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Are Some Books of the Bible Forgeries?

Updated on May 8, 2019
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Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology

Claims of forgery

There is always someone who makes the claim that many of the biblical books were forged. Each one making these claims have their own reasons for doing do so. The most obviously reason is that a scholar or regular person became disillusioned with the Bible and God and decided to forsake any belief they may have held.

One such person is Dr. Bart Ehrman. His book Forged came out many years ago but in the intermediary term the arguments for and against the Biblical books have not changed. I will be referencing his book as it contains the best arguments supporting the claims of forgery.

This article is just the beginning of a series on forgery and the Bible.

The definition of the term

In chapter 1 of his book and on page 31, Dr. Ehrman states his definition of the term forgery. He tries to keep the legality of the issue out of his definition so as to not cloud any issues or points he is trying to make. He says:

My definition of a forgery, then, is a writing that claims

to be written by someone (a known figure) who did not in fact

write it.

For this discussion, that is probably fine with one major exception. His definition is his alone and opens the door to the term being subjectively altered whenever someone does not like the real definition of the terms forgery or forged.

Keep in mind that those terms are more commonly associated with metal work or the work of a blacksmith. They also can be used for military advancement. Neither of those definitions fit the topic Dr. Ehrman is addressing in his book.

Nor are they the definitions anti-biblical books advocates use when a making their forgery claims. The best definition comes from this link- and the words used by this dictionary remove any confusion about what topic is being addressed. It says:

#1. Fake

That one word concisely evaluates the arguments of Dr. Ehrman, and others like him, simplifying it so everyone knows exactly what point he and they are making. Their claims simply state that many of the biblical books are fake.

There are other technical terms used

Scholars have other terms that they use to categorize the different books of the bible. You can find them in detail on pages 29 to 31 of his book. I will merely summarize their meaning:

#1. Orthonymous- actually written by the author named on the work

#2. Homonymous- written by someone who has the same name as another person

#3. Anonymous- no one is named as the author

#4. Pseudonymous- writing under a pen name

#5. Pseudepigraphy- claiming to be written by a famous person but was written by someone else. Sometimes we call this Ghost Writing

The last category also contains the option of wrongly attributed, where no one knows who authored it and give credit to the wrong person.

They sit in judgment of biblical books

Scholars throughout the ages love to cast judgment on works they do not agree with. The creation of the forgery argument allows them to sit in judgment of God’s word and declare which words are valid and which are not.

The Jesus Seminar does this and they use different colored marbles to cast their vote on which sayings in the gospels Jesus actually said and which ones were inserted by future editors. The number of people involved in the vote came to about 30 to 50 actual scholars and 100 to 200 non-scholars.

The same idea is created through the creation of those 5 different categories. Scholars can use those categories to construct their theories on different biblical books while hiding the fact that they think a majority of the Bible is fake.

So far, these scholars have at one time or another claimed that the Gospels, some of Paul’s letters, 2 Peter, Jude, Revelation and James were not written orthonymously but fell in one of the forgery categories. Lets also not forget the book of Acts, 1,2,& 3 John as well as the book of Hebrews were and are thought to be fakes.

What evidence do they use to draw these conclusions

This is the crux of the issue. Scholars do not have any real evidence to support their forgery claims when it comes to the biblical books. They do not even have circumstantial evidence. Their main argument is that some ancient authors confessed to writing fake works, or that the ancient libraries demanded origin manuscripts for their patrons.

Dr. Ehrman produces no real evidence that the biblical books were actually forged or faked. He does extrapolate secular or other religious authors motivations to different biblical works but other than that he has no credible or verifiable evidence proving his claims.

Nor does any other opponent to the true authorship of the biblical books. The 3 key forger’s methods documented by Dr. Ehrman, pgs. 41-43, do not present credible evidence supporting their biblical forgery claims. I summarize:

#1. The forger wrote in the original author’s style and used his vocabulary

#2. The forger would use what is called off the cuff remarks or verisimilitudes in his work. These personal comments were included to deceive the reader

#3. the forger claims to have found a hidden book and copied it down for everyone to read

Yet, none of these methods provide any clues supporting arguments against the veracity of the biblical books. They can only be inferred as no physical evidence exists that forgers wrote different books of the Bible.

