And a Look at Forged (Chapter 1) by Bart Ehrman and Another NT Blog Recommendation, Ben Witherington’s Site

I am turning my attention now to look at Bart Ehrman's new book, Forged. I will do this in a series as I did with Rob Bell. However I want to let you know that Ben Witherington has solid reviews of both Bell and Ehrman on his site at:

I am turning my attention now to look at Bart Ehrman's new book, Forged. I will do this in a series as I did with Rob Bell. However I want to let you know that Ben Witherington has solid reviews of both Bell and Ehrman on his site at:

This is a good blog for NT issues as well. So I am simply pointing out where another NT perspective can be found. Enjoy his interactions with these books.


Chapter 1 of Forged is about forgeries in the ancient world. There were lots of them. There were all sorts of reasons one wrote a forgery: to shame someone, to give hope, hope of gaining money from libraries, or to gain a hearing for views the author held but did not have the stature to make a case for. Ehrman goes through these examples well. He distinguishes between writings that are anonymous and so no deception is present because the author is not named; works where an author shares a similar first name with another and is falsely ascribed to the other person. Again no forgery is present there. He reserves the term pseudonymous for works that intentionally deceive about the identity of the author. 

He also correctly notes that some of these works showed up in Jewish and Christian circles: the Letter of Aristeas, various apocalypses. the Gospel of Peter are but three such examples. He argues that forgers often argued not to follow forgers to put people of the track of their own forgery. Also true. Here, however, Ehrman gets ahead of himself suggesting 2 Thessalonians is such an example. One would think you establish a forgery is present before making the case for how forgers speak. Here he simply relies on the claims of many scholars about authorship and notes even if it is written by Paul, the letter in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 still mentions that a forgery about Paul exists, which also is a correct point about the verse. This first chapter simply introduces the subject and how it was viewed in the ancient world. The key claim Ehrman makes is that the ancients did not view such psuedonymous writing positively. Again this is correct. 

So the first chapter is a nice, clear survey of the presence of such works in the ancient world and how they were seen. Not to much of controversy here. Ehrman has not really turned his attention to the New Testament yet. That is still to come.


  • Jerry L


    I have been following BW3's review and he contested Bart's claim to a cosensus that the Pastoral Epistles were not authentically Paul's.  Dr James McGrath on his blog  (Eploring Our Matrix) challenged BW3's contention: "Ben Witherington has been blogging about Bart Ehrman's recent book Forged. While Ehrman's book is by no means above criticism, Witherington's suggestion that that Ehrman misrepresents the scholarly consensus about the Pastoral Epistles seems to me to be off target. But this is perhaps an excellent opportunity to ask that perennial question: How does one gauge the scholarly consensus on a particular matter?"

    As a lawyer I fnd myself rather annoyed when conslusory statements are made with out support.  I would appreciate your thoughts on the issue of "consensus" when you get to that protion of the review.


  • Darrell L. Bock



    Part of the problem here is who counts as a "scholar". I will say this. Among many critical scholars the Pastorals are regarded as not Pauline (more than his other epistles). Many of the reasons, however, involve some circular argumentation about how the church was structured or not in Paul's time. Certain practices are said to be late by doubting Paul could have said them because the practices are claimed to be late  (and using that as proof Paul did not write it. [e.g., church offices are said not to be very Pauline, who is more charismatic in his leadership style is the claim, Offices in Acts are said not to count because Acts is said to reflect late practice. All questionable points.]).

    I am also not sure how we make a count about who has the majority view. Do we count just those who teach in the universities only or do NT professors at Seminaries count? That choice changes the numbers. I do not like this kind of argument anyway. The issue is better tied to the issues tied to the book, not how many are for or against it.

  • Konstantin

    Forged Ehrman

    I think, Witherington and you… and couple more scholars should publish an anthology rebuttal to Ehrman.

    I would like to see something like that the sooner the better 😉

  • Royce


    Dr Bock.  Excellent reply on the consensus of scholars.  Fortunately, truth is independent of majority opinion.  Looking forward to reading the rest of your review.

  • geoffrobinson

    Ehrman and Forged

    Dr. Bock,

    I had the opportunity to pose a question to Dr. Ehrman on his book tour. I'm not sure if it would be of any value to you, but it may be interesting.

    He side-stepped my question and then disavowed Misquoting Jesus argued that we couldn't know what the Biblical authors wrote. My question begins around minute 45.

    Anyway, not sure if you would be interested, but commenting here is the only way I know of you getting this. Please feel free to delete this once you read this. I just thought it may be helpful to you in your work.

  • Darrell L. Bock

    Follow up


    He actually did answer your question. His position is what he stated. Most of the NT we can know what was said, but there are many discussed places where exactly what was said is debated. (Just check a Greek New Testament textual apparatus). What he does not tell you is that none of these differences impacts any central NT doctrine. It only impacts what is taught where (Is it in this particular verse or not?) and how much that idea is present in the NT (Is it in one, two or more texts?). This is what was annoying about Misquoting Jesus. It left an impression that the differences are far more significant than they really are in the big scheme of things.

  • geoffrobinson

    My Forged question

    I probably should have been more clear with Ehrman then. My question wasn't about textual variants per se, but his methodology  in Forged. Ehrman takes surface-level exegesis and then says look Paul is arguing for a bodily resurrection here and a spiritual resurrection here so they contradict each other. One must not be Paul.

    Ehrman clearly gave the impression to the general public that Scripture can't be trusted because of textual variants. Now, yes, there are places where we all agree we have two options or so and we're not sure which one is correct. But that's not my point.

    The same type of exegesis of Ehrman's writings and talks would lead us to conclude that there is a Bart Ehrman who is really skeptical about discovering what the authors wrote and one that isn't. He goes on to explain himself, and it is fine and I accept his answer (until I dig through the NPR archives because the media wasn't making a big deal of Misquoting Jesus just because there was a few hard textual variants). But he won't give the Biblical Authors the same benefit of the doubt. As I mentioned, he's quick to say authors contradict each other. And that is what makes him inconsistent in regards to Forged.

    So I should have probably side-stepped the part about his message on textual variants and just kept it to the stylistic differences between Ehrman's academic and popular works. I should have expected that he would have tried to defend himself in that regards.

    The benefit though is that the impression and takeaway from Misquoting Jesus was that we have no idea what the texts said. That was the impression even if Ehrman didn't explicitly say it. At least there is now audio of Ehrman repudiating that.

  • Darrell L. Bock

    My Forged Question Response


    Yes, I often tell my students that for many more liberal readers of Scripture difference equals contradiction and that ain't necessarily so. So your point here is fair enough.

  • Konstantin

    Ehrman etc

    Thanks for the link ( I've seen it. Good effort.

    I also have couple of your books "Missing Gospels" and "Dethroning Jesus" which I have not yet read. I'm reading "Heresy of Orthodoxy"… then I'll get to "dethroning Jesus" most likely.

    I'ver read partially your "Acts" with Baker, which seemed good, and the "breaking da vinci code"

    thanks for your books. Continue what you're doing!