Isaac T. Soon

Before Deception

The Amoral Nature of Ancient Christian Forgery

Section: Articles
Early Christianity (EC)

Volume 14 () / Issue 4, pp. 429-445 (17)
Published 04.01.2024

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This article problematizes the conception of forgery as intrinsically deceptive. It argues that while deception is one valid way of understanding some ancient Christian forgeries, it is by no means the only way. The presence of forgers like the presbyter from Asia who wrote the Acts of Paul and Salvian who did not view their work as deceptions should give us pause about blanket generalizations about the authorial intent of forgers and whether such generalization should be applied to all ancient discussions of forgery. Nor can we understand widespread reception and condemnation of forgery as explicitly connected to deceit. Finally, we cannot presume that either critics or forgers have the same conception of the historical author as scholars do today. In light of these three interventions, forgery should not be understood as innately deceptive, but as an amoral activity that can be used in both deceptive and non-deceptive ways. Conceptions of forgery are ethically malleable depending on one'spositionality and situatedness in relation to the creation, circulation, and use of a pseudepigraphon. In other words, thecommon conception of forgery as solely deceit homogenizes ancient textual traditioning and vitality, obfuscating the variety of ways that historical forgery was conceived and received.

Isaac T. Soon Born 1988; 2011 B.C.M. Alphacrucis College; 2013 M.Th. Wesley Institute; 2017 M.Phil. University of Oxford; 2021 PhD Durham University; currently Assistant Professor of New Testament at Crandall University.–0003–4708–2384