Two questions undermine these claims

If Dr. Ehrman, and his forgery counterparts, actually were correct, we are left with 2 major questions. First, if there are forgeries in the Bible, why did God leave them there?

God has had ample time to produce the genuine works he had his writers pen. Yet no alternative books have ever been discovered that meet the ancient rules for inclusion in the biblical canons.

Where are the real words of God? Dr. Ehrman and others do not produce any and no archaeologist has uncovered any. So we can only conclude that he and they are only seeking to ruin people’s faith by undermining their trust in God’s word.

The second question that undermines their forgery claims, is why is it that only unbelieving scholars, etc., are making these discoveries? True christian scholars are not making these claims nor are they producing any ancient evidence to support such talk.

The claims come from those who do not accept the Bible as God’s word and reject Jesus as their savior. Even if these scholars call themselves Christians, their words prove otherwise.

Plus, there is no real reason for anyone to write fakes because the matter of the biblical canons were placed under strict rules. Dr. Metzger, in his interview in The case for Christ, stated that the biblical books were not put into the Bible because they were placed on an authoritative list.

They were included because the biblical books were already had authority and the ancient church recognized that authority and that no other work possessed it. True Christians, scholars included, still recognize that authority.

Some final words

The case for forgery does not have a strong foundation. It has no real physical evidence when it comes to biblical books and it ignores the fact that the real author of the Bible is God.

Human names do not need to be included because the men that penned the words were not writing their own views or materials. The Bible was not faked. The claims are made by those who have rejected the message of the Bible and seek to rewrite it to fit their own personal views.

We still have our salvation and hope but we need to humble ourselves and submit to its instructions, commands while learning from the Holy Spirit the truth of its content.

© 2019 David Thiessen


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    • david tee profile imageAUTHOR

      David Thiessen 

      23 months ago from Philippines

      You are reading your own thoughts into ancient people. We will not totally know what exactly they knew or how they knew. As Metzger said in the same interview with Lee Strobel, the books were ot put into the canon because they came from an authoritative list. They were included in the canon because they were already authoritative.

      The key in this discussion is not to get hung up on which human penned the words as the words came from God, the true author. There is no human element about the Bible at all.

    • John Welford profile image

      John Welford 

      23 months ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

      I have seen those criteria - in a review of the book - and it has to be said that they are somewhat weighted ones! However, I am not so sure that there is firm evidence that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the authors. The fact that a large number of people took this on trust does not mean that they were right.

      Internal evidence suggests that the traditional labels for the Gospels are unlikely to have been correct, and that these were assigned to what were otherwise anonymous works as guesses that everyone at the time accepted because they had no better guesses to offer.

    • david tee profile imageAUTHOR

      David Thiessen 

      23 months ago from Philippines

      I was not talking about the Church Fathers but the Church in general. Metzger in his interview with Lee Strobel laid out the criteria for inclusion in the New Testament and the church knew full well who penned the gospels.

      The books did not just appear at the council as candidates for inclusion, they were well known throughout the years after their writing

    • John Welford profile image

      John Welford 

      23 months ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

      The names of the four evangelists were only appended to the gospels some 50 years after they were written. The fact that the early Church fathers were happy with the authorship does not mean that they were correct!

    • david tee profile imageAUTHOR

      David Thiessen 

      23 months ago from Philippines

      The early church knew who wrote those letters and had no complaints about the names of the authors.The books of the Bible were actually written by God and the names of the works were the people God wrote through

    • John Welford profile image

      John Welford 

      23 months ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

      I find your argument - if I have understood it correctly - to be a strange one. Are you actually trying to say that the books of the Bible were actually written by the people whose names they bear? The evidence to the contrary - in many cases - is overwhelming. And if - for example - it is accepted that St Matthew's gospel was not written by somebody called Matthew, why does that make it a forgery?


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