A World of Deceptions and Forgeries – 3

51ijk9vgS+L._AC_US160_[This was first posted May 27, 2014.  It belongs to a series from one of the books that opened our eyes to the New Testament writings and who might have authored them.  Here are previous posts related to this:

Here is the original introduction:


Continuing with Bart Ehrman’s MUST READ/MUST OWN book titled Forged,  he defines certain terms here.  We posted this part before as evidenced by searchers entering one particular word: “orthonymous”, a search term that appears almost as often as “uncircumcised lips”. Reformatting and highlights added.—Admin1]





The Terms of the Debate  

THE FIRST TWO TERMS are especially technical and, although I won’t be using them much, it is important to know what they mean.



  • An orthonymous  (literally, “rightly named”) writing is one that really is written by the person who claims to be writing it.  There are seven letters of Paul, out of the thirteen in the New Testament that bear his name, that virtually everyone agrees are orthonymous, actually written by Paul.
  • A homonymous (literally, “same named”) writing is one that is written by someone who happens to have the same name as someone else.  In the ancient world, the vast majority of people did not have last names, and a lot of people had the same first names.  This was true among Christians as it was for everyone else.  Lots of people were named John, James, and Jude, for example.  If someone named John wrote the book of Revelation and simply called himself John, he wasn’t necessarily claiming to be anyone but himself.  When later Christians assumed that this John must be the disciple John, the son of Zebedee it wasn’t really the author’s fault.  He just happened to have the same name as another more famous person.  The book is not forged, then.  It is simply homonymous, assuming that John the son of Zebedee did not write it, a safe assumption for most critical scholars.  It was included in the canon because of this mistaken identity.
  • Other writings are “anonymous,” – literally “having no name.”  These are books whose authors never identify themselves. That is, technically speaking, true of one-third of the New Testament books.  None of the Gospels tells us the name of its author.  Only later did Christians call them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and later scribes then added these names to the book titles.  Also anonymous are the book of Acts and the letters known as 1,2 and 3 John.  Technically speaking, the same is true of the book of Hebrews; the author never mentions his name, even if he wants you to assume he’s Paul.
  • The term “pseudonymous”  (literally, “falsely named”) is a little more slippery, and I need to explain how I will be using it.  Technically it refers to any book that appears under the name of someone other than the author, but there are two kinds of pseudonymous writings.
  • Sometimes authors simply take a pen name. When Samuel Clemens wrote Huckleberry Finn and signed it “Mark Twain” he was not trying to deceive his readers into thinking that he was someone famous; it was just a pen name to mask his own identity.
  • So too when Mary Ann Evans wrote Silas Marner and signed it “George Eliot.”  This use of a pen name did not happen a lot in the ancient world, but it did happen on occasion.
  • The Greek historian Xenophon, for example, wrote his famous work the Anabasis using the pen name Themistogenes; and the Greek philosopher Iamblichus wrote his treatise On the Mysteries under the made-up name Abammon.  In these instances there does not appear to have been any real attempt to deceive readers into thinking that the author was someone famous.
  • The other kind of pseudonymous writing involves a book that is circulated under the name of someone else, usually some kind of authority figure who is presumed to be well known to the reading audience.  For this particular kind of pseudonymous writing I will be using the technical term “pseudepigraphy” (literally, “written under a false name”).  A pseudepigraphical writing, then, is one that is claimed to be written by a famous, or authoritative person who did not in fact write it.
  • But as it turns out, there are also two kinds of pseudepigraphical writing:
    • Sometimes a writing was published anonymously, with no author’s name attached, for example, the Gospel of Matthew.  But later reader and copyists asserted that they knew who had written it and claimed it was by a well-known, authoritative person, in this case, the disciple Matthew.  In writings of this sort, which are wrongly attributed to a well-known person the author is not trying to deceive anyone.  He or she remained anonymous.  It is only later readers who claimed the author was someone else.  This kind of pseudepigraphy, then, involves a “false ascription”; a work is “ascribed” to someone who didn’t write it.
    • The other kind off pseudepigraphy does involve a kind of intentional deceit by an author.  This is when an author writes a work claiming to be someone else.  This is what I am here calling forgery.


My definition of a forgery, then, is a writing that claims to be written by someone (a known figure) who did not in fact write it. . . . it is a technical term referring to one kind of pseudepigraphal writing one in which an author knowingly claims to be someone else.  One of the overarching themes of my book is that those who engaged in this activity in the ancient world were roundly condemned for lying and trying to deceive their readers.


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