We have looked in detail at the authorship of the New Testament and the process of their canonization elsewhere. Here we will merely give the summary of the findings while providing links to the various places in the website for those who wish to know more.
Let us start with the gospels. Tradition claims that all four gospels were apostolic because Matthew and John were written by the apostle. While Mark and Luke were written by the companions of the apostle Peter and Paul respectively. Modern critical analysis have shown all these claims to be false:
Most of the other New Testament books share the same fate. All the other epistles attributed to the apostles (except Paul's) or to his family, the two epistles of Peter, the epistles of James and Jude are all pseudepigraphal, that is written by author(s)other than the ones who were explicitly credited with the writings. The three epistles of John were written by John the Elder not the apostle John. There is nothing in the book of Revelation that claims to have been written by the apostle John. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is unknown and even fundamentalist Christians no longer claim Pauline authorship.
This leaves us with the epistles of Paul. As we have shown elsewhere there are strong reasons to accept seven of the thirteen epistles as genuine writings of Paul. Isn't this evidence of apostolic tradition in the New Testament? No, there are three reasons why Paul's writing should not be considered apostolic:
We can summarize the writings in the New Testament with respect to their claims to apostolic authority in two parts:
- He was not appointed by the earthly Jesus:
For Paul's he did not know the earthly Jesus and even asserted that knowledge of the earthly Jesus was irrelevant to his gospel (II Corinthians 5:16). Unlike the twelve (at least according to tradition), he was not appointed by the earthly Jesus.
- He gave himself, the title of Apostle:
His title of Apostle (to the Gentiles) was a self-proclaimed one (Romans 11:13, 15:16-18 Galatians 2:2). He admitted that he did not receive his gospel from any human being and claimed that it came direct from the risen Jesus (Galatians 1:16-19).
- The apostles in Jerusalem did not consider him an apostle:
Furthermore we have evidence that the apostles who did know Jesus, those who headed the Jerusalem church, starting with the incident at Antioch, never recognized his claim to apostleship. Indeed they actively combated his teachings and refused to be reconciled with him.
- The gospels, the book of Revelation, the epistles attributed to John, Peter, James and Jude were not written by an apostle or by anyone who was a close associate of an apostle. In other words they are pseudonymous writings; writings for which we do not know who the authors were.
- The seven authentic epistles of Paul, while actually written by him, was written by someone whose title of apostle was not given by the earthly Jesus nor was his claim of the appointment by the risen Jesus ever accepted by the people who knew the historical Jesus: namely the leadership of the Jerusalem Church. Thus while the seven epistles are genuine Pauline letters, Paul himself was a pseudo-apostle!
In short the whole corpus of the New Testament can be accurately described as a collection of pseudo-apostolic writings.
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