Matthew as always was polite and to the point. He wanted to know why I was in town. I explained that I was here to follow through on some business and then I would be going.
He seemed to know everything about me and the last days of my last visit to
and the death of Jesus. He was cool, almost
“I thought you were a follower of Jesus. What has become to his ministry and his other followers?”
He did not respond.
I tossed him a bag of gold coins about fifty in number more or less.
“I am in town to do some business and then I am leaving. Can you please fill in any details as to how I can expedite my business? Are you to be my contact with the Roman government?”
He was silent. He picked up the bag and briefly looked inside it. He then held his hand up as way to measure the weight of the precious metal inside.
“I can help to a point” he began. “ Pilate is gone and the new emperor doesn’t, hasn’t figured out how to get a good grip on
“The fools on
mount no matter how loyal they are to ,
their days our numbered. I am only
sticking around until I have saved up enough to leave this hellhole of Rome Jerusalem and . Palestine
“I can help you with information.” he told me. “ I can tell who you might approach and who to bribe for whatever it is you want to do here.
“But I cannot protect you.”
My body language must have shown him some of my alarm.
“You are not in any immediate danger. You long ago were listed in the Roman records as a retired whore. I told you then and I mean it now, you are not important to the Romans. If you are passing through I suggest you do your business and do it quickly.”
“Why so?” I asked.
“The riot the other week. It will take only a few weeks for some toady, left over crony of Tiberius to tell or suggest to Caligua what he should or can do with
I think there is some time with the old King still dying before Palestine comes in here and
literally burns the whole mess to the ground.
If you have any property here, sell it and sell it fast.” Rome
“Anything else?” I asked.
He seemed reluctant to say anything. He put down the gold.
“For old times sake Miriam of Magdala let me warn you. You have less to fear from the Romans or the High Priests than you have to fear form the former followers of Jesus.”
I shook my head as if to ask what.
He pointed or wanted to use his finger to illustrate a point. He was trying to find the right words. He wanted to speak clearly and vaguely enough to protect his present bureaucratic position.
“Peter is up in
That’s all he was ever meant to do.
He has great delusions of grandeur.
He will not let go of Jesus. He
is convinced that Jesus rose from the dead. He is convinced he saw the act of
“I have found in my life of collecting taxes and supplying my Roman masters an insight as to what they rally want. In that, they are reasonable to a point.
wants half a ton of gold. They send Rome half a ton of
gold. All is well for the cronies in
charge. In that context, the Romans are very reasonable. Rome
“People like Peter want more than gold. They want the power of God. They want to say or act as if they have the power to say – put God’s words in their mouths – that it is God talking. Madmen.”
I still was not quite certain what he was trying to say.
Then he blurted it out.
“I know all about you and Jesus and Judas and oh dear God, what a mess you have to face if first the Romans backtrack and figure it all out. Worse than that, Peter and James will kill you to kill your secret. Even I cannot admit to knowing your secret. They would kill me.”
“I know what a brute Peter is. But you also mentioned someone named James?”
“James is the older half brother of Jesus. He thinks that he is greater than Jesus. He had at one point had been with us and John the Baptist. That was before Jesus wondered into camp and Judas vouched for him.
“James is bankrolled by Peter. James sits up on
mount everyday in his little rented
corner of space and teaches bible and tells his students about the messiah
which is to come and rants off things about John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth
and James the Great, the man ordained by divine interpretation to free the Jews
of the Romans. Temple
“Of course he only whispers the things about the messiah thing and the getting rid of Romans. Half the fools on temple mount are preaching the same things and the high priests and the Romans know every treacherous word that comes out of their mouths.”
“And they tolerate this, these rebels, these false messiah types?”
“They indirectly encourage it. It is better that they are up there under a watchful eye than wandering the country sides like Jesus or the Baptist.”
I sat there of a moment and was speechless. Then he let the hammer fall.
“Who is this Miriam Rebecca you are traveling with? Who is this small girl Sarah? Where is the husband of this woman? Is she a widow? Who was the child’s father?”
It had been many year since I was eyeball to eyeball with this man. In many ways he was a fair and decent fellow. In many ways he was a pure bastard. I sat there and stared into his eyes.
“You do not want to know.” I said to him.
“I did not think so.” he said calmly.
He then continued.
“There are people and records left over from Pilate’s administration. There are facts to be found if one is looking for facts and if one knows where to look for them.”
“Meaning” I replied.
He paused. There were tears ready to form in his eyes.
“There was or there might be a confusion as to who died on the cross years back. I know that Judas’s family retrieved a body from a borrowed grave. I do not know if the ever flatulent Peter knows or cares to know. I have never asked him.
