Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are
When reading the newest offering from an author you have read and enjoyed before, your first hope is that the story will be new and provide more insight into the subject at hand. Bart Ehrman’s Forged is that book and meets this reader-imposed criterion . . . to a point.
Forged is a partial rework of Dr. Ehrman’s New York Times bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, examining this time on the writings of Paul and Peter, the history of the writings, what had been forged in the name of the Apostles or written so the biblical reader would think that the original author was an Apostle. This is an excellent study of forgeries at their best.
Dr. Ehrman focuses on two of the Disciples and their “writings,” Paul and Peter. Not just the New Testament books attributed to their names, but the letters and writings that did not make it into the Christian Bible. More important, this is an overview of the history of the first 400 years of Christianity and of the relationship between the new Jewish and Gentile Christians, the Jews and the pagans of the period.
Dr. Ehrman is not shy about his opinions or his personal history leading to his atheism and the writing of this book. The reader is reminded, a bit too often, that he use to be a “good conservative Christian” now atheist and the product of Fundamentalist churches and education deeply steeped in biblical study. This may cause some problems for the reader, for Dr. Ehrman’s concept of atheism is not shared by many atheists nor Christians. It is very moderate and nonconfrontational.
Dr. Ehrman is a scholar of the Christian Bible and it shows. His relationship with the “writings” of Peter and Paul is intimate, following his style and formatting of previous books. His specific chapters concerning the “writings” of the two Apostles are complete with his insight, academic opinion and with the studies of those who may not agree with him. Dr. Erhman’s arguments, as in the past, are solid and academic. The book, however, is written for the layperson attempting to get “a handle” on what the “Good Book” says, means and, most importantly, who really said it.
Chapter Four, “Alternatives to Lies and Deceptions” is where Dr. Ehrman excels, speaking to the reasoning and justification for accepting the letters and books of Peter and Paul as fact not myth or forgeries, and can be extrapolated to the Torah, Bible and Qur’an, as well as the Book of Mormon and other holy writings. His study of “pseudepigraphological” writings, secrecy of the writer and of God, and of the spiritual and philosophical rationalization provides the opposition arguments that so many books tend to neglect.
It is the final chapter that provides the true insight that Dr. Ehrman wishes to convey, defining the various forms and degrees of forgery that can be found most anywhere; from false attributions to out and out forgeries for profit or political gain. Throughout the text, the author provides his definitions of terminology, which will greatly aid the reader in understanding his philosophy. Though he does relate this chapter back to biblical verse, this chapter also provides the basis of critical thinking when reviewing any documentation.
There is a great lesson in Dr. Ehrman’s writings; don’t take the Bible as fact, but as myth and you will understand it better. This school is one this reviewer has seen and reviewed before. (See God’s Century and The Rise and Fall of the Bible, both reviewed at NYJB). It is the position many atheists take and many fundamentalists reject.
Forged is an excellent read, insightful and well documented. Dr. Erhman’s personalization ignored, it is what the student of biblical history wants on his bookshelf.