I skimmed through to the end of Forged: writing in the name of God – why the Bible’s authors are not who we think they are by Bart D. Ehrman this weekend. Not being a biblical scholar, some of what he touched on went over my head. I haven’t got a solid grasp on a lot of what makes up all the books of the bible, either, but Ehrman goes through several assumed to be by Paul and explains why it’s likely that half of them were authored by others who forged his “signature” but ignored his writing style completely.
He talks about other books and gospels that existed in the past (some we still have today) and they were discovered to be forgeries, too.
He goes into some reasons why early Christians would have gone the forgery route, the popular being to lend credence to an idea by claiming someone “famous” thought that way. He uses the example that Paul’s early writing seems to suggest he truly believed the world was ending in his lifetime, that single people should stay single and focus on spreading the good word before Christ takes them. A hundred or years later letters by “Paul” are calling on church leaders to marry and this and that. According to Ehrman, during Paul’s time, there was no church structure with bishops and priests and things so those letters have to be forgeries.
Other series of stories were written about Paul as a character, like works of fiction would be now. The ones involving a woman name Thecla were especially problematic and therefore completely fascinating to me. I hadn’t heard of her before.
In Acts of Paul, he’s preaching abstinence, and here’s this woman who’s supposed to marry some rich dude, overhears Paul’s teachings, and abandons her betrothed. She’s supposed to punished for that but God miraculously saves her life a few times. In one version of the story, she baptizes herself into the new religion by hopping into a vat filled with “man-eating seals” and with Paul’s blessing, takes up the duty of ministering to others. (Pg 82)
Ehrman notes that the writings of Tertullian, a well-known theologian from around 200 CE, denounce these stories as fabrications and that the author of them was caught and dealt with. This pronouncement helped that misogynist make his case that women should never be church leaders. So there was a time when some early church leaders were willing to try equality.
It wasn’t just an early church habit. Forgeries and false books have popped up a lot over the years. One he mentions is about Christ’s “lost years” spent with Buddhists. A book called The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ was published in 1894 in France by a Russian who claimed he’d been in Tibet and wanted to share their stories of Issa, who he claimed was Jesus. Although the book wound up being quite popular, there was a lot of suspicion that the stories were made up and it was easy enough to prove it. Letters were written to the monastery the Russian claimed to have stayed at while his leg was broken and a scholar went all the way to Tibet a year later to talk to the lama directly.
All in all, it’s a pretty interesting book that examines how early Christians got manipulated by those they had faith in and how these writings warped ideologies and helped build Christianity as practiced today.
But how much of Forged is true? How much of Forged is about the books that are actually found in the Bible. According to The Christian Critic, LESS THAN 1/4th of the book, Forged, is about what you think it is actually talking about. Dr. Ehrman is so into forgeries that he does not even know which books were in the canon(important term) and which were not.
I think Ehrman made a good argument. I couldn’t do justice to it here. Sure, it’s theories more than it’s proof, but it pays to be skeptical of the bible regardless. It’s a book that needs to be looked at critically and looked at as a historical document, not because it’s filled with lessons we need today but because it’s filled with examples of how people in the past thought and how they dealt with issues and set goals for themselves and others. I think it’s a very interesting idea to go back to the book and try and figure out what parts were late additions and why people thought they needed to be in there.
Perhaps you should read the book and find out?
More than enough to keep everyone interested. As it turns out, a lot of the NT is based on lies. Or pure fabrications. Or…forgeries.
Christian Critic? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
I imagine that would depend on what you THINK it’s about. I read the book, so I KNOW what it’s about.
Well, now we clearly know that you have neither read the book, nor know anything about Ehrman. In other words, you’re ignorant.
And I mean that in the kindest sense.
FREE Internet download: Man’s Search For Spirituality by E Christopher Reyes.
A chronological presentation on Christianity and similar beliefs.
Isn’t there an better way to promote your book than leaving comments on a lot of blogs? I don’t have much in the way of readers anyway…
And you aren’t providing a link and you don’t have any reviews on amazon.com that lead me to think this might be worth reading…