1. Standard memberblakbuzzrd
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    09 Jun '07 04:001 edit
    As a young evangelical thumbing through the Bible, I was usually bored out of my gourd when forced to read introductory notes to any particular book. I found the arguments about authorship to be absurdly irrelevant -- why even bother arguing the case? Of course Paul et al wrote 2 Thessalonians! It says so right in the opening verses.

    It never occurred to me to wonder why the editors of the Bible felt the imperative to include defensive comments about the traditional authorship of the New Testament books.

    So I was surprised to discover that, contrary to my belief, that of my friends, and the arguments in the notes to my Bible, scholars by and large (xian and non-xian alike) agree that some books of the Bible were probably not written by the person that the text claims is the author. The actual writer "borrowed" the voice of a famous person in order to lend authority to their message.

    Such books are referred to as "pseudepigrapha." Sounds so much more genteel than "forgery," doesn't it? There are some books of the Bible that most scholars agree fall into this category, and there are others that are the subject of scholarly debate. Lastly, there are of course those books that most scholars agree were indeed penned by the stated author. I'll stick here just to the Pauline epistles. In brief:

    Church tradition holds that Paul wrote the following fourteen books:

    Romans
    1 & 2 Corinthians
    Galatians
    Ephesians
    Philippians
    Colossians
    Hebrews
    1 & 2 Thessalonians
    1 & 2 Timothy
    Titus
    Philemon
    Hebrews

    Scholars are in agreement that Paul probably wrote these seven epistles:

    Romans
    Philippians
    Galatians
    1 & 2 Corinthians
    1 Thessalonians
    Philemon

    Scholars continue to debate the Pauline authorship of these books:

    Colossians
    2 Thessalonians

    What was most disturbing, though, was that most scholars agree that Paul did not write these books:

    1 & 2 Timothy
    Titus
    Ephesians
    Hebrews (not technically pseudepigrapha per se)

    So put yourself my former shoes: that is, in the shoes of the evangelical, for whom the Bible is inerrant. The painful question for me was, of course: how could I consider a text that begins with an outright lie to be a reliable messenger of truth? If I couldn't, then what would this do to the integrity of the bible? What should I do in the face of these probabilities?

    Here were the options as I perceived them:

    1. Seek out all evidence to be had in support of actual Pauline authorship, and fight to continue to subscribe to that perspective. This lets go of neither inerrancy nor infallibility.

    2. Discount the importance of the opening and closing, and perhaps even consider them the result of later scribal error or emendation. After all, the opening and closing are pretty much just the wrapper to the real meat of the letter. The deeper truths aren't in those salutations; they're in what the author says in the body of the letter. This is letting go of inerrancy in the translated copy as we now have it, but holding to the essential infallibility of the text.

    3. Dismiss the letters as fabrications, and as such completely untrustworthy. How could an evangelical trust anything in a letter that begins with a lie? You can hardly call such a letter inerrant in its present form. This is holding the Bible to the standard of inerrancy, finding that it does not pass the test, and -- declining to accept the prospect that truth could be mingled with untruth -- also letting go of infallibility.

    4. Treat the letters as specific interventions written by godly persons to specific audiences for specific purposes, and find value in the substance of both what is said as well as the godly intentions of the writers, insofar as a close analysis of the letters can reveal. That is, choose not to be bothered by the false claim of authorship, and focus instead on what the writer was trying to achieve rhetorically. To do this, the reader must be willing to accept that pseudepigrapha are not fatally flawed as lies, damned lies.

    5. Try not to think too hard about it, knowing that other, more informed readers know better and still buy it, etc. etc.

    Here's what I did:

    My initial thought was to resist and go for #1. That didn't work so well. Again, all I could find among arguments that didn't sound either hysterical or flimsy was that it was possible that Paul wrote the letters now thought to be pseudepigrapha. Anybody who wants to make a case here, go for it.

