Saturday, December 30, 2017

good news of miriam - the lost gnostic gospel of mary magdelene - chapters 29, 30, 31, 32, 33


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 Jerusalem and the death of Jesus.  He was cool, almost reptilian. 
“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 Palestine yet.
“The fools on Temple mount no matter how loyal they are to Rome, their days our numbered.  I am only sticking around until I have saved up enough to leave this hellhole of 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 Palestine.  I think there is some time with the old King still dying before Rome comes in here and literally burns the whole mess to the ground.  If you have any property here, sell it and sell it fast.”
“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 Galilee.  Fishing.  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 resurrection.
“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.  Rome 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.
“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 Temple 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.
“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 Jerusalem in a timely and legal manner.
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. 
Strange man. 
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 an eye full of splendor.   The streets were paved and wide.  The public buildings were marble. There were amphitheatres of all sizes.  There were public bathes fed by aqueducts.  There were fountains and great temples.  It was a Roman city with a strong Greek accent. 
Caesarea was the crown jewel of the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
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 Jerusalem, Caesarea 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 Jerusalem 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 Persia.  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. 
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 Jerusalem.  Unpacking them would take time.  I decided that I had that time.   
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 Rome
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 Alexandria.  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 Temple 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.
I had seen this situation before when Persia 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 Persia and Arabia.  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 Caesarea.

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 empireOpportunity was everywhere.
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 Temple 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.
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 Palestine 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. 
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 Jerusalem is as wide as an ocean in terms of culture. 
Peter and his crew are in Jerusalem.  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.
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 sounded fantastic. 
This young Jew is a Greek Jew.  His family sent him to Jerusalem 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. 
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 Temple police for questioning.  He went all the way to Damascus 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. 
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 Arabia 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 Damascus and 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 Temple 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.
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 Athens?”  He replies no.
“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 Athens 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.
“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 Tarsus again.


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 Arabia.



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 Caesarea.


Friday, December 29, 2017

good news of miriam - the lost gnostic gospel of mary magdelene - chapters 26, 27, 28

Words.  Loud words reach our ears in the early morning hours.  The sun has not risen but early light is around. 
There is a noise, a stress, of the rushing of men and mounting of horses.  I am standing at my front porch and see that my son has rounded up two dozen men with arms and are headed in the general direction of the sea. 
There is a tiny fishing village on the sea where boats dock. 
Walking out into the center of what I would call a village square outside the temple I look in the direction of the sea.  I see a distant glow. With each rising moment the sun makes its presence felt. I see a column of smoke rising from the direction of the port village.
J.D. knows the signs and is heading us, mostly women and children in a dug out cellar under an annex to the temple.  With most of the youngest and most trained armed men off the compound, J.D. and a half dozen older but armed men are preparing for the worst. 
It is hoped that the port has been raided and that no great harm in property and lives has occurred.  Most times, pirates make such clandestine raids in desperation for food or water.  Most times, if pirates present themselves and trade something for something, then food and water can be gotten from the port village.
We huddle in the small cellar for a while.  It is dark and musty with little air coming from the outside.  Just one lamp is lit and I hold the baby Sarah in my arms.  I stare at the flame and hear muffled sounds of the outside world.
The temple complex is on good terms with most of the local tribes.  While the tribes have their own religious beliefs I think that they look upon this new outpost and mission as something good that adds to the essence of the region.  There are  gangs of men who travel and patrol with a chieftain.  It seems to be a periodic thing.  They travel mostly when there is little food.  They are looking for opportunities and food for their families.  A few meager goats, sheep and camels staying at a watering hole do not always suffice for survival. 
The temple pays a small tax or tribute to this small gangs.  The taxes here are less than we were paying to warlords and their armies back in Persia.  Of course we have less tribute from visitors and pilgrims here. It is all relative in the overall scheme of things.  We are in good manner to our neighbors and they in general are in good manner to us.
This regional thing can always be upset by a bunch of sea pirates making a massive raid on any port town or a thought to be wealthy religious center.  Part of the reason for a mud temple was to blend in, match the local architecture.  Part of the reason for the mud building materials was the size of the temple’s treasury which is very small.
Sitting in this cellar I have to speculate if this cellar was dug for storing food, weapons, books or gold.  Best to wait until the temple is very rich and established before it hires a full time army to protect it.  Such things are a vicious cycle when you support an army and then have to find the means to pay for protection.  The Roman world is such an entity of trade and army and whatever. 
My thoughts wander to my son and his horsemen.  It might not just be pirates.  A rogue Roman ship or too might be scavenging the countryside to supply a military or a trade ship blown off course in some storm.  Romans are pigs.  They would take everything.  They would probably kill you as well for the sport of it.  No Roman law to answer to here.
There is a rush of fresh air into the stuffy place.  I hear voices.  The alarm is off.  The horsemen have arrived back.  My son dismounts and I talk to him briefly.  He has grown gray in years of serving the community and the faith.  It has been a while since he has graced my table.  He and Jesus did not get along.  I might be a born again Jew but my son has no grasp or feel for my reach into my past for a cultural and or a religious thing.
In many ways, my son is as inflexible as the head of any religious group gets.  Rules are for the convenience of the hierarchy.  Rules are not always for spiritual growth.
He began a brief account of the raid on the port village.
“It was a small raid.  They came ashore in the middle of the night.  They killed and wounded a half dozen men.  They got water and grain from the warehouse. They took a dozen women and children as slaves.”
It was brief and to the point with a final verdict.
“We have to reevaluate our position here.  Whether it is safe?  Do we stay or leave?”
That was all I got before his wife came to greet him and escorted him back to his house.
I had become too much of a stranger in my few years of travel.
“Oh well.” I said to myself.
In the days and weeks that followed, the men and the brotherhood came up with some plans.  It was decided that we  stay.  To stay meant heavy investment in both the port and the temple compound.
It was decided that a wall would enclose the living quarters of the the temple compound. The temple, as was traditional, would be open and unprotected and available for prayer and ritual at all times of the day and calendar.
Beyond the new walled compound would be another walled area that would mostly serve as stables for horses and barracks to be used by some permanent and seasonal horsemen also trained in the use of arms. 
A series of torches was to be lit at night in the event of an attack on the port village.  Better communication meant that faster response to any attack on the port could be handled from this distance.  The port village was not objecting to any help offered from this new temple plan.

