY: Westminster John Knox. New Testament Apocrypha. R. English translations can be found in Elliott. Note again the relation of an “author” to “authority” and vice versa. I deal with the matter for a general audience in my book Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (New York: Oxford University Press. Development. For a fully authoritative account. trans. For a more thorough and heavy-hitting study. 2:11–14 in the section on the noncanonical Epistle of Peter in Chapter 6. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin. Wilson. For English translations. written “under a false name” by someone else. But the fact that he has to mention the book at all in this 12. 13. . see Harry Gamble.304/357 11. McL.

Jesus of course would have been speaking Aramaic. First Epistle of. which includes evidence that it was not written by Peter. 5:269–78. The Aramaic word for “rock” is Kephas.” Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday. the Epistle of Barnabas. a document I discuss in Chapter 3. For a discussion of the book. Whoever wrote this book almost certainly did not have the Gospels to read. 19. . Second Epistle of. such as the Didache. 1992). H. see J. and that is how Peter’s name occurs when given in its Aramaic form. H. “Peter. 17. and the Shepherd of Hermas. 5:282–87. as with most of the other books he classified as notha. Elliott. which includes evidence that it was not written by Peter.” Anchor Bible Dictionary. Elliott. For a discussion of the book. It should not be objected that Peter did not actually see the crucifixion of Jesus and so was not a “witness” to his sufferings. I am not saying that I think the account in Matthew is historically accurate in describing Peter as the “rock” of the church. we can’t know what he thought about Peter’s involvement in Jesus’s last hours. “Peter.305/357 context suggests that there were other Christians who maintained that it should be accepted as Scripture. 20. 18. see J. The Apocalypse of Peter is also received as canonical (tentatively) in the late second-century Muratorian Canon. but I do think it highly probably that Jesus renamed Simon “the Rock” during his public ministry.

NJ: Princeton University Press. 24. 1989). see especially the study of Raffaella Cribbiore. CT: Yale University Press. William Harris. 1993). which. see Harry Gamble. the author uses the book of Jude and so must have written later than that forged letter. Ancient Literacy (Cambridge. 25. could not have been by Peter either. For insightful comments on the early collections of Paul’s letters. at least after the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70. MA: Harvard University Press. 23.” Why the author mixes Hebrew (Simeon instead of Simon) with Greek (Peter instead of the Aramaic Kephas) is a puzzle. And he knows 1 Peter (since he refers to this book as his “second” letter). that different churches and individuals collected these letters and started regarding them as Scripture. Paul himself did not think that he was writing “Scripture. Simeon appears to be the Hebrew form of “Simon. Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Princeton. when they received them. as I will argue more fully now. 22. but was written later. 2001). after Paul’s lifetime. . Books and Readers in the Early Church (New Haven. There are other reasons for assuming Peter did not write this letter. It was only later. pp. They too treated these writings. In 3:2 the author slips and refers to “your apostles” as if he is not one of them.306/357 21. Moreover.” He was writing personal letters to his churches. as personal correspondence. Among the many excellent studies of ancient education systems. 58–65.

307/357 26. (Louisville. McL. see J. 27. pp. 1991–92). The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon. The Cult of Saint Thecla: A Tradition of Women’s Piety in Late Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press. The Myth of a Gentile Galilee (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2000). Literacy in Roman Palestine (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. PA: Trinity Press International. Catherine Hezser. Elliot. 1. from the sixth German edition. Wilson. 3. Chapter 3: Forgeries in the Name of Paul 28. pp. which is still worth reading today. 2005). and Wilhelm Schneemelcher. R. Steely and 2. Jonathan Reed. 1993). 4. The famous synagogue that tourists see on the site today was built centuries later. The classic study of Marcion. 2001). . 350–89. see also his more recent study. was published by the great German scholar Adolf von Harnack in 1924. KY: Westminster John Knox. New Testament Apocrypha. trans. For an English translation. Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 29. Mark Chancey. Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus (Harrisburg. 140–69. K. 2:213–70. 2002). it has been partially translated into English by John E. For a full account of the Thecla traditions. 2 vols. Tertullian On Baptism 17. 2001). see Stephen Davis.

8. 6. 2008). and Schneemelcher. 7. Quinn. The scholarly literature on the pastoral letters is so massive that it is difficult to know where to refer interested readers who want to see the basic arguments about their authenticity. 547–52. 2:46–52. Benjamin White. Metzger. New Testament Apocrypha.. see Elliott. 5. but this view has not proved convincing to most. 1987). see Elliott. pp. see Bruce M. 1992). 305–07. pp. 380–82. pp. 1990). Possibly it is best to start with Jerome D. “Reclaiming Paul? Reconfiguration as Reclamation in 3 Corinthians.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 17 (2009): 497–523. Apocryphal New Testament. Epistles to. and Schneemelcher.” in Antti Marjanen and Petri Luomanen. 9. pp. The most recent overview is Heikki Raïsänen. see Chapter 6. For an English translation. 2:254–57. For a fuller description of Gnosticism.308/357 Lyle D. eds.” Anchor Bible Dictionary. A Companion to Second-Century Christian “Heretics” (Leiden: Brill. 100–124. “Timothy and Titus. The Canon of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press. NC: Labyrinth. Some scholars date the Muratorian Canon to the fourth century. For an English translation. My quotations here follow Schneemelcher’s translation. Bierma as Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God (Durham. New Testament Apocrypha. For an English translation. David Noel Friedman (New York: Doubleday. 10. Apocryphal New Testament. . ed. “Marcion.

the fewer total number of words that can be found in a letter means that there are fewer different words used. Paul the Letter Writer in the Second Letter to Timothy (Sheffield: Sheffield University Press. The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (Oxford: Oxford University Press. see the lively discussion in the introduction in Luke Timothy Johnson. and so comes up with an explanation that sounds perhaps like a case of special pleading. The First and Second Letters to Timothy (New York: Doubleday. 14. For example. But not with the pastoral letters. Baum points out that in the other letters of Paul. for virtually anything any biblical scholar talks about—there are differences of opinion even here.” Tyndale Bulletin 59 (2008): 271–92. Among other things. 13. Baum still wants to think that these books are written by Paul. 11. which have fewer words than many of Paul’s letters. As is true of everything I talk about in this book—as is true. Harrison. in fact. this means that if any one of these letters is forged. “Semantic Variation Within the Corpus Paulinum: Linguistic Considerations Concerning the Richer Vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles. Paul took more consideration and time with these letters than 12. This is the case even with scholars who want to argue that Paul did write the letters. 1989). N. 2001).309/357 6:560–71. but more different words. 1921). In his view. they’re all forged. . For a representative of the minority view that Paul actually was the author of the pastoral letters. Michael Prior. One of the most recent studies is Armin Baum. A. however.

