It is often said, even by critical scholars who should know better, that “writing in the name of another” was widely accepted in antiquity. But New York Times bestselling author Bart D. Ehrman dares to call it what it was: literary forgery, a practice that was as scandalous then as it is today. In Forged, Ehrman’s fresh and original research takes readers back to the ancient world, where forgeries were used as weapons by unknown authors to fend off attacks to their faith and establish their church. So, if many of the books in the Bible were not in fact written by Jesus’s inner circle—but by writers living decades later, with differing agendas in rival communities—what does that do to the authority of Scripture?
Bart D. Ehrman, the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus, Interrupted and God’s Problem reveals which books in the Bible’s New Testament were not passed down by Jesus’s disciples, but were instead forged by other hands—and why this centuries-hidden scandal is far more significant than many scholars are willing to admit. A controversial work of historical reporting in the tradition of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, and John Dominic Crossan, Ehrman’s Forged delivers a stunning explication of one of the most substantial—yet least discussed—problems confronting the world of biblical scholarship.
Ehrman’s fascinating story of fraud and deceit is essential reading for anyone interested in the truth about the Bible and the dubious origins of Christianity’s sacred texts.
The evocative title tells it all and hints at the tone of sensationalism that pervades this book. Those familiar with the earlier work of Ehrman, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of more than 20 books including Misquoting Jesus, will not be surprised at the content of this one. Written in a manner accessible to nonspecialists, Ehrman argues that many books of the New Testament are not simply written by people other than the ones to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries. The word itself connotes scandal and crime, and it appears on nearly every page. Indeed, this book takes on an idea widely accepted by biblical scholars: that writing in someone else’s name was common practice and perfectly okay in ancient times. Ehrman argues that it was not even then considered acceptable—hence, a forgery. While many readers may wish for more evidence of the charge, Ehrman’s introduction to the arguments and debates among different religious communities during the first few centuries and among the early Christians themselves, though not the book’s main point, is especially valuable.
— Publisher’s Weekly
So what is the book about? It is about forgery in early Christianity, with primary (but not exclusive) interest in the New Testament. The most distinctive component is summed up well by the book’s title: Ehrman argues throughout that the attempt to sugar-coat pseudepigraphy as something acceptable, non-deceptive—in short, something other than forgery—is problematic. As Ehrman himself puts it, “The Bible … contains what almost anyone today would call lies. That is what this book is about” (p.5). The irony that Christianity historically presents itself as being focused on and offering “the Truth” is highlighted throughout.
— Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis.
According to leading biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, many of his contemporaries have it wrong when it comes to the Bible. Instead of calling biblical forgeries what they are—lies—they often fall back on safer scholarly terms, stopping just short of the word “forgery.” Ehrman, however, is not afraid of breaking rank with his fellow scholars and speaking the truth. In his new book, Forged: Writing in the name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (HarperOne; April 2011), the New York Times bestselling author debunks many popular myths about the Bible’s forged books and letters, including the idea that “writing in the name of another” was a common, accepted practice in antiquity. According to Ehrman, forgery was just as disgraceful then as it is today.
“Ehrman’s career is testament to the fact that no one can slice and dice a belief system more surgically than someone who grew up inside it … There’s something delicious (for nonbelievers, anyway) about the implacable, dispassionate way that Ehrman reveals how the supposedly ‘divine truth’ of Christianity was historically constructed.”
“Ehrman’s clarity is something to emulate.”
— Lisa Miller, Newsweek