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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?
Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, wrote the letter.
Although some modern critics deny Peter’s authorship, the internal evidence is strongly in favor of it, and the early external evidence is also good. (1) The claim of the book is that it comes from “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). (2) He also claims to be an eyewitness of Christ’s sufferings (5:1)—as Peter was. (3) In addition, the character and content of the book is similar to Peter’s speeches in Acts 2, 4, and 10. (4) The speeches in Acts are similar to the vocabulary, diction, and thought in 1 Peter (see Acts 2, 4, 10). (5) The authoritative tone and command in 5:2, telling elders to be “shepherds,” fits Peter who was given the same charge by Jesus the Great Shepherd (see John 21:16). (6) Any differences in style can be accounted for by the fact that, although Peter was an untrained fisherman (Acts 4:13), he had had some thirty years of learning since then, and he used Silvanus (Silas) as his scribe (5:12). (7) As for the critics’ charge of pseudonymity (someone else assuming Peter’s name), it would be a denial of its authenticity—a deliberate forgery. Such a practice did not exist in the first-century Christian context.
(1) Often overlooked is the fact that the first mention of 1 Peter is in another first-century book—the book of 2 Peter (3:1). Also Jude 17 cites 2 Peter 3:2, confirming its late first-century existence. Few New Testament books have this kind of first-century confirmation (see Acts 1:1 and Luke 1:1). (2) Peter’s name was on the earliest manuscripts found of this book, and the early church, which was in the best position to know who wrote it, would not have accepted it, if it had not been Peter’s. (3) It was cited by some of the earliest Fathers as from Peter, including Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, Pseudo-Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Eusebius, and Augustine. (4) Those who later questioned it simply lacked the evidence available to others who accepted it.
When Was It Written?
First Peter was written about AD 64. It was written before Peter’s death under Nero’s persecution, which began in AD 64. Further, it was written after many of Paul’s epistles were written, since Peter refers to “his [Paul’s] epistles” (2 Peter 3:15–16). Finally, the declining conditions described in the book depict a period later than that of Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, which were written about AD 60–62. Thus a date of about AD 64 fits well.
To Whom Was It Written?
It was written to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). This was a major part of Asia Minor.
The Jewish view. Some say the recipients were Hebrew Christians of the eastern dispersion because: (1) Peter was an “apostle to the circumcision” (Gal. 2:7), but just as Paul the apostle to the Gentiles did not limit his ministry to Gentiles (see Acts 17:1–3), Peter the apostle to the Jews did not limit his ministry to Jews (see Acts 10). (2) Also he references “pilgrims” and “dispersion,” terms that are appropriate for Jewish pilgrims or the Jewish Diaspora. (3) Further, Peter’s readers were asked to do praiseworthy acts among the Gentiles (2:12), which seems to imply that the readers were Jews.
The Gentile view. Others claim this epistle was aimed at Gentile readers. (1) They understand “Gentile” not in an ethnic sense but in the spiritual sense of “pagan.” (2) Also they note that the text does not claim the readers were part of a Jewish dispersion. (3) Furthermore, the readers were formerly involved in typical Gentile sins (like idolatry) (4:3). (4) They once lived in “ignorance” of God’s truth (1:14), which was not true of Jews. (5) What is more, the reference to belief of their fathers in salvation “by silver and gold” (v. 18) indicates they were Gentiles. (6) Finally, Peter says they were once not “the people of God” (as the Jews were) (2:10). Of course there could have been both Jews and Gentiles in these churches.
Where Were the Readers Located?
According to 1:1 the recipients were in Asia Minor, particularly the areas of “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”
Note: Peter said he wrote from “Babylon” (5:13), which has been taken literally, as a city in Mesopotamia or Egypt, or symbolically, as Rome (see Rev. 17:5–6, 18). Given the dangers of persecution of Peter’s time, he could have been concealing his location to outsiders by the use of this symbolic term. It is widely agreed by historians that Peter eventually went to Rome.
Why Was It Written?
Peter manifests several reasons for writing this epistle. (1) He wanted to encourage believers in their suffering (5:10–12; see 1:6). (2) He wished to show them how to live out their salvation (2:2, 12), even in difficult circumstances. (3) He desired to exhort them to submission for Christ’s sake (2:13; see v. 18; 5:5), with the hope that it would mitigate governmental oppression.