WAS IT FALSELY ATTRIBUTED: Gospel of Mark

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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?

The book was written by John Mark, a companion of Peter. John was his Hebrew name and Mark his Latin name.

We know this about Mark. He was: (1) an associate of Peter (1 Peter 5:13), (2) once a missionary companion of Paul (Acts 13:5), (3) the son of one Mary (12:12), (4) a nephew (or cousin) of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), (5) the subject of dispute between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:37–40), (6) later reconciled to Paul (2 Tim. 4:11), (7) perhaps the person whose home was the “upper room” (see Mark 14:12–16; Acts 12:12, 14), (8) possibly well-to-do (owned a big home) and his cousin owned land (4:36–37), and (9) may have been the unclad lad who fled the Garden (Mark 14:51–52).

Internal Evidence

The internal evidence for Mark’s authorship is supported by many lines of evidence: (1) he was familiar with the geography of the land and Jerusalem (5:1; 6:53; 8:10; 11:1; 13:3); (2) he knew Aramaic, the common language of the day (5:41; 7:11, 34; 14:36); (3) he understood Jewish institutions and customs (1:21; 2:14, 16, 18; 7:2–4); (4) the account is vivid and detailed, revealing contact with Jesus’s “inner circle”—James, Peter, and John (1:16–20, 29–31, 35–38; 5:21–24, 35–43; 6:39, 53–54; 9:14–15; 10:32, 46; 14:32–34); (5) he used Peter’s words and deeds (8:29, 32–33; 9:5–6; 10:28–30; 14:29–31, 66–72); (6) he alone added “and Peter” in the resurrection account (16:7; see 1 Cor. 15:5); (7) there is a striking similarity between his broad outline and Peter’s sermon in Acts 10:34–43.

External Evidence

The external evidence for Mark being the author of this Gospel is good. First, the earliest manuscripts have his name on them, and one of the earliest Church Fathers, Papias (AD 110), attributed it to Mark. Papias wrote:

And the Presbyter used to say this, “Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord. He had not heard the Lord, nor had he followed him, but later on, as I said, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them.”

What is more, other early Fathers unanimously agreed that Mark was the author. These include Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, and Eusebius.

When Was It Written?

The ancient church favored the primacy of Matthew, but most modern scholars believe Mark wrote first. On balance of external and internal evidence, it would appear that the ancient church was right. (1) The book must have been written before AD 70, since the temple was still standing (13:2, 14–23). (2) Luke, who wrote ca. AD 60, may have alluded to Mark (Luke 1:1) when he spoke of others who had written a Gospel before him. (3) Papias, who was the closest Father to the events, said Matthew wrote first and Mark later. If so, then Mark probably wrote ca. AD 55–60.

Irenaeus said Mark wrote after Peter’s “departure.” If this means his death, then Mark wrote between 68 and 70, but this is unlikely since the internal evidence favors an early date for Mark. This is because: (1) Luke may refer to Mark by ca. AD 60 (Luke 1:1); (2) Irenaeus may have been wrong or misinterpreted; (3) “departure” may be understood geographically; and (4) Papias said Matthew was first, then Mark before Luke (who wrote in AD 60). Hence, Mark would have been written ca. AD 55–60.[1]

[1] Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 60–61.

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