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Forged: Writing in the Name of God

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s/t: Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are Bart D. Ehrman, the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus, Interrupted and God's Problem reveals which books in the New Testament were not passed down by Jesus' disciples, but were instead forged by other hands--and why this centuries-hidden scandal is far more significant than many scholars are willing to admit. A controversia s/t: Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are Bart D. Ehrman, the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus, Interrupted and God's Problem reveals which books in the New Testament were not passed down by Jesus' disciples, but were instead forged by other hands--and why this centuries-hidden scandal is far more significant than many scholars are willing to admit. A controversial work of historical reporting in the tradition of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, and John Dominic Crossan, Ehrman's Forged delivers a stunning explication of one of the most substantial--yet least discussed--problems confronting the world of biblical scholarship.


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s/t: Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are Bart D. Ehrman, the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus, Interrupted and God's Problem reveals which books in the New Testament were not passed down by Jesus' disciples, but were instead forged by other hands--and why this centuries-hidden scandal is far more significant than many scholars are willing to admit. A controversia s/t: Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are Bart D. Ehrman, the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus, Interrupted and God's Problem reveals which books in the New Testament were not passed down by Jesus' disciples, but were instead forged by other hands--and why this centuries-hidden scandal is far more significant than many scholars are willing to admit. A controversial work of historical reporting in the tradition of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, and John Dominic Crossan, Ehrman's Forged delivers a stunning explication of one of the most substantial--yet least discussed--problems confronting the world of biblical scholarship.

