The Jesus Papers

by Michael Baigent

San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006, 516 pp.
$25.15 (soft cover)

Reviewed by Hershel Shanks

Finally, after 2,000 years, we have Jesus’ own admission that he is not the physical son of God. He actually recognizes that fact in writing. The revelation comes in a new book by dragon-slayer Michael Baigent, who in 1982 co-authored the best-selling Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which explained how Jesus survived the crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene and ultimately moved to France, where they had a family.

Baigent says he actually saw the papyrus letters in which Jesus admits that he is not the physical son of God: “These were the Jesus papers,” he tells us in his new book, The Jesus Papers, “the letters from Jesus to the Sanhedrin. They existed. I had them in my hands.” Wow!

Baigent refers to the man who owns the letters and allowed him to see them as “my friend,” but he does not tell us his name. Baigent came to him through his “contacts in the [antiquities] trade.”

Baigent does tell us, however, where he saw the letters—in a large walk-in safe that was temperature- and humidity-controlled.

The owner of the papyrus letters, a wealthy Israeli, had dug them up in the basement of his house in the Old City of Jerusalem, Baigent says. That is really quite remarkable because not the smallest bit of papyrus has ever been found, in more than 150 years of excavation in Jerusalem. The wet climate would cause papyrus quickly to disintegrate into nothingness. (Likewise ancient textiles, which have never been recovered in Jerusalem.) Yet these papyrus letters—9 by 18 inches!—apparently survived in excellent condition. Because they were so important, they were no doubt preserved in ancient Saran Wrap.

Another piece of good fortune: The letters can be dated to “about A.D. 34.” Archaeological finds cannot usually be dated so precisely.

The language of the letters is Aramaic. Baigent admits that he himself cannot read Aramaic. He does not tell us whether the owner of the letters can read Aramaic. But the owner did show the letters, which he found in 1961, to two famous Israeli archaeologists, Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad, both now conveniently dead. According to Baigent, Yadin and Avigad told the owner that the documents are “important.” Whether Yadin or Avigad (both of whom were expert epigraphists) translated the letters or any part of them for the owner, Baigent does not say. All we know is that they were judged “important.”

The owner knew what the letters said, however, and he told Baigent:

[The] two Aramaic letters [were] written to the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin … This figure, the Messiah of the Children of Israel, was defending himself against a charge made by the Sanhedrin—he had obviously been accused of calling himself “son of God” and had been challenged to defend himself against this charge. In the first letter, the messiah explained that what he meant was not that he was “God” but that the “Spirit of God” was in him—not that he was physically the son of God, but rather that he was spiritually an adopted son of God. And he added that everyone who felt similarly filled with the “spirit” was also a “son of God.”

These, then, are “The Jesus Papers,” exposing what the jacket refers to as “the greatest cover-up in history.” These are the letters that Baigent characterizes as “the smoking gun.” The jig is up: Christianity has been exposed!

I fear that my review of the startling contents of this book will only help rocket The Jesus Papers to the best-seller list—even though what I have done is expose not only the foolishness of its central thesis, but the obvious lack of any conceivably reliable evidence regarding the papyrus letters. Michael Baigent, perhaps more than anyone, however, understands that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The London judge who dismissed his copyright suit (based on an alleged copyright violation of Holy Blood, Holy Grail) against Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, and his publisher Random House, excoriated Baigent for bringing the suit and socked him with an order to pay approximately $1 million of the defendants’ legal fees. Never mind. That’s just peanuts in the world of bestsellers. Was it just coincidence that at the height of the trial publicity Baigent came out with his new book, The Jesus Papers, or was it smart marketing? USA Today wanted to know. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as a coincidence in publishing anymore,” replied the paperback publisher of The Da Vinci Code. His judgment is backed up by the fact that the original printing of The Jesus Papers was a whopping 150,000. And to top it off, Holy Blood, Holy Grail is back on the bestseller list. Baigent told the newspaper, however, that it was just a coincidence. “I’m not a publicity person,” he added.

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11 Responses

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  1. JD says

    Clearly, this “review” was written by the sort of man who would have volunteered to hammer in the nails.

  2. Jon says

    These The Jesus papers are a forgery. Just another sad excuse to try and convince people that Jesus was a normal man. And it opens the door for belief in “Christ consciousness”. Jesus is the son of God and he conquered the grave. Through our faith in Him and acceptance of His free gift, we can partake in eternal life with the Father. To him is the glory, honor, and praise forever!

