The Gospel letter To Athens 34 AD: To the ends of the Earth read 34AD: on Kindle
It was nice to hear from you, and that your wife and family are fine. It is especially pleasing to hear that you continue in “The Way” despite the opposition of many who call themselves Jews,
Those who rejected the words of the Teacher and crucified Him.
You asked in your letter for me to put down on papyrus my reminiscences of the teacher. These are the words that I told you as a child, and so I have done .
My faithful servant Samuel will carry this letter to you and the church that is in your house.
The year I was fifteen, I sat under the great teacher Gamaliel. He would sometimes lament the delay in the coming of the Messiah. He would quote Genesis chapter 49 “ The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him the gathering of the people. “ " Lads”, he would say, “the sceptre has departed, and Shiloh has not yet come” “The gentiles have seized the power of life and death from our elders, and we sit in ashes lamenting our fate”
“The whole world is under the hegemony of Rome , the final empire as the prophet Daniel said,
but what of Jerusalem? Have we been forgotten by our GOD ?”
Every woman in Judah hoped to be the one to bear this special child that would be our Prince. So much more so that those who were barren were outcasts and despised among our people.
There were prophets in the land in those days, and several that pretended to be so, that the land was in constant turmoil. Rebellion was an ever present thing, with the Zealots seeking a prince and too many ambitious men all too willing to rise up against Rome- to their doom, of course, their bodies hung on crosses half way to the seacoast on more than one occasion.
And many in our midst not wanting “deliverance” from Rome, worshiping the Roman peace rather than GOD their Creator. These lost souls ever ready to offer a pinch of incense to a pagan altar affirming that, for them at least,“Caesar is Lord.”
Now we in Jerusalem had been hearing about a prophet called John that was baptizing people in the Jordan river of all places.. Why he was doing it in the Jordan was unclear. After all, every faithful Jew was ritually cleansed or baptized periodically for spiritual as well as physical cleanliness. This John seemed to be announcing the coming Messiah. However, there had been so many in our generation doing and saying this that no one in our circle (the elite of Jerusalem) paid much attention. Some poor folk did, but not the well informed. This John also preached loudly against spiritual wickedness of our religious leaders. Father had much to say about that one evening, cautioning us to be careful about vocalizing our thoughts. “This man will come to a bad end,” he said. “The law says that under the testimony of two or three a man may be put to death.” By speaking out so about our rulers he speaks out against our social order.” Be cautious and circumspect, and you will be left in peace. Follow such men and you will be cut down by them” (meaning our rulers).
Now, we had some fields in the Galilee, and so I was sent with two servants to oversee the harvest.
The second day of the harvest, at the appointed time, practically no one had shown up to work in the fields, so I walked down into the village to see where our workers were. I found almost everyone gone, with the few left walking out of the village towards a large hillside where a crowd had formed. When I was closer, I could hear a rabbi (I supposed) teaching. I elbowed through the crowd nearer, and my fine clothes forbade anyone from disputing my approach.
As I approached, I could hear him saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. …... .”
And many more such words that moved the Earth, and tugged on my heart-- Who was this man, this teacher? I had never before heard such words.
He talked about the faithful being the salt and light of the Earth,, and that HE came to fulfill the Law.
At that statement my heart skipped a beat, and he talked about the kingdom of heaven and righteousness. He taught that Sin begins in the heart and if you transgress in your heart, you transgress the law. And many other things.
Then many sick came to Him and I saw Him heal them and wondered after that man.
Surely, a prophet is in the Galilee !!!!!
It was later I heard in Jerusalem that this teacher had called fishermen and tax collectors to be his deciples! My father mocked, saying “and a great prophet is risen in Israel, and half naked fishermen and tax collectors are his deciples? Search the scriptures, does a prophet rise out of Galilee? No of course not! Our promised one will rise out of Bethlehem Ephratah, a prince who will drive out the Romans, not some beggar from the Galilee!
For Micah says:
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, thou be little among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall he come forth unto me, to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth from of old, from everlasting.”
After a moment, father continued: ”Except of course for those many collaborators who look to Caesar.”
There was also a humorous story about how the teacher had for some reason cursed a herd of swine east of the sea who had then ran off a cliff into the sea drowning themselves at his command. People shook their heads, snickered, then went back to their daily lives. When I heard of it, I wished I could have been to there see what had really happened. You know how these stories grow in every re-telling.
My cousin Saul came to stay a day with us on his way from the Jordan to the seacoast. Spending the night, at supper he brought up the Teacher and was rudely silenced by my father. Later, I quietly visited my cousin in his bedroom to hear the latest about the Teacher. In whispers, he shared that Jesus had said that those who believe in Him and tell others He will confess before his father. This Teacher implies his father is God? A very unusual unsettling thought for a Jew. How can a man's father be God? Once again I know that I haven't heard the whole story. Cousin Saul also said that the baptizer, John, had been arrested and put in prison. I shared what I had seen and heard while in the Galilee, and we marveled together. Cousin Saul also said the Teacher had taught that belief in him would divide families. Certainly, this was true in my family. I believe Jesus is the teacher sent from God and my father won't hear about it!
"Date setters," Gamaliel exclaimed. "A curse of our people. Every few years, someone reads the prophets and does a little calculating and comes up with a date when Messiah is supposed to come. Over the years, in my lifetime, several teachers have whipped up enthusiasm over Daniel's prophecies , and have of course been wrong every time. The prophet Daniel gave a list of the four great world empires, and Israel is not among them. Since, as I previously mentioned in another lecture, that the scepter has already departed from Judah, I do not think a Messiah will come. Many today even ask what is a Messiah? Even why should we not be grateful for the Roman peace?"
I found his lecture disturbing. How could anyone be grateful to Rome for anything? True, Rome no longer allowed the constant warfare of city against city, but at what cost? And what about this Messiah thing? Certainly this teacher Jesus does not look like the Messiah we are expecting. Of course I later did the numbers of Daniel's 70 week prophecy again, but when was it supposed to start? Any number of teachers had their own opinion. Who is to say which one is right?
And by the way, what of Daniel saying the Messiah would be cut off and then Jerusalem destroyed? How can that possibly be true if Messiah is to come and lead Judah to world hegemony? Very confusing. Sighing, I dusted my Ink, then rolled up my scroll. Let's hope Gamaliel accepts my lesson. This week will be difficult with an exam before Yom Kippur.
We're supposed to remember so much. Teacher wants us to stand up before the class and recite three more chapters of the law and two Psalms by the exam date. I, like others, have a hard time remembering memorizing them. And, I have a hard time remembering the commentary written by the elders on every part of Hebrew life. I am sure glad my heritage is from Judah and not the priestly class. They generally must have the entire law in their minds. There was no way I could do that. For me, being a merchant prince of Judah is hard enough.
The thing I find distressing is the Levites have the law and keep an outward show of it. They look, speak and even smell holy (they overdo the perfume, so it makes one wonder how long ago they had a bath). I laugh to myself and put up my scrolls for bed, and blow out the lamp. From down the hall, I hear a low snicker "another two nights of lamp oil" my brother mocks. I ignore him and go to bed.
More pilgrims up to Jerusalem for the feast. I hear them babbling around a nearby table outside the bakery as I also eat some bread cheese from a noon meal. Sounds like they will be coming to the temple after lunch. They talk about where they are from, One man mentions he has just come up from Bethlehem for the day. Says he hears that Jesus might be in the city. Another says "you mean Jesus of Nazareth"? The man smiles, "no, Jesus of Bethlehem. He was born in Bethlehem". I stopped chewing my bread almost choking on it. "Bethlehem?" Another asked in doubt somewhat mocking. "Yes", the first man answers. "My neighbor remembers the family. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his family was forced to flee to Egypt when Herod was killing the children in Bethlehem. They returned to live in Nazareth after Herod's death."
I could barely move, I was so amazed. I managed to swallow my bread, and stared at the man. He stared back annoyed. I found my voice "Bethlehem" I asked "you're sure". "Yes young man, Bethlehem" he replied. "I should know. Some of his family still lives there. They talk about him." I got some more information about them, then in wonder, stumble back to our classroom. Could this Jesus somehow be the Messiah? “Bethlehem Ephrata, you are least in the tribe of Judah yet out of you shall come Him who was to rule Israel."
I was just not able to listen to the afternoon lesson and was rebuked by the teacher. After the class, I talked with some of my classmates. Some few marveled, most scoffed. One, a lad a couple years younger than myself, noted that he had heard that Jesus was or had just been at Bethany, A short walk from Jerusalem, and that he taught last evening in a Grove in the Kidron Valley. "He may be there this evening" John said after all the scoffers had left. "My house is on the wall near there. Come visit this evening and we can go out the gate nearby, and see him". Five of us agreed. I sent my servant home, to say I would be at this friend's home, and to return promptly. After this, we trooped out the school gate and slowly ambled across the city, talking animatedly about this Jesus. We arrived late afternoon. John has sent his servant in search of Jesus, and he returned with the news as we sat at meat. "Jesus and a small crowd of followers are in the garden, " his servant reported. We enthusiastically grabbed a bag of bread to eat between us and followed the servant out. It only took a few minutes to find the garden, and a short while later we saw Jesus surrounded by about 100 people sitting around a fire. As we came closer, we could hear Jesus talking about faith and righteousness. He said how only a few find God. He likened a few as those who entered the house by the low narrow door where one had to bow low to enter. All the rest walked proudly through a city gate down the hillside to the Gahanna. The city dump, where there was always a fire burning the refuse from the city, signifying the hellfire of the damned.
He told a story about sheep and shepherds and how they enter by the door of the sheepfold, but that thieves and robbers enter another way. Meaning, I suppose that there is only one way to find God. He then taught about false teachers that are like wolves who sneak in among the sheep and devour them rend them from the truth. "By their fruit, you will know them" he said. Jesus also talked about on what truths a man will build his life, telling a story about building a house on a rock or choosing to build a house on sand that would be washed away when the storm came. We listened in rapt attention. Everything he said was in the form of story. Some plain, some very hard to understand. Finally, he told everyone it was getting late, and we needed to go to our homes. He lifted up his hand and blessed us, then left up the hillside toward the village. We walked back to Jerusalem, marveling at what we had heard.
This man was indeed a prophet from God. But was He the sent one, the Messiah? We didn't know. But we were sure it was only a matter of time before we would find out. This Jesus was an outsider to the plots and politics in the temple. It was certain there would be a confrontation between Jesus and the Sanhedrin. A couple days later, we heard that the elders had been annoyed that Jesus had healed people on the Sabbath, but Jesus had then left for the Galilee.
The test I passed, and just barely, as I had some difficulty reciting the chapters in front of the class. But I did it, and although the teacher showed some impatience, nevertheless he gave me a passing grade. The holy days past, and it was still further rumors about the Teacher from Nazareth.
