A biblical scholar has raised a holy fuss by declaring that more than a third of the books of the New Testament were “forged” — that is, written by scribes other than the apostles to which they've been ascribed. By itself, the suggestion that nearly half of Paul's epistles and both of Peter's were not written by Peter or Paul is not all that surprising. Most scriptural scholars, even those who are true believers, acknowledge that's the likeliest explanation for the New Testament's disagreements in narrative and anomalies in writing style. But Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, goes further by asserting that such ghost-writing — or, as Greekophiles put it, “pseudepigraphy” — would be unacceptable if it were brought to light in ancient times. In fact, the writers of such works would be “roundly condemned for lying and trying to deceive their leaders,” Ehrman says.
“In antiquity, people called this lying,” Ehrman told me today. “That was the most common term used to discuss it.” Ehrman lays out his case for Biblical-era fraud and forgery in a recently published book, titled “Forged.” The book has sparked a counter-wave of critiques from other scholars who take Ehrman to task not so much for what he's saying, but for the way he's saying it. “Those who are looking for an excuse to call the early Christians liars and deceivers are delighted with this book,” Ben Witherington, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, wrote in the first of a series of blog posts about “Forged.”