All celebrated forgeries have political and/or religious motives. Most famous acknowledged forgeries were committed in Europe, and a few in the United States.
However there is a grey area of forgeries that are tacitly acknowledged to be such, but are seldom explicitly called by that name, since they concern sacred writings of influential religions and bluntly calling them forgeries would ruffle numerous egos.
The concept of forgery must be distinguished from “apocryphal”. In a particular religious community, a book is designated apocryphal if its status as authoritative scripture is considered uncertain or is disputed. “Apocryphal” need not carry the opprobrium of “forgery”, since a forgery is wittingly designed to appear to have a different source from its true one. In other words, forgeries are always intended to be deceptive and are thus criminal or quasi-criminal in nature.
The author claims no expertise in comparative religion, and can thus say little about the existence or non-existence of forgeries in religions as a whole. The author is fairly conversant with Christianity, but cannot offhand recall any Christian scripture that is suspected of forgery, as opposed to being apocryphal. Perhaps some exist.
However there are two or three religions in whose scriptures forgery plays an important role. They are Mormonism, Islam and Scientology.
The Book of Mormon was, like the Koran, allegedly dictated by a heavenly emissary to an earthly prophet. The Book of Mormon was allegedly vouchsafed to Joseph Smith and the Koran to Mohammed. Textual analysis has conclusively demonstrated that the Book of Mormon was drafted by Smith himself without any celestial urging. In the case of the Koran, no contemporary Arabic-language texts exist with which the Koran can be compared. Among other things, Arabic was only beginning to be written in Mohammed’s time. Consequently no Koranic analysis comparable to that of the Book of Mormon is conceivable.
Nonetheless we can today state with considerable assurance that a substantial portion of Islamic scriptures are forged.
The Koran has been altered several, and probably numerous times. The most blatant example is the issue of the qibla. The qibla is the direction in which Muslims pray. According to the Koran, Muslims originally prayed facing the Kaaba in Mecca. Thus, when outside of Mecca, they prayed facing Mecca. When Mohammed and his followers fled Mecca for Yathrib, since then called Medina, the qibla was turned to Jerusalem in response to a divine command. Less than two years later, Allah ordered Muslims to pray toward Mecca again.
The reasons that the Koran provides for these switches are inordinately lame and implausible. Furthermore, two switches only seventeen months apart seem absurd. But the transparent phoniness of the Koran does not suffice to brand the qibla switches a case of forgery. Rather, archaeological research has shown that the qibla faced Jerusalem well into the ninth century, more than a century after Mohammed’s death.
Accordingly, the sura containing the qibla yarn appears to have been inserted into the Quran many years after the Quranic canon had been established. That is a clear case of forgery.
It seems that Islam started in Jerusalem or thereabouts as a Jewish heresy, and that the Al Aqsa mosque in that city was its first sanctuary. According to a widely held theory, Islam later assumed an Arabian persona for tactical purposes and switched its locale to Mecca. Thus Mohammed was turned into an Arab, Arabic became the scriptural language, etc. Part of the mise-en-scène was rotating the qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca. Sura 9 was a clumsy attempt to effect a smooth transition.
Quite apart from the Koran, there is a whole body of Islamic scripture that consists of nothing but forgeries. As shown by the renowned Jewish Orientalist Ignaz Goldziher in his Mohammedanische Studien (1892), the Ahadeeth , or stories of Mohammed’s sayings, all arose long after that worthy’s death. Not a single one of them is authentic.
These tall tales were all invented expressly to support some legal or political argument or cause, often merely concerning the claims of some family to the title of Caliph.
What I find most peculiar about this procedure is that instead of relying on argument and reason, the instigators of these wild rumors -- called ahadeeth -- resorted to forgery, namely to putting words in the mouth of the supreme religious authority, who being dead, was unable to object.
To the extent that, for settling doctrinal matters, a religion relies on forgery instead of argument, that religion can be fairly called a cult of lies. Facile analogies could be drawn, say, to earning the money one spends instead of forging it. None of them are flattering to Islam’s reputation.