We did hear that the prophet John the Baptist are had been beheaded by Herod after a drunken party. But that was all. And his followers had then gone in search of Jesus. About that time, I was sent by my father to the Galilee to inventory the results of the harvest and the size of our herds. Or more exactly to keep a watchful eye on the family steward tasked with that job. As father always says, "find people you can trust then watch them so they remain honest." The third day of the inventory, the two of us had ridden our donkies down by the sea to water them and check on, number our sheep grazing there. A crowd was assembling, and I glimpsed the teacher Jesus in the midst. The steward was somewhat annoyed by all these people trampling down our pasture, but I said "let them be, I want to hear what the teacher says". I allowed my servant and his young son to water the donkeys. We heard Jesus preach and heal people for some time. But it was getting late and we finally went back to the donkeys and servants. Once there, we found my servant, but on asking, found his young son had taken his supper, some few loaves and fish, and had gone over to where Jesus and his followers were standing. We then saw that Jesus was sending out baskets of loves and fish, from where he got the food we didn't know. Then my servant's son returned and told us that he had given his supper to Jesus disciples, and Jesus and blessed it, pouring it into a basket which then somehow became full of food, and filled many other baskets from that one. We were amazed by this miracle, as were all around. Jesus shortly departed by boat, and we left as well. We stayed in the Galilee near Bethesda in our house next to the sea. The people were familiar with the teacher here, They knew his family and were somewhat upset that Jesus was running around as an itinerant teacher. And anyway, what respectable teacher would have unlearned fishermen and laborers as his disciples? "We knew him when" was the attitude. They found it interesting he did miracles, or so it seemed to them. But after all how could he be special? He was just one of us. Where did he get his teachings? He never sat at the foot of the great teachers in Jerusalem. He was never a disciple of any of them. He was a carpenter like his father. So, despite Jesus words and healings, they did not regard him as anyone important. Even his family wished he would stay home and not make a spectacle of himself.
I also heard that some had repeated a story of Jesus saying that He will go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees asked for a sign from Jesus as to who He is. Jesus reportedly replied to the Pharisees that the only sign this generation will see as a sign of Jonah-that like Jonah, he would be in the abyss three days and nights and rise again. So again, I marveled. Was this not what the prophet Daniel said? That the Messiah would be cut off, killed before the destruction of Jerusalem? And that my own mathematical reckoning of Daniel chapter nine's 483 years would end in a few months time?
So, after the inventory of the harvest and livestock, once again I made for home in Jerusalem. For the first time I seriously considered that if this teacher was the Messiah, and both his and Daniels words told of the destruction of Jerusalem after his death, my family should leave Jerusalem. When I made Jerusalem, after two days of rest (it was a cold hard journey) I met my friends who are as interested in the Messiah as I myself and we discussed the matter at some length. There was still much to be learned. Among other things, we noted that Jesus had been reported to have said that the Temple would be razed to the ground and even the paving stones torn up in this generation.
In a village outside Jerusalem, again I saw Jesus as He paused outside a bakery, some of his disciples standing around him, while others are inside begging bread. I approach him and asked "Master, what good thing must I do to have eternal life"? Jesus replied, “why do you ask me about what is good. Only God is good. If you want life, follow the Commandments." "Which Commandments, I asked?" (There are hundreds)! Jesus answered "do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, love your neighbor as yourself." I answered him "I've done all these things" Jesus replied "if you want to be perfect, go sell all you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and follow me."
I stood there for a moment, not believing what I heard. How can I do that? I have responsibilities. And sadly Jesus looked at me, and I turned and walked away. I heard him say as I paused away off, "it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to see the Kingdom of God."
My mind was in turmoil. I had been rebuffed by the teacher. He had said that only if I became a pauper could I follow him? How could this be possible? Is the kingdom of God only for the wretched, the poor, the outcast? What about a man's responsibilities in this life? Must a tradesman, a Smith, a carpenter, leave his family in poverty, want, destitution, in order to someday live in the Kingdom? The Law rebukes those who do not take care of our families. It did not make sense, it was impossible, I did not understand. By that standard, no one was good enough to find God's kingdom.
The day after this, I was sitting at the Eastern gate with my father. He had business with another merchant there, when, we heard shouting "hosanna to the son of David, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." We then saw Jesus rise slowly into the gate on a donkey, the multitudes throwing palm branches in the way. I found myself being swept along with the throng of people. This was the teacher Jesus and entering Jerusalem as a king on a donkey, presenting himself as Messiah and King! And so we all followed him towards the temple. When we reached the temple gate, Jesus dismounted the donkey and walked up the long stairs into the temple. Everyone eagerly watched to see what would happen next. I pushed to the front of the mob and was in the wave of people that made their way through the gate into the temple just behind Jesus. He stood for several long moments, then strolled over to the moneychangers, overturned their tables, then finding a whip and driving them out of the gate exclaiming "It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you made it a den of thieves". Jesus then healed many people and was rebuked by the priests for the spectacle, the people praising him as a son of David their king. The priest demanded from him “by whose authority do you do these things”?, for the priesthood give their permission to do commerce in the Temple. Indeed, they had made it a law that only "holy" pure sacrifices blessed by them were permitted to be sacrificed in the Temple. The whole population must buy doves and animals within the Temple to sacrifice for their sins, so that the sellers and priests made much money from their edict.
Jesus answered by a question "if you answer my question I'll answer yours-was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?" They dared not answer the question for if they said from man they would be stoned by the people, for the people held John to be a prophet of God and if they said from God Jesus would ask them why did you not believe him? So they merely said "we do not know". So Jesus replied "then I will not tell you by whose authority I do these things."
In front of the whole congregation Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees in stories and parables. After a time, he left the Temple and walked back outside the city to the nearby village. A day later, as I again stood in the gate, I heard the priests had taken counsel together to kill the teacher. For they had said, "but we must take him quietly, lest there be an uproar among the people, lest we be stoned."
Again, my mind went back to Daniels prophecy "and He shall be cut off and have nothing due Him as Messiah and King". I was both somewhat excited and sad in anticipation of what would soon occur. I wanted to make an effort to follow this man very closely. A couple days later, late on the evening of the preparation of the Passover, I was watching the rising moon from our balcony over the street, saw my friend Simon hurrying down the street. As I was about to call down to him, he saw me and stopped. "Jason," he called out quietly, "they have taken Jesus. He is before the Sanhedrin right now! Can you come with me? I'm going to watch at the high priest house." "They won't let me out”, I replied.” My fathers steward has bolted the gate and set the watch. Tell me what happens, but be careful!" Simon quietly ascented, Then hurried off in the darkness.
Jesus arrested! While I had intellectually accepted that it was likely to happen, the reality, the significance of this struck me like a hammer. Of all the generations that have lived, I get to see this happen. I could not sleep. At first light, I was up to break my fast, and was walking toward the front of the house into the atrium as the day watch servant was unbolting the gate. As I approached the door, he was startled "where to this early, young master?" "Tell the steward I have early business with Simon Ben Jonathan" I retorted as I pushed open the gate. I had buckled on a short sword under my overcoat as many young gentleman did and the servant not quite mentioned this-but it was early in the day and maybe that was sufficient reason. I arrived at Simon's house just after the door had been opened. I inquired of Simon, and was told he was at breakfast, having just come in an hour earlier at dawn. He looked a little tired. He looked up as he bit into some fruit. "Condemned", was his first word. "Being sent to Pilate." "Why" I asked? "They want him dead, but want someone else to do it", he replied. "Maybe so the mob won't stone them, I don't know. Sit, Jason, the lambs milk is good this morning, warm and sweet, tender fruit, divine," the syrup dribbling down his chin. I did as I was bid. "So, they are taking him to Pilate? This morning?" "Yes," he nodded. "In a couple hours. It was after midnight when I got some rest in John's garden. Our fathers are away, so no one cares. As soon as I finish here and change, I'm going back. You coming?” Simon asked. "Wild horses, even my fathers chief steward," Jason said with a grin "could not keep me away. This is really good fruit.”
Over 100 Temple guards and a mob of hangers on were outside the chief priests mansion as we approached. This gave us an excuse to come close and watch what was going to happen. It appeared we were just in time, since very shortly after we arrived, many Temple soldiers led Jesus outside in company with quite a few priests dressed in their finest Temple robes. It promised to be quite an occasion. It only took a few minutes to reach Pilates' Hall. Only a few of the Temple soldiers and priests were allowed in, but the mob pressing close behind forced the doors remain open and we were among those in the press. We found ourselves only a few feet from the priests. The chief priest began to address the governor as soon as he was bid. Pilate cut him off with a wave of the hand after a few pompous sentences, motioning the soldiers to bring Jesus closer. Staring down at him from his throne, he demanded, "are you the king of the Jews?" Having been well aware of Jesus triumphal entry to Jerusalem a few days before. Jesus replied "yes, you say it"
The chief priests interrupted, loudly claiming that Jesus sought the Jews to rebel against Caesar, had even said that he was God, that he taught things that would overthrow the present order and much more. Pilate held up his hand to silence them, Looking to Jesus and waiting for defense. However, Jesus said nothing. The priests started accusing again, but Pilate once again held up his hand to stop them, then addressed Jesus "do you have no answer", and when no answer was made, marveled at this.
Now, the custom was that at the feast the governor would release a prisoner to the people. Realizeing that Jesus was likely innocent, He cried out to the mob overfilling his judgment hall. "Is it your will that at this time I release to you the king of the Jews?" Pilate knew that Jesus had done no wrong. The priests and then the mob cried out "no, release to us Barabbas the zealot." (Who had made insurrection against Rome). And Pilate asked "and what shall I do to him you call King of the Jews”? many called out "we have no king but Caesar" the priests and then the mob cried out "crucified him, crucify him". Pilate asked again, "why, what evil has he done"? The priests loudly stated "if you free this man you are no friend of Caesar". And the mob even louder cried out “crucified him, let his blood be upon us and on our children". Pilate, fearful of a tumolt rising, ordered Barabbas released and Jesus crucified. Then the soldiers took him away.
" Let us get out of here," Simon said, as Jesus was led into the main hall , the soldiers barracks to be scourged before his crucifixion. As the mob was filtering out the gate much slower than it had stormed in, it was not as hard to avoid being trampled as we left. We made for the other side of the street and into a merchants doorway. He was a seller of fruit and wine, so we purchased a draught and stood there watching the entrance to the great Hall. We could not see what was happening inside, but after a while a badly beaten man was led out by a cohort of Roman soldiers and a passerby was coerced into carrying his cross. By his clothes, we thought this was the teacher Jesus being led away, and as quite a number of the mob followed after him, we did likewise; at a distance.
He was being led by a rope tied to his bound wrists, barely staggering along. Every once in a while, he would fall and be roughly jerked back to his feet by the jeering soldiers sneering "hail to the King of the Jews, all bow the knee to the King of the Jews" with much vulgar laughter. We then noticed a pair of bruised and bleeding scantily clad prisoners also being drug through the streets behind us carrying their crosses to their crucifixion. People watched from rooftops and alleyways and a few more idlers joined the mob to go see the spectacle. It took most of an hour just to reach the city gate, and much longer up the Hill to the place of crucifixions. The condemned were thrown down at the base of three large trees. Their cross pieces were dropped next to their heads. The hands are untied A large soldier sat on the chest of each man as two soldiers grabbed each arm, placing them on top of the cross piece as a third soldier positioned the nail over the whimpering condemned's wrist, then when a single stroke of the hammer drove the nail through the wrist into the wood. Then another blow, and the nail head was flattened against the wrist. Then as they writhed in agony, these other soldiers grimly held the other wrist over the wood cross piece and the other nail was driven home as well.
