I just read Forged by Dr. Bart D. Ehrman (published in March, 2011). I have to say I’m livid. Majorly pissed off. Shocked. Free.
My first emotion is to be angry because if anything Ehrman says is true, I have been lied to my whole life. And not just pretty white lies. I’m talking the kind of lies that imprison and chain your soul. Lies that force you to do and believe what you don’t want to do and believe. Lies that claim God doesn’t allow women to speak, so if I choose to do so, I have to believe that I’m going against God. Lies about the bible being inspired scripture, based on writings by people who lied about their identity.
Note: there are lots of great book reviews of Forged such as this one (http://theparish.typepad.com/parish/2011/03/forged-ehrman-fundies-and-bible-liars.html). I started this post to blog about the implications for me and others like me who have been taught for years that the New Testament is the infallible Word of God. But since the implications are so extreme, I decided to also check out criticisms of the book that could weaken or invalidate Ehrman’s theory. It got pretty long, and the criticism part ended up being college-essay style, so if that sort of thing turns you off, you can skip it. However, if, like me, you’re interested in digging deeper in the arguments from this book, I hope you interact with what I’ve written in the criticism section.
In Ehrman’s book, he explains why certain books of the New Testament are today considered by scholars to have been written by different authors than was originally thought. Below is a summary of Ehrman’s conclusions (as I remember them) about authorship in each book of the New Testament.
Matthew – written anonymously, but later attributed to Matthew. Probably not by Matthew.
Mark – written anonymously, but later attributed to Mark. Probably not by Mark.
Luke – written anonymously, but later attributed to Luke because people thought Luke wrote Acts. But Luke didn’t write Acts so not Luke either.
John – written anonymously, but later attributed to the apostle John. Probably not by John.
Acts – forged to make it look like a companion of Paul wrote it, but a companion of Paul did not write it, so not by Luke.
Romans – truly by Paul.
1 Corinthians – truly by Paul (but Ehrman suspects that the part about women not speaking in church is forged).
2 Corinthians – truly by Paul.
Galatians – truly by Paul.
Ephesians – forged. The style doesn’t match Paul, and the content doesn’t agree with his other books.
Philippians – truly by Paul.
Colossians – forged.
1 Thessalonians – truly by Paul.
2 Thessalonians – forged. Paul believed the end of the world was imminent, and this book contradicts his other writings.
1 Timothy – forged.
2 Timothy – forged.
Titus – forged. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus were all written by the same person but not Paul, and supposedly all scholars agree that Paul didn’t write them.
Philemon – truly by Paul.
Hebrews – anonymous, but it was attributed to Paul. Not by Paul.
James – forged.
1 Peter – forged.
2 Peter – forged.
Jude – forged.
Revelation – possibly by a “John” but probably not by the apostle John. It could have been by another person entirely who wanted to sell the belief in 1000 years of paradise on earth.
Ehrman also mentions that Daniel is forged, and Isaiah was written by three different authors.
Ehrman explains that it was a common practice for a person in New Testament times and the centuries that followed to write a book to advance his beliefs. But if this writer was not well-known, he faced a huge temptation to claim to be someone of greater Christian authority. If readers believed his book was written by one of the original apostles, say John, Peter, or Paul, they would be much more likely to accept the doctrines in the book, and the book would be circulated much more widely, read in meetings, and viewed as an authority. It may even be thought of as Scripture. Because of this dynamic, many books written in the centuries after the death of Christ were forged, claiming to be written by one of the original apostles, when they obviously were not. A lot of the books were out to lunch, telling tall tales (like the one where Jesus comes out of the tomb with two angels. The angels are as tall as mountains, but Jesus is taller yet. After Jesus the cross comes out of the tomb. God asks if the cross preached to those who are asleep, and the cross answers, “yes.”)
