WAS IT FALSELY ATTRIBUTED: Second Epistle of John

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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?

John the apostle, author of the Gospel of John, wrote this letter.

Internal Evidence

First, the book claims to come from “the Elder” (1:1). Given the time and nature of the book, there was no person alive other than John whose writing would be recognized as authoritative by a general audience. John was an apostle who, like other apostles (see 1 Peter 5:1), was an elder (bishop) by office (1 Tim. 3:1) and an apostle by gift (Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:4, 28). Further, the author spoke with the authority of an apostle, giving a commandment (v. 4) and a warning (v. 8) on how to live. Also the style and vocabulary of the book are like those of the apostle John (see Key Words below). Likewise, the heresy being addressed is the same as that attacked by the apostle John in his first epistle (see chap. 26), namely, those “who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7; see 1 John 4:2). Finally, both epistles refer to the Antichrist as behind the denial of Christian truth (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7).

External Evidence

The external evidence for John the apostle is sufficient but less than for many other New Testament books, since 2 John is brief and personal in nature. Nonetheless, there is some early and good testimony for the beloved apostle being the author. First of all, the early Father Irenaeus, who knew John’s disciple Polycarp, attributes it to John the apostle. Further, the Muratorian canon accepts it into the canon with John’s name on it. Also other Fathers cited it as authentic, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, and Augustine. The fact that the author did not call himself an apostle is not problematic. “The Elder” is a term of respect and authority appropriate to John. In fact, at this late date (see below), no apostle was alive who commanded this much respect other than John the apostle.

When Was It Written?

The letter was written in AD 90–95. (1) According to Irenaeus, John died in AD 98, so the book must have been written before then. (2) He also said it was written during the reign of Domitian, which was AD 81–96. Thus this would place it before AD 96. (3) It was written after the Gospel of John (AD 85–90), which it presupposes. (4) Its similarity with 1 John reflects a similar time, namely, about AD 90 to 95.[1]

[1] Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 274–275.

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