30 review for Forged: Writing in the Name of God

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    . Bart Ehrman is a legitimate scripture scholar who began as a fundamentalist at the Moody Bible Institute and who is now an agnostic teaching at Chapel Hill. He is scrupulously accurate and typically fair-minded, but he does have an ax to grind: he is a man who feels he has been deceived by lies and misled by euphemisms, and consequently commits himself--at least in his non-scholarly books like this one--to calling a spade a bloody shovel. The term pseudo-epigraphy--the scholarly term for . Bart Ehrman is a legitimate scripture scholar who began as a fundamentalist at the Moody Bible Institute and who is now an agnostic teaching at Chapel Hill. He is scrupulously accurate and typically fair-minded, but he does have an ax to grind: he is a man who feels he has been deceived by lies and misled by euphemisms, and consequently commits himself--at least in his non-scholarly books like this one--to calling a spade a bloody shovel. The term pseudo-epigraphy--the scholarly term for works falsely, deliberately attributed to the apostles and disciples and others--should be replaced, he argues, with the term "forgery." Contrary to scholarly and popular assumption, the people of the ancient world were not comfortable with false attribution and condemned individual works when detected as "pseudos" ("lies") or "nothos"("bastards"). Most of them may be well-intentioned, and more than few of them (certainly Paul's epistles to the Hebrews, arguably all four of the gospels) may even have made it into the canon, but this should not stop us from looking squarely and honestly at what they are. This is an enjoyable and challenging book. Ehrman's brief summaries of the contents of many of the non-canonical "forgeries" are particularly informative and entertaining.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    The material covered isn't new to anyone familiar with critical biblical scholarship. However, Ehrman is different because of the following: 1. He's willing to call it forgery, lying and deceit (where appropriate). 2. He says those who use milder adjectives are not supported by the evidence. 3. He used to believe the Bible was true without error. 4. He is now writing about the untruths and errors contained in the Bible. 5. His writing style is interesting and clear The material covered isn't new to anyone familiar with critical biblical scholarship. However, Ehrman is different because of the following: 1. He's willing to call it forgery, lying and deceit (where appropriate). 2. He says those who use milder adjectives are not supported by the evidence. 3. He used to believe the Bible was true without error. 4. He is now writing about the untruths and errors contained in the Bible. 5. His writing style is interesting and clear. 6. He has the academic credentials to back up his writing. I suspect that his academic colleagues are jealous because Ehrman is getting rich selling books to the popular audience, while the rest of them are working with the same material but within the obscurity of the academic world. Ehrman criticizes many scholars, but I found of special interest his criticism of the book titled The Five Gospels published by the Jesus Seminar because it, "contains at least one statement that scholars would call a 'howler'." He's referring to their statement that plagiarism was not known in Biblical times. Ehrman says that's simply not true, and he proceeds to sight various examples from that era of writers complaining of the practice. Some personal reflections: It’s interesting to recall that the Protestants thought they were getting away from the all too human origins of traditions developed by the Catholic Church when they insisted on “solo scriptura” (by scripture alone). The assumption behind that is that the early Christian church had it right, directly from the Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God. Their thinking was that the scriptures were divinely inspired and free of human taint. Unfortunately, modern scholarship has pulled back the veil on those early times and revealed plenty of human shortcomings involved in the development of the New Testament scriptures. (The same can be said for the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) but that’s not the focus of this book.) The good old days weren’t as golden as previously supposed. I find this new knowledge to be enlightening in that it makes modern humans, by comparison, seem not so disorganized and divided after all. But they’re plenty of things to learn from history. So the work of historical scholarship is not a license to conclude there’s no truth to be gleaned from canonical writing. The truth is still there even when viewed through the lenses of historical knowledge.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    I am a nominal Roman Catholic. I attend mass once a week; I send my children to Catholic school; my wife teaches at Catholic school; I am a semi-active volunteer in my parish community; I even play in the Sunday evening worship band. (Yes, Catholics can have worship bands, too.) For most of my life, up until a few years ago, I would have described myself as an evangelical Christian. I spent my formative years in the Presbyterian Church (USA) then, for over a decade, I was a member and very activ I am a nominal Roman Catholic. I attend mass once a week; I send my children to Catholic school; my wife teaches at Catholic school; I am a semi-active volunteer in my parish community; I even play in the Sunday evening worship band. (Yes, Catholics can have worship bands, too.) For most of my life, up until a few years ago, I would have described myself as an evangelical Christian. I spent my formative years in the Presbyterian Church (USA) then, for over a decade, I was a member and very active participant in the Evangelical Covenant denomination. (I played in the worship band in that church also, and yes, the music was better there … much better … I miss it.) I once found Truth in the Protestant Church, especially in its more evangelical forms. Now I find Truth in the Roman Catholic Church. I also find plenty to disagree with in both. Spiritually, I am probably best described as a Teilhardian agnostic. You already know what an agnostic is; look up Pierre Teilhard de Chardin for the other half of my spiritual equation. I attend mass primarily because I find meaning and sustenance in the act and ritual of the Eucharist. Don't ask me to explain how an agnostic can find meaning in the Eucharist; sometimes I can and somethings I can't. Just remember that being an agnostic doesn't mean I don't believe in a spiritual realm; indeed I very much believe in a spiritual realm. One might even call me a mystic in that respect and I wouldn't take offense. All of the above is simply to establish who I am and what I believe in the most general terms. And it's important for my purposes that you believe what I say is true, that you believe I am who I say I am and I think what I say I think. It's important to me, in other words, that you believe this review not to be a forgery. I'm not sure how to prove it to your satisfaction. Perhaps there's some way to track the time the review is posted and the IP address of the computer being used and the GR account used to post the review and the location of the computer. And perhaps I could present you with a declaration from my wife, signed under penalty of perjury, stating that I stayed up too late one night writing this review and that she was annoyed because the kids had gone to bed and she wanted me to "come to bed" (wink wink, nudge nudge) and this review sounds like me and says things that her arrogant bastard husband likely would say. Or something … I mean, look, you're not going to get a declaration from my wife because she's asleep and there's no (wink wink, nudge nudge) bedtime activities going on tonight. So why don't we all just assume, for the sake of argument, that this review is not a forgery? Okay? Assume that Ian Foster of Vista, California, actually wrote it and he actually believes the things the review says he believes. Having dispensed with the preliminaries, I'd like to get to the heart of the matter. I want to discuss this concept called intellectual honesty. The thing is, I don't believe we are called to a faith that requires us to abandon reason, ignore our perceptions of the world around us, or embrace ignorance. Nor do I think we're called to throw out freedom of intellect and conscience. We shouldn't have to perform philosophical , historical, or logical gymnastics in order to "verify" something we think we ought believe. I'm not arguing that we embrace pure, empirical rationalism, or humanism or secularism. I'm certainly not asserting that we must deny the existence of a supernatural or spiritual realm. I'm absolutely not saying that you or anybody else needs to agree with me on my concept of truth (whether capital or lower-case "t"). I'm simply saying that it's okay to embrace an intellectually honest faith. I wrote about intellectual honesty in my review of Bart Ehrman's Jesus Interrupted. In particular I described the "solo scriptura" viewpoint as intellectually dishonest; I find it to be so for a number of reasons, most of which I detailed in that review and don't want to waste space reiterating here. But one of those reasons I want to elaborate upon; it is the subject of Bart Ehrman's Forged: Writing in the Name of God, namely: many books of the canonical New Testament are now known to be forgeries. When I drop something like this in the lap of a conservative Christian friend, his or her typical response is something like: "Forgery? You mean incorrectly attributed authorship, right? You don't really mean forged, do you?" My friends are understandably reluctant to use words like "forged" or "forgery" because they come with all sorts of negative connotations. Forgery is immoral … forgery is illegal … forgery is wrong. And we all know the Bible can't contain anything wrong. But there's a reason Bart Ehrman uses those words. He uses them because that's what he means, negative connotations and all. We're not talking here about mistaken authorial attribution of a work that, on its face, is written anonymously. That would be a better description of the gospels, which were written anonymously and, only a century or two later, were attributed to Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Those are almost certainly mistaken attributions (for several empirical and historical reasons, the specifics of which are not the topic of this review). The same is also probably true of Acts and Hebrews. But a number of New Testament books, including six alleged letters of Paul, were forgeries, plain and simple. As we all know, a document can be written anonymously or the document itself can make a claim of authorship. Within the former category are the four gospels plus Acts and Hebrews; none of those six documents makes a claim of authorship on its face. Within the latter category are the remaining 21 books of the New Testament. However, to the surprise of many a Christian, nearly all modern scholars agree that the authorship of only seven of those books is certain. The remainder are believed to be pseudonymous; that is, 14 books of the New Testament were written by somebody other than who is stated as the author in the documents themselves. Bart Ehrman successfully argues, moreover, that the term pseudonymous doesn't go far enough, that the term "forgery" is more precise, and that it is so because of the negative connotations, rather than in spite of them. I don't have the space in this review to go through all the reasons Ehrman and other scholars believe each of the 14 alleged pseudonymous books are forgeries--you'll have to read Ehrman's book yourself for that. Instead, I'll summarize the Pauline letters to exemplify what we're talking about. By "Pauline letters" I mean the 13 or 14 New Testament books which are traditionally attributed to Paul. One was written anonymously--Hebrews--and people have argued for centuries about whether Paul wrote it. Hebrews is not a forgery because it doesn't make any authorial claim. 13 letters claim to be written by Paul. Of those 13, scholars agree that Paul wrote seven: Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians, and Philemon. Six are believed to be written by people other than Paul: Ephesians, Colossians, 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, and Titus. The reasons the latter six are believed to be forgeries are numerous and differ letter-by-letter, but can be summarized generally as follows: >>The six pseudonymous letters were written at least several decades (some perhaps a century or more) after Paul's death. >>They make theological arguments at odds with the beliefs Paul asserted in the letters we know Paul wrote. >>They make factual assertions at odds with what we believe we know about Paul's life. >>They use dramatically different vocabularies and sentence structure, different both from each other and from the letters we know Paul wrote. This has been demonstrated through extensive statistical study of every word contained in every Pauline letter. >>They expressly and specifically address historical circumstances and theological disputes that were not extant in the time of Paul, but were hot topics of later centuries. Bart Ehrman argues that the same, now unknown, person wrote 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus because of similarities in vocabulary, historical context and writing style; he believes Ephesians, Colossians, and 2nd Thessalonians were written by three different people. It's important to note, just as I did in my review of Jesus Interrupted, that the claims Ehrman makes in Forged are not controversial in the academic world. Not every scholar, perhaps, is willing to use the term "forgery," but the scholarly consensus is Paul did not write those six letters. Yet it seems clear to me that "forgery" is the correct term. Whoever wrote the six pseudonymous Pauline letters, they weren’t Paul, they knew they weren't Paul, and yet they claimed to be Paul anyway, intending to deceive their readers into believing the letters were written by Paul. If that isn't forgery, then somebody please explain to me what forgery is. In antiquity, just as today, there were any number of reasons people forged documents in other people's names. The most probable reason people forged documents in Paul's name was to add authority to their ideas and arguments. The real author of any of those letters probably was a "nobody" or at least someone the recipients otherwise wouldn't have listened to if they knew his identity. By writing in Paul's name, he hoped to make people listen to what he had to say. And the thing is, it worked. It worked spectacularly. People believed he was Paul and they listened to what he had to say. How do we know this? We know because the letter made it into the Christian Canon and, for 1800 or more years, people believed Paul was the author. Those whose faith is dependent upon the Bible being the inerrant and sole source of Truth often find themselves in the position of defending Paul's authorship of the six disputed letters. They object to the charge of forgery in three general ways (at least, these are the three objections I've seen): >>>The first objection is that forgery—they would say "pseudepigraphy"—just wasn't a big deal in antiquity. People did it all the time and it wasn't seen as unethical like we see it today. The authors of the pseudonymous Pauline letters weren't doing anything wrong and didn't intend to deceive anybody. This is easy to respond to: it's inaccurate historically. Bart Ehrman cites mountains of evidence to show that forgery, or pseudepigraphy or whatever you want to call it, was just as frowned-upon in antiquity as it is today. It was considered unethical and forgers were despised. Ancient writers repeatedly warned their readers to be on the lookout for forgeries and not to trust everything they read. In fact, a common trick of forgers who wanted to add an air of authenticity to their lettes was to warn their readers not to trust forgeries! A letter can't be a forgery if it tells us not to trust forgeries, right??? This is exactly what happened in one of the forged Pauline letters. 