New Testament pseudonymity and deception
This study provides afresh an answer to the question: "If there are pseudonymous letters in the New Testament, what can be said about their intention and reception?" A survey of scholarship shows the need for the present inquiry. Five primary areas are investigated. First, an examination of various Greco-Roman and Christian texts reveals that sometimes in antiquity pseudonymous documents were written with no intention to deceive (e.g. some of the Pythagorean literature). However, not every writing in antiquity was written in the same spirit. For, it is then shown that many writers in Greco-Roman antiquity, including early Christians, had scruples regarding literary property and pseudonymity. Second, a comparison of some Greco-Roman pseudepigraphal epistles with the disputed Pauline letters reveals that non-deceptive pseudonymity is possible for the latter works, if pseudonymous, in the light of the analogy of many of the former writings. Thus, contrary to the views of some scholars, a historical and analogous precedent exists for non-deceptive pseudo-Pauline letters, if present in the NT. Third, a study of the available documentary evidence indicates that the early Church (second-century onwards) generally did not accept apostolic pseudepigrapha, and suggests that it regarded such writings as deceptive. These responses to apostolic pseudepigrapha act as a background against which some of the alleged NT pseudepigrapha are later evaluated. Fourth, an examination of the early Church's understanding of apostolic authority shows the uniqueness of the apostolic office in the first and second centuries. This evidence is marshalled against the assumption that a discontinuity of attributes towards pseudepigrapha exists between the first and second-century Churches. It is suggested that apostolic authority may have provided the impetus to write under the names of the apostles, but that this practice was not acceptable. Finally, it is suggested that the use of the pseudonym may have been less appropriate in letters than in other genres.