On The Jesus Papers

“What if everything you think you know about Jesus is wrong?”. This was the headline from last Sunday’s Dateline report.

You might remember Michael Baigent from recent news with his high profile lawsuit against author Dan Brown, claiming that The Da Vinci Code was copied from his own book Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

He lost. But his book is back on best seller lists and just in time too. His new book: “The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History” is stirring a new controversy that is beyond the fiction of The Da Vinci Code.

While his 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail suggested Christ married Mary Magdalene and sired a secret royal bloodline (Baigent and co-author Richard Leigh unsuccessfully argued that Brown stole ideas from the book), his latest work puts forth the theory that Christ didn’t actually die on the cross…

The Jesus Papers suggests that either an impostor took Christ’s place on the cross or that his followers removed him from the crucifixion site while he was still alive.

One of the more tantalizing theories the book puts forth says that when Jesus asked for a drink of water, the sponge offered to him on a pole contained not vinegar, but a mixture of opium, hashish and belladonna. These would have put him into a sufficiently drugged state that he could be taken down while still alive but appearing dead.

A doped-up Jesus?

“Let’s say anesthetized,” Baigent adds with a smile.

Baigent welcomes all of this revisionism as a refreshing alternative to centuries during which the Christian church tightly controlled information to its followers so that the religious Jesus was advanced and the historical Jesus submerged. [source]

The jist of his “arguement” is that there is no documentation to verify that what happened to Jesus actually did. That all these documents around today are from the 2nd century. Something along the lines of Bart Ehrman latest book “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why”, where he claims that many things were ‘lost in translation’ since the Bible was collected years after Jesus died. This claim has good timing considering the emergance of the Judas gospels which made news the last week. Baigent claims there are documents, written on papyrus and in arimaic and hebrew which he has held in his hand although their owner will never release them. Note that Baigent doesn’t read either language but he claims these documents should be released for scholars to examine.

So what really happened to Jesus if he didn’t die on the cross? Baigent explains in the Dateline interview:

With the Bible as his source, Baigent reconstructed the story of the crucifixion and arrived at an entirely new version of events.

A secret deal with Pontius Pilate He says Pontius Pilate, who ordered Jesusâ??s death, actually made a secret deal to save his life.

Baigent: It was rigged. It was a fraud. I think the crucifixion was set up precisely to remove a particular political problem which both Pilate and Jesus found themselves within.

Pilate, Baigent argues, he needed to appease the crowd which was calling for Jesusâ??s death. But because Jesus had urged his followers to pay their taxes to Rome, Baigent argues Pilate also had an incentive to let Jesus live.

Baigent: Itâ??s my hypothesis that he rigged the crucifixion such that Jesus would survive but very quickly removed Jesus from the scene.

According to Baigent, Jesus and his supporters were also in on this plot. Baigent acknowledges there no proof of his theory, but it was possible to survive crucifixion. There is at least one example in early historical records. The Jewish historian, Josephus, writes about finding three of his friends nailed to the cross.

He pleaded with Roman authorities and got them brought down. Two of them died. One survived. If the crucifixion was arranged to allow a survival, it could be done.

Itâ??s a theory that was first raised in a book called â??The Passover Plotâ? 40 years ago, which was dismissed by scholars. But Baigent believes the theory deserves a second look. The plot would have gone like this: Jesus would have been sedated so that he looked dead and then later revived after being taken down from the cross.

Baigent: The way to survive it would be to reduce the trauma. It would be to get the person off the cross quickly. And it would be to minister to that person as soon as possible afterwards. And all three of these factors we can find in the New Testament.

The vinegar-soaked sponge

He says where the Gospels relate how a thirsty Jesus called out for something to drink. A sponge soaked in vinegar was placed on a reed and lifted to Jesusâ?? mouth. But rather than reviving him, Jesus died shortly after drinking the liquid. Baigent says that detail suggests how the

plot might have been carried out.

Baigent: I think itâ??s more likely that they raised the sponge with some kind of anesthetic, which knocked Jesus out, which would reduce the trauma and make it easier for him to survive.

James: What do you think those drugs might have been?

Baigent: Well, they used hashish, opium, belladonna. There was a mixture of drugs.

Baigent says his account would explain why Jesus apparently died so quickly. While normally a person lingered on the cross for three days, according to the gospels, Jesus died within hours. Of course, there is another widely accepted explanation for Jesusâ??s quick death: He had been beaten, stabbed, in addition to being crucified.

James: Indeed, somebody could die after a matter of hours instead of several days?

