Is Pseudepigraphy Suitable?

Many Christians today, myself included, agree that the Bible is the divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God.  However, there exists within certain theological circles various questions and issues concerning the authorship of certain portions of Scripture.  In turn, these questions and issues give birth to even more questions and issues from others outside of these circles, such as new believers and ordinary laypeople.  In the words that follow, I offer my viewpoint on the subject, and I pray that it generates even further consideration on your part.  In essence, the very foundation of Christianity depends on upholding these characteristics of Scripture.

During the period of the early church, one of the most common methods of written communication was the letter.  Typically, letters followed a general outline, consisting of a greeting, a body, and a conclusion.  Many influential people during this period used letters to privately communicate to both individuals and groups.  Given the high cost of writing materials and the low literacy rate, many writers utilized professional scribes to do their writing.[1]  Today, this would be similar to a person using a printer in a computer lab since that is cheaper than buying a printer and all the accessories required.

The authorship of certain books of the New Testament, such as some of Paul’s letters, comes into question within certain scholarly circles due to the use of these scribes in various ways.  Some scholars claim that some biblical authors used a degree of pseudonymity in writing books of the New Testament.  Pseudonymity is when an author consciously uses a different name besides his own when writing a literary document.[2]  Most of us are familiar with the use of pseudonyms in literature, such as Mark Twain.  In the case of the New Testament, supporters of this theory give two reasons why this occurred:  1) to add more credibility to their ideas and, 2) to offer a degree of protection due to potentially harmful ideas.[3]

These two reasons are known as pseudepigraphy, which is simply the process of writing a pseudonymous piece of literature, mostly to use a more prominent individual as the author to gain a better acceptance.[4]  For example, if I were to write a paper on World War II armor tactics and named General George S. Patton as the author, this would be a pseudonymous writing in order to add credibility to the information.  In turn, this would ensure a wider degree of acceptance despite its intent to deceive the reader.

Even though some scholars think that some of the New Testament contains pseudonymous writings, I personally do not believe this is true.  While pseudepigraphy often implies a degree of immoral deception, I highly doubt that these works would be accepted as canonical Scripture.  In fact, Paul outright detested this practice due to its damaging effects on the early Church.[5]  In addition, at one point or another, you must accept the fact that the existing New Testament is the infallible Word of God through faith, despite the many theories surrounding the origins of the Scriptures.  Once this occurs, you must also accept that the canonical Scriptures were divinely inspired by God and written through the Holy Spirit, who could not be fooled by a pseudonymous author trying to deceive early Christians.


[1] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Clark, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 334-335.

[2] Ibid., 338.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 339.

[5] Ibid.

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