“There was a mad man some two years ago. He was going about the country side saying that he was the resurrected John the Baptist. He also called himself Judas Iscariot and strangely enough Jesus of Nazareth.
“I do not know what his real crime was but before I ever got wind of it, they had already executed him. He died very quickly on the stake. Not much done to him before in the way of torture though I suspect he was a very tortured soul.”
“He was taken down and dumped where they throw discarded bodies of dead Jews and ... and maybe it was a week on the garbage heap. Not too much damage to the body from scavengers but a body in the heat for a week is not a pretty sight.”
Again he paused.
“And?” I pushed for more information.
“Well if I knew you and I do and they executed you and a week later I had to identify your body. I think that I could identify your body.”
“Let us put it this way. I used my bureaucratic powers to bury that poor bastard whoever he really was in life. Perhaps I borrowed a tomb to bury him in. And you my dear lady hold title to that tomb.”
I sat dumbfounded. He said nothing.
“Come back next week. I will be in a better mood to serve your business needs. And bring more gold. We can do business.”
I was dismissed. I walked about in a daze for a bit and sat with my servant girl and obtained something to drink.
What could I make of all this? All this?
Could that fool of Jesus have wandered back here and started the whole messiah thing all over again. Oh what fools there are when it comes to religion!
Oh this Jewish god is one for the books.
Never the less, I had to evaluate what goods this bribable official had just delivered at my doorstep.
I did have J.D. investigate the graveyard and yes the tomb was in use and sealed with a stone rolled in front. There was also an official looking wax seal put on the stone so as prevent the tomb from being opened with breaking the seal.
I did go back and do business with Matthew and found the quickest way to liquidate the assets I had in
in a timely and legal
I asked what he was going to do when he had saved up enough gold to retire. He told me that he would wander about and sit in synagogues and pray and talk about Jesus to anybody who would listen to him.
His one last piece of information was that Peter was rumored to be arriving in town in the next fortnight. Oh boy! Time to pack.
I convinced Rebecca to sell her townhouse. Everything was pretty much wrapped up. There were still other matters and enterprises that could be dealt with out on the caravan trails. Land and property can be a great asset and then they could also be a great burden.
Still what to do with Rebecca?
First a trip was necessary up to
Caesarea. We had
to hopefully interest Joseph of Aramethea’s son in law in some shipping and
trading offers for my son’s new town on the Red Sea.
I was debating as if I should share with Rebecca the incredible story that Matthew had told me. I decided against it.
Caesarea was the crown jewel of the eastern half of the
Our arrival was at midday. The white marble of temples and columns and palaces could be seen from miles away. The clear blue sky surrounded a sparking white center of a city and the deep blue color of the sea lay at a distance.
I was drawn to this place as I have never been so drawn to anything else in my life. The smell of the sea awakened my senses. Our business here was surrounded by plazas and markets and people of all lands. Half the population was said to be Jewish. One could not deduct such a fact in such a cosmopolitan setting. The predominate dress was Roman and Greek.
We stayed at a lavish villa as quests of Janus, Joseph’s son in law. We conducted business arrangements for my son’s new port. After that I decided to rent a villa and stay a while. After the overly excited and restricted atmosphere of
was a remarkable setting and refreshing change.
Something odd happened that made me decide to stay a bit longer than I anticipated. I was enjoying myself and going to a few of my favorite Greek plays at the local amphitheatre. Then I arrived at my villa only to find several crates. These crates had been sitting somewhere in storage in
all these years. I had not missed them. With the excitement of escaping Jerusalem the first time
and the stress and anxiety of building a new mission with my son, I had mostly
forgotten or had lost interests in my library.
Perhaps I did not care anymore.
Perhaps I thought things got lost in a shipwreck or they had gravitated
back to Jerusalem . I must have given it a thought or two over
the years. My son took over the
correspondence and letter writing and inventories for a time. I just assumed these old parchments and books
were just somewhere that I could reach one day when the interest in them came
back to me. Persia
That day had arrived. The crates also came with invoices of storage and shipping fees owed by me to my agents Frick and Frack down there in
. Unpacking them would take time. I decided that I had that time. Jerusalem
J.D. had been looking for a way to transport wealth all about to my family. He then told me that there was too much chaos now in the Roman world to try and secure large shipments of wealth. The new Emperor had not taken good root in the bureaucratic veins of the empire. Everywhere old Tiberius loyalists were hanging on and awaiting replacements. New replacements were not the best appointments. One did not know who to bribe for services rendered and for services worth rendering. If I shipped wealth about the place now, it was likely to stolen or siphoned off by Roman soldiers or bureaucrats who had not been paid in months from their boss in
There was the story of the Prefect in
Alexandria not being able to in enforce a new
law that made the new Emperor a god and a statue of this new god was to be put
in all synagogues in . More riots from the Jews happened. We Jews just want to be left in peace. We will pay our taxes but we don’t want your
gods in our houses of worship. I hear
that this Prefect Flaccus lost his head for not doing his job well. I hear that the statue of Tiberius is still
in the Court of Gentiles on the Alexandria
mount. The statue of Caligula has only
got as far as the Court of Women. I
wonder how that standoff will end? As I say, we Jews will pay our taxes and
when pushed will mumble the words of praise for any new emperor as a god or
whatever. Just don’t tread inside the
house of prayer with your idols. Temple
I had seen this situation before when
destabilized between a number of warlords, some of whom call themselves
kings. It was suggested to my by Janus,
Joseph of Aramathea’s son in law to establish a central base in Caesarea and
ship only small amounts of wealth about but on a regular basis. Hoarding wealth is sometime necessary but
managing it is another matter altogether.