20. 1977). “Zu den persönlichen Notizen der Pastoralbriefe. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids. Dennis Ronald MacDonald. 1983). MI: Eerdmans. Moreover. First and Second Epistles to the. . Epistle to.” Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday. The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon (Philadelphia: Westminster. 18. 19. 1992). Baum doesn’t cite any evidence to suggest that the Pastorals were composed in writing by Paul rather than dictated. 21. That seems highly unlikely to me. 15. Paul certainly put a lot of time and effort into composing letters like Romans and Galatians. “Thessalonians. the scholarship on this question is voluminous. J. 1980).” Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday. “Ephesians. 1992). F. the article is available only in German: Norbert Brox. See J. by Paul or anyone else. Christiaan Beker. Unfortunately. Bruce. 17. 1991). 2:535–42. A good place to start is Edgar Krenz. Once again. See Victor Paul Furnish. 6:515–23. Heirs of Paul: Paul’s Legacy in the New Testament and in the Church Today (Minneapolis: Fortress. F. Christiaan Beker. 16.” Biblische Zeitschrift 13 (1969): 76–94. since he was composing them in writing rather than orally. Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress.310/357 his others.

the book has never been translated into English: Walter Bujard. see his “The Development of the Idea of Canonical Pseudipigrapha in New Testament Criticism. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew 2.311/357 22. the “Old Testament. Stilanalytische Untersuchungen zum Kolosserbrief: Als Beitrag zur Methodik von Sprachvergleichen (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Chapter 4: Alternatives to Lies and Deceptions 1. rather than dogmatic. “Colossians. Collins.” and that his doctrine of inspiration may not have coincided with my own view that the Bible was completely without error. These views of Daniel and Ecclesiastes are almost universally held by critical scholars today. . 1:1090–96. and Michael Coogan. see two of the leading textbooks on the Hebrew Bible in use throughout American universities today: John J.” Vox Evangelica 1 (1962): 43–59. 1973). Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress. a view that in fact came into existence only in modern times. 2004). See Victor Paul Furnish. 23.” Anchor Bible Dictionary. grounds that there can be no forgeries in the New Testament. 3. Epistle to the. A partial exception may be the view of evangelical scholar Donald Guthrie. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the author of 2 Timothy would have been speaking only about the Scriptures he knew. Unfortunately. who tries to argue on historical. For an introductory discussion.

But he is willing to concede. along with the vast majority of scholars. p. A. 12. 10. 2006). Baum is reluctant to consider too many of the books of the New Testament forgeries. p. that 2 Peter is. For an assessment of how certain books came to be considered part of the canon of Scripture. This is the claim of one of the most recent scholars of forgery who has come out of Germany. 31. Another approach is to acknowledge that false authorial claims do indeed constitute forgery—lies with the intent to deceive—but to insist that the Bible should not have such books in it. Menken. p. Armin Baum. for example. 8. 1994). The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (Oxford: Oxford University Press. J. 2005). 40. 2 Thessalonians (London: Routledge. Argyle.” New Testament Studies 20 (1974): 445. Andrew Lincoln. 1990). Wilson. 9. it should be removed from the New Testament (implied in his book Pseudepigraphie und literarische Fälschung im frühen Christentum [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. given such a view. 2001] and confirmed by private correspondence). who thinks that if it can be shown that a book really is forged.312/357 Scriptures (New York: Oxford University Press. . Harrison. 1921). McL. 7. As you might imagine. Colossians and Philemon (London: Clark. 6. W. “The Greek of Luke and Acts. J. M. 4. see my 5. N. A. R. lxx. p. Ephesians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

” Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972): 15–16. 13. The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning (Philadelphia: Fortress. 12. 1986). David Meade. 18. Norbert Brox. 1971). “Literary Forgeries and Canonical Pseudepigrapha. pp. 65–85. Pseudonymity and Canon: An Investigation into the Relationship of Authorship and Authority in Jewish and Earliest Christian Tradition (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Die literarische Fälschung im heidnischen und christlichen Altertum (Munich: Beck. translation mine. 16. 2003). p. Margaret Y. James Dunn. p. Bruce M. A fuller discussion can be found in Harry Gamble. MacDonald. Metzger. “The Problem of Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Christian Literature of the First Two Centuries. 8. 17.” in The Living Word (Philadelphia: Fortress. “The Problem of Pseudonymity.313/357 study Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (New York: Oxford University Press. 1994). translation mine. 11. 14. Falsche Verfasserangabe: Zur Erklärung der frühchristlichen Pseudepigraphie (Stuttgart: KBW. p. p. 81. 1975). Kurt Aland.” Journal of Biblical Literature 12 (1961): 39–49. 2000). Colossians (New York: Doubleday. MN: Liturgical. 1987). Colossians and Ephesians (Collegeville. . 15. 3. 123. 1985). Wolfgang Speyer. Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke.

But they are so long after the fact that they cannot help us know what was happening in the time of the New Testament. 22.4. The passage is discussed at some length. See Leonid Zhmud. 20. 1997). Two later Neoplatonic philosophers. 1961).1–22). Introduction to the Pythagorean Writings of the Hellenistic Period (Åbo: Åcademi. Two additional sources come from centuries later still and are of almost no historical worth. Elias In Porphyrii Isagogen et Aristotelis Categorias Commentaria 128. Philosophie und Religion im frühen Pythagoreismus (Berlin: Akademie. Ibn Abi Usaybi’a. Kitab ‘uyun al-anba ’fi tabaqat alatibba’. the comments of Olympiodorus and Elias may ultimately derive from the tradition starting with Iamblichus. 1:244–45. Holger Thesleff. 4 vols. p. half a millennium earlier (any more than the editorial practices in vogue today can tell us what was happening in the 1500s). ed. in Baum. . living some two and a half centuries after Iamblichus. 2001). some two hundred fifty years earlier. for example. 24. 21.314/357 19. 25. 23. Olympiodorus and Elias. See. 53–55. ‘Amir al-Najjar. Moreover.4–14. 91. pp. Iamblichus Life of Pythagoras 31. Pseudepigraphie und literarische Fälschung. for example. (Cairo: al-Hay’a al-Misriyya al-‘Amma lil-Kitab. Wissenschaft. make roughly similar comments (Olympiodorus Prolegomenon 13. as I argue below.

315/357 26. Collins. For an English translation. see Bart D. See John J. Richards. see Ehrman and Plese. The Secretary in the Letters of Paul (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 5: Forgeries in Conflicts with Jews and Pagans 1. 4. For a fuller discussion. Secretary. Apocryphal Gospels. Tertullian Apology 21. Secretary. The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (New York: Doubleday. 6. Ehrman and Zlatko Plese. 7. . Apocryphal Gospels. 1991). Randolph Richards. 9. 108. see Ehrman and Plese. Apocryphal Gospels. 28. For an English translation. 27. 10. For an English translation of the Gospel of Nicodemus.2. 3. 1995).24. E. see Ehrman and Plese. For an English translation. 8. For an English translation. Eusebius Church History 2. p.24. see Ehrman and Plese. Tertullian Apology 21. Apocryphal Gospels. 2010). pp. Richards. see my Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why 2. 110–11. see Ehrman and Plese. Apocryphal Gospels. 5. For an English translation.

. Or a declaration of condemnation of unjust judges. such as Augustine (Against Faustus 28. 15. The Pericope Adulterae. 14. My reasoning in this case is that it is not a letter that existed outside of its fictional context. see Ehrman and Plese. 63–65.4). 333–46. 2009). Thelwell. For English translations of both letters. An English translation of excerpts of Egeria’s diary is provided by Andrew Jacobs in Bart Ehrman and Andrew Jacobs. 2005).4) and Leo the Great (Sermon 34. Christianity in Late Antiquity. The Ante- 12. the Gospel of John. 13. S.. a piece of correspondence that circulated independently as a writing of Jesus. eds. 2003). 17. Other writings allegedly written by Jesus are referred to in several church fathers. 18. pp. Tertullian Apology 40. pp. Augustine On the Harmony of the Gospels 1. “What was he writing?” Some have thought that he must have been writing out the sins of the woman’s accusers. Or a particularly apt quotation of scripture. Apocryphal Gospels. 11.316/357 (San Francisco: Harper-SanFrancisco. and the Literacy of Jesus (Leiden: Brill. Or something else! Chris Keith. 16. 300–450 CE: A Reader (New York: Oxford University Press. trans.10. In the history of the interpretation of the passage the question has always been. in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson.

Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon. The Octavius of Minucius Felix (Mahway. 7. Ovid Metamorphoses 14. 2 vols. 28. 25. For an excellent study of the Sibyl and her oracles. ed. in Charlesworth. Collins.732. the pagan critic Celsus around 177 CE. W. MI: Eerdmans.6–7.136–46. W. Sibylline Oracles. 1972). C.56.. in G. also see a Latin oration attributed to the (Christian) emperor Constantine found in Eusebius’s Life of 20.734). (New York: Doubleday.53. 19. For example. McGin (London: Routledge. 1:317–472. in James Charlesworth. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.. ed. Minucius Felix Octavius 9. see H. Parke.317/357 Nicene Fathers (reprint. For English translations of a range of accounts. 1983–85). ed. 21. Justin First Apology 20. Clarke. . 27.5. as quoted by the church father Origen in his book Against Celsus (5. see John J.615.61. For a full analysis and translation of the surviving oracles..5. Grand Rapids. see Herbert Musurillo. 23. 1988). NJ: Paulist. Eusebius Church History 9. 24. 22. ed. 1974). 1995). All translations are by Collins. 7. Minucius Felix Octavius 9. Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy in Classical Antiquity. 26. B. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

They are called this because they consist of twenty sermons allegedly given by Clement. in which the emperor claims that the pagan charges of forgery are false. vol. Grand Rapids. Gunther. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. eds. Revelation and Redemption at Colossae (Sheffield: JSOT. 1991). 1973). By Philosophy and Empty Deceit: Colossians as Response to a Cynic Critique (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Thomas Sappington. For a competent treatment by a good scholar (with whom I disagree on a number of points). “The Pseudo-Clementine Literature. 5. . Just James: The 3. Paul’s Opponents and Their Background (Leiden: Brill. Colossian Controversy: Wisdom in Dispute at Colossae (Sheffield: Sheffield University Press. see John Painter.318/357 Constantine. Clinton Arnold. John J. 8 (reprint. There has been a spate of books on the historical James in recent years. 1995). 1994). Colossian Syncretism: The Interface Between Christianity and Folk Belief at Colossae (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Chapter 6: Forgeries in Conflicts with False Teachers 1.. I have taken all translations of the Pseudo-Clementine Writings from Thomas Smith. 1996). MI: Eerdmans. 1995).” in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. in which he tells his tales of journeys and adventures with the apostle Peter. 2. 4. Troy Martin. St. Richard DeMaris.

This is an attractive option. But still other scholars have pointed out that there are lots of sea-travel narratives not written in the first person. Scholars have come up with four major possible explanations for these “we passages. If the itinerary came from a different author.319/357 Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition (Edinburgh: Clark. The traditional explanation is that the author really was Paul’s companion. 53–58. 6. pp. since the author makes so many mistakes about Paul’s life and teachings that he doesn’t seem to be a close companion. Other scholars have maintained that the author. . Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) (San Francisco: HarperOne. creating the odd use of “we” on occasion (since that was how the itinerary was worded).” Three of the four explanations simply don’t seem to work. See. the discussion in my Jesus. had access to a companion of Paul’s travel itinerary and inserted it in a few places. you would expect the style to be different. The fourth explanation is the one that seems to me to have the fewest problems: the author has edited these sections of Acts to make his readers assume 7. 1997). That view is problematic though. whoever he was. but it does not explain why the writing style and vocabulary of the “we passages” is virtually the same as the rest of Acts. so this does not seem to explain these passages. 2009). Other scholars have argued that the author is using an age-old technique of describing travel narratives—especially those involving sea journeys—in the first person. for example.

See note 6. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (San Francisco: HarperOne. 12. He is talked about as the twin of Jesus in the ancient Syrian book the Acts of Thomas. 9. 14. . Both Didymus and Thomas mean “twin” Jude was his name. Whether Epiphanius actually knew and read these other books or instead was making them up is anyone’s guess. For three very different perspectives from leading scholars. The Gnostic Scriptures: Ancient Wisdom for the New Age (New York: Doubleday. 10. This would explain why the “we” sections begin and end so abruptly: it was just a stylistic device used by the author to insert himself into the story in a few places. 8. Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.320/357 that he was actually with Paul for these parts of the story.14.1. Scholars today are widely split on how to discuss Gnosticism or even whether to consider Gnosticism a single broad phenomenon. For a fresh translation of the Nag Hammadi writings. What Is Gnosticism? (Cambridge. 2007). MA: Harvard University Press.. 2007). Bentley Layton. Epiphanius The Medicine Chest 26. Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature (Minneapolis: Fortress. which describes his missionary journey to India after Jesus’s death. even though he was not. and Birger Pearson. 1987). 13. 11. see Marvin Meyer. 2005). see Karen King. ed.

Loeb 3. Nag Hammadi Scriptures. Irenaeus Against Heresies 3. in a famous biblical manuscript of the fifth century. Collins. see Bart D. pp. 2:412–13. The Scepter and the Star (New York: Doubleday. 1991–92). Patrology (Utrecht: Spectrum. 1995) and my brief discussion in Chapter 5.11. For an English translation. For the full text of Papias’s comments. I have taken my quotations from there. 2 vols. (Louisville. trans. The Apostolic Fathers. 6. 235–45. Codex Alexandrinus. R. 487–97. see Meyer. See the next note. for example. it comes to us third-hand. KY: Westminster John Knox. 17. Wilson. 1950).. see Meyer. 5. 2. 16. For an English translation. Thus Johannes Quasten. 1:249–84. that is. 4.321/357 15. Chapter 7: False Attributions. New Testament Apocrypha. 2 vols. see Wilhelm Schneemelcher. For an English translation. Fabrications. pp. Ehrman. and Falsifications: Phenomena Related to Forgery 1. McL. Papias indicates that he received this information from someone who had known the apostles. For the variety of expectations of what the future messiah would be like. Nag Hammadi Scriptures. see John J. .7. It is included as part of the canon of the New Testament. I have taken my quotations from there.

12. 2009). 2010). For an argument that the author intends to make his readers think he was Paul. 15. The fullest. Elliott. 2009). see Clare Rothschild. see Ehrman. For an English translation. 2001). K. For an English translation. 2:3–83. University Press. 7.5. 2:103. most recent study is Reidar Aasgaard. Apocryphal Gospels.322/357 Classical Library (Cambridge. Ehrman and Zlatko Plese. Tertullian Against Marcion 4. 11. OR: Cascade. Apostolic Fathers. See David Dungan and J. 102–12. MA: Harvard I argue this case in my book Jesus. see Ehrman and Plese. 2009). . 9. pp. 10. see Ehrman and Plese. Art and the Christian Apocrypha (New York: Routledge. and probably don’t need to give all the arguments and information yet again here. Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (New York: Oxford University Press. 2003). Hebrews as Pseudepigraphon (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 13. 14. The Childhood of Jesus: Decoding the Apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas (Eugene. For an English translation. 8. Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) (San Francisco: HarperOne. Apocryphal Gospels. For an English translation. see Bart D.

Hoover. D. The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: Macmillan. 1993). p. 20. R. Lies. Interrupted. eds. pp.54.66. Hicks. 1826).12. 19. Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. This is the subject of my earlier book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco: HarperOne. Ker. 17. MI: Eerdmans. 2005). 65–68. See the discussion in Gordon Fee. this view that the Gospels contain nonhistorical accounts is not just my idiosyncratic idea. Walter C. Robert Funk. Chapter 8: Forgeries.60. 22. Polybius Histories 9. A. The Architecture of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. 1931). 5.. more briefly. 21. Misquoting Jesus. Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge. See my Jesus. it is the consensus of modern critical scholarship and has been for a very long time. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids.2. 183–86. MA: Harvard University Press. and the Writings of the New Testament . Martial Epigrams 1.93. trans. 22. Deceptions. 23. and the Jesus Seminar. Roy W. See my Misquoting Jesus. 1987) or. Here I summarize just a few of the most important points. pp. 18. 1979). trans. trans. 24. 8.323/357 16. Joseph Gwilt (London: Priestley and Weale. Diogenes Laertius Lives 2. As I stress there.