Once all three had been nailed to the cross piece, it was used to hoist the twitching rithing pitiful wretches a couple feet off the ground, then lifting up their legs, bending them at the knees, driving a third spike through both feet at shoulder height of the soldiers. That way the condemned could push down against the nail fastening their feet to the cross raising themselves up just enough to breathe, then the agony in their feet overcoming their need for air, collapsing down to be wrenched by the agony of the nails in their wrists- up and down, up and down they strained for each breath. After a while, the high priest and several of his lackeys arrived from the city and mocked Jesus, heaping vicious abuse on him as he strained for every breath. "Show us you are God now they taunted, come down from the cross and we will believe you" they mocked and ridiculed, laughing to each other. "See, by Satan's power he healed others, himself he cannot save." Finally, being tired of their abuse, they left some of their kinsman to watch over the preceding, and went back home to keep the Passover meal.
I was overcome by revulsion at what I was seeing but at the same time I cannot take my eyes off the Christ that I was now sure he was. This went on for three hours, the two criminals also mocking Jesus. Finally one of them went silent, repented, asking Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered his kingdom. About the ninth hour, midafternoon, Jesus cried out "my God my God why have you forsaken me?" Some asked "he calls for Elijah?" One man lifted a rag soaked in vinegar and held it to his lips. Then a few minutes later, the teacher cried out "it is finished" and died. The Earth did greatly quake and many graves were opened around us, but not one body could be seen within them.
The centurian and soldiers greatly feared of this, saying "this was indeed the son of God." And darkness was over the land for some time. Before sunset, the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals so that they suffocated and died, but Jesus was already dead. Then a rich man came out of Jerusalem with his servants holding a decree from Pilate to allow him to bury Jesus body. Shortly, his servants lowered him down as I used my sword to pry out the nails from his feet and his wrists, having tenderness for him and his weeping mother and friends a few paces away. I accompanied them to this man's tomb. I saw them wrap the teacher in grave clothes with much myre and aloes. Later, the great stone was rolled across the entrance to his tomb. An official hastily arrived from Pilate with a troop of soldiers, who placed a royal seal on the stone so no one could move it, and actually set a guard! After all, this teacher had said that like Jonah, after three days and nights, he would rise from the dead and the priests were terrified someone would steal the body and say that he was arisen. I found this all sadly humorous, as if God did indeed raise Jesus no Roman seal would stop it!
Finally, we set out for our homes. I washed thoroughly before arriving home so not to upset my father who I was sure would be finally home from his business in Caesarea....
I arrived home just as the sun was setting. The night watch servant had not yet bolted the door, realizing I should be back soon. With some relief, he closed it behind me and barred it for the night. “We were wondering where you were” he said. “But your father was too busy telling everyone about his journey to notice”. For once I was thankful for his preoccupation-or was it benign neglect. The servants wanted me as a friend so no one would gossip about me to my parents. I went around the atrium and directly to my room and put on a new tunic for the feast. I could hear my father telling how he had bested a Syrian merchant as I entered the dining hall and quietly sat with others of my age. It had to have been a half-hour later when he at last noticed me. He fixed his eyes on me briefly then continued on with the story. It was hard to get a word in when father was talking. People said (behind his back) that he was so interested in himself that if the roof fell in he would not notice. Mother, somewhat impatiently, finally took his hand and said "husband, the feast" and he finally broke off his harangue, noted that everything and everyone seemed to be in their place-except for me whom he may have thought was sulking in a corner-but opened the evening with a prayer that seem to go on forever until he finally stopped with a start. It must've been mother again, I smiled to myself. Then the Passover began with the ritual question from my younger sister "why is this night different from all other nights" and father and his brother told the story of the Passover and our people's flight from Egypt.
This went on until very late, the children nodding off in their places. My father got up and went out briefly, and I chose that moment to leave for my room. Thankfully, I was not missed. I did not want a confrontation with my father about where I'd been that day. Passover day, no travel was permitted, so I stayed in my room and on the balcony. I found doing my lesson work helped me put the previous day's events at least somewhat in the background. Being in two schools did not make it any easier.
On the first day of the week I was in the Gamaliel's school for religious studies, and the rest of the week in the school of Nahor the Benjamite for more useful topics such as math, science, trade, and other things that a successful merchant Prince needed to know. It took all day, but by the evening meal I had finished the last of my homework. The meal was held in silence for once, not even father was his usual gregarious self. Finally it was over, and I returned my room.
The next day, all the men went to the temple, and the day after that is well. Finally, the first day of the week was next, and I approached our chief steward. "I need to spend the night at Simons house, Steward, to help study for tomorrow mornings class at Gamalel's school." After a moment, he allowed it and I was gone an hour before dark, having avoided my father during the feast.
It was just getting dark when I reached Simon's house. However, a little banging brought the watch and he unbolted the door to let me in, remarking about the late hour for a young man to be walking the dark streets. I pleasantly greeted him however, as it is wise not to alienate others servants. Simon had heard me come in and peered over the balcony down at me "Jason, good, come up" he offered. And to a servant, "get Master Jason some wine and meat." When I entered his room, I saw his lessons and manuscripts laid out all over the place. "Watch where you step" he'd needlessly urged. "I'm compared scrolls on the Messiah. It's amazing what there really is about him." He enthused. "Maybe we should write a book on just this subject." "And be crucified as well?" I asked. "No thanks, but we do need to keep a record", Simon insisted, and I readily agreed. "but privately," I reminded. Simon replied "I think a lot is going to happen, and Jesus and the prophets say it is is going to be bad." With that, I quietly agreed. "What of tomorrow's class?" I asked. "I brought my lesson, have you done yours?" Simon laughed. "I guess," he said. I looked at him. "I mean it's written, but I don't know if it will pass" Simon retorted. With that, we sat down and I read over his work and he over mine. "I think this is fairly good" Simon, I said. "You could've done a lot more work on it, but it should pass" Simon frowned, "I know", he said. "But my mind/our minds, he corrected, have been on other things." What if Jesus is resurrected and walks into the temple tomorrow?" I asked. Simon just looked at me, closed his eyes and shook his head. We both gazed out the balcony. Toward the north, you can see the hill of Golgotha and we silently wondered on it.
I could not sleep. Tossed, turned; my mind racing with all kinds of possibilities. Finally I awoke with a start-to total silence. Feeling very thirsty, I got out of bed and groggily walked out to the balcony to get some of the wine we had not quite drank late last night. I shivered in the early morning chill, a ghostly light before dawn barely making the darkness flee. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw the flash of a meteor that seem to continue all the way to the earth; to Golgotha! I realized with a start that I could see a brightly glowing figure standing next to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. The guards were gone, it seemed. After a few moments I thought; was that an angel Who moved the great stone aside that has been securing the door of the tomb?. He then entered and his radiance glowed out of the tomb, so I then saw the soldiers on their faces outside. Then the light went out, and the half light before Dawn returned. I found myself just standing there, thunderstruck at what I had just seen. I'd forgotten the wine cup in my hand until I noticed it again as I turned and some splashed out. Then I took a quick drink and was off to get Simon.
I ran into Simon's room and somehow managed not to quite yell into his ear "Simon Simon he is risen he is risen". Simon awoke with a start, my self dabbling that I had seen an angel who had rolled away the stone to the tomb. Simon jumped out of bed and ran past me to the balcony then trying to see in the half light which tomb it was in which the teacher had been laid, then paused in wonder when he saw the stone had been rolled away, the soldiers milling around. "He's gone, Simon, I said. Risen." Simon's mother entered, somewhat annoyed by the noise. "Why are you boys waking the house", she demanded. I found my voice "lady, the master is risen from the dead." I added. “I saw an Angel descend from heaven, rolling the stone away from the tomb, and he went inside and his glory lit the whole area!" She looked at me as if I or maybe she has seen a ghost. "See the tomb, lady," I pointed? The stone was rolled away, the soldiers are leaving as well. And we watched from the balcony. Finally, she shivered "I am going back to bed" then went back inside.
We looked at each other. "Breakfast then?" Simon asked in wonder. "We leave for the tomb, then we can get to the class on time" I replied. “Would they like to hear about this?" Simon breathed. , I said to Simon, "quietly, Simon, we tell just a few friends. We don't want to get in trouble. We make a big thing about this, and we might find ourselves before the elders and we don't want that, do we? Especially my father. He would be angry if we got involved in this. So, quietly, my friend, quietly." Reluctantly, Simon nodded and we finished breakfast in silence.
The sun had been up an hour when the steward unbolted the house gate and let us out. "To school," we said, and tried not to hurry down the street. As soon as we around the corner, we ran as quickly as possible to the city gate, and towards the tomb. From a distance we saw a man and a woman standing there. But after passing through a grove hiding the place , we only saw a woman running away from the tomb. A few minutes later we arrived, but neither of us wanted to be the first to go in. I encouraged myself and stepped into the tomb followed by Simon. No one was there. The grave clothes were there, however, still glued together like a cocoon without the host. The person inside obviously had been raised and passed right through them on his way-where? Heaven? I could not move, so frozen was I in awe at the site. After a couple minutes, Simon said "we must go." I softly agreed and we walked back outside into the morning light. As we walked away, back to the city, we could see several people hurrying towards the tomb from a nearby village. We did not want to talk with them, as we would be late to class, so we hurried on our way.
We were late, a few minutes, earning a disapproving look from the teacher's assistant. However, Gamaliel had not yet arrived and the assistant was only gathering up the homework assignments. We gave them ours and he sighed, motioning us to the last seats in the back of the classroom. After a few minutes of looking through the morning lesson scroll, the teacher entered and we patiently sat through the morning lesson.
As we filed out of the classroom, I invited five of our friends I thought we could trust to have lunch with us. Once out in the street, I motioned them to the side and in a few sentences described our adventure of the morning, especially the angel rolling the stone away. One scoffed, the others incredulous, wondering at what I had seen. We then made our way to the wine merchant whose well-known enterprise was only just down the street. We quietly discussed this business as we sat in the corner around a small low table. The exchange was quite sharp at one point, drawing unwanted attention from other customers. Too soon, lunch time was over and we had to be back for the afternoon class. As I left, a strong hand grabbed my arm and his owner demanded "an angel rolled away the stone, and he is risen?" "Yes," I angrily exclaimed as I wrenched my arm from his grasp. He just stared, stood there in consternation, as I hurried to catch up with my friends.
