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Reading for Dec. 15, 2012

Author: Pseudo-Ignatius

Reading: Epistle to the Tarsians; Epistle to the Antiochians

Pages: ANF 1:107–112


  1. I can’t help but wonder why the author of these “spurious” epistles thought it necessary to write them under the name of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch. After all, he concludes his letter to the Tarsians with “I do not enjoin these things as being a person af any consequence”. And, at least as far as these first two epistles are concerned (I have not read further), they are very orthodox, and the force of his anti-heretical arguments, both from reason and from scripture, would seem to be weighty enough to have stood on their own.

  2. Andy,

    That’s a good question, and one that’s worth a future blog post. I’ll make two brief points now. First, standards of authorship are culturally determined, so what might count as plagiarism in a 21st-century American college class might well be common, accepted practice in another time and place. Second, there are many motives beyond outright deception (i.e., forgery) for an author attributing his work to someone else, among them minimizing one’s self (as you note in your quotation) and honoring another. In all cases, evidence of rather than speculation about motives should be sought.

    For more, see this older but thorough run-down of reasons for pseudonymous authorship in the ancient world: Bruce M. Metzger, “Literary Forgeries and Canonical Pseudepigrapha,” Journal of Biblical Literature 91, no. 1 (March 1, 1972): 3–24, doi:10.2307/3262916. Also, Kurt Aland, “The Problem of Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Christian Literature of the First Two Centuries 1,” The Journal of Theological Studies XII, no. 1 (1961): 39–49, doi:10.1093/jts/XII.1.39.

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