Strange Tales. 9. Goodspeed. Modern Apocrypha (Boston: Beacon. 97–101. Strange Tales. 3–14. a committed vegetarian who wrote ten books on vegetarianism and the occult. 57–65. 20–28. According to Beskow. 7. pp. Modern Apocrypha. Goodspeed. See Goodspeed. though by no other source of the first century. 8. I have taken the translation from Goodspeed. especially popular in the Byzantine Christianity. 45–49. Beskow. Per Beskow. of course.324/357 1. 2. . 16–24. Modern Apocrypha. 1956). 92–93. This tale is based on old traditions. and Beskow. By Roman source I mean any source written by a pagan author of the Roman Empire. and twice in the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus. Edgar J. Modern Apocrypha. pp. See Goodspeed. Modern Apocrypha. Discussed in Goodspeed. pp. 6. pp. 3. pp. which arguably provide the origin for the custom of coloring Easter eggs. pp. Modern Apocrypha. Jesus is mentioned in Christian sources. pp. 101. 10. Strange Tales About Jesus: A Survey of Unfamiliar Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress. 4. Goodspeed. 1983). about Mary and a red egg. Modern Apocrypha. p. Strange Tales. 42–50. See Goodspeed. Beskow. Modern Apocrypha. 92–96. this account was written by the Anglican clergyman Gieon Ouseley (1835–1906). pp. 5.

16. who argues vehemently that the letter of Clement is authentic. 2005). 14. The Passover Plot (New York: Bantam. 3rd ed. n. 13.325/357 11. Hugh Schonfield. (New York: Vintage. See Chapter 1. For a popular treatment. One of Morton Smith’s most avid supporters. n. Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. . 1965). is Scott Brown. his fullest study is Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery (Waterloo. See Chapter 1. 16. ON: Laurier University Press. 1999). 15. see Sissela Bok. 12.

221–222 Against Heresies (Irenaeus). 233. 191. 194–196 abstinence teachings. summary of. 202–206. 28 Anaximenes. 40 Alexander the False Prophet (Lucian). Paul’s conversion account. differing from Paul’s writings. 155 Acts of Pilate. 172–173 Acts of the Apostles. 89. To locate a specific passage. 27. 29 . 8. 162–163 Abraham. 208. 75. 94 Aeschines. 106. inaccurately aligning Paul with apostles. 286n7. authorship of. 50–52. 81–83. See sexual abstinence teachings Acts of Paul (and Thecla). 23. as a forgery. 202–209. 202–204 Adam. Abgar. 262. 128–129. Kurt. 124 Alexander (son of Herod). See also second coming beliefs Against All Heresies. 18. 64–65. 247 afterlife. 42. 270n27 Acts of Peter. please use the search feature of your e-book reader. 88. 103–104. 233 Acts of Peter and Paul. 30. King. noting Peter’s illiteracy. 208–209. 206–209. 18.SEARCHABLE TERMS Note: The pagination of this electronic edition does not match the edition from which it was created. 220–221. 213. 63. 6. 225 Aland. 204–206. 30.

89. 64. 20. 4. 134. Paul’s relationship to the. 169 Augustine. 10. 246–247. 160. 263. 74. 185 Athenagoras. 55–56. 94. 75. 119–120. 249–250 anti-Semitism. 5–7. 31 asceticism. included in New Testament. 202–203. 96. 85–86 Apocalypse of John (Revelation). 205. notions of fiction. 18. 112. spirit-inspired writing from the. as equivalent to forgery. 24. 63–65. Emperor. 222–224 . 213 Apocalypse of Peter. 30. use of secretaries. 263 Aurelian. 76. 18. 72. 22. 26–27. See also forgery in the ancient world. 185 anonymous writing: to boost authority. as illiterate. Roman Empire angels. 89.” 41. 37. evangelical. 123–125 Apostolic Constitutions. 27. 217. plagiarism. 160–161. 198 Aristotle. literacy and education. 23. 20. 45–48. forgeries associated with. 223–225. 47–49. 30. 21.327/357 Ancient Literacy (Harris). 49. religion. Gospels formerly “memoirs of the. 42. 105 Apocalypse of Paul. attribution and. libraries. 169–170 apostles: apostolic succession. wrongly attributed. 29–31 apocalyptic teachings. 32. view of “noble lie. 26.” 225. 61. 151–152 Antitheses (Marcion). 8. 70–73. 206. 70–71 ancient world: copying texts. 105–106 apologetics/apologists. 248–249 Apostolic Tradition. 7–8. 41–42. 240–241. 140. 35. 27–28 authority. historical writing. 59. 221–222. 274n16 apocalyptic forgeries. 220. 199. 249 Aramaic.

and the Gospel of Peter. 137 Buddhism and Jesus hoax. 145–149. 47 Birth of Mary. Christiaan. 55–59. misattributions of. 23. See Jesus Christian apologists. Norbert. 169–170 Christianity: evangelical. 102. See sexual abstinence teachings Cerinthus. 79–81 canonical Gospels: as anonymous. 105–106. 24. 252. 220–221. 224–225. 229–232 Beker. 100. 83. F. violence and . 109 Beskow. 111 Barnabas. 21. 215–216 Brox. 123 Bruce. 103 Christ. 115–117 biography. messianic claims. 3. second coming beliefs. 4. 149. 109 Brutus.328/357 Babylon. F. 105–106. 94 biblical infallibility. Per. 134. 217 childbearing. Old Testament biblical “conduct codes. legacy of lies and deceptions. 254 Bible. 223–228. 261–265. 113 Caldwell. 68 baptism. 145–146. 5. 46. 115–117. 74 celibacy teachings. 82. 252–254 Bujard. 57–58. 40–42. Taylor. J. 248 Capernaum. 213 Book of Thomas the Contender. possible plagiarism in. 17. 2–4.. See New Testament. Walter. cast as continuous with Old Testament. lack of resurrection accounts. 94.” 2.

64 David (Aristotle commentator). 137. 255 . 94 Confession of Pontius Pilate. 207 “conduct codes. 146. 155 Clement of Alexandria. 8–9. 128. 7 crucifixion of Jesus. 138 Claudius. 101. 101–102. 88–89. 41–42. 224 Dead Sea Scrolls. 143–145. King. 254–256 Daniel. 213–214 Coptic church. 190. 261 Clement of Rome. 222 creation. 156. 89. 176–178. 103. 131 Dante. The. forged documents to direct. 21. 87. 52–53. 114. 30. 103. on role of women. 222 Cleobius. 160 coauthoring theories. 103–105 Cicero. 54. 31–32 creeds. 95–96 credibility motive. 6. 121. 222. 136. 77. 153 copying texts. 88. 181. 31 David. 240–242 Corinthian church. 129. 162 church leaders: authorship of 1 Clement. 20. The. on lying. 259 Coptic Apocalypse of Peter. development of hierarchy. 99–100. 136–137 Colossians. 62. 42. See Jesus. 94. encouraging marriage of. 185. modern forgeries and hoaxes Church History (Eusebius). 117. debates over suspicious documents. 82–83.329/357 conflict in. crucifixion of Crucifixion of Jesus. 112–114. See also early Christianity. 18–19. Emperor.” 2. by an Eye-Witness. 134.

249 Didymus the Blind. 57. 8–11. in support of Paul. 262. 215 docetism. Emperor. 87. 262. 103. 256 Didache. 19–22. 159–163. 89 Douglas. 94. by Gnostics. See also false teachings deceptions. 64 divine knowledge/spark. 88–90. 18–19. 86. 250. 149 deutero-Pauline letters. 7–8 Divine Comedy (Dante). 199–202. writings of Jesus. 216–218. 21 Dionysius the Renegade. 148. See also pastoral letter forgeries. New Testament. 40 discovery narrative. 53–54. Archibald. 247 Dionysius (3rd-century scholar). 164 deicide. 29. Martin. 92–93 Dibelius. false teachings put down by. 95. evangelical views on. Pauline forgeries. to fend off pagan attacks. 22. emergence of. 65–70. 248–249 Didascalia. 218. 29 Diotimus. 177–178. 29. 216. J. 27. 16–17.” 144. 9–10. church leader debates over. 217. 22 Diogenes Laertius. 262–265. 139–141. 171. 55–57. 170–173. 118. falsehood to promote “truth. scholarly justification of forgery . 35 divine authority. 218. 115–117. Petrine forgeries. 40–42. 145. 21. 59–60. 17–19. 211. 265. 254 early Christian forgery: blaming Jews for crucifixion. overview on. See lies and deceptions Decius. early Christian. 212–216. miracles in. 49–52. 210. 183–188. 96.330/357 debates. noncanonical books. 214. 180–183. possible justifications for. 149–152.

