A Theological Justification For The Canonical Status Of Literary Forgeries: Jacob’s Deceit (Genesis 27) And Petr Pokorný’s “Sola Gratia” Argument -- By: Armin Baum

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:2 (Jun 2012)
Article: A Theological Justification For The Canonical Status Of Literary Forgeries: Jacob’s Deceit (Genesis 27) And Petr Pokorný’s “Sola Gratia” Argument
Author: Armin Baum


A Theological Justification For The Canonical Status Of Literary Forgeries: Jacob’s Deceit (Genesis 27) And Petr Pokorný’s “Sola Gratia” Argument

Armin Baum

Armin Baum is professor of New Testament at the Freie Theologische Hochschule, Rathenaustrasse 5-7, 35394 Giessen. Germany.

More than 25 years ago, Petr Pokorný developed an innovative and promising theological vindication of canonical forgery.1 His vindication is very attractive because Pokorný can refer to a key biblical passage on deception for scriptural support, has the teaching of the reformers on justification by faith alone on his side, and holds a position that differs favorably from the unhistorical understanding of revelation that is characteristic of the Muslim reading of the Koran.

Pokorný first published his thoughts on the justification of the canonicity of NT pseudepigraphy in 1984 in a German article entitled “The Theological Problem of New Testament Pseudepigraphy.”2 Since then, he has repeated his view in his 1987 commentary on Colossians,3 his 1992 commentary on Ephesians,4 in a major contribution on pseudonymity to the Theologische Realenzyklopädie, the leading theological encyclopedia in German, in 1997,5 and most recently in an excursus on “The Problem of Pseudepigraphy” in his German Introduction to the New Testament in 2007.6

To my knowledge, Pokorný’s theological argument concerning the canonicity of early Christian pseudepigrapha has not attracted much scholarly attention, either in German-speaking theology or in English-speaking scholarship. Therefore, in this paper I am going to (1) summarize Pokorný’s decidedly theological approach; (2) refer to the few and relatively short comments others have made with regard to it; and finally (3) present my own evaluation of Pokorný’s key arguments.

I. The Sola Gratia Argument

Pokorný’s total argument consists of two main elements, (1) a historical judgment about the production and reception of the NT pseudepigrapha; and (2) his theological reasoning on how to cope with the problem of pseudepigraphy in the NT canon.

1. The deceitfulness of the NT pseudepigrapha. Without a detailed presentation of the historical evidence, Pokorný takes three historical assumptions for granted:

First, NT...

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