The afternoon was boring. Of what use is it to know what some Rabbi 200 years ago thought of the proper way of handwashing?. I mean, surely, there are more important things to discuss. So we sat there hour after hour as the Rabbi droned on about this and that authority on the subject. Finally, the Rabbi paused, noticed most of his class was nodding off. Then, looking sad and resigned, ended the day with homework instructions for the week. We were so glad to leave. How much longer am I going to have to sit in that classroom, and listen to things that are not really important? Time seemed to be going so slowly. Anyway, surely not more than another year or so. Another year-that seemed forever. As I enter the house, the servant on the day watch stopped me and said "the chief steward would like to see you". And so, with a grimace, I walked over to his office. The steward looked up from his work. "Young master," he began, "I was hearing something distressing from the servants of another house, they recommended caution on our part." I know by our part he meant me. So here it comes. "Reliably, you were seen at Golgotha when the teacher Jesus was crucified. You even helped take him off the tree?" His eyebrows raised. "Yes steward," I said. “I took pity on his mother weeping at the foot of the cross and used my sword to pry the nails out of his feet and wrists. I wiped my sword on cloth so I did not get his blood on my hands or clothes, I added. “I did not want to be rebuked for touching a dead body before Passover.' He frowned. "You draw our attention to yourself" he retorted. "That can be bad. As your father says, do business quietly, give no occasion for our rulers to notice us and you will live long and prosper." "Yes steward" I replied. He motioned me out, and I left. I sure hope I don't hear about this at dinner tonight.
Thankfully, father was preoccupied at dinner and mother fussed over something or other that they had argued over it seemed. So once more I seemed to have dodged the consequences of our actions. I resolve to myself to be more careful. The chief steward was right.
The next morning, I met Simon and Stephen at the door of Nahor's school. After waiting outside with others for a short while, we were bid to enter and took our places. Shortly, Nahor himself came into the classroom to teach the morning lesson. It surprised us a little is most of the teaching was done by his assistants. However it seemed he was to do the morning lesson. What he first said surprised us. "The events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth has the elders in a very anxious state. It is even been rumored that he is risen. The soldiers guarding the tomb say privately that an angel rolled away the stone. They were given money to say that the body was stolen in the night. What the truth is, I don't know. Whatever happened, however, will result in serious trouble here I think. If this man actually was the promised one, my early training does say that the wrath of God will be poured out upon our city. It behooves us to be vigilant and listen for the approaching hoofbeats of the coming trouble."
"Part of the reason for this school is to educate you of the political realities of our time so you will be better able to do our families business. Do business quietly and beneath the watch of our rulers. The temple rulers are religious zealots who would kill you for the least objection to their rules; law. The political zealots,the mob in the streets, would kill any traitor to their ambitions to throw out the Romans and set up a rule that would be as oppressive as that of the religious zealots. And, we have Rome who is trying to keep some sort of tranquil peace over all this chaos bubbling up from beneath.
The best analogy I have is a Roman soldier sitting on a boiling pot trying to keep the lid on." Everyone snickered. "Every once in a while, some steam raises the lid and his tender parts of scorched." Outright laughter erupted. "We quietly do business amid this chaos. And if the time comes, we run for our lives. My personal opinion is that it may well come soon. The trouble is, define soon. I have a house on the coast in Caesarea to flee to if the streets erupted Civil War. So take heed, and do as you think prudent." With that, Nahor rolled open the scroll on the natural sciences and began the daily lesson.
After the lunch break, one of Nahor's assistants took over the class. But just a few minutes into the class, a Temple soldier, an officer, stood in the doorway briefly, then Nahor followed him into the classroom. “Jason”, Nahor sternly said as he towered over me. “The Temple guard wants to talk with you”. With that, he drew me to my feet by my arm and walked me out of the classroom. I was afraid. There were several other Temple guards outside the classroom. One soldier took each of my hands and I was led out into the street right up the Hill. I tried to ask why, but was rudely silenced by the officer. It only took a few minutes until we found ourselves outside the high priest's house. Then I knew for sure what kind of trouble I was in. Someone had reported what I've seen. I was led into the outer courtyard by the officer. The rest of the soldiers waited outside. We shortly rounded a large fountain with trellises of grapevines and I saw several priests with their assistants sitting around who I assumed was the high priest.
One of the assistants, a great hulking fellow, stood up and approached and stood over me. The high priest motioned the officer away. "What did you see, young man," one of the priests asked, in a kind voice. Somehow I found my own voice and said "an Angel" that I repeated "I saw an Angel, descend from its the sky, and rolled the stone away from the tomb, and go inside" I added. "I was visiting a friend, and went outside on the patio to get a drink at first light. And I saw a streak as a meteor falling to earth, and I saw the Angel there at the tomb" I babbled on "I know the teacher was born in Bethlehem", I added, somewhat dazed. I saw some of his family there when I went there on my father's business." The priest looked at me somewhat shocked, so I defensively added, “he was born in the last couple years of Herod. His family was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt before Herod killed the children in Bethlehem, and they were there in Egypt until Herod was dead. Being afraid to return to Bethlehem, they went to live in Nazareth”, I answered.
Absolute silence, the priests looking at one another. "Who else knows this," another priest finally asked? "I'm sure his family and some of his followers do", I hesitatingly answered. "Who do you think this teacher was', one of the other priest demanded? I hesitated and my better sense returned just in time and I stuttered "I don't know" and looked down at my feet.
"You are to mention this to no one else, do you understand"? My inquisitor demanded. I barely nodded. With a wave of the hand, I was motioned out. The hulking priest assistant dragged me through the courtyard and almost tossed me out the door. Then he glared at me, turned and went back inside. After a few moments, I gathered myself back together and walked back to the school. Religious zealots indeed, I thought as I walked. Dangerous men. They will kill anyone who threatens their authority, power, position. Evil, dangerous men.
I had scarcely gone into the schoolyard when one of the servants told me "go see my master Nahor.". Quaking inside a bit, I did as I was told. I announce myself at the door of his office and was bid enter . Nahor stared at me for a few seconds then asked what happened. When I had haltingly told him, he stared off into space a while. Then, with a start, he looked back at me. "You're in danger, boy," he said. "You had better go home, tell your father, and be off to the coast out of reach of the Temple zealots. They might do you harm ." "Yes teacher", I said and he motioned me to leave. I went to the classroom, picked up my scroll, said quietly to Simon, "the priest know what I saw, I'm in trouble, I may have to go to Caesarea." Then despite the teachers annoyed comment, I left the school, knowing I likely would not be able to return.
A whole litany of confused thought went through my head as I walked home. Arriving, I went directly to the chief steward's office, but he was out. So I went up to the balcony and just sat there for a while. I heard footsteps behind me and heard the voice of my grandmother speaking to me. It was so pleasant, but then I realized with a start that she had died and was buried months ago. I jumped to my feet turned around and stared in shock. She smiled her kind gentle smile, step forward and hugged me. "I have missed you so much, my precious boy," she said. "The master Jesus raised us alive after he rose from the dead. He is Lord and stands at the right hand of God. Tell your father". And with another smile, she just kind of sort of faded away right in front of me. I just could not move, then broke into tears and wonderful gift I just received.
Jesus really is who? The Messiah? Even more? Grandmother said she is saw him standing at the right side of Gods throne. I sat back down heavily, my mind in a jumble of thoughts. And sat there for an hour, or two, I wasn't quite sure. Then I was summoned to supper by a servant. As there was no point in trying to delay the confrontation any longer, I dutifully came down the steps into the atrium and to the dining room. Father was lounging at his place at the head of the table and motioned me to sit next to him. He had an unhappy look on his face. Before he could speak, I said "I just saw grandmother Sarah. She appeared to me on the balcony, gave me a hug, said she had been raised from the dead by Jesus, her Lord who stands at the right hand of Jehovah God." Father had a shocked look on his face "on the morning of the first day of the week, I was up on Simon's balcony getting a drink when I saw an Angel fall from heaven and roll away the stone from Jesus tomb, then enter. On the way to school, we briefly looked inside and all that was there were grave clothes still stuck together, but the body was gone.Today, some Temple soldiers dragged me out of my class because some priests wanted to hear what I saw. Thankfully, they only warned me to keep quiet and let me go." Father looked as if he had seen a ghost "you saw my mother" he breathed. "Yes father," I replied. "She glowed, just glowed all over, hugged and kissed me, said she was pleased with me, then just took a step back and faded away. "She said Jesus had raised her and many others from the dead, and that Jesus is her Lord”. Father frowned, then spoke. "This business with the priests is serious" he said. "First thing in the morning, you'll go to Caesarea with me. "You will stay there until the danger is over, and you will stay away from this man's followers, understand?" He looked angry. "I realize is not really your fault, but I don't want you to be where they can grab you again. Eat your supper" he commanded. As he dug into the dish.
Just after sunrise, as the servants were saddling the mules and loading others, Simon and John came bursting into the entry . "Jason, Jason," they excitedly exclaimed, “we saw family who had died walking the streets of Jerusalem". “They said Jesus had raised them up!” " Yes", I replied, " I saw grandmother Sarah late yesterday. I think it means that Jesus was who he said he was", I continued a little quieter, so no one else could hear. "I'm going to Caesarea with father, out of the reach of the priests." "How long I will be gone, I don't know" I added. John asked about school, and “when will we see you again?” "Father said I have to stay away until I'm not in any danger from our religious leaders", I replied. 'Hopefully, only a few weeks. I'm not going back to the religious school either." They agreed it was a waste of time. They only went because their parents insisted. Finally, father and mother came out into the atrium, she fussing about this and that, father only half listening, replying with monosyllables. He mounted his donkey,saying, "enough already, wife, I will see you upon our return." With that he led the way out into the street. I quickly bade farewell to my friends and followed the column out the gate.
We rode all morning and briefly paused for lunch. Then, back on the road until late afternoon when we arrived at one of fathers friends homes quite a ways down the hill from Jerusalem. There was no way we were going to stay at a public inn along the highway. These were filthy flea invested abodes with food, if you can call it that, that would gag a maggot. At least at a friends Villa, we would be safe and comfortable for the night. After the evening meal, I was able to quietly tell others of my age about my adventures and of this man Jesus. While the adults were busy bragging to each other and drinking too much, we quietly shared until late into the evening.
The next morning, we were on our way again. Midmorning we were passed by a troop of Roman irregular Calvary pounding their way up to Jerusalem. From bits and pieces of conversation we overheard, it seemed the governor, Pilate, was getting anxious about the mob and feared trouble. It wasn't until two days later that we passed safely through the gates of the Roman colony Seaport Caesarea. It had been several years since I'd been there, so I stared with much different eyes now as I was no longer a child. The street was busy, practically choked with wagons and packed trains ambling on it what seemed to me to be a painfully slow pace. This procession was not helped by large numbers of hawkers from all manner of businesses trying to persuade us to enjoy all manner of inns, shops, and, I noticed, with a smile, brothels advertising every manner of graphic sex in murals on their walls. A number of these sexy sirens leaned out of windows or in doorways, calling out their talents to the passing crowd. I even had to use my stick to beat back one really insistent harlot who tried to pull me off my donkey and into her doorway. As we passed wine shop after brothel after bakery the smell of stale wine, stale sweat, and the dung on the street rose up into the nostrils as a particularly revolting stench. “Hang onto your purse, young master, my body servant implored. Don't let yourself be lured into one of these places,” he added. “The least you would lose would be your purse and possibly your life”.
