The Archko Volume

By John Baskette, AIA Research Associate
Hi folks!

I've just finished a book called _The Archko Volume_ Anyone else have any experience or knowledge of the authenticity (or lack thereof) of this work?

I haven't read this work as you have, but I have read about it in a book that I have that's probably out of print, but it's a terrific book if you can find it:

Modern Apocrypha, Famous "Biblical" Hoaxes by Edgar J. Goodspeed (The Beacon Press, Boston, 1956) the Library of Congress catalog card number is 56-10075

Goodspeed was a first rate Biblical scholar, professor emeritus of the University of Chicago. He made the first translation of the Apocrypha directly from Greek into English in The Apocrypha: An American Translation. He translated the New Testament in his The New Testament: An American Translation and has written a number of other books about the Bible or the history of Christian and Biblical literature.

Chapter Four of the book, "The Report of Pilate", deals with the Archko Volume.

I am going to give you my own paraphrased summary of the salient points in this chapter. I might otherwise just tell you to get the book, but the book may not be available to you. I don't know.

In 1879 a Boonville, Missouri minister, the Rev. W.D.Mahan, published a pamphlet entitled A Correct Transcript of Pilate's Court. In 1884, after the apparent successful distribution and wide spread popularity of the report, Mahan issued a new volume that contained an expanded version of this report along with eleven other such works, under the title, The Archaeological and the Historical Writings of the Sanhedrin and Talmuds of the Jews, Translated from the Ancient Parchments and Scrolls at Constantinople and the Vatican at Rome.

This volume has been reprinted many times under various titles, most often as The Archko Volume or Archko Library.

Mahan accompanied his original report with an account of how he came into possession of the work. In short, he says he obtained the copy through the help of a German scholar, Henry C. Whydaman, from Father Peter Freelinhusen, the chief guardian of the Vatican. Father Freelinhusen provided the Latin text for 35 darics. Whydaman's brother-in-law, C.C. Vantberger of New York, translated the volume. Mahan even includes a letter from Father Freelinhusen to Whydaman that certifies the accuracy and authenticity of the book.

Needless to say, the Vatican does not admit to having any book of this kind nor is there any record in the annals of the Vatican library of any such person as Father Peter Freelinhusen.

The Archko Volume was produced after the Rev. Mahan supposedly traveled to Rome and Constantinople to study the original sources for the life of Jesus. He was assisted by two great, but otherwise unknown scholars, Dr. Twyman of England and Dr. McIntosh of Scotland.

Dr. Goodspeed first wrote his book in the 1930's. It was possible at that time for him to interview people who know the Rev. Mahan to determine if the Reverend had ever traveled to Europe during this time period. The Rev. Mahan was absent from his home of Boonville for less than two months in the autumn of 1883 when he claimed that he was discovering and copying manuscripts in Rome and Constantinople. Given the time period, it is utterly improbable that the Reverend could do all this traveling and research in so short a time. According to the people that Dr. Goodspeed interviewed, the Rev. Mahan traveled no further than Rome, Illinois from which he dispatched his correspondence.

General Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur, was the American minister to Turkey in 1883. According to Wallace, No one connected with the American legation in Constantinople had any knowledge of a visit by Mahan, nor did any American missionaries at the time, neither did Zia Bey, who was in charge of the library of the mosque of St. Sophia, know of any Mahan or of any of the manuscripts that Mahan professed to have seen there.

Dr. Goodspeed does a great job of documenting many of the absurdities and errors in this "Volume". The most incredible and glaring of these is in the manuscript called "Eli's Story of the Magi". It appears that several pages of this story were copied verbatim from Ben Hur. One striking detail is the use of the word anuman. Eli's story reads, "Egypt is satisfied with her crocodiles and anuman, holding them in equal honor." Page 272 of _Ben Hur_ has some lines that read:

  "      Egypt was satisfied with her crocodiles and anu-
   bis, the Persians were yet devoted to Ormuzd and Ahri-
   man, holding them in equal honor ... "
The anuman word arose because a line was skipped when copying this sentence.

The Archko is Rev. Mahan's fabrication.

The work presented in the early pamphlet, however, predates the Rev. Mahan. There was an earlier pamphlet published in Boston, 1842, under the title, Pontius Pilate's Account of the Condemnation of Jesus Christ, and his own Mental Sufferings. This was supposedly extracted from an Old Latin manuscript recently found at Vienna. According to Dr. Goodspeed, this earlier pamphlet carries no notice of an author or publisher. This earlier Boston tract is substantially the same as the Rev. Mahan's document. It also appears to be the antecedent of another modern apocryphal work called The Confession of Pontius Pilate.

Goodspeed says that nothing is known about where this Boston pamphlet came from, but he does analyze the contents sufficiently well to show that it is historically improbable.

John Baskette

Postscript: Long after making the above soc.religion.christian post, I obtained a recent republication of the Archko volume. What was different about this more modern edition is that "Eli's story" was omitted, and that the problems Goodspeed referenced have been "fixed."

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