This is odd: Michael Bird noticed that Amazon.com is selling a book co-authored by N.T. Wright of which Wright has never heard. Bird contacted Wright, and Wright said he does not know the author, nor has he had anything to do with the book. (See The Mystery of Tom Wright’s New Book that He Didn’t Write.)
Apparently, the author has explained that Wright had no involvement with the book, but that it is “riff off of what N.T. Wright talked about in” the videos he did with Work of the People. (See Breaking Beautiful: Is it sad that I have to say this is not a ruse?)
Now, I’ve seen books interacting with N.T. Wright, like Stephen Kuhrt’s Tom Wright for Everyone, but Kuhrt did not present Wright’s name as an author. It is not a wise decision to use an author’s name without their permission, especially if the publisher decides to market the book with that person’s name on the cover as an author, especially if it was confusing enough for Amazon.com to sell the book as if it had been written by Wright.
I am sure the author is not malicious, but I hope he has a discussion with his publisher (and I should add that I am surprised that the publisher appears to have allowed this), soon, to remarket this book. It is not fair for someone to buy a book under the impression that it was written by someone who has nothing to do with its composition.
Two thoughts have come to mind since I posted this:
(1) I want to emphasize this: I presume that the author had no intent to deceive anyone. This book doesn’t release until July 1st, which means there is plenty of time to realize and correct the mistake. That said, how did the publisher overlook the ethical violations associated with naming Wright as an author? Also, how does Amazon.com work when it comes to listing books as written by various authors?
(2) In Bird’s post he says, “…this might be a wonderful illustration of modern pseudepigraphy.” Interestingly, I was listening to a lecture by John Goldingay of FTS this week where he talks about how some aspects of Torah may not be from Moses, but later authors understood them as derived or inspired by Moses’ past writings, and therefore, in ancient culture, it seemed odd to put one’s name on something that has roots in the thinking of a more important and wise person. This idea could apply to some of the Pauline corpus as well, or the Peterine epistles, where some of the content does come from Paul or Peter, but the current document is an outworking of their ideas, and in ancient thought some felt odd attributing their derivative insights to themselves when they thought of these insights as an extension of the more important figure’s thoughts and words.
I hadn’t heard about this book. Thanks for writing. You should write those books, I am sure they’d sell great.
I like the humorous twist! And it couldn’t help but wonder what similar posts may have been blogged when the many books were coming out in the name of Paul, Peter, Thomas, etc… “What gave THOSE guys the right to use Paul’s name” or “Wow, I didn’t know Paul was still writing”.
I could use the money!
Pseudepigrapha is an interesting topic, especially for the reasons I noted. Indeed, there were occasions when using someone’s name would have been seen as shameful, like we see it as shameful in our society, but in some societies–ancient and modern–it is shameful to acts as if your thought is your own. I’ve had students from other cultures who have copied and pasted papers, not to trick me, but because in their culture if someone has said it well, then why restate it, and if it has been said, it is the common property of the community, In western culture our ideas about individualism challenge this, but it is how some people think. Similarly, it seems that in some cultures taking credit for a thought inspired by a greater person seemed pretentious; therefore, you include it as if it was written by them since in your mind if would’t exist without their wisdom.
I want to study more about this someday. It is intriguing.
I must ask: What did N. T. Wight know and when did he know it!!!?
A William G. Dever allusion? http://www.amazon.com/What-Biblical-Writers-Know-When/dp/080282126X
And to answer…Wright knew someone had used his name when Bird contacted him. That appears to be the first occasion!
I chose to remove the sarcastic part of this blog post. I don’t want to come across as mocking this man, which is not my intent, since I was trying to lighten the mood, not be a jerk. BUT I see how it may be seen as being a jerk and I don’t want to make that impression.
Thanks… good thots! I sure don’t have in-depth edu. on this matter either, and appreciate the complexities you note. What I am quite sure of and frustrated by is how the vast majority of even “good” scholars have, almost without any direct evidence, bought that the practices we see in place in the NT were just normal and accepted when it does appear it was much more complicated and we DO have some issues with pseudepigrapha that are important…. Ehrman typically does more restatement than original work, but his “Forged” appears to be original and important data (which I HAVE read and reviewed).
If NT Wright is listed as an author, can’t he then ask for royalties or other financial enumeration?
Suttle explained himself today: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paperbacktheology/2013/05/monday-morning-confessional-n-t-wright-and-breaking-beautiful.html
Thanks for the heads up Scott! I’m interested to see what he says.
Honestly, I don’t know how the royalties would work if a book like this was published and then left published. I imagine an agreement could be made, but I don’t know.
It most famously made daylight when TN Sen. Howard Baker asked it regarding Pres. Richard Nixon in the Senate Watergate Committee hearings in 1973.
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