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Is The Epistle To The Ephesians A Forgery?


consiglieri

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Often in my discussions with evangelical Christians regarding the issue of salvation, they will turn to Ephesians 2:8-9 to demonstrate their belief that we are saved by grace alone, and not through any works on our part.

Fair enough, but before we start using proof-texts from Ephesians, should we not first pause to consider whether Paul actually wrote it in the first place?

It appears that the majority of New Testament scholars agree that Ephesians is a forgery; and that one of the primary reasons for this consensus is because of this very passage, which contradicts what Paul wrote in his other epistles.

The following comes from The New Testament--A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, by Bart D. Ehrman, (2000), p. 353.

Another interesting difference (in Ephesians) from Paul's own letters is the way the author of Ephesians 2:1-10 conceptualizes "works." In Paul's gospel, Gentiles are made right with God not by doing the works of the Law but through faith in Christ's death. Thus, when Paul speaks about works, he is referring to doing those aspects of the Law that make Jews distinctive as the people of Israel (e.g., circumcision and kosher food laws). Ephesians, however, no longer refers to the Jewish Law, but speaks instead of "good deeds" (see 2:8-10). Interestingly, as we found in the previous chapter, the author of James countered a later version of Paul's gospel that insisted that faith without doing good deeds was adequate before God. It appears that the author of Ephesians understands "works" in this later, non-Pauline, sense.

What do you think?

Should we shelve Ephesians when attempting to get to the heart of the original, authentic gospel message?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Probably not. I think there's a fair amount of textual corruption throughout the NT. Whether the passage quoted is simply corruption of the text, or indicative of a forgery is something that could be debated without coming to a conclusion.

I don't think we have enough information to justify trimming the NT at this point. We shouldn't follow in the steps of Marcion.

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I do not think it is a good idea for a LDS to begin to try and define what is and is not part of the inspired record that is the Bible. It seems to me that Joseph Smith and the church as a whole accepted the Bible as one of the standard works and thus as part of our rule of faith. This of course does not mean the Bible is inerrant or complete or absolutely perfect, but I think it necessitates a very high view of scriptures.

The Bible as a whole does not teach forensic justification by faith alone. Modern (and Protestant) scholars are providing plenty of reason to find that the Reformers profoundly misunderstood Paul.

A recent book by Chris Vanlandingham IMO convincingly demonstrates that the forensic nature of justification is a misreading of the text that would have been foreign to Paul and 1st century Jews.

Ehrman IMO is valuable in that he shows that some of the more simple views of Biblical inerrancy should be abandoned thus validating the LDS claim that the Bible has been subject to â??translationâ? problems. But, I would be reluctant to claim that certain verses of the Bible should be rejected. I think the Comma Johanneum is not a problemfor LDS theology, but it does demonstrate that â??translatorsâ? were quite willing to alter scripture to insert support for their theological ideas.

Charity, TOm

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Ehrman IMO is valuable in that he shows that some of the more simple views of Biblical inerrancy should be abandoned thus validating the LDS claim that the Bible has been subject to "translation" problems. But, I would be reluctant to claim that certain verses of the Bible should be rejected. I think the Comma Johanneum is not a problemfor LDS theology, but it does demonstrate that "translators" were quite willing to alter scripture to insert support for their theological ideas.

I agree, for the most part.

There are some passages in the Bible that are questionable; however, we don't have enough documentation or authority to be revising them at this point.

Ehrman is a great scholar from a research standpoint, but you do have to watch out for some of the conclusions he draws.

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Consig--

Even given the underlying premise of your OP, I'd suggest that "forgery" is too strong a term.

Are you suggesting that the letter to the Ephesians, even if not Pauline, should be ousted from he canon? That it is an imposition that should be summarily dropped from any and all consideration of NT biblical expression?

Best.

CKS

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Often in my discussions with evangelical Christians regarding the issue of salvation, they will turn to Ephesians 2:8-9 to demonstrate their belief that we are saved by grace alone, and not through any works on our part.

Fair enough, but before we start using proof-texts from Ephesians, should we not first pause to consider whether Paul actually wrote it in the first place?

It appears that the majority of New Testament scholars agree that Ephesians is a forgery; and that one of the primary reasons for this consensus is because of this very passage, which contradicts what Paul wrote in his other epistles.

