Identification of Authors in Ancient Literature

Identification of Authors in Ancient Literature January 14, 2015

A discussion here on this blog brought up the question of whether other ancient works may, like the Gospels, have initially circulated without an author being indicated, with the attribution to the author being added only subsequently to the manuscript tradition.

This led to a blog post by Matthew Ferguson, which made comparisons to the works of Tacitus, which may not have named him as author when first published.

Since the manuscripts that we have of ancient texts are usually much later copies, I wonder how much we know about the titles and attributions of authorship that works carried when they were first circulated. The Gospels may be rare in not having what could be called titles. But are they rare in having the names of their authors added to them only later? Do we have any evidence from ancient authors who describe what one found on typical manuscripts of books?

See also Ferguson’s post about early sources and the historical Jesus, Jonathan Bernier on the authorship of the Gospel of John, and Brant Pitre on Erasmus and the canonicity of the titles of NT works.

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