When people chose the books that would make it into the New Testament, they rejected a lot of forgeries. Ehrman doesn’t really go into the process that books went through to be chosen, but a check of the Wikipedia entry about the New Testament canon explains how certain church fathers accepted certain books that matched to their beliefs. Almost all of these books were supposedly written by apostles. All the epistles, with the possible exception of Jude, that eventually made it into the New Testament canon claim to have been written by an apostle or are attributed to an apostle. (James & Jude were brothers of Jesus, which gave them nearly the authority of an apostle, but I think James also claimed to be an apostle, even though he was not one of the original 12.) Two of the four gospels were attributed to an apostle, and the other two and Acts were attributed to a companion of an apostle. However, the gospels and Acts are supposed to be historical accounts of the life of Jesus and the apostles. So the authors of Mark, Luke, and Acts didn’t themselves give apostolic-type instruction as is found in the epistles (unless they changed things Jesus or apostles supposedly said in these books to match their own views, but according to the official fundamentalist view, they would not have done that).
Thus all the books of the New Testament were eventually accepted as Scripture based in large part on the authority of the author, and the people who accepted them probably didn’t realize that many of these books were forged.
What pisses me off the most about all this is that even though it was believed for hundreds of years that all the books in the New Testament were written by the authority the books claimed wrote them, (or the person they were attributed to), in the last two centuries scholars have realized that that is simply not true of many of them. So if all these scholars admit that the books were written by someone else, WHY IN HELL DID NO PREACHER OR TEACHER EVER TELL ME THAT THERE WAS ANY CONTROVERSY? Why didn’t my parents? I vaguely recall the idea that maybe some of them were dictated to a scribe who wrote the actual words. But that is all I was ever told. Both my parents went to bible college for four years. Did they hear nothing about a controversy with any of these books? Maybe their school was under a rock that only looked at writings by other Church of Christ leaders. Though I seem to recall them studying the bible and books about the bible my whole life.
I went to the Church of Christ until I was 18. That church believed that they taught nothing but the bible and completely went by the bible, to the point that they found verses about baptism that disagreed with the way the rest of the evangelical church saw it, so they wrote off all of Christianity besides their cult as unsaved. So since they didn’t think other Christians were saved, it’s possible that they didn’t read anything by Bible scholars that brought out the controversy. (Though I highly doubt that. I think they knew about the controversy but didn’t say anything since their whole religion is based on the view that the Bible is the “Word of God.”)
After I left the Church of Christ, I went to two different ministry schools, 1 year at Oral Roberts University, and a bunch of other churches. All of them claimed to believe and follow the bible, though they usually validated personal experience as well. None of them mentioned the controversy. Unlike the Church of Christ, the churches I attended in my 20’s allowed women to speak and minister in meetings. These churches didn’t mention the fact that the verses that say women can’t speak weren’t written by Paul; they just tried to explain it away or ignore it. I got to the point where I concluded that the repression of women is so wrong that if that is truly scripture, I can’t completely follow the scripture.
So maybe it makes sense that people forged much of the New Testament. After all, none of the Christian leaders I used to listen to thought it necessary to mention that the authorship of these books is in question. At least some of them must have known about the controversy, but if they talked about it, it could discredit some of their teachings. So they kept their mouths shut about it. They may have felt that laypeople were not equipped to handle the knowledge that books of their precious bible were actually forged. This would be similar to the reasoning people used when they forged the books in the first place. They wanted their beliefs to be authoritative, so they used apostles’ names. Fundamentalist Christian leaders want to consider the Bible authoritative, so they don’t tell their people that someone wrote these books using apostles’ names.
I wonder if it is possible that many of these leaders who taught me actually did not know about the controversy. In an article critiquing Forged, evangelical leader Dr. Mike Licona asserts that “[t]he issue of authorship is discussed at length in most introductions to the New Testament, which differ from surveys and are usually written for graduate students” (1). (I talk more about Licona’s article in the Critique section below.) In other words, the news that there is contention about the authorship of numerous books of the New Testament is being held back from the general Christian public, even from some students who obtain a bachelor’s degree in theology.
I asked a friend who has a master’s in the history of religion about this, and he said he did learn about the discrepancy in an undergraduate class at a Baptist school. He also said that more liberal churches talk about this all the time, but if he were a pastor at, say, a Southern Baptist church and mentioned in the pulpit that there was a controversy about authorship of books in the New Testament, he would be fired. Is it because scholars assume that unless someone is a New Testament scholar, they won’t be able to figure out how to handle the evidence for or against authorship of a book by a certain person? I think Ehrman was right to bring this out into view of the lay public, and I applaud him for doing so. I think people in the churches need to know for themselves that there is a problem with the book they revere, and they need to be able to decide for themselves what to do about it.