Also part of the overall plan was to build a market village in the middle of the distance between the port and the temple complex.  This market area would now hopefully be a stopover point for some caravans.  Some limited water supplies from springs would refresh animals and people.  A foundry of sorts would be established to make arms and everyday practical metal items.  Fuel would have to be found.  Also, some stone warehouses were to be erected.  The stone would protect against fire. 
The plan seemed sound.  The temple would be upgraded over time to a stone structure.  The plan was for the future security of the present inhabitants of the area and the future of the faith.
Gathered at a meeting of the many families regarding this plan, I removed several gold bracelets and necklaces and gave them to my son.  The building plan would be costly. I thought of the fear that day of the recent raid and knew that any gold or silver I or the community donated to the new building plan would be a wise investment.
A deposit of clay was found nearby. Some seasonal workers began to arrive in the area for the making of bricks and the building of walls.  I could not have dreamed that so much progress could happen so quickly to this unknown spec of sand and dust in the middle of nowhere.
As time progressed, I saw our village grow into a more proper town.  The port grew as well and the caravan stop prospered.  I knew that my son and his religious center would succeed. 
One grows weary and tired of the day to day living.  Granddaughters and more children were a blessing but I longed to travel again.
Rebecca desired to see Persia again. Some of my daughters wanted to return to Persia as well.  Because of the success of the new town, my son thought it a good thing that some would travel back to Persia and report of progress.  The news might draw others to come and join the growing community which was my son’s stellar success.
I grew weary of many things.  I sought to read the stars more.  I had been accumulating some star markings along the calendar but had not been willing to delve too deeply into any star interpretation.  In fact, as I grew older I did not want to see what lay beyond the next day or the next sand dune.  I was perhaps wrong to do so.  What I felt in my heart lately was more important that anything I could once see in a star.
And so in my sixtieth third odd year I set out forth on a caravan for perhaps the last time.  I said my goodbyes to my son and family.  I carried my burial clothes for when that time might come.  I brought Rebecca and her little daughter Sarah with me.  We left little Isaac behind to work with my son in the temple.  J.D., now a free man, and with some savings, decided to make the trip with me and with his own servants in attendance to himself for his personal needs.
The camels were the safest way to go.  The seas were dangerous and full of pirates.  The caravan trail was full of the best sort of people.