99. Second Treatise of the Great Seth. 143–145. 85. 233. 145. 112–114. Gnosticism. 108–113. 197–198 .331/357 early Christian forgery list: Acts of Peter. 50–52. 108–112. 217. pastoral letter forgeries. Colossians. 100. 163 Empedocles. false attribution. 88–90. 192–198. salvation through Jesus in. 90–92. Epistula Apostolorum. sexual abstinence teachings Ecclesiastes. See also Acts of the Apostles. 94. 67. 221. Hebrews. 194–198. 218. 216. 163–164. 22. 240–245. splits over sex. 129–130. 103–105. question of plagiarism. Jewish law and Christians. 3 Corinthians. 18. 137. 61. 32–33. challenges of apostolic succession. 161. fabrications. second coming beliefs. role of women. 5–7. faith and works debate. 63–65. Pilate Gospels early Christianity: based on conflict. 129. 177. 22. 213–214. false teachings. falsifications in. 162–163 Egeria. 143–144. 143–144. 129–130. Ephesians. 30. 190–192. Coptic Apocalypse of Peter. Sibylline oracles. 138. 171. Apostolic Constitutions. rooted in truth claims. 105. 37. 30 Ephesians. Jude. 174–176. Apocalypse of Peter. 247–249. 120. 81. 20. and the Roman Empire. 186–188. 100–101. Letters of Paul and Seneca. 247 Enoch. Jewish/Christian conflicts. 62–63. 18. 18. 165–170. 114. Pseudo-Clementine Writings. Book of Thomas the Contender. 215–216. overview on debates in. 109–111. 180–183. Epistle of Peter. 99–100. 103–104. 62–63. 150–152. James. early Christian forgery. 35. Gospel of Peter. Gospel of Nicodemus. 82–83. marriage beliefs. 229. 117 Edessa. 136. 160. 172–173. 7–8. 128. Timothy to the Church. 200. spiritual gifts and equality. marriage. 185. 82–83. pagan opposition to. See also church leaders.

40 Epiphanius. 180–182. Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. 149. mistaken. 234–236 faith.332/357 Epicurus. 26. 7 fabrications. 236–237. 104 Eros. 180–218. 94 evidence. 156. religious. attribution of the Gospels and. 229. 225–226. 101. 221–222. 54. of Marcion. 62–63. 94. 40–42 Euripides. 84–88. 103. 189–190. 173 evangelical Christians. as pseudepigraphy. 145–146 Eve. 232–234. context and authorship. 115–117. 49–52. 232–240. 6. Acts of Paul. 88–90. 220–221. 162. Infancy Gospel of Thomas. 81–83. 95. 229–232. and works. to increase authority of writing. 237–239. 24 false teachings. 227. 223–228. 188–189. 267n3. 4 exclusivity. in the New Testament. 216–218. 212. 180–183. 239–240. misattribution of the Gospels. New Testament. 105–106. forgery to promote. Acts of Peter and Paul. 27 Eusebius. 229–232 Epistle of Peter. 199–202. 2–4. forgeries to put down. 27–28 Essenes. 218. 8–9. 52–53. overview on. and controversy surrounding Paul. 204 Epistula Apostolorum. 220–232. early Christian debates overview. 21. 213 Epistle of Barnabas. about Peter. 217 equality. 64. Epistle of Barnabas. 183–188. 29. Proto-Gospel of James. 222–223. 155. targeting Judaism / aligned . 194–198 false attribution. 255–256 ethical views.

249. See also Gnosticism. scholarly justification of forgery forgery in the ancient world: as accepted practice. 38–39. 145–146 Galatians. 126. 75–76. 134. 189. 204–205 Galen. 222 1 Corinthians. 89–90. 115–117. 240–245 fiction. 141. detection of. literary: as deceptive. 16–17. techniques of forgers. modern forgeries and hoaxes. 9. 131. condemnation of. 140. 96 forgery. 105–106. 171–172. 221. 188. 23. defining. 26–27. 224 1 Thessalonians. 195. 262. 93. prevalence of. 36. 25. 119–120. motivation for forgery. 99. negative words to describe. punishment for. 199–200. 211–212. 66–68. 37–38. intention to deceive. 33. 40. 224 1 Peter. 191. 10. See also early Christian forgery fundamentalist Christians. 100–101. 19–20. 94–100. 208. 30–31. 101. as multifunctional. 111. See also early Christian forgery. 170–171. 37–38. See lies and deceptions falsifications. 38–39. 99. 24–25. methods of. 102–103.” 121. 36–37. 246 flesh. 229–232. 134–139. The (Jesus Seminar). 229 1 Kings. 36. “honest. 36–37. 88–90. 119–123. 15. 115. 13–15. 214–217 the flesh. 22. 33–35. 25. 140–141. apocalyptic. 232. 93. 138. 113. intention of. 193. 45–48 1 Clement. 39 . forgeries in opposition to falsehood. 244–245 1 John. 61. 9. 33–35. 204 1 Samuel. 39–40. 106–108.333/357 with Paul. 193. 2–4. Paul. 113. 123–125. 96. 200 1 Timothy. 93. 25–26. 110. 223. 244 Five Gospels. Dionysius’s ruse. Hitler diaries. 39.

214. 210. The. 195. gift of the Spirit of. 42 Golden Rule. 52–54. divine knowledge/spark in. 17. 216–217. noncanonical. overview on. 236–237. literary. 38. 41. 115–116. 248 Gospel of the Holy Twelve. 46 Gentile Christians and the law. 3. 214. in Gnosticism. 31. 17. as forgery. 209–212. 55. 213 Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. 96. 210–211. 211. messiah from. 150–152. intention of author. salvation through transcendence of the flesh. 99. 259 Gospel of Thomas. 172–173 Gospel of Peter. blaming Jews for crucifixion. Bible as inspired by. 31. 265 “good works” teachings. 59–60. 161. 79–81 . as truth. 215. 211. 59. 252. 73–74 Genesis. use of deception by. 95–96. 95. 146–149. 52. 88. 209–217. 17. account of Jesus’s death and resurrection. pastoral letter forgeries linked to. See Jewish law and Christians George Washington illustration. forgeries in opposition to. Edgar. 100. 55–57. 149–150. 233. 96. 95–96. 30. 231. Marcion’s beliefs on. 52–60. 213 Gospels.334/357 Galilee. 214 God: in apocalyptic writings. 54–55 Gospel of Philip. 55–59. forgeries to promote. 211–212. 182. 117. 233. fabrication in. 194–198 Goodspeed. 54. 254. 212–216. objective knowledge of. 210. as heretical. rediscovery of. 258 Gospel of Nicodemus. as fragmentary. 44–45 Gnosticism. 196 genre. early source information on. 17 Grafton. 33 Great Lion of God (Caldwell). 110. 85–89. views on Jesus. 212. New Testament. Anthony. See canonical Gospels Gospels. 96.

