I’ve been known to listen to conservative Christian radio ironically, which I guess makes me a hipster or something. I must say that the music on these stations was really quite tedious. I know they say the Devil has all the best tunes, but these people weren’t even trying. The sermons, on the other hand, were often quite fascinating, providing a look into the mindset of people I don’t talk to that much in everyday life. Anyway, my recent reading of Bart Ehrman’s Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene made me think of how one of the pastors actually acknowledged the scholarly argument against the letters of Peter being written by Jesus’ bosom chum, and basically said it was bunk because Jesus could work miracles. The argument is that the letters were likely written after Peter’s time, and that Peter was likely illiterate and almost certainly couldn’t write in Greek. But hey, maybe Jesus gave him the ability to compose letters in a language he didn’t know.
It’s creative, and does fit with the idea of Peter’s speech on Pentecost being automatically translated into different languages, but I can’t help but feel it’s a bit convoluted. After all, if God wanted this letter written in Greek for whatever reason, couldn’t He have just requested the services of someone who already knew the language? And if there was a miracle involved, why don’t the letters mention it? You know, something like, “Jesus is awesome because he taught me a language without my having to study”?
If we’re supposed to follow Jesus due to his miracles, why leave out a pretty big one?
At another time, a preacher (not sure if it was the same one or not) rejected the idea that Isaiah could have had more than one author because Jesus spoke of it as if it did, and modern scholars couldn’t possibly know more than Jesus. Leaving aside for a moment the idea that I think it’s quite possible modern scholars know more than Jesus and assuming that the guy really was omnipotent, who’s to say that the transcriber got it right? After all, Matthew 27 attributes a passage from Zechariah to Jeremiah. This isn’t in the words of Jesus, but it’s still an error.
We know that there are plenty of religious texts in which the author claims to be someone he isn’t. Even the most fervent believer would likely agree with this. There are, for instance, no known churches today that accept the Apocalypse of Peter, which is also attributed to the apostle. That’s not even mentioning all the books traditionally said to have been written by someone in particular even when no author is identified, like Moses and the Torah/Pentateuch. It’s not that difficult to see why someone would use the name of a famous person, whether historical or contemporary, in their own work. It’s because believers are more likely to read and accept something by John the Divine than by John Doe. I do have to wonder about the intentions of pious forgers, however. Unless the guy writing, say, the later additions to Isaiah actually thinks he IS Isaiah or is in touch with the spirit of the prophet (neither of which I would rule out), doesn’t it cast doubt on whether he actually believes what he’s writing? Even if his intentions are good, that really seems like it could backfire. If Biblical canon was inspired by the Holy Spirit, did the Spirit tell him to lie about the authorship? On the other hand, if you believe the whole Bible was actually written by God through human agents, then why does it really matter who those agents are? That does raise the question as to why God just couldn’t write it Himself, like He was supposed to have done with the Ten Commandments.
Maybe God has really bad handwriting. To my mind, whether or not divine inspiration is a real thing, humans are always subject to error. If you accept the theology in the Bible, why does that have to mean accepting every little detail? But then, I’m not religious at all, so why listen to me? Of course, a lot of quite faithful believers have said basically the same thing.