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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 traditional author of this book is revealed by its title: Matthew. He was one of the twelve apostles chosen by Christ (Matt. 10:1–3) and was a tax collector by profession (v. 3), which was considered one of the lower levels of the social strata, listed along with “heathen” (18:17).
Internal evidence is what is found inside a book and external evidence is what is discovered outside a book. The internal evidence for Matthew’s authorship includes the following: (1) there are numerous references to money in this Gospel, which fits Matthew’s role as a tax collector (see 17:24, 27; 18:24); (2) the many self-references to “Matthew the tax collector” fit his Christian humility; (3) his invitation of friends to a mere “dinner” (9:9–10) as opposed to a “great banquet” (Luke 5:29, where Matthew is called Levi) fits his humility; (4) perhaps in deference to his profession, he omits the parable of the tax collector (Luke 18:9–14) and the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector (19:1–10); (5) in accord with his experience at keeping records, he recorded the long discourses of Jesus (Matthew 5–7, 10, 13, 20, 23–25); and (6) as an apostle, he had direct access to words, events, and supernatural guidance (John 14:26; 16:13).
There are many lines of external evidence: (1) The church has accepted that Matthew is the author of this book from the earliest known times. (2) The early Father Papias, who was a disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John, ascribed it to Matthew. Papias wrote: “So then, Matthew, indeed, in the Hebrew language put together the Logia in writing; but as to their interpretation, each man dealt with it as he was able.”2 (3) Later Fathers of the church are virtually unanimous in ascribing it to Matthew. These include Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen, who left little doubt about what the early church taught: “As I have learned by tradition concerning the Four Gospels, which alone are received without dispute by the Church of God under heaven: the first was written by St. Matthew, once a tax-gatherer, afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it for the benefit of the Jewish converts, composed in the Hebrew language.”
Matthew was written between AD 50 and 55. The date of the book is supported by many factors: (1) it was some time after the events Matthew wrote about (ca. AD 29–33), as indicated by the phrase “to this day” (27:8; 28:15); (2) it was before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, since he presented this event as yet future (24:1–2) and Jerusalem was still standing (24:15; 27:53); (3) the early and ancient church said Matthew wrote before Mark, and they were in a better position to know, being closer to the sources; (4) since Luke was written by ca. AD 60 (see chapter 6), and he refers to “many” (i.e., two or more) Gospels before that (1:1), of which Matthew and Mark are the only known candidates, it is likely that Matthew wrote between AD 50 and 55; (5) putting Mark first, as many contemporary critics do, is unnecessary literarily, questionable philosophically, and unjustified historically; (6) some liberal (for example, William R. Farmer) and some conservative (for example, Harold Hoehner) scholars support an early Matthew; and (7) since the literary evidence can be read either way and the earliest records attribute it to Matthew, Mark can be viewed as a more abbreviated version (basically Matthew minus the long discourses), since his theme was to stress what Jesus did more than what he said; this is appropriate to Mark’s theme of Jesus as a servant (Mark 10:45).