680 of 739 people found the following review helpful
If Ehrman's previous books, especially Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Plus) and Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them), are any guide, "Forged" will be dismissed in one of two ways. The more progressive Christians will say that Ehrman is not saying anything new, that they have known forever that several of the books in the New Testament were not written by who they claim to be written by. The more conservative Christian will simply dismiss the scholarship as the desperate attempt of a person who hates Christianity and God to find some way of dismissing his message. This second group will also have a mountain of shop-worn workarounds that they think plausibly answer academic scholarship.
"Forged" was not written for scholarly progressive Christians or obscurantist conservative Christians. It was written for the large number of people who more or less accept Christianity as true, or at least a pleasant and socially useful belief system, but who have some questions, perhaps some doubts, and are curious to learn more about their scriptures. Secondarily it is written for people like Erhman himself (and incidentally, me) who were evangelical Christians with a religiously inspired commitment to truth, who find that our dedication to the truth is leading us away from the religion itself. This is how Erhman starts "Forged," with another brief take on his "testimony"--a move from devout evangelical at Moody, to a skeptic at Wheaton, to a critic at Princeton. I think it's an effective reminder that sometimes, contrary to what some Christians think, it is virtue (in the form of truth-loving) rather than some vice that brings us to the point of rejecting Christianity.
Because of his history (not in spite of it), Ehrman writes with understanding and sympathy about what believers take as true about the New Testament, while pulling no punches in taking on the nature of ancient forgery, how it was viewed by scholars and the public during the ancient period, the motivations and intents that might lead to forgery, and so forth. He sets the stage with an historical perspective, then launches into punchy, popularly oriented chapters on why it is widely held that several of the books claimed to be written by an apostolic figure almost certainly were not. Selecting the most interesting and compelling bits of information for such likely forgeries as 1 and 2 Peter, the pastorals of Paul, and others, he makes a breezy but forceful case that the view of many conservative Christians is too simplistic to reflect reality.
And of course he is well-aware of how evangelical scholars have responded to the kind of case he's making (the progressives who say this is old hat are not entirely wrong--the argument has been around in one form or another for many years, but what has been largely missing is lay accessibility), and gently picks apart their apologia. He ends the book with a section that is not on forgery per se, but on the way scribal interpolations amount to sort of further dishonesty within the New Testament pages. This is followed by a reiteration of the theme that begins "Forged"--the importance and virtue of truth. It's hard not to read between Ehrman's lines the disappointment and pique of someone who for many years had been hoodwinked by pious fraud. I attended a Bible college not dissimilar to Ehrman's Moody Bible Institute, and in the course of learning about the Bible were made only dimly aware of critical scholarship--that it existed, not what it said. We were taught that criticism could only be for one reason: people were uncomfortable with the rigors and demands of submitting to Jesus and scriptural authority, and were seeking loopholes. How shocking to discover that people who should have known better, who had an avowed and radical allegiance to truth, would work so hard to distract us from a thorough search for truth and hide from us the works of those seekers who came before us. We can be grateful that Ehrman is putting this digested, reader-friendly scholarship into the hands of so many people who care enough about what's true that they're willing to challenge their own comfortable assumptions.
282 of 315 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2011
I don't often write reviews, but seeing how basically everyone who has reviewed it so far hasn't even read it, I thought I would help out people who were actually interested in purchasing it.
As usual, Ehrman takes a topic that could potentially bore one to tears and makes it accessible and fascinating. Like all of his popular works, this book was engaging, enlightening and very easy to read. After reading for awhile, I was always surprised how much progress I had made.
As for the content of the book, it is just what you would expect. While he does touch on forgeries a bit in other books (Jesus Interrupted, for example), he really goes into a lot of depth on what went on in the early Christian church, and how people would go about trying to get their views heard, the tricks they used, and how modern scholars work to see through the lies.
It truly is fascinating to learn about how many different viewpoints were being thrown around at that time. Apparently, forgery was so rampant, that some authors would develop little tricks to catch and dissuade forgers. But then forgers would turn around and condemn forging texts, just so people wouldn't get suspicious of their own forgeries!!
One thing that I always appreciated with Ehrman's work, is that he touches on early Christian texts that most people have never heard of. He discusses Gnostic forgeries, anti-Gnostic forgeries, as well as gospels I have never heard of. I was very amused to learn that there exists a "Gospel of Pilate" (forged of course). And it is always amusing to hear that scholars agree that some books of the Bible are forgeries, such as first and second Timothy.