Baigent: They could. But I think by giving someone a drug to render them unconscious would reduce this trauma and I think this is a significant factor in the Gospel account.

The Greek text

Next, he suggests, a lifeless-looking, unconscious Jesus was removed from the cross. The gospels say that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for Jesusâ??s body. Buried in the text of the original Greek Bible, Baigent says is a crucial clue:

Baigent: When Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate and asks for Jesusâ?? body to take down from the cross, he asks for the â??somaâ? of Jesusâ??Which means the living body. Pilate allows Joseph to take the body. But he uses the word â??ptomaâ? which means the corpse, the dead body.

So even in the New Testament, thereâ??s a distinction made between a living Jesus and a dead Jesus.

Religion scholar Elaine Pagels of Princeton University says Baigent is drawing the wrong conclusion.

Pagels: If youâ??re talking about the removal of a body of a friend of yours, you would ordinarily not talk about â??a corpse.â? You would not say, â??my fatherâ??s dead corpse.â? You would talk about â??my fatherâ??s body.â? Itâ??s just a bit more respectful and intimate on the whole.

‘Immediate medical attention’

Once Joseph of Arimathea collected the body, Michael Baigent says there was one last, urgent step to complete the plot: immediate medical attention.

Baigent: They bring him down from the cross, they get him as quickly as possible into the tomb where under the cover of darkness, they return with drugs to treat any bleeding which may have occurred and to try to revive him.

And once again, Baigent contends the Gospels offer clues. When Joseph and Nicodemusâ??supporters of Jesusâ??visited his tomb during the night, they brought with them herbs and spices such as aloe and myrrh…

Now Baigent also believes that the Vatican has documents which prove Jesus was alive in 45 AD; a decade after his death, but says he has no proof.

But just what are the Jesus Papers according to Baigent?

…he describes the â??Jesus Papersâ? as two letters written to the Jewish Court, the Sanhedrin, by a writer who called himself the Messiah of the Children of Israelâ?? Jesus himself.

Baigent: They were answers to a charge made by the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin had been accusing someone of claiming that he was god. This someone wrote back in his defense. And this Messiah was writing back to the Sanhedrin saying in effect, â??No no no, Iâ??m not saying that Iâ??m god. Iâ??m saying that Iâ??m filled with the spirit of god.â?

If these letters are real, Baigent contends it would mean Jesus was saying he was an ordinary man and not divine. But Baigent admits he canâ??t back up his claim.
So Baigentâ??s story hangs on a guy weâ??ve never met on papers weâ??ve never seen, and on claims that are impossible to verify. But Baigent has an explanation for that too. He says that the reason we canâ??t see the Jesus Papers is because that Israeli businessman made a secret deal with the Vatican.

Baigent: The Vatican asked him to destroy them. But he refused. But he did promise that he would keep them under wraps for 25 years. Now when I met with him, he had long passed the 25 year mark.

Is it possible the Vatican made a deal to suppress those so-called Jesus Papers? Or to hide those other alleged documents claiming Jesus was alive in 45 AD? Has the church tried to keep secrets about Jesus? Is there any evidence of Baigentâ??s allegation of a cover up? [source]

I think come what may, this will spark a new debate that is rocking the boat. Especially lately. Many people are buying this book now in the western world. From a Muslim’s perspective there are many things which I find absurd and quite offensive about these claims; on the other hand most Christians find what I believe as a Muslim quite absurd and offensive. That’s the irony I suppose.

But approaching this from a historical perspective instead perhaps there are documents out there; they may prove or disprove these theories. I personally believe this to be true, from a purely historical perspective. This is based on the fact that every few years new documents are discovered and with the information age that we live in it’s become harder to hide them and easier to expose them. My belief is that these documents merit a study; the conclusion is not what is entirely important here. What is important is that such documents (if they exist) do need to be studied and explained and understood. And it doesn’t matter what the religion is; such documents are an important account of Human history and people have a right to know and understand their past in order to make sense of what they believe in the present.

All I’m saying is that I think this is especially important in a time when we live in a world that is knowledge hungry and that information can often be misunderstood. This is a world where many think The Da Vinci Code is based on a true story and I hope The Jesus Papers doesn’t share a similar fate.


  • Jesus mother, Mary was at the foot of the cross. Mother’s know their babies, even when beaten beyond recognition.

    The Jews, of all people, would have found this out and published it far and wide to prevent a ‘usurper’ religion.

    So then Jesus had amnesia about all the things he said before and didn’t contact any friends or family, and no one saw him?

