The Bible might be the best-selling book in history, but it may also be full of lies. At least, that's the claim being made by biblical scholar and former evangelical Christian, Bart Ehrman, in a new book titled, "Forged: Writing in the Name of God — Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are."
According to Ehrman, at least 11 of the 27 New Testament books are forgeries, while only seven of the 13 epistles attributed to Paul were probably written by him. None of the writings attributed to the Apostle Peter could have been written by him, and even the authenticity of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John can be questioned. The book is the focus of a recent report by Discovery News.
"The Bible not only contains untruths of accidental mistakes. It also contains what almost anyone today would call lies," writes Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Ehrman builds his case by noting scores of inconsistencies in the writing styles among authors of the New Testament. Discrepancies in the language and content among books attributed to Paul are particularly glaring. Ehrman points to one example from the book of Ephesians, which is written in long Greek sentences, not the short Greek sentences used in Paul's other writings.
Meanwhile, Ehrman claims that the authenticity of any book attributed to Peter should be doubted since Peter — like most other fisherman raised in rural Palestine at the time — was probably illiterate.
So the question remains: Who wrote these books and why did they attempt to conceal their identities? Ehrman says early Christian sects, struggling to legitimize themselves, would have had plenty of motivation to fabricate their religious texts.
"If your name was Jehoshaphat and no one had any idea who you were, you could not very well sign your own name to the book," said Ehrman. "No one would take the Gospel of Jehoshaphat seriously. If you wanted someone to read it, you called yourself Peter. Or Thomas. Or James. In other words, you lied about who you really were."
Ehrman's book has created a firestorm in the Christian community. In a review of the book, the Catholic Herald concedes "some New Testament books probably were not written by the people traditionally assigned as authors." But the Catholic website was also was quick to dismiss Ehrman's analysis: "the book is more provocative than insightful."
The Herald also said that Ehrman's book "barely mentions the concept of oral tradition. So even if a specific letter was not done by Peter or Paul, it could well have been written by someone drawing from the oral tradition passed down by one or the other."
But in Ehrman's view, a forgery is a forgery. If such a writing method were practiced today, it would be looked upon as deceitful and inappropriate.