Curses, curses. The Archko volume is loose again. This evening I found a bunch of posts on various fora around the web, all referencing it to show that Jesus was white. It seems an unnecessary effort, surely, given that we all know that God is an Englishman.
The Archko volume appeared in 1884 edited by a certain Rev. W. D. Mahan of Boonville in the USA under the title “Archaeological writings of the Sanhedrin and Talmuds of the Jews: Taken from the ancient parchments and scrolls at Constantinople and the Vatican at Rome: Being the record made by the enemies of Jesus of Nazareth in his day.” At the foot of the title page are the revealing words “Published for the author by Perrin and Smith, Book and Job Printers…” — in short, it was self-published. The contents are interesting:
Chapter I.—A short sketch of the several books of the Talmuds, with Historical References, 5
Chapter II.—Dr. Rubin’s Letter, as taken from the “Brunswicker,” Dr. Mclntosh’s Letter to the People of America, and Rev. W. D. Mahan’s Letter from Rome to his family, 24
Chapter III.—Eusebius’ History of the Emperors of Rome. Constantine’s Letter in Regard to having Fifty Copies of the Scriptures Written and Bound for Preservation, – 32 Chapter IV.—Jonathan’s Report of his Interview with the Shepherds of Bethlehem; also, Letter of Melker, who was Priest of the Bethlehem Synagogue when Jesus was Born, 37
Chapter V.—Gamaliel’s Report of his Interview with Joseph and Mary in Regard to their Child Jesus; also, of his interview with Massalian, and Mary and Martha, – – 55
Chapter VI.—Caiaphas’ Report of the Sanhedrin, giving his Reason for the Execution of Jesus of Nazareth, – – 76
Chapter VII.—Caiaphas’ Second Report in Regard to the Resurrection of Jesus, —— 100
Chapter VIII.—Eli’s Story of the Magi, – – – 113
Chapter IX.—Acta Pilati, or, Pilate’s Report of the Arrest, Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus, – 201
Chapter X.—Herod Antipater’s Defense Before the Roman Senate Concerning his Conduct at Bethlehem, – – 231
Chapter XI.—Herod Antipas’ Defense Before the Roman Senate Concerning his Execution of John Baptist, and Other Charges, – – – – – – – 240
Chapter XII.—The Hillel Letters Regarding God’s Providences to the Jews, ——- 247
Mahan opens his book with the following words:
Believing that no event, of as much importance as the death of Jesus of Nazareth was to the world, could have transpired without some record being made of it by his enemies in their courts, legislations and histories, I commenced investigating the subject. After many years of study, and after consulting various histories and corresponding with many scholars, I secured the assistance of two learned men—Drs. Mclntosh and Twyman—and went to the Vatican at Rome, and then to the Jewish Talmuds at Constantinople, incurring a risk of my life as well as expending a good deal of money. As a result, I have compiled the following book, which will be found one of the most strange and interesting works ever read. It may appear fragmentary, but the reader will remember that it is the record of men made nearly two thousand years ago.
Mahan found himself with a best-seller on his hands, and was quickly making good money. But his success attracted questions. Other clergymen in Boonville wrote querying how he could possibly have made any such journey, given that he had only left Boonville for a couple of months. Others questioned how it was that “Eli and the Story of the Magi” was at points word-for-word identical with the 1880 novel “Ben Hur”. In the end Mahan was brought before a church court, convicted of forgery, and suspended for a year; and he passes out of the light at that point.
Some years later a “revised” version appeared. Thoughtfully it omitted “Eli and the story of the Magi”, and gathered the various notes which Mahan had prefixed to each text to form a new introduction. It seems to have been the work of a bookseller’s clerk, as no new material was added, and certainly booksellers of a certain kind have profited mightily from it since. Mahan perhaps thought to emulate the sort of fiction that Rider Haggard was writing in the same period, but did so too ineptly for his own good. The cynical bookseller merely sought cash by exploiting the credulity of rural Christians in the USA.
So the book is a fake. It’s one of the rash of pseudo-gospels composed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. E. J. Goodspeed, who studied the New Testament Apocrypha, grew weary of students appearing with these things and wrote a book Strange New Gospels about them. I placed it online here, and you may read about the Archko volume accordingly. He later revised the book as Modern Apocrypha. Per Beskow produced a further volume of the things, under the title Strange Tales about Jesus.
When I came onto the web 13 years ago, the Archko volume was being produced by unwary believers as evidence of Jesus. I myself obtained a copy of the first edition (1884), and also of the second edition, as this was the only way to access such things. Today we have Google books, so the curious may find the original text here, and the revised “second edition” from 1896 here. A search in Google books will find newly printed copies for sale with cynical publishers’ blurb such as:
Ongoing debate over this classic work’s authenticity makes this book an engrossing read for those interested in judging for themselves.
Fortunately these things have largely vanished from the web, and so I have not had to spend any time on it for years. But … it’s baaack.
Be prepared to explain, politely and inoffensively, that it’s a scam.