Wasn’t quite sure what to make of all the advice being given. I decided something concrete when I ran into an old friend one day at the book market. I ran into my old business partner Hiram. He had moved away from the small Greco-Roman town of his youth. He still was in the book copying business. A port city like
Caesarea was an ideal location from which to ship and
receive goods from all over the empire.
I offered to pay him to go through and inventory my boxes of papers. He refused a fee but said that if he saw anything interesting that he did not already have, he wanted the same deal as before in terms of copying and royalties etc. I agreed.
Within a few weeks I visited his shop and that is where the idea hit me to start a library for scholars here in
Caesarea. The city
had many wonderful repositories of books.
Some were in the homes of some of the wealthiest and important people in
the city. Perhaps they could share or have
copies of book make and donated to a great scholarly enterprise and my
library. It was a thought. Also, I noticed a modest Zorasterian shrine
here in the city. Perhaps I could become
a benefactor there and build my library nearby with much Persian writing and
translations for the benefit of the brotherhood.
It made sense to me. I could make some money with the copying of books with Hiram. I could benefit the community. Be a pillar of the community instead of a transient stranger and protect the assets I held here in trust for my family both in
My family could be involved in three places with the faith and
preservation of same while coexisting with this big beautiful Roman city thing.
My children and grandchildren could visit here and have a place of honor and own some of the real estate as well. Hoarding the old pot of gold custom had it place at times. Now was the time to be part of the past with Persia, in the present here at Caesarea in the present and who knew what future splendor one tiny little port town on the Red Sea might be one day.
J.D. I think was relieved that he wouldn’t be traveling anymore and I felt like I found a place of my own after all these many decades of study and travel. I felt at home in the diverse setting and splendor of
When it rains, it pours. When things fall into place, they fall into place quite neatly.
Hiram had an older brother who had a bug to travel. Hiram liked and trusted this brother. He was about to ship him off to Roman Carthage to establish a branch office of the family business. Book and scrolls and knowledge was a commodity in this new
Roman empire. Opportunity
Hiram’s unmarried borther took a shine to Rebecca. And surprisingly, Rebecca took a shine to Hiram’s brother. I sealed the deal with a very large dowry bestowed on my adopted daughter.
I had some fears thinking about Rebecca and little Sarah’s safety. I decided that distance would be the best guard against harm coming to them for their relationship to Jesus. I have heard that Peter occasionally preached here. It is the old hand out routine. He has not yet darkened the door way to my villa. Hard cash was needed to keep his new partner of James in business on
mount. He would get none from me. I would now have enough local clout and
protection from my place in this society to keep him a safe distance away. Temple
Rebecca and Sarah and Hiram’s nrother sailed away on a ship from the harbor. Hiram and J.D. were standing with me. I was of course misty eyed. Hiram said that he had plans for more businesses and branches all over that end of the great sea. Joseph of Aramathea’s business empire was opening up much building and capital. One successful town after another was followed many new mining operations along with shipping and trade.
In a way, I came to
on a camel, a ship in the
desert. In a way all I touched was in
some way connected with camels, horses, trade and shipping. The world seemed bright as I entered my
twilight years. I knew that I had
accomplished much in the way of study and the spread of knowledge as well. Palestine
I led a curious life after that for some time. The interesting thing is how members of this new Jewish cult named after Jesus were now known as Christians. The people I know who use that phrase are more the Greek educated Jews. Even this small distance from Caesarea to
is as wide as an ocean in terms of
Peter and his crew are in
. They seem to cling to a belief that that one
place alone is sacred in the whole universe.
Other of Jesus’ followers are much more worldly. They know the Torah in Greek and do not seem
to know or care to use the Hebrew language.
