|Hermann Detering's Falsified Paul: A Critique|
In the Fall 2003 issue of The Journal of Higher Criticism, an author named Herman Detering offers an item titled The Falsified Paul. The dedication tells the story by itself; it is partly to G. A. van den Bergh van Eysinga, someone of whom we once wrote much with extensive credit to Mark Nanos. The train of thought here is a form of highly radical criticism of the NT which ends up at the destination that declares the whole thing a forgery, though here, Detering is only concluding that "the Pauline letters in their entirety are inauthentic."
Now even the worst of "liberal" critics like Crossan and Mack do not even go this far. They are at least willing to grant some of Paul's letters as authentic, if not the majority (at least 6 or 7). And to his credit, Detering admits his thesis will have a hard road to follow if it is to become accepted. But what are his arguments for total Pauline inauthenticity (or TPI, as we will shorthandedly call it)?
Below is a diary of my readings in Detering, in approximately 25-page chunks.
The first argument out of the gate needs no introduction [9ff]: Detering remarks almost at once upon what he finds to be the oddity of Paul saying so little about Jesus. This of course is the case of an overstated problem.
Detering hints next  to allegations of inconsistency in Paul's theology and biography, but offers no details as yet. He seems to readily dispense with Acts as a historical source under the influence of those who say it is not history but more like a "romance" . This too is something that has been refuted; for more on the reliability of Acts as a historical source, and alleged conflicts with Paul, see here. Detering does a disservice if he believes he can assume this as a bedrock of his thesis and ignore contrary arguments. (Where Detering further uses arguments covered in the linked article -- such as Paul not having authority to arrest people in Damascus  -- we will not specifically address them here.)
Detering does some analysis on the story of Stephen's stoning (Acts 8). In terms of arguing for ahistoricity, Detering spends more time objecting to how commentators add drama to the scene with their own colorful descriptions than he does actually addressing the narrative.
He cites Schoeps as determining ahistoricity by the simple point that Stephen plays "no great role in early Christian literature" and his martyrdom "falls entirely into the background" compared to other martyrdoms like that of James. 
How this argues for ahistoricity is not explained. It is not quantified in any sense (eg, no literary statistics of mentions of Stephen vs James, etc in Christian literature; nor any critical evaluation of how their relative importance is demonstrated). It isn't sufficient to just say, "hmm, that's funny" and move on with the argument.
Going further as Shoeps does, and alleging that Luke created Stephen as a way of subtly assaulting theologies with which he disagreed, is simply unjustified mirror-reading and sheer creativity.
The truth is that in terms of honor ratings, priority to someone like James over Stephen is completely intelligible. Schoeps' mindset is that of the modern individualist who thinks every individual deserves equal time; just as CNN sees fit to report in depth the deaths of single soldiers in war and stories of their families. Schoeps is off target socilogically, and so is his criticism. Stephen would not become a leading example versus someone like James simply because he was not a community leader whose example would be the one to be followed.
Then appears another familiar argument: Paul's conversion account has things which look like elements from other stories. This simply fails to account for reporting methods used in this period; see here. Imitation does not equate with ahistoricity.
Further objections by Detering range from the used before (see link above) to the pedantic (such as, in Acts, Paul is seen primarily as a missionary and miracle worker, not as a theologian as he is in his letters -- 22 -- as if these two were mutually exclusive).
Before beginning, and so I do not forget, I will note a point made by the reader who requested this project. There is an irony in Detering in that he dispenses with Acts based on incompatibility with the Pauline letters, even though he argues that those letters are entirely inauthentic.
Page 28 offers us reports to the standard arguments about forgery in Christianity and gospel authorship. Detering takes a great deal for granted here, and time he spends on reactions to the charge of forgery [29f] would have been better spent trying to formulate defenses against the sort of arguments offered in our links.
It speaks for itself that Detering resorts to saying that the authenticity of Pauline letters is staked on the "reputation" of scholars rather than evidence.  He is front-loading charges of bias and spin-doctoring to undeservedly stake the high ground.
There is the usual argument on the inauthenticity of the Pastorals, with nothing new . So likewise in points against Colossians and Ephesians. 2 Thessalonians too is doubted; on this see my book Trusting the New Testament.
From here Detering briefly speaks of historical questions about Pauline authorship by radical critics. I will pick up on page 54 where he offers some specific arguments.
I had discovered at this point that one might be confused by the pagination of the PDF document from which I drew Detering's comments. From here on I will endeavor to use the page numbers printed in the original JHC article and not the PDF pagination.
Starting on page 54 Detering sums up some arguments used against Pauline authenticity:
In a section following [57ff] Detering tries to make issue of alleged lack of "traces" of Paul in ancient sources. Why this ought to be an issue is not explained. This is Remsberg's argument all over again; before being taken seriously here, Detering needs to explain why any particular source ought to have said anything at all about Paul; as if someone like a Columella would know (or care) that Paul had been shipwrecked three times and would see fit to change his subject from agriculture to say so.