The following comes from The New Testament--A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, by Bart D. Ehrman, (2000), p. 353.

What do you think?

Should we shelve Ephesians when attempting to get to the heart of the original, authentic gospel message?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

Eph 1:1

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I agree, for the most part.

There are some passages in the Bible that are questionable; however, we don't have enough documentation or authority to be revising them at this point.

Ehrman is a great scholar from a research standpoint, but you do have to watch out for some of the conclusions he draws.

I'll third this conclusion. Ehrman has some fascinating stuff out there. I'm about to begin Lost Christianities, but I think that Ehrman tends to reach a bit further in his conclusions than I am comfortable with. I understand that his Biblical criticism research took him from Evangelical inerrantist to agnostic with no faith in the Bible, and I think that swing from one extreme to the other tends to color his conclusions somewhat.

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This isn't just a problem for evangelicals. Mormons believe the bible to be "the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly." The problem with pseudepigraphal texts is not that they are translated incorrectly; the problem is they're made up. And this problem extends further than a single epistle; I don't have a list handy, but modern scholarship indicates the amount of pseudepigraphal work in the bible is substantial. The gospels could even be included in that list, since it is virtually certain they were not written by the authors traditionally attributed to them. (Although I'm not sure if they fit the description of pseudepigraphy in the strictest sense, since the authors themselves didn't claim to be Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.)

In any case, it is known that the bible is full of forgery. Is that forgery still "the word of God"? Is it, as some have suggested, inspired forgery?

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I'll third this conclusion. Ehrman has some fascinating stuff out there. I'm about to begin Lost Christianities, but I think that Ehrman tends to reach a bit further in his conclusions than I am comfortable with. I understand that his Biblical criticism research took him from Evangelical inerrantist to agnostic with no faith in the Bible, and I think that swing from one extreme to the other tends to color his conclusions somewhat.

I've read several of Ehman's books and enjoyed them immensely. He does talk about his personal spiritual path (in "Misquoting Jesus", I believe), and I think you're correct in that the conclusions he drew swung the pendulum too far to the other side.

As such, I read for the research he provides - and then draw my own conclusions, since I also have other latter day sources to draw from.

As far as this thread is concerned, I think Ehrman is very dubiouis personally of the inspired sources of biblical texts - but I think that he would want to keep Ephesians from a scholarly standpoint because of its historical importance.

We want to keep Ephesians in because despite textual corruption or other problems, there is still much inspired counsel to be gleaned from the book.

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I've read several of Ehman's books and enjoyed them immensely. He does talk about his personal spiritual path (in "Misquoting Jesus", I believe), and I think you're correct in that the conclusions he drew swung the pendulum too far to the other side.

As such, I read for the research he provides - and then draw my own conclusions, since I also have other latter day sources to draw from.

Exactly. Ehrman's just gotten me into biblical research (I read Misquoting Jesus 6 months ago), and I hope to take some of his work and references to use them as a starting point. It's an intriguing area that I think Mormon studies is starting to make headway in, and I hope to follow it.

As far as this thread is concerned, I think Ehrman is very dubiouis personally of the inspired sources of biblical texts - but I think that he would want to keep Ephesians from a scholarly standpoint because of its historical importance.

We want to keep Ephesians in because despite textual corruption or other problems, there is still much inspired counsel to be gleaned from the book.

Yeah, it's just hard to separate the inspired from the uninspired. Or we could take Mighty Curelom's view that the whole thing is a crock. :P

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I think Ehrman and Mighty Curelom take the evidence they find too far and neglect evidence they shouldnâ??t. They are both examples of the logical conclusion of the type of thinking critics of the church invite LDS to embrace, and we should not.

MC has left the CoJCoLDS and no longer sees reason to believe in Christ. He like Ehrman has found that the proper use of reason and discerning thought removes sufficient reason for belief and the only honest path is to cease to believe. There are numerous problems with such a methodology and I would suggest that nobody should apply reason like this, but there is some consistency here. (MCâ??s comments that I have read here and the past do not provide sufficient illumination of his thought. I will speak on such thought in general terms in a bit, recognizing that I could certainly over generalize).

