Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 24:1 (Fall 2006) p. 99
Pseudonymity, the New Testament, and Deception: An Inquiry into Intention and Reception, by Terry L. Wilder. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2004. Pp. xi + 296.
Terry L. Wilder is Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. Pseudonymity, the New Testament, and Deception is his Ph.D. dissertation from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, written under the direction of Dr. Brian S. Rosner.
I was interested in reading this book because I have often argued, on the basis of Tertullian’s treatise On Baptism, that pseudepigraphal epistles would not have been accepted by the early church. I wanted to see whether that argument would stand the scrutiny of a doctoral-level examination.
Wilder’s work is thorough and well-argued. He investigates the phenomenon of pseudonymity in the ancient world among Jews and Greco-Romans and whether such practices would have been accepted in the early church. He does not rule out contrary positions by cavalier dismissal but examines the possibility that pseudonymous epistles made their way into the NT canon with or without deliberate intent to deceive. Simply put, he examines each possibility in light of current research.
Wilder does not engage in polemics or name calling. His research is thorough, and his positions are carefully weighed and argued. Many modern readers might find the level of writing challenging; however, the book contains a wealth of information for the patient researcher. He has done a great service in drawing such a vast array of data together and presenting it in manageable form.
His thesis may be succinctly stated as follows: “If pseudonymous letters are present in the NT, enough evidence exists to say that they were written to deceive their readers; moreover, their presence in the NT is prima facie indication that they succeeded in doing so,” 258, emphasis in original. This is not to say that Wilder advocates pseudonymous epistles in the NT canon; it does place the burden of proof upon those who desire to do so. Furthermore, in order to argue that 2 Peter or Ephesians are pseudonymous, one has to argue against internal and external evidence and to say, in effect, that the author intended to deceive the early Christians and succeeded.
Those of us who maintain that “all Scripture is God-breathed” would, of course, not seriously entertain the proposition that God would have inspired deceptive practices. Neither would the early Christians have done so—intentionally. Wilder has done an excellent job of showing us why. I would recommend this book to any serious student of Scripture who desires to challenge t...
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