In his book Ehrman does not focus on the implications of his conclusions. In this book, he doesn’t even say what he currently believes about God, though he does say he believes Jesus existed. (Other websites that talk about his work say he’s now an agnostic, though in the book he explains that he used to be a fundamentalist who went to Moody Bible Institute.) But in this post I would like to get into the implications for me and other people who question things in the Bible.
It boils down to this. Growing up every Sunday since I came to a certain Church of Christ at age 11 until I left at age 18, the preacher repeated certain verses in nearly every sermon. One of those was 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” This was the basis of teaching at that fundamentalist church. If I were to say that I think this verse was talking about the Old Testament, they would quote 2 Peter 3:15b-16: “just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” In other words, the writings of Paul, which make up ½ the New Testament, are considered scripture by the author of 2 Peter, so the rest of the New Testament must be too. That means all the New Testament is inspired by God. So it’s error free, and you can’t question it. You must just believe it, and “[s]tudy to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). (As I recall, that repetitive preacher from my teens routinely quoted the King James version of this verse or something similar because most of the modern translations say “be diligent” or something like that, and he wanted to emphasize the importance of studying the Bible, even though that’s a mistranslation.)
Since these verses are found in books that were forged, I think it’s likely the doctrines about the New Testament being Scripture inspired by God are actually doctrines of humans not inspired by God who wanted to get their beliefs to be seen as authoritative. In Forged, Ehrman discusses the verse in 2 Peter and explains that there was a controversy in the early church about whether or not Peter and Paul were in agreement. He theorizes that the author of 2 Peter wanted to promote the idea that Peter and Paul were in agreement, so in his book supposedly by Peter, he has Peter calling Paul’s writings Scripture.
My contention starting in my early 20’s was that the bible never claims to be the Word of God, and the only time the bible refers to an entity as the Word of God, it’s referring to Jesus (John 1). So I felt that the bible was being used for a purpose that wasn’t intended by the original authors. For the past several years, I thought that the purpose of the bible was to share truths about God that would lead people to get to know God for themselves, but instead many people, like the ones I grew up with, see the bible as an end in itself and try to follow the bible instead of following God.
As you can see if you read other posts on this blog, I’ve lately been questioning the wisdom of following the bible at all. There is so much in there that I find deeply troubling that I would rather throw the whole thing out then feel crammed in the boxes it provides. I’ve really been doubting the inspiration of the bible. I concluded that it must be a work of men who were fallible, including Paul. I held the teachings of Jesus in a little higher regard, but I still wondered how we can know for sure whether he actually said any specific teaching. How did people remember exactly what he said to write it down years later? I’m sure some things he said are recorded, but I doubt if we have any of his exact words, especially since he probably spoke in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek.
Well, I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I felt anger, but I also felt shocked and even free at reading Forged. Shocked because I had no idea that these books were in question. Free because if these books really weren’t written by apostles, then they shouldn’t have been included in the New Testament in the first place, according to the standards for inclusion that men chose to follow when they picked the books for the New Testament. So they’re definitely not “scripture.” Furthermore, all the verses that were used to prove the New Testament is all inspired scripture and must be studied and followed as if it were God are actually written by people who were so adamant that they wanted their beliefs to be accepted that they lied about who they were, one claiming to be Peter and another Paul.
So I feel free because my impressions of the bible are validated. It’s human. The only books for sure written by an apostle are six by Paul. But why should I assume they’re inspired words of God just because Paul happened to be an apostle (but not one of the original twelve)? Paul himself says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). Paul, the only writer of the New Testament who for sure wrote some of the books attributed to him, saw in dimly and knew in part. He’s saying he’s human. He doesn’t have the whole picture. I think the picture he gives in the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) is beautiful, because he shows that it’s all about love. And though my Church of Christ preacher uncle would like to think that the “then” Paul mentions in this verse (talking about “the perfect” from a couple verses back) is the completion of the Bible, there’s nothing in that passage or anywhere else that indicates Paul even has an idea that there would be a New Testament. My uncle’s idea is ludicrous. The chapter is about love, the greatest thing in the world. To me, Paul’s “face to face,” can only mean that he believed that when he sees God, who is perfect love, face to face, then he will fully know. But not in an academic understanding kind of way. He wants to know God relationally, just as God knows him. He wants to fully love.
