The Jesus Papers
The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History  is a book by author Michael Baigent published in 2006. Providing his detailed history of Jesus' life and crucifixion; using papers that, according to the author, were covered up. The book documents the political context of Jesus' birth, and then goes on to examine the history of the migration of the family of Jesus, the chronicles of his teachings, and his death. The book was published on the same day that The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown became available as a paperback in the US.
In The Jesus Papers, author Michael Baigent claims that after having been taken down alive from the Cross, Jesus was removed from the tomb at night by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, then smuggled away to Egypt along with his wife, Mary Magdalene. They moved to Narbonne in the south of France in AD 38, following unrest in Cairo, close to where they had settled (in or near the Temple of Onias). Other Jewish families had settled in Narbonne claiming descent from King David.
Michael Baigent claims the source of Bérenger Saunière's wealth was derived from his knowledge and discovery that this was all historically factual, after the priest had found hidden documents (also taking for granted that the source of the priest's wealth was mysterious). Baigent argues that Station XIV of the Cross in the church of Rennes-le-Château, showing a Full Moon, indicates that the Sabbath/Passover had begun, and showing Joseph of Arimathea carrying the live body of Jesus out of the tomb.
Michael Baigent claims to have seen two papyrus documents - the "Jesus papers" - written in Aramaic, discovered in the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1960s. Baigent claimed these documents dated to AD 45 and were letters to the Sanhedrin from bani meshiha ("the Messiah of the Children of Israel"), defending himself against the allegation that he claimed to be the Son of God.
Baigent claims these two papyrus documents were authenticated by the Israeli archaeologists Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad, which distressed Pope John XXIII. Baigent claimed the Pope asked Baigent's friend to destroy these two papyrus documents, but he refused and said he would release them after 25 years. However, the documents have not been released because of the rift this information would create between Israel and the Vatican, also creating a revivalism of Antisemitism.
Hershel Shanks, reviewing The Jesus Papers for Biblical Archaeology Review, commented on the "foolishness of its central thesis", noting how Baigent had seen papyri written in Aramaic, a language that he did not understand, yet was able to say that what he saw dated from "about A.D. 34" - Shanks noted that archaeological finds cannot be dated so precisely, adding that the two previous famous archaeologists who had allegedly seen this papyri were now conveniently dead. Kevin McClure, reviewing the book for Fortean Times commented how the author was unable to obtain photographs of the said papyri, adding that "Baigent records no further effort to investigate these supposedly amazing documents, and appears not to have approached any academic body or community for help". The Biblical historian Craig Evans has described the book as "one of the worst examples of pseudo-scholarship ever published".
There are criticisms that the release of the book was timed with the release of The Da Vinci Code film version in an attempt to cash in on the marketing hype. Baigent's response is on p. 355 of the book, where he points out that the publication schedule had been set by Harper Collins long before. Around the same time of the book's release, Baigent was also involved in a plagiarism lawsuit against author Dan Brown, which he acknowledges in the postscript. The lawsuit claims that Brown improperly used information from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (which Baigent co-wrote) for Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code. This too has drawn speculation that the lawsuit and trial were merely a publicity vehicle for Baigent's new book, although the £3 million costs that remain under appeal will likely negate any gain proceeds from the sale of the book. On 7 April 2006, High Court judge Peter Smith rejected the copyright infringement claim by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, and Dan Brown won the court case.
Baigent appeared on the Today Show in an interview with Lester Holt, in which he claimed that he had seen the papers referred to in the title. Baigent says the papers themselves prove that Jesus existed after his crucifixion, and therefore he could not have been put to death. Baigent referred to Jesus the mystical man rather than to Jesus the mythical messiah, and to books containing teachings attributed to Jesus that were voted out of the Christian Bible centuries ago.
- The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History ISBN 0-06-082713-0, March 28, 2006, Harper Collins Publications
- Michael Baigent, The Jesus Papers: Exposing The Greatest Cover-Up In History (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006). ISBN 978-0-06-082713-7
- Jeff Dunn, Craig Bubeck, The Gospel According to Dan Brown, page 91 (David C. Cook, 2006). ISBN 978-0-7814-4440-8
- Charles Foster, The Jesus Inquest: The Case For and Against The Resurrection of The Christ (Monarch Books, 2010). ISBN 978-0-84994-811-4
- Jesus’ Confession: I Am Not the Physical Son of God, reviewed by Hershel Shanks
- Fortean Times No 210 (June, 2006).
- quotation from Evans, p. 852. Review of Craig Evans Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture, reviewed by Charles Quarles, 2016, Journal of Evangelical Theologicial Society 59.4:850-852.
- Cover-Up involved in the Story of Jesus?
- The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy
- The Laughing Jesus by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy
- Jesus: The coverup, Laura Miller's review of The Jesus Papers
- Sample and audio excerpt (Official publisher web page)
- Interview: Michael Baigent discusses The Jesus Papers on Astraea Magazine and Web Radio
- CNN, "'Da Vinci' effect: Books come to Jesus", March 28, 2006
- USA Today, "'Da Vinci' paperback vs. 'The Jesus Papers'", March 26, 2006
- CTV.ca, "'Da Vinci Code' rival releases new book", March 28, 2006