Why is it so that while we are told in the Acts and epistles of many false-apostles and false brothers, there are no specific names mentioned? Has this matter ever been considered in Christianity?

  • Asking why something is omitted from the Bible is akin to asking the motives of God and/or the author of the specific book, and therefore off-topic. – Flimzy Dec 17 '15 at 18:28
  • @Flimzy - Why asking about the motives of the author of the specific book is off-topic?! I may ask, "What was the main goal of writing the Gospel of John?", ans somebody may answer by leading me to John 20:30-31, "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." So, why would that all be off-topic?! – brilliant Dec 17 '15 at 22:58
  • Because the authors aren't around to interview, so any answer anyone here can provide is conjecture and opinion. If your question is "Does the author of X explain their reasons for writing X?" then it would be on-topic. And sometimes, as in your example, there may be an overlap between the two. But the overlap is razor-thin. – Flimzy Dec 18 '15 at 8:09
  • If you wanted to rephrase this question to "Do any of the authors of Acts or the Epistles explain why they don't mention the names of false apostles?" I would consider that sufficiently scoped. But the answer you accepted doesn't even answer that question--it offers opinions. – Flimzy Dec 18 '15 at 8:10
  • @Flimzy - "Because the authors aren't around to interview, so any answer anyone here can provide is conjecture and opinion" - Following this logic, any question about the meaning of any passage in the Bible will be off-topic then, because any interpretation of any given text can be deemed as a conjecture, and none of the authors are around to tell us what they were really trying to say in this or that passage and, thus, to confirm or disprove our the given interpretations. – brilliant Dec 18 '15 at 14:19

I see several possibilities:

  1. One major characteristic of the Gnostic groups was the lack of defined leadership1, so one might imagine that the false brethren may simply have been without definite leader. Considering that the Gnostic movement would have started by the time that the Johanine literature was complete, I think this should hold particular prominence in this discussion.
  2. There was a desire to generalize those who are proclaiming false gospels. By giving examples, they automatically include and exclude certain groups. While there are many ways of falsehood, there is only one way of truth. This is what was meant when the Council of Constantinople said, "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church". Had they said, "this community" or "that community" and a third community came along this generalization makes it so that they might be automatically excluded.
  3. It is not charitable to write that such-and-so is a heretic. While that person may be a heretic now, a week from now he could repent (such as was the case with James "the brother of our Lord," who was a Judiazer until the council described in Acts). If that happens, then you have this message sent out to all of the Churches condemning this person unjustly. Direct condemnation places a major stumbling block on the road to repentance.
  4. Perhaps they were not well known:
    • The false brothers were less known — it is quite possible that, since there was no Apostolic (and, by proxy, divine) support for their position, they were not able to gain notoriety save as individuals in the congregations. Everyone knew Paul the Evangelist. Not quite so many knew Joe the third heretic.
    • John speaks of a separation with these false brethren. It could be that they were no longer a part of the Church in the formal sense, and so similarly, they would not have been as well known.

1.Pagels, Elaine The Gnostic Gospels

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  • The "fact" that James was originally a Judaizer? Citation needed, please. Seems to me James was originally an Apostle, and (along with Peter and John) one of Christ's innermost circle even among the Apostles. If anyone can be trusted to know Christ's true doctrine, and how it differs from Judaism, James can. – Mason Wheeler Feb 6 '12 at 21:02
  • First, there were two, probably three James's in the NT. The first was James, the son of Zebedee, the brother of John. The second was another Apostle by the same name. If there is a third (and I believe this to be the case for a reason to extensive to go into here), then he would have been James, the "brother" (word more accurately rendered "kinsman") of the Lord. – cwallenpoole Feb 6 '12 at 22:02
  • Generally, it is this third James who is called, "James of Jerusalem" and it was he who sent the messengers in Gal. 2 that convinced Cephas to back away from full embracement of the gentiles. – cwallenpoole Feb 6 '12 at 22:07
  • From this, and the fact that Cephas is rebuked for following, it can be taken that he was substantially to the right of orthodoxy and therefore could rightly be considered a judaizer. – cwallenpoole Feb 6 '12 at 22:12
  • I understood your second paragraph only until the illustration with James being a Judaizer. I am afraid I don't understand that illustration. What and how does it illustrate what you said in your second paragraph. Could you, please, explain this to me? – brilliant Feb 10 '12 at 10:12

Here are some suggestions, none of which I am claiming as necessarily the answer:

  1. Naming people draws attention to them. The writers probably didn't want their readers going to find out what these people were writing
  2. Naming people makes them exclusive. If the writer says "don't listen to Marcus and Suetonius" that leaves Octavius free to spread his teaching. This is especially true since the letters were circulated widely, and the authors may well have understood that they were also writing for a later generation.
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Pauls did name and shame Phygelus and Hermogenes for leaving him, and latter in the same letter, he mentions Demas (maybe the same guy in Col 4:14) who had deserted him.

[15] You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15 ESV)

[10] For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:10 ESV)

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    Yes, but these ones are not stated as false brothers or false apostles. – brilliant Feb 7 '12 at 1:11
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    That is true. Some commentators are torn on this. John Gill says Phygelus and Hermogenes are "now stars fallen from heaven, had erred from the faith, and were become apostates, and proved men of corrupt minds, and deceivers of the people" where as he says Demas may not be "entirely apostatized; he might forsake the apostle, and yet not forsake Christ and his interest, or make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience: his faith might be right, though low". Barnes, Calvin, Clark also do not agree. – Ampers Feb 7 '12 at 2:52

In political debates, candidates who wish to take "the high ground" will often not refer to their opponents by name. Indeed in the US Republican Presidential primary contest, when Mitt Romney was trailing Newt Gingrich, he started calling his opponent out by name, leading the media to call him "desperate." Once he was comfortable in his lead, he ceased to call his own name.

This, coupled with the expense of ink and paper would probably have simply led to the "omission."

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