    #2 seemed a better choice. It's actually a common argument that God inspired the original manuscripts of the NT, and that human fallibility has since introduced error. Of course, the next question: is if God went to all the trouble to give us perfect manuscripts, why didn't he make them perfectly resistant to human fallibility, such that the 5400 or so manuscripts we now have were absolutely identical? It would be a lot better than what's now observable: that the mass of extant copies contain more textual differences among them than there are actual words in the New Testament. Still, though, #2 had appeal.

    #5 was dumb, and morally dubious. I mean, this wasn't the same dealio as the John 3 question. There's a historicity question there, but as has been pointed out, "artistic license" doesn't come across the same way as "lie."

    #4 sounds pretty good now, but I couldn't really take that avenue at the time, because I was (all together now!) an evangelical. #3 was the thing, you know.

    Further, I'm not convinced that the early church fathers wouldn't have chosen #3 either. While it may be argued that authenticity was a loose term in early xianity, this is a problematic claim in light of what early xians actually did about it. Tertullian recounts the case of the forgery The Acts of Paul and Thecla, wherein the forger both was caught and confessed to the act. And guess what? No Acts of Paul and Thecla in the NT. Forgery was a common accusation leveled at putative apostolic letters which contained ideas unpopular with certain sects of xianity. Authenticity of authorship seems to have been important to church fathers.

    I wondered what the early church fathers might have done with regard to the so-called Deutero-Pauline letters if they had been made privy to current scholarly thought on those letters.

    So it was #3 for me. How 'bout you?

    EDIT: Damn that truncated title. The original title of this thread is:
    "Pesky Question #2: You're not Paul; you're that Land Shark!"
  2. RDU NC
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    09 Jun '07 04:37
    Originally posted by blakbuzzrd
    As a young evangelical thumbing through the Bible, I was usually bored out of my gourd when forced to read introductory notes to any particular book. I found the arguments about authorship to be absurdly irrelevant -- why even bother arguing the case? Of course Paul et al wrote 2 Thessalonians! It says so right in the opening verses.

    It never occurred ...[text shortened]... :
    "Pesky Question #2: You're not Paul; you're that Land Shark!"
    I'll not argue with you about the validity of Pauline authorship, however, I must point out a flaw in your reasoning as I see it. You seem to be basing your opinion on the opinions of others. You've provided no real evidence that Paul did or did not write these books. You simply said (paraphrasing here), "Some people say...." This would certainly lead to questionable reasoning in the argument.

    EDIT: According to my understanding, the book of Hebrews is still largely debated as to authorship. The two primary candidates are either Paul or Luke, even a coordinated effort of the two. I don't know. I lean towards Pauline authorship, but that certainly doesn't make it correct.
  3. Hmmm . . .
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    09 Jun '07 06:29
    Originally posted by blakbuzzrd
    As a young evangelical thumbing through the Bible, I was usually bored out of my gourd when forced to read introductory notes to any particular book. I found the arguments about authorship to be absurdly irrelevant -- why even bother arguing the case? Of course Paul et al wrote 2 Thessalonians! It says so right in the opening verses.

    It never occurred ...[text shortened]... :
    "Pesky Question #2: You're not Paul; you're that Land Shark!"
    Further, I'm not convinced that the early church fathers wouldn't have chosen #3 either.

    I have to agree with you. Although I doubt that inerrancy was an issue at all (infallibility, though perhaps not a well-articulated idea, I think was part of the perspective of the early fathers, even in their allegorical readings). Apostolicity (sp?) was, however, very important. It is the foundation of the oral tradition.

    In the light of modern scholarship, that kind of strict apostolicity (i.e., that a work was actually written by an apostle) has had to be redefined, to maintain the canon. Similarly, the theology of Dionysius the Aeropagite (“St. Dionysius” ) was so embedded in the tradition of the Eastern church, that he could not be rejected simply because it turned out the author of those theological works was not that Aeropagite (and he is now usually called Pseudo-Dionysius).

    The same kind of thing arises with regard to the Torah. Traditionally, the first five books are “the books of Moses.” Moses is the putative author. However, Deuteronomy 34:5 says: “Then Moses, the servant of YHVH, died there in the land of Moab, at YHVH's command.”