There are so many differences and many people all seeing or hearing
about Jesus in a different manner. Jerusalem
At my modest library, I invite visitors who are looking for books or scrolls about Jesus to sit with a scribe and relate how they understand the message of the rabbi. Many claim to have known him and tell some wonderful tales of faith and or miracles. I sort these stories out later after having read them. I keep the most believable stories on the library shelves. The other stories I store and occasionally try to remember if any of these stories match my fading memory.
One such visitor came to me one day. He would not talk to my scribes. He said that he had a letter of introduction from my son in
Arabia. Indeed he did. I asked him about himself. He spun a fantastic tale. Some of it sounded reasonable and some of it
This young Jew is a Greek Jew. His family sent him to
to acquire a traditional Hebrew language
education. Like many spoiled people of
this younger generation he squandered his time going from teacher to
teacher. No doubt he was bored and
waiting for an inheritance. He had
witnessed the stoning of Stephen, a follower of Jesus. Jerusalem
He felt that he must defend the old faith. He threw himself into a fanatical study of the faith. He even managed to get a commission to bring some “Christians” back to the
police for questioning. He went all the way to Temple to find what he thought were the
enemies of his faith. On the road to Damascus he was thrown
into a bright light and he heard words of “Why do you persecute me”. From what he told me he had some sort of
fit. He managed to distance himself from
the rowdies he was riding with. Damascus
Saul of Tarsus had to hide. He had signed warrants from the Romans for Jewish suspects. He had to make himself scarce. Where does one go when one want to hide? Perhaps to
not unlike myself some years back. He
was well educated and joined a caravan as a day laborer. Manual work was not his style. He managed to attach himself to a tentmaker
and learned an old fashioned with your hands trade. He ended up in my son’s trading spot and hung
around. No doubt the few Hebrew and
Greek texts at the temple were the only reading materials he could find in a
thousand miles of sand and desert.
What a strange tale and how strange that he found Jesus on the road to
perhaps saw his ghost too in Arabia. The mind does wonder. No doubt with the passing of time and Pontius
Pilate and the High Priest Caiaphas, he felt it safe to return.
He shows up on my door with a letter from my son asking to give whatever assistance I can to him. Well I know my son. No doubt talk about Jesus’ spirit wandering around the desert and he wanted to get rid of this guy. When my son says “whatever assistance” he is not saying much. No doubt my son thought I would already be on my way back to
Arabia. No way was that going to happen now.
I look at him. He is slight and not a big man. In conversation, he is well read and he is capable of being a fanatic. I offer him some food and let him stay for a few days. I tell him to use the library. I would not have invited him into my house without the basic letter of my son. What to do with him? Is he a spy for Peter or the
police? I know I have the Romans in my pocket quite
literally. What to do with this guy?
Perhaps I should recruit him as an agent of my own. Temple
Over a meal I ask him what he wants to do with his life. He doesn’t seem to know what to say. It is an almost an I don’t know kind of answer. Then a thought strikes me.
“Have you ever been to
?” He replies no. Athens
“What I think you should do to travel the road between here and there. I would like you to go to amy synagogue you find along the way and talk and study or just make conversation. Go to
and back. I am wondering what the state of Judaism is
today. I hear a lot from a
distance. Why don’t you try to get a
feel for your faith. Teach me about it
in writing. I was born into the faith
but have since studied many others. Athens
“You can send me letters of what you find. I will file them away in the library. Perhaps some Jewish scholars can look them over and discuss them.
“I like the idea but I have little or no means to travel with.”
“I will send you on your way with a small purse of coins. It will get you started. You would be surprised how often you can eat or be invited to stay over in your travels if you are on a quest for an answer. Conversation and knowledge of your travels will be a welcome treat for many. It is what your Jesus used to do.
“Did you know Jesus?”
Interesting question I thought. He stayed in my village in
Arabia. He claims to have seen Jesus’ ghost and heard
his voice. I wanted to ask him if he was
a spy. I said nothing except in response
to his simple question.
“I heard him speak once or twice”
The eyes lit up as in ecstasy. A universe of stars could be seen in the excitement of his eyes. We said no more and in the morning I sent him on his way.
I never did receive any letters from him. It is not say that they were not sent. I never heard anything of Saul from
Word reached the lady Miriam of the birth a great grand daughter by her adoptive daughter. The written letter to her was in her hands when she was found having passed silently into her eternal sleep.
Per her request, she was buried in her burial clothes at a simple entombment in the Jewish custom and at a later time for another journey, as was the Roman custom, and there being a lot of firewood available, the remains of her body was cremated.
Her ashes were sent to her family’s shrine in
I attest as to the accuracy of this document of one Miriam of Magdala, a Persian widow, written in her own hand. This, a copy.
I sign this as her friend and associate.
Hiram, a scribe, of