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ANTIPAS'S INQUIRIES AT NAZARETH

Caesarea

I have spent nearly a month going round the northern districts of my province. I have inspected frontier posts, conferred with my revenue officers, heard innumerable grievances and redressed not a few. I wanted to find out for myself whether this part of the country was suffering as much from the effects of drought and bad harvests as I had been told. I found that it was. In many places the condition of the people was truly miserable. I discovered that every synagogue had been used as a centre of ill-will against me, but I summoned the village elders, heard their stories of distress, and announced remissions of taxation. In certain cases I promised to send them relief as soon as I got back to Caesarea, and that I am now doing. On the whole, I am not dissatisfied.

It was a pleasure to be among the Samaritans. They have a most likeable hatred of the priesthood at Jerusalem, who treat them like dogs and keep them out of the Temple. They think themselves every bit as good as the real Jews and certainly they have the same general characterisitcs: one day they are peasants and the next they are robbers; this week it is the plough and the next it is the knife or the pitchfork against Caesar or Herod or whoever the 'tyrant' of the day may be. Still, I have been governor for three years now without many grave troubles, which is as much as any of my predecessors except Valerius has done. If I were withdrawn now, I should leave the province better than I found it. I am not discontented.

At the beginning of my tour I took Procula up to the border of Galilee. She is paying a visit to the wife of the Governor of Syria, an old school-fellow of hers, and I set her on the high road to Damascus. I sent Alexander with her into Galilee and told him to find out something for me about the latest agitator. He accompanied her to Damascus. He paid a flying visit to Nazareth, to which Jesus belongs, and visited his family. He found them in a state of fright. Antipas's agents have been in Nazareth cross-examining them about Jesus and they fear that they will be involved in any punishment that befalls him. The whole town shares their nervousness. It seems that the family and their friends actually pursued Jesus, who moves about rapidly from place to place, as all these preachers do, and would like to have carried him off and shut him up to keep him - or rather themselves - out of trouble. They told Antipas's people that Jesus was not wholly responsible for his actions; he had always been a little queer and caused his family trouble, and they had never been able to control him. Certainly they cannot now, for he not only repudiates them brusquely, but the crowds who follow him increase every day and will not hear a word against him. So the wretched people are panic-stricken. I have written to Caiaphas pressing to be told whether the Sanhedrim have taken any action.

Do you remember the Greek merchant who ran off with a priest's daughter? While I was away he turned up again in Caesarea - alone. He told every one that the Jewess had left him, but the story goes that he abandoned her somewhere in Africa and the Jews have sent an account of it to her family in Jerusalem. Like a fool he persisted in going on his usual round of business in Judaea. He even talked of visiting Jerusalem. He was a cheery fellow with a mop of black hair, always making jests and laughing at himself. When warned not to go to Jerusalem he said that he had turned proselyte and being converted to Judaism he would be looked after by Yahveh. So he went laughing to Jerusalem and that is the end of him. He has vanished off the face of the earth. The young woman had several brothers and cousins who are among the strictest of the strict. In Rome the whole thing would have been a joke, but you soon learn not to smile over such things here. At least you ought to. The Greek would not learn, and now where is he?


26--ATTEMPT IN GALILEE TO MAKE JESUS KING: --next letter of LETTERS OF PONTIUS PILATE
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