Friday, October 28, 2005


Below are some of the comments of D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo on the subject of pseudonymity, from An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005). These comments are especially relevant at a time when so many scholars are suggesting that something like half or more of the New Testament is falsely attributed:

"Whatever the reason, pseudepigraphic letters among the Jews are extremely rare....Referring both to Christian and non-Christian sources, Donelson goes so far as to say, 'No one ever seems to have accepted a document as religiously and philosophically prescriptive which was known to be forged. I do not know a single example.'...[quoting Philip Carrington] 'There seems to be no evidence at all that such missives [viz. letters] were freely composed in the names of contemporary persons who had recently died.' far as the evidence of the Fathers goes, when they explicitly evaluated a work for its authenticity, canonicity and pseudonymity proved mutually exclusive....The onus is on those who uphold the idea that the writing of pseudonymous letters was an accepted practice among the early Christians to produce some evidence for their view. On the contrary, the evidence we have is that every time such a writing could be identified with any certainty, it was rejected. Inevitably, this means that many scholars seek to establish the pseudepigraphical character of a particular document on purely internal grounds...More than half of the New Testament consists of books that do not bear the names of their authors...The onus is on the upholders of theories of pseudonymous authorship to explain why this strong tradition of [internal] anonymity was discarded in favor, not of authors attaching their own names to what they wrote (as Paul did), but of other people's names....If the 'school' mode of transmission [whereby a school of a teacher's followers composed documents in his name] was so ubiquitous and easily understood, why did none of the church fathers who addressed questions of authenticity view it as an appropriate model for their grasp of the New Testament documents?" (pp. 341-342, n. 39 on p. 342, pp. 343-344, 346, 350)

I also recommend Glenn Miller's treatment of this subject.