I have often seen secular critics of the CoJCoLDS invite faltering members of the CoJCoLDS to complete the application of reason and depart from Christianity all together. MCâ??s post is only a slight variation. He says, having seen the issues Ehrman illustrates, recognize that such issues undermine the CoJCoLDS. For me such is evidence that MC does not currently and likely did not when he was a member understand the ground of faith for the LDS. Also it IMO evidences that MC embraced a dogmatic faith at odds with the type of relational, growing, becoming faith Joseph Smith outlined (exemplified) for us. Do not be a Mighty Curelom despite the grandeur connotated by such names and attitudes.

The consistency achieved by the secular critic of the CoJCoLDS IMO is lacking from the Christian (especially some of the more fundamentalist) critics of the CoJCoLDS. These critics invite LDS to weigh and judge our theology with tools that would readily dismantle their faith. They latch onto difficulties that IMO are much smaller for us than the difficulties Ehrman illustrates for some of them. Examples are numerous, but the somewhat dishonest desire of Living Hope Ministries to illustrated the DNA case against the BOM with evidence they intentionally filtered to remove problems for young-earth creationist, would be one overly simple one. Accept this evidence, reject Mormonism, believe like us, but let us not shake the boat of the young-earth creationists because they are not deceived like Mormons. This is again a simple and specific example, but I more decry the methodology. Focus on issues, do not incorporate such issues into a believing framework, (neglect evidence that points solidly the other way), and reject your faith. Such thinking would decimate non-LDS Christianity.

I may get into more of why I think MCâ??s thinking is flawed and should be rejected later. Here is a link that I like where William Lane Craig discusses the differences and similarities between him and Bart Ehrman.

http://www.denverseminary.edu/dj/articles2006/0200/0206.php

Charity, TOm

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Probably not. I think there's a fair amount of textual corruption throughout the NT. Whether the passage quoted is simply corruption of the text, or indicative of a forgery is something that could be debated without coming to a conclusion.

I don't think we have enough information to justify trimming the NT at this point. We shouldn't follow in the steps of Marcion.

Actually, I am not proposing that LDS do what Tertullian accused Marcion of doing; i.e.,

"Marcion teaches the Bible, not with his pen, but with his penknife, cutting out everything which does not agree with his own ideas"

If we did that, we would be saying that we don't like what Ephesians teaches, and therefore we exclude it from the canon.

What I propose is something more the reverse and less extreme:

Because the non-LDS scholarly consensus is already that Ephesians is a forgery, and was not written by Paul; and because the non-LDS scholarly consensus is that the very passage in question (i.e., Ephesians 2:8-9) is one of the reasons for that conclusion;

THEREFORE,

Does it not make sense before entering into a discussion of salvation based upon Ephesians 2:8-9 to bring up the fact that the non-LDS scholarly consensus is that Ephesians is a forgery?

I am not suggesting we actually cut Ephesians (and the other Deutero-Pauline epistles, 2 Thessalonians and Colossians) out of the New Testament, or that we staple the pages together.

An analogy might be: Shouldn't we discuss the provenance of the Hoffman Salamander Letter and whether it is a forgery before we enter into a discussion of how it impacts church history?

Just some thoughts.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I agree, for the most part.

There are some passages in the Bible that are questionable; however, we don't have enough documentation or authority to be revising them at this point.

Ehrman is a great scholar from a research standpoint, but you do have to watch out for some of the conclusions he draws.

In this case, however, it is not Ehrman's sole conclusion, but the fact that he presents the scholarly consensus on the issue.

I see this as different than glomming onto whatever Ehrman says, especially were he the only one to advance a certain position.

Here he is far from alone.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Consig--

Even given the underlying premise of your OP, I'd suggest that "forgery" is too strong a term.

Are you suggesting that the letter to the Ephesians, even if not Pauline, should be ousted from he canon? That it is an imposition that should be summarily dropped from any and all consideration of NT biblical expression?

Best.

CKS

Dear CKS,

No, I am not suggesting anything so extreme, which I think I have set forth in another post above.

But I do think it worthy of note that Ehrman points out that Ephesians 2:8-9 contradicts Pauline expressions in other epistles unanimously accepted as authored by Paul; that this very passage is one of the (many) reasons the majority of non-LDS New Testament scholars have for believing Ephesians was not written by Paul; and from an apologetic point of view, that the LDS view of salvation comports comfortably with the Pauline expressions of salvation expressed in Paul's uncontested epistles.

