Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Bible Geek on Paul

I sent a letter I sent to Robert M. Price aka The Bible Geek. Dr. Price reads and answers the question on the episode of The Bible Geek that aired January 2, 2012 (He reads it towards the end of the episode, over 45 minutes in, I believe). Here's the letter:

Dear Mr. Geek,

As I understand it, the seven "authentic" Pauline letters are thought to be authentic because the style and language of these seven contains deep similarities. The letters that are considered forged are considered that way because, among other things, the style of writing is very different. Are there any other reasons to consider those seven (Galatians, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, etc.) to be authentic other than their shared style of writing? As best I can see, a deep similarity in style at best points to a common author of the seven letters. How do we know that the common author was Paul? I suppose one might argue that these letters are to be considered Pauline because the letters say that they were. In ordinary situations, I think that would be reason enough for accepting the claimed authorship. After all, if a piece of writing says that it was written by Robert M. Price, I would assume that it was indeed written by Robert M. Price unless I was given a reason to believe otherwise. However, I don't think that this simple reasoning may be used in the case of the Pauline letters. As far as I know no one is going around forging books in the name of Robert Price. But when we deal with Biblical writings, we find that forgery is the rule, not the exception. In fact, by the reckoning of most scholars, nearly half of the letters in the New Testament that claim Pauline authorship are certainly or quite possibly forged (and I believe the reasons that they cite for this conclusion are valid). By this logic, claimed Pauline authorship is not to be as readily accepted as Robert Pricean authorship, and so some reason for belief in Pauline authorship must be presented besides "It says right here that Paul wrote this." So, here are my questions to you: Do scholars have such reasons? Does the reasoning that I have presented here partially or completely undergird your own skepticism about the authenticity of the Pauline letters?

1 comment:

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