Sunday, December 4, 2011

Forged: Et tu, Paulus?

“[Paul] is about 5 foot high; very dark hair; dark complexion, dark skin; large Roman nose; sharp face; small black eyes, penetrating as eternity; round shoulders; a whining voice, except when elevated and then it almost resembles the roaring of a lion. He was a good orator.”
~ Joseph Smith

Today’s post continues a discussion of Professor Bart Ehrman’s book, Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, moving on to Chapter 3, which addresses writings that are attributed to the Apostle Paul.

Ehrman advances the rather shocking proposition that up to six of the epistles attributed to Paul, plus the Book of Hebrews, were not written by Paul, but were forged – i.e., written by others and attributed to Paul.  He is not alone in his views, as he notes in his book, but is joined by many other Biblical scholars.

The books that are generally accepted as authentic are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon.  “These seven,” writes Ehrman, “cohere well together and appear stylistically, theologically, and in most every other way to be by the same person … The other six differ in significant ways from this core group of seven.  Three of them – 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus – are so much alike that most scholars are convinced that they were written by the same person.”

One might ask why Ehrman and other scholars believe the other books are forged and why someone would have forged these books in the first place.  As to the latter question, Ehrman lays out detailed arguments as to why the authors of these books would have desired to write them, then claim that they were written by Paul. 

Essentially, however, it boils down to this:  early Christianity was a battleground of competing sects that makes today’s Christian community look positively ecumenical or even cohesive in comparison.  Forgers used these writings as weapons to assert their claims for authenticity as against those of others.  The fact that their writings eventually made it into the canon of the New Testament is ultimate proof of their victory.

As to the evidence of forgery, Ehrman points to things such as statements and theological positions made in the “forged” books that directly conflict with Paul’s writings in those books generally acknowledged as authentic.  For example, in the genuine Pauline writings, it is clear that Paul believed that the “second coming” was imminent.  For example, he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 that he expected to be alive when Jesus returned from heaven. 

In the other texts, however, i.e., those considered to be forged, the author(s) fudge(s) on this point and advance(s) the proposition that the second Advent could be many years hence.  Several propositions are advanced as to why this is the case, and one of them has tremendous theological significance to Mormon theology:  the apostasy.

It is extremely interesting to note that many, if not most, of the New Testament references to an apostasy come from these Pauline letters that are generally considered to be forged.  For example, in 2 Thessalonians, writes Ehrman, the “author of 2 Thessalonians, claiming to be Paul, argues that the end is not, in fact, coming right away.  Certain things have to happen first.  There will be some kind of political or religious uprising and rebellion, and an Antichrist-like figure will appear who will take his seat in the Temple of Jerusalem and declare himself to be God.”

How many missionaries have memorized the following scripture?:

 “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us … Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” [2 Thess. 2:1-3]

Other scriptures well-known to Mormons that refer to an apostasy are these from the books of 1 and 2 Timothy, both believed to have been forged:

“1 Timothy 4:1: Now the spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart form the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”

2 Timothy 3:1 et seq:  “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come, For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters … Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

2 Timothy 4:3-4:  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables.”

Much could also be written about what these forged letters have to say, for example, about the role of women in the Church as well as Church organization and government.  With respect to the latter, Ehrman notes that:

“[In his letters to the Corinthians] the one thing Paul does not do is write to the leaders of the church in Corinth and tell them to get their parishioners in order.  Why is that?  Because there were no leaders of the church in Corinth.  There were no bishops or deacons.  There were no pastors.  There was a group of individuals, each of whom had a gift of the Spirit, in this brief time before the end came.  Contrast that with what you have in the Pastorals [i.e., 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus] … [Here] you have the church leaders: bishops and deacons.  You have hierarchy, structure, organization.  That is to say, you have a different historical situation than you had in the days of Paul.”

One is left to wonder and ponder.  Just saying …

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Simply Saturday

“Happiness is when what you think,
what you say,
and what you do are in harmony.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

Expose yourself to your deepest fear;
after that, fear has no power,
and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes.
You are free.”

~ Jim Morrison

“You cannot perform in a manner
inconsistent with the way you see yourself.”

~ Zig Ziglar

“Little by little, one travels far.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Forged: Thou Art Peter?

