Bible Difficulty #10
Could the Apostle John & Peter read and write? Were they illiterate?
Most conservative evangelicals hold to the traditional view that both Apostle John and Apostle Peter were the original authors of their epistle, but historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded that to be impossible. Now this is something I came across, after watching some YouTube videos on agnostic scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman. He claims that there is no way for John and Peter for them to have written their New Testament works.
Simon Peter and John were both common ordinary fishermen. Likely illiterate fishermen. In fact, when Jesus approached Peter for the first time, he was at work fishing. So, it is hard to imagine they were both was able to read and write. Nonetheless read, write, and speak fluently in both Greek and Aramaic. So the idea that (Simon) Peter and John were both able to compose such a highly regarded charismatic literary works with such a high degree of literary skill is highly improbable. Here are two more points as to why these works are considered forgeries.
- Peter 1: Although attributed to Peter, it is widely doubted by most scholars, on the basis of the fact that the author of this book cites Greek translations of the Old Testament, instead of the Hebrew originals. This questionable book contains the fundamentalists’ slogan, “born again” (1 Peter 1:23)
- Peter 2: This book has even more doubtful authorship that Peter 1, so much so that it was delayed entrance into the New Testament’s canon. It is generally believed that it was written by an unknown scribe around 150 AD.
- There is no external evidence prior to Origen indicating that Peter wrote 2 Peter. Origen himself mentions that there were some doubts as to its authenticity, but he himself did not deal with the problem which seems to imply that he didn’t take the doubts seriously.
- The Muratorian Canon did not contain 2 Peter, but it also omits 1 Peter, so this is not a decisive factor. Eusebius rejected it but indicated that the majority accepted the epistle, including James and Jude. Jerome also accepted 2 Peter as authentic.
Historical research does suggest it is possible, that Jesus and a few of the disciples were able to speak and understand both Greek and Aramaic. Since that part of the world was heavily engulfed in the Hellenistic Jewish culture. It is very plausible that they both spoke Greek. However, when we examine what the bible says about the men, it throws another huge discrepancy into the mix.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men…”-Acts 4:13. (Some versions say uneducated, unschooled, unlearned, common, and ordinary. It all means the same illiterate.)
In Bart Ehrmans Book “Forged,” he claims that:
* At least 11 of the 27 New Testament books are forgeries.
* The New Testament books attributed to Jesus’ disciples could not have been written by them because they were illiterate.
* Many of the New Testament’s forgeries were manufactured by early Christian leaders trying to settle theological feuds.
As one examines the arguments for both sides, it becomes evident that analysis of stylistic differences is subjective and can be used to prove any hypothesis. When dealing with such a small corpus as 2 Peter, it is difficult to make strong conclusions. – (Hampton Keathly IV, The Authorship of Second Peter)
The most common rebuttal to these allegations of fraud is that the apostles used scribes to dictate and write for them. In asserting that allegations of forgeries is circumstantial evidence and presumptuous. “[For] the ultimate answer may be there really is no forgery here…The differences in style of I Peter and II Peter may be easily explained by something amanuensis (that means scribe or ghostwriter). That does not mean that the scribe “wrote” the book for the author as Dr. Ehrman as claimed in Jesus Interrupted. It means that the scribe penned the letter.For I Peter, Silas was the scribe( see I Peter 5:12). For II Peter, written just before his death, someone transcribed his words who had less command of the Greek language…There is some evidence in II Peter that the audience changed to the Christian community as a whole where I Peter was directed to Jewish Christians in Asia Minor.” -Papapound from the Good News Blog
With the I Peter clearly giving evidence and credit to Silas for dictation. This actually becomes more damning evidence, because you don’t see that same acknowledgement of dictation in II Peter or in any of the works of John.
It is nearly impossible to imagine that they were able to read and write in Greek considering they had no formal education. Nonetheless; Is it still reasonable to assume that they were both able to read & write FLUENTLY in Greek to a high literary degree and skill to be able to compose some of the New Testament writings we have today without a formal education?