  • …if people lose faith in Jesus Christ as a result, perhaps they weren’t people of that faith to begin with. I’m annoyed and offended with people like Dan Brown and this one who want to make a fortune attempting to discredit other people’s belief systems. But didn’t Jesus himself say “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?”

    So far, every archaeological find has backed the biblical record. If this scenario he paints were true, it would have been big news 2,000 years ago, not today. I also believe that every document shoudl be studied, where they agree with my version of Christianity or not. One forgets that in the history of the church there have been people who went their own way and wrote about it, they were called heretics and their ideas faded into antiquity except for the odd find now and then…I would expect more papers like this found, not the few that make there way into best-selling pseudo-fiction.

  • kinzi, interesting comments, thank you. although im not so sure what historical gaurentee one can derive from Mary or Mariam (pbuh) being there and ‘knowing her baby’. I mean if God willed it then everyone could’ve been fooled.

    but here’s the thing. regardless of what science seeks to prove or disprove, or what historical documents seek to prove or disprove, I believe everything goes back to one thing: faith. Even though the Quran tells me an alternate history to traditional Christian doctrine, I still have to choose to believe it as the truth.

  • A bit of ambugiuty here: “Even though the Quran tells me an alternate history to traditional Christian doctrine, I still have to choose to believe it as the truth.”, I am having a hard time telling which you believe.

    I salute you for this article, it’s very interesting and I loved reading it. I lost my The Da Vinci Code without even reading it.

    I think Kinzi makes sense, at least to me, when she hints on the way things have become lately when nobody is safe from confusion and plots and what not. It’s becoming harder to “believe”, and if your God gene is weak, then you’re in trouble.

  • “From a Muslimâ??s perspective there are many things which I find absurd and quite offensive about these claims;”

    what do you mean?

  • silencer, well for one that Issa (pbuh) sired a secret royal bloodline, and that he was doped up in order to survive the crucifixion for another.

  • Just a general remark..
    Religious men (or organization) have a long history of denying fact to preserve their religion’s sayings. Galileo’s book was taken off the vatican’s list of banned books only a few years ago!! I’m not saying I agree with what Baigent is saying. But I can see how the vatican would hide/ban certain information from the public.
    Lastly Nas, I admire your moderation and open-mindedness when it comes to your beliefs. You said you beatifully “regardless of what science seeks to prove or disprove, or what historical documents seek to prove or disprove, I believe everything goes back to one thing: faith.” I think many people lack this sort of thinking, and tend to think of what they believe as a “truth”

  • Oh. I meant the Quran vs. Christian doctrine, I didn’t quite get your sentence and was wondering about that “it” in : “Even though the Quran tells me an alternate history to traditional Christian doctrine, I still have to choose to believe it as the truth”. That’s all.

  • Omar, thanks. I do agree with that, and it’s true for many things. I think the view is that science is automatically and inevitably at odds with religion when this is not necessarily true.

    Tololy, thanks, I was talking about perception of truth. in other words even though in both religions the telling of history is very different, at the end of the day it comes down to faith; believing that your version is the truth can only come from faith 🙂

  • well i dont really have trouble with the opium part.. i mean, it would have been necessary to save him, so surely it was ok 😉 haha but i’m not sure about that part anyway.

    but i like the idea that he was still around after the date of the crucifiction. I’m not sure how much that contradicts the Qur’an saying that God raised him up to Himself. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Depends on interpretation.

  • Kinzi writes:
    “So then Jesus had amnesia about all the things he said before and didnâ??t contact any friends or family, and no one saw him? ”

    Im not a scholar, but I think the bible mentions that Jesus is seen alive after he was thought to be dead. Ever heard of the ressurection of Jesus?

    To Tololy: My god gene is weak, what kind of trouble am I in?

  • Birger, of course he appeared for 40 days on and off, but in very miraculous ways. There was no wedding, no move to Rome. He then ascended in front of the disciples and many others.

    God is big enough to preserve His truth and expose deception.

  • when god sent Jesus to this world, the only mission was to save the word not to marry whome every she is!!
    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • I heard a true story of a woman who was looking at crosses in a jewelry store. As the jeweler showed her various ones, she commented, â??I like these, but do you have any that donâ??t have this little man on them?â?

    That is what people want today: A cross without Jesus. A cross without any offense. But how many people know what the cross really means? If we could be transported back in time and see the cross in its original context, we would realize that it was a bloody and vile symbol. It was the worst picture imaginable to see someone hanging on a cross.
    “the cross is power”

    Of course, Jesus knew from the very beginning that He had come to this earth to die for the sins of humanity. He also knew that He would make this sacrifice on a Roman cross. If there had been any other way, do you think that God would have sent His Son to suffer like this? If there had been any other way we could have been forgiven, then God surely would have found it. If living a good moral life would get us to heaven, then Jesus would have never died on the cross for us. But He did die, because there was and is no other way. He had to pay the price for our sin.

