are pleased to present the following
excerpt from the book
The Jesus Papers:
Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in
by Michael Baigent
if there was incontrovertible proof that
Jesus Christ survived the
My telephone rang. It was about 10:00
I remember the sun dappling the wall
before me. It sparkled. It was the perfect
day to be in an English country
"Can you get the next train to London?
Don't ask why."
I groaned silently: wall-to-wall cars.
Scarce taxis. Noise, pollution, crowded
subways. A day spent either inside rooms
or traveling between them, the sun a
"Sure," I replied, knowing that my
friend would never have made such a
request unless it was important.
"And can you bring a camera with
"Sure," I replied again, vaguely
"And can you hide the camera?"
Suddenly he had my attention. What was
up? My friend was a member of a small and
discreet group of international dealers,
middlemen, and purchasers of high-value
antiquities -- not all of which carried
the required paperwork permitting them to
be traded on the open market.
I put a camera and some lenses in a
standard-looking briefcase, threw in
plenty of film, and jumped in my car for
the drive to the station.
I met my friend outside a restaurant in
a famous London street. He was an
American, and with him were two
Palestinians, a Jordanian, a Saudi, and an
English expert from a major auction
They were all expecting me, and after
brief introductions the expert from the
auction house departed, apparently not
wishing to be involved in what was to
happen. The rest of us walked to a nearby
bank, where we were quickly led through
the banking hall, along a short corridor,
and into a small private room with frosted
As we all stood around a table placed
in the middle of the room, making
desultory small talk, the bank officials
carried in two wooden trunks and laid them
down before us. Each trunk bore three
padlocks. As the second was carried in,
one of the officials said pointedly, as if
"for the record": "We don't know what is
in these trunks. We don't want to know
what is in them."
They then brought a telephone into the
room and departed, locking the door behind
The Jordanian made a telephone call to
Amman. >From the little conversation
that ensued (which was in Arabic), I
gathered that permission had been
requested and obtained. The Jordanian then
produced a set of keys and unlocked the
They were stuffed full of exact-fitting
sheets of cardboard. And on each sheet, I
was horrified to note, there were hundreds
of pieces of papyrus text roughly fixed to
the cardboard by small strips of clear
adhesive tape. The texts were written in
Aramaic or Hebrew. Accompanying them were
Egyptian mummy wrappings inscribed in
demotic -- the written form of Egyptian
I knew that it was common for such
wrappings to bear sacred texts, and so the
owners of this hoard must have unwrapped
at least a mummy or two. The Aramaic or
Hebrew texts looked, at first sight, like
the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I had seen
before, although they were mostly written
on parchment. This collection was a
treasure trove of ancient documents. I was
very intrigued and increasingly desperate
to let some scholars know about their
existence, perhaps to secure access for
As the cardboard sheets were removed
from the trunks, I was told that the
owners were trying to sell the documents
to an unspecified European government. The
price asked was £3 million
(approximately $5.6 million). Those
present wanted me to take a representative
selection of photographs that could be
shown to the prospective buyer in order to
move the sale one stage further toward a
successful conclusion. I then realized
which government was the most likely to be
interested. But I kept my thoughts to
Over the next hour or so, as the trunks
were emptied, certain pages were pointed
out to me, and standing on a chair, by the
soft light filtering through the frosted
windows, I took black-and-white
photographs. In all, I shot six rolls of
thirty-five-millimeter film -- over two
But I was becoming increasingly anxious
that these documents might simply vanish
into the limbo from which they had
emerged. That they might be bought by some
purchaser who would sit on them for many
years, as had happened with the Nag
Hammadi texts and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Or
worse, I feared that without a purchaser,
they might simply disappear back into the
deepest, darkest recesses of the bank,
joining the many other valuable documents
known to be locked away in safe-deposit
boxes and trunks around the world.
It seemed likely that since I had taken
a lot of photographs, and since no one
would be counting, I would be able to hide
at least one of the rolls of film so that
there might be at least some proof that
this collection even existed. I
successfully slipped one into a
When the photography was finished and
the cardboard sheets were being placed
back into the trunks, I gave a handful of
exposed film rolls to one of the owners.
He looked down at them.
"Where is the other film?" he said
immediately. He had been counting.
