Last month I attended a small conference on the early Christian apocrypha (that is, the Gospels, epistles, Acts, and Apocalypses from early Christianity that were not accepted into the canon of Scripture) at York University in Toronto. The special topic for the conference was the use of forgery in early Christianity, and I was asked to give the keynote address.
This is a topic, of course, I have been long interested in. I spent several years working on my (rather long) scholarly monograph on the topic: Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics; and in the process or writing that book for fellow academics, I wrote a shorter and simpler account for popular audiences: Forged: Writing in the Name of God. Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.
Among other things, in my talk I stressed that people in the ancient world considered forgery to be an act of literary deceit, a form of lying. I really don’t think there should be much question about that, since, well, that’s what the ancient sources themselves consistently report: an author who wrote a book claiming to be someone else was thought to have committed an intentional falsehood and was condemned for it.
But some of the participants in the conference were not pleased with this view and wanted to argue with it. (I should say that no one cited any counter-evidence. They just thought that SURELY these authors should not be thought of as lying. Surely!!)
Anyway, one of the scholars presenting at the conference was James McGrath, a New Testament expert who runs one of the significant blogs on New Testament studies. Among his other talents, he likes to write and sing parody songs. And the conference inspired him to write one on forgery in early Christianity.
It is to the tune of Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave a Lover” and is called “Fifty Ways to Forge a Gospel.” You can get the lyrics and performance here. IMO, pretty funny!: