Michael Baigent, whose highest degree is in “mysticism and religious experience,” who likewise wrote the work that became the source of the central core of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, his Holy Blood, Holy Grail, is about as unbiased when it comes to the New Testament as the Pope would be on Catholicism. A spinner of conspiracy theories and historical fiction, Baigent’s The Jesus Papers is nothing more than another fictional attempt to make money on the back of shredding the New Testament and tapping in to decaying Western culture and its incessant desire for reasons to disbelieve. In the section where Baigent is trying to peddle his “Jesus didn’t die” myth, we read the following:
Certainly the New Testament is bad history. This is impossible to deny. The texts are inconsistent, incomplete, garbled, and biased. It is possible to deconstruct the New Testament to the point where nothing remains but a heavily biased, dogmatic Christian mythology—in which case we could argue that the account of Jesus supporting the payment of taxes to Caesar was simply a later addition to reassure the mostly Greco-Roman Gentile converts to Christianity that there was nothing politically dangerous about the new faith, that it was never a political threat to Roman power.
Nothing like a slightly unbiased view of the New Testament, yes? Yet this is the face of the secular world today. “Please don’t confuse me with replies, nor ask me why I choose to presume guilt first; I have no interest in explaining to you why I refuse to allow the text to speak as a whole, I much prefer to simply claim that everyone agrees with me that the NT stinks as history and is a jumbled, garbled mess, so thatI can then isolate any texts I want, weave them together into conspiracy theories that I can then either sell to gullible readers, or use to get tenure at the university.” Sadly, this kind of thinking predominates in the classrooms of the American educational system.
In any case, this is the context to the portion Shadid Lewis relied upon to make his argument about Jesus surviving the crucifixion. The context then is, “Context? Who needs context? Who needs to define terms as they were used in the original document? Throw context out! Let’s string things together in any way we want!” This hardly gives us much reason to hope that Baigent will tell the truth about such things as lexicography, either. I note in passing, would our Muslim friends appreciate the Qur’an receiving the treatment the NT receives at the hands of Baigent? Most of these writers stay far away from the subject of the Qur’an (they want to make money and get to travel around and give talks at little gatherings, not dodge fatwas), but there isn’t the slightest reason to think they would not treat it with the same disdain they do the NT. I wonder how our Islamic apologist friends would respond to that? In any case, here is the entire section from which Mr. Lewis cited in the debate on the 23rd:
But there is yet another oddity that we need to note: in the Gospel of Mark, Joseph of Arimathea is described as visiting Pilate and requesting the body of Jesus. Pilate asks if Jesus is dead and is surprised when told that he is indeed, for his demise seems very rapid to Pilate.But since Jesus is dead, Pilate allows Joseph to take the body down. If we look at the original Greek text, we see an important point being made: when Joseph asks Pilate for Jesus’s body, the word used for “body” is soma. In Greek this denotes a living body. When Pilate agrees that Joseph can take the body down from the cross, the word he uses for “body” is ptoma (Mark 15:43-45). This means a fallen body, a corpse or carcass. In other words, the Greek text of Mark’s Gospel is making it clear that while Joseph is asking for the living body of Jesus, Pilate grants him what he believes to be the corpse. Jesus’ survival is revealed right there in the actual Gospel account.
If the writer of the Gospel had wished to hide that fact, it would have been very easy for him simply to use one word for both statements—to have both Joseph and Pilate speaking of the ptoma, the corpse. But the writer chose not to be consistent. Could this be because it was too well known a fact for him to get away with any manipulation of it? This had to wait for the translation of the New Testament from Greek into Latin in the Latin Bible–the Vulgate–the word corpus is used by both Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea, and this simply means “body” as well as “corpse.” The hiding of the secret of the crucifixion was completed. (The Jesus Papers, pp. 130-131).
As long as one remembers this is conspiracy-driven fiction and not serious scholarship, one will resist the temptation to pull out one’s hair at the unwarranted, countermanded leaps of illogic Baigent proposes with a straight face. I have reviewed this material in my response to Shadid Lewis here:
I note that there is no way to read Baigent without realizing that his argument does, in fact, demand that the one using it preclude soma from having any semantic overlap with ptoma, the very thing Shadid Lewis then accused me of “lying” about. Baigent is also obviously ignorant of the textual variant at this point as well. But in any case, this kind of “please don’t bother me about the contradictions my interpretation introduces into the text, this will sell anyway” writing is good for a chuckle, but when it is being read by Islamic apologists standing in front of an audience and video cameras, well, that says a lot about the state of that dialogue, does it not?