WAS IT FORGED? Epistle to the Colossians

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The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

NOTE: Nineteen articles will begin with these same two introductory paragraphs but will then speak specifically about the Bible book in question.

It has often been said [by whom?] that it was an accepted practice in antiquity for a writer to attribute his work to a well-known figure from the past or a teacher who has greatly influenced him. The practice would have been condemned as dishonest by all authorities in antiquity. The book Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Agnostic New Testament Bible scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman contends that this is incorrect. Falsely attributed writings are often referred to as “pseudepigraphs,” but Ehrman maintains that the more honest term is “forgery.” The book suggests that 11 or more books out of the 27 books of the Christian New Testament canon were written as forgeries. This article and others will debunk this claim. In his book, Ehrman points out numerous inconsistencies which he finds within the New Testament which appear to support many of his claims, such as the fact that in Acts 4:13, the statement is made that both Peter and John were illiterate, yet in later years entire books of the Bible were then alleged to have been written by them. This last argument is quickly debunked on two grounds: (1) it was not years later that they wrote their books, it was over thirty years later, and in the case of John, it was over sixty years later; (2) the Greek means unlettered (YLT) that is, not educated in the rabbinic schools; not meaning illiterate. Nevertheless, below are three articles that destroy this argument of Ehrman.

Were Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Christians Illiterate, Uneducated?

What Do We Know About Books, Reading, and Writing; Literacy In Early Christianity?

The Early Christian’s View of the Integrity of the Greek New Testament Books

False attributions

In addition to the eleven books of the New Testament Ehrman identifies as forgeries, he discusses eight originally anonymous New Testament texts that had names of apostles ascribed to them later and are falsely attributed. These are not forgeries since the texts are anonymous but have had false authors ascribed to them by others.

The P52 PROJECT THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS 4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS

Who Wrote It?

Colossians was written by Paul the apostle.

Internal Evidence

This epistle claims to be written by “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). The author repeats his name, saying “I, Paul” (v. 23). He repeats this claim at the end, saying, “This salutation by my own hand—Paul” (4:18). The companions mentioned support Paul’s authorship, since many are known from elsewhere in the New Testament to be associates of Paul. They include Tychicus (4:7), Onesimus (v. 9), Aristarchus and Mark (v. 10), Justus (v. 11), Epaphras (v. 12), Luke and Demas (v. 14), and finally Archippus (v. 17). The character of the book is Pauline, as determined by the doctrinal emphasis, controversy, and approach to ministry. The style varies only as the content demands, since different opponents and topics demand some different words. The thirty-four new words, which do not appear in his other letters, fit the theme of the book and the thought of Paul. The content of the book is Pauline, manifesting his typical emphasis against heresy, disunity, and Judaistic influence in the Christian church.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

External Evidence

The earliest manuscripts of the letter to the Colossians have Paul’s name on them. Indeed, early Christian writers accepted it as Pauline, including Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, the Muratorian canon, and even the heretic Marcion. About half the verses are the same as in Ephesians (see chapter 14), which was written by Paul. There is also a close link to the book of Philemon, which is Paul’s work. Both books have Timothy in the introduction (1:1); greetings are sent from the same people in both—Aristarchus, Mark, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas (4:10–14; Philem. 23–24); Archippus’s ministry is mentioned in both (Col. 4:17; Philem. 2); Onesimus is referred to in both (Col. 4:9; Philem. 10).

Answering Critics

Some critics claim that Colossians is not Paul’s work, since the vocabulary differs (thirty-four new words). However, all of Paul’s letters have unique words. Words change with the topic. Some words are borrowed from the opposition to refute them.

Others insist that the style of Colossians differs, being more passive than Galatians. But Paul did not know the Galatians personally as he did the Colossians. And he is addressing an error in this letter that is different from the error addressed in Galatians. Further, Paul is older here and is writing under different conditions, namely, from prison.

Still others insist that the thought in this book differs from that in some of Paul’s other books, since it contains nothing about justification or the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul also adds new topics, like the cosmic significance of Christ. However, these charges are unjustified since Paul does affirm elsewhere that Christ is over the cosmos (1 Cor. 8:6; see Heb. 1:3), and justification by faith is not the issue here as it was in Romans and Galatians. Furthermore, Paul does speak here of love in the Holy Spirit (1:8), as well as growth (v. 6). Also it is noteworthy that this book is tied to Philemon (see above), the authorship of which is not doubted.

 

When Was It Written?

Colossians was written around AD 60, from a Roman prison (see Acts 28) at the same time as Ephesians and Philemon, indicated by the following facts: Tychicus carried both the Ephesian and the Colossian letters (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7), and one-half of the content of Ephesians overlaps that of Colossians. Since Ephesians was written from prison (3:1; 4:1; 6:20), then Colossians must have been written from prison at the same time. The time of Paul’s imprisonment (in Acts 28) was ca. AD 60–62. But there is no hint here in Colossians of a possible release, as there was later in Philippians (1:19). Hence, Colossians must have been written about AD 60 and Philippians later in AD 61–62..[1]

[1] Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 188–189.

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