Black Bart on Biblical Forgery

Using some strong and surprising language, biblical scholar Bart Ehrman has called out his peers for using the term “pseudepigrapha” when referring to books of the bible that were written by people claiming to be apostles but who obviously were not:

[G]ood Christian scholars of the Bible, including the top Protestant and Catholic scholars of America, will tell you that the Bible is full of lies, even if they refuse to use the term. And here is the truth: Many of the books of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity, claiming to be a famous apostle — Peter, Paul or James — knowing full well they were someone else. In modern parlance, that is a lie, and a book written by someone who lies about his identity is a forgery.

Most modern scholars of the Bible shy away from these terms, and for understandable reasons, some having to do with their clientele. Teaching in Christian seminaries, or to largely Christian undergraduate populations, who wants to denigrate the cherished texts of Scripture by calling them forgeries built on lies? And so scholars use a different term for this phenomenon and call such books “pseudepigrapha.”

I wonder what prompted this change in tone and approach from Ehrman. If you have read his books, you know that his critiques, while devastating for biblical literalism, are measured and temperate.

Is this change in tone a result of frustration or confrontation? Perhaps, but my guess is he is just trying to drive sales for his newest book, which looks to be a bit less measured.

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