This is the "Later Letters of Paul" effect, also seen in historic Chinese philosophical writings. One uses the name of a famous or canonical figure to lend credence or divine attribution to one's own writing. One want's one's ideas accepted more than one wants to credit.

Sort of the inverse of plagiarism.

What is the term for this?

  • 3
    I’d call that forgery
    – Jim
    Sep 3, 2015 at 17:10
  • As in Han Shan: poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Chinese/HanShan.htm whose works may span the entire Tang Dynasty (618-907) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanshan_%28poet%29 This is more meme-ish than forgery. Attribution in this case was by others. Sep 3, 2015 at 19:15
  • Reminds me of the time I was at school (aged about 16) and an especially creatively literate member of my form produced a Book of Bob. Now Bob was pronounced to rhyme with Job, in the Old Testament. Sadly I have long forgotten the content of the Book of Bob, but from what I recall it was unlikely to have achieved canonical status!
    – WS2
    Sep 3, 2015 at 20:03
  • Like when everyone used Weird Al's name for their lame parodies?
    – Zikato
    Sep 4, 2015 at 6:40
  • "Not everything attributed to Einstein was actually said by Einstein." --- Confucious.
    – GEdgar
    Sep 4, 2015 at 15:07

6 Answers 6


Such texts are called pseudepigrapha; the adjective form pseudepigraphic is a little more common.


I agree with Jim. The correct word is "forgery". "Pseudepigraph", "fallacious co-authorship" or (specifically with reference to the "later letters of Paul") "deutero-Pauline" are all euphemisms.

  • What does "forgery" mean? Can you provide some reference please.
    – user66974
    Sep 3, 2015 at 17:50
  • 1
    Do you not know the English word "forgery"? Perhaps look it up in any dictionary?
    – fdb
    Sep 3, 2015 at 17:54
  • 3
    That is what you should do, and link the definition to your question for clarity and helpfulness to users.
    – user66974
    Sep 3, 2015 at 17:58
  • So, is The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas a forgery??
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 4, 2015 at 2:16
  • @HotLicks. No, it is a literary fiction. "Forgery" implies that there is an intention of deceit.
    – fdb
    Sep 4, 2015 at 8:40

Perhaps "creation of apocryphal documents".

The adjective "apocryphal" applies to written works, that are of unknown or questionable authorship, of doubtful authenticity or spurious.

I am not totally satisfied by this proposal, because texts are said apocryphal by the readers a long time after their writing. I didn't remember having seen this word used for the production of the text.


I would call it "a fallacious co-authorship" or "co-authorship fallacy"

  • fallacy - a deceptive, misleading, or false notion, belief, etc

"I shouldn't be telling you this, but he is using the late Professor Clyne's name only to enhance his paper's appeal. It's a clear case of a fallacious co-authorship."


There are two words to choose from, "forgery" or "pseudepigrapha."

The word forgery is used when there is criminal intent and the intent removes the rights of someone else. Recent examples of forgeries were the Hitler diaries and the biography of Howard Hughes. In both of those cases, the creators were trying to gain money.

The word pseudepigrapha is used for people who create religious documents and use the name and authority of others to give credence to the document.

With pseudepigrapha there is not criminal intent, as the people doing this kind of activity usually see themselves as inspired by deities, spirits or deceased people. It is difficult, if not wrong, to include writers of biblical or Chinese material in the same category as the desperate con artist who forges a signature on a check or creates a document from Shakespeare and tries to sell it to make money. Indeed, if there had been a court case in 300 AD about such documents, the accused would say that they had been divinely inspired, and that would have been considered a completely valid defense that would have been investigated based on the person's past behavior.

Did the person create the documents and then try to sell them to accumulate wealth? Did they use them to start their own religion and collect money or deceive others or assume positions of power?

The word pseudepigrapha has a neutral feeling. Forgery does not; it is definitely negative.

I disagree with the person who says that pseudepigrapha is a euphemism for forgery.

  • My Greek dictionary defines "pseudos" as "lie, falsehood, fraud, deceit". Hardly conductive of "a neutral feeling".
    – fdb
    Sep 4, 2015 at 13:14
  • @fdb so those are the only definitions? So someone who uses a pseudonym is a liar and deceiver and trying to commit fraud? Sep 4, 2015 at 14:14

I'm thinking of the 'with the other person's permission or -blessing'-term (the way we assume most of the Psalms were written 'by King David,' the Ecclesiastes 'by King Solomon,' the popular English-translation 'by King James,' etc.)

Ghost-writing, maybe?

  • You really think King James wrote the King James Bible? Does anyone over the age of 8 think that? Mar 25, 2018 at 4:13
  • We 'trust' that it was written by "scholars & translators under his command." The same way "The Art of the Deal" was 'by' Donald J. Trump (tho the actual 'writing' was done primarily by Tony Schwartz)
    – Harry Jude
    May 20, 2018 at 11:31

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