“[T]wo books bear Peter’s name [in the New Testament], the letters of 1 Peter and 2 Peter.  Both claim to be written by Peter, but there are solid reasons for thinking that Peter did not write either one … There is less debate among scholars of the New Testament about the authorship of 2 Peter than for any of the other books [in the New Testament] sometimes considered forgeries.  Whoever wrote 2 Peter, it was not Simon Peter.”

~ Bart Ehrman, Forged

“The Prophet Joseph Smith said that ‘Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles.’”

~ LDS Bible Dictionary, “Peter, Epistles of”

Today’s Invictus Pilgrim Book Club post continues a discussion of Professor Bart Ehrman’s book, Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, moving on to Chapter 2, which addresses writings that are attributed to the Apostle Peter.

As should be obvious from the lead quote, Professor Ehrman and other scholars believe that 1 Peter is likely a forgery.  But, as Ehrman points out, scholarly opinion about 2 Peter’s authorship is overwhelmingly on the side of it being a forgery.  I’m not going to go into all the details of his arguments here; I invite readers to read Ehrman’s book and come to their own conclusions.  In the case of 2 Peter, “one of the reasons virtually all scholars agree that Peter did not actually write this letter is that the situation being presupposed appears to be of much later times.”

Apart from the theological anachronisms in Peter’s epistles, Ehrman argues that the chief apostle was almost certainly illiterate.  He came from a backwater area, Capernaum in Galilee, “ … a backwoods Jewish village made up of hand-to-mouth laborers who did not have an education.  Everyone spoke Aramaic.  Nothing suggests than anyone could speak Greek … According to Acts 4:13, both Peter and his companion John, also a fisherman, were agrammatoi, a Greek word that literally means ‘unlettered,’ that is, ‘illiterate.’”

“[T]he book of 1 Peter,” writes Ehrman, “is written by a highly literate, highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their Greek translation, the Septuagint.  This is not Peter.”

It is interesting to note that Joseph Smith believed that the Epistles attributed to Peter were in fact written by him.  In point of fact, so far as I am aware, Joseph accepted all the books of the New Testament on their face value, making only translation “fixes” in places, but never rejecting any of the books as forgeries – which is still the position of the LDS Church (as per the Bible Dictionary).

So, I thought it would be interesting to look at 1 and 2 Peter to see what verses from these books loom large in LDS usage and doctrine.  I welcome discussion.

A Royal Priesthood

1 Peter 2:9:  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Wives in Subjection

1 Peter 3:1:  “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands …”

Salvation for the Dead

1 Peter 3:18-20:  “For Christ, also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; [Some of whom] were disobedient [in the days of Noah, while] the long-suffering of God waited, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.” (Bracketed words being corrections made by Joseph Smith)

1 Peter 4:6:  “[Because of this,] is the gospel preached to them [who] are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live [in the spirit] according [to the will of God.]

[Note that this, if I am not mistaken, is the only place in the Bible that discusses salvation for the dead, except for Paul’s reference to those whom are baptized for the dead.]

The Great Apostacy; Second Coming

2 Peter 2:1-2:  “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of …”

2 Peter 3:3-4: [Joseph Smith translation bracketed:] “Knowing this first, that [in the last days] there shall come scoffers, walking after their own lusts. [Denying the Lord Jesus Christ,] and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things [must] continue as they [are, and have continued as they are] from the beginning of the creation.” 

I highly recommend reading Professor Ehrman’s book to get the full flavor and nuances of his arguments.  They are, needless to say, very thought-provoking for all Christians, but in a special way for Latter-day Saints – on which subject I will defer elaboration until a future post.

In the next post on this book, we will take up a discussion of the books in the New Testament which are attributed to Paul but which are thought to be forgeries.

To join the Invictus Pilgrim Book Club Facebook group, go here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Simply Saturday

"The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference."

~ Elie Wiesel


I couldn't resist including the next two photographs
taken by a friend as he came around the corner of the bargain book aisle
at Barnes & Noble in Murray, Utah:


[Referring to the above photograph]
I just can't stomach this -
the thought of those girls being raised in that kind of a setting

~ Sheri Dew (2004),
Former Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency,
CEO of Deseret Book


“God created us to be lovers.”
~ Jimmy Creech

“We cannot affirm people
and deny their relationships.”
~ Jimmy Creech