Anyway, the book is filled with fascinating bits, such as ones I just mentioned, and it really helps to see just how fascinating Biblical history really is. I learned a lot, and I am very happy that Ehrman continues to write for non experts like myself. Lastly, I thank Ehrman for including an index. Jesus, Interrupted didn't have one, and it drove me nuts.
84 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2012
This was the first of six Ehrman books that I read (or am reading) back to back, and reading them in this rapid way has led to mixed feelings on on this book. I should point out that I have no problem accepting the idea that many of the books of the bible were forged, anyone who reads non-pop christian books will quickly come across these ideas from both conservative and more liberal scholars (although they're rarely called forged). Overall this book wasn't bad, in fact I found it pretty interesting (I originally gave it 4 stars), it covers a wide range of early christian books, gives a pretty decent idea of the variety of early christian beliefs and gives some reasons why scholars debate over some of the books being forged.
While reading this, I had a few problems, the first was just how little of this book actually dealt with forgeries in the new testament canon. Later while reading Jesus, Interrupted, I was surprised to find that it covered many of the same arguments presented here, surely with a book almost 10x the size of that section, you'd find far more detailed arguments but sadly that's not the case. Further he seems to try so hard to prove that books of the new testament are forgeries that he seems to contradict himself, for example in Misquoting Jesus (p.59) while talking about Paul dictating his letters to a scribe, he (Ehrman) throws out the idea that maybe Paul just listed a few points and then the scribe filled in the rest (with his own writing style and perhaps got some of the ideas wrong), in Forged that idea is thrown out. I mean Ehrman goes on for a decent section talking about the different vocabulary and sentence length between Ephesians and the accepted Pauline letters but if you take his points from his previous book wouldn't these differences be easy to explain, Ehrman himself gave us a great explanation already. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to defend the Pauline authorship of Ephesians, but I have to ask, which is it, did a scribe write the letter in his own writing style or didn't he, obviously we don't know but it frustrates me that he emphasizes one point when it helps his case and ignores it when it hurts it. In another section he talks about a scholarly study over three Roman officials which looked in detail at every one of their surviving works only to conclude that none of them had someone write in their name.....well none except for Cicero, which leads me to naturally think, wait so your saying that in this exhaustive study it happened 1/3 of the time? Doesn't this really hurt your point not help it? Once again, I'm not saying that Ehrman is wrong, but I fail to see why he continues to set up his own easily refuted strawmen, I don't get why he takes the opinion of being objective in his other works only to easily dismiss the arguments which hurt him in this one. So with all of this being said, I walked away thinking his sections on canonical forgeries just wasn't worth the time it took me to read this book, if anyone wants to read an Ehrman book on canonical forgeries, I'd recommend to first read Jesus, Interrupted, it contains most of the best arguments presented here, yet contains far more and is a far better book.
While, I was pretty disappointed the sections covering canonical forgeries (which from the subtitle 'Why the bible's authors are not who we think they are', I assumed would be more of a focus than it was), I was at first at least partially pleased with his discussions of other non-canonical forgeries. The bulk of this book covered these books and I at least thought that was pretty interesting. At the time I thought his reasons for doing this was its easier to attack a non-canonical book for being a forgery, later when the reader is offended at someone writing a gospel of Peter, they'll realize just how they should feel about the forgery of Second Peter. I removed a star from my rating though when I started to read other Ehrman books. To my disappointment, he seems to cover the same non-canonical books over and over again (The Gospel of Peter, The Acts of Thecla, etc.), I mean he mentions there are "dozens" of other non-canonical gospels, why does he rehash the same ones over and over again. Almost every forged book he covers in detail, he already did the same in Lost Christianities. To me this was very disappointing, I fail to see why he doesn't expand his discussions to books which he hasn't already covered twice in Jesus, Interrupted and Lost Christianities? After reading the same stuff two other times in his previous books, I decided that three stars is the highest I can rate this duplicate material.
Don't get me wrong this book isn't a bad book and if you take it by itself its a decent one, the problem is, with everything Ehrman has already written this book just wasn't needed. It presents very little that is new, contradicts his other writings and I fail to see why he wrote it. For anyone interested in Forgeries in the new testament canon, please read the far superior Jesus, Interrupted and if you want to read some good discussions of non-canonical forgeries, see the superior Lost Christianities.
