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Publisher's Summary

It is often said, even by critical scholars who should know better, that “writing in the name of another” was widely accepted in antiquity. But New York Times best-selling author Bart D. Ehrman dares to call it what it was: literary forgery, a practice that was as scandalous then as itis today. In Forged, Ehrman’s fresh and original research takes readers back to the ancient world, where forgeries were used as weapons by unknown authors to fend off attacks to their faith and establish their church. So, if many of the books inthe Bible were not in fact written by Jesus’s inner circle - but by writers living decades later, with differing agendas in rival communities - what does that do to the authority of Scripture?

Ehrman investigates ancient sources to:

  • Reveal which New Testament books were outright forgeries.
  • Explain how widely forgery was practiced by early Christian writers - and how strongly it was condemned in the ancient world as fraudulent and illicit
  • Expose the deception in the history of the Christian religion.

Ehrman’s fascinating story of fraud and deceit is essential reading for anyone interested in the truth about the Bible and the dubious origins of Christianity’s sacred texts.

©2010 Bart D. Ehrman (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Fletch
  • South Carolina
  • 09-05-12

Faith shaking

This is a tough book to review. I have rated it highly based on the quality of the production and authorship. It is engaging and appears to be well researched. I did not enjoy this book, however, for the light it has shined on the holiest books in Christianity and the doubt it has cast on my faith.

After completing "Forged," I have to say it has had a significant impact on my faith. The direction of that impact is toward doubt. How deep and how wide the impact will be in the end remains to be seen.

If you accept Ehrman's research and conclusions, then it could make you question every word of the New Testament. "Misquoting Jesus" revealed that there are errors in the Bible. "Forged" takes that even further in saying that many of the books are not written by the men they are attributed to commonly or, in some cases, not even written in the correct century.

Every Christian's faith is different, I know, and you could simply conclude that my faith was already weak. I won't argue otherwise, but I will suggest that if you are looking for a book that will strengthen your faith in God or the Bible, then this is not the best choice.

The question I am left with is whether it's better to believe the Bible is divinely inspired and without error or to accept that man's touch has tainted it? If you choose the latter, then my experience has been that it's a slippery slope.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 08-20-12

A Must for Bible Studies

The first 4 chapters of this book are pretty dry stuff. They justify Ehrman's argument that the term "forgery" applies to these early Christian authors, who were writing with definite intent to impersonate the Apostles and other revered figures in Christianity.

And, I think he's right. It does make a difference that, however well-meaning and self-convinced, these authors had agendas which would have been incomprehensible to (and in many cases, contrary to the beliefs of) the people they pretended to be. It's important that we recognize the motives of scribes who were trying not only to reassure and strengthen their Christian followers in an age of persecution, but also to appease and recruit Gentiles into a religion which was becoming increasingly divided from the Jewish tradition.

Yes, there's a lot of repetition here. But this is vital stuff for Bible study. Most of us, even non-literalists, never get such information from our churches. Being aware of this context for early Christian writings helps in understanding the many contradictions and problems in the Bible and other early Christian works.

Probably, alas, this book will have no effect whatever on those with total conviction that the Bible is the absolute and literal word of God. But, for the rest of us, it helps in a personal understanding of the Bible and, hopefully, will also aide in group approaches toward teaching Bible studies, especially to the young!

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 05-10-12

Good Info

Lots of good referable material. I believe most of the material presented, the parts that send me for a loop is where he says he is an expert at picking either side of an argument and winning a debate. Giving the touchy subject and then telling me that, makes me want to second guess everything he is saying. However, like I said good referable material, I don't ever take anyone's word for anything without doing my own little investigation.

I will probably listen to this book a few more times.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Chi
  • Riverside, CA, United States
  • 04-10-12

I expect no less

Where does Forged rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I liked it as far as Bart D. Erhmen's Biblical history goes, he is a scholar and the scholarship here is solid,

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The conclusion of the book isn't surprising, with an well argued premises

What does Walter Dixon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Clear pronounciation.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, the book is 8 hours + long, you would not want to finish this in a single sitting.

Any additional comments?