Everyone and everything seemed dirtier than Jerusalem. Rome ruled the world, but brought with it immorality, corruption of every sort. Rome famously held tenacious grip on the power of life and death, and ignored all else. We shortly left that quarter and next found ourselves in a more stately part of the city with a little wider streets and neither harlots nor merchants hawking their wares or themselves. My father's servant banged on a gate and when the proper words are exchanged, opened to us. Unlike the drab exterior walls, the interior courtyard was charming. Several date and other fruit trees surrounding two fountains appeared as I entered, along with much Roman statuary. I could see by their poses that we had exchanged the harlots in the streets for harlots frozen in marble. I grinned. At least these harlots would not be stealing my purse, Although the relative we were spending time with may possibly want to put his hands in our purses one way or the other. Our host emerged from his office across the atrium. "Benjamin, Benjamin" he exclaimed "so good to see you." He and my father embraced. Then he saw me. "Is this truly your son"? He asked. I shyly grinned, nodded, embarrassed. "Little Jason is grown-up into a handsome man." I blushed a little. "I will have to hide my daughters from him, I think" he jovially joked. "Come, come inside, you must be hot and tired. My servants will see to your people." So my father and I followed uncle Thomas inside. It was nicely furnished. Rugs from Persia, lamps of brass, tapestries of beautiful hues, marble vases, many other really nice things. "It is still an hour before lunch. Would you like to join me up on the roof?" Our host encouraged as we followed him inside and then up a brass circular staircase over in one corner. Once on the roof, I saw it was a really nice garden with potted plants everywhere. Looking over the city, I saw we were only a short distance from the man-made harbor. To the south, was the amphitheatre, its white marble glowing in the midday sun. To the North, was the rowdy district we had passed through to get here. Between us and the harbor docks were a row of shipping warehouses, one of which was owned by father and uncle Thomas. Once we were seated, father filled uncle Thomas in with what had happened in Jerusalem, in the last few days.
"So," father concluded "I thought it prudent to bring Jason here" father said. "Jason needs to learn more about our shipping business." Uncle replied "Jason is certainly welcome here anytime, and I do have much to keep them busy." After that they talked business for some time until lunch was served. Yes, work was good, but father still said I had to go to school; and that there was a good one in the city where all the right people sent their sons. Hector the Greek tought there. So the next morning I left with father's steward to get me into the school. It turned out the school was in the Forum, where the laywers and government types kept up a constant harangue before the several magistrates. As we arrived, we could see that a class was assembling for the day out-of-doors between two fountains which drowned out all the official nonsense going on around us. After a short time, I was bid sit before the teacher, and the daily instruction began. Even here though, the events in Jerusalem cast a long shadow. At the midmorning break, several students gathered around talking about the teacher Jesus.. Various opinions were expressed on what had happened. One asked me "you just came down from Jerusalem?" I thought to myself I better not say anything so it barely admitted it was so, but that I had no immediate personal knowledge of the recent events. So they left me alone and animatedly discussed what people had said. Some said Jesus was risen from the dead and was showing himself to many people. Hundreds were believing in him; the priests were frantically trying to stop the spread of this "false cult" they called it. At the beginning of the afternoon class, the teacher opinion to us "now we are Romans, well most of us anyway" he added. "We believe in reason, not in holy men or messiahs. Or fools leading gullible people to their destruction. I don't want any more talk of this Jewish man-King, Messiah, devil-I don't know. We worship Caesar , Truth, reason, intellect, philosophy, show us nothing beyond this world but darkness. So we act like men, shine for the moment, and leave a good report for our descendents to worship at the family shrine."
How pitiful, I thought. His only hope is in darkness. What hope is in that? But I held my tongue as father had instructed me. And so our afternoon of geometry and other useful things past well enough. One of the boys was Timothy, who introduced himself as a friend of Simon. We walked home together. "So", he asked, "what really happened?" "Simon wrote of your adventures a couple days ago, but also counsel caution. It was wise after what we saw today."
"I'm in Caesarea for my safety", I retorted. "Father was afraid of what the religious zealots would do to me and others who had seen Jesus. If you hear of anyone from Jerusalem looking for me, I must know it once" I added. I told them of my being dragged before the religious elders and he agreed. "Until tomorrow," Timothy added at my gate. Then he disappeared into the evening crowd.
The next morning, father counseled me against foolish outbursts and bad companions. I readily agreed and said nothing about Simon's friend Timothy. After all, I have my own life, and will be careful. On the way to the school I met up with Timothy and his friend Jonathan. As in Jerusalem, the story of Jesus was on the lips of everyone. I do not volunteer anything before Jonathan. Timothy noticed but said nothing. As we arrived at the school, a troop of gladiators Marched by on the way to the stadium, advertising tomorrow's games. Many harlots and better class women dressed up as harlots hung all over the gladiators they could reach. Many a gladiator adorned rich widows beds and the beds of husbands who looked the other way. A minute after, Hector the Greecian came out the door and looked in disgust at the vulgar display, barked “boys, inside”. And we meekly followed him inside
Hector seemed upset, distracted that morning, mumbling on and on how the Empire was descending into immorality and chaos. "Not as bad as in Rome", he said, "or Corinth in Greece, but bad enough. Now back in the day," he asserted, "such things were not openly displayed." One brave boy asked if it was less immoral to debauch and private which drew a brief disapproving stare. Then Hector began the lesson for the day, on Aristotle's prime mover of all things. "So," one Jewish boy asked "did Aristotle mean God by his statement?" Some in the class snickered and a mocking laugh from the teacher was the reply. "We study reason, not superstition" the teacher retorted and that was that. I thought of the proverb "none are so blind as those who will not see". The rest of the class showed through the Greeks philosophy the Power of God, but they refused to allow themselves to consider him. Blind fools leading the blind. I looked over to Timothy and he rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and shook his head.
The next day was the Lord's day, so I went with my father to the synagogue. The prayer service started well enough. However as a Rabbi was about to give his reading of the law, he asked if anyone from Jerusalem has something to say. Several people stood up and to came to the front, turn, face the congregation and began to speak. "Brethren, we have just come from Jerusalem" he said. "The whole place is in an uproar. Many people who were dead have risen from their graves and are walking the streets, appearing to their families, and causing consternation among the elders. This Jesus is said to have appeared to many people and has been touched and handled by them. Many people have believed on him. This is a most extraordinary thing what is happened, and we are witnesses of these things. My friend Gideon here saw Jesus." "Yes", Gideon replied. "I was with 40 eating the evening meal when Jesus appeared in our midst. We were much astonished, but he gently smiled and asked for meat. We gave him some bread and honey comb, he ate then walk from person to person touching some gathering others he had known in his arms. After a few minutes he bade us farewell and faded away. We were much astonished but elated that we had seen the risen Lord Christ."
The men returned to their seats amid much murmuring in the congregation. The Rabbi was somewhat taken aback by this, and after several long moments found his voice and stammered "doesn't the Scripture say that Messiah must be born in Bethlehem?" At that moment I found myself on my feet speaking out. "Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod. His family fled before Herod's order to kill all the children in Bethlehem, and they went to live in Nazareth." Absolute quiet in the synagogue, the Rabbi looking as he would fall over. I looked down and my father who had a far-off look in his eyes. "Respected elders, I continued, I saw an angel roll away the rock of Jesus tomb, and also saw my grandmother who had been dead six months. I do believe this man Jesus is Lord Christ." Looks of consternation surrounded me. My father looked up at me in loving sadness, then stood up and led me by the hand out of the synagogue. When we were outside, he put his hands on my shoulders and looked inquiringly into my eyes. "Son," he's slowly said "now I believe." He took me in his arms "God help us" he whispered. Then again taking me by the hand, we walked back to Uncle Thomas 's house. It was an hour later when uncle Thomas came in, saw us and sat down heavily beside me. "By the word of two or three witnesses thing is established." He said at length. "And it appears the witnesses are in the hundreds. This thing will turn the world upside down. Well, at least we out of reach of the sanhedrin here-I think," uncle added. "I will have you escorted to school and home" uncle said, giving a questioning look to my father. My father waved his arm in agreement followed by "yes". And all three of us sat on the roof in silence looking west past the harbor, and out to sea.
We sat there a long time. "The truth of a matter does not reduce the practical realities," father finally said. "You cannot keep speaking out on this without drawing unwanted attention our way." "Yes father," I answered respectfully. "As it is, we will not be able to go back to that synagogue." "Yes father" I dutifully replied. "Say nothing in your school". Father said. "One of my friends who have also heard of these things?" "Quietly, my son, quietly", father replied. "Say nothing in class". "Yes father", I ascented. With that, a servant brought the afternoon meal to us and we ate in silence. "The summer break is almost upon us," I finally said. "The classes will not begin again until the fall. Another month and perhaps I can joinone of your expeditious to Egypt?" Father frowned. "Perhaps lad," he replied. "Perhaps".
At least things went quietly in school. And no one bothered myself, Timothy or Jonathan. A couple weeks later we overheard the amazing news that Jesus had been with a large group of followers on the mount of olives which is to the east of Jerusalem, teaching, when he gave them a final blessing and rose up into the air to the clouds, telling them to teach about him to everyone everywhere. Two angels then appeared, saying that "this same Jesus will return as you saw him leave,at the end of the age”. the end of the age. I marveled, as did my two friends. It seemed an immense time spread out before us, until he would come again. I had the feeling that by that time we would long be dust.
A month or so later, we heard that some men had come from Jerusalem, and were teaching about Jesus in the back of a bakery on the late afternoon of the third day of the week . We resolved to go after school to hear what was being said. However, as we rounded a corner near the bakery, we saw Temple soldiers dragging people out of the bakery and so we sliped into the wine shop to watch. The owner noticed us, said, "I saw two Hebrew priests with that company of soldiers march by a few minutes ago. Word is a plot against the peace was going on behind the bakery." Some 25 men and women were led away bound back in the direction of the forum. To be judged and jailed, I had no doubt. When the shop owner pressed us, we bought some of his wine, then made our way home. “The priests were the rulers of the synagogue we went to”, I told my father after dinner that night. They led the Temple soldiers who arrested those meeting to talk about Jesus. "Here? In Caesarea?" Father asked in amazement. "You will stay home tomorrow. Stay here until I find out what happened. This is serious if the Jerusalem elders have ordered the arrest of believers in Caesarea.” Later that day, Timothy came over after school. "Nothing was said by anyone at school about the arrest", Timothy said. “I did receive another letter from Simon in Jerusalem. It seems a Temple elders did send out letters to the synagogues to beware of this latest “heresy "they call it. Our Rabbi here acted on his own authority in having believers arrested. "But what of the Roman law?" I protested. "Rome holds the power of life and death and forsakes all else", Timothy quoted. “They allow religious leaders to rule their members how they will. Our Rabbi has chosen the whip. I expect those arrested will be released after they have been well beaten." Timothy said he could not stay for supper. However he did see my father as he was leaving and briefly informed him of what had happened.
