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Are Some Books of the Bible Forgeries? Part 2

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

Are there motivations to forge the Bible

Between pages 32 and 40, of his book Forged, Dr. Ehrman talks about the motivations behind those ancient authors who committed forgery. What he doesn’t do is talk about any real reason why anyone would forge a biblical book.

Unless we have have actual ancient legal cases or clear cut and verifiable confessions, why an ancient person commits forgery remains a mystery. We can only conclude that their motivations are the same ones people use today.

Of course, in today’s world the items that are forged are rarely books. The most recent set of forged books were the Hitler Diaries which Dr. Ehrman mentioned in his introduction and page 32,

Why would anyone forge a biblical book?

We can understand why anyone would forge an ancient work. They would make money off their efforts and gain some sort of criminal status that would help them obtain more forgery contracts.

We cannot accept Dr. Ehrman’s hypothesis on the state of books, their publication, their popularity or the idea that different kings paid bounties for original manuscripts to stock their libraries.

If there was no money in it, then probably the ancient forgers focused on what could get them a lot of money. For example forging art works, money and other lucrative objects. Books like today just do not fill the forger’s coffers.

Even with documented cases on ancient forgery, the motive is unclear as to why they did it. As for the Bible, why would anyone forge a New Testament book? The protocols were strict for inclusion in the canon and the church already knew which books were authoritative and which were not.

Getting a forged book into the New Testament canon would be impossible. Even the disputed books finally made the cut, eliminating them from being forgeries.

The Christian world was small

In the ancient world, the church was just starting. Yes, there were mass conversions of 5,000 and 3,000 people but these events were not the norm. We do not have any ancient record stating that this amount of people were converted on a regular basis.

We hear mostly of one or two people receiving salvation and sometimes whole families and households, thus the market for forged biblical books would be relatively small. The only real reason why someone would want to forge a biblical book would be to destroy the young religion and stop it from spreading the truth.

But even this motivation would not guarantee that the forged work would successfully pass the ancient canon criteria. The issue of authority would stop the work before it could even hope to be seen as a valid book written by a disciple or someone who knew them.

Do other reasons fit

Dr. Ehrman does a good job in presenting evidence that forgeries were conducted for political and military purposes. Yet, the Bible, and the Christian faith, are not military or political works or faith.

The Bible tells people how they are to live and it instructs its followers to obey their political leaders when those leaders do not tell their subjects to sin against God. While the Bible has recorded different military plans, it is not a military strategy book.

Thus, these two reasons for producing ancient forged works do not comply. Again, we have to say that the works considered by unbelieving scholars as forgeries are not even addressing political or military issues.

A third separate reason, Dr. Ehrman gives is that some ancient forgers used to write books providing some sort of hope to their readers about the end times and what happens after life on earth is over.

While the Bible does contain these types of works, there is no evidence that they are false, fake or fabrications.

Their logic fails

Dr. Ehrman puts forth what he considers a logical reason why someone would forge a biblical book.On page 38 he says;

This relates to the single most important motivation for au-

thors to claim they were someone else in antiquity. Quite simply,

it was to get a hearing for their views. If you were an unknown

person, but had something really important to say and wanted

people to hear you—not so they could praise you, but so they

could learn the truth—one way to make that happen was to pre-

tend you were someone else, a well-known author, a famous fig-

ure, an authority.

This logic does not make sense. If a person had the truth, he did not need to undermine his message by lying about who said it. If it is discovered that he lied about the author, then the normal conclusion would be that the rest of what that person said would be a lie and people would dismiss it.

The person would lose his audience and the truth would be forsaken and thought of as a lie. It doesn’t matter if it is the ancient world or the modern one, lying does not help the truth get out.

On pages 39 and 40, Dr. Ehrman provides the evidence we need to see the validity of the above point. Salvian’s work was rejected when it was found out that he wrote his Timothy to the Churches in an erroneous manner.

Some final words

There is no real reason or motivation for writing forged spiritual works. The truth is eventually known and the work is dismissed. The message is lost to time and this is evidenced by the Gnostic works found at Nag Hammadi.

Plus, there was no reason to try to forge a biblical book. The standards were too high and too many people were still alive who knew the apostles and their writings. There was no doubt in their ancient minds which were valid biblical books that needed to be place in the New Testament canon.

The church in the 1st century did not live in a vacuum. They knew which books were legitimate which is another reason why Gnostic and other cult works were not considered for inclusion in the New Testament, except by ancient false teachers who masqueraded as Christians.

We can clearly and confidently state that there are no forged books in the Bible. The motivation wasn’t there and the criteria was too strong.


© 2019 David Thiessen

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