Saturday, March 21, 2009

"I, Josephus"

Jon Curry has written the following about the use of the phrase "I, Paul" in the letters of Paul:

"'I Paul' references are also suspicious as they are in many pseudonymous works as a dead give away to forgery." (source)

"Sprinkled throughout all of these texts we have all of these 'I, Paul' references, which as I've said before and as Bart Ehrman also taught is a technique used by forgers, common in many other documents we all recognize as pseudonymous. If you sit down and write an occasional letter you don't spend a lot of time making strong overtures to prove that you are you. This is something that is done by somebody that has pseudonymity on the mind." (source)

Jon later modified his ridiculous "dead giveaway" comment, but continues to use the argument in a diminished form:

"And I will modify my claim of 'I, Paul' as a 'dead giveaway' to forgery as 'I, Paul' to indicative of forgery. It might be a dead giveaway, but I'm not sure. It's definitely indicative of forgery, and is a technique used by forgers frequently." (source)

There are many problems with Jon’s argument. Those who are interested can consult the threads above, where I discuss some of the problems. This post is intended to add to what I’ve written elsewhere, not to repeat everything I’ve said on the subject.

Though Jon cites Bart Ehrman, it should be noted that Ehrman doesn’t consider "I, [author’s name]" to be a "dead give away" of forgery. He accepts as genuine multiple Pauline documents that use the phrase "I, Paul". For example, he not only affirms the Pauline authorship of 1 Corinthians, but even goes as far as to say that "No one doubts, however, that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians." (Misquoting Jesus [San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005], p. 183) Jon is using Ehrman’s argument in a manner Ehrman didn’t intend. Ehrman doesn’t think the phrase "I, [author’s name]" is as indicative of forgery as Jon has suggested.

In the first thread linked above, an example Jon cites in support of his argument is The Infacy Gospel Of Thomas. It opens with the phrase "I, Thomas". The phrase doesn’t appear again in the rest of the document. Thus, Jon is suggesting that such a phrase is unacceptable even if it’s used in the opening of a document to identify the author and isn’t used again.

Lately, as I’ve discussed in recent posts, Jon has been defending the reliability of the works of Josephus. In his recent work Josephus, Judea, And Christian Origins (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), Steve Mason renders the opening of Josephus’ Jewish War with the phrase "I, Josephus" (p. 58). H. St. J. Thackeray uses "I - Josephus" (Josephus: The Jewish War, Books I-II [Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997], p. 3).

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