    The Bible says that when Jesus died on that cross, He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. At the cross, Jesus dealt a decisive blow against Satan and his demon powers. At the cross, Jesus purchased the salvation of the world. This message is so deep and profound that you could spend the rest of your life studying it and still not grasp its full significance. Yet it is so simple that even a child can understand it. Still, many people do not understand the significance of what took place on that Roman cross 2,000 years ago. Jesus died so that we might live.

    If ever you are tempted to doubt Godâ??s love for you, then take a long look at the cross. It wasnâ??t the spikes that held Jesus there. It was His love for you.

  • Nothing surprised me at all these day. I have full collection of books and manuscripts on Jesus.
    Some writer says Jesus story is a myth, some says Jesus never did exist, and some says Jesus is no different than Budha. Till this day, none of those writer gives me any real source.

    The Bible is only special on only one thing, and thatis God. He can speak for himself. He explains everything in his words. He even warn any man/woman who add or subtract His word with a curse. For any man/woman who dare to speak for Him, wo to you.

    His words clearly stated, His thought and our thought is nothing to compare. How can any man speak for God or explain his meaning when man thinking is not even near God thinking?

    Had any of you listen to the praise song called ” The Love of God “?

    The Love Of God

    The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell
    It goes beyond the highest star
    And reaches to the lowest hell
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care
    God gave His Son to win
    His erring child He reconciled
    And pardoned from his sin

    Could we with ink the ocean fil
    And were the skies of parchment made
    Were every stalk on earth a quill
    And every man a scribe by trade

    To write the love of God above
    Would drain the ocean dry
    Nor could the scroll contain the whol
    Though stretched from sky to sky

    Hallelujah [3x]

    O love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure
    The saints’ and angels’ song

  • People just don’t appreciate the holiness of GOD; you think the Almighty is gonna let anyone stand before Him who has even broken one of His laws? I wish you the best…

    1) The Bible is full of strong statements about the holiness of God.

    2) God made it very clear, before the first sin, that the consequence of sin is death, and that is reiterated throughout the Bible.

    3) Sin is rebellion against the highest authority. It is an offense against God’s holiness and right to institute all laws. It is basically saying that we know better what is right and wrong and we disregard God’s authority.

    4) When God doesn’t want to dilute the seriousness of his commands by “just forgiving it without penalty” which would compromise his own holiness, then transgression has to find its punishment.

    5) But God is not only holy and just, he is full of love and does not want that any should perish.

    6) God’s holiness and justice demands punishment of sin according to its seriousness of offense. God’s love and mercy moved him to pay himself for it, since he doesn’t want to destroy us although we would have deserved it.

    7) Jesus death on the cross is the substitutionary payment of all of sins death penalty of mankind. If I accept the substitution, then I am free. If I insist to face God on my own terms, then I will have to bear the just condemnation of my sin myself.

    8) Why the cross? God could have done it different ways. Why crucifixion and not stoning? This question is not answered. The why of the death of Jesus and its meaning and effect is clearly answered in the Bible. This shameful and horrible death is appropriate for the shamefulness and horridness of the sin punished. And the earlier prophets have predicted much of the cross in their writings; for example, Isaiah 53, written hundreds of years before the coming of the Messiah, which describes the death of Jesus, AND His resurrection:

    Isaiah 53

    1 Who has believed our message?
    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
    2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
    like a root in dry ground.
    There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
    nothing to attract us to him.
    3 He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
    We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.

    4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
    And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
    5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
    He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
    6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
    Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

    7 He was oppressed and treated harshly,
    yet he never said a word.
    He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
    And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
    he did not open his mouth.
    8 Unjustly condemned,
    he was led away.
    No one cared that he died without descendants,
    that his life was cut short in midstream.
    But he was struck down
    for the rebellion of my people.
    9 He had done no wrong
    and had never deceived anyone.
    But he was buried like a criminal;
    he was put in a rich man’s grave.

    10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
    and cause him grief.
    Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
    he will have many descendants.
    He will enjoy a long life,
    and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
    11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
    he will be satisfied.
    And because of his experience,
    my righteous servant will make it possible
    for many to be counted righteous,
    for he will bear all their sins.
    12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
    because he exposed himself to death.
    He was counted among the rebels.
    He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Your Two Piasters: