Authors: Frederick Ramsay
Tags: #Mystery & Detective
The previous chart represents the traditional rendering and suits the story, but the reader should understand that not everyone agrees with its formulation. Scholars dispute the exact positioning of some of the branches and sub-branches, and clearly, not all of the descendents are shown.
, Yosef bar Kayafa; High Priest of the Temple, 18 CE to 36 CE. Although removed from office by Caligula, saw his sons succeed him in the office later.
Herod Antipas’ steward, married to Joanna who was said to have been a follower of Jesus after being exorcised of demons.
, Gamaliel the Elder, Gamaliel I; served as the Rabban (chief rabbi) of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel. While believing the Law of Moses to be wholly inspired by God, he is reported to have taken a broad-minded and compassionate stance in its interpretation. Gamaliel held that the Sabbath laws should be understood in a realistic rather than rigorous fashion. He also maintained, in distinction to his contemporaries, that the law should protect women during divorce and urged openness toward Gentiles. Acts 5:38-39 relates that he intervened on behalf of Saint Peter and other Jewish followers of Jesus.
One of several male offspring of Herod the great. He ruled, with Rome’s sufferance, the areas of Galilee and Perea.
: The fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from CE 26 to 36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus’ trial and the man who authorized his crucifixion. He was recalled to Rome by Caligula at the same time as Caiaphas’ removal from office.
Yeshua ben Yosef
: Hebrew name for Jesus (Joshua son of Joseph).
We do not know with any certainty when the rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus, was born. We have fairly substantial evidence that Herod the Great died in 4 BCE. If it was he who ordered the slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16), then Jesus had to have been born sometime before that. The story is set in the year 28 CE on the assumption that the earlier date is correct and Jesus was in his mid-thirties when his ministry was in full flower. But the date is admittedly arbitrary. It should be noted here that there are scholars who place Jesus’ birth as late as 6 CE and cite Luke’s reference to Quirinius as governor of Syria, an office he held around 6 to 9 CE. But Quirinius is believed to have served in some official capacity in Syria twice: 6-4 BCE and then again in 6-9 CE so the earlier birth date can stand.
Days of the Week
Yom Rishon = “first day” = Sunday (starting at preceding sunset)
Yom Sheni = “second day” = Monday
Yom Shlishi = “third day” = Tuesday
Yom Revi’i = “fourth day” = Wednesday
Yom Chamishi = “fifth day” = Thursday
Yom Shishi = “sixth day” = Friday
Yom Shabbat = “Sabbath day (Rest day)” = Saturday
Hours of the Day
A day was divided into twenty four hours—twelve for daylight, twelve for night. Day began at sunup and ended at sunset. The hours were of indefinite lengths depending on the season, shortest in the winter, longer in the summer, but noon, when the sun stood at its zenith, was designated the sixth hour. As there could be no similar reference point at night, the phases of the moon being variable, the night hours had no time divisions except rough notations. Midnight might be described as the night’s “sixth hour,” but when it occurred would necessarily vary with the speaker and his or her sense of the passage of time.
Speaking the Name
Orthodox Jewish custom prevents a person from saying the name of God. Indeed, some hold to do so is the ultimate and perhaps only blasphemy. The pronunciation of the Hebrew, YHWH (the Tetragrammaton) which designates the Almighty is sometimes pronounced Yahweh, Jehovah, or some other circumlocution. Even today, orthodox Jewish literature and web sites will print God only as G*d. In the narrative and because the protagonist, Gamaliel, would have been at least as orthodox as modern day practice, the term Lord, or the Lord, is used instead of God in order to make this distinction. Sometimes a greeting would be even more circumspect and the person initiating it would merely say “Greetings in the Name” (
Pagans, however, did not share those scruples so that a conversation between the two camps would shift from its usage and back again. The distinction is made by the use of a lower case god as opposed to God. The Hebrew conversant would, of course only refer to “the Lord” or a substitute.
This house exhales slaughter,
odors from the open mouth of a grave.
Her killer straddled her naked and abused body while he held her head below the water’s surface he hoped would silence her. Her features were distorted by the roiling water but she seemed to be staring back at him wide-eyed and terrified. Air bubbles escaped from her pursed lips in spite of her efforts to hold them in. Starved for air, she jerked her head wildly from side to side, desperate to breathe, to scream for help, to stay alive. But no one would hear her cry. Not that night, not ever again. The knife slashed through the leather thong and across her throat, as if writing that cry for her instead. The last air in her lungs burst from the deep wound in her neck to mingle with the blood that gushed out with it. Her killer rocked back from his kneeling position with a curse. Disgusted, he shoved her body the rest of the way into the bath and watched as it sank to the bottom and the blood that streamed from her wounded neck like bright red smoke as it carried her life away. He made a desperate grab for the pendant, the item he’d been sent to retrieve in the first place, but too late. It slipped from his grasp and disappeared in a fresh swirl of the girl’s blood.
Footsteps echoed against tiled walls weeping from condensation formed by the still heated water vapor against their cooling surface. It would be the only weeping done for her. The murderer crept back into the shadows, and thence the farther recesses of the palace, angry that the amulet, the pendant, his object in the whole adventure, had slipped out of his reach. Another mistake. He had to have it, to reclaim it. With the gods’ favor he reckoned it might be possible that whoever was headed this way would not see the girl or the blood and he could slip back and finish his business. A great deal depended on it. He must not fail.
