Written By…

She’s not the first to do it, but this week JK Rowling was unmasked as being the author of the detective novel ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ about a war veteran turned investigator called Cormoran Strike. The cover of the book claimed one Robert Galbraith as its author, a debut novelist, a far cry from the multi-million authoress of the Harry Potter books. Before her unmasking, the book had sold a mere 1,500 copies. Upon the revelation of it’s real writer, it quickly shot up the charts, topping Amazon’s sales lists! No doubt it would have done well in book shops too, except for the fact that few had copies, unaware of the significance of the book, and so being woefully unprepared when there was a rush for copies. As some of you know I’ve been writing a novel over the last year, although it’s currently making very slow progress. If it turns out to be any good and gets published (unlikely, I know) then I think I might write it under a pseudonym myself and see if that helps sales at all. Or use my real name with a qualifier, something like ‘Ben Quant …allegedly, or is it some famous fantasy writer who wants to remain secret?!’

There is no doubt that having the name of someone of repute on the cover of a book can bring sales and publicity that an unknown cannot hope to achieve, straight away anyway. Thinking about the Bible, Paul makes it clear when he writes his letters that they came from him. As a significant figure in the early church, this gave them credence and got people’s attention. So why did JK Rowling write under a different name? I imagine to give her the freedom to write something different, not under the pressure of expectation and also so that the book spoke for itself and was judged on what it said rather than who the author was (incidentally, it did get good critical reviews, some saying that this seemed the work of a mature writer rather than a debutant in the field). Many books and letters in the Bible are unnamed, and maybe exactly for that reason, although they were clearly written by humans, and a number of them at that, each with their own personality showing through. Having no name attached to them, however, leave us free to judge them on their words, even if not knowing who wrote them infuriates scholars. The fact that they survived the selection process despite their anonymity, simply goes to show that over time their divine origin shone through. They were picked for inclusion in the Bible not because of who wrote them, but because God spoke and speaks through them, something that countless readers can and have attested to ever since.

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One thought on “Written By…

  1. Of course, from a theological perspective there is a high likelihood of the opposite being the case in some of the named books e.g. a goodly number of the Pauline epistles have strong marks of not being written by Paul, just as the traditional ascription of the Torah as being written by Moses is unlikely in the extreme. Modern attitudes would of course decry them as fakes or frauds, when nothing could be further from the truth. They reflect an established practice of the time, appealing to the name of a known author, and in the case of the Epistles almost certainly reflect the teaching and attitudes of Paul that have been conveyed by some of his disciples. Nevertheless, their inclusion, along with the un-named ones, refers back to the faithfulness of the teaching with experience of the church, and the because, like the others, God spoke and speaks through them, even now.

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