247 heresiologists. 247 Hezser.335/357 Greek language proficiency. 145. 138–139. 23 homosexual acts by Jesus. 71 Harrison. 200 human body/flesh. 190–192. 65 Hemis monastery. 27. 27. 221. 211–212. 98 Hebrew Bible. 153–154 Herodotus. A. 13–15 Holy Spirit. 47–49. 254 Heraclides of Pontus. 67. 72–73 historical writing. See false teachings Herod. 100–101 Holy Spirit-inspired forgery. 88–90. 18. 75. 149. 115. 261 hope. 232–234 Hitler diaries. 76 Guthrie. Catherine. King. 239 Herod Antipas. forgery to inspire. 198 Greek Septuagint. 29. 157–159 Harris. 123–125 Homer. 56. 252–253. 96. 23. 198 Hebrews. 29–31 Hosea. 40. 39 Hesiod. See Old Testament Hebrew language. 71–76. Kenneth Sylvan. 229 Heliodorus. book of. 247 Homilies. 44–45. 41 hell. 7. 214–217 . gifts of the. N. 258–259 Handing Over of Pilate. 204 homonymous writing. 72–73. 16–17. 22.. William. 221 heretical views. 75.

213. 96. 160. 146–147. 234. 236–239. as Jewish messiah. 225–226 Isaiah. as misinterpreted. 105 Jeremiah. 79–81. 187. 236 Jenkins.336/357 humiliation of rival. book of. 252–254 James. 237–239 influence. 131–133 India. 182. 25–26. 61–63. bringing the sword. 252–254. 53–54. 30. pagan views of. writing to demonstrate. 193–194. 87. 150–152. 127–128. 209. James’s relationship to. 145–149. forgery increasing. 143. 182. brother of Jesus. 214. 86. Gnostic views of. Golden Rule. 207. 224 Issa stories. 59. 212. 145 Jerome. early church schisms and. 210. docetists views of. 239. and Paul’s conversion. 252–254. birth of. 7. 183. 57. 38–39. 146. 205. 62. 192–198 James. 59–60. 235–236. 265. 129–133 Iamblichus. 89. 193. 56–57. “lost years” stories. 259–261. 172–173. 162 Israel. 169. 253–254 Infancy Gospel of Thomas. 206. 68. king of. childhood miracle accounts. 18. as engaging in homosexuality. 8–9. in forged apocalypse. in Gospel of Nicodemus. . 242. 122 Irenaeus. 211–212. 61. 60. accounts of Jesus in. 213. divine revelation through. 261. 149–150 Jesus: and the adulterous woman. 224–225. 203. 166. Jerry. in modern-day hoaxes. 191–192. 21 Jerusalem’s destruction. 145. 89. 197–199. 27 humility of disciple. 31–32 intention to deceive.

Marcion’s views on. 149–152. questioned about the afterlife. 58. 189–190. as of the flesh. 55–57. transfiguration of. 169. king of Israel. 99. 145–149. Roman Empire in accounts of. 29–30. See also Pilate Gospels Jesus. The. resurrection of: account in Gospel of Peter. 109–110. 18. 246 Jewish/Christian conflicts. 200. crucifixion of: blaming Jews for the. as united with Gentile Christians. 230. 175–176. 231 Jews/Judaism: apocalyptic writing in. 156. 149. maligning Judaism in Barnabas. 80–81. 57–59. varied messianic beliefs. 146–147. 171. 257–258. 191. James’s commitment to. blaming Jews for crucifixion. 146–147. 163. 99. 81. 72–75. 55–58. 193. 163. See also Pilate Gospels Jewish law and Christians: Barnabas discrediting. 229–231. 68–69. forgeries addressing. linking Gospels with. 149–152. 181. 174–175 . 224–225. 31. 161. 152. 212–215. 109. 208. 195–198. Pilate’s Death Sentence hoax. teachings in Gnostic forgeries. writings attributed to. 218. 112. 60–63. 217. 148. 224. 85. literacy and language skills. 176–177. 254–256. writing forgeries to support. by an Eye-Witness. as vegetarian. 28–29. Crucifixion of Jesus. 231–232. 59. 211–212. 213–214. 85. Jewish reaction to Christian claims. 242–243. 109–111. 149. as truth. Paul on salvation through Jesus over. 159–163. 61. 165. in the Sibylline oracles. 177. Christian forgeries in answer to. 259. 17. 100. 8. 3. pagan views of. 85. 163. 151. 254–256 Jesus Seminar. 55–57. 145–159. 203–205. 195–196. in Gospel of Nicodemus. adding to the account in Mark. 152. 148–152. 64–65. salvation through. 171. early church schism over. See also second coming beliefs Jesus. Gnostic account of. modern forgery discounting.337/357 202. alleged cover-up of Jesus’s resurrection.

40. 21. 23. 90–92. 154–155 Letters of Paul and Seneca. 244. 162. 154 Jonah.338/357 John. 226 Justus of Tiberius. ancient. Apostle (son of Zebedee). Great Planet Earth. 14. 23. 186–188. See scholarly justification of forgery Justin Martyr. 69. author of Revelation. 96. 169. 13. 15. 149. Konrad. 42 Joseph. 27. 23 John. 255 Josephus. 73 knowledge of the divine. Christianity’s legacy of. 105 Letter of Aristeas. 176. husband of Mary. 28–29. 211. 9. Gospel of. 26 LaHaye. 18. 225. 41–42. 40–42. 224 justification of forgery. 21. 242. 249–250. 193. 105 Left Behind series (Jenkins and LaHaye). 150. 223–229. 155–156 Letter of Pilate to Herod. 73 Joshua. 215 Kujau. 234–239 Joseph of Arimathea. 227. . 210. 153. 114. 56. 160. 250 John the Baptist. beyond literary forgery. 229 John. 10. 171 libraries. 214. 21. The (Lindsey). 153–155 Letter of Pilate to Claudius. 224 Jude. 86. 219–220. 247–248 Judges. See second coming beliefs Late. 105 last days. 67 Letter of Herod to Pilate. Timothy. 26–27 lies and deceptions: ancient views on.

193. 42. 250. 134. 23. 9. 223–228. 55. 104. Gospel of. 23. 137. 218. 10. 136. 216. 40. 23. 211. 173 Meade. Gospel of. See also early Christian forgery. 265. 250. 37. 240–245. “noble/ medicinal lie. 10. 234–239. 242–244. 143. 248. fabrications. 206. 129 . 217. 196 lying. 55. 258–259 Longinus. 89.” 144. 24. 182. Gospel of. 260–261 marriage. 155 Lucian of Samosata. 162. Dennis. forgery as. 44–45. 259 Matthew (“Matthaias”). 29. 17. 45–46. 105 literary genre. 70. 18. 216. 245–249. 223–228. 263. plagiarism. 57. 151–152. 48 Luke. 94. 223. 206–209 Luther. 239. David. 99–100. 104 Marcion. 86–87 Marcus Aurelius.” 41. nuances of falsehood. to promote “truth. 103–104. 36. 220–221. falsifications. 167 Mark. 248 Luke the physician. 247 Mary. mother of Jesus. 248 Maximin Daia. 46 Long-Lost Second Book of Acts. 82–83. 225–228.339/357 261–265. 215 Matthew. 220. false attribution. 105 Martial. 69. 84–89. Hal. 63. 39. 258–259 Mary Magdalene. 239. 154. Martin. 86–87. 28. 126–127. 37–38. 231–232 Marcion’s canon. modern forgeries and hoaxes Lindsey. 9. 103. See lies and deceptions MacDonald. 25. 55–58. George Washington illustration.

