Pseudonymity? Pseudepigraphy? Pseudo*.*?

--could the New Testament letters be such?

(Rewritten: Oct 2002--Oct 29)        |    Summary   |       Part One: Pre-Easter Data and Discussion


Continuing from Part One…we now ask these questions of the Post-Easter historical period:



  1. Do we have any literary or historical evidence that high pseudox was acceptable in the NT period (30-80 AD)?

  2. Do we have any indication of how this practice might have been viewed by Christians in the 50-150 AD period?

  3. Do the post-150 AD statements (and perhaps, behavior) by the Fathers indicate that the practice is acceptable?







THREE: Do we have any literary or historical evidence that high pseudox was acceptable in the NT period (30-80 AD)?



There are two separate issues in here--(1) what do we mean by 'acceptable' and (2) where do we look for pseudox in this period?


The first issue is one of 'how acceptable was pseudox' to these people, and it falls neatly into two categories: (1) acceptability to an author, and (2) acceptability to recipients.


The second one of these (recipients) is the easiest to answer, since the record is uniform throughout all of ancient history. We have already quoted Donelson:


"In fact, in many cases the contrary can be demonstrated. No one ever seems to have accepted a document as religiously and philosophically prescriptive which was known to be forged. I do not know a single example. We have instead innumerable examples of the opposite. Both Greeks and Romans show great concern to maintain the authenticity of their collections of writings from the past, but the sheer number of pseudepigrapha made the task difficult. When the great libraries emerged, hungry for documents from famous writers, the temptation to forgery was great, so that philosophic, historical, and religious literature all suffered from the onslaught of forgeries. But, even though the literary world was inundated by pseudepigrapha, we have no known instance of a pseudepigraphon recognized as such which acquired prescriptive and proscriptive authority as well. If discovered, it was rejected. The same holds true in Christian circles. As Candlish has pointed out, "no writing known as pseudepigraphical was ever accepted as authoritative in the early church". The history of the New Testament canon illustrates this clearly. The Muratorian canon for instance rejects both the Letter to the Laodiceans and the Letter to the Alexandrians since they were suspected of being forgeries. Eusebius frequently employs this criterion for rejecting writings."


"We are forced to admit that in Christian circles pseudonymity was considered a dishonorable device and , if discovered, the document was rejected and the author, if known, was excoriated." [HI:PEAPE:10-12, 16]


And we noted before, this is a strong statement, which no amount of discussion about 'trends' and 'mindsets' can overturn. If the false claim was detected, it was rejected. End of statement.


Now the question of "acceptability" to an author is more complicated, since obviously SOME authors resorted to it--Jewish and Graeco-Roman. Old Testament Pseudox ([OTP]) continued to be written, and G-R pseudox had a long history…


But the Graeco-Roman practice of pseudepigrapha was definitely aimed at deception, even in the philosophical arena. The examples given by Donelson of bogus Platonic writings, and fake Cynic-Socratic works are decisive. The writers invented 'history' and mundane personal details about their leader/founder, clearly to deceive, in an attempt to convince readership that said leader was personable, or was esposing the forger's personal beliefs, or in cases, authenticating a later forgery! Was it morally acceptable to the authors? At some obvious level--Yes. They clearly believed in the 'noble lie', and that their positions were important enough to lie about.


But notice that there is an implicit recognition by the authors herein that the recipients will perhaps have a different moral attitude toward their writings--especially if the forgery is detected! They often go to great pains to authenticate the document, showing how important it was for the deception to succeed. Remember, if the attempt to deceive was unsuccessful, the piece was uniformly rejected--recipients obviously did not feel 'comfortable' with pseudox.


Jewish pseudox also was still being written in our pre-80ad period, but so were anonymous writings. But, as with earlier OTP, these works were apparently not understood as pseudox--they were accepted as being written by the Enoch, the Abraham, or the Isaiah within the text. (There is some overlap, in my opinion, between these forms and encomiastic writings, especially in the Testaments. I suspect some of the readers recognized the moral/exhortation nature of SOME of the pseudox, and correspondingly would NOT have actually attributed the writing to the presumed author…But I cannot prove that now, nor can I actually investigate it here.)


But did the writers of the first-century OTP believe it was 'morally acceptable' to do so? Again, the answer is probably somewhere around 'yes'--they may have felt that their version of truth needed either (a) disguise and/or (b) bolstering in authority.


It is interesting that past researchers in OTP called it 'sectarian literature', because it seemed to take a combative stance against some 'incumbent orthodoxy'. The one-upmanship of Enoch over Moses, for example, required some pre-Mosaic voice. The fact that in the running gun-battle between the Enochian lit and Ben Sira BOTH protagonists portray themselves as 'wise' and 'scribes', shouting "MY revealed wisdom is greater than YOUR revealed wisdom", suggests that issues of whose interpretation of previously revealed wisdom was 'legally binding' were catalytic in producing such 'guerilla literature'.


We will see the same thing later in Christian pseudox--it is "sectarian" resorting to 'marginal tactics' to unseat the incumbent:




It is interesting to note, however, that pseudoxy practice did not "spread" outside of this specialized community. Mainstream non-fictional/non-novelistic Jewish works were either anonymous (Qumran, 1 & 2 Macc) or 'reliably ascribed' (Ben Sira, Philo). Even though the theology and content of the Enochian/Apocalytic groups had 'infiltrated' the common Judaism(s) of the first-century, there is (a) no evidence that their writing practices did; and (b) positive evidence that their 'pseudepigraphy' was not recognized as such (in other words, they were 'fooled' thereby).


In the pre-80 non-canonical Christian writings, they are similarly anonymous (Didache, Barnabas) or reliably ascribed (I Clement). (Note: I now accept the 'new' earlier dating of I Clement to 69-70ad, by Ellis, Robinson, Henderson, Edmundson. See [NT:MNTD:280n236 for biblio.]) And, since the gospels and Hebrews are anonymous, they offer further evidence that pseudoxy practice had not "spread much" outside of its original circle.


Now, before we actually look at the NT literature, we should note one other thing about the practice of attribution in this period



Attribution in this period.


One of the interesting things about the first centuries BC and AD, is a growing attention to the accuracy of attributions. This shows up in a number of places, and seems to receive an increased emphasis in the period.


A. We can see this present in G-R in the letters of Cicero (106-42 BC):


"In the Orator (29) he [Cicero] had incorrectly attributed some lines of Aristophanes to Eupolis and asked Atticus to rectify the mistake quickly in all copies (Att. 12.6a.1)." [HI:SSGTGLL:24]



B. We see it in the Jewish apocrypha:


"In Hammel's observation, the use of introductory formulae (of citations of scripture) is a historical development, becoming common only in the later first century BCE, accompanied by a closer conformity to the biblical text." [OT:SQVP:147]


(We don't see introductory formula in pseudox, though, since "the use of introductory formulae served to emphasize the distinction between canonical and non-canonical texts…" Hoffman, cited at [OT:SQVP:147n11])


"And though the Israelite literary tradition was characterized by anonymity, the influence of Greek culture brought the concept into Judaism in the Hellenistic era. This is evident, for example, in the ready acknowledgment that the writer of 2 Maccabees makes to the five volumes of Jason of Cyrene (2 Macc 2.23) and in the sensitivities regarding false attribution in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 and Revelation 22:18." [NT:DictLNT,  s.v. "Pseudepigraphy", J. D. G. Dunn]



C. We might see it already in Rabbinic traditional methods (although, it can be hazardous to retro-ject this material into the pre-NT times), in which attribution to a teacher was important:


"The rabbinic literature abounds in named attributions. The frequency of this feature is consistent with the importance given to it…Rabbinic teachers often reveal their desire to be quoted on different occasions. Some texts even claim that the deceased teachers continue to exhibit their influence-"to make their lips move in the grave" (b. Yebam. 97a) only when other teachers mention them by name as the ones who originally uttered a certain teaching. A late statement in m. 'Abot 6:6 represents a broad consensus:


Whosoever says a word in the name of the one who said it brings deliverance to the world.


"This is not an isolated occurrence. It is in harmony with what we often find in the Talmud and elsewhere." [HI:JTOT:137]



The other passages which repeat this are:


·         R. Eleazar further said in the name of R. Hanina: Whoever reports a saying in the name of its originator brings deliverance to the world, as it says, And Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. (b. Meg. 15a)


·         Rather what the [teacher of our Mishnah] tells us is merely that the first Tanna [whose opinion is expressed anonymously] is R. Jose; for whosoever reports a thing in the name of him that said it brings deliverance into the world, as it is said: And Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. (b. Hullin 104b)


·         Is not this ruling identical with that of the first Tanna? — It is this that we were informed: Who is the first Tanna? R. Jose; for he who repeats a thing in the name of him who said it brings deliverance into the world. (b. Nid 19b)



But even here, the preference is for anonymity, followed by precise attribution (if possible):


·         "Whatever the exact age of these anonymous statements, their presence within the rabbinic corpora shows that certain teaching spoke for itself, independently of any special teacher." [HI:JTOT:138]


·         "First we should note that in the Mishnah, the ascription of a statement to a particular named sage marks that statement as a minority opinion. Rulings cited as the opinion of "the sages" in general are more authoritative. But rulings cited anonymously are understood to be the ruling of the Mishnah itself and are the most authoritative . Thus, in the Mishnah, anonymity confers authority, contrary to what we find in pseudepigraphy where false attribution to some specific, well-known and highly respected personality is generally used to increase the authority of a literary work, statement or idea.


"This practice, though limited primarily to the Mishnah which seems to be a particularly apodictic work  is curious in light of the generally high regard the sages express for the precise attribution of rabbinic statements. This is exemplified in sayings such as "Whoever cites a statement in the name of the one who said it, brings redemption to the world" (m. 'Abot 6:6:) and "Whoever cites a tradition according to the one who said it, should imagine the "tradent" standing in front of him." j. Shab. 1:2 [3a]). The actual practice of citing rulings in the presence of a sage to whom it was attributed could, however, lead to disagreement, as a passage from the Tosefta (t. Mak. 1:3) demonstrates:


Concerning a document dated on a day that turns out to have been a Shabbat or the tenth of Tishre [Yom Kippur, when of course writing is prohibited], R. Yehudah rules that the document is valid and R. Yosi rules that the document is invalid. R. Yehudah said to him [to R. Yosi]. Such a case came before you in Sepphoris and you ruled that the document was valid. Rabbi Yosi replied: "I did not rule it valid. But if I did, I did"


"What is remarkable here, and elsewhere in rabbinic literature, is the candid way in which the sages discuss the problem of unreliable attribution. For example, a passage in the Palestinian Talmud relates that when R. Abbahu wanted to teach his daughter Greek, he was accused of simply attributing to R. Yohanan a ruling that this practice was permitted. Despite R. Abbahu's disclaimer that he did indeed receive this teaching directly from R. Yohanan, there seems to have been doubt as to whether R. Yohanan made such a ruling." [HI:PPAPLDSS:32f]


Notice this last paragraph. Here is an attribution that is contested by the other rabbi's. "If it is detected (or strongly suspected), it is rejected" seems to show up in the Rabbinics as well.


Bergman (who argues FOR pseudox in the rabbinics) refers to Talmun, "who cites seven instances in with Rav Ashi's opinions are rejected by the anonymous editors of the Babylonian Talmud with the expression (…) which seems to mean 'false, forged, fictional, or untrue.' The comment in the Steinsalz edition of b. Pes. 11a says this: "the intent is to say that Rav Ashi never said these statements, but that someone attributed them to him". [HI:PPAPLDSS:33, n.29]


We might also note that this phrase shows up many times in the Talmud, and the Soncino note at b. BM 9a is instructive:  "The word used in describing R. Abbahu's error occurs in several places in the Talmud. It is regarded as a courteous substitute for other terms which might be used in refuting wrong decisions, but which would appear derogatory to the dignity of the Rabbis who committed the error. The term is associated with the word, meaning something external, which does not fit in, and which is therefore rejected. In other places, however, (such as Pes. 11a; B.B. 145a) the rendering is an invention, an unfounded assertion.]


Here are a couple of the passages (with the phrase translated somewhat differently depending on the meaning):



·         "Rather, said Raba: R. Judah is not self-contradictory, as we have answered. The Rabbis too are not self-contradictory: he himself is seeking it in order to burn it, shall he then eat thereof! R. Ashi said: R. Judah is not self-contradictory, [for] we learned, ‘flour and parched corn’, But this [answer] of R. Ashi is a fiction: this is well from [the time when it is] parched ears and onwards; ‘but from the beginning until it is parched corn, what can be said? And should you answer, [It is gathered] by plucking, as Raba [answered], then what can be said of [what we learnt that] ‘one may reap an artificially irrigated field and [the corn in] the valleys’, which we established as [agreeing with] R. Judah? Hence R. Ashi's [answer] is a fiction. (b. Pesch 11.a)


·         "Said R. Ashi: R. Oshaia's interpretation may be represented by the simile of a man who guards an orchard. If he guards it from without, all of it is protected. If, however, he guards it from within, only that, section in front of him is protected but that which is behind him is not protected. This statement of R. Ashi, however, is mere fiction. There, the section in front of him, at least, is protected; while here were it not for the prohibition of incest of the second degree, one would have encroached upon the very domain of incest. (b. Yevamot 21a)


·         "This is a difficulty…R. Ashi replied: [The law in the] final clause is due to the fact that [the consecrated food] is an object which may be made permissible, and any object which [in certain circumstances] becomes permitted cannot be neutralized even in a thousand. This statement of R. Ashi, however, is mere fiction. For to whom [would the mixture become permitted]! To the priest it is permitted [all the time]; to the Israelite it is for ever forbidden! The statement of R. Ashi must consequently be regarded as mere fiction. But is R. Johanan of the opinion that terumah at the present time is Pentateuchal? (b. Yev 82a)


·         "R. Mesharsheya explained: According to the strict rule of the Torah, a Get enforced by a heathen court is valid, and the reason why [the Rabbis] declared it invalid was to prevent any [Jewish woman] from attaching herself to a heathen and so releasing herself from her husband. If that is so, [why did Samuel say that] if it is enforced [by a heathen court] without sufficient legal ground, it has not even the tincture of a Get? Let it at least be on a par with the similar Get exacted by an Israelite court, and disqualify the woman [for] a priest? — The truth is that R. Mesharsheya's [explanation] is erroneous. And what is the reason? — [A Get enforced by a heathen court] on legal grounds is liable to be confused with [a Get enforced by] an Israelite court on legal grounds, but [a Get enforced by a heathen court] without proper grounds will not be confused with [a Get enforced by] a Jewish court with legal grounds. (b. Gitt 88b)


·         "Said R. Ashi: The one acquires the ass with the halter, and the other acquires what he holds in his hand, but the rest [of the reins] neither of them acquires. R. Abbahu said: In reality we may leave it as taught [at first]. [and] the reason is that he [who holds the reins] can pull them violently and bring [the other end also] to himself. But R. Abbahu's view is a mistake: for if you do not say so, [how would you decide in a case where] one half of the garment lies on the ground and the other half [rests] upon a pillar, and one person comes and lifts up the half from the ground, while another person comes and lifts up the half from the pillar — will you maintain here also that the first one acquires it but the last one does not acquire it, for the reason that [the first one] can pull it violently and bring [the other half also] to himself? [We must] therefore [say that] the view of R. Abbahu is a mistake.  (b. BM 9a)


·         " Said Rafram: This proves that the laws concerning ‘erub and transport apply to the Sabbath and do not apply to the Day of Atonement. How is this proved? Maybe the laws concerning ‘erub and transport apply also to the Day of Atonement, and the Mishnah text is to be understood thus: If it was the Sabbath and he carried it out [of private possession], he is liable by reason of the Sabbath as well as the Day of Atonement! — Rather say, If the statement of Rafram was made, it was with reference to the following: …This proves that the laws concerning ‘erub and transport apply to the Sabbath and do not apply to the Day of Atonement. How is this proved? Maybe the scapegoat is an exception, for its whole validity is bound up with the Day of Atonement! — The dictum of Rafram is indeed void. (b. Krth 14b)


In some cases, these seem to be referring to simple error (although the normal words for error, mistake, and falsehood are not used--as Soncino noted), but some of these are likely references to attribution errors.