2nd Thessalonians warns its readers not to trust an earlier, allegedly forged, letter to their church, and it may have been referring to Paul's actual 1st letter to the Thessalonians! Moreover, it is absurd to argue that the people who wrote the forged Pauline letters did not intend to deceive their readers. Of course they intended to decieve. How do I know this? When they wrote the letters, they claimed to be Paul! As noted above, their deception was spectacularly successful! >>>The second objection is that the letters weren't forged, but written by Paul's secretary (or secretaries), who were given latitude to write the letters as they saw fit, which explains why the vocabulary and style differ from Paul's. I saw another GR reviewer say that Ehrman "brushed aside" this argument without serious consideration. I found that odd. Ehrman devotes at least five pages to the topic, explaining in detail why the argument doesn't work, and citing an entire book someone else wrote on the issue. Ehrman begins his response to this objection by explaining that we know that Paul on occasion dictated his letters to a secretary; Romans and Galatians in particular are known to have been dictated to secretaries. Whether Paul used secretaries for other letters is not known, but Ehrman is quite clearly argues that the secretaries did not contribute content to the letters. Secretaries in antiquity were used in different ways. They might simply write down what the author dictated, word-for-word, or they might take the author's written work and correct grammar and spelling. In those cases, it is the person who dictated the content who is the author of the letter, not the secretary. But could secretaries also be given broad latitude to write letters themselves, in their own words and style, which the "author" would then simply sign before it was sent off? Yes, that happened in antiquity, but only rarely, and only the secretaries of the most wealthy and powerful individuals were given that latitude due to constraints on the employer's time. Moreover, when secretaries were used in that fashion, the letters were short and to the point—one page or less, involving a short greeting and brief information or request. There simply is no evidence that Paul ever used a secretary in that fashion. Paul was not among the empire's wealthiest or most powerful individuals, and the Biblical letters in question are not one-page updates on business dealings, but rather represent lengthy and sophisticated theological treatises. In fact, Ehrman argues, citing an entire book on the subject of the use of secretaries in the ancient world, there is no evidence that any literate person used secretaries in the manner required to explain the six Pauline letters as being Paul's. Furthermore, this objection does not explain the evidence of the letters having been written decades after Paul's death, mainly the fact that the letters address the historical context of the second century CE. Finally, if indeed it was a secretary who penned the content and style of the letter, then Paul isn't the author in any real sense; the secretary is the author! >>>The third objection says the letters were not forged, but were compilations of later scribes who wanted to put in writing some of Paul's handed-down teachings. I don't recall seeing Ehrman address this argument directly but I've heard other people make it, and I freely admit it doesn't make any sense. For one thing, the letters we're talking about are written to specific people/congregations and written to address specific issues. They don't read like, and don't claim to be, compilations on general theological issues. Even if they were intended to reflect Paul's handed-down teachings on specific issues, rather than be compilations, how were the second-centurey scribes to know how Paul would have responded to the specific issues affecting the Christian church after his death? At best these would be educated guesses, at worst they would simply be made up, reflecting the scribes' opinions, not Paul's. This objection also doesn't explain why the letters claim to be written personally by Paul himself. Why the deception? Why not just say "we think this is how Paul would have responded to your situation"? Finally, as far as I have seen, this objection isn't backed up by historical evidence; it appears to be creative conjecture invented to support a predetermined conclusion that Paul must have written all the letters the Bible attributes to him because, well, he must have. When we get right down to it, the only evidence in favor of Paul having authored the six disputed letters (Ephesians, Colossians, 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, and Titus) is the fact that the letters themselves claim to be authored by Paul, and church tradition. When you think about it, the fact that a letter claims to be written by Paul is really no evidence at all. I can claim to be Barack Obama writing this review; that claim means jack squat. Church tradition is a little bit stronger evidence until you realize that it, too, is simply based upon the original expression of authorship in the letters. By contrast, the historical evidence against Paul's authorship of those six letters is substantial. Thus, one can demonstrate that Paul wrote those six letters only if one begins with the assumption that he did, based upon the letters' claim of authorship, and then comes up with speculative arguments, unsupported by actual evidence, to counter the historical evidence against Paul's authorship. In other words, defending Paul's authorship turns out to be intellectually dishonest. Intellectual honesty: that's all I'm asking for. I'm not asking anyone to give up their faith. I'm simply saying that if you subscribe to solo scriptura you need to admit it's an arbitrary personal choice. You can make that choice if you want, and if it gives you comfort in your life, then more power to you. But a choice is all it is. The Bible has lots of great things in it, plenty of things I think are still applicable to the modern world, but there's no good reason to believe it's the sole source of Truth, or even that it's all divinely inspired. Is that so much to ask for?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    Part of me wasn’t going to bother with this one. I had already read Misquoting Jesus, and suspected this book would be much the same and on exactly the same topic. But, although he does cover some of the same material (mostly right at the end) he does this in a very summary way – just enough to remind you of some of the stories there. This book covers lots of new ground for me and, like his other books, is remarkably interesting. I’m not going to do a full review of this one, really. Part of me wasn’t going to bother with this one. I had already read Misquoting Jesus, and suspected this book would be much the same and on exactly the same topic. But, although he does cover some of the same material (mostly right at the end) he does this in a very summary way – just enough to remind you of some of the stories there. This book covers lots of new ground for me and, like his other books, is remarkably interesting. I’m not going to do a full review of this one, really. This will be more just a couple of asides further to this review here http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/.... All the same, there are things I need to say about this one: The bit that stopped me was a line about Thomas the Contender – who was the ‘author’ of a Gnostic gospel, but whose main claim to fame, even beyond being one of the apostles, was that he was Jesus’s twin brother. It is hard to adequately describe what happened to my brain on hearing this. The first thought that slammed in was – how did I get to be this old without knowing Jesus had a twin brother? (Surely someone ought to have mentioned this to me at some stage before now) I know people are sometimes surprised to learn that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but nothing prepared me for the idea he might have a twin. And then slowly the full implications of this came to me. ‘Hang on – Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit… That would mean Thomas really could have been a contender’. And there was more that I’d never heard of before, not least the gay fan fiction at the end where Jesus brings young men back to life so he can have his way with them, a new meaning to raising the dead. And the ‘prequels’ where just amazing – particularly the life of Mary pre-Jesus and adolescent Jesus staring in ‘The Road to Tibet’, but perhaps the best new story was Jesus the mass murderer – a kind of ‘don’t cross the man on the cross’ story of Jesus as a rather unforgiving boy. Lots of stuff about Christianity's long road to anti-Semitism and some disturbing accounts of other texts. I had no idea that Pontius Pilate was made a Saint in the Abyssinian Church. The poor man was so over come by allowing the nasty Jews to convince him to kill God that he became a convert to Christianity, even writing his own account of the death of Jesus. This was, in fact, a story he felt strongly compelled to write. So compelled he wrote it years and years after his own death. That sort of commitment does deserve recognition. It probably is time we stopped blaming the Jews for the death of Christ. However, if we stop blaming the Jews it might mean we need to then blame the Italians – and that can’t be allowed to happen (with Italian food, Italian women and Italian coffee God is clearly on their side). Isn’t there some way we can blame the death of Christ on the Danes? If there is one thing missing from the New Testament it is Vikings. If you don’t catch yourself saying, “oh no, you have got to be kidding”, at least five times during this book, you really aren’t trying.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    I think this is the eighth book by Bart Ehrman I've read this year, so to be honest it's becoming a bit of a blur. Forged is one of the good ones, though. At first glance the topic appears to be a re-tread of Misquoting Jesus, but actually the main focus is on overall attribution of the books of the New Testament (and other extra-biblical writings), not the ways in which the initial texts became corrupted through the years. It's interesting to see which of the books in the NT were actually written by those I think this is the eighth book by Bart Ehrman I've read this year, so to be honest it's becoming a bit of a blur. Forged is one of the good ones, though. At first glance the topic appears to be a re-tread of Misquoting Jesus, but actually the main focus is on overall attribution of the books of the New Testament (and other extra-biblical writings), not the ways in which the initial texts became corrupted through the years. It's interesting to see which of the books in the NT were actually written by those to whom they are attributed. It should not come as a surprise that many of them are not, especially those whose "authors" were in fact illiterate. The real answer is even more surprising: virtually only the letters of Paul were likely written by their supposed author, and in fact even several of these are forgeries. In Forged, Ehrman works through each piece of writing, and presents the evidence for who wrote it and why. What interests me most in the analysis are the ways in which the disputes of the early church are clearly visible in the writings, with authors often writing pseudonymously to gain authority for their own views. This explains why the bible can be so contradictory - why do the views espoused in one of Paul's letters contradict the views in another? Because they were not both written by the same person. Through history, the effects of these forgeries have been very damaging, especially with respect to justifying the treatment of Jews and women by the church. It's important to keep in mind that all this is not just one man's opinion. Ehrman is not some lone crackpot with a keyboard and a few wacky ideas. He is a serious and recognised scholar in his field, and his views usually represent a consensus opinion or are at least widely-held and defensible in scholarly circles. Of course, the difference between what scholars and historians have established about the bible, and what your average Christian believes, is startling to consider.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    When I was young and still trying to be a Christian, something I read mentioned off handedly that at first, the book of Job ended with him abasing himself before God. No restoration, no great grandchildren, no death at 140 full of days. It was the first time it had hit me that this book I’d read and been taught was central to faith, while perhaps inspired in the writing, was edited by human hands. It preyed on me. On the one hand, it made it seem like a wiser text. Bad things do happen to good p When I was young and still trying to be a Christian, something I read mentioned off handedly that at first, the book of Job ended with him abasing himself before God. No restoration, no great grandchildren, no death at 140 full of days. It was the first time it had hit me that this book I’d read and been taught was central to faith, while perhaps inspired in the writing, was edited by human hands. It preyed on me. On the one hand, it made it seem like a wiser text. Bad things do happen to good people; good things happen to bad people; Job without the last few verses suggests, if not a particularly satisfactory explanation, at least a realistic one. On the other hand, it was a serious shock. I’m supposed to make moral and spiritual choices based on a book that was written by just folks? Bart Erhman doesn’t talk about that, and I don’t know if it’s true. He’s a New Testament scholar and former evangelical Christian who (like me) left the faith over the problem of evil. He’s got a chair in the religious studies department at UNC Chapel Hill, which is awesome. We heard an NPR Fresh Air interview with him about his book, Misquoting Jesus, as we were leaving Salt Lake some years ago and I was riveted. If I’m remembering him correctly, he said that there were as many differences in the historical fragments of texts as there are words in the New Testament. People sat down and picked a canon. While I have no reason to doubt their earnestness, it was hundreds of years after the events and generations of copies later. Whole passages – “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” the whole of Mark after the women flee the tomb (meaning all the stuff about speaking in tongues, handling serpents, and drinking poison) just showed up at some point, years after the first drafts had nothing like that. This is the third book of his I’ve read, and in many ways, it’s the least satisfying. The other two, Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted, are charming and engaging, told with great affection for the material but with a clear view towards its historical and textual frailties. I suspect, thought I don’t know, that this book is more of a response to his critics than an attempt to communicate his work to a lay audience. He is taking on the idea that we should not be troubled that many (most?) of the books in the New Testament were, in whole or in part, not written by those we credit. Conventional wisdom is that we should not be troubled because it’s just “pseudepigrapha,” and because those selecting and translating the texts were divinely inspired. Pseudepigrapha is just fancy way of saying forged. As for the divine inspiration . . . well, that is probably why this book was less satisfying. The church I left was mainline protestant. It didn’t seem too hung up on whether or not there was a divine copyeditor approving every word. I can see intellectually how the frequent fundamentalist insistence that the Bible, even in translation, is the word of god has to get irritating for a guy who’s done the work and shown fairly persuasively that no, there’s all sorts of human decisions and demonstrable inaccuracies in this text, even as to authorship. He takes on and goes a fair way towards persuading me that the old chestnut that the ancient world had a relaxed attitude about forgery and aggressive editing is just a convenient circumlocution. I’m not enough of a historian to feel settled on the matter, but if he’s right on the textual justification for the idea, it’s eye rollingly slim. (Reminded me of something a law prof said once – “If the judge is citing Am. Jur., you know she’s making it up.”) I am glad I read it. I know now about Thecla baptizing herself in a barrel of man eating seals, which is awesome, and that Paul probably never did tell women to be silent in church in 1 Corinthians, which given that passage was a large part of why I left Christianity, is bemusing. But I liked Misquoting Jesus better.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. There were lots of forged writings in the ancient world, including biblical ones. 2. Out of the 27 books of the New Testament, 10 might have been forged works --- depending on which biblical scholar you talked to. 3. Some modern-day scholars of biblical textual criticism prefer to call them “pseudepigrapha” (“falsely attributed”), but this term is misleading, as the authors of these works intended to pass themselves off as What I learned from this book (in no particular order): 1. There were lots of forged writings in the ancient world, including biblical ones. 2. Out of the 27 books of the New Testament, 10 might have been forged works --- depending on which biblical scholar you talked to. 3. Some modern-day scholars of biblical textual criticism prefer to call them “pseudepigrapha” (“falsely attributed”), but this term is misleading, as the authors of these works intended to pass themselves off as someone else, typically an apostle or someone who was perceived as having authority in the early church, so these works should properly be deemed forgeries. 4. Other scholars argue that writing under someone else’s name, usually a master or leader of a religious/philosophical school is an acceptable practice in the ancient world. Biblical writers who wrote as Peter, Paul or any other authority figures merely followed this tradition. However, there is no evidence whatsoever that such a practice was deemed acceptable by people at that time: forgery, as it is now, was roundly condemned. 5. The inclusion of these forged works explains factual and theological inconsistencies in the New Testament. Did Paul forbid women leaders in the church or not? Did Peter and Paul get along famously from the beginning, or was there any friction between them? Did Peter think that sharing a (presumably non-Kosher) meal with Gentile converts OK or not? Did Paul think that physical resurrection is a future event that will happen at the end of time or something that had already happened? 6. Pontius Pilate, the man who ordered Jesus to be crucified, is a saint in the Abyssinian Church. This is largely due to forgeries that exonerated him from executing Jesus, placing the blame squarely on the ‘perfidious Jews’ instead. 7. Thomas is Jesus’ twin brother, at least according to the Gospel of Thomas, a Gnostic forgery from the Second Century. 8. According to the Acts of Peter, another non-canonical forgery, Peter proved himself as a true, miracle-working man of God by raising a smoked tuna from the dead. 9. Jesus was a mischievous 5-year old, according to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, an ancient forgery fan fiction: “The account begins with Jesus as a five-year-old playing by a stream near his home in Nazareth. The young Jesus gathers some of the water of the stream into a pool and orders it to become pure. And it does so, by his word alone. Jesus then stops down and forms twelve birds out of the mud. A Jewish man who is walking by becomes upset, because it is Sabbath and Jesus has violated the law by “working.” The man heads off to tell Joseph what his sons has done, and Joseph rushes to the stream to upbraid the boy for breaking the Sabbath. In response, Jesus claps his hands and cries out to the birds to come to life and fly away, and they do so. Here Jesus is shown to be above the law and to be the lord of life. Beyond that he has gotten off the hook with his father by destroying, in effect, any incriminating evidence. Mud birds? What birds?” * 10. If you had believed that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and discovered otherwise through your textual criticism studies, you will want to spread the word with a missionary zeal. *The Koran 5.110: " When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and thou didst heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how thou didst raise the dead by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) thee when thou camest unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is naught else than mere magic;"