"Other film?" I said lamely, trying to
present an image of abstracted innocence
while ostentatiously patting my
"Oh. You're right. Here it is." I
produced the film I was hoping to keep. I
was irritated and rather depressed. I
really wanted to have some proof of what I
At that point my friend realized what I
was up to and, in an inspired move, came
to the rescue.
"Where are you getting these films
developed?" he asked innocently.
"At a photographic shop," replied the
man holding my film.
"That's not very secure," said my
friend. "Look, Michael was a professional
photographer, and he could do all the
developing and print you off as many sets
as you need. That way there is no
"Good idea," the man said and handed
back the films.
Naturally I printed a full set of
photographs for myself. Later I arranged
to meet the Jordanian -- who seemed to be
in charge -- for lunch, where I was to
give him the prints and negatives. During
lunch I argued that if some scholars could
look at the texts and identify what they
saw, then perhaps their insight would be
helpful in raising the value of the
collection. I asked the Jordanian if he
would give me permission to speak to a few
experts on the matter -- very discreetly,
of course. After some thought, he agreed
that this was probably a good idea, but he
made it very clear that neither I nor the
experts could talk about this collection
to anyone else.
Several days later I went to the
Western Asiatic Department of the British
Museum with a full set of prints. I had
dealt with the department before during
the course of researching one of my books,
From the Omens of Babylon, and I trusted
the scholars there not only to give me an
honest opinion but to maintain
confidentiality as well.
The expert I had dealt with before was
not there, and one of his colleagues came
into the small anteroom and spoke with me
instead. I briefly told him the story
about the trunks of documents and about my
photographs. I stressed that this was a
commercial exercise for the owners and
that I would be very grateful for his
discretion, since large sums of money
sometimes cause equally large problems. I
requested that he find someone competent
in the field to take a look at these
photos to see if they were of any
importance. If so, I would do my best to
get the interested scholar access to the
entire collection. I then passed over my
set of prints.
Weeks passed. I heard nothing from the
British Museum. I became concerned.
Finally, after a month, I returned to the
museum and made my way up to the Western
Asiatic Department. I met with another
"I brought a set of photographs in a
month ago, which I had taken of a large
number of papyrus texts. I have not heard
anything back from you. I wonder if anyone
has had a chance to take a look at
The expert stared at me blankly.
I went through the story again for his
benefit. He seemed distracted,
unconcerned. He had not heard of any such
photographs being brought into the
department; in any case, it wasn't his
field. They were most likely given to
another specialist who was working there
for a time and who had now left.
"Where has he gone?" I asked.
"I don't know" was the reply. "I think
to Paris. I am sorry about your
I never heard any more about them.
Without a written receipt for them, there
was nothing I could do. Luckily I had a
few reject prints still at home so I could
prove that the collection did in fact
exist, but not nearly enough to give
anyone an idea of the range of subjects
that might have been in it. An expert,
looking at my few remaining prints,
identified most of the texts as records of
Ten or twelve years later I was walking
down a street lined with expensive shops
in a large Western city when I saw one of
the Palestinians who had been present in
the bank that day. I went up to him and
asked if he remembered me.
"Of course," he replied. "You were the
colleague of . . ." and he gave the name
of my friend.
"You know," I began, "I have always
wondered what happened to those ancient
texts I photographed that day in the bank.
Were they ever sold?"
"I haven't heard anything about them,"
he quickly replied, unconvincingly, and
then, giving a good impression of being
rather busy, he elegantly and politely
excused himself and walked off.
I cannot say that I was surprised, for
I have spent many years living in a world
where potentially crucial keys to the
mysteries of our past are simultaneously
available and elusive.
Copyright © 2006 Michael Baigent
and reproduced with permission.
Baigent was born in New Zealand in 1948.
He graduated with a bachelor of arts
degree in psychology from Canterbury
University, Christchurch, and a master of
arts degree in mysticism and religious
experience from the University of Kent,
England. Since 1976 he has lived in
England with his wife and children. He is
the author of From the Omens of Babylon
and Ancient Traces and the co-author
of the international bestsellers Holy
Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic
Legacy (with Henry Lincoln and Richard
Leigh), The Temple and the Lodge, The
Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Secret
Germany, The Elixir and the Stone, and
The Inquisition. As a religious
historian and leading expert in the field
of arcane knowledge he has undertaken a
two-decade-long quest for the truth about
Jesus that has culminated in the
publication of this book.
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