Friday, August 3, 2012

Book: Forged, by Bart Ehrman

Ehrman, Bart. 2011. Forged. NY: HarperOne.

Forged is another of Ehrman's fascinating books that, among other things, translate the academic historical literature on issues related to religion into readable form for the intelligent non-specialist. It is also another stage, as the introduction makes clear, in Ehrman's personal journey away from the conservative evangelical views on Christian history and theology of his youth.

Ehrman lays out the evidence regarding the authorship of various new testament books. In some cases, pretty much all scholars agree that a particular book was not written by the nominal author; in others, the case is more controversial. Ehrman does a fine job of explaining why, at a time when Christian theology was much more heterogeneous and unsettled than it is now, people would want to label their own views with the names of famous others, and how those attributions stuck down to the present day.

Ehrman also addresses what is apparently the standard response among conservative scholars to the evidence of biblical books not being written by their nominal authors, which is "sure, some of the books were not written by their nominal authors, but that was not a big deal back in those days". This part of the book deals not only with religious writings but with the general problem of forgery in the agent world. Indeed, for me one of the most interesting things about the book was learning and thinking about the problems of publishing and what we would now call copyright protection given the technology available at the time.

Recommended, if you are into this sort of thing.

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