In my last post I talked about a humorous Gospel forgery by a modern scholar. There are a number of other forgeries of Gospels done in (relatively) modern times — especially in the nineteenth century — which were not particularly risible but were far more successful. I still get asked about them today, especially by people who don’t know what to think about them or, even more, people who assure me they are true.
I talk about them in the last chapter of my book Forged (HarperOne, 2011). Here’s one of the most successful, as I discuss there.
One of the most widely disseminated modern forgeries is called The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. From this account we learn that Jesus went to India during his formative teen years, the “lost years” before his public ministry, and there learned the secrets of the East. The book made a big splash when it appeared in English in 1926; but as it turns out, it had already been exposed as a fraud more than thirty years earlier. The reading public, it is safe to say, has a short attention span.
The book was first published in France in 1894 as La vie inconnue de Jésus Christ, by a Russian war correspondent named Nicolas Notovitch. Almost immediately it was widely disseminated and translated. In one year it appeared in eight editions in French, with translations into German, Spanish, and Italian. There was one edition published in the U.K. and three separate editions in America.
The book consisted of 244 paragraphs arranged in fourteen chapters. Notovitch starts the book by explaining how he “discovered” it. In 1887, he was
Have you ever heard about Jesus going to India as a young man? This Gospel is probably where you got the idea (or where the person who told you got it, rather). Pretty interesting. And a complete forgery! Join the blog and see. Click here for membership options