All the best to you, this morning!

--Consiglieri

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As such, I read for the research he provides - and then draw my own conclusions, since I also have other latter day sources to draw from.

As far as this thread is concerned, I think Ehrman is very dubiouis personally of the inspired sources of biblical texts - but I think that he would want to keep Ephesians from a scholarly standpoint because of its historical importance.

We want to keep Ephesians in because despite textual corruption or other problems, there is still much inspired counsel to be gleaned from the book.

Actually, in the entirety of the article from which I quoted the single passage in the OP, Ehrman reasonably says that, just because the majority of scholars agree that Ephesians is a forgery does not necessarily make it so. He then goes on to say that the reader should draw their own conclusions, and then sets forth a number of good reasons for doubting the Pauline authorship of Ephesians. It is a rather long article, and I did not want to copy it in its entirety, especially for an OP, because that tends to make it difficult for posters to enter a thread.

One of the other reasons given, which I will synopsize here rather than copy word-for-word:

Paul spends a great deal of time in 1 Corinthians (and elsewhere) combatting the false notion being adopted by believers that they have already participated in a "spiritual" resurrection through Christ; that they already sit and rule and reign in heavenly places with Christ; and that because of this, they are assured of salvation no matter how badly they act in the here and now.

Ephesians (as well as Colossians), on the other hand, actually teach this very idea that Paul combatted in 1 Corinthians.

It thus seems probable that Ephesians (and Colossians) were written by a Christian who believed as the off-base Corinthians did, and who then authored an epistle in Paul's name teaching the doctrine Paul decried, in order to give it a scriptural (and Pauline) basis of authority.

Below is Ephesians 2:1-10, with some bold-face for emphasis:

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good bworks, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We might look at this from a different angle and ask, "Is there a good reason to accept the doctrine of Ephesians when it contradicts what Paul says in 1 Corinthians?"

I am not saying that Ephesians is without value, because it gives us a window into an early form of Christianity.

But I think we should look through that window with an informed view of the problems associated with linking this letter to Paul.

I also tend to think that understanding the issues involved helps me to understand why, arguing from all of Paul's epistles in the New Testament, there has never been agreement on what Paul taught, and there never will be.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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In any case, it is known that the bible is full of forgery. Is that forgery still "the word of God"? Is it, as some have suggested, inspired forgery?

Hi, MC!

As usual, you are well informed.

My feeling is that it is the Mormons who are able to look at New Testament research with a dispassionate eye, because accepting the idea that forgeries may have made it into the Bible does not undermine the LDS faith as it does that of evangelical Christians.

This is of course the beauty of the concept of a restoration and the convenience of living prophets.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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The consistency achieved by the secular critic of the CoJCoLDS IMO is lacking from the Christian (especially some of the more fundamentalist) critics of the CoJCoLDS. These critics invite LDS to weigh and judge our theology with tools that would readily dismantle their faith. They latch onto difficulties that IMO are much smaller for us than the difficulties Ehrman illustrates for some of them. Examples are numerous, but the somewhat dishonest desire of Living Hope Ministries to illustrated the DNA case against the BOM with evidence they intentionally filtered to remove problems for young-earth creationist, would be one overly simple one. Accept this evidence, reject Mormonism, believe like us, but let us not shake the boat of the young-earth creationists because they are not deceived like Mormons. This is again a simple and specific example, but I more decry the methodology. Focus on issues, do not incorporate such issues into a believing framework, (neglect evidence that points solidly the other way), and reject your faith. Such thinking would decimate non-LDS Christianity.

:P

Well put. Thanks for the link, I'll take a look at it.

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Often in my discussions with evangelical Christians regarding the issue of salvation, they will turn to Ephesians 2:8-9 to demonstrate their belief that we are saved by grace alone, and not through any works on our part.

Fair enough, but before we start using proof-texts from Ephesians, should we not first pause to consider whether Paul actually wrote it in the first place?

It appears that the majority of New Testament scholars agree that Ephesians is a forgery; and that one of the primary reasons for this consensus is because of this very passage, which contradicts what Paul wrote in his other epistles.