27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
"Forged" by Bart Ehrman, head of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is another of Dr. Ehrman's long string of books which use sensational titles and cover art to catch your attention and seduce you into laying out the cash for the book. That may be the worst thing one can say about this book, which may garner wrong reactions from people on both sides of the Christian fence.
I suggest that both a sense of glee from the athiests and a cry of blasphemy from the Christians is totally misplaced. The main reason, as Dr. Ehrman pointed out when he presented this material last year at Moravian Theological Seminary, is that all of his results regarding books in the Bible and in post-biblical works has not only been known and believed for over a century, it is actively taught in Seminaries around the world, to people in training to be pastors and priests. Dr. Ehrman's audience at Moravian was filled with these professors and students, and not a single person raised any objections to the findings he presented. The problem Dr. Ehrman addresses is that very few of these new pastors (or old ones either) mention these facts to their congregants. This provides the reason why, as a theology student at Moravian, I'm not even annoyed at the tabloid tactics.
The very first question to Dr. Ehrman was, in stort "So what?" His answer is that as far as Christian faith goes, this forgery is simply irrelevant. "Paul"'s letter to the Ephesians, was quite probably written by a disciple of Paul, and not by Paul himself. The letter was one of John Calvin's favorite scriptures, and much of his notions of predestination may have been based on the letter (and Romans, which is a genuine Pauline letter). But is divine inspiration any less value it it is written by one hand rather than another. As Dr. Ehrman points out, in the ancient world, among Christians, there was very little economic motive to forge documents. It was largely done for educating all those new Christians and possibly to fill some gaps which raised questions in new converts minds. The fact of the forgery has no relevance to faith. There are 27 books in the New Testament, and we can be certain of the author, Paul, for only seven of those. We have no clue who wrote any of the books of the OT; however David may have written some of the 150 Psalms.
For the people who take pleasure in discomfiting believers with evidence of their foolishness, I point out the same thing. Dr. Ehrman says this matter, which he has known since his Ph.D study at Princeton Theological Seminary, had nothing to do with his losing his faith of a firm fundamentalist believer in the Bible. What did it was the theological problem of evil (See his book, "God's Problem"). I also might say that many good Christians know their belief is foolish (St. Paul says as much.) long before the anti-Christian sensationalists said so. All this is true of virtuall all of Dr. Ehrman's books (except for "God's Problem".)
What makes this book especially interesting is the information Dr. Ehrman provides on the general practice of forgery in the ancient world. Apparently it was widely done, and it was widely damned by the victims of the forgeries. Galen, the ancient Roman physican, who saw a forged book written in his name, even wrote a book on how to detect books forged in his name. Apparently, this was far more prevelant in the ancient world, because it was easy. Since all book copies had to be hand-written, it was virtually as easy to write a new, phony work as it was to copy a genuine work. And, forgery was just as roundly condemned then as it is today. It was lying.
One almost welcomes the fact (if not the morality) of all those forged documents. One of the most famous, and most popular, ancient works was "The Acts of Paul" which includes a long, rather melodramatic story of Paul with a bride who renounces her engagement, becomes ascetic, and follows Paul, much as a groupie might follow a rock star today. This work was very, very popular. So popular that the probably fictional character of Thecla was declared a saint, and its physical description of Paul is the basis of virtually all mosaics, paintings, and drawings of the apostle.
Dr. Ehrman is the real thing. He is a protege of Bruce Metzger and literally a world class scholar on Greek Christian documents from the first three centuries after Christ. One of my few complaint is that the biographical blurb claims he is a leading authority on the life of Christ. He is not a specialist in that area, and I believe he would be the first to agree with that.
In the end, agnostic Ehrman is doing a job which his colleagues among the faithful seem reluctant to do, to our advantage when we wish to be informed in our faith.
139 of 188 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2011
I see Ehrman has been successful at getting the Christians to post some one star reviews. Not surprising.
I have read several of Ehrman's books and have found them all to be excellent attempts at unearthing the truth. The fact that he was a devout Christian himself at one time only offers credibility to his work. If you believe the Christian Bible is the infallible and unerring word of god then Ehrman is probably not your author. Perhaps you would be better to stick with comic books and horoscopes. If, on the other hand, you are a seeker of evidence and a rational thinker then Ehrman is a great resource.
Pay no attention to the single star reviews. Believers (i.e. "make-believers") will always attempt to burn books and quell reason. If you are a make-believer and your mind is seeking some intellectual freedom and reason then buy this book. I would bet 100:1 odds that the single star reviewers never even read the book.