So since we surmise that most of the New Testament is forged or mis-attributed, should we throw the whole thing out? Even though I’m incensed that the authors lied about their identities and deceived Christians for hundreds of years, I think they have some valid things to say. I think there is spiritual revelation that can be helpful to our current spiritual development in many of these books. Am I going to hang on their every word, believing that everything they say is from God? Absolutely not. Just as I would not blindly follow any other spiritual teaching. I have some favorites that come to me at different times in my life. I think when someone has revelation to share, that’s valuable. But ultimately my spiritual walk is found in my own spirit. I can trust the God I’m coming to know far more than I can trust any other humans with their varied motivations for spouting out beliefs. I do think God or my own spirit brings teachings and revelations from other people to me at the right times when I need them.
And this all comes back to my post on the Garden of Eden. Ultimately, like Paul said, we see in part. Dimly. God and the spiritual world is a mystery. We know that the most important thing, the greatest thing that will abide forever is love. If we try to heap up to ourselves knowledge, like the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, we just might miss God.
Criticism of Forged
Since I am not a biblical scholar, I know that I could easily miss any weaknesses that might exist in Forged. And I realize that there’s two sides to every story. I wanted to see if there was any reason not to believe Ehrman’s assertions, so I looked for critical reviews of the book by an educated fundamentalist-type who disagrees with Ehrman’s conclusions. I found a 16 page article written by Mike Licona, who holds a doctorate in New Testament studies, is on the board of several evangelical ministries, and opposes the conclusion that Ehrman reaches. You can read the article here.
Licona points out two potential weaknesses in Ehrman’s argument. The first has to do with content and the second with secretaries. Ehrman asserts that the content of some books doesn’t match up to what the apostle said in other books, and this is one reason to think the books are written by different authors. An example is Ephesians. Ehrman finds a discrepancy with what Paul seems to say about resurrection in Ephesians and what he says about the same subject in Romans. But Licona contends: “Paul’s teaching concerning the resurrection of believers in Romans is completely compatible with what we find in Ephesians and Colossians. Many of the teachings in the disputed letters of Paul that Ehrman regards as contradictory to the teachings in his undisputed letters are solved just as easily with a careful look at the texts in question.” (3). I’ll grant that when I first read the argument by Ehrman about resurrection, it sounded a little fishy to me. I never saw a discrepancy before, because I always thought that what he said in Romans and in Ephesians were talking about two separate things. I also think it’s difficult to pinpoint the content issue when talking about deep or complex theological issues because in my experience, people interpret these types of passages in many different ways. But there are some content issues that are more cut-and-dried. Ehrman points out that Paul seems to be concerned that salvation is not by works of the law, but some of the books under contention talk about good works in general instead of works of the law, which wasn’t Paul’s primary area of interest. But I will agree with Licona that in at least some of these cases, the content discrepancy doesn’t definitively prove that the book was forged, though a discrepancy in content added to a stark difference in style would prove the forgery, in my opinion.
The main weakness that Licona and other reviewers found in Ehrman’s argment has to do with secretaries. In fact, this was the first thing my husband brought up when I told him what I was reading, and it’s the only thing I remember hearing about authorial controversy when I was growing up. Licona quotes Ehrman as saying, “Virtually all of the problems with what I’ve been calling forgeries can be solved if secretaries were heavily involved in the composition of the early Christian writings. (134)” Licona ends his article by saying, “Ehrman’s treatment of Paul’s use of secretaries is both weak and problematic. If secretaries were involved with the traditional New Testament authors in the editing and composition of their letters, most of the arguments used against the traditional authorship of this literature lose their force and, as an old friend of mine would say, Ehrman is left with a firm grasp on an empty sack” (15).
So on the subject of secretaries, Ehrman presents four basic scenarios, which I’m going to paraphrase. In the first scenario, the apostle dictated to a scribe, who wrote down word-for-word what the apostle said. The apostle is the author, no question. There’s evidence that this happened in the epistles of Paul, including in books that aren’t suspected of forgery.
