I keep an eye on Triablogue just to see what they are up to. I mostly ignore all of them except Jason Engwer, who usually does try to formulate arguments. I'm always interested in good arguments against my view. Recently he commented on the beliefs of some skeptics regarding the authorship of the NT documents. My interest is piqued as it usually is when Jason goes into these issues. Perhaps we'll see some arguments this time.
He often starts with a little ad hominem. Those that deny the authorship attributions of all the books of the NT are "a small minority and usually of the more ignorant variety". You're used to this sort of thing if you read Jason regularly, but I find sometimes it's worth wading through the insults to try and find some substance.
Unfortunately there's little payoff in this case. I'll summarize his so called arguments here.
1-Critics are inconsistent in their skepticism, accepting authorship attributions for such writings as those of Tacitus or Josephus on less evidence.
2-Critics assert errors in the Bible, such as the Lukan census, on the basis of the acceptance of extra-Biblical texts like Josephus and Tacitus. This while they are less critical towards these extra-biblical sources (I assume he talking about "critical" with regards to the authorship attribution, though this is not entirely clear).
3-Jason offered a quote from the conservative evangelical Christian Craig Keener who likewise affirmed point 1 above.
4-Writing styles can change with time
5-Sometimes critics are just overly cynical
6-Jason quotes a more liberal scholar that agrees that some critics have gone too far in their skepticism
7-The same liberal scholar also asserts that Bauer's critical theories have been debunked
Notice what's missing here. An actual description of the critical arguments and a refutation of them. This is a constant annoyance to people like Robert Price, who advocates the view that all the NT authorship attributions are not justified. Why doesn't someone actually try and deal with the arguments?
Let me first comment on arguments 2-7 briefly, then I'll come back to the first one.
2-Let's suppose that the authorship attribution to Josephus is wrong. Do we base our confidence in Josephus on the fact that we know his name? No. Even if the author was really a guy named Steve, this author has demonstrated reliability over and over again. He shows the markers of being a reliable historian and he has been proved to be accurate often (not always). That's why he's preferred to Luke.
3-We expect such assertions from Craig Keener. Who cares?
4-Nobody disputes that writing styles change over time.
5-Yes, sometimes critics are overly cynical. Does this show that the arguments against authenticity of a text like Romans are bad? No.
6 and 7-Yes, lots of liberals don't agree with some other liberals. Yes, people constantly assert that the higher critics have been debunked. But why don't we take a look at the evidence, rather than taking the assertions of various people.
Jason's first argument reminded me of something he had written while debating Roman Catholics long ago. I was an evangelical Protestant like him and I admired his work against Roman Catholics. The difference between Jason and me is that I apply valid logical principles to Roman Catholic beliefs and my own beliefs. I don't think Jason does that.
Roman Catholics claim that we must posit an infallible magisterium in order to establish a canon of Scripture. How do we know which books belong in the Canon? How does Jason know that Hebrews belongs in the Canon? Jason says the evidence supports it. But the evidence is pretty weak. We don't even know who wrote it, says the Roman Catholic. Jason's response to this argument was spot on.
It should be emphasized that even if people disagree about which books meet the canonical criterion, the criterion remains the same. In other words, Catholic apologists cannot validate the Roman Catholic approach toward the canon by casting doubt on whether Matthew wrote the gospel attributed to him, whether Jude is an apostolic book, etc. The solution to canonical disputes is to arrive at the right canon, not to just uncritically follow the ruling of a church hierarchy so as to avoid any disputes. If the evidence doesn't support including Matthew in the canon, the solution is to not include Matthew in the canon. The solution is not to just believe whatever the Roman Catholic hierarchy says about the canon so as to avoid any controversies and difficulties. We shouldn't set up a false authority just for the sake of having an authority.
Pretty good stuff. But does this reasoning apply to Jason, or only to Roman Catholics? Scholars don't nit pick Tacitus and Josephus like they do the NT. If they did, and they were consistent, they'd reject the authorship attributions. OK. So what does this mean? Is the solution to therefore uncritically accept everything then? If the evidence does not justify the authenticity of accepting Tacitus, the solution is not to therefore assume all the claimed authorship attributions uncritically. The solution is to reject the authorship attribution to Tacitus. The arguments against the NT authorship attributions stand on their own. They are not dependent on other beliefs regarding Tacitus.