It is, of course, entirely reasonable that the huge mass of oral tradition would result in some 404's, some lost links, and uncertain attributions. In some cases, we suspect that the writers of the rabbinics had to make educated guesses, but these would not be considered pseudox in the least:


"Second, the attributions are not always consistent. There are several indications of this. Not only do the MSS often differ in the reading of the names, it also happens in cases where the MSS are stable that one and the same saying occurs on the lips of different persons. And a statement attributed to an amoraic rabbi in one text can elsewhere be classified as tannaitic teaching. Sometimes the names might have been confused because they were similar.  But on other occasions, it seems that the rabbis were aware of the confusion. By including an alternative name, some texts show explicitly that the names may have been confused. Other texts mention that the teaching attributed to amoraic rabbis actually originated with a tanna. The Babylonian Talmud sometimes leaves the exact attribution of certain teaching open. It introduces the statement with "if you want, say" (...) followed by an alternative name." [HI:JTOT:138f]


[It is interesting to note, though, that the closest thing we can find to Meade's concept of 'continuity attribution, instead of authorship attribution' is something distinguished from authorial attribution. The normal attribution of origination of a saying follows the standard "X said Y" form, but when something 'fuzzier' is meant, the rabbis had a special phrase for it: "Rabbi X, following his reason, said". Thus, inferential attribution (which is close to Meade's notion, but not quite equivalent) was NOT a part of 'attribution of origination' [HI:PPAPLDSS:37, n.49]]


We should also note that some of the Rabbinic pseudox (at least those cases which put words into the mouth of God or Moses) look quite literary: "It is important to note that when the Rabbis attribute extra-biblical statements to God in this way, the statements are, for the most aggadic rather than halakhic." [HI:PPAPLDSS:29] What this means is that the statements are more homiletical expansions or storytelling, as opposed to instructions concerning legal and/or behavioral matters. This suggests that pseudox--for them--was NOT suitable as a basis of authority for something important (clearly the situation we have in the NT also).


Now, many of these cases above are well-past our time frame, some stretching into the 4-5th centuries. But three factors may make this relevant to our situation:


1.        The pre-Jesus Hillel and Shammai controversies reported in the rabbinics are in methodological continuity with these latter attributions. This suggests that tradition-anchoring-via-origination might have been present in the background of Paul (the ex-Pharisee) and his Jewish contemporaries. [We should also note that this period's 'new emphasis' on attribution as seen in Ben Sira is also seen in Paul's use of the OT, and also carries through the Fathers, suggesting no radical discontinuities between the apostolic and sub-apostolic ages.]

2.        The times of Jesus clearly manifest similar themes/issues of 'traditions of the elders'.

3.        This data indicates that the "Jewish matrix" in which Christianity was born might easily have had a problem with high-pseudox.





Okay, now to the actual data in the pre-80 time period…what is their "Profile" toward attribution and pseudox issues?



"D. G. Meade argues that the most believable background to NT pseudepigraphy is neither the body of Greco-Roman parallels nor the corpus of Second Temple Jewish pseudepigraphy but the process within Jewish writing whereby an original deposit (oral or written) has been enlarged upon, with all the later material being attributed to the earliest author. This pattern, he argues, began within the OT itself: Isaiah, the Solomonic corpus, Daniel. But in every case the ostensible parallels break down. On Meade’s assumptions, the prophecy of Isaiah of Jerusalem was enlarged by contributions made more than a century later by others who followed in his train. But Ephesians or 2 Thessalonians or the Pastorals are not additions to a book, additions that seek to make contemporary the prophetic word of someone long dead. They are independent documents, written, even under Meade’s assumptions, within a decade or so of the apostle’s death. Nor is there anything like the personal claims and historical reminiscences of Ephesians or the Pastorals in Isaiah 40 and following chapters. Meade’s theory sounds like an attempt to make the results work out after one has already bought into the dominant historical-critical assumptions." [HI:DictNTB, s.v. "Pseudox…", D.A. Carson]








"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. (2 Thess 2.1-2)


[CMM:367] comments: "This suggests that pseudonymous letters were not entirely unknown; on the other hand, it certainly shows that the apostle did not agree with the practice of pseudonymity--at least in the case where someone was writing a letter in his name! He does not regard it as acceptable; in principle, he repudiates the practice, regarding pseudonymity as something to be guarded against, for he gives his readers a token whereby they might know which writings come from him and which make a false claim."


Now, it should be obvious that Paul is not a literary critic, and that his 'problem' with this possible forgery or misrepresentation has to do with its content and/or effects--and not with its 'literary merits' or de-merits per se. But how surprising is that, really? It's not his 'job' to sort through the many pieces of correspondence between the early groups, looking for forgeries and textual tampering, but in the battle for apostolic truth, he has to be sensitive to anything that might disturb his readers--including forgeries under his own name. It was the 'disruptive teaching' that led him to question the source--a pattern that we will see repeated in the later Church Fathers. [And we will discuss this 'heresy instead of pseudoxy' issue later as well.]


This apparently deeply sensitized Paul to the issue of sources, for after this topic in 2 Thess, in the 23 verses in the rest of the epistle, he "hammers down" on the "only authorized sources" with NINE references to the apostolic source(!):


1.        He called you to this through our gospel (2.14)

2.        So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  (2.15)

3.        We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. (3.4)

4.        according to the teaching you received from us.( 3.6)

5.       For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us …but in order to give you an example to imitate.(3.7,9)

6.        For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule (3.10)

7.        Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down (3.12)

8.        If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter  (3.14)

9.        I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write (3.17)


This, of course, would be a case of while-alive forgery and NOT post-mortem pseudox, but the distinction between these two is independent of the letter's form and/or content  (or even of the pseudox writer's motives--he/she could 'theoretically' honor a living or dead leader, I suppose) and is instead solely a function of the time of death! In other words, there is no material, essential, formal or internal difference between an explicit forgery and epistolary high-pseudox. The same techniques of deception are required, and the same motives (i.e., to honor or to dishonor a public figure) are possible--the only difference is the temporal relation of the letter to the death of the public figure.



"Pseudepigraphic letters (letters falsely ascribed to a great teacher of the past) were a common literary device but were rarely written close to the author’s lifetime." [BBC, Pastorals]



To see how odd a "tiny" twenty-year gap would be (in a Pastorals pseudox scenario), consider some known cases of false attribution and/or pseudox:


·         "Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was arrested ca. AD 115 and taken by land and sea to Rome for execution…Unlike the Pauline letters, which were written over a fifteen-year span, Ignatius wrote several letters within a few short weeks…The popularity of the seven genuine letters of Ignatius encouraged the addition of six spurious letters by a single unknown person by the fifth century A.D." [NTLE:214, a gap of 300-400 years]


·         " Indeed, it is rather remarkable that any false epistles gained currency. In the case of the Epistle of Jeremy it was no doubt regarded rather as an addition to the canonical book than as an imitation. It is not without significance that in the Vulgate is appears as chapter six of The Book of the Prophet Baruch. Yet on the most generally favoured dating it was not produced until some four or five hundred years after the time of Jeremiah. [GNTI:1013; 400-500 year gap]


The examples given by Donelson are these [HI:PEAPE:25ff]:


·         Plato's Epistles 12/13: written  in the 2nd century BC (Thesleff) [gap of 200-300 years?]

·         Epistles of Anacharis: 400-500 years (Cynic epistle)

·         Epistles of Crates: a gap of 300-500 years (Cynic epistle)

·         Letters of Apollonius of Tyana (not actually epistles: "Furthermore, these letters do not pretend to epistolary style. They are normally quite short, consisting of a single saying or a few quick remarks, and they possess no marks of a real letter…", p30)

·         Epistles of Diogenes: gap of 300-500 years (Cynic epistle)

·         Epistles of Heraclitus: gap of 300-500 years  (Cynic epistle)

·         The Pythagorean letters: at least 300 years (Hellenistic period)

·         The Epistles of Socrates and the Socratics: 200-400 years gap  (Cynic epistle)


To these we can add the case of Phalaris, with a gap of 700-800 years, and others:


"At least in the classical period, great leaders and thinkers were credited with important and voluminous correspondence. One hundred forty-eight letters are attributed to the sixth-century b.c. tyrant Phalaris of Acragas (= Agrigentum), portraying him as a gentle and kind man and as a patron of the arts—though since the end of the seventeenth century scholars have known that these letters were almost certainly composed in the second century a.d., probably by a Sophist (see the work of Bentley)." [HI:DictNTB, s.v. "Pseudox…", D.A. Carson]


"Very few of the Neo-Pythagoreans published their works under their own names. They attributed them to Pythagorus himself, even though he had been dead for centuries (so Iamblichus, c. a.d. 250–325: De Vita Pythagorica 198, following Deubner’s edition). In the sixth century a.d. several works appeared claiming to be written by Dionysius the Areopagite (cf. Acts 17:34), though drawing on much later Neo-Platonic argumentation. [HI:DictNTB, s.v. "Pseudox…", D.A. Carson]



·         Ninth, we should also note the absence of even micro-pseudepigrapha in the NT documents. There are no 'convenient' quotations of Jesus in the Epistles (even when we could have really used one!), and the reluctance/resistance of the Gospel Authors to make up 'convenience' sayings of Jesus (to meet pressing, post-Easter needs) is striking. So, Lemcio:


"The hardest available evidence from the gospels has confirmed the thesis that the Evangelists produced narratives about Jesus of Nazareth that were free of blatant attempts to infuse and overlay this story with their own later and developed estimates of his teaching, miracles, passion, and person...With a consistency that can be charted on virtually every page of text, the thought and idiom of  his era are not reproduced in theirs. Or, more correctly, they do not retroject theirs into his. [LPJG:108-109] 


Believe me, if Enochian-like pseudox had been a real moral option for the NT authors, we would have seen much different gospels! There were many, many things that could have been 'profitably' smuggled back in for 'orthodoxy', but weren’t:


"The lack of teachings ascribed to Jesus about later church controversies (e.g., circumcision, speaking in tongues) suggests that the disciples did not freely invent material and read it back onto the lips of Jesus." [NT:DJG, s.v. "Gospels, Historical Reliability of "]


And what a perfect use for 'altruistic pseudox', no?


This is actually striking, for there are a couple of great 'stage settings' to do this. You have Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (a great place for some cause-helping speeches). The few angelic appearances are quite subdued--we could have really used some help on the re-baptism question there. When Paul is caught up to the third heaven, instead of being able to disclose all his information (a la the mass of pseudox-visionary OTP's), he has to keep quiet! He cannot even denounce all the wicked, super-apostles and the troublesome circumcision party…what a waste of a good opportunity…And the demons in the Gospels?--remarkably silent, compared to Pseudox and later Rabbinic tales/aggadah. It is almost as if the NT authors were not even aware of Pseudox methods or patterns in pseudox literature…its odd, but at a bare minimum it argues that pseudox was not considered important enough (or relevant/useful enough)  to use


So, with the possible exception of (a) the Second Thessalonians passage, and (b) the general repudiations of cunning, craftiness, rhetorical mastery, and deception, the data in this pre-80 manifests not even the slightest awareness of pseudox, much less acceptance, and even less, usage thereof. It would be very, very difficult, therefore, to argue that it was in continuity with some allegedly OT or OTP 'consciousness' of such praxis (contra Meade.)




FOUR. Do we have any indication of how this practice might have been viewed by Christians in the 50-150 AD period?


This period overlaps the NT a bit, but is meant to include that first and second generation of sub-apostles. This period is bracketed on the high side by the flurry of patristic documents in the 150-250 AD time frame (e.g, Muratorian Canon, Tertullian, Irenaeus), some of which purport to describe events within our period here (50-150ad).


What relevant non-canonical literature do we have in this period? Well, it includes these major dox:




Are any of these pseudox?


Only the apocryphal works (as noted earlier). "Orthodox" works are either internally-anonymous (Didache, 2 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas) or reliably self-attributed (1 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, "Hermas").


They are in marked continuity with the forms and expressions of the canonical literature (often drawing upon them), and accordingly, manifest NO knowledge, acceptance, or preference for pseudox.  Church leaders are writing under their own names--no need for pseudox--and 'regular writers' are writing anonymously. They manifest the same ethical profile as the canonical literature, but the awareness of deception-risk (and literary deception) becomes a little more explicit. False teachers--such as Marcion--are no longer just attacking head-on, but they are waging war on various literary fronts as well.


Thus, the Muratorian Canon--just past the end of our period--attempts to look back over our period, and 'judge' the literary output of our sub-apostolic age, and would reflect the semi-consensus mindset of orthodoxy in the early/mid 2nd century. Specifically, it rejects the forged letters of Paul to the Laodiceans and the Alexandrians (c.160ad) [but includes the Pastorals].


