02.02.24 Pseudepigrapha

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.24 Pseudepigrapha

02.02.24 Pseudepigrapha. The name Pseudepigrapha, meaning false writings, is a classification of books sometimes referred to as the Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament.[1] These literary works were written roughly between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200.[2] This open-ended category is said to have been written by biblical figures such as Abraham or Noah, but in fact were created by other writers who attempted to convey the wisdom of whom they named the books.  The practice of writing under another’s name may have contributed to why James said that one should not falsify the truth (James 3:14b).  There were several reasons as to why these were written.

  1. The authors attempted to deal with the social and religious issues of the day, including the expected messiah. For example, the author of book 3 of the Sibylline Oracles believed that the Greek Ptolemaic king could be the long-awaited savior or messiah for the Jews. (Note: a small “m” is used since the messiah was not recognized as a deity, but super-human or angelic figure).[3]
  1. The Jews had difficulty dealing with the issue of how God, who is holy, just, righteous and all-powerful, could permit the pagan Greeks and Romans to oppress His righteous Chosen People.[4] Many books attempted to resolve this problem and the struggle to find an answer is evident. Some attempted to blame the problems of humanity upon Eve, as found in the Life of Adam and Eve(18:1) and in Sirach (25:24) of the Apocrypha. Others blamed the devil or evil angels, but none fully addressed the issue except for Jesus.[5]
  1. Some new theological ideas were also created by these authors, such as the concept of purgatory even though there is no mention of it in the Bible or Oral Law. Several books, such as 4 Enoch, were written in the Christian era and reflect some Christian teaching, but are at times in serious conflict with the Bible. The primary challenge with these writings is to determine at what point historical facts end and legends begin. Their value lies in the fact that they permit scholars to understand the mindset of the writers during the theologically chaotic time of Christ.
  1. Possibly one of the most influential books of this category is the Psalms of Solomon, which was written by the Pharisees after the Roman invasion of Judaea in 63 B.C.[6] Some scholars believe it can be dated between the years 40 and 30 B.C.[7] Chapters 2 and 17 make reference to the Gentile foreigners (Romans) who invaded the land; killing men, women, and children. The author also calls upon the Lord to bring forth the son of David, an unmistakable phrase calling for the messiah to bring justice (see 06.08.03.Q3).
  1. Some of these books, such as the Gospel of Peter, have both affirmations and discrepancies with the gospel narratives. This Gospel is a re-telling of the passion of Jesus with fictional elements added, so discernment is required when assessing their historical and literary value.[8] Another, the Ascents of James, has a brief description of the death of Jesus (1.41.2 – 1.43.4). Quotations from Ascents were not included in this eBook because Ascents is not an independent source, but it was based upon the account recorded in Matthew.[9]
  1. One of the qualities of the four biblical gospels is that they agree with each other; and where there is apparent disagreement, the differences are understood in light of the audience or other cultural backgrounds. However, the Pseudepigrapha books often have differences that simply cannot be explained other than these are the result of creative historical writers.[10] For example, several books have the names of the two Zealots[11] who were crucified with Jesus. Suggested names are Dismas and Gestas, as in the Acts of Pilate. But other books identify them as Zoathan and Chammata, or as Joathas and Maggatras, or as Titus and Dumatchus. Clearly this demonstrates why these writings must be evaluated with great suspicion.[12]

Since Luke gathered his information from various sources, his work reflects the established view of the early Church.  Had his writings conflicted with Church leadership, his book would have been immediately attacked and discarded.  He would also have been the subject of discussion by early defenders of the faith such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Nonetheless, he was never attacked and there is no evidence that he and his works received negative reactions from other apostles or Church leaders.

The sixty plus Pseudepigrapha books appear to satisfy the “itching ears” of those of those who are “ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 4:3; 3:7), as they lack the gift of discernment. Only a few books in this category have any merit. That is why the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 warned his readers not to get troubled and upset by a writing that supposedly came from him. That may also be why later in 3:17, he said that the greeting was in his own handwriting – his way of certifying the genuineness of his second letter, and his letter was not the creation of Pseudepigrapha author.


[1] See 02.02.01.V for more information on this subject.


[2]. Scott, Jr. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. 29-31.


[3]. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 1:356, 1:381.


[4]. Davies, “Apocrypha.” 1:161-65; Ladd, “Pseudepigrapha.” 3:1040-43.


[5]. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. xxx.


[6]. Some ancient writers use the term “Judea” in the broadest sense. Examples are found in Pliny the Elder, Natural History 5.15.70; Strabo, Geographia 16.4.21; and Dio Sassius, Roman History 37.15.2.


[7]. Cosby, Interpreting Biblical Literature. 285.


[8]. Webb, “The Roman Examination and Crucifixion of Jesus.” 761.


[9]. For more information see Carroll and Green, The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity. 155-57.


[10]. Creative writers and other “false teachers and prophets” have existed throughout the centuries. Ron Charles has gathered scores of fanciful legends and myths, mostly written between the sixth and sixteenth centuries, that pertain to the life of Christ in his book titled, The Search: A Historian’s Search for Historical Jesus. (Self-Published, 2007). Another researcher is Nicholas Notovich, whose book,  The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. Trans. (Virchand R. Gandhi, Dover Pub.) is a so-called historical account of when Jesus went to Asia to study between the ages 13 and 29. All of these accounts are truly fanciful.


[11]. Only Zealots and murderers were crucified by the Romans. Thieves were not crucified for their crimes unless they were also involved with insurrection against Rome (Zealot activity) or they murdered someone in their crimes spree.


[12]. Jordan, Who’s Who in the Bible. 240; See 16.01.14.


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