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by Steve Keohane, USN (Ret)
Unanswered Questions about
Archko Volume Authenticity
until convinced by more than Dr. Goodspeed's very questionable,
after the fact (over 50 yrs) investigation, Bible Probe weighs in on
the side of Reverend Mahan 

This book has been distributed in the past as both the "Archko Library" and the "Archo Volume".

In 1879 Rev W. D. Mahan a Boonville, Missouri minister 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.

In 1887, Rev. W. D. Mahan published a book entitled The Archko Volume.  It is the results of his search for 1st century documents.  Rev Mahan wrote that his research took him to the Vatican in Rome and to the Jewish Talmud's in Constantinople, Turkey; and that he was accompanied & assisted by two other "expert" scholars: Dr. McIntosh of Scotland and Dr. Twyman of England.  He says that he was prompted to do this ever since 1856 when a German gentleman named H. C. Whydaman visited him and told him of his having worked at the Vatican and seen the Acta Pilati documents there. 

During his 1883 trip to the Vatican, Mahan says that among many other writings he located a letter written on a papyrus scroll to Caesar from Pontius Pilate, dated about 31 A.D..  What is contained in Mahan's Archo Volume is truly awesome if the documents here turn out to have been  really written by Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod and others.  Bible Probe has seen nothing in these documents that would be in opposition to the teachings of the Christian Faith.

Should the world dismiss this based on a so-called "Biblical Scholar's" sham of an Investigation, over 53 years later?

Investigating Rev Mahan's claims in the 1930's, a Dr. Edgar J. Goodspeed, reportedly a Biblical scholar, and professor emeritus of the University of Chicago wrote in his book after talking with people in Boonville, Missouri (Mahan's home)  that the Rev. Mahan was absent from his home of Boonville for less than two months in the autumn of 1883.  This is the period Rev Mahan claimed to be traveling in both Rome & Constantinople. Dr. Goodspeed questions whether Rev. Mahan could have traveled and researched all these documents in only about 2 months.  

People that Dr. Goodspeed interviewed think that Rev. Mahan traveled no further than Rome, Illinois.  Reverend Mahan countered this when he wrote; "I was landed at Marseilles, France, after twelve days out from New York".  Supposing Rev Mahan was gone from Boonville about 60 days, a similar return time would have given Reverend Mahan a full month to travel to Rome & Constantinople from France and with the help of his two scholar friends to accomplish their research.  Remember, in all fairness to Rev. Mahan, Goodspeed did not interview anyone in Boonsville, MO until about 53 years later.  Two months could have actually been 2.5 months, or even 3 months gone.  

And Remember, although circumstancial--there are several notarized statements from Missouri residents about what they know about Rev Mahan departing in 1883.  One notarized statement from a Mr. John S. McFarland says; "After some months Mr. Mahan returned and and brought "quite a lot of manuscripts with him, some of which he read to me, and which were very interesting."

 Dr. Goodspeed's book is: Modern Apocrypha, Famous "Biblical" Hoaxes by Edgar J. Goodspeed (The Beacon Press, Boston, 1956) the Library of Congress catalog card number is 56-10075.  In the Archko Volume, Rev Mahan says; "I procured the necessary assistance, and on September 21, 1883, I set sail for those foreign lands to make the investigation in person." 

See Dr Goodspeed's book "Strange New Gospels" at the Tertullian Organization here

Goodspeed says that General Lew Wallace, 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.  Wallace also said that a man named Zia Bey, who was in charge of the library of the mosque of St. Sophia, knew nothing about Mahan or of even any of the manuscripts that Mahan professed to have seen in Constantinople. Of interest, Lew Wallace is the author of the book "Ben Hur", 

According to Dr. Goodspeed's investigation:  it appears to him that several pages of Mahan's publication of "Eli's Story of the Magi" in the Archko Volume were copied  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 does have lines that read: "Egypt was satisfied with her crocodiles and anubis, "  The reader should take note that "Eli's Story of the Magi" no longer appears in printed copies of the Archko Volume.  Could this be as a result to Dr. Goodspeed's investigation?

There is speculation that Mahan may also copied from a pamphlet published in Boston in 1842.   This pamphlet was entitled: "Pontius Pilate's Account of the Condemnation of Jesus Christ, and his own Mental Sufferings". This was supposedly extracted from an old Latin manuscript, then reported to be "recently found at Vienne". Dr. Goodspeed could not tell where this 1842 Boston document originated from.  According to Dr. Goodspeed, this earlier 1842 pamphlet came with no notice of an author or publisher. Could it be this that Rev Mahan was first shown by the German visitor to his home that began his "quest"?

Also of note is that Dr. Goodspeed also said no record exists of the "so-called" Vatican librarian, Father Freelinhusen, whom Reverend Mahan claimed to have conversed with in Rome.

Dr. Goodspeed wrote that this earlier  Boston pamphlet's is substantially the same as the Rev. Mahan's document. 

The Reader Must Decide

Authenticity remains a question because of this and the fact that the Vatican Archives are not "open", and the Vatican has shown a propensity to hide things it does not consider as credible; instead of letting the public decide.  