Keeping writing Bart and I'll keep buying your books and enlightening my mind.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I chose the title of my review, because it is simply odd (but true) to think of ancient Christians writing treatises with the intent of expounding on some profound "Truth," only to lie about who wrote their words.
Also, it is amusing to read the reviews of this book that claim Ehrman is on the fringe, or some such nonsense. The extremely conservative branch of right-wing Christianity that insists on everything being on the up-and- up with their scriptures, and can't handle it when it isn't, is the real fringe.
This is not only "modern" scholarship, either, and Ehrman is not, by far, the only one that has written about these issues. Scads of scholars over the centuries, even the centuries close to the time of Jesus, have brought up many of the issues Ehrman is writing about today -- study the scholarship on the development of the OT and NT canon (especially those by F.F. Bruce and B.M. Metzger), and you'll know what I mean. The main difference is that Ehrman is a popular writer, writing for a popular audience, not just for other scholars, as so many of his peers do.
For example, just sample The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, The HarperCollins Study Bible: Fully Revised & Updated, or The New Interpreter's Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version With the Apocrypha. These are not fringe works, but represent the bulk of scriptural scholarship in a compact form, which can be perused by the layman. There are introductions, notes, and essays in these study Bibles that address the very same issues Ehrman has been writing about for years. If you really want fringe, go to the NIV Study Bible or the Ryrie Study Bible. Everything is perfect in their world.
Now, check these out:
This is a list of 10 (or 11 with Hebrews) of the 27 books of the New Testament. These are the ones that can be seen as forgeries, because they claim to be written by someone that did not write them. One could possibly add Hebrews to this, because though it does not say it is written by Paul, it leaves little statements to imply it was.
This does not mean the rest of the books of the New Testament are fine and dandy. Oh no. Another 9 (10, if you include Hebrews in this group), we have absolutely no idea who they were supposed to be written by, anyway, because they were originally written anonymously, then attributed to some famous soul later. This is that list:
Revelation (technically, a misattribution, since a "John" that claims to have written it may have written it, but not the apostle, and not even the same writer as the gospel by that name -- John is and was a common name)
This leaves only 7 letters of Paul, currently generally uncontested, that we know the origin of:
In my opinion, the weakness of this work is that Ehrman does not keep his focus on the works that have already been accepted into the canon of the New Testament, but drifts off into many extra-canonical works. He also seems to have a weakness for writing about Gnostic works, and if one reads much of Ehrman, one may tire of this. There is so much more that could have been written about the books that have been accepted into the NT, and why he chooses to omit fuller descriptions of evidence on that count is beyond me. For example, when he mentions the "Pericope Adulterae," he omits some of the most profound evidence that it is not an original piece of the gospel of John. Why omit the evidence that is so convincing, and spend so much time talking about those works outside of the Bible?
He says in this book that it is his intention to also write a scholarly version of this book, mainly for scholars, of course. That is the book I would expect to handle the issues in the way I would have desired, and I look forward to that work.
If anyone has an interest in knowing more detail about the true nature of the Bible, I highly recommend any of the study Bibles I mentioned above as mainstream (New Oxford Annotated Bible, the HarperCollins Study Bible, or The New Interpreter's Study Bible), and I recommend all of the works by Bart Ehrman, as he is particularly adept at getting the points across, calling a spade a spade, rather than trying to be politically correct, as so many other scholars do.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2013
This book gives a good layperson's overview of forgery and related issues in the early Christian church. A good portion of the book examines the authenticity of the writings of the New Testament. As Ehrman makes clear, "forged" is a description that can best be applied to some of the books of the New Testament. These books, including Ephesians, Timothy, Titus and the Epistles of Peter, are written by men claiming to be the apostles Peter and Paul, who were NOT Peter and Paul. The information is a real eye opener for anyone who holds to the traditional authorship of these texts.
The problem is that not all books of the New Testament are "forged." Ehrman doesn't claim they are. Some are actually written by Paul. Others were originally anonymous and later attributed to other authors (Hebrews, for example, was long believed to be written by Paul, but most scholars agree that is not the case; the gospels, likewise, were anonymous and only later attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as Ehrman mentions here and explains in more detail in earlier books). It would be wrong to refer to those books as "forged," because the authors did not claim to be someone they were not.
Further, Ehrman spends a lot of time and ink on forgeries that are not a part of the New Testament canon. I do not begrudge him the right to examine those works, and it is, in fact, rather fascinating. But they are not the New Testament canon, and in light of the subtitle of the book, I wasn't expecting Ehrman to spend as much time as he did exploring them.
