In my presentation to the seminar on forgery at Rice University a few days ago, I dealt with a problem facing scholars who study literary deceit in antiquity.   On the most basic level, no one – even experts – seems to agree even on which terms to use to describe this or that kind of ancient deceptive practice.   It would be worth devoting a couple of blog posts to the issue.  As it turns out, it was also subject of a lecture I gave at a conference at York University in Toronto a few years ago.   Here is how I began the lecture.




All of us who labor in the fields of early Christian apocrypha know they are white for harvest.  But even as significant advances are made in producing critical editions, new translations, and significant studies, there are still some preliminaries that require our attention.  One of them involves devising and agreeing upon a sensible taxonomy of literary deceit, a set of discrete terms to refer to the wide range of literary phenomena confronting us when we deal with deceitful or potentially deceitful literary practices.[1]

The problems of recognition, definition, description, and delineation should be clear to all of us here today, and if not, I’d at least like to explain why they are clear to me.  For openers, many scholars simply don’t recognize the various ancient phenomena for what they are, and others don’t agree on what to call the phenomena once they identify them.

As an example of the former, I cite a popular publication of the Jesus Seminar, which ….

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