The fact remains clear that nowhere in the Bible is out right fabrication of “Scripture” condemned. In fact, the dynamics of faith demands proof for the supernatural. This in turn feeds the superstitious mind hungry in a mental imaginary world fueled by faith . As such, the Jewish world had long swam in a sea of these fabricated Scriptures with a resurgent of these text mounting rapidly from 200BCE to 200 CE in which well know and highly honored figures of Jewish ancestors who had been long death such as Adam and Eve, Enoch, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob along with other prophets and Patriarchs recorded their own inspired writings as Scripture where each ancient person wanted to express a new revelation from God. These text revealed the power of faith and the imagination for those Jews who needed to know that Judaism and its God were true. Such ancient ancestors of Israel were usually “caught up into Heaven” to be given a personal tour by an angel appointed by God. To re-enforce the glories of Heaven, the ancient Jewish ancestor was also given a tour of Hell and directly witnessed the suffering of the damned. (1) Amazingly, even though these text were claimed to be written by men who had been dead for thousands of years, the content of these texts were forged to address the social and theological problems of the present day for the Jews in Roman Palestine. (2) Knowingly creating fraudulent, or better put, mythological stories was a major past-time for the literate scribe or Jewish religious leader of the day. This had already been an outgrowth begun earlier with the Hebrew text where the Old Testament itself mentions 24 names of text no longer in existence since, (3) in all likelihood they had lost their religious significants. Of the mythological text created between 200 BCE to 200 CE, Charlesworth has included 52 of these text in his edited two volume work. Another 12 text such as The Death of Abraham, The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan and The Book of Adam and Eve were, according to Charlesworth, fabricated too “far removed from the Old Testament in date and character” to be included in the current collection of Jewish myths. (4) Indeed, first century Palestine was awash in fabricated myths that helped false Jewish messiahs lead the faithful to their deaths as they were slaughtered by the Romans. (5) Also forged during the same geographical area of Palestine and spanning the life of Jesus were certain texts by the sectarian group at Qumran generally known as the Essenes who had themselves written practical Peshers (Commentaries) on such Biblical texts as Habakkuk and seven other Biblical prophets, but (like the early Christians) they saw themselves living in the last days and thus, also produced fabricated text of myth to support their own version of theology. Texts such as the War Scroll, where the righteous and true Jewish children of light will do battle with the evil forces support by the corrupted Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, and along with other texts such as the Apocryphal Pentateuch, Apocryphon of Jeremiah and other ancient Jewish leaders and prophets, Puesdo-Daniel, Puesdo-Enoch, Puesdo-Ezekiel, Puesdo-Moses and Puesdo-Jubilees and many more text written to legitimize only their sect as God’s true Jews. (6)
It is no coincidence that the Christian religion was begun in this hot bed of religious discontent in which new sects sprang up supporting “newly found” texts written by well respected ancient prophets, patriarchs and other “Idea Figures” proving they were God’s personal choice. With the competition for God’s legitimacy now being proven though fabricated holy texts which swamped the Jews of Palestine, Christianity moved in with a novel idea of the concept of Theios Aner or Divine Man in the Greco-Roman world based on Greek myths where the Greek (and Roman) gods had relations with humans and produced half god and half human or the demigods. It is in just such rich tradition that the formation Gospel texts with their divine image of Jesus that Christianity broke away from the Judisms which used forged text for its ligitmation. Now, instead of having to create ancient texts to show God’s approval / blessing, God himself fathers a royal demigod son who only needs to be established in the Jewish tradition by citing proof texts from the Greek Old Testament (LXX) which the authors of the Gospels gladly did (thus, exposing the Greek thinking behind the soon to be created Greek Gospel traditions). (7) These new concepts as drawn from Greek myths of a virgin birth when the Jewish Semitic Yahweh is now the Greek Theos who descends to earth and mates with a human who, inturn gives birth to a demigod working miracles but, like in the Jewish Apocalypses, he ascends back to Heaven. However, at this point the Gospels are not clear on whether Jesus was a spirit or flesh and they are unclear as to whether the fish he ate and the clothes he wore when to Heaven too since in Jewish Apocalypses, ancient Biblical characters, like Paul, seemed only to be caught up in the spirit. (8)