"There is said to be another letter in Paul's name to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, [both] forged in accordance with Marcion's heresy, and several others (not necessarily related to Marcion, though)...they cannot be received into the catholic church--for it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey...(cited in BCANON:160, 307, with discussion)


Guthrie notes that this is not "just about heresy":


"In the literary question under review everything depends on whether the pseudonymous means was in fact regarded by the author's contemporaries as questionable. What little evidence there is in the early Christian period on this matter points to the conclusion that it was. The condemnation of the Asian presbyter already mentioned who admitted the production of the Acts of Paul shows clearly enough that where the pseudonymous device was recognized it was not merely not tolerated but emphatically condemned. It will not do to suggest that the presbyter was really condemned for the heresy contained in the book and not for its literary form, for Tertullian makes no mention of this (contra Meade) . From his report it seems evident that the writer of such a work was not considered fit to hold office in a Christian church, despite the fact that he claimed to have done it from the highest motive, for love of Paul. Similarly there is the evidence of the Muratorian Canon quoted above in which letters forged in the name of Paul are not only mentioned but specifically rejected and compared to genuine epistles as gall is compared with honey. Admittedly in this case the productions supported the Marcionite heresy and may have been rejected on that score, yet the fact that they are specifically described as forged (finctae) is not without considerable significance." [GNIT:1019-20]


[But, oddly enough, there is even a question about the 'heresy' of these letters. The phrase translated "in accordance with (Marcion's heresy)" is translated as "bearing on" by Westcott, and "for" by Davis, and "addressed against the heresy of Marcion" by Roberts-Donaldson and by Salmond in the ANF (Ante-Nicene Fathers collection). The Latin actually has "pauli nomine fincte ad heresem marcionis". Ad is tantalizingly ambiguous here--we don’t have a construction based on ut (more purpose related), contra/adversus (against), pro (for); and standard lexicons list several different nuances which could apply--some 'against' and some 'in favor of' (its basic nuance is 'towards', as in 'towards a target' or 'towards a destination'). But if this 'anti-Marcion' rendering is correct, then we have further/strong evidence of (a) unacceptable pseudox in our period; and (b) pseudox that is rejected without any 'taint' of heresy. If these were written against a heresy, and therefore fully 'orthodox', and the only reason they are rejected is because they are forged and inferior (taking 'gall' as a reference to 'bitter', rather than 'poison'), then we have a really clear example of rejection due to a purely anti-pseudox ethical stance. For the text, see]



Now, if we were to ask the question of continuity between the apostolic and sub-apostolic writings (a la Meade), I think the explicit/hard data would clearly come down on the side of continuity (relative to our topic).


This can be seen in a couple of ways:


First, we can note the same expressions of 'paranoia' about false teaching, deception, 'craftiness' running straight from Jesus through Paul to the early Fathers. Jesus, of course, spoke of 'false prophets' and 'wolves in sheep's clothing' (cf. Mt 7.15), and Paul used the same image in his farewell address to the Ephesians  in Acts, for example. Paul's indictment in 2 Cor 11.13f is sharp: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds."


And the early Fathers clearly share this perspective:


·         "I urge you, therefore--not I, but Jesus Christ's love--use only Christian food. Keep off foreign fare, by which I mean heresy. For those people mingle Jesus Christ with their teachings just to gain your confidence under false pretenses. It is as if they were giving a deadly poison missed with honey and wine, with the result that the unsuspecting victim gladly accepts it and drinks down death with fatal pleasure." [Ig. Trall. 6.1f]


·         "For there are some who maliciously and deceitfully are accustomed to carrying about the Name while doing other things unworthy of God. You must avoid them as wild beasts. For they are mad dogs that bite by stealth." (Ig. Eph 7.1)


·         "Whoever deals craftily with the sayings of the Lord to suit his own lusts and says there is neither resurrection nor judgment…" [EpPoly 7.1]


·         "You must not forsake 'the Lord's commandments' but observe the ones you have been given, 'neither adding nor subtracting anything'" [Did 4.13]


·         "but the way of death is this…hypocrisies, duplicity, deceit…who love lies… See that no one leads you astray…" [Did 5.1f ,6.1--cf. the identical text in Barn 20.1]


·         "Inasmuch as the days are evil and the Worker himself is in power, we ought to be on our guard and seek out the righteous requirements of the Lord" (Barn 2.1)


·         "…and let us hate the deception of the present age…" (Barn 4.1)

·         "And Trypho said, “I believe, however, that many of those who say that they confess Jesus, and are called Christians, eat meats offered to idols, and declare that they are by no means injured in consequence.” And I replied, “The fact that there are such men confessing themselves to be Christians, and admitting the crucified Jesus to be both Lord and Christ, yet not teaching His doctrines, but those of the spirits of error, causes us who are disciples of the true and pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, to be more faithful and stedfast in the hope announced by Him. For what things He predicted would take place in His name, these we do see being actually accomplished in our sight. For he said, ‘Many shall come in My name, clothed outwardly in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’” And, ‘There shall be schisms and heresies.’ And, ‘Beware of false prophets, who shall come to you clothed outwardly in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’ And, ‘Many false Christs and false apostles shall arise, and shall deceive many of the faithful.’ There are, therefore, and there were many, my friends, who, coming forward in the name of Jesus, taught both to speak and act impious and blasphemous things; and these are called by us after the name of the men from whom each doctrine and opinion had its origin…Yet they style themselves Christians, just as certain among the Gentiles inscribe the name of God upon the works of their own hands, and partake in nefarious and impious rites.) Some are called Marcians, and some Valentinians, and some Basilidians, and some Saturnilians, and others by other names; (Justin, Dialg. 35)




Secondly, ethical continuity is indicated by the considerable amounts of NT phraseology that reoccurs in these works. One has only to read the Didache or Polycarp's Epistle or I Clement to see their indebtedness to NT ethics--including prohibitions against guile, duplicity, etc (as above).  Regardless of what one might believe about theological continuity or discontinuity, the ethical overlap--in the area of deceit and guile--is clearly substantial.



Thirdly, we can notice the continuity between this period and the Nine Profile points we observed about the earlier pre-80 period:


1.        No obvious pseudox in the NT documents produced in this period (with the possible exception of the cases under dispute here)


2.        All the orthodox extrabiblical writings in this period are non-pseudox.


3.        These writers also show no awareness of 'canonical pseudox' (e.g., they are still using strong attribution about Isaiah, Daniel, Moses--and even Paul!). A late second-century author (Clement of Alexandria) can show how 'vividly authorial' attribution can be (referring to the Pastorals): "This teaching the apostle (Paul) knows as truly divine. “Thou, O Timothy,” he says, “from a child hast known the holy letters, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” For truly holy are those letters that sanctify and deify; and the writings or volumes that consist of those holy letters and syllables, the same apostle consequently calls “inspired of God, being profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work." (Ex. Heathen 9, 195ad; notice how there is no way to fit 'Meadean attribution' into this wording.) Or the same writer, elsewhere--"“Use a little wine,” says the apostle to Timothy, who drank water, “for thy stomach’s sake; ” most properly applying its aid as a strengthening tonic suitable to a sickly body enfeebled with watery humours; and specifying “a little,” lest the remedy should, on account of its quantity, unobserved, create the necessity of other treatment." [Notice there is not the slightest awareness or suspicion of pseudox relative to the Pastorals here by Clement.]


4.        The same themes of non-duplicity and anti-craftiness are prevalent.


5.        They are aware of the 'risk of corruption' of the tradition (witness the same level of paranoia as we see in the NT).


6.        Christians were very frequently slandered in this period, with all sorts of strange accusations. Consider Justin's comment/question to Trypho: "“Is there any other matter, my friends, in which we are blamed, than this, that we live not after the law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe sabbaths as you do? Are our lives and customs also slandered among you? And I ask this: have you also believed concerning us, that we eat men; and that after the feast, having extinguished the lights, we engage in promiscuous concubinage? Or do you condemn us in this alone, that we adhere to such tenets, and believe in an opinion, untrue, as you think? ” (Book X, Dialogue)


7.        The issue of forgery--which sensitized Paul to the issue of 'sources'--shows up in our period in the beginnings of the Gnostic writings and apocrypha.


The Gnostics of our period (e.g., Basilides, Valentinus, Marcion) produced reams of literature, not all or even most of which was 'forgery'. They produced commentaries, their own hymns, theological treatises, but they also are charged with producing forgeries and fabrications of various kinds. (It should be noted, btw,  that literary forgery shows up in at least three forms: "Speyer, Rist, and Brox have further shown that the techniques employed in the world of religious literature in order to mislead about who the author might be are of various kinds. Rists discovers interpolation and deletions to an existing text, false attribution to an existing work, and false attribution by the work itself." [HI:PEAPE:16]


These are late in our period, and so responses to them fall in the next period. (They are rejected on content grounds within our period--note the statement by Justin above in the section on 'paranoia'--but a description of their techniques come only from later periods.) The following descriptions are by writers outside our period, but which are describing events within our period:


·         "But now, being shut off from the use of such means, he (the Devil) devised all sorts of plans, and employed other methods in his conflict with the Church, using base and deceitful men as instruments for the ruin of souls and as ministers of destruction. Instigated by him, impostors and deceivers, assuming the name of our religion, brought to the depth of ruin such of the believers as they could win over, and at the same time, by means of the deeds which they practiced, turned away from the path which leads to the word of salvation those who were ignorant of the faith. 3 Accordingly there proceeded from that Menander, whom we have already mentioned as the successor of Simon, a certain serpent-like power, double-tongued and two-headed, which produced the leaders of two different heresies, Saturninus, an Antiochian by birth, and Basilides, an Alexandrian. The former of these established schools of godless heresy in Syria, the latter in Alexandria. 4 Irenaeus states that the false teaching of Saturninus agreed in most respects with that of Menander, but that Basilides, under the pretext of unspeakable mysteries, invented monstrous fables, and carried the fictions of his impious heresy quite beyond bounds. 5 But as there were at that time a great many members of the Church who were fighting for the truth and defending apostolic and ecclesiastical doctrine with uncommon eloquence, so there were some also that furnished posterity through their writings with means of defense against the heresies to which we have referred.  6 Of these there has come down to us a most powerful refutation of Basilides by Agrippa Castor, one of the most renowned writers of that day, which shows the terrible imposture of the man. While exposing his mysteries he says that Basilides wrote twenty-four books upon the Gospel, and that he invented prophets for himself named Barcabbas and Barcoph, and others that had no existence, and that he gave them barbarous names in order to amaze those who marvel at such things…  (Eusebius, EH, 4.7, 325ad)


·         "And in their writings we read as follows, the interpretation which they give [of their views], declaring that Jesus spoke in a mystery to His disciples and apostles privately, and that they requested and obtained permission to hand down the things thus taught them, to others who should be worthy and believing. We are saved, indeed, by means of faith and love; but all other things, while in their nature indifferent, are reckoned by the opinion of men—some good and some evil, there being nothing really evil by nature." (Irenaeus, Adv Her. 1.25.4, 190AD)


·         "Marcion of Pontus succeeded him, and developed his doctrine…. Besides this, he mutilates the Gospel which is according to Luke, removing all that is written respecting the generation of the Lord, and setting aside a great deal of the teaching of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as most dearly confessing that the Maker of this universe is His Father. He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us, furnishing them not with the Gospel, but merely a fragment of it. In like manner, too, he dismembered the Epistles of Paul, removing all that is said by the apostle respecting that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also those passages from the prophetical writings which the apostle quotes, in order to teach us that they announced beforehand the coming of the Lord. (Iren, Adv. Her. 1.27.2)

·         Besides the above [misrepresentations], they (Gnostic Marcosians) adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth. Among other things, they bring forward that false and wicked story which relates that our Lord, when He was a boy learning His letters, on the teacher saying to Him, as is usual, “Pronounce Alpha,” replied [as He was bid], “Alpha.” But when, again, the teacher bade Him say, “Beta,” the Lord replied, “Do thou first tell me what Alpha is, and then I will tell thee what Beta is.” This they expound as meaning that He alone knew the Unknown, which He revealed under its type Alpha. [Iren, Adv. Her., 1.20.1, c. 180ad]


·         "I will now proceed to his [Marcion] writings, or rather to his mischief He has as a gospel only Luke's, with the beginning removed because of the Savior's conception and incarnation.  But he cut off not just the beginning ... but removed as well much of the conclusion and of the words of truth that come between, and added other things to what was written. But this is the only writing he accepts: Luke's Gospel.  He has as well ten letters of the holy apostle, which are all he accepts; but he does not accept everything written in them. Some of their passages he removes, and some he alters. These are the two books he accepts, but he composed other writings of his own for those whom he led astray." (Epiphanius, Panarion 42.9.1ff,c.375ad)



8.        The time gap problem here is clearly indicated--the heretical works are typically NOT in the names of Jesus, Paul, etc. They are mostly in the form of school-based texts, altered copies of sacred texts (one of the forms of literary deception), and the infrequent pseudox (we only know the two epistles mentioned in the Muratorian fragment). There should have been many, many more if pseudox could be done this close to the originals. [A century or two later we will see these, of course, but right now we only see the manipulation of texts as a tactic.] Given that there were 'battles' between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, we might would have expected many more heterodox epistles of Paul and Peter and John, written in the same period as the allegedly pseudox ones (c. 80-150ad). Given that we only know of two such documents, this is surprising, and suggests that epistolary pseudox was not considered either very do-able, powerful enough, or worth the risk…

9.        In the orthodox writings, we also do not see evidence of micro-pseudox . Although we cannot trace ALL the citations and allusions down (but most of them we can), it doesn't look like our orthodox writers 'made up' sayings of Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, or Moses, or Enoch, or Daniel…. Our orthodox writings, for example, do not have invented letters of Paul (like we will see next period).



Fourthly, I personally see continuity in what is sometimes termed 'canonical consciousness'.


Some authors (including Meade) speak of the second century church developing a mindset that some of their orthodox writings were "becoming canonical", and therefore could NOT be altered, or treated as 'normal' literature. And that, according to these authors, only in this second century period did it become necessary to 'get picky' about what traditions were 'frozen' and therefore could not be 're-actualized' in a new form (as in, used/modified in a pseudox doc).


But it seems clear to me that:


(1) The apostles were quite certain that their message was "directly from God" (And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, I Thess 2.13), and the second century church understood their received content in the same terms--as the Word of God;


(2) The apostles'  message and ONLY their message (as it was transmitted through faithful emissaries and teachers) was the 'faith delivered once and for all to the saints'. (That is, all OTHER prophets and teachers were 'non-canonical' before they wrote even a syllable, and every in-church prophecy had to agree with the apostolic tradition. So, Aune, "The most important informal criterion set forth by Paul for the judgment of prophetic speech, or indeed viewpoints expressed through a variety of oral and written forms of communication, was the content of the message. Such message must be in agreement with what Paul himself had previously taught (2 Thess 2.1-3; Gal. 1:8-9), or with the generally accepted beliefs and customs of the Christian community (I Cor. 12:1-3)." [NT:PEC:222]), and the second century church developed the elaborate doctrine of apostolic succession (and later, apostolicity as a criterion for canonicity), in their attempt to 'delimit the oral canon'. Compare Didache 7.380: "But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet. Rather, only if he holds the ways of the Lord." In fact, as the church leadership continued to claim that they 'spoke from the Holy Spirit' (as many do today), their inspiration was not taken as 'scripture' per se; nor were inspiration claims by those outside the apostolic-train accepted as even potentially valid (and certainly not scriptural!). Every believer knows that  inspiration by the Spirit could fall anywhere on a spectrum, from 'destined to be in the Bible' level, to simple 'illumination of a NT passage by a reader today' level.