The following comes from The New Testament--A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, by Bart D. Ehrman, (2000), p. 353.

What do you think?

Should we shelve Ephesians when attempting to get to the heart of the original, authentic gospel message?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

"has saved us and called us to a holy lifeâ??not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace" (2 Timothy 1:9).

"It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved" (Acts 15:11).

"We are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24)

"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy" (Titus 3:5).

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"has saved us and called us to a holy lifeâ??not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace" (2 Timothy 1:9).

"It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved" (Acts 15:11).

"We are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24)

"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy" (Titus 3:5).

Thank you for your demonstration of how verses taken out of context can be made to sound the opposite of what was intended.

Nice work.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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The date of a text isn't necessarily a reflection on its validity. And just because something was added or removed doesn't mean it is invalid. Sometimes corrections are a good thing. The only problem these sorts of issues present are for religions that rely on apostolic authority. They have to provide an unbroken link to their authority. LDS don't have that problem.

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An analogy might be: Shouldn't we discuss the provenance of the Hoffman Salamander Letter and whether it is a forgery before we enter into a discussion of how it impacts church history?

Good thoughts, on this and your subsequent replies; I've been away all day and sorry I couldn't keep up.

I would suspect that both conversations (forgery / history) are going to occur at the same time. When something definitive is found in one area or the other, it will affect the overall discussion.

Of course, Hoffman's forgery wasn't accepted scripture, so the analogy perhaps isn't quite right. The acceptance and analysis of scripture is approached differently than the acceptance and analysis of historical records.

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In this case, however, it is not Ehrman's sole conclusion, but the fact that he presents the scholarly consensus on the issue.

I see this as different than glomming onto whatever Ehrman says, especially were he the only one to advance a certain position.

Here he is far from alone.

Even when we feel there is a scholarly consensus, we still have to consider the spiritual consensus (if any) when making such a determination about scripture. That's why the analysis of scripture is different from the analysis of purely historical records.

There is still a chance that scholarly consensus may be wrong; even the definition of who is "consensusing" (to coin a word) as authorities may be in dispute. This is not meant to reject such consensus outright; however, special care is needed before proceeding to act on such scriptural consensus. Hence the need, in this case, to also take the spiritual into account.

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It thus seems probable that Ephesians (and Colossians) were written by a Christian who believed as the off-base Corinthians did, and who then authored an epistle in Paul's name teaching the doctrine Paul decried, in order to give it a scriptural (and Pauline) basis of authority.

We might look at this from a different angle and ask, "Is there a good reason to accept the doctrine of Ephesians when it contradicts what Paul says in 1 Corinthians?"

I am not saying that Ephesians is without value, because it gives us a window into an early form of Christianity.

But I think we should look through that window with an informed view of the problems associated with linking this letter to Paul.

I also tend to think that understanding the issues involved helps me to understand why, arguing from all of Paul's epistles in the New Testament, there has never been agreement on what Paul taught, and there never will be.

You point out some very good things that make the claims of scripture as inerrant or the final authority so problematic.

There are passages in the Bible that Latter-day Saints interpret very differently from what the perceived scholarly meaning might be, just because of the types of contradictions you mention. When such contradictions occur, whether due to forgery, textual corruption, different perspectives of different writers, or whatever, a prophet of God (not scholars!) is the best source for determining what is correct.

Because LDS place so much emphasis on that spiritual confirmation, bolstered by scholarly research where appropriate, many outside the Church are sometimes frustrated with our views of the scriptures. While most of what is in the Bible can be clearly interpreted to support the doctrines of the Church, there are some passages (such as John 4:24) that we just have to say are wrong.

We do not, after all, play the game by the traditional rules. Having prophets is not very fair.

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Let me start by saying that I'm sure Ephesians is not a forgery. :P I can't prove it, but I know it.

Now, having said that, is there really a contradiction between Ephesians and Paul's writings, or is it an imagined one by the scholars?

I accept what Ephesians says about grace and works.

If Ephesians were a forgery, it'd have to be a very early forgery based on the fact that it mentions clearly the necessity of apostles and continued revelation (God, dwelling in his temple, through the spirit, a temple built upon the foundation of the apostles and Jesus=Living revelation in the church built upon living apostles)

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