2017-18 Rice Seminar Public Lecture: “Literary Deceit in Its Various (Dis)Guises” by Bart Ehrman
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Many scholars of early Christianity express qualms about calling a forgery a forgery – an understandable reluctance when dealing with a book in canonical scripture. An alternative such as “pseudepigraphon” may seem better – more neutral and wissenschaftlich – but it has the drawback of mystification. Who would know it refers to a book written by someone intentionally but falsely claiming to be a famous person? Or that, even in the ancient world, this was considered a lie? There are different ways a text could be forged (sometimes authorial claims, for example, are inserted by later editors). These are usefully differentiated from one another. And forgery is not the only kind of literary deceit. Thus it is important to distinguish one set of practices from another and to determine which can justifiably be considered duplicitous. Plagiarism is obviously a distinct phenomenon; so too are the fabrication of a narrative, the falsification of a text, and the erroneous attribution of a text. This lecture will address these and other forms of literary deceit in evidence among the Christian writings of the first four centuries.