(I post this each year on Good Friday at The American Catholic, and I thought that our Almost Chosen People readers might find it of interest.)
I thank you Marcus for taking on the onerous task of acting as my secretary, in addition to your regular duties as my aide, in regard to this portion of the report. The Greek, Aristides, is competent, and like most Greek secretaries his Latin is quite graceful, but also like most Greek secretaries he does not know when to keep his mouth shut. I want him kept away from this work, and I want you to observe the strictest security. Caiaphas was playing a nefarious game, and I do not think we are out of the woods yet. I do not want his spies finding out what I am telling the Imperator and Caiaphas altering the tales his agents are now, no doubt, spreading in Rome. Let us take the Jew by surprise for once!
Your first effort on this matter is rather good, but I think we can improve upon it. Incidentally, tell the Greek in his portion of the report to work in a subtle reference to one of Tiberius’ victories with the legions. Tiberius claims to despise flattery. The old fraud, he loves flattery if it isn’t obvious, and I want him in a good mood when he is reading this report, probably the most important report of my career.
One execution of note took place during Passover, the chief religious festival of the Jews which celebrates their liberation from bondage in Egypt, or so the Jews believe. Put in a little more information here as to Passover, but not too much. I am sure the Imperator is as ignorant as an ass on the subject, but I do not want to bore him.
Jews flock to the city of Jerusalem, the site of their Temple, and the religious fanaticism of the Jews, never far below the surface, always threatens to boil over into revolt. When my patron Sejanus, if there is an after-life I hope his shade knows peace, informed me that I was to be Prefect of Judea, he told me that I only had to do two things: keep the taxes flowing and keep the peace. He also warned me that the Jews were religious madmen who would try to thwart me at every turn! How right he was! How can you govern a people who threaten to rise up in revolt over standards, gold shields and using a portion of temple funds to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem, their only city worthy of the title? Sooner or later the Jews will rise in bloody revolt and a war will be fought with them to their annihilation. I trust this war will not occur during my term of office. I have had enough of a miserable climate, a miserable people and Yahweh, their completely incomprehensible god! I wander. It is late, I have worked too long and drunk too much wine. Back to the task at hand.
During the last Passover, a wonder worker called Yeshua, a man who for the past few years had been healing the lame, the blind and the sick through sorcery, entered Jerusalem with a large band of his followers. I think we need to alter this to state that Yeshua was a sorcerer who, through conjuring tricks, had deluded people into believing that he could heal the lame, the blind and the sick. Now I know that you and I, following his execution, reviewed the reports of the speculatores and were troubled, at least I was troubled, to learn that apparently he did heal the lame, the blind, the sick and even raised the dead. I have spoken to the agents myself. They are all long service men and swear that what they have reported was true. However, I think it better for Tiberius to believe he was a fraud. He is superstitious and I do not want him to fear that I executed someone of great power who might seek vengeance from beyond the grave.
Following his entry he disrupted the Temple by attacking moneychangers there, accusing them, probably accurately, of being thieves. I like the part about them being thieves, how true! This of course is when I assume Yeshua became a marked man. Put in a bit more detail about the alarm this caused that day. I think Caiaphas became truly afraid of Yeshua at this time.
Probably because of this, the high priest of the Temple, Caiaphas, arrested Jesus on Dies Jovis and after a trial before their court called the Sanhedrin, turned him over to the Prefect on Dies Veneris, stating that Caiaphas wished to have him executed and that the Jews did not have the legal authority to order the execution. Caiaphas alleged that Yeshua claimed to be the son of the Jewish god, Yahweh, and it was for this reason, and because Yeshua had proclaimed himself King of the Jews, that the Jews believed he deserved death. Perhaps some more detail here, perhaps not, I leave it to your discretion. We have the reports of the agents as to his proclamations about a Kingdom, but they are very vague as to what he was referring to. On second thought, don’t put it in. I don’t want Tiberius to get bogged down in detail and I think trying to puzzle out what was meant by this Kingdom business would probably confuse him at least as much as it does me. When I first heard Caiaphas tell me that Yeshua considered himself to be the son of their god, my internal reaction was “Well, by the gods, that is the first thing about your silly superstition that at least makes sense to me: your god having a peasant for a son!” Of course I did not say this and we will mention none of my musings in the report.
The Prefect briefly questioned him during which Yeshua denied that he was a king and, finding that he was a native of Galilee, transferred jurisdiction of the prisoner to Tetrarch Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, who was present in Jerusalem for Passover. You weren’t present in Jerusalem for the examinations Marcus, but I believe I’ve told you that Yeshua spoke Latin like an aristocrat and no interpreter was needed. How very, very odd. Of course that sums up this whole business, doesn’t it? I of course transferred this mess to Herod because I needed time to think. I knew Caiaphas was up to something but I wasn’t sure what. Additionally, I had a very slight hope that Herod would deal with the problem.
After examining Yeshua Herod declined jurisdiction and returned the prisoner to the Prefect. My hopes were quickly dashed. You know, up to this point I’ve always regarded Herod as a useless fool, but I do admire the way he sidestepped involvement in this affair. Perhaps he is shrewd enough that he and I could form a profitable alliance against Caiaphas. Time, as it always does, will tell.
Learning that Herod had not sentenced Yeshua, the Prefect summoned Caiaphas, the chief priests of the Temple, and the notables of the Jews in Jerusalem. He advised them that he did not find Jesus to have committed a crime worthy of death, but that he would have him scourged to teach him not to disturb the peace. This was done of course because I had figured out the game of Caiaphas. He had decided that he was going to get rid of one enemy, either me or Yeshua. If I refused to execute Yeshua, Caiaphas would inform Tiberius through his agents in Rome that I failed to punish a traitor. Considering that the downfall and execution of my mentor Sejanus had occurred only months earlier I was in a weak position and Caiaphas knew that. Execute Yeshua and his followers might revolt. I have to give that old rat Caiaphas credit: it was a shrewd trap.
While Yeshua was being scourged, Caiaphas gathered a vast crowd of Jews before the praetorium, all shouting for the death of Yeshua. Concerned that a riot would break out, the Prefect ordered the crucifixion of Yeshua. I do appreciate your discretion here Marcus, but we will have to tell the Imperator everything. The release of Barabbas, everything. As Sejanus used to tell me, “When every other expedient is exhausted, resort to the truth!” If we do not do this, rest assured that the agents of Caiaphas will give Tiberius every detail. We will also explain why I did all of this: because I was attempting to gauge who had the upper hand, the followers of Yeshua, or the paid mob of Caiaphas. When I determined that Caiaphas clearly was in control of the streets I condemned Yeshua as a rebel against Rome. Put in the business about me washing my hands also. I thought that was a good way of showing the followers of Yeshua that Caiaphas was their real enemy. You know, I’ve taken up the habit of washing my hands since several times during the course of the day. It is very refreshing!
He was crucified on execution hill, called Golgotha by the Jews, or Place of Skulls, died and was buried. He died quickly on the cross. I expected him to linger for at least a day. However, Longinus made certain he was dead by thrusting a spear into his side. Don’t put this into the report, but I truly regret his death. During his trial, Claudia sent a message to me that she had a dream about the man that greatly disturbed her and that she didn’t want me to harm him. This was the first time she has ever tried to influence me in my official duties. Recalling the trial I can understand her point. I didn’t like playing the game of Caiaphas, but I felt I had no choice. I could have beaten the mob of Caiaphas, which I think was by then out of his control and might have attempted to storm the praetorium if I had freed Yeshua, but fighting in Jersualem over Passover might well have led to full scale war in Judea, and no man’s life was worth that risk. However, I keep thinking about the trial. I can’t help but feel that it was extremely important for some reason that I cannot fathom. Have you ever entered a room, and people stop talking the moment you enter and you know as a result that something is up but you don’t know what? That is precisely how I feel about this entire matter.
It is the opinion of the Prefect that, for his own purposes, Caiaphas brought Yeshua before the Prefect in hopes of sparking a revolt against Rome. If the Prefect had failed to execute Yeshua, the mob summoned by Caiaphas would have been in open revolt before sundown. Caiaphas could have had Jesus informally executed by having him stoned by a mob, an extra-legal method of execution frequently used by the Jews. Instead, he placed him in the custody of the Prefect, hoping that the Prefect would hesitate and thereby allow Caiaphas to whip up the mob against Rome. By executing Yeshua, the Prefect foiled the plan and the mob dispersed. The Prefect suggests that in view of the disloyalty of the High Priest he be replaced, and that a candidate more loyal to Rome be put in his place. The Prefect further renews his request that a legion be permanently garrisoned at Caesarea Maritima. Perfect! No changes needed. I doubt if Tiberius will accept advice from a protege of Sejanus, but perhaps one of my successors will benefit. I actually long to be relieved now and enjoy a quiet life in Rome, away from these fanatics, their god, and the memory of a man I had to execute for the good of all. Odd that his execution should bother me, considering how many I have ordered over the years, but there it is. Thank you for not mentioning the empty tomb business. I doubt if Caiaphas will mention it either in the account he will no doubt have presented to Tiberius. Too many cans of worms all around in regard to that.