Scenario two: the apostle wrote the epistle, then had it copyedited. In modern times there are different levels of copyediting depending on the original state of the draft and what the author wants. In light and standard copyediting, the editor points out inconsistencies in the author’s arguments and attempts to resolve errors of grammar and problems with clarity. The copyeditor usually makes minor changes, such as to correct a misspelled word or misplaced comma. The copyeditor will often rewrite a short segment or offer a suggestion of a rewrite then show these changes to the author, and the author has the option to accept or reject them. In heavy copyediting, the copyeditor may do more extensive revision, but the author still gets to accept or reject the changes. In all these cases, the copyeditor is not considered the author but is only helping the author polish his or her prose and fix errors and inconsistencies. There’s still no ethical problem with the author claiming the work. Ehrman doesn’t offer any examples of copyediting in the New Testament and only a couple examples of that happening in ancient times with rich people. If this did happen in the New Testament and the editor did a good job, readers wouldn’t be able to detect the difference between the words of the author and the words of the editor, and this certainly wouldn’t explain the changes in style and content that Ehrman points out in the books in question.
Ehrman also brings up the possibility of co-authoring, but says there’s no examples of that in New Testament times. My thought is that if the apostle co-authored with someone else, and the work that appeared was so different from the apostle’s other works as to seem like it was written by someone else, than it was probably ghost-written (the fourth option), not co-authored. Licona does offer one example that implies a secretary did more than just take dictation:
In 2 Corinthians 10:9-11 [Paul] writes, ‘it is said, “His [i.e., Paul’s] letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak, and his public speaking is despicable.” Such a person should consider this: What we are in the words of our letters when absent, we will be in actions when present.’ Notice carefully how the subject changes from Paul the poor public speaker in the singular to the ‘we’ who write the letters. More than one person is involved in writing Paul’s letters. So, the involvement of the secretary appears to go beyond taking simple dictation. (14)
While this could indicate a co-author adding his two-cents into the draft, why would the co-author also be involved in disciplinary actions of a church in person? Perhaps Paul is including other leaders in this statement, who may have even written their own letters, or perhaps he has a cohort taking dictation who is also involved in church discipline. In any case, Paul seems to have control of the content and style in 1 Corinthians as this is not one of the disputed books. Also co-writing involves some of the other problems I talk about next in the section on ghostwriting.
I think that the most likely scenario that does not technically involve forgery is ghost-writing. Ehrman remarks, “And it does not seem possible that Peter gave the general gist of what he wanted to say and that a secretary then created the letter for him in his name, since, first, then the secretary rather than Peter would be the real author of the letter, and second, and even more important, we don’t seem to have any analogy for a procedure like this from the ancient world” (156). I don’t agree that the second reason is more important. Just because we don’t have examples of ghostwriting from the ancient world doesn’t mean it wasn’t done or the apostles weren’t smart enough to figure out they could do that. By definition, ghostwriting means writing that is attributed to an author but actually written by someone else. In today’s world, a lot of times authors don’t want their readers to know that the book was ghostwritten, so they try to hide it. I think it’s possible that bible authors could have done that too, especially if the fact that the book was ghostwritten would have diminished the authority of the book.
So in some of these cases where it’s not evident that the book was written after the death of the apostle and the content isn’t too far off the author’s beliefs as shown in other texts, it’s possible that the book was ghost-written by a friend or assistant of the apostle. The apostle could have contributed content, an outline, or some ideas to the book, had someone else write it, and then he would have reviewed the book, possibly made changes, and approved that it be sent out in his name.
I still agree with Ehrman that it’s more likely that the book was forged, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the book really was ghost-written and the apostle approved it. What does this mean for the status of the book? Although in modern times it’s considered ethical to ghost-write certain types of works (but sometimes people get really pissed off when they find out a work by their favorite celebrity was ghost-written), I think there’s definitely a valid place for ghost writing, though if you want to be perfectly honest, I think it is better to mention somewhere in the work the fact that the author had a good bit of help creating it. Also there are certain types of works that cannot be ethically ghostwritten. For example, if I would have hired someone to write a college essay for me and the school found out, I would have been kicked out of school. I do think that this is an instance where it’s completely unethical to have something ghost written because this is an instance, similar to a college essay, where the author’s identity was vital to how the book was going to be received. If an apostle did this, he was lying, and that doesn’t fit the character the original apostles supposedly had.
