Ghost Writing: Modern Day Pseudepigrapha

One of the lingering challenges to a high view of Scripture is the criticism that some of the books of the Bible are written by people other than the named authors.

Most notably, the New Testament books of 1 & 2 Timothy are often considered to have been written by someone other than the Apostle Paul. Likewise, sections (if not the entirety) of the Pentateuch are thought to be written by someone(s) other than Moses. Of course for those of us familiar with the larger picture of biblical studies, this objection is neither new nor awfully pertinent.

However, it still get made and is a staple in the New Atheist salvo against Christianity.

The objection usually goes: well some of the books of the Bible clearly are not written by their purported authors, but were written much later than the authors’ lives by people knowingly deceiving the audiences who received these books. Therefore, the Bible is full of false information and even deceitful claims.

Thus, the Bible cannot be trusted.

This argument has been around for quite some time (in fact you can actually trace it back to an early articulation during the patristic period.) So, what about it? Well, for starters the contemporary claim rests on present day assumptions about truthfulness and accuracy in reporting. We live in a world where journalistic and authors regularly fact check their work and “always” sign their names on the pieces they’ve offered.

Until they don’t.

One of the counter-examples which is most easily articulated are the cases of ghost writers who collaborate with celebrities, politicians, thinkers, and others to produce works under the name of the other person. We see these works on the shelves of our bookstores and displayed on our favorite online retailer under the name of the celebrity, often without attribution to the ghost writer. When we buy them and read them, we have no expectation that the work isn’t from that personality. The words are just as efficacious in communicating to us what we believe to be authentic words from that personality.

Even if one admits to this kind of crafting of biblical texts (I actually affirm traditional authorship of the New Testament books) there isn’t an inherently deceitful practice going on. In fact, in this era ghost written (the technical term is pseudepigrapha) works proliferated within literature. There are plenty of examples of texts that clearly couldn’t be from an attributed author, but are largely accepted as authentic and credible. Some of these works include, The Book of Abraham, 1 & 2 Enoch, The Revelation of Moses, The Gospel of Judas, and others, or you can click here to see some actual texts.

If these biblical texts were authored by someone other than the purported author it would have always been by a close associate or pupil. Present day scholars would need demonstrate cases where it clearly wasn’t by someone closely related to this figure. Likewise, even if this claim is true for some of the books (clearly not all the New Testament books are considered suspicious) it does not diminish the reality of the inspiration for that author. No present day scholar can realistically challenge that statement.

Of course we also should mention the use of secretaries in the authorship of most of the New Testament books. But I’ll do that elsewhere. In the meantime, check out this link.

So, when someone attempts to discredit the Bible based on the argument of false authorship, they have no ground to stand on as a claim against Christianity.