A Reconsideration Of Pseudepigraphy In Early Christianity -- By: Jeremy Duff

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 50:2 (NA 1999)
Article: A Reconsideration Of Pseudepigraphy In Early Christianity
Author: Jeremy Duff

A Reconsideration Of Pseudepigraphy In Early Christianity1

Jeremy Duff

This thesis examines the use of pseudepigraphy within Christianity during the first and second centuries A.D. In particular, it assesses the common claim that pseudepigraphy was seen simply as an accepted literary technique. Two methodological principles guide this investigation. First, early-Christian pseudepigraphy is viewed in its historical context, thus, for example, it is first-century views of Isaiah which are relevant, not modern understandings of the development of Isaiah. Second, this thesis examines discourse about authorship, authority and pseudonymity within ancient texts, rather than deducing attitudes to pseudonymity from texts which modern scholarship has identified as pseudonymous. These principles separate it from many other investigations of the topic.

Part One is a critique of modern approaches to early-Christian pseudepigraphy. First in Chapter 2 the development of the idea of early-Christian pseudepigraphy is traced from the period of the Reformation to Schleiermacher, the first scholar to present a reasoned case that a New Testament text was pseudonymous, and on to the beginning of the twentieth century. It is observed that from the very beginning the judgement that a New Testament text was pseudonymous was almost always closely followed by the claim that early-Christian pseudonymity was ‘an accepted literary technique’. During this period, however, little was done to substantiate this claim. The development of the distinction between the scriptural texts and their religious message and the influence this had on discussion of pseudonymity is also noted.

Chapter 3 analyses more recent scholarship. First, various methodological questions are addressed over genre and the range of material with which early-Christian pseudepigraphy should be

compared. It becomes clear that simplistic answers to the question of pseudonymity are unsatisfactory, as is the a priori restriction of the evidence to be considered to either Jewish or Pagan writings, or to writings of one particular genre. Then the analysis of various key early-Christian texts is examined and the lack of consensus is made clear. More agreement is manifest over the understandings of authorship in Hellenistic and Imperial Greek and Roman culture. Finally, various particular scholarly approaches to early-Christian pseudepigraphy are considered—the respect in which the past was held, the technique which one would use if writing pseudonymously, and the connection of pseudonymity with inspired prophecy.

Part Two contributes more directly to the debate by anal...

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