I can only speculate as to what extent this precocious tradition of forgery has marked the subsequent development of Islam. But there can be no doubt that admiration and respect for the forger’s art remains a vigorous tradition in the Islam of today, as we shall see in subsequent chapters.
Three of the most celebrated forgeries in history are The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Donation of Constantine and the Bohemian manuscripts allegedly discovered in 1817 at Dvůr Králové and Zelená Hora in Bohemia, a Central European country commonly known nowadays as the Czech Republic. All three forgeries or sets of forgeries were fabricated for political reasons, like almost all famous forgeries.
It is instructive to compare their fates.
The Donation of Constantine
The Donation of Constantine (Latin, Donatio Constantini) is a forged Roman imperial decree by which the emperor Constantine I supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the pope. During the Middle Ages, the document was often cited in support of the Roman Church's claims to spiritual and earthly authority. Italian Catholic priest and humanist Lorenzo Valla is credited with first exposing the forgery with solid philological arguments, although doubts on the document's authenticity had already been cast by this time. Scholars have since dated the forgery between the eighth and ninth centuries.
(from Wikipedia, Donation of Constantine)
The Donation of Constantine was proven to be a forgery in 1440 AD by Lorenzo Valla, a Roman Catholic priest who owed allegiance to the Pope. The Pope tacitly conceded that it was a forgery by ceasing to mention it.
On further inquiry into the matter (Lorenzo Valla’s bio in Wikipedia). I found the above representation to be simplistic and inaccurate, and that it puts the
more favorable light than it deserves. It turns out -- on closer examination of
the historical record -- that Valla did NOT owe any special allegiance to the
Pope other than on account of being a priest. On the contrary, the only way that
Valla managed to escape personal reprisals for his unmasking the Donation of
Constantine as a forgery was that his patron at the time was the powerful ruler
of Naples, King Alfonso V of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, who was involved in
a high-stakes power struggle with the Pope for control of various Italian
territories. Thus Valla’s shot across the
Papacy’s bow was not only facilitated by the Pope’s rival Alfonso, but appeared
intended to advance Alfonso’s cause. Obviously,
an author who composes a work advancing his own patron’s political position can
inspire grave doubts concerning his motives and truthfulness. However not a jot
or tittle written by Valla six centuries ago is today doubted by anyone. Having
told the unvarnished truth absolves Lorenzo Valla of any possible ethical
reproach concerning his motives for unmasking the Donation of Constantine. If
he had attacked the Donation of Constantine with lies, the situation would be
completely different. Vatican
The Vatican essentially ignored Valla: however, though the bulls of Nicholas V and his successors made no further mention of the Donation even when partitioning the New World, Valla's treatise was placed on the list of banned books in the mid-sixteenth century [roughly one century after Valla denounced the Donation as a forgery. - I.S.]. The Donatio continued to be tacitly accepted as authentic until Caesar Baronius in his "Annales Ecclesiastici" (published 1588-1607) admitted that the Donatio was a forgery, and eventually the church conceded its illegitimacy,
(from Wikipedia, Donation of Constantine)
Since Valla’s time no pope has ever based any claim on the Donation of Constantine. Nonetheless the Donation had not outlived its usefulness. For over four centuries, until 1870, the popes continued to rule over parts of the territories ostensibly granted them by the bogus deed.
However, instead of basing their claim on the discredited Donation, they now started basing it on a subsequent grant “apparently” made by Pepin the Short, Mayor of the Palace in 9th-century France, the founder of the Carolingian dynasty and the grandfather of Charlemagne.“In 754, Pope Stephen II crossed the Alps to anoint” as king Pepin the Short, the Frankish Mayor of the Palace,
… thereby enabling the Carolingian family to supplant the old Merovingian royal line. In return for Stephen's support, Pepin apparently gave the Pope the lands in Italy which the Lombards had taken from the Byzantine Empire. These lands would become the Papal States and would be the basis of the Papacy's temporal power for the next eleven centuries.