  8. 4 out of 5

    Suanne Laqueur

    Hm. So I finished. Skimmed most of it. I think I need to file this under, "I had no idea what I wanted from this book, but this wasn't it." Which is an expectations issue and nothing to do with how it's written. In fact, I like his writing and want to check out his other books. Maybe one of them will be "it."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Russell Ince

    I am a big fan of Bart Ehrman because, as an erstwhile Christian and venerable New Testament scholar, he is adequately equipped to discuss these subjects but unlike many Christian academics his agnosticism lends him an air of intellectual honesty which I, as an agnostic atheist interested in Christianity, sometimes find lacking in other New Testament scholars. Ehrman has a respect for his Christian material that axe-grinding atheists may lack but is not clouded by personal subjectivities and rel I am a big fan of Bart Ehrman because, as an erstwhile Christian and venerable New Testament scholar, he is adequately equipped to discuss these subjects but unlike many Christian academics his agnosticism lends him an air of intellectual honesty which I, as an agnostic atheist interested in Christianity, sometimes find lacking in other New Testament scholars. Ehrman has a respect for his Christian material that axe-grinding atheists may lack but is not clouded by personal subjectivities and religious dogmas. Put simply, Ehrman is not afraid to call a spade a spade and this is what he does in Forged. Ehrman tells us that the consensus opinion amongst scholars is that the word ‘forgery’ is considered inappropriate apropos the pseudepigraphal books of the New Testament. Throughout the course of the book Ehrman explains that the arguments made to demonstrate that 'forgery' is an inappropriate label are themselves flawed and, thus, forgery is an acceptable term. Ehrman identifies three broad categories of authorship for the 27 books of the New Testament: Anonymous (mis-attributed) - the 4 gospels, Hebrews, 1st, 2nd & 3rd John. Orthonymous (correctly named) - 7 of Paul's epistles and Revelation was written by a John but is not, and neither does it claim to be, John the apostle. Pseudonymous (forged) - 6 Paulines, Acts (although anonymous it misleadingly implies authorship by a companion of Paul), 1st & 2nd Peter, James and Jude. If 11 of the 27 books of the New Testament are forgeries and the texts we have today have been changed, as argued by Ehrman in 'Misquoting Jesus', how can we possibly hope to know what the earliest Christians believed? When later Christians of a particular dogma forged and interpolated the earliest writings of the church in order to harmonize them with their own views, how can we be sure what or whom we are really reading?

  10. 4 out of 5

    E.

    A lot of Ehrman's work I've considered simply popularization of stuff that those of us with academic training in religion learned in school. I think he would generally acknowledge that. Gosh, I even learned most of it in my Southern Baptist school, because the academic standards of historical-critical method were still used. I really wanted to read this book, however, because it made what to me was a new argument. It had been standard in my education and in other commentaries I've rea A lot of Ehrman's work I've considered simply popularization of stuff that those of us with academic training in religion learned in school. I think he would generally acknowledge that. Gosh, I even learned most of it in my Southern Baptist school, because the academic standards of historical-critical method were still used. I really wanted to read this book, however, because it made what to me was a new argument. It had been standard in my education and in other commentaries I've read to claim that in the ancient world it was common practice to engage in pseudopigraphy and that we should not morally condemn the ancient practice. I have even made such statements from the pulpit when discussing how a biblical book was not actually written by the author in the title. Ehrman argues that that thing we were taught is not true. That this practice should be called forgery and was morally condemned even in the ancient world. Having read the book, he makes a pretty convincing case, and I want to learn more about scholarly reaction and whether this is the developing new consensus. The book itself had a lot of material that was easy for me to skip quickly through, as he makes his case for the larger question pretty early on and then just goes through lots of examples. Some of it pretty basic stuff on why the named author couldn't be the actual author. He does a nice summary of various non-canonical works. I also thought the book rather repetitive in places, though probably not bad for a lay reader who has never engaged this sort of thing before. The final chapter is an intriguing discussion of wide-range of other practices that he also considers lying and condemns. So, his larger agenda is broader in scope. I do have some questions. I know that part of the practice in the Hebrew Scriptures was for later editors and redactors to put together existing material that came from various authors. What does he think of this practice, its influence on the Christian literary tradition, and whether it explains some of the texts we have received? I'm also curious with issues beyond biblical studies. If something similar to his view does become the new scholarly consensus, what are the theological, pastoral, and homiletical reflections? Before I could say something like, "I Peter was not written by Peter, this was accepted practice in the ancient world, let's see what it has to say to us." The authority of the text, for me, was not dependent upon the author at all. It was dependent upon the story, the community, the fruit that the text bears. But, if we conclude that the author was engaging in a practice that was morally condemned even in the authors time, then that does raise interesting questions. We can still claim that this is the received canon developed by the community (always knowing this was a messy process), but it might begin to sound more and more like an ever retreating and more desperate argument. Which brings me to a half-joke I made to some UCC friends a few years ago that we should call an ecumenical council to re-open the canon. If we really believe "God is still speaking," then that sounds like something we should consider. I followed that I was going to argue for the Letter from Birmingham Jail to be included.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dee Eisel

    This is a fun book to read. Ehrman does not take himself too seriously, and enjoys teasing everyone from atheists to literalist fundamentalists. His topic this time? Which books of the New Testament are forged - that is, written by people other than the people said to be their writers. It's a fantastic fun read, and if you have to read just one book by Ehrman, make it this one. In the first part of the book, Ehrman defines his terms: What does forged really mean? What is pseudoepigraphical? How This is a fun book to read. Ehrman does not take himself too seriously, and enjoys teasing everyone from atheists to literalist fundamentalists. His topic this time? Which books of the New Testament are forged - that is, written by people other than the people said to be their writers. It's a fantastic fun read, and if you have to read just one book by Ehrman, make it this one. In the first part of the book, Ehrman defines his terms: What does forged really mean? What is pseudoepigraphical? How can you tell anyway? Why don't people call things in the Bible forged when they so clearly are? He makes sure the lines are clearly drawn, and also makes a point of being kind to those who disagree with him. Ehrman argues from the Bible itself and from what is known about the region. He notes that it's clear that Jesus of Nazareth had siblings, and that James was said to be one. He talks about the various names and nomenclatures, and sketches the conflict between the Jews, the early Christians who were Jewish, and the early Christians who were not Jewish. He is not afraid to call out antiSemitism - in fact, he notes that it's a good thing that several apocryphal and forged books did not make it into the canon, because they were even more antiSemitic than the ones that did make it in! (I don't know about you, but that makes me shudder.) He also doesn't have much truck with conspiracy theorists (and if you want to know more about that, by all means go on to read his book on The Da Vinci Code for giggles!) and he's not afraid to note the discrepancies between what we know and what has been assumed by many Biblical inerrancy advocates. He doesn't share my tremendous dislike for Paul, but then he believes that several of the books attributed to that person were in fact forged and so many of the worst passages he feels can't be laid at Paul's feet. By all means, read this! It's a quick and enjoyable glance through the edges of Biblical scholarship, and it's worth your time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    I would suggest that every Christian read this book, but you could give all the evidence in the world - you could give concrete proof - that the Bible is an imperfect, fallible, and very human book, and most Christians would still believe it's the inerrant and perfect "Word of God." People believe what they want to believe. It's just really sad that so many people base their lives on the Bible, but are at the same time so ignorant of its history. Most Christians can't even answer simple question I would suggest that every Christian read this book, but you could give all the evidence in the world - you could give concrete proof - that the Bible is an imperfect, fallible, and very human book, and most Christians would still believe it's the inerrant and perfect "Word of God." People believe what they want to believe. It's just really sad that so many people base their lives on the Bible, but are at the same time so ignorant of its history. Most Christians can't even answer simple questions about the Bible like when the various books were written and who wrote them. Most Christians haven't even read the entire Bible. And the people who are educated in the Bible's history, but still hold to the belief that it's the infallible "Word of God," have to perform theologically creative backflips to continue justifying such a belief. In this book, Ehrman gives overwhelmingly specific and credible evidence in support of the argument that almost half of the books in the New Testament are literary forgeries. He also gives overwhelmingly credible evidence to the fact that writing pseudonymously (e.g. a student writing udner the name of a teacher) was NOT a common practice in antiquity. Most of these forgeries were written decades (or even centuries) after the person the forgers were claiming to be had died. It's very simple - forgers claimed to be apostles or disciples of Jesus because they knew it would give authority to what they wrote. The Bible is a man-made book that contains a lot of really ridiculous ideas and is absolutely not the perfect and inspired "Word of God." It's just sad that so many people have taken such a silly book so seriously over the last 1,700 years.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    While looking for something aimed at the general reader on how the books of the Bible were selected, I came upon this book. It has a different focus, but through the story of how the books were written, it answers some questions on how the actual canon was created. The author, Bart Ehrman, provides a lot of background on the times with emphasis on literacy, the culture's view of forgery, pseudonyms and other aspects of authorship. His best descriptions are those of why some books are While looking for something aimed at the general reader on how the books of the Bible were selected, I came upon this book. It has a different focus, but through the story of how the books were written, it answers some questions on how the actual canon was created. The author, Bart Ehrman, provides a lot of background on the times with emphasis on literacy, the culture's view of forgery, pseudonyms and other aspects of authorship. His best descriptions are those of why some books are suspect: some refer to events in the future and people not yet born; others contradict the known philosophies of the person purporting to write them; for others its a stretch to think the purported author would be literate... in Greek. One of the points, new to me, was the deep divisions in doctrine among the earliest followers of Christ. One major point of contention, whether Christianity was an extension of Judiasm or a something totally new, is all but forgotten today. Passions on this, and other points ran high for generations. There is material on books not included in the Bible. Some have fantastic stories of Christ and healing. While some have historically inaccurate portraits of Pilate in remorse, others were eliminated because they were unfavorable to Pilate. Ehrman makes the material easy to understand and a delight to read. I'll be looking for his other books.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    This book is another winner by Bart Ehrman, whose works I have reviewed before. Ehrman has the knack of dealing with complex issues in in assessable terms. He clears up murky issues, defines sneaky slippery terms and frequently footnotes to lead the reader to other authors' works. Needless to say, dealing with the issue of forgery or falsity in the Bible is a little like juggling live lobsters and lit dynamite, hot, emotional and controversial. Ehrman is an agile and dextrous juggler who leads h This book is another winner by Bart Ehrman, whose works I have reviewed before. Ehrman has the knack of dealing with complex issues in in assessable terms. He clears up murky issues, defines sneaky slippery terms and frequently footnotes to lead the reader to other authors' works. Needless to say, dealing with the issue of forgery or falsity in the Bible is a little like juggling live lobsters and lit dynamite, hot, emotional and controversial. Ehrman is an agile and dextrous juggler who leads his readers to the knowledge that many pastors don't mention in their average Sunday sermon. If you are emotionally wed to the notion that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, this book make make you angry, confused or shaken. If you are open to his message, it will make you consider what you think you know about Scripture. To the amateur historian of religion, it is a picnic basket of delights. It should go on your shelf next to Jesus Interrupted, Lost Christianities and Misquoting Jesus.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Schwan