Some of my family has already gone ahead of us on the trail to Persia.  They would take the land route east and then travel by boat to the land of Persia.  I do not depart with them as I had expected to.
My adopted daughter Rebecca was being difficult.  She wanted to wait for Jesus to return.  It has been almost two years and he has not returned from the desert.  In the past he would disappear for days and weeks at a time but never months and now it is years.
I try to comfort her.  She had lost a first husband.  Now her second husband of sorts has disappeared.  Rebecca is in some ways a pain in balance with the joy I had once experienced in the presence and wisdom of Jesus as a teacher of faith in his native land.
Both Jesus and Rebecca seemed like a burden since I left the Jewish holy land.  Rebecca claims to have seen Jesus at night.  I tell her it is a dream. 
My son on a rare occasion told that he too had seem Jesus at night and outside in the desert.  He did not call Jesus a dream.  He called Jesus a ghost.  Ghosts and demons in the night are to be avoided at all costs in our culture.
I feared that if Jesus was not an illusion but in fact a ghost, then I had to reconcile the fact that he truly was dead.
The whole point was moot. 
I had my own dreams of sorts.  You do not meet somebody as unique and strange as Jesus and easily forget him.  I prayed everyday when he was first recovering for his full return to health and sanity.  The spark within seemed gone.  He went off to fast and pray and I do not think that he found any comfort in himself anymore.  I believe that he had held a vision of his mission from the Holy Almighty.  He had somehow not fulfilled what he thought he was destined to accomplish.
Even with great powers of mind and personal discipline, he felt that his time had passed.  Indeed, being out here in the middle of nowhere and a big nowhere was an environment different than the one he grew up in.  Everyday he stayed away from his place and mission in Judea, the mission and task slipped farther and farther away.  That task if it was to be a prophet, a teacher, a leader or whatever would fall into the active hands of people still in the holy land.
He had fallen off the stage of life before in his youth.  His attempt to make a comeback as a rabbi of the people and  to form a more just society did not get very far.  In retrospect every move that this one time follower of John the Baptist was spied on and listed on many official and unofficial public records.
That and the death of  Judas in his place on the cross was a blow he could not properly accept or fathom. 
I never saw this John the Baptist person but he must have so special to foster a following of Jesus, Judas, Matthew and even Peter. 
I read much history and many times these historic figures who can or who are about to change the fabric of a nation pause, vacillate and the time and moment pass them by.  One thinks that maybe the vision and mission are within reach.  One thinks that when the time comes, the visionary cannot become or step into the shoes of person who must carry out the necessary tasks of nation building.  I think that men of conscience are rare in the governing of men.  More often it is men of little or no conscience that push civilization sadly along to the present.
Jesus could preach a good speech and do a good miracle but in the final analysis of it all, he was more human than divine.  Or was he more divine than human.  I will surely never know.
If he is a ghost now, he is dead.  I do not cry for I have not seen a body.  I buried him once or so I thought I did.  Once was enough. Oh well.
There was another raid on the port.  My travel plans had to be delayed.  My son was not in good health.  He suffered the burden of all leaders who must be many things to many people.  The raid was minor.  The turn in my son’s health was major. 
The hierarchy of the Temple complex was ready to replace my son if that is what came to pass in the event of his death.  With this certain knowledge of a future change in power here in this strange place, I felt alone.  I was again an outsider.  My son’s wife would let me visit but not nurse him or his poor health.  A grandson would succeed his father if need be.