Not to be out done, once Christianity had established itself as a growing sect (especially among the Gentiles under Paul in Asia Minor) it also acquired the taste to fabricate more Scriptures (apart from the forged Gospels) in which the Apostles, Paul, along with Pilate and other New Testament characters recorded their own stories about Jesus, faith, martyrdom, the after life and the spread of Christianity. (9) Even canonized New Testament texts such as Peter and Jude depended on Jewish forgeries to base certain points of their theology. Again, long dead famous men such as Enoch (I Enoch) and Job (Testament of Job) were used. Thus, Jude 14 -15 quotes I Enoch 1: 9 while James, I & 2 Peter make use of I Enoch, Jubilees, Testament of Job and other Pseudepigrapha (or false writings as modern scholars term the collection). (10)
In the ancient world, where an abscessed tooth meant certain death and where only two in a hundred lived to the age of 50 (based on bones dated in graves excavated in Alexandrian, Egypt), (11) the promise of untold wealth for the poor faithful masses promised an escape from an ancient world ravaged with hardship, plus a short life complicated with hunger and disease. Without being born into royalty and wealth, one could now gain both of these and more simply by faith! (12) Moreover, the concept of Theios Aner (Divine Man) where again, the faithful masses were promised by the Gospel tradition directly from Jesus himself to be given powers for healing and wonder workings should they only believe and they too could become Theios Aner (Divine Men) just like Jesus working wonders with eternal life thrown in to boot just as the divine rulers of ancient Egypt and Rome had enjoyed too as semi-gods. In John 14, Jesus promises rooms to the believers in his father’s or God’s very own house plus, Jesus promises even greater power to work miracles (14:12) when he is gone. But as time passed and promises failed, these forged texts had to be re-interpretreted or simply ignored. Thus, the famous Christ evangelization quote of John 3:16 is one such failed promise in that had orginally promised that since God loved the cosmos, all who believed in Jesus would not die, but have life eternal as a Theios Aner. (13)
Stories of Divine Men working miracles such as that of Philostratus’ The Life of Apollonius of Tyana proved this status was indeed possible. (14) In his life of Apollonius, we find a Greek counter part to the New Testament where a saintly ascetic Greek philosopher works miraculous wonders and predicts the future ending in a life of 100 years after he trains his disciples and, in which Philostratus suggests he never died. (15)
The end to the flat out fabrication and fraudulent religious texts is generally given around 200CE as the Jews sought to control such writings which inflamed Jewish nationalistic theological ideals and had lead to the expulsion of all Jews from Palestine after the Bar Kochba revolt. Although there are a number of problems with a set date for canonization of the Hebrew Bible, the Council of Jamnia in 90 CE is usually given as date the limiting the Jewish canon.
On the Christian side, it is accepted that the collection / canon is given in 367 CE by Athanasius, bishop of Alexander in his Easter letter. Within Christianity, the shift in forged holy texts came to an end within the restrictive confines of dogmas a expressed in the orthodox creeds. (16)
It is not a coincident that this background to the so-called “absolute truth” of the morals and ethics of the Christian faith and history has been suppressed as the “Red Headed Step Child” in churches and conservative colleges and universities. While pious believers continue to claim there can be no morals or ethics without God, to counte this claim, one they only needs to look at the fake healing televangelists who swindle- the poor out of their money and placed in perspective with the lying and fabrication of holy text one can clearly see (as the old proverb goes: “an apple does not fall far from its tree”!
1. Such is the ascension of Heaven give to Enoch in I Enoch and carried out in more detail in 2 & 3 Enoch. See for example the excellent works by Martha Himmelfabb: Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocrylpses, Oxford 1993; shows how apocalyptic writings were created / forged as religious propaganda to inspire the righteous on what God had laid up for them in Heaven. On the other hand, in her earlier work: Tours of Hell: An Apocalyptic From in Jewish and Christian Literature she reveals the negative side of religious propaganda as to the fate of the damned in the same genre of literature where, for example, men who commit adultery are hung in Hell by their penises while women are hung by their breasts.
2. See the major work in the two volume set edited by James H. Charlesworth: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (OTP), Doubleday, 1983).
3. Sid Z. Leiman, The Canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures: The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence, Archon Books, 1976. Pp. 17 -18.
4. Charlesworth, OTP, Introduction, p. xxvi.
5. Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era, edited by J. Neusner, E. Frerichs and J. Smith, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
6. A complete list can be found in: Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Oxford University Press, 2,000; volume 2, “Provisional List of Documents from the Judean Desert”, pp. 1013 – 1049.
7. Although reports of a Hebrew or Aramaic Matthew have been claimed by Papias and Irenaeus, modern scholarship beginning with Erasmus, rejects this claim and careful study proves it was originally written in Greek. Plus, the earliest preserved Gospel is that of John of a small fragment also written in Greek. Facts based of the use of the LXX (a text used by Diaspora Jews whose first language was Greek) and the Hellenistic Greek of the Gospels point to Asia Minor as the place for the creation of the Synoptic tradition and most definitely that of the Gospel of John. It is little wonder then that Jewish theology was married to ancient Greek myths in Asia Minor the very place Paul had the hardest time preaching Jesus as a god-savior as even the book of Acts notes. For example Acts 17: 16 -34 is typical.
In such a foundational light, the Hellenistic Apostle Paul’s last letter (Romans 56 CE) predates the earliest Gospel (Mark) by about 14 years.
8. The fact that Jesus was crucified rises as an unkillable Divine Man is a problem in the understanding of ancient cultic sacrifice in that all meat offered to God was burnt. But this heretical idea seems not to phase the Hellenistic mind.
9. A great collection of these forged Scriptures with introduction are in: Apocryphal New Testament, Edited by M.R. James and revised by J.K Elliott; Oxford, 1993. The recently published Gospel of Judas is one of the few Gnostic codices that directly relates to the Gospels (apart form the “Saying Source” of the Gospel of Thomas).
If one could only read one apocryphal Acts, one of the earliest is that of the revisions of the Acts Andrew better know as: The Acts of Andrew and Matthias in the City of the Cannibals. See The Apocryphal New Testament pp. 229 – 302. Here one find that faith has no limits when it comes to fantastical claims.
10. See the excellent discussion in: The Pesudepigrapha and Early Biblical Interpretation, edited by J.H. Charlesworth and C.A. Evans, Sheffield, 1993 pp. 228 -245.
11. Biblical Archaeological Review (exact issue uncertain).
12. Mostly notably in Revelation 21: 9 – 21 where the new Jerusalem is described in jewels and this despite the austere teachings about wealth of Jesus in the Gospels on earth, but they could be “laid up in Heaven” Matt. 6: 19 – 20…this was and is the bases for the Prosperity Gospel and who says “You can‘t take it with you“!).
13. The Greek word “apollumi” is defined in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2ed, Chicago, 1979 as primarily “ruin, destroy” as in death. Compare its use in other New Testament passages as Matt. 8: 25, 26: 52, Mark 4: 38, Luke 8: 24, 13: 3&5, Romans 2: 12. If not taken in this sense, the idea that the wicked can escape Hell / The Lake of Fire by simply becoming nothing totally runs counter to Jesus’ statements about Hell in the Synoptic Gospels and the book of Revelation. On the other hand, that the wicked simply “perish” is a strong claim for atheism.
14. Note: This claim is pushed by Jesus in Mark 9: 1 and Luke 9: 27 only to be called into question and defended in 2 Peter 3:4. The living and faithful Christians could escape death altogether simply by waiting for Jesus to return and removed both the dead and the living into a new kingdom on earth at any hour Luke 12: 35 40, = Matt. 24: 32 – 44 and expressed by Paul in 1 Thess. 5: 1 -11.
15. Philostratus: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Translated and edited by F.C. Conybeare; Vols. 1 and 2, Harvard University Press. These 2 volumes from the Loeb Classical Library has the Greek and English of facing pages.
In the competitive ancient Christian world, some else’s religion was what your religious sect termed magic or, simply put, your religion is my magic. An early example can be see in Exodus 7 : 8-8: 19 in which Pharaoh’s magicians compete with Moses and Aaron.
In Hellenistic times, this is clearly noted in Acts 8. Morton Smith states:
This is a piece of Christian propaganda against the followers of Simon. Its primary object is to show that the cult of Simon is inferior to that of Jesus because Simon himself was converted to Christianity and baptized by a Christian. Moreover, it intends to show that Simon was inferior to the apostles, as well as to Jesus, because he never received the power to communicate the holy spirit to his followers, though he tried to buy it, and was publicly rebuked by the apostles and accepted their rebuke and asked them to pray for him. Just for good measure it adds that Simon had a shady past: He had previously been a magician and it was his magical prowess which had made his followers believe that he was the Great Power of God. (Studies in the Cult of Yahweh: Vol. II New Testament, Early Christianity, & Magic, edited by S.J.D. Cohen, E.J. Brill, 1996, p.141.)
For even more uses of religion as magic see: Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells, University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Hans Betz had taught New Testament for years at the University of Chicago Divinity School and has an excellent introduction to the Papyri and how magic was an intrinsic part of religion; pp. xli – liii.
16. Robert Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity, Cambridge University Press,1990, pp.137 – 228.
[Written by Harry McCall and first posted 4/23/08]