Saturday, December 26

Michael Baigent: The Jesus Papers

From the back of the book:

  • What if everything we have been told about the origins of Christianity is a lie?
  • What if a small group had always known the truth and had kept it hidden…until now?
  • What if there is incontrovertible proof that Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion?
  • What were the most influential social and political events of Jesus’ day?
  • Who could have aided and abetted Jesus and why?
  • Where could Jesus have gone after the crucifixion?
  • What is the truth behind the creation of the New Testament?
  • Who is working to keep the truth buried and why?

This is another offering from the best-selling co-author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail-first published over twenty years ago and used as a source for Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (just thought I’d get that fact in nice and early-not that the introduction labours the point or anything).
I’ve always loved a conspiracy theory and a well presented, well argued and well supported religious conspiracy theory is not to be passed by. My memories of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, distant though they are, are for the main part positive so I went into this book with expectations of finding reasonable speculation with a possible, if unsubstantiated, logical base.
And it is there in the claim that (mysteriously disappeared) documentation exists strongly suggestive of Jesus’ survival, but in nowhere near the detail I had hoped to find it.
Much of this book is devoted to chronicling the known history of the period-interesting enough in itself but by no means necessary for even a casual scholar of the period. There is also some rehashing of old arguments about whether Jesus was really a victim of the Jews or the Romans (for the sake of this argument there is no question of his existence in appropriate place and time). Nothing revolutionary here. A nod is given to the creation of the New Testament by the church and mention made of much that was left out. Again, hardly a new, or controversial, idea.
The bulk of the book focuses on Egyptian mystery cults and the possibility that Jesus was an initiate. And while it is an interesting theory, evidence is thin on the ground and discussion is predominantly about the cults, not about Jesus’ possible association with them.
Certainly I didn’t see any incontrovertible proof that Jesus survived the crucifixion, any indication of who may have aided and abetted him or where he might have spent the rest of his life.
Part way through the book the author does go off on an unexpected tangent about his travels in Baia. I am yet to see how this relates to Jesus in any way.
Reading the above you could be forgiven for thinking I didn’t particularly like this book. The truth is, it’s not that bad. I just felt that it didn’t fulfil the promises it made by way of answering the questions it posed on the jacket. For a newcomer to Christian conspiracy theory it’s a good enough place to start. But, honestly, there’s little here that hasn’t been seen before. -Lynn

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