Rebecca’s son would one day blend into the leadership of the Temple. I was in conflict with what I felt and what I wanted to do.  It is difficult to start all over again in a strange place.  My family was now split between two places, Arabia and Persia.
Here near the sea, I had grown fond of its scent that could be sensed out of the heat of the day.  Morning mists were something I had rarely witnessed in Persia.  I wanted to die near the sea.  I wanted its smell in my nostrils as I breathed my last earthly breath.  I was content to stay here to the last.  Perhaps the delay caused by a melancholy Rebecca had brought me a blessing in surprise.
My retirement would not be so easy.  My son pointed out to me that many of the family’s business interesst were centered around Jerusalem as I had set them up more than a decade before. It was time to break up and move assets around and to two places, Arabia and Persia.  In these matters, my son only trusted me to start the division of wealth to family members in my old age and in the shadow of his possible death.
Sad.  The task he asked me to do was a family task.  It was a sacred task.  The survival of family and faith meant more negotiations and management of resources.  My son also wanted me to establish links with merchants in the Mediterranean and to encourage them in any way to come trade at his new settlement on the Red Sea.  I must put out the word of a new stable trading port and caravan stop.  I must make the town known and put onto many maps.
We could have left on a caravan but that would be too slow.  Our journey was to be by boat part of the way.  In an earlier time the boat ride could have in theory been all the way to Judea.  There was and still is a canal from the Red Sea that in wetter times had connected with the Nile.  Then it could have been up the Nile to the sea and Judea.  With part of the canal silted up, I did not want to disembark in a strange land like Egypt and find the right caravan or horse travel to the Nile for more boat travel. 
Best to go the ways you know and trust.  It would be a trip up the Red Sea and then a caravan to Jerusalem.
At one time, I would have said that I wanted to stop off at Alexandria and linger a while at the great library, now fully rebuilt from a fire of many decades past.
At one time, I would have done that.  But with old age comes a common fear that you will not have the time left to finish that which  you think you have to do.  I had much to do.  Letters by boat had to be sent ahead to agents to be waiting for us with camels and guards.  The boat was dangerous enough with the weather and the very real threat of pirates.  We picked the best possible captain who knew the ropes and winds and likely encounter spots with trouble.  Life is a risk.  If the gods will I will succeed.  If not, I go to a watery grave.
The journey went well.  I enjoyed the sea breezes.  Time flew with the wind and it was off to Jerusalem on camels.
My original entourage in still in place as we travel.  It is myself, Rebecca, Sarah, servants and J.D. and his crew. 
I have considered all factors in returning to Judea.  If not for my son’s request for me to travel and do family business, I would be content to sit on my porch and play with the occasional grandchild or two.
I have many real and potential enemies left in Judea.  I checked off who was still who and who was dead or dying. 
 Pontius Pilate has been transferred off to some other dark corner of the empire to rule in Caesar’s name.  Herod Antipas, they say he is dying.  His heirs sit like vultures around his lingering death bed.
Caiaphas, the High Priest of the great temple, is dead and gone.  A brother in law named Jonathan has replaced him.  An interesting lateral power move.  One would expect a son to replace a father.  Perhaps the brother in law knows where all the skeletons are buried and rules through blackmail? A man most likely and very easily bribable.
Joseph of Arametha is living in Rome and has mining interests in Africa, Gaul and the islands off Gaul.  His son in law handles business on this side of Roman ruled areas from Caesaria.  I will have to visit him.
And then there is Peter, still hanging around Jerusalem I suppose?