in forgeries about Peter. 161 Natural History of the Great Prophet of Nazareth (Venturini). The Crucifixion of Jesus. 25–26. political or military ends. 27. 27–28. 167–168 miracles: accounts of Jesus’s childhood. 92. 42. 91. 157. 25–32. Long-Lost Second Book of Acts. 4. 233 Nag Hammadi library. 155 . 252–254 Moody Bible Institute. 259. 45. defending religion. 24. 236–239. Smith’s “Secret Gospel” of Mark. 156. 229–230 motivation for forgery. 15–17. 249–250 modern forgeries and hoaxes. inspiring hope by apocalypse. Max. 38–39. 256–258. 15. The Passover Plot. 87–88 mythology. 62. by an Eye-Witness. 26–27. 28–29. 224–225 Metzger. 5 Moses. 8–9. 68. 70. 260–261. 254–256. 254 Muratorian Canon.” 41. credibility and being heard. 215 Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea. 122. 29–31. Emperor. profit. 67. humiliation of rival. 27 Minucius Felix. of Jesus. 152. 263 Melito. Bruce. 31–32. 172 misattribution. and intention. 27 Müller. 49–52. 145 military forgeries. pulling a ruse. 252–261. Pilate’s Death Sentence. 149 messianic claims. 221–222. 3. The Confession of Pontius Pilate. 258–259. 2. The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. 260. 145–149. The Gospel of the Holy Twelve. 140. 158. 29. 259. 161. 123 Micah.340/357 “medicinal lie. 212–213. 256 Nero.

falsifications in the. 145–149. 170–173. 30. 10. 37. 163–176. opposition to Christians. 237. 220. 27 . See also canonical Gospels Nicodemus. Septuagint. 117. 118. on the messiah. 165–170. 38. 42. 169–170. 177. overview on forgeries in. as bowing to Jesus. 23. 5 Old Testament: apocalypse in. 3–4. 262. and the Sibylline oracles. 202. 67. 183. 85–89. 42. 149. discrepancies in. 173–176 Palestine. 48 Notovitch. 131. 76. 63–64. 115 objective truth. 229. 65–70. Christian forgeries to fend off. varied early church views on. 5. beliefs of. 6. 234 orthonymous writing. Barnabas on broken Jewish covenant. 242–245. 17–19 nothos (illegitimate child). 182 Onomacritus of Athens. 239–240. Apocalypse of Peter and. deception by God in. 226–227 Parthenopaeus (play. 231–232. 145. 9–10. 252–254 Numbers. Nicolas. forgeries in the.” 41. 72 Papias. 39 Origen. 75. 229–231. four literary genres. 17. 164–165. Marcion rejecting the. 22–23 pagans. 42.341/357 New Testament: anonymous works of the. Dionysius). 16–17. 255 “noble lie. 263 noncanonical books. 177–178. 126–128. 67. 151. attempts to link Gospels with. 145. 169. converting to Christianity. forged out of conflict. containing fabrications. 224–225.

119. overview. Harrison’s statistics of word usage. perpetrated by Marcion. 82. 84–93. 228. coauthoring by. second coming beliefs of. 86–87. controversy surrounding / opposition to. 18. 99. 161. deutero-Pauline letters. 103–105. 191–192. 199–204. 84–88. 95–96. 93–97. 1 and 2 Timothy copyist view. word comparisons. Colossians. scholars’ reluctance to label forgeries. 103–105. and reactualizing the tradition. 22. authentic letters by. 190–192 Pauline forgeries. overview on. 206. 188–189. 81–83. 87. possible reasons for. 2 Thessalonians. 77. the Pseudo-Clementine Writings. 221. linked to sexual abstinence teachings. overview on New Testament. 114. Hebrews. 90–92. ancient fabrications about. 97–98. 128–129. 199–202. 112–114.342/357 Passover Plot. See also Acts of the Apostles Paul. 278n14 Paul. 93–105. 19–21. 99. 100–102. forgery of Jesus writing to. as disciples writing in name of Paul. 195–196. 85. 143–144. 171. absent from Marcion’s canon. 106–108. 60–63. Ephesians. 244–245. 188–198. book of James. salvation through Jesus over Jewish law. 99–102. Peter and authority of. 195–198. 92. 231. 114. first scholarly suspicions about. attribution of Luke and. 155. 80–81. 129–130. 185. Apostle: as aligned with Peter. 79–81. The (Schonfield). 199–202. 90. 190–192. 70. 102–103. modern fictions of. 233. 231–232. verisimilitude in 1 and 2 Timothy. conversion of. 99–100. 98. beliefs on the flesh. death of. 22–23. . on faith. 108–112. 180–182. 129–130. 18. falsification of writings of. 118. 92–93. 110–111. 191. associating Barnabas with. 188–189. 260 pastoral letter forgeries. 192–198. 202. looking at historical context. forgeries in opposition to. 213. forgeries in support of. 79–81. 92–93. 129–133. 18. Letters of Paul and Seneca. 209. 90. Apocalypse of Paul. philosophers linked with. 93. 189–190. noncanonical Epistle of Peter. 258. 188. 91–92.

154–155. 75. 108. 70. 159. 200. 190–192. 18. 73–75. Report of Pontius Pilate. 226. story of Dionysius. 245–249 Plato. 49–52. 93. miracles allegedly performed by. 71 . 129–133 Pilate Gospels. death under Nero. stories about. 41. 1 and 2 Peter. 18. early church schism and. 110. 113 philosophers: associating Paul with. 153–155. 41. 247. 199–204. 49–52. 161. 23–24 persecution. Apostle: in Acts of Peter and Paul. 189–190. 152–153. Handing Over of Pilate. 81. plagiarism by. 88–90.343/357 105–108. 37. Letter of Pilate to Herod. 169–170. 222 Petrine forgeries. 62. purpose of. possibility of Greek proficiency. 18. 157–159. 3 Corinthians. 206. secretary hypothesis and. 209. 152–159. 138. 203. 158 plagiarism. 207 Philippians. 70–73. attribution of Mark and. 63–65. 204. overview on. 60–63. Letter of Pilate to Claudius. 66–67 Peter. 155–156. 27. 62–63. as illiterate. 16. 80. 91–92. 75–77. supposedly appointing Clement. 134–135. 26–27. forgeries aligning Paul with. See also Gospel of Peter Philemon. 29 pen names. converting to Christianity. authority and Paul. 118. and the secretary hypothesis. 216. 68. as disciples writing in name of Peter. 31. 155. ancient literacy and education. 26. 138–139. 199–202. 60–63. 42. 37. 171. on lying. 233. 120. 228. forgeries of works by. Apocalypse of Peter. Letter of Herod to Pilate. 223. 65–70. Epistle of Peter. 131–133. Acts of Peter fabrication. 213–214. 50–52. Gentile Christians and Jewish law. theory of disciples writing in name of. See also pastoral letter forgeries Pausanias. 114. 227. 30. 39. forgery of Jesus writing to. 134–139. 52–70. 93. 156–157. 220. Coptic Apocalypse of Peter.

45–46. 130–133. See second coming beliefs Revelation. 58. 48. 62–63. 259. 140 pseudos (falsehood). 48 political forgeries. 236 pseudepigraphal writing. 42 rapture beliefs. 172–173. 30. See Jesus. 6 Pontius Pilate. E. 27–28 Polybius. 21. 28–29 Report of Pontius Pilate. 156–157. 154–155 profit motive. 23–24. 105 Rhossus congregation. 125–129 Reed. 53–54 Richards. 64. 105–106 reactualizing tradition. 190–192 pseudonymous writing. 169. 131 Procla. Randolph. 158 resurrection of Jesus. 3. 134–138 . 176–178 religious forgery. See also Pilate Gospels Porphyry. 5–7 religious conflict. 37–38 Pythagoras. resurrection of resurrection of the faithful. 258–259 religion. 15. 234–236. 269n13 poetry. 26–27 Proto-Gospel of James. 130. 55–56.344/357 Plutarch. 74 reincarnation. 34. Jonathan. 145. 248 Psalms. literary Pseudo-Clementine Writings. 247 Rahab. 150–153. 39. 24–25. epic tragic. ancient. 246 polytheistic religions. 257–258. 143–145. 146. See also forgery.

