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‘This indicates that the section is missing, not because of deterioration but because of censorship.’In 1213, for example, a chronicle recorded that the inhabitants of Béziers, in southern France, had been burned alive four years earlier for ‘their scandalous assertion that Mary Magdalene and Christ were lovers’.A different story — that Mary was a prostitute — was proposed by scholars who merged her identity with the unnamed sinner who anoints Jesus’s feet in Luke’s gospel.

However, this new book focuses on a story to be found in a manuscript dating back to 570 AD and written in Syriac — a Middle Eastern literary language used between the 4th and 8th centuries and related to Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.

Written on vellum — treated animal skin — it had been in the archives of the British Library for about 20 years, where it was put after the British Museum had originally bought it in 1847 from a dealer who said he had obtained it from the ancient St Macarius Monastery in Egypt.

If true, this would make it the greatest revelation into the life of Jesus in nearly 2,000 years.

Jacobovici claims the manuscript, which is 29 chapters long, is a 6th century copy of another 1st-century gospel and casts parts of the Bible in a very different light.

In order to test the British Library documents, the researchers used hi-tech digital imaging to photograph them 13 times.

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