(3) The NT image of the church being 'founded on' apostles and prophets (Eph 2.20) suggests a consciousness of an 'finite' period of foundational inspiration (still in direct descent from the Lord), but with the 'walls' continuing to grow: "having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." This understanding can be seen elsewhere in the NT: Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 3:10; Rev. 21:14, and especially relevant to our period is Hebrews 2.3: "After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will."  In the second century church, Irenaeus makes this very point (frequently):


"We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed “perfect knowledge,” as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia." (Adv. Her. 3.1)


This, at least to me, seems to be the essence of 'canonical consciousness', and it also seems to me to be something held by all periods in the early church--a point of continuity between the apostles and the Fathers. They see differences in their period and the apostolic period, but not with reference to the character of the foundational revelation--there was, at most, a difference of temporal perspective.




 Okay, so going into the 2nd half of the 2nd century, where are we?



1.        There are no known cases in which a writing--once discovered to be pseudepigraphal--was not rejected, in Graeco-Roman or Christian circles.

2.        Pseudox (in G-R) went to great lengths to deceive, because the goal of 'delivering the payload' REQUIRED everyone to be fooled (assuming it wasn’t merely a literary convention, and therefore NOT 'high pseudox').

3.        The OTP written in the period was 'sectarian' and in a struggle for mastery with other 'authoritative' writings/traditions.

4.        (The later Christian apocrypha--much of it pseudox of one form or another--was also dominantly sectarian in the same way.)

5.        Anonymous Jewish literature was still being written.

6.        The practice of pseudox did not "spread any" outside of the circle in which it was present some 200-300 years earlier.

7.        All the data we have in our period (G-R, Jewish apocrypha, Rabbinics) evidence a  growing concern over accurate and 'originating-author' attribution, and no evidence of the softer, Meade-an notion of 'continuity attribution'.

8.        The "profile" of pre-80AD Christian praxis reveals no awareness, presence of, or preference for pseudox or even micro-pseudox.

9.        There are a number of elements in the NT mindset that militate against any such 'crafty' strategies for 'helping out the church'.

10.     The alleged NT pseudox certainly don't fit the pattern of "wait hundreds of years before you write one" (in all KNOWN pseudox).

11.     (Shorter gaps look more like forgery, than like  'noble lie' pseudox.)

12.     In the 50-150AD period, we noticed basic continuity with the earlier period.

13.     The only pseudox were a couple of sectarian epistles (by Marcion, apparently), although the existence of other forgeries of Gnostic sects are mentioned by later writers.

14.     All the orthodox literature of this period is, again, either anonymous or reliably self-attributed.

15.     The rejection by the Muratorian fragment of some Pauline pseudox, either was strictly on the basis of literary pretensions (i.e., because they were pseudox), or on the combined basis of heresy/literary form (i.e., the 'forgery' word was deliberately used).

16.     The later period exhibited the same 'paranoia' toward deception as encouraged by our Lord, and manifested in the NT writings.

17.     The later period manifested ethical continuity with the earlier period, arguing that 'deception' and 'craftiness' would have been similarly frowned upon.

18.     The later period exhibited the same Nine-Point Profile toward Pseudox we saw in the earlier period.

19.     The forgery issue becomes more noticeable, as the volume of writings increases. Paul's complaints about false teachers and deceivers are echoed in our later period as well.

20.     There even seems to be the same 'canonical consciousness' in the church of the later period.


So, all the data we have suggests that the sub-apostolic church was in significant continuity with the apostolic church, and that there is NO real evidence to suggest otherwise.




Now, when we get to the post-150ad church, the volume of literature (both ortho- and non-) increase dramatically, and we have many, many more statements about forgeries, deception, ethics, etc with which to work…


FIVE: Do we have any literary or historical evidence that high pseudox was acceptable in the post-150 AD period?



In this period, the amount of data we have is staggering, varied, and definitive. But as in the former periods, the Fathers were primarily focused on the health of their people, and this entailed focusing on content first, and form second. They will, accordingly, 'notice' forgeries by the heretical content in them, and then come to understand their spurious character.(Of course, they are also dealing with straight-up heretical works: commentaries, theological tracts, etc. without any 'hiding' of authorship.) In most cases this will work well--since it will only be the heretics that use forgery/pseudox. Every time an orthodox tries to use such a device, it will provoke strong censure. The literary 'practice' was too closely associated with heresy, and too closely associated with the 'cunning deception' used in that world…


Eusebius shows this 'heresy is a red flag' approach:


" order that we might know them and the writings that are put forward by heretics under the name of the apostles containing gospels such as those of Peter, and Thomas, and Matthias, and some others besides, or Acts such as those of Andrew and John and the other apostles. To none of these has any who belonged to the succession of the orthodox ever thought it right to refer in his writings. Moreover, the type of phraseology differs from apostolic style, and the opinion and tendency of their contents are widely dissonant from true orthodoxy and clearly show that they are the forgeries of heretics." (Ecc Hist 3.25)



The approach I want to take here is to adduce writings from the Fathers, and comment on them. I will then try to give some summary statements/additional data by modern authors, and then finally assess/summarize the impact of this data on the "noble lie" theory of pseudox. So, the data will be sorta 'massive', but it will show the extreme challenge this represented to these church leaders. Some of the subterfuge was perpetrated by folks within the church, in the painful controversies of the first 4-5 hundred years. And some of the 'craftiness' is brilliantly diabolical.


Okay, here goes…




First, some of the data from the Patristics:



















·         Consider the argument in this (long, sorry) excerpt from Rufinius':


"‘Revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ when they declare that I hold that the father of wickedness and perdition, and of those who are castforth from the kingdom of God, that is the devil, is to be saved, a thing which no man can say even if he has taken leave of his senses and is manifestly insane. Yet it is no wonder, I think, if my teaching is falsified by my adversaries, and is corrupted and adulterated in the same manner as the epistle of Paul the Apostle. Certain men, as we know, compiled a false epistle under the name of Paul, so that they might trouble the Thessalonians as if the day of the Lord were nigh at hand, and thus beguile them. It is on account of that false epistle that he wrote these words in the second epistle to the Thessalonians: ‘We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter as sent from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no man beguile you in any wise.’ It is something of the same kind, I perceive, which is happening to us also. A certain promoter of heresy, after a discussion which had been held between us in the presence of many persons, and notes of it had been taken, procured the document from those who had written out the notes, and added or struck out whatever he chose, and changed things as he thought right, and published it abroad as if it were my work, but pointing in triumphant scorn at the expressions which he had himself inserted. The brethren in Palestine, indignant at this, sent a man to me at Athens to obtain from me an authentic copy of the work. Up to that then I had never even read it over again or revised it: it had been so completely neglected and thrown aside that it could hardly be found. Nevertheless, I sent it: and,—God is witness that I am speaking the truth,—when I met the man himself who had adulterated the work, and took him to task for having done so, be answered, as if he were giving me satisfaction: “I did it because I wished to improve that treatise and to purge away its faults.” What kind of a purging was this that he applied to my dissertation? such a purging as Marcion or his successor Apelles after him gave to the Gospels and to the writings of the Apostle. They subverted the true text of Scripture; and this man similarly first took away the true statements which I had made, and then inserted what was false to furnish grounds for accusation against me. But, though those who have dared to do this are impious and heretical men, yet those who give credence to such accusations against us shall not escape the judgment of God. There are others also, not a few, who have done this through a wish to throw confusion into the churches. Lately, a certain heretic who had seen me at Ephesus and had refused to meet me, and had not opened his mouth in my presence, but for some reason or other had avoided doing so, afterwards composed a dissertation according to his own fancy, partly mine, partly his own, and sent it to his disciples in various places: I know that it reached those who were in Rome, and I doubt not that it reached others also. He was behaving in the same reckless way at Antioch also before I came there: and the dissertation which he brought with him came into the hands of many of our friends. But when I arrived, I took him to task in the presence of many persons, and, when he persisted, with a complete absence of shame, in the impudent defense of his forgery, I demanded that the book should be brought in amongst us, so that my mode of speech might be recognized by the brethren, who of course knew the points on which I am accustomed to insist and the method of teaching which I employ. He did not, however, venture to bring in the book, and his assertions were refuted by them all and he himself was convicted of forgery, and thus the brethren were taught a lesson not to give ear to such accusations. If then any one is willing to trust me at all—I speak as in the sight of God—let him believe what I say about the things which are falsely inserted in my letter. But if any man refuses to believe me, and chooses to speak evil of me, it is not to me that he does the injury: he will himself be arraigned as a false witness before God, since he is either bearing false witness against his neighbour, or giving credit to those who bear it."


Such are the complaints which he made while still living, and while he was still able to detect the corruptions and falsifications which had been made in his books. …


As to the possibility that the heretics may have acted in the violent manner supposed, such wickedness may easily be believe of them. They have given a specimen of it, which makes it credible in the present case, in the fact that they have been unable to keep off their impious hands even from the sacred words of the Gospel. Any one who has a mind to see how they have acted in the case of the Acts of the Apostles or their Epistles, how they have befouled them and gnawed them away, how they have defiled them in every kind of way, sometimes adding words which expressed their impious doctrine, sometimes taking out the opposing truths, will understand it most fully if he will read the books of Tertullian written against Marcion. It is no great thing that they should have corrupted the writings of Origen when they have dared to corrupt the sayings of God our Saviour. It is true that some persons may withhold their assent from what I am saying on the ground of the difference of the heresies; since it was one kind of heresy the partisans of which corrupted the Gospels, but it is another which is aimed at in these passages which, as we assert, have been inserted in the works of Origen. Let those who have such doubts consider that, as in all the saints dwells the one spirit of God (for the Apostle says, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” and again, “We all have been made to drink of that one spirit”); so also in all the heretics dwells the one spirit of the devil, who teaches them all and at all times the same or similar wickedness.


… it will be satisfactory to show that things of the same kind have happened to Latin as well as Greek writers, and that men approved for their saintly character have had a storm of calumny raised against them by the falsification of their works. I will recount things of still recent memory, so that nothing may be lacking to the manifest credibility of my contention, and its truth may lie open for all to see.


Hilary Bishop of Pictavium was a believer in the Catholic doctrine, and wrote a very complete work of instruction with the view of bringing back from their error those who had subscribed the faithless creed of Ariminum. This book fell into the hands of his adversaries and ill wishers, whether, as some said, by bribing his secretary, or by no matter what other cause. He knew nothing of this: but the book was so falsified by them, the saintly man being all the while entirely unconscious of it, that, when his enemies began to accuse him of heresy in the episcopal assembly, as holding what they knew they had corruptly inserted in his manuscript, he himself demanded the production of his book as evidence of his faith. It was brought from his house, and was found to be full of matter which he repudiated: but it caused him to be excommunicated and to be excluded from the meeting of the synod. In this case, however, though the crime was one of unexampled wickedness, the man who was the victim of it was alive, and present in the flesh; and the hostile faction could be convicted and brought to punishment, when their tricks became known and their machinations were exposed. A remedy was applied through statements, explanations, and similar things: for living men can take action on their own behalf, the dead can refute no accusations under which they labour.


Take another case. The whole collection of the letters of the martyr Cyprian is usually found in a single manuscript. Into this collection certain heretics who held a blasphemous doctrine about the Holy Spirit inserted a treatise of Tertullian on the Trinity, which was faultily expressed though he is himself an upholder of our faith: and from the copies thus made they wrote out a number of others; these they distributed through the whole of the vast city of Constantinople at a very low price: men were attracted by this cheapness and readily bought up the documents full of hidden snares of which they knew nothing; and thus the heretics found means of gaining credit for their impious doctrines through the authority of a great name. It happened, however, that, shortly after the publication, there were found there some of our catholic brothers who were able to expose this wicked fabrication, and recalled as many as they could reach from the entanglements of error. In this they partly succeeded. But there were a great many in those parts who remained convinced that the saintly martyr Cyprian held the belief which had been erroneously expressed by Tertullian.

I will add one other instance of the falsification of a document. It is one of recent memory, though it is an example of the primeval subtlety, and it surpasses all the stories of the ancients.


Bishop Damasus, at the time when a consultation was held in the matter of the reconciling of the followers of Apollinarius to the church, desired to have a document setting forth the faith of the church, which should be subscribed by those who wished to be reconciled. The compiling of this document he entrusted to a certain friend of his, a presbyter and a highly accomplished man, who usually acted for him in matters of this kind. When he came to compose the document, he found it necessary, in speaking of the Incarnation of our Lord, to apply to him the expression “Homo Dominicus.” The Apollinarists took offence at this expression, and began to impugn it as a novelty. The writer of the document thereupon undertook to defend himself, and to confute the objectors by the authority of ancient Catholic writers; and he happened to show to one of those who complained of the novelty of the expression a book of the bishop Athanasius in which the word which was under discussion occurred. The man to whom this evidence was offered appeared to be convinced, and asked that the manuscript should be lent to him so that he might convince the rest who from their ignorance were still maintaining their objections. When he had got the manuscript into his hands he devised a perfectly new method of falsification. He first erased the passage in which the expression occurred, and then wrote in again the same words which he had erased. He returned the paper, and it was accepted without question. The controversy about this expression again arose; the manuscript was brought forward: the expression in question was found in it, but in a position where there had been an erasure: and the man who had brought forward such a manuscript lost all authority, since the erasure seemed to be the proof of malpractice and falsification.. [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!] However, in this case as in one which I mentioned before, it was a living man who was thus treated by a living man, and he at once did all in his power to lay bare the iniquitous fraud which had been committed, and to remove the stain of this nefarious act from the man who was innocent and had done no evil of the kind, and to attach it to the real author of the deed, so that it should completely overwhelm him with infamy.


Since, then, Origen in his letter complains with his own voice that he has suffered such things at the hands of the heretics who wished him ill, and similar things have happened in the case of many other orthodox men among both the dead and the living, and since in the cases adduced, men’s writings are proved to have been tampered with in a similar way: what determined obstinacy is this, which refuses to admit the same excuse when the case is the same, and, when the circumstances are parallel, assigns to one party the allowance due to respect, but to another infamy due to a criminal. The truth must be told, and must not lie hid at this point; for it is impossible for any man really to judge so unjustly as to form different opinions on cases which are similar. The fact is that the prompters of Origen’s accusers are men who make long controversial discourses in the churches, and even write books the whole matter of which is borrowed from him, and who wish to deter men of simple mind from reading him, for fear that their plagiarisms should become widely known, though, indeed, their appropriations would be no reproach to them if they were not ungrateful to their master.