There are considerable overlap in scholarship this book has with Misquoting Jesus, Peter Paul and Mary Magedelen.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Made my Faith Stronger

I live in the middle of the Bible Belt. Springfield, Mo. is home to the Assembly of God and we have a baptist church on every corner. I have had several heated arguments with friends about the bible. One problem I have had is the inconsistencies in what the bible says. I especially had trouble with Paul's teachings. In one part of the bible Paul says that women can participate in church and in another they can't even ask questions in church, they are to wait until they get home and ask there husbands. In one part Paul wants everyone to be chaste, (No Sex) even with your spouse. In another women are suppose to have babies and raise them up in the church.

My friends are blind to these inconsistencies making up thinly veiled excuses and if you question the excuses you are awful and going to hell. I always had trouble with the wrathful God of the old testament and the loving God of the new testament being the same God and being perfect. My friends believe that God is perfect and the bible is perfect and if you question either, you are going to hell and burn forever.

First, I believe in a God who welcomes questions. I do not believe in a God who thinks men are superior to women. In order to not believe in a false god you must be able to ask questions. Second, I believe that Faith, means never having absolute evidence. Faith comes from the heart, it is something you know. Like you know that your spouse is the one for you, like when shopping for a house, you know the right one when you see it. Faith can not be explained, love can not be explained and God can not be explained.

Ehrman's book shows where parts of the bible are forgeries. My faith has always told me that Women and Men are equal and if you take out the forgeries, then that is what Paul actually says. Christians who believe that the bible is perfect and fear that if the bible was not perfect, they would not have faith, need to question there faith now. There will never be 100% proof that God exists and never 100% proof that the bible is perfect, if there was we would not have Faith.

This my second Ehrman book and they both were Five Stars. The narrator is excellent.

40 of 46 people found this review helpful

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The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

There's an old saying in jounalism, to the effect that you should believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you read. And it's probably the belief in the written word that has led human beings to stray from healthy skepticism into revealed religion for all of recorded history. No one would have remembered nor even known about the inane mutterings of a tribe of Bronze age desert wanderers had they not had the temerity to write down stories about their imaginary friend.

Bart Ehrman has it right, I think, at least partly right. We humans are credulous beings. Once people had written documents, the forging could commence, perpetrated by people who wanted control over the minds of other people. "This is what happened, see, it's all here for you to read!" Let the revelations begin.

Bart started life as a fundamentalist christian, but as this book proves, his inquisitive and logical mind could hardly sustain that. This book is a great read, and I'm sure even Bart would say it's worthy of a healthy dose of informed skepticism.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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An Excellent Piece of Scholarship

If you enjoy theological histories, or if you just really love semantics, this book is for you. Feel like Christianity is missing the story behind the story? Fill in the blanks! Bugged by the self-righteous or Holier Than Thou? Arm yourself! Curious about why the modern world believes certain things the way we do? Educate yourself! Interested in esoteric archaeology and don't know where to dig? X marks the spot! Whatever your reasons for digging deep into early Christianity, there's something for everyone.

This isn't an easy read, and I certainly don't recommend plowing through it. Mr. Ehrman is a top notch scholar, and he gives you the benefit of his labors as straightforward as he can, and while he doesn't expect you to be the expert he is, it's still on you to keep up. This isn't the kind of book you listen to while doing other things. But don't let that scare you. It's only as complex as you want to make it. I'd suggest taking it slowly, in bite-size segments, letting the information marinate a bit before moving on to the next chapter. You'll make it to the bottom of the rabbit hole with confidence if you're willing to actively listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Energetic and iconoclastic as usual

Bart Ehrman appears to write his books so that you can pick up any one of them without having read the previous ones. To some extent this results in repetition of basic principles, because many of his conclusions start from the same place. This one has less repetition of earlier material than some of his books. And while some may object to the term "forgery" in this context, he supports his conclusions with voluminous evidence; the terms may vary, but he is, like it or not, very much within the mainstream of 21st-century Biblical research. His main original contribution here is to go back to what ancient authors actually said about books falsely attributed to certain people: turns out the frequent argument that "attributing your book to your teacher or to someone famous was accepted practice in the ancient world" is simply not true. Ehrman shows his usual energy in following through on this idea. Clear exposition, well-narrated.

