Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Armin Baum Responds to Ehrman on Pseudepigraphy

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In the latest issue of JBL, Armin Baum has a response to Bart Ehrman on pseudepigraphy. In his big book on forgery in early Christian polemics, Ehrman argues not only that pseudepigraphical texts were intended to deceive (and were regarded as such by readers) and that forgers sometimes thought their deception was divinely sanctioned, but also that a work was considered authentic only if its words, not merely its contents, were the author’s. Baum agrees with Ehrman’s first two points but contests the third. He contends that content is enough to authenticate a work. He summarizes his own view with the following table:

Style
from the author from someone else
Content from the author authentic authentic
from someone else forged forged

After working through his example texts, Baum concludes:
With an eye to these and other ancient statements, I cannot agree with the most innovative contribution of Ehrman’s otherwise very useful book. Ehrman has rightly joined the growing number of scholars who have raised substantial doubts regarding the once-popular thesis of innocent ancient pseudepigraphy. At the same time, his assertion that in antiquity a text’s authenticity was assessed not on the basis of its content but always on the basis of its wording goes one step beyond what the numerous relevant sources reveal.
I think Baum’s sources generally support this conclusion. Several also touch on the issue of works published without the author’s explicit consent. So the article is worth reading for an eye beyond just the question of pseudepigraphy. Some of his sources also touch on broader questions about authorship and publication which we discussed on the blog recently.

The article is “Content and Form: Authorship Attribution and Pseudonymity in Ancient Speeches, Letters, Lectures, and Translations—A Rejoinder to Bart Ehrman,” JBL 136.2 (2017): 381-403

19 comments :

  1. (Check spelling of pseudepigraphy throughout...)

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  2. The question around which the discussion orbits seems superfluous if one does not grant, in the first place, the premise that several New Testament books are pseudepigrapha.

    Since the term "Evangelical" is generally associated in the United States with an affirmation of Biblical inerrancy -- including inerrancy when it comes to the authors' claims about who they were -- I would be interested to read, here in the comments, the views of the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog's main contributors (Wassermann, Williams, Gurry) on the subject: do you consider any New Testament books to be pseudepigrapha, and if so, which ones?

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    1. The question is what constitutes pseudepigraphy, James. I do not see how that could be superfluous.

      As to your other question, the answer from me is, no.

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    2. Peter Gurry,
      Regarding the superfluity of the definition of pseudepigraphy: what I mean is that if everyone were to grant that every NT book that states its author's name is truthful in that respect, the entire subject would be rather peripheral to the concerns of NT studies.

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    3. Well, yes, that is a truism. Not sure what you’re getting at with it.

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  3. I comment and interact with Baum's excellent article here,

    http://thetextualmechanic.blogspot.com/2017/06/galen-and-papias-on-forgery-and.html

    In summary though, I think that Papias's comment's on Mark are relevant here. Though Mark is technically the author, early Christians (such as Tertullian quoted in the article) recognize that Peter is the "intellectual author" (to quote Baum) of Mark's Gospel because the content can be traced back to him.

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    1. Tim,
      First, thanks for the link, not sure how I missed it. Second, though I don't have access to Baum's current article, what you interact with and from the table in Peter's post, Baum appears to confirm what he wrote in NT on the anonymity of the New Testament historical books. Since the content is from a recognized source the actual author is intentionally avoiding credit. He seems to be saying the same as it comes to pseudepigraphical writings whose content is from the 'named' author.
      As a final note, in the NT article there is no question that Baum attributes the Gospels and Acts, though anonymous, both to the later named authors and in the cases of Mark and Luke-Acts ultimately to the source of their content, Peter and Paul. Certainly, an Evangelical position if there ever was one!

      Tim

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  4. It seems to me that the greater elephant in the room involves the debated Pauline or Petrine authorship of certain of their epistles in which the stated author explicitly is named within the biblical text itself (this, as opposed to the [uninspired] titles of the various NT books).

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  5. I am still interested in the views of the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog’s other contributors on the subject. Wassermann, Williams, Head, Jongkind, Bird, et al -- does anyone care/dare to speak up?

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    1. James, you're barking up the wrong tree here. If you have a question for one of the blog's contributors, try email.

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    2. Peter,
      I was not aware that I was barking at all, just asking a simple question. There's not something about this question that makes it too difficult for the other contributors to answer here in the comments, is there?

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    3. Implying that blog members are afraid to answer is barking. Save it.

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    4. James,
      First, all of these have published works where their views on pseudepigraphy may well already be expressed. Second, while I am convinced that none of the canonical books are pseudonymous many evangelicals are less convinced today and historically. Third, I am not sure of the relevance of the question to TC , unless one assumes that once an individual accepts pseudepigraphical writings, they are no longer interested in establishing the Ausgangstext of such writings.

      Tim

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    5. Peter M Head,
      The question is:
      Do you consider any New Testament books to be pseudepigrapha, and if so, which ones?

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  6. I am on an archaeological dig and I am not following this discussion. I am off grid.

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    1. We hope you stick to the archaeological grid. We don't want any more artefacts without proper provenance.

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