What has been said may suffice to show what opinion we ought to form of the books of Origen. I think that every one who has at heart the interests of truth, not of controversy, may easily assent to the well-proved statements I have made. But if any man perseveres in his contentiousness, we have no such custom. It is a settled custom among us, when we read him, to hold fast that which is good, according to the apostolic injunction. If we find in these books anything discrepant to the Catholic faith, we suspect that it has been inserted by the heretics, and consider it as alien from his opinion as it is from our faith. If, however, this is a mistake of ours, we run, as I think, no danger from such an error; for we ourselves, through God’s help, continue unharmed by avoiding what we hold in suspicion and condemn: and further we shall not be accounted accusers of our brethren before God (you will remember that the accusing of the brethren is the special work of the devil, and that he received the name of devil from his being a slanderer). Moreover, we thus escape the sentence pronounced on evil speakers, which separates those who are such from the kingdom of God. (Rufinus’s Epilogue to Pamphilus the Martyr’s Apology for Origen--Otherwise the Book Concerning the Adulteration of the Works of Origen.,  a.d. 397.)


Notice several points in Rufinius' argument:


1.        He accepts the Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians, and interprets the 2.1-3 passage as referring to a forgery in Paul's name.

2.        He says the same thing is happening to the church leaders.

3.        In the process of trying to 'work with' the heretic, the heretics falsifies the notes of the discussion, and then publishes the notes under the name of Rufinius---while pointing with 'scorn' at the bogus passages he himself inserted and put into the mouth of Rufinius!

4.        When this man was confronted with the tampering/fabrication, he used a "good motive" argument--he wanted to make the text 'better'.

5.        On another occasion, Rufinius charges the forger to bring forth the document (a mixture of his and the heretic's writings) in the presence of his friends, so they can use 'internal criticism' to identify the Rufinian content.

6.        It was a constant challenge for living authors to find/correct deliberate (and for that matter, non-deliberate) falsifications and corruptions of their word. And needless to say, it was impossible for someone to do after their death.

7.        Just as the heretics added words to the canonical books, so also they added passages to Origen's works.

8.        Even 'saintly folk' were embroiled in controversy and accusation, because of the forged works of others aimed against them.

9.        The case of Hilary is a great case of being 'set up' by his foes. They knew he would appeal to the originals, so they had falsified versions of those ready at home!

10.     Forgers also added letters to collections of letters (in this case, a letter of Tertullian into a collection of Cyprian's letters), similar to what some people say the pseudox author(s) of the Pastorals did!

11.     The amazingly crafty story about Damasus shows how diabolical some of the opponents could be. The erasure of the original wording, and then the rewriting of that original wording back into the document--to make it look as if it had been falsified(!)--was the downfall of that presbyter. In other words, falsification of a document was grounds for censure and dismissal ("If detected, it was rejected").

12.     These kinds of subterfuges had been launched against "many other orthodox men".

13.     Some of these opponents would just steal material from Origen (plagiarism) and would stop their audiences/followers from reading Origen--so that their plagiarism would not be found out! [Their borrowing in itself would not have been wrong, if they had only 'gratefully' acknowledged their source--proper attribution.]

14.     Finally, the Fathers took a 'cordial skepticism' view of this--they 'held in suspicion' questionable writings. They were not gullible in this regard, but were very sensitive to the issue of forgery, fabrication, and falsification.





Now, some summary statements and additional data from modern writers:


·         "In the late second century the anti-Montanist writer Apollonius accused the Montanist Themiso of having written a catholic letter "in imitation of the apostle" (H.E. 5.18.5). The charge indicates that the catholic epistle was recognized as an established literary genre in early Christianity. Though Themiso apparently wrote in his own name, Apollonius's criticism shows how indissolubly linked apostolic authorship and catholic address had become in Christian thinking. To write as an apostle meant to address the church at large, and the intention to address the church at large meant to write as an apostle. In this sense the adoption of an apostolic pseudonym was correlative with the intention of broad circulation." [BREC, p.107, H. Gamble]


·         "Cyprian (250s) found his authority dogged by fellow-Christian forgeries: in Epistle 9, he is even reduced to appealing to the test of handwriting, to establish authenticity." [HI:LPIAW:137, Robin Lane Fox]


·         "In spite of the fact that pseudonymity was a widespread practice, it must not be assumed that it would have been regarded as a harmless literary device among the orthodox Christians. What external evidence there is suggests rather that the church took a firm stand against the practice (e.g. the Muratorian Canon, Serapion, Tertullian). Tertullian in fact records the unfrocking of the Asian presbyter who confessed to writing the Acts of Paul out of his love for Paul, which does not suggest it was an acknowledged practice to produce such literature. For this reason the assumption by some scholars that certain NT books are really pseudonymous raises an acute psychological and moral problem, which few of the supporters of these hypotheses are willing to admit. There is a presumption against NT canonical pseudepigrapha which can be nullified only by overwhelming and conclusive evidence to the contrary, and even here each case must be judged entirely on its own merits. [NBD]


·         "By putting the emphasis on false attribution, however, the term pseudepigraphy implies a negative value judgment as to a document’s integrity and acceptability. This is clear from its earliest attested use in Christian circles, where Serapion (second century A.D.) applies it to the Gospel of Peter: “the writings that falsely bear their names [Peter and the other apostles] we reject . . . knowing that such were not handed down to us” (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 6.12.3). It is this judgment of falseness, of an intent to deceive and mislead, particularly by passing off as apostolic what should not be so regarded, that makes the issue of pseudepigraphy in the NT so sensitive. J. I. Packer put the point tersely: “Pseudonymity and canonicity are mutually exclusive” (-). [NT:DictLNT,  s.v. "Pseudepigraphy", J. D. G. Dunn]


·         "In the patristic church apostolic pseudepigrapha, when discovered, were excluded from the church's canon. This applied whether or not the pseudepigrapha were orthodox or heretical  [footnote here: "Rejected orthodox pseudepigrapha included the Preaching of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of the Apostles and Correspondence of Paul and Seneca. Cf. NTA II, 34-41, 46-53, 620-638; ANT 558-588; cf. Metzger (note 226), 180ff.]  [NT:MNTD, p.322ff]


·         Tertullian speaks of writings "which wrongly go under Paul's name" and recounts a historical incident in which "in Asia, the presbyter who composed that writing [Acts of Paul, containing the spurious epistle 3 Corinthians], as if he were augmenting Paul's fame from his own store, after being convicted, and confessing that he had done it from love of Paul, was removed from his office" (On Baptism17). He was 'impeached' for a Pauline pseudox. [Notice though that it was not Tert. who deposed him, but the elders in Asia. Tertullian's disagreement with the presbyter over doctrine did not play a part at all]. Metzger describes the incident thus: "The Acts of Paul is a romance that makes arbitrary use of the canonical Acts and the Pauline Epistles. The author, so Tertullian tells us (de Baptismo xvii), was a cleric who lived in the Roman province of Asia in the western part of Asia Minor, and who composed the book about A.D. 170 with the avowed intent of doing honour to the apostle Paul. Although well-intentioned, the author was brought up for trial by his peers and, being convinced of falsifying the facts, was dismissed from his office." [BCANON:174f]



And, finally, consider this revealing incident in the 4th century [HI:PEAPE:21f]:


"About the year 440 C.E. a pamphlet appeared entitled Timothei ad Ecclesiam (Libri IV) which addressed avarice in the church. This pamphlet, which we still have, parades itself as an epistle written by Timothy to the Church Catholic. When Bishop Salonius saw the document he apparently guessed who wrote it and demanded of Salvian an explanation of his act of forgery. Salvian does not admit the authorship, although there is perhaps a veiled confession at the end of his letter. Instead he writes a letter to Salonius defending the author in the third person. It is this letter we shall discuss here.


"Salvian's defense, which is fascinating for its subtlety and inherent contradictions, casts a helpful light upon the motivations of a forger, the attitude of the public towards forgery and apostolicity, and the importance of being undetected in any forgery.


"Salvian begins by admitting the importance of the task assigned him by Salonius "on the ground that a work of greatest merit may be less highly valued if people are in doubt about its authorship." At the same time he decries this condition.


For in the case of every book we ought to be more concerned about the intrinsic value of its contents than about the name of its author. ... Since the name is immaterial, there is no use asking about the author's name so long as the reader profits from the book itself.


"Although this defense is somewhat indirect it is clear what Salvian is thinking. The public looks quickly at authorship, while the true value of a book lies in its intrinsic worth.


For a statement is commonly taken to be worth what its author is worth. For people nowadays are so trivial and worthless that when they read, they are more concerned about the author than about what they are reading; they are more interested in the author's reputation than in the force and vigor of his words.


"When these statements are distilled to their real substance they amount to an appeal to the old argument of the good lie. These days we have to lie to the people because that is the only way to get them to hear the higher truth. No longer does anyone evaluate a book on its own merits but only on the reputation of the name affixed to it. Therefore, "the author wisely selected a pseudonym for his book for the obvious reason that he did not wish the obscurity of his own person to detract from the influence of his otherwise valuable book."


"Finally, the detection of Salvian's deception by Salonius emphasizes the paramount need for success in deceiving the readers. Salvian was clumsy in his pseudepigraphical technique (all he did was affix Timothy's name) and, now that his letter has been uncovered as a forgery, his ideas will get little hearing. A detected forgery discredits the ideas more than would anonymity or ascription to a relative unknown. Thus if one takes the risk of forging a document, the deception must be complete. These things must be done skillfully."





Pushback: "Hmmm…that's a good question about the Noble Lie…didn't some Church Fathers buy into that? Granted they never seemed to apply that whenever they encountered a 'noble lie' (e.g., the Asian presbyter, Salvian)--they always condemned it ANYWAY…but it is a theoretical option, if the Fathers said it was okay, right?


Donelson presents Brox's version of this:


"Brox offers the suggestion that Plato's concept of the good lie and rhetoric's permissive attitude towards useful deceptions and exaggerations determined the Christian understanding of pseudepigraphy. Plato rejects the true lie, but accepts the lie which is useful for the health of the one lied to. Likewise Cicero notes that rhetoric permits a lie if something sagacious is said thereby. Identical ideas frequent Christian circles. Clement of Alexandria, referring to Christ himself, says,


For he not only thinks what is true, but he also speaks the truth, except it be medicinally, on occasion; just as a physician, with a view to the safety of his patients, will practice deception or use deceptive language to the sick, according to the sophist.


"Origen in his argument with Celsus declares that Celsus himself must admit that a lie is necessary on occasion for the health of the one lied to. A lie is permissible if the goal is to heal or save. These lies are a rightful part of the oikonomia - they are pedagogical lies. After all one cannot always speak openly to the crowd. [HI:PEAPE:18f]



Now, there are two church fathers mentioned here--Clement of Alexandria and Origen--so let's look at the exact passages referred to above:


·         First, Clement of Alexandria (Strom. Book 7, Chapter IX): 


"Whatever, therefore, he has in his mind, he bears on his tongue, to those who are worthy to hear, speaking as well as living from assent and inclination. For he both thinks and speaks the truth; unless at any time, medicinally, as a physician for the safety of the sick, he may deceive or tell an untruth, according to the SophistsTo illustrate: the noble apostle circumcised Timothy, though loudly declaring and writing that circumcision made with hands profits nothing. But that he might not, by dragging all at once away from the law to the circumcision of the heart through faith those of the Hebrews who were reluctant listeners, compel them to break away from the synagogue, he, “accommodating himself to the Jews, became a Jew that he might gain all.” He, then, who submits to accommodate himself merely for the benefit of his neighbours, for the salvation of those for whose sake he accommodates himself, not partaking in any dissimulation through the peril impending over the just from those who envy them, such an one by no means acts with compulsion. But for the benefit of his neighbours alone, he will do things which would not have been done by him primarily, if he did not do them on their account. Such an one gives himself for the Church, for the disciples whom he has begotten in faith; for an example to those who are capable of receiving the supreme economy of the philanthropic and God-loving Instructor, for confirmation of the truth of his words, for the exercise of love to the Lord. Such an one is unenslaved by fear, true in word, enduring in labour, never willing to lie by uttered word, and in it always securing sinlessness; since falsehood, being spoken with a certain deceit, is not an inert word, but operates to mischief."


It is difficult, if not impossible, to take the non-verbal 'cultural accommodation' example of the circumcision of Timothy as a case of 'spoken lie', especially given the extreme and explicit denunciations of that practice within the passage itself! This passage just cannot be taken to mean that C of A would approve of high, epistolary pseudox!


·         Then, Origen (Contra Celsum 4.19):


"Others, then, may concede to Celsus that God does not undergo a change, but leads the spectators to imagine that He does; whereas we who are persuaded that the advent of Jesus among men was no mere appearance, but a real manifestation, are not affected by this charge of Celsus. [Note: Origen says here that the admission that God 'leads spectators to imagine' does NOT apply to HIS arguments, but only to some unspecified 'others'.] We nevertheless will attempt a reply, because you assert, Celsus, do you not, that it is sometimes allowable to employ deceit and falsehood by way, as it were, of medicine? Where, then, is the absurdity, if such a saving result were to be accomplished, that some such events should have taken place? [This actually looks like an ad hominem argument: "you say its okay, so why do you charge the Christians with this?"] For certain words, when savouring of falsehood, produce upon such characters a corrective effect (like the similar declarations of physicians to their patients), rather than when spoken in the spirit of truth. [This seems to be a simple description of Plato's argument, or at least the conclusion thereof--NOT a statement, necessarily of Origen's. ]This, however, must be our defense against other opponents. [and not against Celsus] For there is no absurdity in Him who healed sick friends, healing the dear human race by means of such remedies as He would not employ preferentially, but only according to circumstances. [Not sure what this refers too-the Incarnation? The crucifixion? But whatever it is, it is in reference to 'remedies' (see the last line) and not to deceptive linguistic disclosures--any "ambiguity" in the Incarnation is hardly on a par with high-pseudox.] The human race, moreover, when in a state of mental alienation, had to be cured by methods which the Word saw would aid in bringing back those so afflicted to a sound state of mind. But Celsus says also, that “one acts thus towards enemies when taking measures to escape danger. But God does not fear any one, so as to escape danger by leading into error those who conspire against him.” Now it is altogether unnecessary and absurd to answer a charge which is advanced by no one against our Saviour. And we have already replied, when answering other charges, to the statement that “no one who is either in a state of sickness or mental alienation is a friend of God.” For the answer is, that such arrangements have been made, not for the sake of those who, being already friends, afterwards fell sick or became afflicted with mental disease, but in order that those who were still enemies through sickness of the soul, and alienation of the natural reason, might become the friends of God. For it is distinctly stated that Jesus endured all things on behalf of sinners, that He might free them from sin, and convert them to righteousness."


There doesn't seem to be any explicit endorsement of Christian use of a 'noble lie' in this passage, although admittedly, I find the logic obscure. But we DO have another very clear passage by Origen, in which such 'casuistry' is explicitly rejected (Commentary on Romans, 3.8, in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, VI, Gerald Bray (ed)., page 87):


"This is an argument raised by unjust against the Christian faith. They blaspheme us even more by suggesting that because we believe that God's truthfulness abounds in the falsehood of men and that his justice is confirmed by our unrighteousness, we also believe we should do evil so that good may come of it and that we should tell lies so that God's truthfulness will shine out even more clearly because of it. But in claiming that this is what we think they are blaspheming us, as if these were somehow the logical conclusion of our beliefs. But in fact the logic of our beliefs does not accept this line of reasoning, because we understand that God is a just and true judge."


And Origen's abject denial of guile, cunning, and rhetorical 'sophistry' in the NT makes it unlikely that he would endorse such a thing in real life:


"And we have confidence also in the intentions of the writers of the Gospels, observing their piety and conscientiousness, manifested in their writings, which contain nothing that is spurious, or deceptive, or false, or cunning; for it is evident to us that souls unacquainted with those artifices which are taught by the cunning sophistry of the Greeks (which is characterized by great plausibility and acuteness), and by the kind of rhetoric in vogue in the courts of justice, would not have been able thus to invent occurrences which are fitted of themselves to conduct to faith, and to a life in keeping with faith. And I am of opinion that it was on this account that Jesus wished to employ such persons as teachers of His doctrines, viz., that there might be no ground for any suspicion of plausible sophistry, but that it might clearly appear to all who were capable of understanding, that the guileless purpose of the writers being, so to speak, marked with great simplicity, was deemed worthy of being accompanied by a diviner power, which accomplished far more than it seemed possible could be accomplished by a periphrasis of words, and a weaving of sentences, accompanied by all the distinctions of Grecian art. (C.C. 3.39)


So, I don't get the impression that either of these writers would actually think the Platonic 'white lie' argument (about a physician dealing with a crazed friend: "And when any of those whom we call friends owing to madness or folly attempts to do something wrong, does it not then become useful to avert the evil--as a medicine?", Republic II.382d) would apply to high pseudox of the kind we are talking about here.


In fact, Dunn points out that the "Noble Lie" approach is tangential to our problem here:


"Another relevant point is the similarly widespread idea of the noble falsehood, the idea that falsehood in support of a noble cause like religion was acceptable and did not attract the stigma of deceit. Brox notes that the Fathers too seem to have accepted the principle of what we might call the white lie, the good objective legitimating the questionable means [not sure I can agree with that, see above]…The third feature is the related principle, again evident in the Fathers, that the content of the writing was deemed more important than its authorship. An illustration would be Serapion’s evaluation of the Gospel of Peter, where Serapion goes on to note “that the most part [of the Gospel] was in accordance with the true teaching of the Savior but that some things were added.” However, valuable as these observations are in catching something of the relevant attitudes of the times, it is questionable how much they contribute to the specific issue of NT pseudepigraphy." [NT:DictLNT,  s.v. "Pseudepigraphy", J. D. G. Dunn]


Of course, the final court of appeal--as noted in the pushback question itself--is that 'noble lie' arguments didn’t work! The actual forgers were censured and/or  dismissed anyway . …so much for Platonic theory, eh?





Pushback: "But Glenn, most of these explicit denunciations of pseudox occur after the Church has become predominantly Gentile. Couldn't this be reflective more of Gentile views, than of pseudox-friendly Jewish culture?



This is an element of Meade's position, but it is also one that he realizes is problematic. He points out that the Jews started closing their canon at the same time as the Gentile Christians, and attributes this to the need to differentiate itself from Christianity. This, of course, is the essentially the same reason he gives for why the Gentile Church did the same (to differentiate itself from the heretical movements). This argues more for continuity between the two than for discontinuity, obviously, in the motives for judging the literature. [PsC:201ff]


Overall, I cannot find adequate reasons to differentiate between Jew and Gentile in this period--relative to the issue of judging literature. If anything, Jewish writing had become pseudox-open only under the influence of G-R and Hellenistic influences (as noted earlier). This would mean that any movement by the church toward Gentile, G-R, or Hellenistic attitudes would only bring it more in conformity to what the Jewish matrix had already adopted. This is counter to the trajectory needed for Meade's argument, actually.


To test this, we can look at the Jewish writings that are post-70 ad, but still probably in the first or early second century. These works would presumably be reflective of any alleged 'Jewish Matrix' running parallel to the development of the NT documents (most of which would have been written before the Fall of Jerusalem in 70). If we look at the Jewish works known to be from this period, we come up with:


  1. 4 Maccabees
  2. Testament of Job (maybe)
  3. Testament of Abraham (probably)
  4. Life of Adam and Eve
  5. Pseudo-Philo
  6. 2 Baruch
  7. 4 Ezra
  8. Apoc. of Abraham
  9. 3 Baruch
  10. 4 Baruch



But a quick (honestly, I promise) survey of these works shows that they either are (1) not pseudox; or are (2) not claiming to be 'authoritative' (as in the sense of the early Enochian literature). Most of these are in the category of 'biblical expansions'--homiletical development and 'visualizing' of OT narratives. This would not be considered, of course, high-pseudox at all.


4 Maccabees is an anonymous work, in the form of a philosophical/historical essay.


The Testament of Job looks like a vivid 'bible story', in testament form, but without any 'authoritative apocalyptic content' ("But the Testament of Job embodies distinctive modifications of the testament genre. It treats but one biblical character, who was not from the Torah but from the wisdom literature. Of the features identified as characteristic of the testament genre, the Testament of Job may, in comparison with the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, be said to be more haggadic, considerably less hortatory, and almost entirely devoid of any apocalyptic element…It is fair to say that the biblical details have undergone considerably more haggadic embellishment in the Testament of Job…" [OTP:1:832]


The Testament of Abraham is a thoroughly "Hellenized work". It is "not properly a testament" (in the OTP genre sense), but uses the G-R notion of 'testament' as 'will' (cf. Hebrews). It would best be characterized as a theological tract, placed into a 'biblical expansions' genre, to 'sell something' to Israel. In this case, it is selling a 'lowest common denominator Judaism" [OPT:1:877].


"The Testament of Abraham, along with 2 Enoch and 3 Baruch, bears witness to the existence of a universalistic and generalized Judaism, in which "good works" consisted of such obvious virtues as charity and hospitality, coupled with avoidance of obvious moral sins-murder, adultery, and robbery-and according to which all people, whether Jew or gentile, are judged according to how well they observe these ethical requirements. The Torah and the covenant of Israel seem to play no role. The Testament of Abraham is one of the few witnesses, and thus a very important one, to the existence in Egypt of a form of Judaism that stressed neither the philosophical interpretation of Judaism, as did Philo, nor the need to retain strictly the commandments that set Jews apart from gentiles, as did the author of Joseph and Asenath. Judaism is depicted here as a religion of commonplace moral values, which nevertheless insists both on the strictness of God's judgment and on his mercy and compassion." [OTP:876f; Note--how Jewish is this work, then?--is IT in the 'Jewish matrix'?]


"The purpose of the book appears to be this: The author was concerned to present the judgment scene, in order to stress the value of good works, the efficacy of repentance, and God's justice and mercy, and in order to reconcile and depict the various images of judgment by fire, balance, and deeds written in books. He chose as his medium a narrative that plays on the testamentary motif in order to provide an introduction: Michael goes to Abraham to advise him that it is time to draw up a will in view of his impending death. The author employs the theme of resisting death, borrowed from Moses traditions, as the occasion of Abraham's being given a tour of earth and subsequently a view of the judgment. Thus the judgment scene is central, and the other two principal motifs are employed to introduce it and provide a setting for it." [OTP:I:879]


For all the world, it looks something like "Doing Theology with Huck and Jim" or some of the Rabbinic legendary theological conversations with God…It doesn’t have the strong pseudox nature of a 1 Enoch at all.


The Life of Adam and Eve is listed as an 'Expansion of the Old Testament' by [OTP:2] (none of which are true pseudox), as is Pseudo-Philo, and 4 Baruch. That leaves 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra, Apoc of Abraham, and 3 Baruch.


These last four works are considered to be responses to the destruction of the Temple in 70 ad. [so Nickelsburg, in [JLBBM:277-310]]. The Apocalypse of Abraham seems to stand in the Enochian tradition, drawing on a similar angelology, but differs from 2 Baruch/4 Ezra in blaming the destruction on "the infidelity of Israel toward the covenant with God and the opportunistic politics of some leaders." [OTP:I:685], and it is 'unique in its explicit indictment of the cult' [Nickelsburg]. It is clearly pseudox, opening with "On the day I (Abraham) was guarding the gods of my father Terah…".


4 Ezra is a pseudox, in the apocalyptic genre, pessimistic in tone and posing numerous theological/theodicy questions (relative to the Destruction, cast typically in the setting of the destruction of the 1st temple).


2nd Baruch might be a 'transitional form' from pseudox/apocalyptic to rabbinic writings: "2 Baruch is extremely important for an understanding of early Judaism since it copes with the catastrophe Of A.D. 70. After the destruction of the Temple, a new period arrived that was characterized by the influence of the rabbis. The author opened a way for studying the Law after a period of apocalyptic expectations. He was an expert on both apocalyptic imagery and rabbinic teaching, and, as such, was one of the Jews who managed to bring Judaism into a new era." [OTP:1:620] It too is set against the destruction of the 1st Temple, as it attempts to fit the new destruction into Israel's sense of self-identity. It looks like it might be an 'answer' to 4 Ezra. So Metzger: "Many scholars have pointed to a very considerable number of parallel passages between 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, which is also sometimes called the (Syriac) Apocalypse of Baruch. The latter work, which on the whole represents a point of view and a theological outlook somewhat more in accordance with later rabbinical Judaism than 4 Ezra, appears to have been written as an answer to the perplexities mentioned by the seer." [OTP:1:522]


3rd Baruch is a pseudox in visionary/apocalyptic form, and provides yet another (different) response to the Destruction: "Baruch's initial concern would seem to be about the proper functioning of the Temple in Jerusalem. How can the proper relation between God and men be maintained without the sacrifices of the Temple? The answer becomes clear: There is a heavenly temple in which the prayers, virtues, and good deeds are offered by Michael. The rewards, the oil (of mercy) and the glory of God, will not be withheld because of the absence of the Temple in Jerusalem. This answer is quite different from others given in this period. Here there is no mention of a messiah, no division between Israel and the other nations (except possibly in Baruch's opening lament), and no notion of two ages." [OTP:1:659]…and no mention of a glorified Jerusalem.


Some of these works are very 'odd', in that they don’t look "very Jewish" or "very Christian", so in some cases it is difficult to know if they really were part of the 'Jewish Matrix'. And despite the fact that they seem to have drawn on common apocalyptic imagery/themes of the day, the response-to-Destruction ones end up with very different perspectives. 2nd Baruch and 4 Ezra look 'proto-rabbinic', in the way the dialogues are sketched out, the offered answers (i.e., Torah), and even in the figures selected for the pseudonyms (i.e., famous Torah scribes and teachers). The Apocalypse of Abraham looks more like the Enochian 'the current cultic establishment is bogus' party-line, although it has abandoned the Enochian image in favor of that of Abraham--where the covenant between God and Israel was originally formed. And 3rd Baruch goes strangely 'a-historical' on us…


Now, it can easily be admitted that these last 3-4 authors felt some 'continuity' with their Baruch/Ezra predecessors--after all they also had this same horrifying experience--but it would need to be demonstrated that they could rightfully be understood (in Meade's position) to be standing in the Vergegenwartigung tradition. Given such radically different perspectives on the same event (the Destruction), it would be unreasonable to assume that they ALL could be in the SAME tradition stream, at the same time, and come up with such radically different positions.


It is also difficult to know how these nu-pseudox were received. We have virtually no references to them in later literature (I found only one suggested: 2 Bar 61.7 in EpBarnabas 11.9?), by citation or allusion, so it is impossible to even guess if they were taken as being actually written by the fictive authors, or were understood as being a 'sermon' in a historical setting (a la biblical expansions), or were simply ignored. Correspondingly, though, these also cannot be a firm enough basis for making either judgments of continuity/discontinuity, or of to what extent the recipients of these documents (if any…) recognized and accepted their pseudoxy character.


But we see again, in this overall period, a mix of pseudox (confined to apocalyptic genre, though) and anonymous writings (e.g., biblical expansions, history).


But what is MUCH more significant for our purposes are the kinds of pseudox that are missing


There are no epistolary high-pseudox of recent figures. For example, there are no Epistles of Hillel to the Diaspora Jews. There are no Letters of Shammai to Babylon. In fact, there is nothing related to recent and famous figures. There are no Visions of Gamaliel, no Testaments of Honi the Circle Drawer, no Apocalypses of Philo. 


As a matter of fact, we can even go back farther: there are no Apocalypses of Judas the Maccabee, Psalms of Ben Sira, or Epistles of Jonathan the High Priest.


The Jewish matrix simply did not produce documents that would parallel the alleged Christian epistolary literature, in this critical pre-150 ad period.


This means that the alleged point of continuity between the pre-150 Jewish matrix and the pre-150 Christian matrix --relative to alleged production of acceptable epistolary pseudox--cannot be demonstrated.


And if it be argued that 'genre does not matter' (i.e., that the writing of pseudox in any genre is an adequate parallel, reflecting some 'mindset'), we still have the problem of 'temporal distance'--the pseudonyms selected by the Jewish matrix (i.e., Baruch, Ezra, Abraham) are considerably older that their more 'recent options' (e.g., the Maccabeans/Hasmoneans, the Rabbinic 'Fathers' such as Hillel, Shammai, Gamaliel, and Philo/Sirach),  and this is another extreme point of discontinuity. [Remember, we have no Epistle of Jesus to Ephesus, or Gospel of John the Baptist to the Samaritans.]


It is therefore difficult to establish the position of continuity between the relevant Jewish matrix and pre-150 Christianity--relative to the matter under discussion. And of course, Meade has to have 'continuity' in this area before he can argue that some alleged later 'discontinuity' accounts for the increasing rejection of pseudox-claims in the second century.


So, the early church seems to be continuous with Judaism when it comes to judging literature in the post-150 period, continuous with it in not producing epistolary pseudox in the pre-150 period, and discontinuous with it in the production (not acceptance, mind you) of non-epistolary pseudox referring to ancient figures (e.g. Ezra, Baruch).



I just don’t see how the argument can even 'get started'…






So, the post-150 period manifests the same characteristics as the earlier two periods: strong attribution, anti-pseudox ethics and praxis, and having to deal with deceptive, cunning, and crafty opponents. We see the same factors, but in great volume. Every case is rejected--even those with possible literary merit (e.g., Acts of Paul, as a romance) and even those with 'noble lie' orientations (e.g., Salvian).


I suspect, though, that the Acts of Paul presbyter was probably doing a 'literary thing' and not really trying to do anything seriously 'doctrinal'. If you look at the literary patterns of that time, the romance--as a genre--was just coming into the spotlight. Our presbyter might have been one of those avant garde Christians, trying to express his faith in a new literary form (just as the Jew Ezekiel the Tragedian did in the Exogoge, 2nd century BC), and he just happened to step into the line of fire. I do not consider his case to be 'representative' of some orthodox 'acceptance' of pseudox in the mid-second century at all. The absence of any known 'orthodox' pseudox in the period should help keep this isolated case in perspective.


[Note: I do not actually see this as a change in perspective, reflecting a loss of the "Jewish matrix"  (a la Meade), but only as an increase in the number of visible cases. We saw the same sensitivities toward deception, forgery, guile, rhetoric, attribution, tradition, and authority in all three periods--we just didn't get to "apply" that Profile Grid in "combat" until fraudulent literary products began showing up in the mid-second century. The data we saw was still always the same: "if detected, it was rejected" and "if not pure, check for fraud". I cannot see any structural or thematic differences in the periods. "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck--even if it is bigger than the other ducks--its still a duck…"]


Accordingly, I have to conclude that high-pseudox was not an option for an orthodox writer in the early church. Those who believe in the presence of epistolary pseudepigraphy in the canonical New Testament will have to come up a new and better method to explain its origination and acceptance--given the perspectives of the apostolic and sub-apostolic church.




Miscellaneous other items:


During this research a number of related items came up, of probable interest to readers. I submit them here without much discussion, but with the intent to round out the discussion so far.


1. It is sometimes implied by authors in this area that both "orthodoxy" and "heterodoxy" used pseudox in their battles against one another, giving the impression that neither side really believed in the "without guile and cunning deceitfulness" campaign slogans.


While there is an element of truth in the first part of this, it would be very inaccurate to assume this was a symmetrical experience. There do seem to be a couple (maybe) of forged documents originating from the orthodox camp, but heretical forgeries are an order of magnitude greater in number, and a couple of centuries earlier. Where there are 2-3 such 'orthodox' candidates, there are 20-30-40 such from the heretical camps. While this could be argued to be due to some 'repressive organizational machinery' of the orthodox, this was a practical impossibility at the time:


"The texts that were preserved over time tended to be those that were most widely in use, thus generating a broad textual tradition in the early centuries. That not many heterodox texts survived into later periods or did so haphazardly is often taken as evidence that they were systematically repressed by an emerging orthodoxy. It is certainly true that the church increasingly discouraged the use of heterodox writings, but under the prevailing conditions of textual transmission, it was extremely difficult to repress a document already in circulation. From a bibliographic point of view it is far more likely that heterodox texts failed to survive because the limited circulation they enjoyed did not generate enough copies to establish a textual tradition that would sustain their transmission over time." [BREC:127]


And, we might also note that the "write pseudox so we would not be noticed, singled out, and censured" reason cannot apply here either, since (1) the heretical writers also published volumes under their own names; and (2) they were noticed, dialoged with, and finally excommunicated anyway. In any event, the huge difference in these two perspectives toward forgery, textual alteration, and pseudox entailed that only one of the two camps would use it extensively.



2. The 'orthodox' non-canonical documents which are sometimes considered to be high-pseudox are:


·         Didache (but this is more of an attribution problem, or even title-purpose problem, since the work is actually anonymous)


·         Apostolic Constitutions and Canons ([ISBE]):


"A pseudepigraphical work usually dated in the 4th cent a.d. [Metzger gives 'late 4th'] and thought to be Syrian in origin. It consists of a collection of independent treatises on doctrine, worship, and discipline collected into eight books, with eighty-five appended canons, and seems to be designed predominantly as a manual for the clergy. The ostensible author is Clement of Rome, who, it is claimed, edited apostolic materials, although as early as the Trullan Council of 692 it was recognized that neither the apostolic origin nor Clement’s editorship was authentic.


"The general dating of the Constitutions has not given rise to serious controversy. Many of the underlying materials obviously come from the third century or even (in a few instances) earlier, but since the rulings of the Council of Antioch in 341 are incorporated the compilation can hardly precede this date. On the other hand there is no reference to the Nestorian or Monophysite debates, so that a date past ca 420 is excluded. References by Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Athanasius might be to constituent materials and not necessarily to the full collection.


"The books of the Constitutions come from various sources. Bks. 1–6 rest on a third-century collection known as the Didascalia, which is fully extant only in Syriac. One part of bk 7 incorporates the moral teaching of the Didache, while the rest is from an unknown source. Bk. 8 brings together various materials. It seems to use at the outset the treatise of Hippolytus on spiritual gifts. Other sections show evident kinship to the Egyptian Church Order, and the familiar Clementine Liturgy is included also. The work of redaction is usually traced to a single, if unknown, hand, since the style in the editorial sections is obviously uniform. A semi-Arian trend has been seen in the work by some, but others suspect Apollinarianism. More plausibly the editor has been identified as pseudo-Ignatius, the writer responsible for the longer recension of the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch.


But notice what happened to it:


"The authenticity of Apos. Con. ultimately was rejected by the Council of Trullo in 692, an act which served to diminish its influence within later ecclesiastical tradition." [ABD] [Sound familiar? "If detected, then rejected…"]


But that's all--ONLY TWO examples can I find in the scholarship, for 'orthodox pseudox' (assuming we don’t 'beg the question' and include the contested NT cases)…This list might be expanded by 3 or 4 other borderline cases (i.e.,  Preaching of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of the Apostles and Correspondence of Paul and Seneca.), but this would still be an order of magnitude smaller than the list of heterodox ones…This is hardly 'proof' that orthodoxy and heterodoxy were 'ethical equivalents' in the battle over truth…



3.  We should also note that, just as epistolary pseudox was completely missing from Jewish pre-NT history, so too the number of post-NT heterodox epistles is very ,very small (less than 5, at the most, and maybe only TWO).


"The scantiness of Jewish examples finds a parallel in the New Testament Apocrypha, which bears further testimony to the general unsuitability of this type of pseudepigraphic literature for apologetic or didactic purposes. There are only six noteworthy examples--some letters of Christ and Abgarus, a letter of Lentulus, epistles of Paul to the Laodiceans and to the Corinthians, some correspondence between Paul and Seneca and an epistle of the apostles . The legendary and fictitious character of the first two and the last two is at once evident from their contents, while none but the correspondence between Paul and Seneca had any impact on the Christian church. Moreover, none of these is in a true epistolary form. The literary device lies very close to the surface. Yet the epistles to the Laodiceans and to the Corinthians are quite different in this respect for they are both modelled on the pattern of Paul's New Testament letters and are both specifically ascribed to him in phrases identical with those from authentic Pauline letters." [GNTI:1015-16]


"The remaining epistolary example, that to the Laodiceans, is even more striking for its extraordinary period of canonicity in the medieval church. Its origin is not certain. It is doubtful whether it is to be equated with the mention of forged epistles in the Muratorian Canon, where the statement is made, 'There is current also one to the Laodiceans and another to the Alexandrians forged in favour of Marcion's heresy'. The extant epistle to the Laodiceans does not, however, fit the case for it does nothing to forward Marcion's heresy. It is no more than what M. R. James called 'a feebly constructed cento of Pauline phrases,' based mainly on Philippians. There seems to be a perfectly reasonable explanation of the motive for its production in the desire to produce a letter answerable to Colossians 4: 16. It springs from a particular regard for the apostle Paul that excludes as unthinkable that any of the inspired apostle's productions could be lost. Unlike so much of the early pseudepigraphic literature it is aimed neither at the glorification of an ancient apostle nor the propagation of heretical notions." [GNTI:1017]


This creates a problem of evidence for Meade's position, btw:


"He [Meade] is forced to admit that pseudonymity 'in the biblical mode' (his own qualification) soon dropped out of practice. If pseudonymity was such an acceptable theological procedure because it recognized, for instance, that Paul in the pastorals and Ephesians, and Peter in 2 Peter, had themselves become part of the tradition, it is strange indeed that the device was not more widely used. The fact is that New Testament criticism is faced with a dilemma, which is not likely to be lessened by this approach. Before New Testament epistolary pseudonymity can be assumed, it is not unreasonable to expect that some adequate parallels should be furnished and that some probable link between these and any possible New Testament pseudepigrapha should be established. Meade dismisses such a demand as superficial, but is it not a basic requirement? [GNTI:1027f]




4. Although the church leaders were not focused on literary criticism (ask a pastor today if there's enough time in their schedule to do something like this!), and although their primary interest in evaluating 'new books' was doctrinal, this does not mean that 'spurious, but orthodox' documents were accepted. Fraud and guile were un-ethical also:


"In the patristic church apostolic pseudepigrapha, when discovered, were excluded from the church's canon. This applied whether or not the pseudepigrapha were orthodox or heretical  [footnote here: "Rejected orthodox pseudepigrapha included the Preaching of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of the Apostles and Correspondence of Paul and Seneca. Cf. NTA II, 34-41, 46-53, 620-638; ANT 558-588; cf. Metzger (note 226), 180ff.] [NT:MNTD, p.322ff]



5. I find it interesting that no one until Porphyry suspected the existence of pseudox in the Judeo-Christian writings (contra Meade, btw). Porphyry had the requisite skills and tools to do these types of studies, and his attack on the Book of Daniel is still accepted by liberal scholarship (and remember his work on the bogus Zoroaster work--quite a Pseudoxic Avenger…smile). But I find it interesting that he didn’t go after the Pastorals in the same way, since this would have been a great weapon against the claims of the Church! Is it possible he did not doubt their Pauline authorship, or saw no reason to doubt them? He certainly assailed the Gospels--why not the Epistles?



6. As I mentioned a couple of times in these papers, I now accept the earlier dating of I Clement, putting this work in the 69-70AD time frame. This makes this document almost at the end of the formation period of the NT. The alleged pseudox, however, are supposed to arise after this time frame (generally in the 80-125 AD time period). This earlier dating, however, has massive historical implications for the question of the specific "pseudoxity" of certain epistles.


Here is Ellis' brief statement on the new dating:


"I Clement is traditionally dated to AD 95-96 (-) but was more likely composed in AD 69-70 (-): (1) the Jerusalem temple sacrifices were still being offered (41:2); (2) the offices of bishop and presbyter were apparently still synonymous (42:4f.; 44:1, 4f.; 54:2; 57: 1). (3) Pace Lightfoot (-), 1 Clement was written in the aftermath of the same Neronian persecution (1:1; 7:1) in which Peter and Paul were martyred (5:1-6:2). (4) Clement wrote as the 'servant' (-) of the church, i.e. probably as its secretary and not during his bishopric toward the end of the century. (5) The church in Rome probably began from converts at Pentecost in AD 33 (Acts 2:10) and by AD 58 was of high renown (Rom 1:8). That it had converts in their 20s who were in their 50s by AD 70 (1 Clem 63:3) would not be unusual. (6) The later AD 95-96 date rests largely on the historically doubtful assumption of a general persecution of Christians by Domitian at that time (-). " [NT:MNTD:280f, n.236]


Consider, now, the conclusions by Hagner in the definitive modern work on I Clement:


·         "The evidence, to sum up, points to Clement's knowledge of the following Pauline Epistles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, (2 Corinthians), Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, (Colossians), 1 Timothy, (2 Timothy), Titus. Only for the first two books have we certain knowledge; for the others we must be content with various degrees of probability, and for those in parenthesis with mere possibility." [HI:UONTCR, p.237, Hagner]


·         "Clement seems to show his familiarity with Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians in several places. One of the most impressive of the allusions is found in 46.6, every phrase of which is paralleled in Eph. 4.4-7…it is difficult to doubt Clement's dependence on Ephesians…it would seem that the evidence justifies the conclusion that Clement was very probably familiar with Paul's letter to the Ephesians." [HI:UONTCR, p.222f,225f, Hagner]


·         "In short, it is entirely unsatisfactory to allege a post-95 date for the Pastorals in the absence of any convincing evidence supporting such an allegation, while at the same time ignoring concrete evidence in the form of acknowledged literary contacts--evidence which, taken at face value, indicates Clement's knowledge of the Pastorals. This evidence cannot be taken to support the priority of Clement without a more convincing argument for that priority on other grounds. The possible allusions to I Timothy in Clement's epistle are numerous. Individually they are not very convincing; taken together, however, they establish a probability that Clement knew and was influenced by 1 Timothy." [HI:UONTCR, 232, Hagner]


·         "The very short epistle Titus is possibly alluded to by Clement in only a few places…While the parallels in Titus do not occur in exactly the same sequence, they are nonetheless impressive…The agreement in this uncommon word together with the other similarities of the two passage makes it probable that Clement is dependent upon Titus…" [HI:UONTCR234-236, Hagner]


·         "Thus on the basis of the evidence cited, our conclusion is that Clement probably knew and made use of 1 Timothy and Titus; for Clement's knowledge of 2 Timothy, however, the evidence is less convincing and justifies not more than a conclusion of possible dependence." [HI:UONTCR, 236, Hagner]

This is rather serious data…If several of these allegedly pseudox writings are really attested and considered 'authoritative' by the 69-70 time period, then whatever method was used to date them 20-40 years later and as pseudox is obviously radically flawed.  Its 'back to drawing board' for those who see pseudoxy in (at least) these epistles. No amount of discussion about 'historical problems' and 'theological differences' and 'stylistic discontinuities' will add anything to the discussion, for the issue will be settled--historically--by the use of those documents in another piece of literature.



7. One of the main techniques used to assess the authenticity of an author's work is style. (Another main one is content, as in historical problems and personal references). The "style" criterion has been used in the past to "help disqualify" certain Pauline letters or passages from the Pauline corpus. But this is getting increasingly subjective, under-determinative, and dubious. Murphy-O'Conner (who accepts some of the epistles as pseudox, btw) points this weakness out:


"An important implication of the previous two sections is that the argument from style, which has been used to determine the authenticity and inauthenticity of certain letters, can no longer be considered valid.


"While it is unlikely that the Apostle would be party to the deception involved in commissioning anyone to write a letter in his name, there can be little doubt that in any of the major cities from which Paul wrote (Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica) a variety of stenographic help was available to assist him in recording his letters. If there was no one to take speed dictation, he simply had to slow to the pace of whoever was prepared to serve him.


"Which system he used is impossible to determine with any certitude. According to Richards, the only epistle likely to have been written down at the speed of ordinary speech is Romans, "The letter that contains the strongest oral features, that contains such a high frequency of oratorical rhetoric, that perhaps has the strongest possibility of being all or partly ipsissima verba Pauli viva voce "(1991, 171; cf. Roller 1933, 8-14). On much the same grounds, in my view, an identical claim can be made for 2 Corinthians 10-13.


