published on January 27, 2015
James R. Lewis
Using the “F-Word” in Religious Studies
Toward a General Model of Sacred Forgeries
The present article proposes that the notion of forgery be incorporated as an analytic category within religious studies. Following a brief outline of three key periods of religious studies, the factors that have made researchers hesitant to deal with the topic are examined. Religious forgeries are then discussed in terms of different parameters, such as the age of the fabrication, the extent of the forgery and the mode of revelation. With the exception of forgeries created simply for “the fun of it,” religious document forgeries are motivated by the desire to legitimate the authority of certain opinions, systems of religious ideas, and/or the forger. For the most part, the people who manufacture sacred forgeries are not cynical or sinister. Rather, many religious forgers produce documents expressing ideas in which they really do believe and which they hope to promote via their fabrications.