Friday, April 07, 2006

The Jesus Papers ...

Now that the DVC lawsuit has been settled (Dan Brown "won" -- by having the judge pretty much acknowledge that the work of the alleged victims of plagiarism, "Holy Blood, Holy Grain" is a work of "pseudo-history"), one of the trio of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" has published the Jesus Papers. Yet another breathless conspiracy theory that is summarily dispatched in Salon by Laura Miller.
Nevertheless, the most intriguing discovery to be found in "The Jesus Papers" will probably only interest those of us who pursue the odd and somewhat pitiful hobby of crank-watching; it's finally clear from reading this book that it was Baigent -- rather than co-authors Leigh and Henry Lincoln -- who actually wrote "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." The voice, which grows more and more authoritative in tone as the foundations of its arguments dissolve into piffle, is unmistakable. Baigent's co-authors may have supplied the research and quite possibly the underlying structure of "Grail"; this book offers little fresh information and is badly muddled. But the style of "The Jesus Papers," a masterly counterpoint of bluster, false humility and self-righteousness, matches that of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" like a fingerprint.

And what a style it is; Baigent helped make "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" one of the masterworks of paranoid pseudohistory, along with, say, "Chariots of the Gods." In ambition and organization, "The Jesus Papers" can't hold a candle to "Grail," but because it's a less seamlessly constructed edifice of bunkum, it gives you a clearer picture of how Baigent et al. managed to hoodwink millions of readers.
However, don't think Ms. Miller is a friend of traditional Christianity. She recommends James Tabor's (Prof. of Religious Studies at UNCC) new book ("The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity") as being slightly better and a bit more plausible, and seems to be quite taken in by the fact that the so-called "longer ending" of the Gospel of Mark is regarded by most scholars as a later addition, and like any wide-eyed student, fresh out of their first historical-critical class at college, cannot contain her glee that the few decades between the composition of the Gospels and the events they describe might mean that everything about Jesus (in the traditional Christian portrait of him) is unreliable. :: sigh :: Tabor, of course, makes Paul out to be the villain who divinized the nice Jesus of history. :: more sighs ::
This is a remarkable enough story without a lot of folderol about Egyptian mystery cults, faked deaths and the Holy Grail, plus it has the added attraction of being rooted in some legitimate scholarship and it's better written. "The Jesus Dynasty" surely has enough in it to challenge the religious orthodoxies that many Americans were raised with, one of the qualities of "The Da Vinci Code" that seems to have made the deepest impression on the novel's fans.
And that, right there, of course, is the oh-so-objective agenda. :-)

1 comment:

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

So, what do we do when "they" expose falsehoods but fail to latch onto the Truth? Keep plugging away in service of the Truth, I guess...

Again with the ::sigh::