"In opposition to these two highly individual letters stand I and 2 Thessalonians, I Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1-9, and Colossians, in which the presence of one or more coauthors has been detected. If the quality of secretarial help affected Paul's presentation, coauthors had an even greater impact. The input of others would not only have modified Paul's dictation technique, but might also have imposed different vocabulary and verbal patterns.


"Our inability to determine in precise detail the contribution of a coauthor, to set out the extent of secretarial involvement, and to fix the number of secretaries employed makes it impossible to define Paul's style in such a way as to permit the detection of significant variations from that norm. This conclusion is confirmed by recent stylistic studies.


"Early stylistic analyses of the epistles rarely amounted to anything more than the listing of a few generic indicators (e.g., the number of hapaxlegomena) in order to confirm conventional impressions. Such crudity has given place to sophisticated statistical analyses. The most important recent contributions are Anthony Kenny's A Stylometric Study of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986) and Kenneth J. Neumann's The Authenticity of the Pauline Epistles in the Light of Stylostatistical Analysis (SBLDS 120; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990). Both studies highlight their own lack of precision and, somewhat surprisingly in view of the current consensus, conclude that Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians have as much in common with Romans, Galatians, and I and 2 Corinthians as these latter have with each other. There is little doubt that a single mind lies behind most of the Pauline corpus. But the differences, even between letters universally accepted as authentic, are far from negligible, and demand an explanation. Of the possible explanations a variety of secretaries and coauthors is the simplest (Prior 1989, 49; Richards 1991, 186)." [PLW:34-35]


As I pondered this stylistic criterion, I though about my own changes over the brief lifetime of the Tank. I know that experience can make a huge difference in one's style, as some have argued about Paul:


"Unlike many of his earlier letters, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians seem to have been written after Paul had experience in presenting Christianity in an ancient academic context, where he would have used philosophic language to communicate to his hearers (Acts 19:9). That Paul could adapt his language to his audience, including those to whom the sort of Stoic language in Ephesians appealed, is evident elsewhere in his writings (e.g., Rom 1; 1 Cor 8); such language is more pervasive in Ephesians and Philippians, with somewhat more Middle Platonic language in Colossians. Although the dispute over the authorship of Ephesians will continue in scholarly circles, this commentary works from the position that Paul wrote it. [BBC, Ephesians]


I took a look at an early article of mine (written 1994) on the Tank (haborts.html), and noted some of the stylistic differences from articles I have written recently:


1.        No 'Good Question' header.

2.        Use of actual initials (GK) versus 'masked' (XYZ).

3.        Some dates missing.

4.        Little use of reference-citing.

5.        Little use of reference-quoting.

6.        References are not hot-linked to the book abbreviations, and don’t have the customary [brackets] around them.

7.        Reference abbreviations do not have the subject area prefixes (e.g., HI:, NT:, OT: …)

8.        No use of color for emphasis--used ALL CAPS instead.

9.        Responses were highly granular--instead of citing a whole paragraph and THEN (oops, "then") responding with lists and tables and such, the responses are limited to 1-5 lines.

10.     Transliterated foreign words are not italicized, as in the modern pieces.

11.     Multiple responses incorporated into ONE html document.

12.     All addresses are in 2nd person singular ('you'), instead of the later alteration between personal address and more 'academic' forms ('one', 'we', 'he', 'a researcher')

13.     No use of indentation.

14.     No date, salutation, or Glenn-name at the end of the document.

15.     No Summary statements.

16.     No, transitional statements, e.g., "Okay, so where does that leave us…?"

17.     Much less use of detail.

18.     Fewer references to personal events in his life.

19.     Much shorter sentences and paragraphs.

20.     Much simpler vocabulary.

21.     No panoramic survey of the topic though all the background periods (e.g., OT, OTP, DSS, NT, Rabbinics)


Now, I can easily see a modern critic build an argument that the author of these two pseudoxy articles simply CANNOT be the author of that earlier piece--the stylistic differences are simply overwhelming. These later pieces must have been written by a post-Glenn, minutia-minded pseudoxer, trying to mimic aspects of his thinking (and rambling), but possessing a much greater attention to detail, lack of concern over verbosity, bandwidth, and piece-length, lust for order/lists/color/formatting, and yet still wanting to 'use' the name of Glenn Miller for some reason. I personally could argue this case .


But I also could see how one could trace development in my style over the last 8 years (and probably even theology and perspective, but that's another argument), selecting pieces as 'transitional forms' (e.g., something from 1996, from 1997, from 1998, 1999, etc), and seeing the trend and development of new features. If our Pauline corpus were larger, then perhaps we could do something like this--but frankly, I question whether we have enough actual literary information in the Pauline corpus to even MAKE stylistic-continuity judgments. (And much less for 2 Peter, obviously!)….[Hmmm…I wonder if I can find historical discontinuities within my own writings?…I gotta check that out…(smile)…I promise not to fabricate any, though, so I could prove my point with cunning and craftiness…(chuckle)…]



8. It must be remembered that the apostles understood their message to be from Jesus, whose message was from God ("As the Father sent me, so send I you…"). As we noted above, they had a very definite conviction that their message was the very word of God. …This has a very interesting corollary for our study: False prophets were actually speaking under the 'pseudonym' of "God"! A false prophet spoke words, and attributed them directly and strongly to God. A False prophet was then, engaging in verbal/oral forgery and/or pseudonymity! Consequently--since the words of the apostles were the faithfully transmitted words of God--any 'forgery' of them (including pseudox, obviously) was ALSO essentially false prophecy (their own words, attributed to God via attribution to the apostles).  This certainly helps to explain the intensity of the Fathers' response to forged and altered Scripture.



9. One additional aspect about the ethical issue of writing under pseudox for the apostolic church.


Paul is very adamant about Christian behavior being 'above reproach'. Notice these statements of this:


·         "And working together with Him.. giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God" (2 Cor 6.3)


·         "…for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (2 Cor 8.21)


·         "Respect what is right in the sight of all men. (Rom 12.17)


·         "Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, (1 Cor 10.32)


We have already noticed passages in the Patristics, in which this issue of 'reproach' or 'discredit' before the pagan world is mentioned. Avoiding the appearance of evil was/is important in all generations of church leaders.


The relevance of this for our topic is clear: if close-in-time pseudox was disreputable in G-R culture (appearing as forgery), then the practice of it would have been unthinkable to someone fully in line with the Pauline ethical principle manifest in the above verses. In other words, if a loyal follower of Paul--believing in his tradition, perspective, and ethical example--considered using a disreputable praxis (relative to G-R culture, let's say), he/she should have dismissed it immediately. EVEN IF it had been 'okay' in some theoretical "Jewish matrix", it was NOT OK in G-R culture, and the prohibitions above ("no offense…to the Greeks") would have applied.


It is accordingly difficult to imagine a true disciple of Paul engaging (even for 'noble lie' purposes) in a praxis that could bring disrepute upon the church. This must be factored into any assessment of the 'psychology of pseudox'.



10. We should also note that the church was not just concerned about apostolic pseudox (although that was clearly its main thrust), but it also had a problem with earlier, Jewish OTP. Some of the Fathers were claiming that the heretics were actually creating Jewish pseudox, to be able to combat the orthodox group with 'more ancient testimonies'!


"To what extent these early testimonies [Irenaeus, Muratorian Fragment] had allegedly Jewish writings in view is not clear. But the principle of opposition to unacceptable heterodox writings is quite plain, and is continued even more explicitly in later authors. According to Athanasius, who writes from Alexandria at a time when Christianity had successfully withstood the attempts of the emperor Julian ("the apostate"!) to revive old Roman "paganism" and is about to be proclaimed as the official religion of the Roman empire, the "apocryphal" books (that is, our "Jewish" pseudepigrapha, among others) are a "device of heretics" who compose them at will and assign them ancient dates to mislead the simple. Athanasius speaks with disdain of books ascribed to Enoch, and apocryphal books of Isaiah and Moses. Similar negative attitudes are found in such other later fourth-century authors as Epiphanius, Cyril of Jerusalem, the compiler of the Apostolic Constitutions, Rufinus, and Jerome, while the prohibition of pseudepigrapha is buttressed with more extensive lists of titles in such later sources as the pseudo-Athanasian Synopsis (sixth century?), the Decretum Gelasianurn (sixth century?), the so-called Catalogue of the 60 Canonical Books (sixth/seventh century?), the Stichometry of Nicephorus (ninth century), and elsewhere.23 Among the writings to be avoided are those associated with the names of Adam, Enoch, Lamech, Abraham and the Patriarchs, Joseph, Eldad and Modad, Jambres and Mambres, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Baruch, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, the Sibyl, and various angels. One list even refers to a "book of the giant named Og who is said by the heretics to have fought with a dragon after the flood" (Decretum Gelasianum)!" [TTT:63,64]






Summary for Part Two:


1.        There are no known cases in which a writing--once discovered to be pseudepigraphal--was not rejected, in Graeco-Roman or Christian circles. Period.

2.        Pseudox (in G-R) went to great lengths to deceive, for the goal of 'delivering the payload' REQUIRED everyone to be fooled (assuming it wasn’t merely a literary convention, and therefore NOT 'high pseudox').

3.        The OTP written in the period was 'sectarian' and in a struggle for mastery with other 'authoritative' writings/traditions.

4.        (The later Christian apocrypha--much of it pseudox of one form or another--was also dominantly sectarian in the same way.)

5.        Anonymous Jewish literature was still being written.

6.        The first-century NT materials were all written by Jews, and reflected this preference for anonymity.

7.        The practice of pseudox did not "spread any" outside of the pre-NT circle in which it was dominant some 200-300 years earlier.

8.        All the data we have in our period (G-R, Jewish apocrypha, Rabbinics) evidence a  growing concern over accurate and 'originating-author' attribution, and no evidence of the softer, Meade-an notion of 'continuity attribution'.

9.        The "Jewish matrix" also manifests this growing focus on attribution, both in biblical (ancient authority) and in rabbinic (recent authority) citations.

10.     There are no observable differences between the Jewish matrix and the 'non-Jewish matrix', in terms of attribution patterns.

11.     The "profile" of pre-80AD Christian authorial praxis reveal zero awareness of, presence of, or preference for pseudox or even micro-pseudox.

12.     There are a number of elements in the NT mindset that militate against any such 'crafty' strategies for 'helping out the church'.

13.     The alleged NT pseudox certainly don't fit the pattern of "wait hundreds of years before you write one" (present in all KNOWN pseudox).

14.     (Shorter gaps look more like forgery, than 'noble lie' pseudox.)

15.     In the 50-150 period, we noticed basic continuity with the earlier period.

16.     The only pseudox in the 50-150 ad period were a couple of sectarian epistles (by Marcion, apparently), although the existence of other forgeries of Gnostic sects are mentioned by later writers.

17.     All the orthodox literature of this 50-150 period is, again, either anonymous or reliably self-attributed (i.e., no perspective differences between a mostly-Jewish-members Church and a mostly-Gentile-members Church show up in this space).

18.     We do not see the types of pseudox which would be expected if it had been 'acceptable': gospels and epistles by Jesus.

19.     The rejection by the Muratorian fragment of some Pauline pseudox, either was strictly on the basis of literary pretensions (i.e., only because they were pseudox), or on the combined basis of heresy/literary form (i.e., the 'forgery' word was deliberately used).

20.     The later period of 50-150ad  exhibited the same 'paranoia' toward deception as was (a) encouraged by our Lord, and (b) manifested in the NT writings.

21.     The later period manifested ethical continuity with the earlier period, arguing that 'deception' and 'craftiness' would have been similarly frowned upon.

22.     The later 50-150 period exhibited the same 'Nine-Point Profile toward Pseudox' we saw in the earlier period.

23.     The forgery issue becomes more noticeable, as the volume of writings increases. Paul's complaints about false teachers and deceivers are echoed in our later period as well.

24.     There even seems to be the same 'canonical consciousness' in the church of the later period.

25.     Church leaders have always been 'primarily' interested in doctrinal health, but this does not mean they are oblivious to ethical 'ill-health' (such as forgery) issues. The use of forgery, deception, and pseudox by heretical groups made them 'suspect' forgeries whenever doctrinal error was detected.

26.     The post-150 church is battling the same issues of deception, but at a much higher level of intensity and extensiveness.

27.     They do not condone forgery for 'noble lie' purposes.

28.     The church was not gullible about attribution, but used methods of literary and historical criticism to 'test' literature.

29.     The Church was hyper about people 'tampering' with the Scriptures, as were the Jews (i.e., no 'matrix' differences).

30.     Whenever forgery was discovered, it was a matter of shame, censure, and rejection of the forgery.

31.     Pseudox was rejected whether it was orthodox or heterodox, whether motivated by 'good' or by 'bad' motives.

32.     Supposed support for a 'noble lie' ethic in the fathers is either negligible or non-existent, and is in any case, contradicted by actual practice of Church leaders!

33.     There are no observable--in the hard data--points of discontinuity in praxis (relative to pseudox/forgery) between the apostolic, pre-150 sub-apostolic, and post-150 sub-apostolic periods.

34.     There is no evidence that the post-150 church was 'different' (because of its Gentile makeup) from the apostolic church--in matters of attitude toward their authoritative traditions (written or otherwise).

35.     Only heterodoxy used pseudox--every orthodox attempt met with rejection.

36.     Even heretical epistolary pseudox in the post-Easter period is extremely scant and minimal--arguing that no one really thought of pseudox as a 'major player'.

37.     The earlier dating of 1 Clement would make some of this discussion moot, since it witnesses to the authority of several of the alleged post-80 pseudox already.

38.     Stylistic arguments about pseudox (at least in the Pauline corpus) are non definitive.

39.     It is inaccurate to differentiate between 'sacred pseudox' and false-prophets; pseudox was simply a sub-set of false-prophecy.

40.     Pauline ethical instructions specifically mandated avoiding all 'appearance of evil'--in the sight of the watching world. Given that pseudox was clearly considered forgery in the G-R world, and given that the Pastorals are addressed to predominantly G-R churches, the alleged author of those pseudoxy epistles would have been in direct violation of Paul's teachings.



I have to conclude that --unless we beg the question and assume the existence of NT high-pseudox without the existence of a single external precedent--the data of Jewish, G-R, and early church history overwhelming supports the conclusion that NT epistolary pseudepigrapha, by an orthodox writer, would have been totally unacceptable to all recipients, and therefore unlikely to have been attempted, by a loyal follower of Paul or Peter.


There is not a solid piece of hard data, in the actual leadership practice, literature production, theology of tradition/authority transmission, ethical stance, public statements, and methods of attribution--in EITHER mainstream Judaism OR in mainstream Christianity--in the period between the first century BC and the 4th century AD that would support a different conclusion.


Hope this helps (for those of you who made it this far…"perseverance of the saints"…smile),




(the above information was vouchsafed to me, Baruch, while I was visiting my friend Enoch in the highest heaven, this day  October 29, 2002…any errors are of course, my responsibility…smile)





The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)