Book claims Jesus faked his death
by Maurice Chittenden - Posted April 11, 2006
A Holy war between writers is switching from the court to the bookshelves.
Michael Baigent believes Jesus may have been drugged to reduce the trauma of being on the cross.
One of the authors who last week failed to win a plagiarism case against Dan Brown's international bestseller The Da Vinci Code has written a new book just in time for Easter to question the tenets of the Christian faith.
Michael Baigent's The Jesus Papers tries to strip Jesus of his divinity by claiming that he wrote a letter to a Jewish court denying he was the son of God. It also suggests that there is evidence that Christ survived the crucifixion and that his death was faked as a cover to allow him to escape his enemies.
Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judaea who sentenced him to death, is said to have aided and abetted the mock execution because Jesus had told the Jews to pay their taxes.
The book was published in the United States last week on the same day as the first American paperback version of Brown's novel. The two tomes immediately went head-to-head at bookstore tills.
The Jesus Papers will be published in Britain next month, nine days before the film version of The Da Vinci Code hits cinema screens on May 19.
Had last week's verdict at the high court in London gone in favour of Baigent and another author, Richard Leigh, it could have led to the film being left in the can and Brown's book being withdrawn from sale.
Baigent and Leigh claimed Brown had stolen the ideas for The Da Vinci Code from them. Instead they have been left with a £2 million legal bill.
Baigent said last week that the church has tried to cover up evidence that Pilate made a secret deal to save Jesus' life. "It was rigged. It was a fraud," he said. "I think the crucifixion was set up to remove a particular political problem which both Pilate and Jesus found themselves in."
He argues that Pilate needed to appease the mob which was calling for Jesus' death. But Jesus had urged his followers to pay their taxes, so Pilate had an incentive to let him live.
He believes Jesus may have been drugged to reduce the trauma of being on the cross. Buried in the text of the original Greek Bible, Baigent said, is an important clue. When Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus' body to take it down from the cross, he asks for the "soma" of Jesus, meaning the living body, rather than "ptoma" meaning corpse.
After recuperating, Jesus and his wife travelled to upper Egypt and taught mystical lore, said Baigent.
The Jesus papers in the book's title are two scrolls written in Aramaic and supposedly found under a house in the old city of Jerusalem in the 1960s.
It is claimed they are letters written to the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin, by Jesus who called himself "the Messiah of the children of Israel". In it he said he is not the son of God, but is filled with the spirit of God.
Baigent also claimed he has discovered information about a mysterious document that purports to provide evidence that Jesus was alive in AD45, more than a decade after the accepted date for his death.
Biblical scholars scorned the claims. - ©Sunday Times, London
Story source dispatch.co.za.