The Jesus Papers

I finished reading Michael Baigent’s book in September [it was published early 2006]. I made a note at the end that I should reread the New Testament and if I could, any of the Gnostic Gospels [Thomas, James & Mary], including the Gospel of Judas ~ to try and clear the confusion this book created in my mind.

Theory: Michael Baigent’s book says a married Jesus survived the crucifixion and escaped to Egypt.

The author then goes on to try and prove the history in support of his claim. 

According to the book, jesus survives the crucifiction thanks to an intricate plot by Pilate, escapes to Egypt with his wife Mary Magdalene a.k.a. the grail, and then teaches a form of Hermetic wisdom until his death.

Also, according to the book, Jesus’ initial political aspirations were later gutted and replaced, in the New Testament, with the image of a spiritual, divine, but a-political Christ. And that any evidence of the real story has been systematically eradicated by the Catholic Church.

Like "The Da Vinci Code," "The Jesus Papers" creates wild suspicions that the institutional Church is not telling us the whole story. Then goes to various conclusions that support his theory ~ only I am not convinced.

Baigent claims his thesis is supported by the Jesus Papers; a set of ancient texts he saw and photographed, but they slipped through his hands and into the Vaticans — where they were destroyed!!! He also claims that he’s seen documents proving that Jesus was alive as late as 45 C.E.

Like me, many people asking questions or embracing such recent materials have no background in church history, so they have no way of assessing what is being said. However, there is much material online to show such thesis for what it really is ~ more efforts to discredit Jesus, the apostles, and the Bible and to exchange these central elements of Christian faith for a less unique form of Christianity.

According to an article on beliefnet.com, these papers, which Baigent claims to have seen, were part of a second-hand story that he heard. The text he saw was in a language he could not read. So there is nothing provided that allows for any verification of such claims.

This work appears to be little more than an attempt to string together some related topics on mysticism and religion and link them to a Jesus who circulated in places we have no evidence he ever was at the times suggested. More than that, the idea that Jesus would have survived crucifixion, the most violent means of Roman capital punishment, is also quite unlikely.

Like Baigent’s earlier "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," this book will sell. This has more to do with the subject matter than the plausibility of Baigent’s historical reconstruction. The book is well written and provides good descriptions of the first and fourth centuries. As an historical record [of that period], it’s a good read.

John Reed summarized the book as a "revisionist fantasy masquerading as legitimate history."

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