Make your own free website on Tripod.com
DEATH OF JOHN AND QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS

Jerusalem

I have come up to Jerusalem to settle my quarrel with the Sanhedrim and this time I mean business. They formally refuse to make any contribution from the Temple-tribute, even for a few months. They have sent me a tiresome screed arguing that an aqueduct is an Imperial affair and that Caesar's treasury should pay for it. At the most they will only admit that it should be paid for out of the ordinary taxation of the province, and that, they say, is already heavier than the province can bear. They are insolent enough to assert that the supply of water for the ceremonial ablutions demanded by their Law has always been sufficient and that their other needs do not justify so lavish an expenditure. I have informed them that the money must be found without delay and that I shall, if necessary, take steps to find it for them.

I have no patience with their precious Law, which hedges them (and us) at every turn with minute regulations. Some of it comes from their Sacred books but the most tedious part, so far as I can learn, is of their own creation. Their learned men have spent their lives for generations in devising the most elaborate and ridiculous religious rules. Can you believe that they have whole volumes written about their rules for washing and that there is a tome or two devoted solely to the subject of washing before meals? Have you ever heard of the Rabbi who died of thirst? He was shut up in a besieged town and had a few spoonfuls of water assigned to him each day. He used it all for ceremonial washings and died in agonies of thirst. I would like to put old Annas to that test. Or do you know the story of the pious mule? It belonged to a priest who would touch no food on which, at purchase, tithe had not been paid to the Temple. For days the mule refused its feed. Was it sick? Was it lame? Was it merely mulish? No, my dear Seneca, believe me they discovered that when its food was bought tithe had not been paid to the Temple. It would not break the Law. They are all mules in Jerusalem.

By the way, I shall not be troubled any more by John, the preacher, son of Zacharias. He is dead. I have received a formal intimation from the Governor of the castle of Machaerus. He received orders from his master Herod Antipas - despatched from his capital, Tiberias in Galilee - to execute John as a fomentor of rebellion and to inform me of the fact. There was, I hear, a special reason for Antipas's action. You remember I told you that another agitator called Jesus had turned up in Galilee. Alexander, who knows a great deal of what is going on - and tells me because he is jealous of the worthy Joseph - says that this Jesus originally came from Galilee to visit John. He was actually in Judaea when the news spread that John had been arrested, whereupon he fled to his own country. There he is playing exactly the same game as his master. He is exhorting his fellow-countrymen to be humble (I like him for that) and talking large about the coming kingdom. Also he has set up as a wonder-worker, curing people who are sick and various madmen (they are numerous in Galilee) and of course this draws the superstitious mob. Antipas would not like it in any case, but what really disturbed him was the discovery that communications have been passing between Jesus and the followers of John. So, very wisely, he has made an end of John and is already - Joseph confirms this - inquiring about Jesus. I shall have good ground of complaint if he lets this business grow.

There is one side of it which amuses and delights me. Jesus is quarrelling with the lawyers and the priests. Anything that touches the Law or threatens their authority rouses their instant jealousy. Just as I have told the Sanhedrim that I expect them to report to me any agitation that they hear of, so I make it a point to let them know pretty briskly of any negligence I can impute to them. I informed Caiaphas of the reports concerning Jesus that were reaching me and told him that since the Sanhedrim claimed authority even in Galilee, he had better see to it. He replied at once with emphasis, saying that from what they had heard of Jesus, though it was little as yet, they disapproved of him heartily and that they were sending a deputation of learned men to Galilee to summon him for examination. In himself the man is a person of no consequence: the son of a common workman. But then, Simon, one of the rascals who gave trouble some years ago, was a slave, and Athronges, another mischief-maker, was a shepherd. It is the worst of these Jews that rank means nothing to them. They will follow any son of the soil if he can fight well, rob well, or talk well - especially if he work a few wonders into the bargain - and, before you know where you are, they will set him up for king. However, with Antipas and the Sanhedrim watching him, and with me waiting for him in Judaea, it is a poor prospect for Jesus.

In any case I cannot feel excited about anything at present except my aqueduct. It is a noble work, worthy to rank with that of Herod himself at Caesarea. Can you suggest to me how I am to get the money? My ears are wide open. But wait in patience. I have a secret; I rub my hands over it but I dare not tell it even to you. I hope, when I write next, to inform you that I have the money in my hands, for get it I will though the Jews smart for it.


23--SEIZURE OF THE TEMPLE-TRIBUTE: --next letter of LETTERS OF PONTIUS PILATE
LETTERS OF PONTIUS PILATE: --back to table of contents
WISDOM CALLS: --back to homepage