    Interesting book. A somewhat large percentage of the new testament was written by people other than who the works are attributed to. Sometimes it has been clear that these occurred and these works were officially blessed by the church, other times it has only been modern scholarship that has identified certain works as deceiving at the minimum. This book can in places present more detail than is necessary to make it's point but in spite of this is still a very insightful book well worth reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rusty

    Straight up, a warning, I still have half a dozen religiously related books on my to-be-read pile, and several others I intend on getting to at some point soon that I’ve not already purchased. So, tons of pointless religious talk coming. Read at your own peril. It’s like this, I was listening to this podcast the other day, and it was a free form conversation, but with the assumption that the two persons would spend the most of their time discussing the existence of God, the necessity of religion Straight up, a warning, I still have half a dozen religiously related books on my to-be-read pile, and several others I intend on getting to at some point soon that I’ve not already purchased. So, tons of pointless religious talk coming. Read at your own peril. It’s like this, I was listening to this podcast the other day, and it was a free form conversation, but with the assumption that the two persons would spend the most of their time discussing the existence of God, the necessity of religion, and foundations of morality. What I ended up hearing was a two hour debate on what ‘truth’ is. Both parties were obviously very smart, both very well educated, and both were dedicated at getting to the heart of the matter. But what I heard was one person making clear, well-considered, logical arguments, and another person redefining terms, not thinking through the implications of their stance, and otherwise speaking incoherently. To say that both sides made points would be unfair. The stance of one of the persons wasn’t just ill-defined and poorly defended, it was nonsensical. What bothered me most about this was that I’m sure someone else could listen and come away with the same opinion, but disagree with me about who was making sense. That’s how it goes with God/religious talk for me. My thoughts about this stuff are so clear, and make so much sense to me, that I honestly can’t make heads or tails out of the other side’s position. This book, Forged, is one of those things that I agree with, mostly. It’s a long list of the unthinkably high number of forgeries and interpolations that litter the history of Christianity. Almost from its inception. The implication here, and it was maybe stated outright, I’m not sure, is that not only does the modern new testament of the bible not only have every evidence of being made up largely of forged documents, but that it’s so obvious upon close inspection that it’s hard to understand why people think otherwise. Example, Peter, the book explains quite clearly that a Jewish fisherman from Galilee around the time of Christ would have been an illiterate Aramaic speaking peasant. The literacy rates of people from this area and background at the time were effectively 0%. And the book goes on to explain reading and writing were entirely separate fields of study at the time, so literacy is only a reference to the ability to read, being able to write is another skillset that is taught separately. But here we have not one, but two books of the new testament attributed to Peter. Both written in Greek, and both written by someone that had a good understanding of rhetoric and form. This person, when quoting the O.T., does so by quoting it in Greek (itself an oddity – for and Aramaic speaking Jew, if they were to decide to choose a language to be literate in, would choose Hebrew, and should have been quoting the Hebrew O.T. – even if they were writing for a Greek audience). There are pages and pages of text in this book explaining why Peter could not be the author of the two books he supposedly wrote, in fact, textual analysis shows that whoever wrote 2 Peter was NOT the person who wrote 1 Peter. They were written a lifetime apart from one another and in the case of 2 Peter, are specifically addressing second century issues within the church. And again, it’s mountains of clues that all point to the fact that what we see in our bibles is not written, in many cases, by whom we’ve been told wrote them. On that Peter topic, I have to point out that I, personally, would not be stunned to learn 1 Peter was actually written by Peter. For the simple fact that the backstory of Peter is given to us by the Gospels, themselves so suspect that gleaning any historically accurate information from them is nearly impossible (covered in numerous other books on the topic of the gospels), so why the bio of Peter is taken as rock solid info here is perplexing to me. It seems much more reasonable that the life of Peter was mythologized by the Gospel writers. Again, being written so long after the events they describe, it’s not only possible, but probable, that the details of his life were made up to fit the narrative of the church’s origin. I’m about as sure of Peter’s actual existence as I think a reasonable person could be in this regard. Paul’s genuine (another long story here) letters mention him. What if later writers of the Gospels, having some of Paul’s letters and little else but word of mouth, filled in the blanks? So, in my made up scenario, Peter could have been a Greek speaking Jew from Jerusalem that was educated and made plenty of calls for people to follow the Christ. I could accept that as possible. If that were true then him authoring 1 Peter becomes possible. As far as I know, I’m the only person alive who’s considered that, but since I thought of it, I’m pretty sure there are oodles of books on the subject that make the same case. Maybe I read it somewhere else and don’t know where, and am thinking I had an original thought when I didn’t, but whatever, I don’t care. My larger point, before I got off-track with whatever it was I was ranting about, is that this book puts the era the N.T. was compiled in in some context. It shows how rampant fraudulent books of the disciples & apostles were, and how arbitrary so many of the choices were that determined what is considered canon today. In all, this was an interesting topic, and I’d like to read a bunch more on it. This particular book didn’t quite dig in as deeply as I’d have liked. The author did mention he produced a companion piece intended for scholarly review which did exactly that. But I’m not sure I’ll pursue it right now. So, interesting. But if you really wanted to dig deeply into this topic, I feel like this is a starting point, not an ending one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This is at least the 9th book I've read by noted Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman. I've enjoyed every one, including now Forged. As usual, the writing is clear and witty. Ehrman compellingly lays out the evidence that at least 10 of the 27 books of the New Testament are forgeries. That is, each of these books was written by someone other than the person who claims to be the author, in order to deceive the world at large in the early centuries A.D. There are other forgeries. Other New Testament books have s This is at least the 9th book I've read by noted Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman. I've enjoyed every one, including now Forged. As usual, the writing is clear and witty. Ehrman compellingly lays out the evidence that at least 10 of the 27 books of the New Testament are forgeries. That is, each of these books was written by someone other than the person who claims to be the author, in order to deceive the world at large in the early centuries A.D. There are other forgeries. Other New Testament books have significant sections that are forged, and many other books that did not become Scripture were also forged. (view spoiler)[Here are the NT books Ehrman believes likely are forgeries: 3 of the Pauline epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians), the three Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), and 4 of the Catholic Epistles (James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude). He also believes the Gospel of Mark, Acts of the Apostles, and 1 Corinthians contain significant forged sections. (hide spoiler)] Why does this matter? Ehrman shows that the forged documents contain teachings, thought, and doctrine that are completely different from what the purported authors taught or believed, or in some cases cover topics that the purported authors did not address. People that believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, or at least is divinely inspired, and live their lives by it, ought to consider the implications of the presence of forgeries in the sacred text. Some of the forged books contain some rather key concepts. A few examples: >> From 2 Peter 3:8, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." >> From 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." >> From Ephesians 2:4-6, "... God ... made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus..." (Here the contradiction is that in a genuine letter, Paul says "that the resurrection of believers was a future, physical event, not something that has already happened." [p. 111]) All of these quotes are forgeries. Peter did not say "With the Lord a day is like 1000 years...". Paul did not make the statements attributed to him above. It may sound like this book would be a difficult read. It isn't at all difficult. In fact, Ehrman works in little quips like "Some docetists claimed Christ's body only seemed to be human, because it was, in fact, phantasmal (like Caspar the Friendly Ghost)." [p. 54] I can imagine that Ehrman writes like he lectures in class. In summary, a very interesting book that anyone who is interested in Christianity or general history should read. I assume some will have their beliefs vigorously challenged. For those that value truth, that is never a bad thing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marfita

