Any well-read Christian who has done any reasonably in-depth analysis of the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls or the manuscripts commonly known as the Lost Books of the Bible knows from the text they were not reading the Word of God but that of men attempting to insert their views into the Canon of God.Then in the Aberdeen American News, SD, on 16 Apr 2006, one Art Marmorstein, Aberdeen, billed as a professor of history at NSU, published the article "Story about old, old story an old story." In it we read:
But, old or not, none of these writings were genuine. They were, without exception, what ancient historians call pseudepigrapha: works that claim authorship by someone other than the true author.Well, more or less. Technically, "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" (singular "pseudepigraphon") are ancient fictional works purporting to be written by Old Testament characters or in Old Testament times. "New Testament Apocrypha" (singular, "apocryphon") are like works purporting to be written by New Testament characters or in New Testament times. Also, "Old Testament Apocrypha" are the eighteen books (plus a few added chapters to canonical books) found in the Catholic OT biblical canon, but not the Protestant or Jewish canons. But the term "pseudepigrapha" ("fictional writings") can also be used in a general sense to mean books written by someone other than the supposed author. Also, "apocrypha" is used in a colloquial sense to mean false stories or rumors.
Now quite a few pseudepigraphal works have survived from the ancient world. We've got Pseudo-Xenophon, Pseudo-Plato and Pseudo-Aristotle. But most of the surviving pseudepigraphal works tried to pass themselves off as written by one Biblical figure or another.
Many of these pseudepigraphal works try to do nothing more than fill in the gaps in the Biblical stories. One book gives us an account of Jesus' boyhood, while another elaborates on the ministry of Paul and yet another tells us about the martyrdom of the prophet Isaiah.
But pseudepigraphal works were often more than just attempts at historical fiction: Many were attempts to manufacture proof for doctrines that aren't clearly stated in the canonical scriptures.
I do take issue with some of the rest of what he says:
Is it legitimate to use such works as if they were reliable historical sources? Most of the time, the scholarly community would laugh at the thought. If my excited Christian friend had tried to use the Acts of Pilate to prove to one of his professors the validity of the Gospel story, his whole argument would have been met with no more than a patronizing smile and perhaps the advice to be a bit less credulous. And then there is the warning in the Apocalypse of Peter that those who slay unborn children will be tortured forever. Cite that as evidence of apostolic doctrine and you'll get the same patronizing smile and an immediate dismissal of your argument. And if you champion a second century forgery like the Gospel of Judas as a legitimate historical source, claim that Judas was really a good guy, and insist that Judas alone of the disciples really understood what Jesus was all about, academics will smile patronizingly and ... no, wait!In fact, I know of no biblical scholar who takes the view that the Gospel of Judas is a legitimate historical source for the first century. If any did, the rest of us would laugh them off the stage. The Gospel of Judas is, of course, a very important new source for Gnostic legends and theology of the second century. There were some half-hearted attempts in the media (to their credit, not very many) to try to stir up worry that the Gospel of Judas somehow affected first-century history, but scholars, theologians, and lay people declined to take the bait and insisted on appreciating the text for what it is. I would expect a professor of history to be better informed.
The academic world will hail you as a star. You'll get a prestigious professorship. The media will gush over your work. Your books will make the best-seller lists. National Geographic will do a special on your findings - and play it on Palm Sunday.
The healthy skepticism essential to solid academics and solid reporting? Gone in a heartbeat if there's any chance to slander the Gospel. At Christmas and Easter especially one can count on every major media outlet to feature one story or another hyping the latest "scholarly" alternative to the traditional understanding of Jesus. And a story that turns things around so much that Judas is now a hero - well, that's got to be worth at least 30 pieces of silver to somebody.