"Forged: Writing in the Name of God; Why the Bible's authors are not who we think they are" is not entirely about forgeries and not entirely about the Bible's authors.
I recommend the book with that caveat.
47 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2011
Bart Ehrman has emerged as a scholarly "enfant terrible" of the biblical scholarly set, writing book after book that challenge long-held beliefs about the Bible and those who wrote it. In his new book, he dares to use the F-word ("forged") to describe the authorship of several of the New Testament books.
It is long been known that certain books of the New Testament were not written by the purported authors. I learned this during my masters studies at a middle of the road seminary. The Pastoral Epistles, written in Paul's name, are known to have been written by authors claiming to be Paul. Often, this seeming fraud is explained as more or less harmless - the authors were writing in Paul's name as an homage, or in the spirit of Paul. And anyway, this sort of things happened all the time in the ancient world, right? Ehrman demolishes this point of view in two ways. One, by showing that the authors writing in Paul's name taught in contradiction to Paul's known teaching. The real Paul taught that in Christ, there is no male or female. The pseudo Paul wrote that women should not teach in the assembly. The true Paul taught that all are saved by faith in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The pseudo Paul wrote that women are saved only by bearing children. Clearly, the person who forged letters in Paul's name was not doing so in the spirit of the true Paul! Ehrman also explodes the pious myth that the ancients had no problem writing in another's name. He provides example after example of ancient writers who excoriated those who wrote falsely, calling them thieves and bastards.
Ehrman even goes after the book of Acts, a surprising target, which purports to be the story of the early church. In many instances, Acts contradicts information in Paul's known letters. Paul says he consulted with no one after his conversion; Acts says he went right to Jerusalem to consult with the Apostles there. Paul goes to pains to show that he needed no apostolic authority other than his personal commission from Jesus Christ. Acts shows him submitting meekly to the Jerusalem authorities. Acts seems to have an agenda, and twists Paul to meet it. Though Acts is not forged, in the sense that it does not falsely claim authorship, it does falsely lay out facts to achieve an aim at odds with the truth.
What made "Forged" disappointing was not its subject matter, nor its approach. Ehrman is ever the careful scholar, and bases his conclusions on strong logic. It's just that the book seems so quickly written and shallow. There are few deep explorations of texts. Examples, when given are few and short. Then, Ehrman doesn't give us a way to interpret the mass of distortions, forgeries and lies that made it into the New Testament. Neither does he explore the rationale behind those who wrote the dueling forgeries that supported or attacked some teacher or point of view. What made the early church so ugly? Was it a systemic problem? Or one limited to a few cranky groups? Is there a way to salvage some value from this humanly-formed book? Or does Ehrman intend to reject it all?
"Forged" breaks little new ground. But its use of the provocative title word may get some scholars to be more truthful about the subject they are studying. That would be a good thing. If only the book were more interesting.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2014
This is perhaps the most insighful book on changes and forgeries in the biblical text over the past two thousand years non-theologians will ever have. If more thoughtful ministers, priests and tele-evangelists read and headed the remarkable research in Ehrman's book, we would all be better off. While some changes over the years, additions made by various copyists, monks and academics to enhance their version of the texts of the Bible, make nominal changes to the meaning of the original texts, some had major impacts on how we understand and worship. The writers with whom Ehrman deals with this book penned their own versions of events and attached the names of prominent participants of biblical significance to make their forgeries accepted as fact. This is an incredibly important book and Ehrman has followed up with other wonderful books on the subject! Highly recommended for any "Christian" who is truly reading the Bible.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2013
First of all I have no academic degrees in Bible, nor do I understand Greek or Hebrew. I do think that his arguments in many cases reach for the possibility that the book/letter in question is forged unnecessarily. I would advocate taking a similar principle of the Supreme Court (US) and not reaching for that conclusion unless all other reasonable options that are applicable are exhausted. This is particularly the case if a surface reading of the text leads one to think that the texts in question conflict doctrinally with one another. Also, I think at times he appears to talk to generally about the scholarship in this area, as opposed to dealing more specifically with particular authors. For an example, when he states something like: Most scholars in this area would agree that ... with a minority saying that ... I would appreciate it if he cited and dealt with at least a briefly a few representative examples. After all, I have no way of knowing if he is building a straw-man argument and how do I know his summary of the current status of the literature on the subject is correct?