Books Doctrine History Preaching Theology

Who Cares Who Wrote What When? – Part 2

The majority of the books found in the New Testament are actually letters sent from a particular person to a church, region or individual.  We call these books epistles or letters.  Some of the letters in the New Testament were long and formal like Romans, while others were short and personal like Philemon.  An amanuensis was a professional scribe that was used to physically write the letter while the author would dictate.

For example Tertius was Paul’s amanuensis used in the writing of Romans (Rom. 16:22).  As the writer would speak the amanuensis would transcribe the words onto a sheet of papyrus that would have been about 9½” x 11” with a reed pen and a simple carbon based ink.  Afterward Paul would have checked the writing, added his personal greeting in his own handwriting and then the multiple pages would be joined at the edge and rolled into a scroll for easy delivery.[1]

I. Pseudonymity

Pseudonymity is the practice of writing a particular piece of literature and deliberately signing someone else’s name to that document.  Though this obviously seems immoral it was a common practice during the writing of the New Testament and the early church age.  Several possible reasons are understood for this practice.  Some believe that pseudonymity might have protected the author from reprisals.  Others teach that this may have been a way to honor a great teacher that has passed away.  Yet most likely the purpose of pseudonymity was to hijack a person’s popularity and credibility so that you could popularize your own theories and ideas.  For example, if a particular heretic of the 3rd century wanted to insinuate that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene why not identify your writing as the Gospel of Philip.  The prevalence of this practice has led many books of the Bible to come into doubt of authenticity.  Merrill C. Tenney explains that “II Thessalonians and Colossians have sometimes been regarded as dubious,” and that “Ephesians has been variously explained as an editor’s cento of Pauline sentiments, a circular letter of Paul, a downright forgery.”[2]

II. Pseudepigraphy

The pseudepigrapha refers to the collective works of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Jewish writings that were not included into the final Bible.[3]  Many of these works such as Enoch are good examples of pseudonymity, which dates to roughly 2500 years after Enoch’s death.

III. Not In Our Bible

So, were any of the New Testament writings authored pseudonymously?  The answer is no and here is why.  The writers of the New Testament were consumed by honesty and integrity (Eph. 4:25, Col. 3:9).  Would then these writers be so bold as to dishonestly sign another’s name to a letter that spoke specifically about truth telling?  Secondly, Paul called out “hypocritical liars” and “deceiving spirits” in I Timothy 4 perhaps as a warning to avoid these false doctrines.  Furthermore, Paul specifically was the victim of pseudonymous mischief in regards to the church at Thessalonica.  The Church had received a letter claiming to be from Paul and stating that the Lord Jesus had already returned.  A furious Paul condemns the letter and the practice in the book of II Thessalonians.[4]  Most importantly, it is evidently clear to those who believe in a verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture (II Timothy 3:16), that God divinely directed the penning of the Word and that these lies would not have eluded the ever present eye of the Lord.

We that are Bible believing Christians are thankful to know that the Holy Spirit is the true author of the 66 books of the Bible (I Peter. 1:21), and that we can learn each of the penmen that God used for the holy work of transcribing His Word.

 [1] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 335.

[2]Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Times: Understanding the World of the First Century (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 2004), 24.

[3] Richard L. Niswonger, New Testament History (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 78.

[4] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 339-340.

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