  3. Randy says

    Have any of you people actually READ the entire Jesus Papers book by Baigent as I did recently? It seems based on your cursory comments of this book that you haven’t. It’s an outstanding book of scholarship as is Holy Blood Holy Grail, very prudent, not speculative at least in the sense there are no big leaps of logic made. Baigent (unlike Christians) can look at something like this dispassionately because he doesn’t have an agenda. Christians DO have an agenda – to believe in Jesus, and arrange reality in such a way (however dishonest) to see essentially what they want to see and ignore the rest. A born again Christian simply cannot read a book like the Jesus Papers from cover to cover dispassionately and then soberly examine and discuss what the book contains and evaluate it in that way. A book like this represents too much of a threat to Christian faith, and so it is at best glossed over as you have all done above and at worst completely ignored.

    So go read the book and then come back and discuss. Until then, your opinions here don’t mean shit!

  4. Todd says

    KUDOS! I am waiting for this book to arrive at the library. Meanwhile, other great books worth reading are; The book the Church doesn’t want you to Read ( Tim Leedom), Everything you know about god is wrong (Russ kick), and Our Occulted History ( Jim Marrs).

  5. klarissa says

    Ever since I read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, I’ve begin the quest for what to believe in. I have been reading books about this matter and this book really did a good job explaining different issues that I want to know.

    It’s not wrong to know the truth.. Especially when it includes faith…

  6. Noel says

    Jesus was a man. A man, one of the creators of a human being sought to ingratiate as his soul. A man not afraid to speak the truth about what the creators, Gabriel(mind), Michael(body) and the energy no living person has knowledge of . . . the creator of souls.
    How can I speak so precise?
    For I now have this fabulous energy as my soul.
    You are, today, witnessing the prophecies my soul instructed Jesus to declare.
    Earthquakes and volcanos are mine to command. The beautiful energies(creators) Gabriel and Michael are laboriously ensuring that humankind suffer for the wanton destruction of innocent men, women and children and most importantly . . . this once beautiful planet.
    Do you believe me? . . . Irrelevant, for the punishment has begun.

  7. El says

    “the obvious lack of any conceivably reliable evidence”

    I always find it hilarious when supporters of a religion use this sentence in any type of critique. Where is the “reliable evidence” behind Jesus’ divinity or any of his miracles?

    But you’re going to tell me that this is why we must have faith. But why is faith only acceptable with regards to your own belief system, and not anyone else’s?

  8. Bob says

    jesus’s father was God. Therefore he was not totally human. If you believe the bs in this book you haven’t experienced God’s salvation through JC. By the way I don’t have to read the book to know it is a lie. When I was a boy I died and went to heaven. I believed but didn’t pay much attention to salvation, but there I was in paradise just because I believed Jesus. I felt my soul being pressed back into my body and a voice said they are praying for him, and I woke up in the hospital with a sheet over my head. I did see golden roads large mansions perfect flowers and grass, none of which had water but were alive. We only live in 10 dimensions but experience only 4. There are more than 10 and the fact that Jesus came back and walked throgh walls proves there are more. I have heard stories about Mary Magdlene living in a cave in France. She Kept Her Head covered so you could not see it and now there is a monastary there. All of these stories are so bizzarre,
    I can’t agree with it’s truthfullness.

  9. Matheus says

    Nothing more to add – these are just forgeries, and yes, you do need faith to believe in the miracles of Jesus. Intellectually, I can’t say I can convince you. Only through faith will you believe, and know things to be true or untrue based on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Praying for all of you.

  10. Jerri says

    I do not believe in any of this bs. Jesus is the son of God and he died on a cross for our sins. He rose 3 days later and went into heaven. And he lives today!

  11. Justin says

    The cases that people who seem to credit the Jesus papers present actually makes me cringe inwardly, as any educated scholar would do. The Jesus papers are merely a conspiracy theory attempting to ride the waves of publicity into fame and value. When examined, this thesis that he puts forward unravels instantly under evaluation. He claims that in 1961, one of his contacts discovered two documents written in Aramaic, which he consequently allowed two famous archaeologists to examine it. After examining it so, they dated it to roughly the time of Jesus’ death. The writer identifies himself as the “Messiah of the children of Israel”, and he writes to inform the Sanhedrin that he was not trying to say he was the Son of God, yet just an embodiment of his spirit. Baigent depicts that he walked into an antiques shop and personally examined them under glass, under the fact that he could not take pictures and that he could not read Aramaic, but two Israeli archaoelogists, Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad, affirmed it. Hold on just a minute; what the heck? Yadin and Avigad are DEAD!

    So we have an text that Baigent cannot reproduce, nor do we have the translation for, an anon antiques dealer who cannot be found, and two dead guys. Also, did I mention that no papyri could survive 2000 years in Jerusalem? The moist climate would have already obliterated the entire document, much less allowing it to be readable and in “excellent condition”. In Egypt, perhaps. In Jerusalem? No way.

    So yes, this basically is just another publication trying to gain profits out of naked hype and conspiracy. This claim literally self destructs when examined in scrutiny. Need I say more?

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