23 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacobus
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 04-04-11

Ehrman challenges the status quo again

As far as I can ascertain, prof. Bart D. Ehrman's Forged is the first popular book he wrote, before a scholarly work on the same subject matter. The fundamentalist Evangelical scholar turned agnostic investigates the issue of truth and apply it on the human writers of the Bible. He challenges the basic assumption of scholars concerning pseudepigraphic books found in early Christianity, especially those found in the New Testament. He calls the category where the Bible authors wrote under the name of a well-known figure in early Christianity downright forgery. In this book he produces evidence that this type of writing was widely condemned in the ancient world. It wasn't acceptable, as modern scholars would let people believe. This is the challenge Ehrman throws to the reader, if a large part of the New Testament is a forgery, where does it leave us, especially when claiming it to be God's truth? While listening the book I couldn't help but feel that Ehrman might be going too far. It was difficult to see the writer of Luke and Acts as a forger. Yet, Ehrman makes an compelling argument. Christians must take notice of this book and the problems it present to the faith. Where will honest answers lead readers to?

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not Quite Inerrant

This is a book that needs an open-minded reading (or hearing) from every Christian who claims that those who disagree with their views have simply failed to open their heart and mind to the Holy Spirit.
Although certain of books of the Bible claim to report divine revelations, the Bible makes no overall claim of its own inerrancy. Most people agree that the Bible was written by many authors at many different times. Decisions about which writings qualify as scripture was made long after the lifetimes of the authors. This is true of the Old Testament as well as the New; though this book focuses on the later.

Bart Erhman presents a clear and compelling case for the proposition that traditional understanding of who wrote the books of the New Testament is incorrect and that many of them include false authorship claims (which makes them forgeries). Use of this highly pejorative (though entirely accurate) descriptor serves to pull the reader out of the complacency with which the uncertain authorship of the text is often approached. Acknowledging that we do not have original texts of any of these writings, Ehrman points to the oldest of the surviving copies to conclude that they were well educated in Greek, not the Aramaic-speaking disciples with first-hand knowledge of Jesus that they claimed to be. Additionally, they address theological issues that arose decades, if not centuries, after the death of their purported authors.

Ehrman does not limit his analysis to those books included in the New Testament canon; he also reviews writings that were rejected expressly because they were thought to be forgeries. His conclusion is unavoidable: applying the same standards of veracity to biblical texts as we would to any other work, we cannot accept the teachings of much (but not all) of the New Testament.

15 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-08-11

Informative and enjoyable

Another Bart Ehrman book I've thoroughly enjoyed. I learned plenty along the way and enjoyed the writing and presentation style. I got slightly frustrated with the repetition of certain points and phrases, sometimes word-for-word, particularly in the first half of the book. I also felt that the author slightly over-played some of his arguments and played down (though didn't ignore) one or two more credible counter-arguments, but perhaps that's always going to be the case (and is probably more true for other authors who stick to a far more conservative line!). Nonetheless, I was hooked through to the end. Now it'll no doubt be another all-too-long wait for his next book!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • I. A. Clark
  • 12-27-11

Call forgery by its right name

Why should someone write in the name of Peter, or Jesus?
This is a question that matters deeply to the author. This is not a book by one of Christianity's many enemies. Nor is this a lightweight romp to poke fun at people's beliefs.
Bart D Ehrman painstakingly distinguishes between false attribution (which may have been made in good faith) through scribal insertions and plagiarism to "pseudepigraphy" -- which he makes the strongest case for calling by its right name: forgery. As he says: "Whoever added the final twelve verses of Mark did not do so by a mere slip of the pen."
Scholars have defended pseudepigraphy as writing "inspired by" (say) Peter or Paul. But these "inspired" forgers often contrived to make Peter or Paul say things they hadn't -- and wouldn't. Things which conspicuously contradicted the apostles' views expressed elsewhere. Pseudo-Paul's controversial prohibition against women speaking out in church is a case in point, as is the vitriolic anti-semitism of the so-called "Gospel of Barnabas" (Barnabas being Paul's close companion, best-placed to know his real views).
No claim is ever made, or refuted, without several citations from classical authors, as with the often-heard opinion (never supported by evidence) that writing under the name of a famous person was condoned in the ancient world. It wasn't: the author quoting well-known classical authors such as Horace enraged on finding themselves its victims, plus citing instances where people caught at it were censured, dismissed or severely punished.
The book is well summed-up in the author's own words: "It may seem odd to modern readers, or even counter-intuitive, that a religion that built its reputation on possessing the Truth, had members who attempted to disseminate their understanding of the Truth through deceptive means. But it is precisely what happened. The use of deception to promote the Truth may well be considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the early Christian tradition."