Last week I tried to show the contrast between my trade books for general audiences and my academic books for scholars, by posting the very beginning of my book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, a tradebook, 2020) and the beginning of my book Jouneys to Heaven and Hell in the Early Christian Tradition (Yale University, due out April 5 2022; a scholarly book).  The general topics are similar, as you can see by the titles, but they are not actually about the same thing.  And the level of discourse is different.

So too with my books on forgery — I wrote one for a general audience (Forged: Writing in the Name of God — Why the Bible Authors are Not Who We Think They Are  Harper San Francisco, 2011) and the other for academics (Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in the Early Christian Tradition, Oxford University Press, 2013).  In this case the differences are more obvious, I think, from both the titles and the openings.

Here is how the popular one begins, starting with a couple of human interest stories


Whenever I teach about forgery, I think back to my first lecture on the subject, twenty-five years ago now, at Rutgers University.  As odd as this might seem, forgery was on everyone’s mind at the time.  Only a few months earlier forgery had been front page news for weeks in major newspapers around the world.  The diaries of Adolf Hitler had been discovered, authenticated by one of the world’s leading experts on the Führer, the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper.  The diaries had been purchased for millions of dollars, first by Stern magazine in Germany, then by Rupert Murdoch for English publishing rights.  But just as they started to appear, they had been shown to be worthless forgeries.[1]

The forger of the diaries was a West German named Konrad Kujau.  Ironically, even before he perpetuated the biggest con job of modern times, his friends called him Connie.  Kujau had grown up as a poor working class fellow; at an early age he discovered an artistic ability that led him to a career of forgery.  He spent some time in jail as a young adult, having been caught forging lunch vouchers.  But he had a number of aliases and the people to whom he sold the Hitler diaries were not assiduous in making a background check.

The Hitler Diaries consisted of

The other anecdotes in this Intro are pretty interesting.  I’ve posted a good deal on forgery in early Christianity, dealing with the obvious question of whether there are any in the NT.  Want to read about it?  Join the blog!  Click here for membership options