It is misguided for Detering to object that none of this is mentioned in Greco-Roman or Jewish literature. It is not enough to say that Plutarch, for example, was "open to all religious movements" of his time and then stand back amazed that Paul is not mentioned despite this. Plutarch also did not mention Gamaliel, or Hanina ben Dosa; were they also mythological? Did Plutarch name all the missionaries of the Mithras cult?
A section following [61ff] offers some more arguments re Paul: Acts vs. Epistles school (see link above), as well as allusion to elements of Paul vs Peter. There is little or nothing new here.
Justin Martyr, Detering says, is not aware of Paul; but what about places where Justin seems to have been influenced by Pauline material? That's simple, says Detering: The letters were around, but not yet attributed to Paul , which doesn't seem to explain why Justin doesn't mention the true author of the letters, or at least say, "according to these letters which go around anonymously." Proof that this could have been done is found in that it was also done with the letter from James....probably! And strangely, while Justin, according to Detering, could have been hesitant to name Paul because his letters were considered forgeries, he was still using ideas clearly derived from these forged letters.
There's another matter as well: 1 Clement and Ignatius clearly testify to Paul early enough to satisfy Detering's arbitrary requirements; but that's no problem, because those letters are fake also, for the same kind of reasons Detering finds problems over Paul. But that's another subject, and we'll pick up again on page 85 where Detering talks of Paul again.
In his next section, Detering, having assumed his thesis of Pauline fabrication proven, moves on to discuss the origin of Paul's letters as he sees them; there's not a great deal that needs to be said here, since if Detering's foundation is broken, there is no need to knock over the bricks he erects upon it. Just a few points of observation, then, that speak for themselves:
Detering finds great mystery  in Paul's hypothetical of himself preaching circumcision in Gal. 5:11, thinking this verse evidence for his "Marcion" theory since he does not figure opponents could make this charge against Paul if he truly were the letter's author.
The verse is "enigmatic and debated," as Witherington says in his Galatians commentary , but it is far from "bewildering" as Detering claims: The grammar, as Witherington notes, supports the understanding that Paul is referring to his pre-Christian life when he was still a Jew preaching circumcision (or, perhaps, Paul is indeed answering such a charge, based on his circumcision of Timothy; in which case, he is answering as well a charge of inconsistency). Either way it takes far more imagination to suppose, as Detering does, a forged letter being thrust before Marcionite churches and accepted as valid.
Detering is also unaware of the rhetorical pathos of passages like Gal. 4:16  in which Paul wonders if he has become the Galatians' "enemy"; this is not meant to be literal, but is a shaming device, meant to shame the Galatians for what was their much more moderate abandonment of Paul's teaching and the taking up of the teaching of his opponents (so likewise, the equally hyperbolic notion that Paul was first welcomed as though an angel in Gal. 4:14  and the fighting of beasts in Ephesus ; such was the way of the ancients' "dramatic orientation").
From here, Detering offers an analysis trying to match letters of Paul with the situation of Marcion; the question never raised is, why would Marcion, himself a figure of high esteem and honor, need the persona of Paul as a proxy to defend himself? Detering is clearly without recourse to the social background which explains such statements as Paul's direction that his readers imitate him (eg, 1 Cor. 4:16) ; this is normal collectivist leadership, not in the least "peculiar" or "presumptuous" -- in Paul's day, people thought of themselves first as a group, and someone like Paul would be expected to act as a role model for the group, and point to himself as such.
Detering then embarks upon an analysis of the much later stories of Paul and Thelca; these need not detain us at all, save to note that Detering's errors on matter such as the above are what lead him to presuppose these stories as sources for items in Paul's letters; when in fact the Thelca tales are making the same mistake as Detering does, overliteralizing a dramatis personae. We need also not be detained by Detering's extended efforts to equate Paul with Simon Magus, for his argument assumes that he has priorly proven his case.
Now it is time for some concluding remarks.
To operate against a strong consensus position -- in this case, one which sees Paul as at least the author of seven of 13 letters in the NT, if not more -- requires a great deal of work.
Detering has come nowhere near meeting this burden. Most of his objections are pedantic or involve serious conntextualizations. He has interacted with almost no serious Pauline scholarship, and indeed seems to have paid far more attention to arguments done centuries ago than to modern Pauline scholarship.
In light of this, Detering's closing sermon (which is what it is) in which he waxes eloquent (marginally so) about the "freedom" one obtains from following his higher critical method, is tragic. Detering simply claims the high ground (however illicitly) and waves off those who disagree as priorly committed to the old paradigm. It speaks for itself that he also stands up for a form of the Christ myth (which sees Jesus as a composite of several historical figures .
To put it bluntly: JHC is a journal for those whose work is so far outside the consensus that they can't pass peer review in something more serious like New Testament Studies. Detering's claims would never pass peer review beyond the limited circle of JHC, and he likely knows this. However, he is also likely counting on readers not knowing this.
His case against Pauline authenticity is a failure, and shall remain so.