    Not only is Moses supposedly recording his own death, but the book continues for another seven verses! The solution of one of the rabbis in the Talmud: “Moses wrote everything up to this point, and from there on he wrote with tears in his eyes”! (Rough quote from memory; I can try to find it if you like.)

    How delightful! How playful! How—rabbinical!

    There is a Talmudic story: Some rabbis are arguing over an interpretation of Torah. Rabbi Eleazer put forth an interpretation that all the other rabbis disagreed with. R. Eleazer therefore called forth a series of miracles to prove his point—“If I am correct, let this stream run backwards!” etc.—but the others were not impressed. Finally, R. Eleazer cried: “If my Torah is correct, let a voice (echo) from heaven descend and declare it so!” Whereupon a heavenly voice said: “Why are you arguing? The Torah has always meant what Rabbi Eleazer says it does.” At that point, Rabbi Joshua jumped up and shouted, “It is not in heaven!”

    Meaning? Torah was given to men to interpret without any heavenly meddling. Later, one of the rabbis died and met Elijah in heaven. He asked Elijah what God’s response was when the rabbis declared, “It is not in heaven”? Elijah said, “The Blessed Holy One just laughed, saying ‘My children have bested me! My children have bested me!!’”

    Rav Hisda said: “To learn Torah…it is better to go to several teachers. The many different explanations will help to give you understanding.” (tractate Avodah Zarah)

    “The words of Torah are fruitful and multiply!” (tractate Hagigah)

    “He who toils in Torah and discovers in it new meanings that are true contributes new Torah which is treasured by the congregation of Israel.” (the Zohar)

    “A place has been left for me to labor in it [the Torah].” (tractate Hullin)

    [Tractates from the Babylonian Talmud, quoted in The Talmudic Anthology, Louis I. Newman, editor.]
  4. RDU NC
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    09 Jun '07 22:25
    Originally posted by vistesd
    [b]Further, I'm not convinced that the early church fathers wouldn't have chosen #3 either.

    I have to agree with you. Although I doubt that inerrancy was an issue at all (infallibility, though perhaps not a well-articulated idea, I think was part of the perspective of the early fathers, even in their allegorical readings). Apostolicity (sp?) ...[text shortened]... rom the Babylonian Talmud, quoted in The Talmudic Anthology, Louis I. Newman, editor.][/b]
    Even several fundamentalist Christians (those who believe in inerrancy and infallibility) believe in the possibility of inspired editors who have added "connective tissue" between the various texts to make them flow together, revealing a thread of several important themes in the Hebrew Bible as ordered therein as opposed to the ordering found in the Christian Old Testament. This could certainly explain the "death of Moses" passage at the end Deuteronomy, which also contains the rise of Joshua, both of which are reiterated at the beginning of the book of Joshua: "connective tissue."

    Thoughts, Mr. Vistesd?
  5. Donationkirksey957
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    09 Jun '07 23:40
    Originally posted by blakbuzzrd
    As a young evangelical thumbing through the Bible, I was usually bored out of my gourd when forced to read introductory notes to any particular book. I found the arguments about authorship to be absurdly irrelevant -- why even bother arguing the case? Of course Paul et al wrote 2 Thessalonians! It says so right in the opening verses.

    It never occurred ...[text shortened]... :
    "Pesky Question #2: You're not Paul; you're that Land Shark!"
    You are to be commended for your study and willingness to ask questions. Whenever I read commentary on Shakespeare, the same issues come up about authenticity and "original manuscripts" and borrowing from other sources. Yet, I can still find it can be entertaining and a valuable study about the nature of life portrayed in the play.

    Let's imagine say a 1000 years from now, someone stubbles accross a mainframe computer in some cellar that contains the entire record of Redhotpawn. Every game, every post of this site. And let's imagine that in this time that it was discovered, chess is the dominate religion of the time. People look to this as the earliest manuscripts of the faith (though we really know better). Inspite of the "complete record", do you not think there would still be controversy over who said what when and how authentic it was?
  6. Illinois
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    09 Jun '07 23:55
    Originally posted by blakbuzzrd
    As a young evangelical thumbing through the Bible, I was usually bored out of my gourd when forced to read introductory notes to any particular book. I found the arguments about authorship to be absurdly irrelevant -- why even bother arguing the case? Of course Paul et al wrote 2 Thessalonians! It says so right in the opening verses.