119–140. 211–212. 68. 221. mocked by scoffers. Friedrich. 81. 156. coauthoring theories. 139–140. 68. 96. 42 Schleiermacher. 110–111. 95–96 scholarly justification of forgery.345/357 Roman Empire: Christianity unique in. 112. reactualizing the tradition. 99. consulting Sibylline oracles. 235 salvation: Gnostic transcendence of the flesh. lack of records on Jesus. Hugh. 86. 23. 93 2 John. 148. See also secretary hypothesis Schonfield. 55–58. through Jesus. 69–70. 109–111. 125–129. book of. Paul’s views. use of secretaries. 119–123. 72–73. messianic predictions and. 200 Rome. 105–106. treatment of Christians in. 214. 250 scribes. 89. 129–133. 211. pseudepigraphy in the Spirit. 113 2 Corinthians. 56–57. disciples writing as act of humility. 90. and Jesus’s trial and crucifixion. 6–7. 151. nondeceptive intent view. 260 scribes. 91. literacy in. 77. 163–164. 114. 111. 93. Paul unknown in. 123–125. 200 Salvian. forgeries by. 61. 229 2 Kings. 224 2 . 256–257. 100. overview on. 86. 134. 152. 149–150. 31–33. 240–244. destruction of Jerusalem. 92 Salome. 223. 173–174. See secretary hypothesis second coming beliefs: docetist. 87. modern rapture beliefs. 85. 136–137. Gnostic. 45–46 Romans. 138. 126. 99–102. 67. 118. 99. 262 Sarah. 134–138 romances. 106–108. as spiritual / already occurring.

75. Apostle Simon the Magician. 247 Solomon. 89. 275n23 2 Samuel. 215 Seneca. 75. 62. 91–92. 233. 269n16 Socrates. 16. 71. 155. 233 sexual abstinence teachings: apologists supporting. 37. 53. 88. 54. 191. 160. 40. 204. 171 Septuagint. 35. 211. 114. 173–176 Silvanus. 135. 76. 247–248. 19–21. of the Gnostics. 13. 96. 201–202. 123 Spirit-inspired forgery. 102–103. 115. 41. 76 Serapion. 135–138. 14 . 217. 170. 133–139. 22. 82–83. 22. 138. 18. 161 Secret Book of John. 59–60. 117 Sophocles. 27. four uses of secretaries theory. Wolfgang.346/357 Peter. 233 Smith. 210. 114. 86. divided views on. 123–125 Spirit of God. 134. 26 Speyer. 120 2 Timothy. 103–105. 200 Simon Peter. 133–134. Morton. and Pauline/Petrine forgeries. 21–22. 50–52. 57. 213 Secret Gospel of Mark. 224 2 Thessalonians. 67. 27. 144 Stern (magazine). 100–101 spiritual battle. 134–139 self-knowledge. forgers linking to Paul. 188 Second Treatise of the Great Seth. arguments against. 82. 49–50. 260–261. 108. 96 Sibylline oracles. 128. 76. 103–105. 127. 190. 93–98. 131. in forgeries about Peter. 105–108. 260–261 secretary hypothesis. overview of. 18. See Peter. 68–70. 138–139.

59–60. 105. 47–49. 262 Tiro. 84. 45–48. 156. 7–8. 250. George Washington illustration. 244 suffering. 32–33. 43–49. Judas Didymus. 125–129 tragic poetry. See true stories subjectivity. reactualizing. nature of. 155. 103–104. 156. 137 Titus. 86. 66–67 techniques of forgers. 233. 213. 68–69 Trevor-Roper. 216 3 John. 3–5. 3 submissiveness in women. 197 tradition. 53–54. 94. 223. 93. 57. objective truth. 270n24 Thecla. 47. 16 stories. 95. ancient historical writing. 221–222. 19–20. 14 true stories. 188. use of falsehoods to promote. ancient notions of fiction. 169. 115. 29 3 Corinthians. 217. evangelical Christians’ commitment to. 48 Tiberius. 96. 216. 43–44 truth: apostolic truth. 45–46. 229 Thomas. 4–5. 134 Tertullian. 213. 102. 13. 265 . 83. 3–4. as complex. reconciling Christianity with.347/357 Stoics. 88–90. 103. Christianity’s truth claims. true. 144. 101. 165–166. 99. 44–45. 221. 172. 45. 81. 252–254 Timothy to the Church (Salvian). Emperor. 49–50. 259 Tibetan Issa stories. 43. 158. 262 Theopompus. 48 transfiguration scene. and falsehood. 23. 103. 212. 218. 215 Thucydides. Hugh. 104. 83. 18. 82–83. 5–7. 33–35 Tertius.

48. See also anonymous writing. 46. biography. 34–35. 82–83. homonymous writing. The. H. forgery. 24–25. 47. 41 Zechariah. 245–249. K. literary genre. 70–73. 45–46. secretary hypothesis. orthonymous writing. 99.. 232–234. 102–103 virgin birth story. 232. 194–198 writing: ancient literacy and. 44–45 Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. 23. 256 verisimilitude. epic poetry. true stories Xenophon. 44–45 Weems. fabrication. 94. 235–236 Vitruvius. pseudonymous writing. 103–105. 110. 220. 44–45. pseudepigraphal writing. 244–245 works. 5–7. Mason Locke. 45–48. George.348/357 truth claims. 44 women in the church. 252–254 vegetarianism. 23–24. literary. 145 . plagiarism. notions of fiction. 46. 47–49. 172. falsifications. historical writing. 22–23. 259 Venturini. 240–242. 246 Washington. 100. scholarly justification of forgery.

Jean Houston. Special thanks to the amazing library staff. from the top down. Thanks as well to my insightful and encouraging editor at HarperOne. translations of ancient texts are mine. of the Divinity School at Duke. and Julie Burton. who occasionally lets me know when I’m right. The staff. Roger Freet.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I WOULD LIKE TO THANK everyone who helped me in writing this book. Jeff Siker. Mickey Maudlin. who is never afraid to tell me when I’m wrong. and all the other Harper folk who have always provided extraordinary help and support: Mark Tauber. were absolutely marvelous. and above all my beloved wife. Kelly Ehrman. Joel Marcus. professor of medieval and renaissance English at Duke. which provided me a fellowship in 2009–10 that allowed me to do the research. a walking bibliography. of the Department of Theology at Loyola Marymount. Sarah Beckwith. who is unusually gifted in recognizing literary inelegance. who after all these years continues to wield a mighty red pen. an anonymous reader for the press who provided numerous challenging insights. Unless otherwise indicated. . Claudia Boutote. Several smart and insightful people graciously read the manuscript in its final stages. of the Department of Religion at Yale. Thanks first of all to the National Humanities Center. and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude: Dale Martin. and Eliza Robertson. Josiah Drewery. my daughter. who have gone far beyond what anyone could hope for in providing research assistance. May their tribe increase. on top of it all. who is uncannily smart and insightful and is.

350/357 I have dedicated the book to granddaughter number two. . with an extraordinary brilliance. who has seen the light of day for just a year. but is already shining. Sierra. herself.

AuthorTracker.About the Author BART for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author. Interrupted. Visit the author online at North Carolina. Chapel Hill.bartdehrman. Visit www. CNN. Ehrman is the James A. EHRMAN is the author of more than twenty books. He lives in Durham. . and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina. including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus. God’s Problem. and major NPR programs. and Jesus. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He has been featured in Time magazine and has appeared on NBC’s Dateline. The History Channel.

EHRMAN Jesus.OTHER BOOKS BY BART D. Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: Betrayer and Betrayed Reconsidered Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament Peter. and Constantine A Brief Introduction to the New Testament Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Become the New Testament The Apostolic Fathers Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings . Paul. and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Can Really Know About Jesus. Mary.

353/357 The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels .

Matthew and the Angel.Credits Jacket design: LeVan Fisher Design Jacket and spine painting: St. by Caravaggio. The Bridgeman Art Library .

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