So the popes shifted the legal basis for their temporal rule from the discredited Donation of Constantine to the plausible grant of Pepin the Short. However this shift was gradual. Although it is uncertain when the Papacy began to brandish Pepin’s grant as its title of sovereignty, it is certain that the Donation of Constantine was not definitively relinquished until Baronius’ "Annales Ecclesiastici" of 1588, a century and a half after Valla published his book. Accordingly it cannot plausibly be argued that the Papacy forsook the Donation of Constantine lightheartedly in the knowledge that it had a backup title up its sleeve.
Thus the Papacy abandoned the Donation of Constantine reluctantly, and its principal motive in doing so was that it tacitly acknowledged the truth. The issue of why the Papacy considered truth important is a secondary aspect. I think it likely that the popes feared and respected public opinion, newly empowered by the printing press.
In any case it seems certain that the popes respected the truth, whether for vile or noble motives.
The Bohemian manuscripts
One of the discoverers of the Bohemian manuscripts (in Czech Rukopisy královedvorský a zelenohorský) was Václav Hanka, a prominent Czech nationalist and an expert on ancient Slavic literature. Hanka is now unanimously believed to have forged both manuscripts.
These manuscripts purported to be ancient epic and lyric poems written in the Bohemian or Czech language, a Slavic language closely related to Slovak, more distantly related to Polish and even more distantly to Russian. At the time these manuscripts were “discovered”, Bohemia’s political status was that of a kingdom whose king was also the Emperor of Austria. The Austrian Empire (known after 1866 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) was a collection of kingdoms that had been acquired over several centuries by the Hapsburg dynasty, principally by means of marriages to other ruling dynasties.
Like the rest of Europe at the time, Czech-speaking Bohemians were obsessed with the idea of their nationhood, intimately related to the Czech language. Bohemians felt oppressed by Germans, since of the two official languages, German took precedence over Czech, and their king was an ethnic German who lived in distant German-speaking Vienna. Moreover a prosperous German community constituted the majority of city-dwellers. Thus Czechs were reduced to the status of country bumpkins.
The discovery of the manuscripts suddenly provided the Czech language and nation with historical roots that it had not possessed before and became an important driving force in the emerging nationalist movement. These manuscripts satisfied a Czech demand for parity with the German language at a time when Germans were swooning over medieval German literature. In one fell swoop the Czech language was promoted to the status of a bearer of high culture.
Moreover, and by no coincidence, the content of the poems was politically explosive: among other things they narrated Bohemian military victories over Germans, Poles and Tatars.
The historian František Palacký subsequently wrote a History of Bohemia (1836–1837) inspired by the manuscripts, whose dominant theme was the perennial struggle between peaceful Slavs and arrogant German intruders. The Bohemian nationalist composer Antonín Dvořák set four fragments of the manuscripts to music so they could be sung at nationalist rallies.
The presumed forger Václav Hanka hit the jackpot with the manuscripts. He was wined and dined by learned societies all over Western Europe, including Germany, and awarded all sorts of prizes. The Bohemian people, for their part, were please as Punch over the new-found cultural and historical prominence of their language.
In 1858 an anonymous author denounced the manuscripts as forgeries. Public opinion was outraged. Hanka sued the publisher of the journal in which the article had appeared, who was eventually sentenced to prison. However the king-emperor pardoned the culprit. The following year a German scholarly journal published proof of the fraudulent nature of the manuscripts.
When Hanka died in 1861, thousands of nationalists attended his funeral and turned it into a political demonstration.
In 1886 and 1887 the debate broke out anew after linguistic analysis had again shown the manuscripts to be false. Articles denouncing the manuscripts as forgeries appeared in the Athenaeum journal, with the vigorous support of its editor, one Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.Masaryk was a professor of philosophy at Prague University and a moderate Czech nationalist. He charged the manuscripts with “providing a false nationalistic basis [for] Czech chauvinism to which he was … opposed. Further enraging Czech sentiment, he [combated] the old superstition of Jewish blood libel during the Hilsner Trial of 1899.” (from Wikipedia, Tomáš Masaryk)
Masaryk's political goal was to transform the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a democratic federation in which each nation, i.e., the Germans, the Bohemians, the Romanians, the Poles, etc., were to attain self-rule in a polyglot empire. As it was, even without self-rule, Austro-Hungarian banknotes were inscribed in no fewer than sixteen languages! That is doubtless the historical precedent that persuaded the European Union in 2002 to issue the new euro notes with practically no writing on them at all. However, the First World War (1914-1918) sounded the death knell of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so Masaryk decided in favor of an independent Bohemia in a federation with neighboring Slovakia, which was part of Hungary.
