Report to the Emperor-First Draft

ecce-homo

(I post this each year on Good Friday.)

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 MaritimaPerfect!  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.

21 Responses to Report to the Emperor-First Draft

  • cthemfly25 says:

    My first time reading it….most excellent as it makes the politics of the Crucifixtion both real and topical. I am curious how you came up with the idea and I can see where your love of history was sated by the effort.

  • Thank you cthemfly25. Whenever I am studying a period of history I will try to put myself in the shoes of historical actors and see the world as they saw it. I find this enhances my understanding of both them and the times in which they lived.

  • This is the first time I read this post, Donald. It is now shared on facebook and Goggle blogger. Thanks. I hope my Pentecostal brothers and my sister read it – they know nothing of the historical circumstances surrounding the Crucifixion and I think that this gives excellent background on how Pontius Pilate may have wanted to be careful in his characterization of this event to Tiberius Caesar in the wake of Sejanus’ death, and Caiaphas’ intrigue. It’s too bad real history isn’t taught in public school any longer!

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    This is the first time I read this all the way through, and realized that you wrote it, Don! This is really great — it ought to be more widely published.

  • Don the Kiwi says:

    ” I, Donatus Marclarius, hereby confirm that I witnessed this instruction given by Pontius Pilatus to his secretary Marcus, and swear by the God Jovis that it transpired as he has wriiten.
    May the gods give long life to our illustrious Imperator Maximus Tiberius Caesar.”

    :-)

  • “It’s too bad real history isn’t taught in public school any longer!”

    Too often the life is sucked out of the history taught in schools Paul and replaced with politicized drek. Blogs I think can help to redress the balance and restore history to its central role for any educated man or woman.

  • ” I, Donatus Marclarius, hereby confirm that I witnessed this instruction given by Pontius Pilatus to his secretary Marcus, and swear by the God Jovis that it transpired as he has wriiten.
    May the gods give long life to our illustrious Imperator Maximus Tiberius Caesar.”

    No doubt one of my ancestors Don journied from Hibernia to teach the Roman legions how to fight. (Taken from what my great uncle William Barry said as he joined the Royal Army in 1939: “Someone has to show the Limies how to fight!”).

  • Don the Kiwi says:

    If it were possible for me to blush Elaine after 30 years in the law mines I would be!

    Ah Don………Too much cutting dulls even the sharpest blade.

    Dunno who said that, but I’m sure it was someone much more illustrious than me.

  • Penguins Fan says:

    This is an excellent post, Don. Thank you.

    How intriguing it is that 300 years after the Crucifixion, it was the Roman Empire that was converted to Christ and the ancient pagan religions of Rome faded away.

    How amazing is it that after the Western Roman Empire faded away, the Catholic Church remained where Rome once ruled, to fight off and defeat the Muslim invaders, discover the New World and evangelize most of the Western Hemisphere.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    All of the above. Perhaps it will become a script for a documentary. I would like to see that happen. I had little idea of the political intrigue involved and always assumed that anybody who wanted Jesus dead had absolutely no humanity.
    Don the Kiwi: Donald is not “dull”. Donald knows when he ought to blush and why he does not. Donald may be saving his blushes for heaven. Donald’s response to Elaine is precious.
    Elaine:I have always enjoyed your response to postings, but this one, from Donald, I would save.

  • Penguin Fan, thank you for your kind words. A non-Catholic English historian Lord Macaulay said it best more than a century and a half ago about the Church and History:

    “There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.”

  • “Are you related to Commodore John Barry”

    Alas no Mary. My great great grandfather Barry came over from Ireland and settled in Newfoundland in circa 1870. He was a tough old bird. According to my mother he regarded pews and kneelers as Protestant innovations, and at Mass he would stand in the back of the church and kneel on the stone floor. When my mother in her childhood observed this, he was in his eighties. I am sorry that I never got to meet him.

    Here is a post I wrote about Commodore Barry:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/03/25/father-of-the-united-states-navy/

  • exNOAAman says:

    I am also a first timer…but ended up reading this several times; (which I recommend BTW…easy to miss stuff the first read).
    Sent to my scripture study group after it came up as a discussion on the political aspect of Pilate and the Pharisees.

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