So the question becomes, what are the implications for the books of the New Testament if they were ghostwritten? Many people consider these books to be inerrant scripture that was inspired by God. The scenario my old churches painted for me is that an apostle sat down with ink and a scroll, heard from the Holy Spirit, and wrote down what he heard. This corresponds to the image presented in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (Though this verse doesn’t say that this process applied to all scripture, only to prophesy. And isn’t prophesy by definition something that people said when they were moved by God? So yes, obviously no prophesy occurred without people being moved by God because if they weren’t moved by God, what they said would not be defined as prophesy. That really doesn’t prove anything, and it’s similar to the circular reasoning in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God . . . “ So one part of the definition of Scripture is that it is something inspired by God. That doesn’t really prove anything.)
So when we read the New Testament, we supposedly read the very words of God. But what happens when the person doing the initial writing isn’t actually the apostle? Well, it still could be the same scenario. Someone without any particular authority in the church sits down with God and hears the Holy Spirit. He then writes down what he hears. He brings it to the closest apostle, and the apostle says, “Yup, that sounds like God. in fact I think people really need to hear this message, and they’ll receive it better if my name’s on it. Why don’t you just right here in the beginning add these words: ‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Eph. 1:1-2). That should tie in just fine with your intro here where you have ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Eph 1:3).” So in this scenario, the book is still inspired by God. Just like when I sit down in my contemplative prayer time, get really still, and begin hearing something from the spirit. I write down what I hear. What I wrote down is inspired by God.
Lots and lots of people have done this through the centuries, so there’s probably thousands or millions of inspired writings. But when I write something I hear, I don’t consider it scripture, and I’m pretty sure that if I tried to pass it off to my fundamentalist parents as scripture, they’d laugh at me. I know when I hear from God, everything God says gets passed through my own filters and the fog in my own head. So what I hear and write down could very well not exactly be what God meant. I studied communication and rhetorical theory in college, and this helped me realize just how dicey words and meanings are. To have an imprint of someone else’s idea in your head is pretty much miraculous, let alone getting the same exact meaning from the words that someone else said, especially when talking about complicated issues. So I try to be careful when talking about messages I get from God to use the words, “I heard” rather than, “God told me” because maybe what God told me is not what I heard, and all I know for sure is what I heard.
The books of the New Testament don’t even use the words “I heard.” But people assume that because the content is profound, and the author is an apostle, the words must be inspired scripture. So while there’s lots of works that are inspired, very few of them have been considered Scripture, and that’s because who the human author is holds a lot of weight. Maybe Paul’s head wasn’t as cloudy as mine, and his filters were all cleaned out. So when he heard from God, he got the message a lot more clearly than I do. More likely, because the message came to him for the church, and he had a lot of authority in his time, the church receives it as from God and doesn’t worry about possible filtering problems.
But if the message did not come to him but to his friend, why would that be considered scripture when what I (or some other first-century person who didn’t add an apostle’s name to his work) wrote is not being considered scripture? So Licona’s secretary hypothesis discredits the very purpose these books are being used for in fundamentalist churches today. I maintain that the book was included in the canon because the editors of the canon concluded that this book was written by an apostle who clearly heard from God. I don’t think they would have included it if they knew it was ghost-written or told from God to someone else and an apostle put his name on it. The filtering system wasn’t the apostle’s, it was his friend’s.
So while the ghost-writing scenario may not be as unethical as the outright forgery Ehrman suspects, it’s still not completely honest. More importantly, by the definition of the editors of the canon and fundamentalists today, the work can’t be considered Scripture. Some no-name person heard from God instead of the authoritative apostle. Only what the apostle himself heard from God is weighty enough to be considered scripture.
What it boils down to for me is that whether a disputed book is ghost-written as Licona implies or outright forged as Ehrman concludes, it still lies about the author and should not be part of the canon of the New Testament.