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DB Forum 2

G. Ryan Buschmeyer NBST 522 B03 LUO

Question 2:
Discuss the materials and methods used to produce letters in the first century. Define the words pseudonymity and pseudepigraphy. What was the purpose for pseudonymous writings? Were any of the NT writings authored pseudonymously? Give a defense of your answer. The writing of extended length letters was very common in the first century. Some of the letters in the era began with a salutation and followed a normal structure. Letter writing, however, was not anything like what we see in the modern world. In the ancient world the only media available for writing upon was papyrus paper made from an Egyptian plant of the same name. Cutting the pith into strips and weaving it together made the paper. After the paper was woven, it would be smoothed by applying mud (as a moisturizer) to the paper and mashing it with ivory or shell until the product became smooth. (Lusted, 1) The process produced a rudimentary paper that was sufficient for writing, but the end product was costly. Letters therefore needed to be by a skilled scribe called an amanuensis. This practice was extremely common in the era. The author of the letter would dictate to the amanuensis who would then record the letter as spoken to the papyrus. Depending on the relationship between the author and the amanuensis, the scribe could take liberty with the verbiage of the text. According to Carson, the different scribes added influences to the text that explain the differences in the Greek style among the Pauline letters. (Carson and Moo 2005, 334-335). Also confronting letter writing and scripture of antiquity are the concepts and practices of pseudonymity and pseudepigraphy. Both terms describe the practice of attributing authorship to someone other than the author, but the two words do have different connotations. These two terms may be differentiated as follows: Pseudonymity The work is falsely named. Pseudepigraphy The work is falsely attributed. These practices were employed for many reasons; to hide the authors true identity, to give greater gravity to the work, to provide malice (false teachings), a desire to be published and more widely read, promises of financial payment, and even modesty. (Carson and Moo 2005, 338-339). According to some scholars, many of the works of the New Testament are

pseudonymous, specifically the pastoral epistles, 1 & 2 Peter, Colossians, Ephesians and James (Lea and Black 2003,338). These scholars base this thesis on the differences in language and style within the Greek texts. They argue that later writers attributed the authorship of these letters to Paul and other respected early church authors to give extra credence to the writings. Theologically, however, there are problems with this stance. Given that the New Testament is rife with teachings on honesty, character and truthfulness, how can one accept deceptive authorship of the scriptures that teach these traits? Furthermore, the early church fathers rejected works that they deemed to be inauthentic in authorship. The Muratorian Canon rejected many works including the Acts of Paul, and Serapion rejected the Gospel of Peter upon learning of its inaccurate authorship: For we, brothers, receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ. But Pseudepigrapha in their name we reject, as men of experience, knowing that we did not receive such [from the tradition] (Lea and Black 2003, 342). The Rev. Dr. George K. Barr of Comrie, UK performed a statistical study of the epistles of the New Testament in 2002 and published his findings in the Journal of Literary and Linguistic Computing. In his study, Dr. Barr used the deutero--Pauline epistles to establish a statistical map of how Paul constructed his epistles as a whole as well as the sentence structure and word usage. He then studied the remaining pseudo Pauline epistles and Found that the patterns match those of the deuteron Pauline epistles exactly (Barr 2002). Dr. Barrs other studies have shown that authors generally do not exhibit discernable patterns within their writings. What he found with Paul, however, was a very discernable pattern that repeated its self consistently. Dr. Barr came to several conclusions through his study, but one in particular nails the door shut on the idea that the New Testament has pseudonymous writings: The prime patterns of the Paulines are found in the undisputed works, the so-called deutero-Paulines and the so-called pseudo-Paulines. Similar patterns have been discovered in no other works, ancient or modern. They are a very strong indication indeed of the Pauline author- ship of all these epistles. (Ibid) Given the theological and statistical findings from other scholars, I have no other conclusion to make than to accept authorship of the Pauline and Petrine epistles as church tradition has handed down to us.