    If you've read the rest of Ehrman's oeuvre, there won't be a great deal more in this book to sink your teeth into. Right now I suspect Ehrman's a popular New Testament exegesis factory but even a factory turns out good material, even if it all starts to look the same. He does, however, footnote everything. He gives you the location of his source material in English so you can check up behind him. He does not make things up (as colorful as Borg and Crossan's book might have been, they made stuff If you've read the rest of Ehrman's oeuvre, there won't be a great deal more in this book to sink your teeth into. Right now I suspect Ehrman's a popular New Testament exegesis factory but even a factory turns out good material, even if it all starts to look the same. He does, however, footnote everything. He gives you the location of his source material in English so you can check up behind him. He does not make things up (as colorful as Borg and Crossan's book might have been, they made stuff up, just showing how easy it is to extrapolate, infer, and they produce a factual lie) and it doesn't lose anything for being relentlessly factual because of Ehrman's easy-going, highly readable style. A better title for this book, though, might have been "Forgeries and Other Bare-Faced Lies." Ehrman stretches the definition of "forgery" to the breaking point over Acts. Perhaps the title as it stands is the last punch pulled. Ehrman's gloves are off (as my husband pointed out) as he makes no bones about lies perpetuated in the name of an alleged "Greater Truth." Normally we call such lies "Fiction," or perhaps "Politics As Usual." At no time does Ehrman deny the existence of an historical Jesus. All he's saying is that the people who were inspired by his story fibbed about some things. And if they fibbed about who wrote what or made up false attributions, what else might they have fibbed about, eh? The last chapter of the book does make a person think about Lying. Do you side with Augustine, that a lie is never excusable? Do you permit small social lying? Where do you draw the line? To get a child to take its medicine? (To get my mother to the hospital to have her tonsils taken out, my grandmother told her she was going to get a pony. My mother felt utterly betrayed and refused to lie to us kids about anything like that.) Is a lie permissible to save someone from eternal damnation? It might depend on how hard you believe in that damnation to make you think it's not just okay, but imperative, to lie in the name of Truth.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John de' Medici

    Wish I'd read Bart in my young, conceited seminary days. What a difference that would've made... Yet another brilliant book by Bart, this one dealing particularly with pseudonymous New Testament books (books written under a false name). Bart argues that these books are modern equivalents to Forgeries, pointing out how prevalent this practice in the early church and just how much it was generally condemned. He highlights books that didn't make it into the canon, primarily be Wish I'd read Bart in my young, conceited seminary days. What a difference that would've made... Yet another brilliant book by Bart, this one dealing particularly with pseudonymous New Testament books (books written under a false name). Bart argues that these books are modern equivalents to Forgeries, pointing out how prevalent this practice in the early church and just how much it was generally condemned. He highlights books that didn't make it into the canon, primarily because they were deemed to be 'forgeries'. Others that made it into the final cut i.e New Testament that are actually 'forgeries'. He points out just how many scholars and theologians know of this fact, but are hesitant to call this practice for what it truly is. Most importantly he explains why these books couldn't have been written by their purported authors, and why the true authors lied about the authorship. I found this book to be quite a gem, truly insightful! Bart puts his points across in a very clear manner, hammering his points over and over and over again to a point where it does seem to get repetitive. Didn't mind though; that's what a good teacher does. I also love just how unbiased Bart's writing is. This is not a 'Bible hammering' bout as an atheist might expect and neither is it your typical Bible knowledge text-book. It's just an honest Bible exposition from a serious Bible scholar. Highly recommended for anyone who's really curious of New Testament authorship and the early church.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dave Maddock

    Not much new in this book if you're familiar with Ehrman's other work. As he has done before, Ehrman marshalls his typical collection of anecdotes, facts, assertions, etc. and applies them to a specific focus. In Misquoting Jesus the focus was textual variation in New Testament manuscripts. In Jesus Interrupted it was variation in content, theme, etc. in NT books. In Forged, he focuses specifically on authorship. The details about the books themselves are nothing new to people who know what they are talking Not much new in this book if you're familiar with Ehrman's other work. As he has done before, Ehrman marshalls his typical collection of anecdotes, facts, assertions, etc. and applies them to a specific focus. In Misquoting Jesus the focus was textual variation in New Testament manuscripts. In Jesus Interrupted it was variation in content, theme, etc. in NT books. In Forged, he focuses specifically on authorship. The details about the books themselves are nothing new to people who know what they are talking about (which excludes many Bible readers unfortunately). The interesting sections of the book are when he refutes the oft-heard claim that forgery was an accepted practice in antiquity. He demonstrates pretty clearly that it was disdained just as much then as now. This assertion is one of the few bastions left for those who want to claim special authority for the New Testament, but are rational enough to actually feel a need to acknowledge scholarly evidence disproving traditional authorial beliefs.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Darrel

    This book felt like an easy walk and discussion with the author. I was pretty familiar with the territory he covers, but the greater detail was welcome as well as well reasoned arguments. I particularly liked how he used non-canonical and other ancient texts to illustrate the process of forgery, plagiarism, etc. I found his precision of language important in understanding the claims of moderns about ancient writers. I was told throughout my seminary and early religious training that forgery and This book felt like an easy walk and discussion with the author. I was pretty familiar with the territory he covers, but the greater detail was welcome as well as well reasoned arguments. I particularly liked how he used non-canonical and other ancient texts to illustrate the process of forgery, plagiarism, etc. I found his precision of language important in understanding the claims of moderns about ancient writers. I was told throughout my seminary and early religious training that forgery and plagiarism were common and, in any event, it didn't matter that many books in the bible were not written by the supposed author. The truth is the same, even if someone accidentally or intentionally put the wrong name on a book. Ehrman's arguments certainly destroy this rather quaint notion. A notion that is actually so foreign to the truth claims of Christianity, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." In this case, freedom from believing the nonsense of the New Testament is the best result.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Wells

    The author begins the book by assuming that the New testament is forged. He offers terrible arguments, the only basis for which is on ancient forging practices. I attempted to write a history paper to argue against this book, but there wasn't enough historical evidence being proposed to argue against.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Miles Fowler