Later that night, father told me "you must not get involved with these believers, son." "I know, I know," he interrupted as I was about to reply. "I do believe, but we must be circumspect, careful. We tend to business, stay out of sight of the rulers. Being unnoticed we may believe and do as we want with no fear of our rulers. From now on, you will work for me and the family." "Yes father," I answered. "It is time you took responsibilities as a man." "Yes father", I said again. "I have decided to send our assistant steward to supervise our land near Capernaum. You will go with him." "Yes father" I again replied. "Stay out of the synagogues and out of trouble there." "Yes father," I replied. With that, I had my instructions for the summer.
Two mornings later, we started our trek up the coast. It took a week to travel the distance to our land just a couple hours walk south of Capernaum. It was several hundred acres of pasture land with a number of acres of vines and an olive grove near the house. I had always thought of it is a quiet peaceful place. It had been peaceful, except when the teacher had brought thousands of people with him. I smiled. I sat in the shade in the late afternoon looking east across the sea. To my left was the towns of Capernaum and Bethesda and to my right the ancient Tell with who knows what name. Cities and fortresses had been built on that spot only to be ruined, then the rubble level again and again and build up so that it was now a man-made hill. Only a few ruins remained at the top. People nowadays and no reason to climb that hill, so it was left inhabited only occasionally by sheep or a wild roe deer. This was a quiet place, I thought again. So quiet that it would be hard for me to get into trouble here. I smiled. I could see fishermen rowing to shore with the day's catch and one boat already being unloaded. Nets were hung out to dry just up the beach. Right there is where Jesus had borrowed a boat to speak to the multitude, and also where Peter had unwillingly cast a net and brought up a large catch. In a way, I could hear the sound of centuries in the silence.
Vines, vines and more vines I thought during the hot afternoon the next day. I hadn't remembered how much hard work it was to prune and tend only 3 acres of vines. I'm sure that they will make good wine, but it is a lot of work. At least the servants had already pruned the olive trees in the early spring. The vines were almost up against the house on the North, West and south. The vegetable garden was below the house on the slope down to the sea. Unlike homes in Jerusalem, this one was only one story with an inner courtyard or atrium (that Roman word again)! But with a large covered deck on the roof from which you could see the surrounding countryside. Father has said I had to work in the fields, not lounge around in the house like some Roman Senator. So here I was tieing up grape vines to their trellises, cutting off the bad growth. And always, with a servant in my elbow with the constant "no young master, we do it this way" or "tie them up higher" or "you're killing the vine" or "do it this way or that". I repeatedly thought about how satisfying it would be to sell him to the next caravan passing by on the road to Egypt. But then who would tend the vines, the sheep, or the garden. Besides, father had said I needed schooling in practical things. So, I gritted my teeth and tried real hard not to whack this annoying fellow across the head with my staff. I think I had drunk seven or eight pitchers of water by the end of the day, and was still thirsty as the sun was about to go behind the hills in the West.
As we were sitting in the garden on the front of the house, a pair of fellows walking by stopped and said that two of Jesus disciples would be speaking outside the synagogue this evening. My servants wanted to go see them but I forbade them saying "father's instructions were to stay away from such people, as they will bring trouble upon us". And so the visitors departed, alone, in the direction of Bethesda. Now I really did want to go, but I had already got myself in trouble in Jerusalem, and Caesarea, and hopefully not here too! We had heard the next day that there had been a shoving match in the village outside the synagogue with both sides claiming they were right. The ruler of the synagogue and some of his people had decided that these troublemakers had said enough and wanted to disperse the mob. I was thankful I was not involved in that. About midday, the next day, several men passing by on the way south inquired of my servants if we knew about the teacher and "The Way". Upon being told that myself and my father did believe, wanted to talk with me a while. I politely bid them in and confessed my faith in the teacher as well as my caution about doing so publicly as I had already gotten in trouble for doing so in Jerusalem and Caesarea. I begged them not to publish abroad my faith and they reluctantly agreed. As they were leaving, I said "I will show the you something." I went into my bedroom and came out with my short sword and drew it. "You see these nicks on the edge?" I asked. They confessed they did. "This was where I pulled the nails out of the teachers feet and hands" I said, before we buried him in Nicodemus tomb. Their eyes grew wide with wonder. "Now be on your way, friends," I said "and tell no one". I left them to go back to my work until lunch.
Faithfulness to truth. A large part of me wanted to shout from the rooftops that the teacher is Lord and Messiah.. However, I was only 16, still under the authority of teachers and elders. My father had sternly charged me with being cautious, as religious zealots were powerful-and dangerous. Still, if a person was not open about their faith, was that denying their faith? This troubled me. Perhaps one of Jesus disciples would come to the Galilee and I could ask him.
I thought and prayed about my faith for several days when I sent one of my servants to Bethesadia to search out the families of Peter and Andrew the fishermen. It was widely known they were the Teachers disciples. My servant came back late that evening, saying that they were still in Jerusalem., but when they came home would let me know. In the mean time I had much more work to do after the grape wines had been tied up.
I did not know when I had been more sore. And I was getting callouses on my blisters or was it blisters on my callouses? I was getting bored to death. This was such a quiet place after Jerusalem. Father wrote that there had not been any more arrests of believers in Caesarea. The ones who had been taken had been let go after a whipping and a stern lecture. So long as your faith was not much out in the open, meaning you did not “cause trouble” in the synagogue, you would be left alone. In Jerusalem, on the other hand, it seemed to be that people were coming to believe in “The Way” by the hundreds, even the thousands and the elders did not know what to do about it. The story was that the chief priest had had some Apostles arrested, and an angel had appeared in the prison and helped them escape. The guards at the prison had been put to death when the rulers had heard of it. The very next day the apostles were teaching in the temple. When some of the more zealot priests wanted to kill them, my old
Teacher Gamaliel stood up and remind them saying “if this is of men it will fail, but if it is of GOD you cannot stop it, lest you fight against GOD.” However, soon after this a great persecution against the believers began and many of them fled , returned to cities across Judea and the Galilee.
The desciple Phillip went through the Galilee,. preaching “The Way” and the kingdom of GOD. Finally, I had someone to talk to if I could do so quietly. When he had preached in Bethesdia, amid some opposition, I sent by night a servant saying I would hear more about “The Way” privately. Phillip replied that he would stop by on his way back south towards Caesarea.
The next day at mid morning, Phillip appeared at my gate. I was gratefully in the interruption in the daily work. He and two friends accepted my offer of hospitality. Once seated, I asked, “can a rich man be a believer in The Way, in Jesus as Messiah and Lord?” I told him about what Jesus had said to me in Jerusalem, and for a moment he seemed at a loss for words. I went on to say I had seen Jesus here by Bethesdia, had been at the crucifixion and had helped take Him down from the cross, and that I had seen an angel roll the stone away from the tomb. I said I believe in Him, but had gotten in trouble twice, in Jerusalem and in Caesarea, because of my belief. This was why I was exiled here until it was safe for me to return to Caesarea. They looked on me with interest, but still silent. So, I asked, ”can a person like me be accepted by GOD?”
Finally, Phillip answered “Jesus accepts all men who come to Him. You believe in Jesus”? He asked.
“Yes” I answered, ”I know He is Messiah and Lord” Phillip replied, “since you have believed, receive the Holy Ghost”, and I felt the sudden indwelling of the power of GOD. ”It is the gift of GOD to all who believe, “ Phillip stated. “Will you be long here”? Phillip asked. “I don't know”, I replied. “As I stated, I was sent here for my safety after some believers were arrested in Caesarea. I very nearly was arrested as well, but by the grace of God was not" I added. They smiled. Finally, they thanked me for the lunch and went out the gate to the road to the coast. “We may be back," Phillips said, and I replied "you will always be welcome here". With that they took their leave and faded into the distance.
Weeks went by, it was Mid. Summer and I was still exiled. It felt like exile anyway, in a remote farm in the Galilee. Finally, however, I received a message from father to return to Jerusalem. As father said, almost half the city had believed on Jesus and the religious zealots were too busy with all that to bother with one lad. Father has sent two servants with a message to accompany me to Jerusalem. We waited a couple days then attached ourselves to a large caravan going south. After a few days we bade them farewell when we reached the road from the coast East up to Jerusalem. Making Our Way, East to the city, we stayed two nights at my fathers associates estates. Finally, the third day, we could see the walls of Jerusalem in the distance and well before nightfall had entered the gate and approached my home. The door servant happily greeted me, bade us enter. I made my way across the atrium to my father's arms. It had been too long. After a few long moments, he held me at arms length, and, quietly said, “you are becoming a man, my son. Come with me'. And I followed him upstairs to the roof balcony where we sat and talked about many things. Finally he said, “tomorrow we must go to the Temple. After that, I have much for you to do. It is around Jerusalem that the teachers word says that sometime in the near future, Jerusalem will be besieged and destroyed”,.”just like the prophet Daniel said?” I asked. "Yes, son" father replied. “We don't know how soon, but it will happen. The faithful are told to flee when they see it began to come to pass. I, for one, do not see any reason for waiting. I will be renting out this house, and selling our holdings in Judea. Point is, either you believe God or do not. And I do. I am moving our business entirely to Caesarea and I will be sending you to Egypt, to Alexandria." Father said. "You will be there with cousin Amos, and in your spare time, if cousin lets you have any," father added with a twinkle in his eye, "you can look into classes at the great Library of Alexandria. A wise man acquires knowledge." He added more solemnly.
"What about Eunice?" I asked. "Oh, yes, your betrothed. "I will talk to her father", father said. "They are now believers and should not be a problem for you to marry in another two or three years. You're still 17, my son". "Yes father", I dutifully replied. And we spent the evening after supper looking out over the city. Finally, it had been a long day, I was tired and went in to rest. I was asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.
I had vivid dreams all night. Dreams of Jerusalem in flames and myself running through the streets, the fire raging and bodies laying all around me. I awakened in a sweat at first light of dawn. Was this dream from God? I've seen the Temple Mount collapsing into the Kidron Valley, and all the great men crushed among the stones. Crushed to powder, the few survivors led away in chains to eternal slavery in exile. Yes, I should go to Egypt, I realized. I remembered the prophecy of Hosea 3 verse 4
“ the children of Israel shall dwell many days without a King or Prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. After that, they shall return, seek the Lord their God and David their king and they shall come in fear of the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days."
I told father my dream at breakfast. He said it must have been from God. Looking at the dream through Hosea's words he also said we should possibly purchase Roman citizenship to protect the family. After all, Hosea's words “ many days “ could be a very, very long time.
