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FLIGHT OF JESUS INTO SYRIA

Caesarea

What, my dear Seneca, all the Jews expelled from Rome!* A clean sweep of tailors and milliners, money-lenders and red-nosed comedians! O most desirable of cities: would that I could be there! Yet it is unjust, as you say, that the whole community should be banished because some rascals turned Temple-gifts to their own private uses. Yes, yes, it is unjust, yet no one will sympathize. It must be their own fault that, all the world over, no one sympathizes with an ill-treated Jew - no one, that is to say, except my Seneca. A dreadful thought assails me. Where is Caesar going to send them? Pray Yahveh it be not to Judaea!

*Certain Jews had induced Fulvia, a Roman lady converted to Judaism, to make gifts to the Temple and had then appropriated the money. The Jewish community was thereupon expelled from Rome.

Alexander was right. Jesus of Nazareth has fled. Nothing has been heard of him for weeks. He is not in Galilee and he is not in Philip's territory. He must have gone north into Syria, where no one cares about him.

Let me tell you first about Caiaphas. The wily Priest has sent me several of his unctuous states-manlike reports. I know his difficulties. He has to keep an eye on the Governor (who has the soldiers and Rome behind him); on his own Pharisees who think he is obsequious to us; on the people who might be led away by any wild man this day or to-morrow; and on the priests and lawyers who love their law and suspect that in its defence he and his kind are no better than they should be. He says it would be charitable to suppose that Jesus is a madman, and that this is indeed the opinion of his family, but whether mad or not, he is seducing ignorant people from their duty alike to their religion and to the recognized authorities. He adds that the delegates from the Sanhedrim have exposed him repeatedly, and the exposure is now rapidly having an effect. They will take the sternest measures against Jesus, should he come into their hands, as a false pretender and rebel against the Law and as for the political side of it - do you remember they said the same thing about John? - they realize that it may cause me a legitimate concern. Themselves, too, I should say, for in the long run with these ruling priests it all comes down to politics. It is their nature: all Jews are politicians - but so is their Procurator.

For the time being, then, the preacher has taken to his heels. I have other reports from Galilee. It seems that he paid some flying visits from Philip's territory, only to find that the tide had set against him. The events which Procula and Alexander saw were decisive with his followers. He would not be their King, he would not acknowledge that he was the promised deliverer. Maybe, as Alexander says, it is no part of his intention to be the one thing or the other. After his refusal, the Jerusalem Rabbis dogged him everywhere. They found it much easier to persuade the people that, after all, he was only a rebel, an enemy to their venerated Law. I believe that in his own town an attempt was made to murder him, though, of course, they have their special grievances against him there. Now he is without friends and has vanished into the far north.

This is a small matter, but still something of a relief to me. The country is fairly quiet - if those Jewish friends of yours don't come from Rome! - and I shall have, I suppose, to stop here for some years more. I am a poor man, in spite of the jesting threats against the Jews which I used to send to you over three years ago, and I would prefer to spend my remaining years of office quietly until Caesar transfers me. As this thing stands at present, I can handle it comfortably, but if a fanatic of this sort were to accept the popular demand - to 'give the word,' as Alexander said - I might be hard pressed with the miserable little force that is allowed me.


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