    It never occurred ...[text shortened]... :
    "Pesky Question #2: You're not Paul; you're that Land Shark!"
    Although people have raised doubts as to the genuineness of the authorship of the Pualine corpus, it is still a huge stretch to conclude the epistles in question do in fact begin with 'outright lies'. After perusing the various disputations, it's clear that most deal with certain linguistic inconsistencies relative to the rest of the Pualine corpus (e.g. 1/3 of the vocabulary is not used anywhere else in the Pauline epistles, and over 1/5 is not used anywhere else in the New Testament (speaking of 1 & 2 Timothy)). In my mind, hardly disturbing stuff, considering the Holy Spirit is the one inspiring Paul's message; how can we accuse the Holy Spirit of being a prisoner of historical context? Unless, of course, we don't believe the texts are Spirit-inspired. It is curious that the main dig against the genuineness of the pastoral Pualine epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus) has to do with its condemnation of Gnosticism, since Gnosticism may have come into being a century after Paul lived and wrote (recent scholarship, however, posits a dominant gnostic presence during Pual's time). Again, hardly slam-dunk evidence. It is further illuminating to consider that one of the main disputers of Paul's authorship of the pastoral epistles was himself a gnostic 'Christian' (Basilides). This in itself causes me to question the legitimacy of such claims, considering the obvious pseudographical nature of the Gnostic texts. Gnostics have much to gain by discrediting the apostolic authority of the canonical gospels.

    Nothing I've seen persuades me to abandon the authenticity of the NT as is. BTW, your use of 'xian' instead of 'Christian' is interesting. Personally, I've come to regard the 'x' as the cross of Christ. 🙂 Peace.
  7. Donationkirksey957
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    10 Jun '07 00:23
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Although people have raised doubts as to the genuineness of the authorship of the Pualine corpus, it is still a huge stretch to conclude the epistles in question do in fact begin with 'outright lies'. After perusing the various disputations, it's clear that most deal with certain linguistic inconsistencies relative to the rest of the Pualine cor ...[text shortened]... g. Personally, I've come to regard the 'x' as the cross of Christ. 🙂 Peace.
    My NT professors always used an "x" to abbreviate Christian, Christmas, Christianity, etc. They told people to relax as it was the Greek letter chi, the first letter of xristos.
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    10 Jun '07 01:05
    Originally posted by kirksey957
    My NT professors always used an "x" to abbreviate Christian, Christmas, Christianity, etc. They told people to relax as it was the Greek letter chi, the first letter of xristos.
    Your professors must have had small chalkboards. I see nothing to get bent out of shape over in a simple abbreviation...
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    10 Jun '07 04:311 edit
    Originally posted by blakbuzzrd
    As a young evangelical thumbing through the Bible, I was usually bored out of my gourd when forced to read introductory notes to any particular book. I found the arguments about authorship to be absurdly irrelevant -- why even bother arguing the case? Of course Paul et al wrote 2 Thessalonians! It says so right in the opening verses.

    It never occurred :
    "Pesky Question #2: You're not Paul; you're that Land Shark!"
    Now I understand why ignorance is bliss.
    Try #6. Go back to square 1, forget everything you know, and have faith that God is the author and preserver of his word the bible.
  10. Joined
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    10 Jun '07 04:36
    Originally posted by kirksey957
    You are to be commended for your study and willingness to ask questions. Whenever I read commentary on Shakespeare, the same issues come up about authenticity and "original manuscripts" and borrowing from other sources. Yet, I can still find it can be entertaining and a valuable study about the nature of life portrayed in the play.

    Let's imagine sa ...[text shortened]... t think there would still be controversy over who said what when and how authentic it was?
    After they read this post they'll know. 😉
  11. Standard memberNemesio
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    10 Jun '07 22:25
    Originally posted by josephw
    Now I understand why ignorance is bliss.
    Try #6. Go back to square 1, forget everything you know, and have faith that God is the author and preserver of his word the bible.
    Ignorance is a prerequisite for your interpretation of faith in Christ?