It took father until the fall to sell our fields of vines and olive trees near Jerusalem. Just as the wind was looking to bring the first snow, we sadly filed out of our house for the last time, passed by the Temple in all its morning glory, and set our faces away from Jerusalem to the coast. I stopped and looked back once as the city was passing from view, somehow knowing I would never see her again. My intended, by betrothed, Eunice would follow with her family as they too had seen the wisdom of exile. Most of Jerusalem was however oblivious to their peril and slumbered on. Like, in my view, people who live on the slopes of an active volcano which is daily spewing out Ash and cinders, thinking it's always done that and nothing will happen. The donkies put one foot in front of the other all day until by late afternoon, we entered the courtyard of our cousin on the road to Caesarea. A good meal, a good nights sleep, the next day on toward the coast.
A couple days later, we entered Caesarea from the South gate hoping to avoid at least some of the chaos we had encountered on our last visit. We were not disappointed, as Rome they cleaned up the area around that gate and had chased the more disreputable elements into fleeing elsewhere. It was a relief not to have to pass through that noxious unwashed throng into the city. Shortly, we arrived at uncle Thomas house to the welcome of the chief steward. Uncle was elsewhere in the city, but would be back for supper.
I went out with a couple of body servants to the theater as I heard there would be a lecture and discussion between several of the great teachers on natural philosophy. We arrived a little early and found some good seats on the aisle halfway back from the stage. I also met my friends Timothy and Jonathan there are so we sat together. "What's it about?" I asked. “Plato on the motion of the planets," Jonathan replied. "What, they don't believe God guides them",? I asked mock amazement, and we all laughed. People around us looked annoyed at the mention of God. Timothy added , “no, they are their own gods." More hostile stares. I frowned, motioned them to be quiet. I did not want to get beat up and thrown out. Thankfully, the orators entered the stage and distracted the people around us.
Caesarea, port of call for the Eastern Mediterranean. Nexis for the caravan routes from Persia and China. All the sea trade from Africa and the Far East stopped here on the way, North to the Aegean, Mediterranean Asia and the Black Sea. And from there West to Greece and Rome. Especially to Rome, Seat of Empire. Although ships could and sometimes did sail from Rome and Athens Southeast to Egypt, few ships ever tried to sail the return voyage Northwest from Alexandria because of the prevailing North and Northwest wind. Hence, almost all the ships sailed north along the coast on the in shore land breeze. This made for good profits for such merchants as my father. From brokering merchandise to be shipped to the Mediterranean world, to buying shares of cargo destined to all points of the compass. We had a finger in many a venture. Next week, a ship father had purchased a 1/8 share in its cargo was due to sail south to Alexandria, up the Nile to the Red Sea canal, then south down the Red Sea to India. I wished I could go with them. I even asked father, but he sternly replied "we let others take the risks of sea voyages and we take the profits from our success. Only 3 out of five ships we send East return because of Pirates, or those Eastern princes who act like Pirates, and shoals, reefs , storms beyond belief in the Indian Ocean. No charts of any real value. These all make any one venture a roll of the dice. But our success pays us seven to 10 times our investment. The secret, lad, is to spread out your risk in as many ships as possible so your occasional loss will not be too serious."
“I have decided that in couple years, when you are a little older, and marry," he grinned, "I will send you to Alexandria to oversee our cargoes heading West along the African coast to Libya, Sicily and Rome. Every generation we send out our sons across the Empire so that any local persecution won't kill us all. When war with Rome comes-and it will come lad"-father said quietly so no one else would here, "we Jews will all be under suspicion matter where we live. With you in Alexandria, your brother in Athens and your sisters husbands to take over business here, if I pass soon, our family's fortune is wisely spread across the Empire."
One thing I could not but see was how many believers in "The Way" had fled Jerusalem to Caesarea. For now, under Roman rule and protection, we had much less cause to be concerned for our safety than in other cities. Caesarea was a Roman colony entirely under Roman rule unlike the other places in this province. While the local synagogue had initially been hostile to "The Way", the majority of the Jews in Caesarea now believed in Jesus and so the rulers has sought a get-a long policy with the people they believe heretics.
There was even a believers synagogue a couple streets away, and so father and I went there the next Sabbath. One of the most interesting things I got from the rabbis teaching was a transition from keeping the law of Moses for righteousness to the new teaching of how Jesus paid the penalties of the law and how we find righteousness in God's sight by faith in Jesus. This is certainly a sea change in how people find favor, forgiveness with God. Under the law, no one is wholly righteous even with the blood sacrifices covering our sins. Under This New Way, Jesus is the final blood sacrifice to make our way to God. This must be why they call this new faith ”The Way”. Nothing we did or could do was enough to pay the penalty for our sins. It was not Jewish rules , it was by faith in Jesus alone, so what good then was the law? Through the Jew, God gave the law to show how a person would have to be acceptable to God, an impossible task.. God became a man, Jesus, to show how we could be complete in him and through him finding the only way to God. Those who confess Jesus as Lord and Messiah, believe he died for our sins and rose again on the third day, to save us from the wrath to come. For there will indeed be a great and fearful judgment on that final day of the Lord. We spent the rest of the Sabbath day resting and discussing these things. Another thing I found out about at the synagogue was that Saul, one of the older students whom I had known at Gamaliel's school , had become a terror to those of “The Way”, dragging them out of their homes to trials beatings and prison. Another very good reason for us to flee Jerusalem for Caesarea.
The first day of the week, I was given the task of checking the cargo manifest as one of the coastal ships was loaded. Item by item I checked off, making sure that all cargo that was loaded was correct. And yes, a busybody clerk was at my elbow all day busy chattering about each item, not to break it, had to make sure it was a right weight for any number of things so that by noon time I felt like stuffing him and a sack and having him loaded as cargo as well. Think about a person that just cannot shut up! I dubbed him “noisey”.But I gritted my teeth, said nothing. I finally sent him down into the hold to, as I put it, see that each piece was stuffed into the exact place it should go. I kind of grinned at the abuse he gave the dock crew in the hold, hoping that one or more of them would stuff him somewhere. Late afternoon, we started unloading cargo from another ship that had just come in. I sent my “noisy” friend up the pier with a scroll to terrorize the ships mate while I watched the crew shuffle their cargo so they could send up what was to be sent ashore for the warehouse. “Noisy” finally showed up after a while looking a little wet. Everyone snickered as he said he had been accidentally pushed off the pier into the water. All I said was “your scrolls are wet. Get another scroll and write it properly”. That got him out of my hair for the rest of the day. Hopefully, he would get lost in the way home- or captured by slavers and sent to Egypt---or …..........
my mind salivated on several possibilities. Anyway, finally the day was done and I dragged my body home. It was amazing how tired one could get just checking cargo manifests all day. I did mention "noisy" to my uncle and how he almost drowned, to uncles amusement.
Every week, we would make our appearance in the synagogue to hear more about “.The Way”. The weeks turned into months and occasionally we would be visited by disciples from Jerusalem on their way to preach at a synagogue across the Empire. There was also something quite new, the very large number of Gentiles who wanted to hear about Jesus. Jesus had said for disciples to go to every nation with his message. Synagogues in far away places had always had a room set aside for Gentiles to enter to hear God's word taught. Now, however, in some places far more Gentiles would show up to hear about Jesus that would Jews. This changed the nature of some synagogues, and many new synagogues and house churches opened for all who wanted to hear. I heard that there was a large number of believers in Egypt, and I much wanted to go there and fellowship with them.
It seemed to take forever for the next two years to elapse, but finally I was 19 and was married to my beautiful Eunice. A month later, we boarded a ship and to the tears of our families, we sailed off South to Egypt. There we spent a long time improving the family business.
Son, you know much of the rest of the story. How years later we decided to leave Alexandria for Sicily and lately the southwestern coast of Italy near Naples and are there to this day. Times of persecution have come and gone but our faith remains. Lately the great apostle Paul past here on his way to Rome. We were blessed to be able to fellowship with him for one day. All too often now, a Roman officer arrives with a troop and demands all believers sacrifice a pinch of incense to Caesar, proclaiming “Caesar is Lord”. In the past, I have done so out of the need of protection for my family. However, over the years my conscience has bothered me about this and the day may soon come when I must refuse to do this and be martyred for our faith.
I am enclosing a package with this letter containing my sword with which I pried the nails out of our Saviors feet and hands. May it inspire the faithful in their service to our Lord.
I fear the soldiers are coming again tomorrow, so I send this letter off today. I may be with our loving Savior long before you read this letter.
Your loving father ,
Jason Ben Benjamin.
Great Videos on the subject !!!
Our Moon has craters
by Lewis Brackett Sept 15 2005 on WEDG discussion group
posted here sept 25, 05
when GOD created our moon 6000 years ago it must have been perfect without craters....... but it sure has been walloped since then...... there is little record of impact explosions being seen on the moon anywhere in recorded history after Noah's flood.
this indicates to me that GOD sent a swarm of large chunks of rock through the earth moon system which smashed the ice canopy around the earth with many of these rocks smashed through the earths crust breaking open the underground water chambers where the seas are now, throwing the water high in the atmosphere creating rain.....
this would create mountain forming earthquakes............many of these rocks missed the earth hitting the moon.
I got all this yesterday from thinking about why/how the moon has lots of craters but is only 6000 years old
meteorite activity impacting the moon planets before the flood would have been impossible as it would have destroyed the ice canopy..... major strikes afterward would have lit up the whole night earth, maybe as bright as daylight for a few moments!!! certainly terrifying everyone !!! Had any of these large objects hit the earth in recorded history it would have ended history !!!
New "Drake Equation"
My new version of the "Drake equation" showing the possibilities of another earth in our galaxy!!!
Lets say we start out with 1 billion stars in our galaxy ................
MAYBE 10% are far enough away from each other not to affect each others planets AND to reduce radiation to a tolerable level.....more likely One percent would be 10 million stars
Half are single star systems that leaves 5 million stars
1% are in exactly the right circular orbit to be the right temperature that leaves 50,000 stars
10% are the stars with long term stable energy output that leaves 5000 stars
10% are the proper size leaving 500 stars
10% are the proper type, rocky, atmosphere etc leaving 50 stars with type worlds
Now the chance of one dna strand happening by chance is more that 1 in 10\10th
or 1 in 100 billion.......
How many dna strands are there?
figureing all this together, the odds of this happening ANYWHERE are At least 10/10 beyond the accepted odds of impossibility !!!
that leaves you with maybe one "earth" in one billion galaxies
These figures are Very optimistic!!! so you can see that as far as ""evolution "is concerned, we really aren't here :eek: :)
Evidences of Noah's Flood edited shortened , from Creation Research Society Quarterly www.icr.org
The River systems of our world have not existed more than 5000 years. By dividing the size (volume) of a river delta by the volume of the annual soil deposits at the river mouths, none of the worlds rivers can be more than 5000 years old The Mississippi Missouri river system is the longest in the world, about 4221 miles. It was first surveyed between 1850-1861 by General Andrew A Humphrey's of the Army corps of Engineers.His finding was that the accumulated soil deposits of the river delta was about 40 feet deep , giving the river an age of about 4620 years, about the time of Noah's flood. The compare able size of the deltas of all other rivers in the world show that they also began at this time. Truly, a person has to be willfully ignorant to ignore this evidenceMan made artifacts burried in solid rock or in coal seams.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE VAST AGE OF OIL?