It had fallen to old Barak to make his rounds at the night’s deepest hour when all of Jerusalem should be in bed and asleep. He shivered at the unseasonable chill and hugged himself in an effort to keep warm. This night, because he had done a favor for the king’s under-steward, he needed only to monitor the bath and its adjacent atrium instead of the whole east end of the palace, his usual round. This meant he was ahead of schedule and in a few moments would be back in his own warm bed with his wife of fifty years. Barak had served this king and his father before him. Now, in his sixty-seventh year he shuffled through the dimly lit hallways weary but comforted by the fact that he had a roof over his head and a sense of security at an age when many like him were cast out or dependent on children and grandchildren.
The large vaulted room that featured the Roman inspired bath at its center, had only a few flickering torches lighted after the previous evening’s revels. “Roman orgy more like,” he muttered to himself. Barak had no use for the palace’s loose religious observance or this king who seemed determined to dishonor both the Law and the Nation. He’d heard the other servant’s whispers about what went on in this place at night. He assumed the worst about what must have taken place earlier. He closed his mind to these thoughts for fear they might lead him where he should not go. The neopagan mosaics of the bacchanal, scenes of half-naked nymphs and satyrs in shameless poses that decorated the ceiling, were in deep shadow. Barak would not have looked at them anyway. He tried, in spite of the lax form of Judaism practiced by the court, to remain obedient to the Law.
He imagined he heard footsteps as he entered, but in the uncertain light, he saw no one. Even if he had, it would not mean anything to him. Courtiers and servants wandered these halls constantly night and day. What they were up to he could only guess at. Undoubtedly up to no good. He accepted the fact that they lived in a different world than he. He did not envy them for that.
Thanks to the gloom, and because of his advanced years, and failing eyesight, he could be excused for missing the body at first. It was something about the water that caught his eye. No longer clear but dim and sullen somehow. Herodias the Queen, he knew, often requested perfume to be poured into the baths, particularly when it was the women’s time to use them, but adding coloring, well that would be something new. A second glance and he realized the water’s stains were uneven and darker at one end than the other. He wondered if by some accident of plumbing, muddy water had somehow found its way in. The bath, like so many of the city’s water sources owed some of its volume to Pilate’s aqueduct, a project he’d funded with Temple money much to the consternation of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. When Barak leaned over and lowered his torch close to the surface, he realized the color was not brown, but red. Only then did he spot the naked woman in its murky depths and realize the coloration had most likely resulted from her slit throat, not the introduction of a vial of madder.
He whirled the klaxon he carried in the event he needed to raise an alarm. Within what he would later describe were no more than five heartbeats, the sound of running footsteps shattered the silence. Palace guards crashed into the room, their short Roman swords drawn, eyes alert and busy. The chief steward followed within the next five beats, and chaos followed him. Barak pointed toward the bloody pool and sat down heavily on a carved marble couch, one of which doubtless had supported a nobler backside hours earlier.
The steward rushed out. Guards were posted at all entrances with instructions to allow no one in or out. Barak sighed. There would be no sleeping this night. What would his Minna say when he did not return to their bed?
Shofars sounded their mournful wail from the Temple’s pinnacle announcing the arrival of a new day. Gamaliel had already been up for an hour by then. He folded his tallit and placed it on the tall sandalwood chest where he also kept his phylactery, some papyrus scrolls, and a few sheckles he would need when he traveled up to the Temple to see the High Priest. He’d finished his morning prayers and would break his fast. A small court opened off of the room and he stepped out to enjoy its fresh air and the first glimmerings of sunlight seeping over the walls. The cool air held the promise of a fair day, but he did not notice it. A circular cistern in the court’s center provided what he needed next. He splashed a little water on his face and hands, an act which required another short prayer, and then another prayer directed at his approaching confrontation with the High Priest. Caiaphas nagged at him endlessly like a strong-willed wife about that annoying rabbi. He could not be put off any longer. He insisted on an answer.
The issue troubled him. It seemed such a petty thing on which to spend time and energy. He did not look forward to the interview. Caiaphas did not like being denied and had a way of making one’s life difficult if he considered you to be the root of his disappointment. But Gamaliel would not worry about that just now. The High Priest was always in a dudgeon about something and more often than not he assumed Gamaliel would sort it all out for him. The fact he held the esteemed position of Rabban of the Sanhedrin, and that he had taught nearly all the Pharisees and important rabbis who now held sway in Judea as leaders and interpreters of the Law, meant Gamaliel had acquired a layer of political insulation not enjoyed by his colleagues and lesser men. Still, making an enemy of the High Priest could prove inconvenient.
Gamaliel did not share the High Priest’s discomfort with the Galileans or their simple rabbi from Nazareth whose preaching hardly qualified as either scholarly or perilous; certainly not like that of the Essenes or the Siccori, both of whom were considerably more insistent and dangerous, each in their own way. Was this Galilean preaching heterodoxy? Probably, but not more so than many of his contemporaries who wandered the streets of Jerusalem and countryside declaring the “Year of the Lord.” It was said he appealed to Gentiles especially and, as a generality, that must be viewed as a good thing. The Nation would never survive if it did not accommodate to the rest of the world in at least some important areas.
Would this man emerge as the Messiah, as a few of his followers claimed? Who knew? Lately there had been no dearth of claimants to that status, and some espousing far more radical views than this one, if one was to believe what people said. Time alone would tell if the Deliverer were among any of them. Personally, Gamaliel doubted it. Of course, this person’s relationship to the Baptizer had to be accounted for. Well, not so much anymore as Herod Antipas, in a moment of monumental stupidity, had beheaded the “Angel of the Desert,” as his admirers sometimes called him.