Bohemia and Slovakia became independent respectively of Austria and of Hungary in 1918, and united to form the democratic republic of Czechoslovakia, with Masaryk as its president.
Masaryk’s memorable words on the issue of the forged Dvůr Králové and Zelená Hora manuscripts: “A modern nation has no need to boast of a fictitious past.”
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are an anti-Semitic screed purporting to be the minutes of a meeting of sinister Jewish conspirators planning to take over the entire planet. They were concocted either by the Tsarist secret police or by ultra-right-wing Russians around 1897 in order to terrify the Tsar into abandoning his reforms, and/or to provide grounds for persecuting Jews living in Russia. The "Protocols" have a much more complex pedigree than the Donation of Constantine or the Bohemian manuscripts. Instead of being a simple one-off forgery, the "Protocols" are a collaborative effort. They were published several times in Russia between 1903 and 1917, each time by a different publisher. Each successive edition was larger than the preceding one, because every time new material was added, most of it plagiarized from French and German books.
The French work from which most of the plagiarized material stems was a political satire written by a French monarchist, Maurice Joly, attacking Emperor Napoleon III and published in in 1864. Its name was Dialogue in Hell between Montesquieu and Machiavelli and made no reference to Jews. In this dialogue, Montesquieu stood for liberal values, i.e. freedom, reason and harmony, while Machiavelli represented a despotic, tyrannical point of view. The cynical statements uttered by Machiavelli in Dialogue in Hell were put into the mouths of the evil Jewish conspirators of the "Protocols".
A few decades later, in 1921, Philip Graves, a correspondent of The Times of London was interviewing Tsarist refugees living in Constantinople [known in Turkish as Istanbul] and discovered the pedigree of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. All this was at once published by The Times and has been common knowledge since 1921.
Nonetheless the German Nazis made extensive use of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in their anti-Semitic campaigns. It was one of their main excuses for exterminating most of Europe’s Jews in the 1940s.
Since the 1950s The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been taken seriously only by Mohammedans. In the Arab countries many people continue to believe that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a genuine historical document, although the Arabic-language Wikipedia clearly denounces it as a blatant forgery.
Even fairly educated Mohammedans refer to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as to a historical document. This is a clear indication of a widespread indifference to truth in Mohammedan culture. This trait is confirmed by many other instances of mendacity by Mohammedans whenever it suits their purposes. [examples]
So The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were concocted by Europeans and was enthusiastically adopted by Mohammedans despite clear evidence of its bogus nature.
The fanatical Mohammedan Hamas gang made a reference to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its founding document of 1989 [check], which it has adamantly refused to disown.
So we see a dramatic contrast between Nazis and Mohammedans on the one hand and Catholics on the other. Nazis and Mohammedans deliberately ignored the overwhelming evidence of the book’s bogus nature and incessantly relied on it to stir up hatred against Jews.
The Catholic Church on the other hand reacted ambivalently to the revelation of the Donation of Constantine’s phony character. The popes at once ceased relying on it as an instrument of policy, but tried to suppress any publicity concerning it.
Whereas Nazis and Mohammedans acted with blatant cynicism in order to justify a policy of genocide, the popes merely tried to prevent news of the scandal becoming widely known, while dropping the whole subject of the Donation of Constantine like a hot potato.
What does this tell us about Nazis and Mohammedans on the one hand and Catholics on the other?
What it tells us is that whereas Catholics are somewhat hypocritical, they are capable of telling the difference between the truth and lies. Nazis and Mohammedans, on the other hand, cannot tell the difference between truth and lies.
FOR NAZIS AND MUSLIMS THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUTH AND LIES.
FOR NAZIS AND MUSLIMS THE ONLY SIGNIFICANT ATTRIBUTE OF A STATEMENT IS WHETHER OR NOT IT IS USEFUL FOR THEIR SORDID PLANS.