A new book The Passion of the Baptist, Not the Christ is rattling the windows of orthodoxy with its assertion that we have gotten the Crucifixion of Jesus all wrong. Everybody knows that Jesus was put on the cross and crucified, right? Well, maybe not, according to the author and noted socio-political hip-hop artist Agron Belica, an American of Albanian ancestry.

It is well known that Muslims deny the death of Jesus on the cross. For centuries, theories have circulated among sects usually considered heretical by the religious establishment as to how Jesus may have evaded such a death, but Belica's theory trumps them all: the man nailed to the cross was not Jesus at all but rather his cousin John the Baptist!

Absurd? Perhaps not. Belica puts forth well-reasoned arguments for his proposition and has marshalled considerable circumstantial evidence to support his cause. His re-interpretation of some key words in the Quran causes anxiety in Islamic scholarly circles, however some have already gained some acceptance. He does not state that his solution is definitive; only that it is a possible solution put before the reader for his consideration.

Belica dismisses the Biblical stories of Salome's dance and John's beheading that are also found in Islamic tradition as fiction. He replaces them with a more historically satisfying solution of the fate of John the Baptist. Belica has made the restoration of John the Baptist, known in the Islamic world as Yahya, to his rightful place among the prophets his life mission.

An essay, Rethinking John the Baptist, by Jay R. Crook, is appended to the book. It examines in detail the historical and chronological problems that Belica's theory had to overcome. With some help from the ancient Jewish historian Josephus among others, he concludes that such a theory cannot be dismissed out of hand simply because it conflicts with the Biblical accounts of John the Baptist. Writes Dr. Crook: "John the Baptist, this neglected and underestimated prophet has an enthusiastic advocate in Agron Belica."

It is said that history is written by the winners. As one engaged in research and journalism and who keeps that old saw in mind, I am always interested in new ideas and new interpreta-tions of accepted truths. This carefully researched study of one of the most important events in human history certainly answers to both of those interests.

The author re-examines the conventional ideas about the relationship between the Baptist and the Christ that most people have accepted for centuries as gospel truth. He uncovers mani-fest discrepancies in the biblical narratives that have dominated European and even Muslim thought and, moreover, between them and lesser-known external sources such as the writings of Josephus.

The calm logic of his analyses overturn convention and lead inexorably to startling new visions of John and Jesus and even the Passion itself. The Passion of the Baptist, Not the Christ is a well-written and interesting book. It is recommended reading for those interested in redressing the distortions of “history written by the winners.” -Lisa Spaulding/A.E.M.G. 2013

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