Oil (formed by fossilized animal matter) and coal (vegetable matter) are said to be millions of years old. But are they? Quite frequently, abnormally high pressures of up to 8,000 psi are encountered in deep
oil wells. Often when a new well is tapped, a gusher goes spouting into the air due to the tremendous pressure trapped below. According to measured values of the permeability of surrounding rock, such pressures would dissipate in thousands, not millions of years. If those oil deposits had been there for more than 5,000 years in some cases there would be no pressure left! Since the pressure is still there (often seeping at the surface), the rock formations containing the oil must be “young”.
Admiral Richard Byrd established a base On the Antarctic Ice in 1930. Since that time, the ice has piled higher, so that of his 110 foot radio towers, just a few feet now protrude above the icy surface. At that rate, the ice cover is only 7,000 years old, not a million. But since the build-up must have been more rapid during the 1200ad to 1850ad little Ice Age, it is probably very much younger even than 7,000 years. Ancient maps exist showing Antarctica before the ice came revealing details only recently verified .
Once tropical north pole area before Noahs Flood!
Some more evidence:
June 1st 2006 Network News story tells about core samples from the Artic ocean seabed showing the area was once a tropical swamp!!!
The Eva Creek forest
The Axel Heiberg Island frozen forest
The Ellesmere Island forest
and how about the fresh Dinosaur bones found in Canada also?
A gold necklace was found embedded in a lump of coal. A metal spike was discovered in a silver mine in Peru. An iron implement was found in a Scottish coalbed. Estimated to be millions of years older than man is believed to have existed. A metal, bell-shaped vessel, inlaid with a silver floral design was blasted out of solid rock near Dorchester,Massachusetts .http://www.mm2000.nu/sphinxi.html
The Epic of Gilgamesh This story found in the ancient librarys of the Assyrian Kings in the ruins of Ninevah tells the story of Noah and much pre-flood history. It is the oldest book we know of. A summery of the book is at http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/MESO/GILG.HTM
Worldwide oral history of Noahs flood
The legends of the Samo-Kubo tribe of New Guinea, the Athapascan Indians of America, the Papago Indians of Arizona, Brazilian tribes, Peruvian Indians, African Hottentots, natives of Greenland, native Hawaiian islanders, Hindus, Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Australian natives, the Welsh, Celts, Druids, Siberians, and Lithuanians
Evolution and Species Extinction
Species are meeting changing environments by being genetically selected for them. However, genetic viability is being lost. This leads to the loss of many sub species, endangering the long term survivability of each species in its ability to adapt to future changes. This is a simplification of complexity, the opposite of evolution
The Genetic Code
Is an information storage system. To create this system, you must first have an immense intelligence to create a language before the bio-chemical storage mechanism can exist. A randomly formed system (if possible) would only have random data Without an intelligence to create a language andthen encode it
Yellowstone National Park
Has layers of sediment with dead trees said to be millions of years old. However, when trees grow, they acquire a unique fingerprint of decades of good and bad growing seasons in their rings. All of the trees in all of the layers can be shown to have lived and died at the same time due to their unique ring patterns.
Formation of coal
In a few years, not millions of years, has been demonstrated as a result of the mount St Helens eruption. Peat, the precursor to soft coal has already been formed in spirit lake, and is identical to soft coal formations through out America
The Grand Canyon
Can have been created quickly. The mount St. Helens eruption created a canyon much like the Grand Canyon in only a few months . The water drainage through the Grand Canyon is insufficient to create it. Only Noahs flood could have caused enough water to flow to cause the canyon.
This site gives many sources from science to explain WHY we believe in GOD and the Bible Www.reasons.org
This is a Great site showing the foolishness of evolutionism and the existence of our Creator G-D .... http://www.y-origins.com/
This site tells you almost everything you would like to know about Bible Prophecy www.tribulation.com
Visit the "Gospel Webring"
109 Great Christian help/ Faith sites !!!
101 Prophecies for today
Christian Chat, News
New world order links :
See also left column on Weekend Discussion Groups home page !!! http://www.upway.com/cgi-bin/wedg.cgi
Solomon and Herods Temples Did you know that the first century Jewish historian Josephus and all the ancient writers say that their temples were NOT on the "Temple mount" platform where the Dome of the rock is but on another square tower platform over the Gihon spring 600 ft SOUTH of what is now thought to be the temple mount ? AND scripture shows the spring was just south of the Altar in the Temple...Ezekiel 47:1 Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar.
Here's a link to the site of My Church:
our solar radiation. Sirius is a double star with a All the ancients insist that Sirius was a red Giant star. If this was really true,and they certainly were brilliant people, this leaves us with an interesting question.
This would mean that Sirius had already exhausted its Hydrogen and was now; according to its multicolored (blue- white)spectra, be devouring its final Helium and
This would mean that Sirius MAY nova in the near future!
A Nova might cause Sirius to be brighter than the sun for several months especially if it goes SUPERNOVA greatly increasing white dwarf companion. Supernovas occur (science thinks) when a massive star expels great quantities of its mass which are drawn into a smaller companion and ignited.
Greatly increased solar radiation from a nearby Supernova would cause our own sun to increase its output also, and would "burn men with fire" to quote revelation. The novas shockwave could reach earth in 1000 years, causing our own sun to nova, devouring earth with fire fulfilling Bible prophecy.
Because of this, I think amateurs should keep a log of spectral changes because if Sirius goes back words its final red stage that would mean a possible nova was imminent!!!
Evidences With Links
Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Wernher von Braun,
German/American rocket scientist on GOD
"It seems to me that your question is irrelevant," von Braun would say. "It is so obvious that we live in a world in which a fantastic amount of logic, of rational lawfulness, is at work. We are aware of a large number of laws of physics and chemistry and biology which, by their mutual interdependence, make nature work as if it were following a grandiose plan from its earliest beginnings to the farthest reaches of its future destiny. To me, it would be incomprehensible that there should be such a gigantic master plan without a master planner behind it. This master planner is He whom we call the Creator of the Universe . . . One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be a Divine intent behind it all."
"For me," he would continue, "there is no real contradiction between the world of science and the world of religion. The two are dealing with two different things, but they are not in conflict with each other. Theologians are trying to describe the Creator; scientists are trying to describe His creation. Science and religion are not antagonists; on the contrary, they are sisters . . . While, through science, man tries to harness the forces of nature around him, through religion he tries to harness the forces of nature within him . . ."
G-Ds creation so shows evidences of the exhistance of G-D that even those people who have never heard of Jesus wont have an excuse when they stand before HIS Judgement
The experts will say that chaos theory postulating increasing randomness of all systems actually proves Darwinism by aiding in natural selection and evolution word a more complex creature. That is like the analogy that if you plant tons of explosives in a automobile junkyard the result will be hundreds of new cars ready to drive off the lot. The same scientists will also tell you that that their new theory of Punctured Equilibrium causes spontaneous rapid change without leaving any traces of intermediate forms of life. It just comes out of nowhere.
All this evolution theory presupposes that Nature has billions of years in which to evolve life; however there is evidence that states that this is NOT SO.
In our own solar system, for example, the moon is gradually escapeing from the earth. Not too many tens of thousands of years ago it would have been far to close… The magnetic field is decreasing rapidly. Not long ago it would have been to strong for life to exist here. The sun is rapidly shrinking. Not too long ago the Earth would NOT have been in the life habitable zone. Jupiters rings are rapidly looseing cohesion. They MUST have been a recent creation.
According to Boyles law and other laws, None of the theories of stellar, planetary formation make rational or physical sense. There are NO stellar nursereys for example condensing new stars, merely dust clowds occasionally parting showing some stars more clearly. Stars age far more rapidly than is generally believed. The nearby
Sirius system (8 light years) was in ancient times a red star, it is now blueish white. It may in fact be in its final stage before its final expansion and nova with dreadful consequences for life here on earth.
There is sufficient evidence that the very nature of the physical constants of the universe are exactly determined to make life thrive. Even the least deviation of even one of these would make life here impossible. Thus the very exact requirements for life here call out for a designer. Would any of you have the audacity to enter the Louve and insist that the paintings by Renoir, Michelangelo are really painters drop cloths? I think not. The world around us displays the same obvious earmarks of a masterful artist.
Exact requirements for life…
flux of cosmic ray protons
if too small: inadequate cloud formation in planet’s troposphere
if too large: too much cloud formation in planet’s troposphere
if too weak: too many cosmic ray protons reach planet’s troposphere causing too much cloud formation
if too strong: too few cosmic ray protons reach planet’s troposphere causing too little cloud formation
parent star luminosity relative to speciation
if increases too soon: runaway green house effect would develop
if increases too late: runaway glaciation would develop
surface gravity (escape velocity)
if stronger: planet’s atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane
if weaker: planet’s atmosphere would lose too much water
distance from parent star
if farther: planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle
if closer: planet would be too warm for a stable water cycle
inclination of orbit
if too great: temperature differences on the planet would be too extreme
if too great: seasonal temperature differences would be too extreme
if greater: surface temperature differences would be too great
if less: surface temperature differences would be too great
rate of change of axial tilt
if greater: climatic changes would be too extreme; surface temperature differences would become too extreme
if longer: diurnal temperature differences would be too great
if shorter: atmospheric wind velocities would be too great
rate of change in rotation period
if longer:surface temperature range necessary for life would not be sustained
if shorter:surface temperature range necessary for life would not be sustained
if too young: planet would rotate too rapidly
if too old: planet would rotate too slowly
if stronger: electromagnetic storms would be too severe; too few cosmic ray protons would reach planet’s troposphere which would inhibit adequate cloud formation
if weaker: ozone shield would be inadequately protected from hard stellar and solar radiation
thickness of crust
if thicker: too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust
if thinner: volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great
albedo (ratio of reflected light to total amount falling on surface)
if greater: runaway glaciation would develop
if less: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
asteroidal and cometary collision rate
if greater: too many species would become extinct
if less: crust would be too depleted of materials essential for life
oxygen to nitrogen ratio in atmosphere
if larger: advanced life functions would proceed too quickly
if smaller: advanced life functions would proceed too slowly
carbon dioxide level in atmosphere
if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
if less: plants would be unable to maintain efficient photosynthesis
water vapor level in atmosphere
if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
if less: rainfall would be too meager for advanced life on the land
atmospheric electric discharge rate
if greater: too much fire destruction would occur
if less: too little nitrogen would be fixed in the atmosphere
ozone level in atmosphere
if greater: surface temperatures would be too low
if less: surface temperatures would be too high; there would be too much uv radiation at the surface
oxygen quantity in atmosphere
if greater: plants and hydrocarbons would burn up too easily
if less: advanced animals would have too little to breathe
nitrogen quantity in atmosphere
if greater: too much buffering of oxygen for advanced animal respiration; too much nitrogen fixation for support of diverse plant species
if less: too little buffering of oxygen for advanced animal respiration; too little nitrogen fixation for support of diverse plant species