Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pseudepigraphy and Fraud

Pseudepigraphical is one of my all time favorite words, and because I continue to do research on the people and events surrounding Jesus for Simon Peter, I run into it all the time.

Pseudepigraphical is a very Christian word. What it means is “a work written by someone other than the work claims it was written by”. So, when discussing the Infancy Gospel of James, that is claimed to be written by James the Just, brother of Jesus . . . well, it isn't. It was written by someone else.

The reason why I love the word pseudepigraphical is because, outside of Christian writings, there'd be a different term for it – a fraud. When someone claims that something is written by one person, when in fact it is written by another, that's just fraud. And, yet, when discussing the fraudulent works for the Bible – and there are a lot of them, the odds are that most of the books of the Bible are pseudepigraphical – this fraudulence is hardly ever mentioned.

So, of the four Gospels, only one of them might actually be written by the person to whom authorship is attributed (that being Luke, who also seems to have written Acts, and is likely to have been the personal physician of Paul). The rest? Their attribution is legendary. But, if you ask most Christians, they will assert that Matthew, Mark and John wrote their respective Gospels, that the authorship of the various epistles is equally certain, when in fact none of this is the case. That they are all, ahem, pseudepigraphical – which is to say that their authorship is fraudulent.

This seems to be utterly significant to me in the context of Biblical scholarship – and, in some circles, it is. But most Christians don't admit to the fact that . . . no one knows who really wrote most of the Bible and that the names and such that are given to the various books of the Bible are completely legendary, even by the standards of Christianity. To me, the failure of Christians to address something even so basic as who wrote their holy texts in a clear and honest way demonstrates the intellectual dishonesty of Christianity.

Still, I love the word pseudepigraphical.

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beepbeepitsme said...

Even the catholic church at one point said that the gospels are "attributed" to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Attributed doesn't mean that they wrote them, it means that the gospels didn't come with authorship attached.

My personal opinion is that over a time period of a few hundred years, the gospels, and there were hundreds of them, were written, edited, redacted and composed by various theological scholars of the catholic church.

Now, do you think that the Vatican will allow me access to its library in order to do a bit of research? Ummmm... when pigs fly, perhaps.

April 24, 2007 3:48 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

"Attributed" is, I think, mealy-mouthed. They'll "attribute" authorship instead of saying, "Uh, we don't know who wrote these"? That's dishonest.

Plus, I think that most American Christians read "attributed" as "written by". But, then again, apparently the religious education of most Americans is pretty poor. ;)

April 24, 2007 4:00 PM  
Krystalline Apostate said...

It's Pseudepigraphical, no o.
My personal opinion is that over a time period of a few hundred years, the gospels, and there were hundreds of them, were written, edited, redacted and composed by various theological scholars of the catholic church.
It's a fairly established fact, I think. The Vatican had the books under lock & key for approx. 10 centuries: when people started translating it for the 'common folk', there was quite a tizzy.
Interpolations abound.

April 28, 2007 1:17 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

*shifty eyes*

What O? ;)

But you're putting a little too much into the whole Vatican thing. Yeah, the Vatican did have a bunch of books in their library -- and still do -- and who "really knows" what's there. But until 1453, the Byzantine Church had as many and as old of documents as the Catholics, and weren't nearly as centralized. I'm sure if the Vatican Library was opened up we'd get a couple of humdingers, but I'd advise against being conspiratorial about it. We have access to most early Christian documents from Byzantine sources.

April 28, 2007 9:52 PM  
Brendan said...

The "Luke was the personal physician of Paul" thing is little more than fantasy when you take a look at the evidence. Both the "Gospel According to Luke" and "Acts of the Apostles" appear nowhere in any extant reference until the writings of Irenaeus in the last years of the second century B.C.

My theory is that "Mark" was rewritten into "Luke" (along with some Q stuff) by the same hand that compiled the myths and fantasies of "Acts" sometime in the mid-second century C.E. There's no solid evidence that this author(s), whoever it was, knew Paul personally.

May 1, 2007 1:29 PM  

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