Tiberius is Dead!
Street graffiti is everywhere in Jerusalem as I enter the ancient town.  That graffiti is such Roman thing or used to be. I do not remember it as so prominent in my memory.  Graffiti if any was small and anti-Rome and in the less reputable parts of the town, such as where taverns and brothels were the norm.
“Long live Gaius Julius Caeser” is marked everywhere.
The landscape in the lower city has changed.  The streets seem more crowded and dirtier.  I have seen this place at Passover and it wasn’t this crowded in the middle of the day.  I get the ambiance of a place in flux with a lot of transients such as on a market day.  Is this market day?
The dress of the people here seems different.  Are these Jews from other lands in their native dress or are they simply foreigners?
Two of my agents met us outside the walls of the city.  In fact where Jesus was once crucified, the place is still there, but buildings are built along the road and in front of the traditional execution place.
My agents have brought me credentials.  No body can enter the city without credentials from the authorities.  My servants must wear name tags.  I must wear an ugly ring with the present city authority’s seal upon it. 
I look back and forth as we walk and approach my old townhouse. 
The building is a shambles and I am not allowed to enter.
“It is rented out Ma’am, per your instructions of many years back.” 
“Yes. Quite right.” I say and remember my long standing instructions. 
Why did I want to come back here?  Yes.  To start the breakup of networks and for the distribution of my assets.
My agents accompany me to a house some several streets down the way.  It is no doubt the property of these agents and is small and comfortable.  There is a small courtyard in the Roman fashion as well as a terraced roof.  A trickle of water in a tiny fountain in the courtyard street masks street noises.
I sit and am served refreshment.  The agent asks if I want to visit the Temple mount.  I am in such a strange mood and feel so disorientated.
“We did not know if you wanted to stay inside the city walls or outside them.” was his explanation as to tell me the present situation.
“We welcome you as a guest for as long as you need to stay.  The place is small and your servants may have to sleep in the courtyard tonight while we find arrangements for them.”
“And what other arrangements can be made?”
“We had to get you credentials first.  You cannot stay here or in an inn or even in your old abode if it was available without credentials. We must apologize for your temporary inconvenience.
“We have a villa outside the walls being cleaned and ready for your stay if that is where you would like to stay.  In the meanwhile, this house is yours and for your entourage.
“We do not know you directly.  Our uncle was your most humble servant in the past.  He has passed on.  We know that you are kosher and have supplied the kitchen as such.  We do not practice the local customs ourselves.”
“When will the villa be ready you say?”
They looked at each other. 
“Two, maybe three days.  It has been occupied by a Roman officer for some time.  It is quite a mess.”
“I will accept your hospitality for the time being and we must go over the books later in the week after I settle into the villa.”
“Books?  Uncle said nothing about books.”
I might have to take them at their word until I can get settled in.  I put full faith in some of my agents in the past.  Things are changing.  The few properties I have here I remember.  My other business assets are likely not in the hands of these young creatures.
It was a full week before I could move outside the city walls to a very large comfortable villa with a courtyard.  The reckoning of accounts from my town agents as to properties and expenses and profits seemed reasonable.  I have since found out that they in fact were blood of my chief agent here and deceased.  My son had been the one corresponding and doing business and receiving and sending payments back and forth.
Time to wrap up a lot of things.  I tried to seek out my old friends Martha and Mary but they would not receive me at their villa.  Their brother Lazuarus had been murdered some time back according to the gossip. I had not heard of it.  They had been so devoted to their brother.  The two are in permanent mourning of their loss.  Poor dears.
I have since gotten back into the city since my first arrival. I did a little shopping.  I also went to visit J.D. who has set up digs in a seedy part of town.  His rooms are tolerable and I try to understand his tastes now that he is separated from my household.  I stop in to see him to discuss matters.
“These two agents of my son.  I call them Frick and Frack behind their backs.  They seem honest enough but I do not know.”
J.D. responds with the old Persian adage about how you always give the other trader the benefit of the doubt.  After you find out that they have lied or screwed you, then you cut their throats.
I confide in J.D. that a lot of gold and silver will have to be moved east and south.  Dis he want a well paid job in managing the transport?  I give him the choice of going east to Persia or south to Arabia.
He confides to me that he is in Jerusalem to stay.  This is where he will die with dice in his hands.  I give him a look. He responds that he has contacts from the old days that he trusts and he will scope out a bunch of men trustworthy enough of the task that I am seeking.  Considering the circumstances I am grateful for the thought and consideration from my former and faithful servant.  He tells me to give him a couple of weeks to find a few good men for the job. 
Rebecca has settled into a melancholy that reminds me of he lost Jesus.  I will have to see if she wants to stay and occupy the property of her townhouse when the present occupants leave it.  At least with J.D. here in retirement, there would some sort of family connection to look out for her for the time being.  A marriage would be more suitable for her.  That and more children would ease my worries about her.
I went to the Temple platform, first to the Court of Gentiles and then to the Court of Women.  I had to dress and act appropriately.  I had not been there in ages.  I paid for a sacrifice to be made to the Jewish god to look after me in my old age and for J.D. and Rebecca as well.
There was a great bronze statue of the late emperor Tiberius.  It stood uncomfortably in the Court of the Gentiles.  In this Jewish holy place, the statue did not belong.  While visiting one day I saw slaves and workmen uncrating another object.  The object was a marble statue of the new emperor Gaius Julius also known by the popular nickname of Caligula.
I overheard Roman soldiers telling the workmen that the marble statue was to be put in the Temple itself by order of the new emperor.  I wasn’t the only one to overhear the soldier’s words.  An unease in the air was felt immediately.  Old men and young men were gathered about with fingers pointing and words uttered in anger but not easily discernable.
It was prudent to leave immediately.  I sensed an air of unrest.  I had not felt that feeling since the day that there were riots on the Temple mount, the afternoon before they came and seized Jesus.  
True to form a riot soon took place.  I was outside the city gates but I could hear screams of men as Roman steel sucked the life out of  many.
The city was on lockdown.  I could not get back into the city for days.  When in fact I did get back into the city, there was an unease that I did not like.  Perhaps lockdown was coming back at any moment.  I went to J.D. for some gossip.
The old man informed me that many people were indiscriminately rounded up and executed.  Officials had checked J.D.’s credentials and he no longer felt comfortable in his retirement place.  He had reconsidered my offer of employment.  He would perform one more task for his former master.
If things were getting bad in Jerusalem, then there was an option of selling a lot of assets at a discount.  For this I considered approaching the son in law of my old business acquaintance Joseph of Aramethea. 

Before I could make arrangement for a trip to Caesarea, I ran into another old acquaintance.  Matthew the tax collector was now part of the local civil authority in some capacity.  It had taken some time, but my credentials had finally ended up on this bureaucrat’s desk.