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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.
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.
Who Wrote It?
The author of the letter is John, the apostle.
John “the Elder.” Some believe that John “the Elder” wrote the letter (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1). He was not an apostle but may have been a follower of the apostle. He may have been the writer since he does not use the term apostle of himself. The letter is written later than John the apostle’s time, and, according to Irenaeus, Papias named another John, who was not an apostle, in chapter 39 of The Writings of Papias.
Response. (1) John was the youngest apostle and lived to near the end of the first century. (2) Apostles were elders (or bishops) by office (Acts 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:1) and apostles by gift (1 Cor. 12:4, 28; Eph. 4:11). (3) Peter also called himself an elder (1 Peter 5:1). (4) The existence of another New Testament author named John is doubtful, being based on a questionable statement by Papias.
John the Apostle. Some believe the author is John the apostle, who also wrote the Gospel of John (see chapter 7) and the book of Revelation (see chapter 28). Both the internal and external evidence is good for John the apostle.
Internal Evidence for John the Apostle
There is very good evidence from the text that John the apostle was the writer. (1) He was an eyewitness of Christ’s life and teachings (1:1–3), which was one of the characteristics of an apostle (Acts 1:21–25; 1 Cor. 9:1). (2) He spoke with the authority of an apostle (4:6). (3) He wrote with the same style (using, for example, “this is …,” “by this …”), the same basic vocabulary (Father, Son, Spirit, beginning, Word [logos], Paraclete, believe, life, eternal, love, remain/abide, keep, commandment, true, know, beget, witness, light, darkness, world, sin, and devil), and the same doctrine as the author of the fourth Gospel. (4) He wrote in the same style as “John” who wrote “the [book of] Revelation” (Rev. 1:1), which is known to be John the apostle. (5) Who else could write at this time, with this authority, with the same style, the same doctrine, and have his book accepted without ever placing his name on it?
External Evidence for John the Apostle
The evidence from outside the Epistle of 1 John that the apostle John wrote it is more than substantial. (1) It was called an epistle of “John” from the earliest times by persons who would be in the best position to know who wrote it. (2) It was accepted by a disciple of John named Polycarp, and it was accepted by the early Fathers as a work of John. (3) Other early writings claim it as a work of John, including the Shepherd of Hermas and Irenaeus. (4) Later Fathers accepted it too, such as Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine.
When Was It Written?
The Epistle was written between AD 90 and 95. (1) It was written before AD 100, since an early manuscript of this book was found all the way across the Mediterranean in a small town in Egypt and dated about AD 115 to 125. (2) It must have been written before John died, which, according to Irenaeus, was about AD 98. (3) The conditions prevailing at the time indicate it was written during the reign of Domitian, which was AD 81–96 (see the introduction to the book of Revelation). (4) It also gives evidence of being written after the Gospel of John, which was composed about AD 85 to 90, since it builds on the teachings of the Gospel (1 John 2:7–8 with John 13:34; 1 John 3:8–18 with John 8:41–47; 1 John 5:9–10 with John 5:19–47; and 1 John 1:1–4 is a summary of John’s message [1:1, 14] in his Gospel). This would place it about AD 90 to 95.