    In early Christianity, the most beloved books of the new religion were read out loud in church. This was due to the illiteracy of most Christians but also to the need for the shared experience of hearing spiritually meaningful texts. There were no printing presses or photocopiers in those days. Each book had to be copied by hand, one at a time. It was a labor intensive and expensive task that was only done for free by the most devoted Christian scribe. One consequence of this was that only those In early Christianity, the most beloved books of the new religion were read out loud in church. This was due to the illiteracy of most Christians but also to the need for the shared experience of hearing spiritually meaningful texts. There were no printing presses or photocopiers in those days. Each book had to be copied by hand, one at a time. It was a labor intensive and expensive task that was only done for free by the most devoted Christian scribe. One consequence of this was that only those books that were most beloved, and therefore copied many many times, enjoyed the statistical likelihood that at least one copy might survive to modern times, to be found in a library or rubbish heap by a nineteenth or twentieth century scholar. Another implication is that every forgery, especially if it has survived to surface in the present day, had a community that not only revered it but also lovingly copied, preserved and even translated it. The kinds of forged books that were rejected by the church are of great interest to the author of "Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are," but he has caused the greatest controversy by openly discussing the evidence, some of it centuries old, that at least some of the books lovingly copied and preserved in the canonical New Testament are also forgeries. Professor Bart Ehrman defines literary forgery, sensibly enough, as writing something in the name of someone else (more often than not, someone far more famous than the forger), and he makes the case that forgery was not only very common in ancient times, but that the ancients did not take kindly to it. Forgeries were called lies and compared to illegitimate children by ancient authors who discussed the subject. Ehrman shows that common attempts to explain away forgery fly in the face of the evidence. For example, ancient writers generally did not allow their secretaries to compose letters in their names. In only one instance, Cicero is known to have had his secretary write a short form letter in his name, but no one is known to have pawned off an important letter in this way. Ehrman shows that many fanciful writings existed in early Christianity, most of which were never accepted as scripture. There were a few notable exceptions such as 1CThe Gospel of Peter, 1D which was read as if it were scripture by some churches in Syria for a while. At first, the bishop of Antioch accepted it without reading it, but when he got around to reading it, he decided that it contained heretical teachings; whereupon he ordered that the book be discarded and no longer read. Ehrman rather thinks the book a forgery not only because of its theology but because its attitude toward Jews is anachronistic and belongs to the second century, which is when this gospel was probably written 14a hundred years after Peter 19s probable death. (We only have legends and guesses about the dates of death for Peter and Paul; they are both presumed to have been executed about 64 AD.) What Ehrman reveals to the layman in this book 14something which scholars have long recognized 14is that some ancient forgeries found their way into the New Testament. One of the most blatant instances is 2 Peter (pronounced 1CSecond Peter 1D or, more formally, the 1CSecond Epistle of Peter 1D). It was actually widely considered to be a forgery by many churchmen in the second century. There was even a blind churchman among those who declared that someone falsely claiming to be Peter wrote the epistle, which entitles us to say that 2 Peter is so obviously a forgery that a blind man could see it; yet it made its way into the New Testament. How can you tell a forgery? Grammar, sentence length and other stylistic clues play a role, but, also, when you compare an authentic text to a forged one, contradictory historical details or a difference in theology can make the forgery stand out. Of the thirteen letters in the New Testament that are attributed to Paul, seven are consistent in both style and theology, even though they are each about different topics and were written for different ends. Of the other six, the three so-called 1Cpastoral 1D letters, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, are stylistically similar to each other but not to the seven authentic letters. These are sometimes thought to have been forged by the same person. The remaining three letters are each unique in style. The fourteenth letter sometimes attributed to Paul is Hebrews, but Paul did not write it and its author did not make much, if any, effort to persuade his readers that he was Paul. Theological differences are very important. For example, the theology of Paul 19s letter to the Romans (authentic) contradicts his supposed letter to the Ephesians (a forgery) on the topic of resurrection. Rather than think that Paul changed his mind about such an important subject, the more obvious conclusion is that the letters were written by two different authors, one being Paul and the other only claiming to be him. Another issue that some letters forged in Paul 19s name get wrong is that they confuse works according to the Jewish law (Paul 19s concern) with ordinary good deeds (the concern of pseudo-Paul in Ephesians). Interestingly, this helps us to identify a non-Pauline forgery: the Epistle of James makes this same confusion, and it is also a forgery. Ehrman argues that most of the books in the Bible were not written by the person to whom they have been attributed, but this does not prove forgery. In most cases, books in the Hebrew as well as Christian scriptures were composed anonymously and much later attributed to an author by copyists or readers. The authors of the New Testament gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, for example, do not explicitly name themselves. The names were assigned by churchmen who lived decades later. (The Gospel According to John has an epilogue that speaks of the author in the third person, identifying him with the figure of the Beloved Disciple, an unnamed figure within the gospel, but, even here, this dubious intra-textual attribution does not actually name the author.) The letters known as 1, 2 & 3 John as well as the Book of the Revelation to John get the benefit of the doubt because they never claim to have been written by John the apostle. That attribution appears to have been made by later churchmen. The New Testament forgeries identified by Ehrman are 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, James, Jude and 14believe it or not 14the Acts of the Apostles. The author of the Gospel According to Luke is widely considered to be the author as well of Acts, but even though the gospel cannot be regarded as a forgery, Ehrman makes a persuasive case that Acts should be, because there are several indications within Acts that the author means for the reader to believe that he is a companion of Paul 14something he never does in his gospel. Ehrman argues that the author of Acts cannot have been a companion of Paul. 1CLuke 1D contradicts Paul 19s letters (e.g., Galatians) historically and theologically, suggesting that the author was not with Paul and has a completely different agenda from him. Ehrman documents references to forgery from more than two thousand years ago up until recently. The main differences between ancient and modern forgeries are that there were no laws specifically against forgery, as there are now, and, today, forgeries are almost always motivated by greed. In ancient times, there were occasionally cases of forgery for profit. (The Roman physician Galen was a prolific author, and several books were forged in his name, which drove Galen himself to write a book on how to tell whether a book was by him or not.) But ancient forgeries were more often made because an author named John Doe knew that if he wrote a book on philosophy, no one would pay much attention, but if he signed the book in the name of Aristotle or Plato, readers would be more likely to take the obscure author 19s ideas seriously. This was probably the motivation of those who wrote epistles in the names of Peter, Paul and other apostles during the first centuries of Christianity. Why did the church let forgeries into the Bible? The early church was not capable of the kind of careful textual analysis that can reveal literary fraud in these texts. They mainly cared that the books were 1Corthodox 1D in their outlook (were consistent with the doctrines agreed upon by leaders of the church) and at least purported to be written by recognized authorities such as apostles or those who had known apostles in the first century. Unfortunately, discrimination was spotty when it came to recognizing that just because a book claimed to be written by an apostle, and just because its theology seemed unobjectionable to most church leaders, did not necessarily mean that it was authentic. A leading motive for writing such books was to combat the teachings of some other Christian sect. Early Christianity was not unified. Even the authentic letters of Paul complain of false teachers within the church. Often the forged books take one side or another in a theological dispute 14sometimes leading to both opposing views being included within the New Testament. The forged Letter of James, for example, asserts that Christians must do good deeds in order to be saved, while the author of Ephesians, who falsely claims to be Paul, says that good deeds will not lead to salvation. Both seem to misunderstand the theology of the real Paul, who maintains that the works of the Hebrew law are not required for salvation, but urges Christians to follow a code of conduct. Though Ehrman is primarily concerned with Christian examples of forgery and other kinds of literary fraud, outside and inside the New Testament, he mentions a couple of examples of forgery in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as the Book of Daniel that purports to be about four-hundred years older than it actually is. He cites many examples of forgery outside the New Testament to show that the phenomenon was common in the early Christian church. Though Christian forgeries appeared mainly during the first few centuries of the Christian era, Ehrman ends his book with some examples of nineteenth and twentieth century forgeries of Christian documents.

  24. 5 out of 5

    William Schram

    When I was a child, I owned several Bibles. I might have even told this story before, about how I wondered why of all the apostles, only four of them wrote anything about their experiences with Jesus. This comes to me through the Gospels. I am aware of several things in the New Testament written by Peter, and several things written by Paul. With Forged, author and biblical scholar Bart D Ehrman explores the veracity of claims that certain books were written by who they state they were When I was a child, I owned several Bibles. I might have even told this story before, about how I wondered why of all the apostles, only four of them wrote anything about their experiences with Jesus. This comes to me through the Gospels. I am aware of several things in the New Testament written by Peter, and several things written by Paul. With Forged, author and biblical scholar Bart D Ehrman explores the veracity of claims that certain books were written by who they state they were written by. This book focuses squarely on the New Testament. It calls into question the idea that the Apostles were even literate at all. Even the idea of the Apostles using an amanuensis is called into question. Take the Book called 1 Peter for instance. It is used to show that Peter must have had a deep understanding of the Septuagint and enough knowledge in Greek to be able to argue persuasively in this language. Given Simon Peter’s history and upbringing, this is highly unlikely. Even the biblical accounts of Simon Peter call him an uneducated fisherman. Could he have been filled with the Holy Spirit and learned all that stuff through divine power? Probably not. It even alludes to the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, which didn’t happen until after Simon Peter was most likely deceased. Ehrman takes care to differentiate the terms he is using to discuss forgeries and how they are perceived. Since the book is written for the layman and not his fellow scholars, the book doesn’t go too deeply into the evidence and the technical aspects of the situation. Apparently, a number of people ask ‘why,’ why would someone go to the trouble of pretending to be a famous person? I had to do a double-take when I read that. I suppose that means I am terribly jaded and lack trust in humanity, but how naive do you have to be to not realize that writings have way more weight if they are thought to be genuinely written by a famous person? This happens all the time. Back in the 1980s, there was a famous forgery case with the so-called Hitler Diaries. This is a tale as old as time. Even back in the time of Galen. So this book explores how different Gospels and letters made no sense, and how they were possibly forged. It makes for a fascinating read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John

    Ehrman is always a joy to read. He is articulate, knowledgeable, challenging and writes in a manner that everyone can follow. But he is not without bias, although he likes to think so - he comes always with a skeptic mind and are fast to point out his Christian history and how he was before a naive Christian, but now a skeptic agnostic. Not that it matters, but sometimes it makes too much of an adversary of the Christian side of the equation, that it seems he does not make the best out of their Ehrman is always a joy to read. He is articulate, knowledgeable, challenging and writes in a manner that everyone can follow. But he is not without bias, although he likes to think so - he comes always with a skeptic mind and are fast to point out his Christian history and how he was before a naive Christian, but now a skeptic agnostic. Not that it matters, but sometimes it makes too much of an adversary of the Christian side of the equation, that it seems he does not make the best out of their arguments. Forged is not that bad, mostly because it does not make too outrageous claims(when considering most of the writings Ehrman discusses, Christians agree), but it has a few issues(when it arrives at those books that made it into the canon, where Christians begin to disagree more with Ehrman). I would like him to address the following better: - The time they were written. A gospel, epistle or act that becomes available 100-300 years later than when it happened with wrong author claims is much more easily dismissed as a forgery than one that is 10-100 years after when people that still knew Peter and Paul lived. He kind of mixes them up as if they were the same, where a more clear distinction is needed. - The literacy. First Ehram argues how illiterate the people were. Then he argues how many and big a problem forgeries were. So, the percentage of forgeries compared to literate people must be very high? (You need both them that write a forgery, and those that read them - you need a market and a viable product) If the written word was so important, both to write and to read, one would think that the low-rank Christians would be more literate than what Ehrman assume. - Sometimes it is obvious that the motivation is to spread a new or minority view of the Christian belief that is not apparent in the oldest now canonized writings, rather than holding to the orthodox belief. The Orthodox do not have the same motivation, other than maybe clarify against the heretics - so that is why the most forgeries have a different view than the Orthodox one. - The content of the writing. Sometimes it just is too obvious it is a sham, other times not at all - so this says something about the writer, the motivation, the goal - because a "bad" forger is motivated by deceit, the "good" forger by getting the right message through. - The money. Where was the money in forgeries? The money now days is that forgeries may be worth a lot if thought correct, the only win for the forger to use time and money on a forgery was that if his view would be considered Orthodox one day. Not a very strong argument, because one knows that it is a lie and secondly one might be dead when if it has a breakthrough. Testing if it works seems like it is just too easy an endeavor. - The situation. I would say that the situation could explain a "forgery", especially the earliest ones - for instance writing a letter in a time of persecution, it would make sense not to use one's own name(just to get marked for the lions) but rather write in the name of a dead apostle - with the messenger knowing the real identity. - The work of authority. Christians managed to identify most forgeries in the day, as is evident by what ended up canonized and who ended up as Church Fathers, whose writings also prevailed in their own eight. Ehrman insists that the Gnostics were Christians in the same sense as the Orthodox (or what he would call the proto-Orthodox). - The language. I would suspect that one writes a letter to Romans in a different language than if one writes to the Hebrews. I would also think that one would use a translator to write the letter if oneself is not that steady in the language. One would believe then that similarity is lost again when later translated into a language most would understand and that was common for all books in the collection. - The tradition. There is also a case to make that when a letter was read out loud, and a person that heard it a few times later wanted to write it down without access to the original(if it was lost, destroyed, or the "forger" moved away). Would it then be a forgery to write the recollection of the original, in the name of the author of the original - trying to keep the message, but not able to do the wording right(and having one's own swung to it)? - The idea of myths. I'm not saying that it is not a "lie" to tell a false story, but when the Greeks and Romans were to explain something they spun up a myth that was connected to the existing mythos. Christians do believe that Christ is no myth, but the idea that one can spin a story upon an existing story could maybe be a borrow feat from the culture that Christianity emerged in. At least, one could think of the forgery as this kind of expansion of a story already there to fill in the gaps. Even more easy to do if one believed that Christ was a myth, as some Gnostics tended to do. Now, I'm no expert as Ehrman is, but he seems to do an awful lot of this kind of reasoning - but in the negative, in countering the explanation given by typically Christian theologians - and then offering his own suggestive explanations to why his view sounds more reasonable. But for me, it seems, he did not try to explain, rather disdain, so he did not catch all the explanations.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Moshe Mikanovsky

