I wrote two posts this week about the dating of the books of the bible. Sabio in the comments asked me to give a handy reference for who wrote each book. Here is a table showing the book, who was traditionally claimed to be the author, notes about the origin and status of that claim and a summary of how reliable the authorship is. In the claims column “In text” means that the author is explicitly named in the text.
I’ve gone here for the most aggressive culling of books. The conclusions are all mainstream: I’m not out on a limb here. But there are a couple of books here that might be authentic. I’m thinking 2 Tim and to a lesser extent 2 Thess, here. It is also possible that Jude just happens to have been written by the correct Jude, but this is a crap-shoot, there’s no reason to think it was.
It was traditionally taught that works clearly forged in the name of a prominent Christian figure were written as a mark of respect, or with community knowledge of the forgery. There is little evidence for this, though. It now seems clear that forged documents were forged for the reason all forgeries were created: to intentionally deceive people for advantage — in this case to put your favorite theology on the lips of someone with agreed authority.
Many of the books are mistakenly attributed. As the debates raged about which books should be included in the NT, it became crucially important that books be seen to have some direct connection with apostolic authority. So a book that merely claimed to be by, say, “John”, was ascribed to the Apostle John.
|Matthew||Matthew the Disciple||Text anonymous. Claim first seen in C2 Papias (though ambiguous).||MISTAKE|
|Mark||John Mark, Disciple of Peter||Text anonymous. Claim first seen in C2 Papias via Iraneus.||MISTAKE|
|Luke||Luke, Companion of Paul||Text anonymous. Claim first seen in C2 Iraneus.||MISTAKE|
|John||John the Disciple||Text claims it is by the “beloved disciple”. Scholars date it far too late*.||FORGERY|
|Acts||Luke, Companion of Paul||Text anonymous. Claim first seen in C2 Iraneus.||MISTAKE|
|1 Cor||Paul||In text.||CORRECT|
|2 Cor||Paul||In text.||CORRECT|
|Ephesians||Paul||In text. Style and content is not consistent with Paul.||FORGERY|
|Colossians||Paul||In text. Style and content is not consistent with Paul.||FORGERY|
|1 Thess||Paul||In text.||CORRECT|
|2 Thess||Paul||In text. Too close to 1 Thess in words, too distant in theology.||FORGERY|
|1 Timothy||Paul||In text. Rather different greek to Paul’s style.||FORGERY|
|2 Timothy||Paul||In text. More similar to Paul than 1 Tim, but topic odd. Not by whoever wrote 1 Tim.||FORGERY|
|Titus||Paul||In text. Very similar to 1 Tim, unlike Paul.||FORGERY|
|Hebrews||Paul||Text anonymous. Claim first seen in C4 by Augustine and Jerome. Included in canon on that basis.||MISTAKE|
|James||James the Brother of Jesus||Text just says “James”. Claim arose gradually amidst continual debate about which James was which.||MISTAKE|
|1 Peter||Peter||In text. Concerns and style are nowhere near Peter’s time.||FORGERY|
|2 Peter||Peter||In text. Concerns and style are nowhere near Peter’s time.||FORGERY|
|1 John||John the Disciple||Text anonymous, but probably by the same author as 2 and 3 John.||MISTAKE|
|2 John||John the Disciple||Text by “The Elder”, but probably by the same author as 1 and 3 John.||MISTAKE|
|3 John||John the Disciple||Text by “The Elder”, but probably by the same author as 1 and 2 John.||MISTAKE|
|Jude||Jude, brother of James, brother of Jesus||Text claims to be by “Jude”, and there are very many of these mentioned in the NT and other texts.||MISTAKE|
|Revelation||John the Disciple||Text claims to be by “John”. Style is nothing like John’s gospel or the epistles of John.||MISTAKE|
* In many works, John’s gospel is identified as being anonymous, and therefore would be a MISTAKE in my categories. I don’t buy that, however. The author stops short of claiming the book is by any specific disciple, but I can’t see any way to read where it isn’t obvious that he means us to understand it is by one of them, most likely John. And it isn’t. Just because he doesn’t name a name, doesn’t mean it isn’t intentional deceit. Feel free to push back on this, and if anyone wants to call me out on it, I could write another post.
As always, suggestions, corrections and arguments welcome!