    Wow.

    Nemesio
  12. Standard memberNemesio
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    10 Jun '07 22:54
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Although people have raised doubts as to the genuineness of the authorship of the Pualine corpus, it is still a huge stretch to conclude the epistles in question do in fact begin with 'outright lies'. After perusing the various disputations, it's clear that most deal with certain linguistic inconsistencies relative to the rest of the Pualine cor ...[text shortened]... g. Personally, I've come to regard the 'x' as the cross of Christ. 🙂 Peace.
    Your summary of the objections is either misinformed or disingenuous.

    The use of pseudographs by Orthodox and unOrthodox Christians, not to mention in the centuries
    beforehand, is well documented. The fact that you would call this 'a lie' indicates your utter lack
    of understanding of how the people viewed authorship in the first century.

    The techniques used on the Pastoral Epistles are the ones used in every other text-critical field.
    Their conclusions, while not 'slam dunk,' are hardly insignificant.

    Last, the testimony of the author indicates a well-developed church hierarchy, something not present
    before the fall of the Temple. While Saint Paul is quoted extensively in the early second century, and
    even somewhat in the first, these texts are not quoted at all until the last third of the second century,
    which indicates a later authorship than could be accommodated by Saint Paul's lifetime.

    As for Gnosticism: the Pastoral Epistles have next to nothing to do with Gnosticism. Further, the
    disputes of 'Basilides' play absolutely no role in modern scholarship's determination. That another
    rival group of Christians would attack the Orthodoxy is not probative, I agree, but has nothing to do
    with the objects raised by modern scholars.

    Nemesio
  13. Illinois
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    11 Jun '07 01:08
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Your summary of the objections is either misinformed or disingenuous.

    The use of pseudographs by Orthodox and unOrthodox Christians, not to mention in the centuries
    beforehand, is well documented. The fact that you would call this 'a lie' indicates your utter lack
    of understanding of how the people viewed authorship in the first century.

    The tech ...[text shortened]... , I agree, but has nothing to do
    with the objects raised by modern scholars.

    Nemesio
    Last, the testimony of the author indicates a well-developed church hierarchy, something not present before the fall of the Temple.

    Perhaps the church hierarchy was not well-developed during Paul's time, but it had to start somewhere. In 1 Timothy it's clear that Paul is outlining a blueprint for church hierarchy, not simply reiterating what was already in place: "I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God" (1 Timothy 3:14-15). It is possible that Paul set the blueprint for the church hierarchy during his lifetime, but it wasn't well-developed until the second century.
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    11 Jun '07 01:24
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Ignorance is a prerequisite for your interpretation of faith in Christ?

    Wow.

    Nemesio
    As smart as you are it went over your head!
  15. Illinois
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    11 Jun '07 01:41
    Originally posted by Nemesio
    Your summary of the objections is either misinformed or disingenuous.

    The use of pseudographs by Orthodox and unOrthodox Christians, not to mention in the centuries
    beforehand, is well documented. The fact that you would call this 'a lie' indicates your utter lack
    of understanding of how the people viewed authorship in the first century.

    The tech ...[text shortened]... , I agree, but has nothing to do
    with the objects raised by modern scholars.

    Nemesio
    While Saint Paul is quoted extensively in the early second century, and even somewhat in the first, these texts are not quoted at all until the last third of the second century, which indicates a later authorship than could be accommodated by Saint Paul's lifetime.

    But the fact remains that they were quoted, meaning that they were written atleast prior to being quoted. That there is no evidence of being quoted earlier in the second century is not really conclusive. Besides, if Paul had been quoted extensively for almost a century, how could anyone possibly believe that a man so long dead had sudddenly penned a new letter? Unless, of course, it had been forged and passed off as a long lost original. If that is the case, what doesn't sit well with me is how a ghost writer with such intimate depth of knowledge of righteousness, the good news, and prophecy, would take part in such deviousness. To what end?
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