    As with his other books, Ehrman brings so many examples and repeats the reasoning why many of the new testament and some other Christian books are forgeries and not original works. I wish there was a similar book also for the old bible.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    For the Presbyterian Outlook Bart Ehrman has once again written a sprightly, challenging and informative volume. Some of his previous books too often offer a rehash of well known scholarly conclusions, served up in an exaggerated fashion that is often misleading. You will find similar tendencies in Forged, but Ehrman also offers some original research which will be presented in a more scholarly volume at a later date. The basic premise of Forged is that much of the New Testament For the Presbyterian Outlook Bart Ehrman has once again written a sprightly, challenging and informative volume. Some of his previous books too often offer a rehash of well known scholarly conclusions, served up in an exaggerated fashion that is often misleading. You will find similar tendencies in Forged, but Ehrman also offers some original research which will be presented in a more scholarly volume at a later date. The basic premise of Forged is that much of the New Testament is in fact comprised of forgeries. This has been hidden from the general public by the timidity of New Testament scholars who, in Ehrman's estimation, are unwilling to call things what they are. They refer to these forgeries as "pseudonymous," acknowledging that they are not written by the people who are claimed as the authors. What most of these scholars do not or will not admit is that these false attributions are deliberate attempts to deceive. That ancient pseudonymity or pseudepigraphy was in Greco-Roman culture a practice of deception and considered as such is the focus of Ehrman’s original research. He has done an extensive survey of this literature and demonstrates his position convincingly. However, he dismisses very casually two relevant theories which should be given deeper consideration. One is the notion that Paul and others may have given secretaries a good deal of freedom in composing their letters. This he finds totally implausible, on less than convincing grounds. The other possibility is that some of these documents may represent scribal traditions; elaborations and augmentations of a significant teacher's instruction by his followers. Many scholars see this as a well established practice visible in the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic. On the basis of his analysis of Greco-Roman attitudes, Ehrman rules this possibility out for both testaments. In relation to the Old Testament and apocalyptic literature his critique is very brief. This, along with his quick dismissal of the possibility that New Testament writers may have used secretaries, represents the major failing of this book. Many feel that it is in the context of this sort of scribal tradition that we are to understand some of the New Testament "pseudonymous" writing. It has been suggested that the difficulty some of the New Testament books faced in the canonization process was due to the changing context in which they were read. No longer being read in a Jewish context or one heavily influenced by Jewish practice, but now in a more Hellenized church, such writings were in danger of being viewed the way Ehrman sees them, as simple forgeries. In the end, it is hard not to have the impression that things are more complex than Ehrman’s simple choice between either single or joint authorship on the one hand and forgery on the other. He has made the case well in relation to Greco-Roman culture, but not with regard to Jewish and the earliest Christian writing. Beyond this core discussion, the majority of the book is filled with numerous interesting descriptions and details about the many Christian pseudonymous works which lie beyond the canon. These make for absorbing reading but are basically irrelevant to what the book is purportedly about.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed

    (I feel bad for writing a review of this when I have left other books, ones I liked a lot more, unreviewed.) I didn't come to this book with an axe to grind—everyone has had the experience of discovering that a fact long held is actually disproven or contentious. A couple of delicious examples. Several people have told me how the "ring around the rosies" children's song is about the bubonic plague and Black Death, taking delight in how a gruesome ghastly grim piece of history is hidde (I feel bad for writing a review of this when I have left other books, ones I liked a lot more, unreviewed.) I didn't come to this book with an axe to grind—everyone has had the experience of discovering that a fact long held is actually disproven or contentious. A couple of delicious examples. Several people have told me how the "ring around the rosies" children's song is about the bubonic plague and Black Death, taking delight in how a gruesome ghastly grim piece of history is hidden innocuously in a playground song, but as David Wilton in Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends points out, the song is likely from much later than the last plague outbreaks in English-speaking areas, and he wonders what it says about people that they like to propagate this urban legend. Similarly, we all have been told how spinach has a ton of iron in it. Popeye. But this turns out to be an indescribably convoluted academic urban legend, as meticulously documented by Ole Bjørn Rekdal in their 2014 paper, “Academic urban legends” available for free on Sagepub. The story goes that spinach has a lot of iron in it. Then people found out that this isn’t true: someone misread a decimal point in the original German research done in the late 19th century, and that this showed how lazy academics continued to perpetrate the myth. Then it turns out that those authors upbraiding lazy academics were the lazy academics: the original research did not have a decimal point error. Then it turns out that whatever iron is available in spinach isn’t bioavailable, so there’s not much point in eating a bunch of it. I’ve sketched out this story but the real thing is pure gold: Ole Bjørn Rekdal is a delightful writer and “Academic urban legends” will be the best article you’ll read this year. So yeah, if you spend any time observing yourself, you’ll find yourself regularly updating your beliefs, and that makes you less wedded to beliefs. Beliefs can give you lots of badge honor and are great for tribal signaling, but you know what’s even better? The sport of belief-busting, and unbusting, and re-busting, and so on. So Bart Ehrman’s book is kind of like Rekdal’s paper, but necessarily much more coarse and foggy because while Rekdal can read all the scientific literature relevant to the great spinach irony misquoting fact-fabricating urban legend debacle, Ehrman is dealing with two thousand years of urban-legend-making. Also. Marcion is hella cool.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book contains a lot of good information, even though it was somewhat dry and academic. I found it to be very much worth reading. It talks about how many of the books of the New Testament are forgeries written by authors pretending to be people they weren't. I found it ironic that some of the most memorable Bible passages that speak out against lying, such as the one that says "the truth will set you free" were written by forgers who were lying about who they were in order to geai a wider re This book contains a lot of good information, even though it was somewhat dry and academic. I found it to be very much worth reading. It talks about how many of the books of the New Testament are forgeries written by authors pretending to be people they weren't. I found it ironic that some of the most memorable Bible passages that speak out against lying, such as the one that says "the truth will set you free" were written by forgers who were lying about who they were in order to geai a wider readership. Another part of the book that was interesting was how he discussed many of the books that didn't make it into the New Testament, such as the apocalypse of John, the pseudo-Clementine writings, the gospel of Thomas, etc. – he talks about the different factions of Christians in the decades after Jesus death, and explains how different schools of thought forged different documents in order to put forward their views and discredit those they saw as "heretics." He explains why the Bible contradicts itself in different places, discussing how Paul and Peter actually disagreed on things, and how it was portrayed that they were at odds, and then, in later forgeries, the story was changed to make it seem like they were always on the same page. He describes how Paul's views of women in the legitimate writings are different from those in the forgery in Paul's name. Apparently, the real writings by Paul were more positive towards women, the part where he says "there is neither slave nor free, neither man nor woman, in Christ Jesus" stands directly at odds with another book that says "wives should submit to their husbands and not speak in church (paraphrased)" at one point, Paul says that women should wear a head covering in church when prophesying, in the forged gospel, he says women shouldn't speak in church at all – a lot of these contradictions were explained by realizing that a different writer wrote each piece of work. I really enjoy the information in this book, I feel like I learned a lot, but again, the presentation was a little bit dry. I really hesitate about whether to give it three or four stars – it's not a very entertaining book per se, but I feel like I learned a lot.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Richardson

    “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 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. So if, in theory, you can verify the “objective” truth of religion, and then it turns out that the religion being e “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 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. So if, in theory, you can verify the “objective” truth of religion, and then it turns out that the religion being examined is verifiably wrong, where does that leave you? If you are an evangelical Christian, it leaves you in the wilderness outside the evangelical camp, but with an unrepentant view of truth. Objective truth, to paraphrase a not so Christian song, has been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know, I’m one. I like to learn about everything, and even if I am no longer a believer of organized religion, I have read the scriptures several times through and enjoy learning more. I picked up this book at the library because it looked like an open minded scholarly attempt at truth. Many books in the Bible are forgeries. Mr. Ehrman goes into the reasons behind forgeries and explains that many are not done maliciously. He also seems to condone some and never speaks about revising the Bible. To me, if you preach a Gospel and you find out it was falsely attributed, if you are then expected to blindly accept everything in it, you already are building on sand. This is like a child finding out Santa Claus doesn’t exist, it’s painful and I think it can be harmful. I understand Mr. Ehrman’s theory that everything doesn’t have to be validated in order to be good “objective” truth. However, I am of the opinion that if there is no direct word from the Creator than we should not have to follow some good, some bad rules in order to receive eternal life. I will continue to do my own research and to try to live a righteous life without a minister, priest or religion showing the way. The book itself is interesting and well written. I disagree with the final premise and that is why I have only given it a 4 star rating.

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