One will just have to believe that Rev. Mahan, a minister and Reverend of God, did not carry off such a hoax for profit.  Rev. Mahan rightfully points out; "Now the reader must remember that there never was anything that created so much excitement in the land of Judea as the preaching of John the Baptist and Christ. And "Believing that no event of such importance to the world as the death of Jesus of Nazareth could have transpired without some record being made of it by his enemies in their courts, legislations, and histories, I commenced investigating the subject."

It is also possible that Dr. Goodspeed is wrong; as is the case with many over educated Theology Professors who as an example view the Bible stories as just stories; they ignore archeology, and haven't an inkling of what a "type" is.  The reader must remember that it is academia who insist on the bogus and absurd theory of evolution, even though they could never prove this theory; while their own senses even shriek out "anthropic principle".  Many of these professors of Theology even go so far as to say that there was never a Jesus of Nazareth; many are even atheists who go out of their way to disprove things they don't understand; or are on the devil's "payroll".

In defence of Reverend Mahan

In defense of Rev Mahan, he himself wrote: "There are at least five hundred quotations made from the Sanhedrim and Talmud's of the Jews by men who have denied their existence.  Now I call attention to history, and I will give the name and page, so that all can read for themselves.

  First: Rabbi Akiba, a reformed Jewish priest, Vol I, page 22, quotes from Celsus, an enemy of the Church.  He says there was a dreadful earthquake at the time Jesus was crucified, and that the mist that arose from it covered the earth for three hours.  On page 28 he says that Jesus was the son of Mary; that he was the founder of the sect called Christians.  On page 48 he says Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Passover.  He gives extracts from the apostles, and never denies in a single instance, but admits their genuineness. He quotes the books and makes extracts from the names they bear.  He makes particular mention of His incarnation, of His being born of a virgin, of His being worshipped by the Magi; of His flight into Egypt; of the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem.  On page 52 he speaks of His baptism by John, and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and of the voice that was heard out of heaven.  He speaks of the miracles that were done by Jesus, and never doubts the facts in any instance, but attributes them to the art of necromancy he had learned in Egypt.  But did the reader ever hear of a thaumaturgist producing a descent of the Holy Spirit or cause voices to be heard from the heavens?  Such absurdities are not spoken of except when they are urged against the Christian religion.

   Rev. Mahan continued; Aretas, one of the kings of Arabia, who was a philosopher as well as a king, in speaking of the laws of nature (Vol. VII, page 14), says that Jesus of Judea was a philosopher above the laws of nature; that he controlled all the elements of nature with almighty power; that the winds, thunders, and lightning's obeyed him; and speaks of these facts as being so common that it would be folly tp dispute them.

  Rev. Mahan continued; Justin says, in Vol. II, page 42, that the several Roman governors in their respective provinces made reports of the important events that occurred in their jurisdiction, and they were spread on the senatorial dockets in Rome.  We find in the same work, page 128 , that he appealed to Antoninus and the Senate for clemency for the Christians, and after referring to their many virtues, and to Christ as their leader, added: "And that these things are so, I refer you to the records of the Senate made by Pontius Pilate and others in his day."

Of particular interest to Bible Probe in Reverend Mahan's documents is letters reportedly written by Pontius Pilate to the Roman Senate about Jesus.  These portray Pilate as being in awe of Jesus and one might believe by studying them that Pilate himself may have become a Christian after all he witnessed.  Another haunting entry from the Archko Volume is this marvelous saying attributed to Jesus; "Who can measure the distance between God and the flower of the field"?

The tendency, already discernible in the canonical Gospels, to lay stress on the efforts of Pilate to acquit Christ, and thus pass as lenient a judgment as possible upon his crime, goes further in the apocryphal Gospels and led in later years to the claim that he actually became a Christian. The Abyssinian Church reckons Pilate as a saint, and assigns 25 June to him and to Claudia Procula, his wife. The belief that she became a Christian goes back to the second century, and may be found in Origen (Hom., in Mat., xxxv). The Greek Church assigns her a feast on 27 October. Tertullian and Justin Martyr both speak of a report on the Crucifixion (not extant) sent in by Pilate to Tiberius, from which idea a large amount of apocryphal literature originated. Some of these were Christian in origin (Gospel of Nicodemus), others came from the heathen, but these have all perished.

Bible Probe Caution

Haven't you noticed that in all this excitement of finding historic tidbits here and there - or deciding what is real and what is not, there is only one "sure thing" we may not have noticed? 
Out of all these discoveries, only one really matters and takes center stage; that is the absolute "bomb" that  via ELS (Bible Code) the words "Jesus is my Name" is found clustered within the small relevant Isaiah 53 passage:

"He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our

iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with

his stripes we are healed"

In light of this, any Noah's Ark finding, real or fake; or even any letter from Pilate is eternally pale in comparison.. We thank our Lord for this sure authentication.
For truth, turn to the Lord Jesus; and rely on God's Word in Scripture. Nothing else matters.

See some of these Archko Volume documents: here