Saturday, June 23, 2007

The beginning of a story

– Everyone in his family is to be crucified. I will not have disobedient slaves on my estate. And take my wailing son away. The boy needs toughening up.
– What shall we do with the infant?
He laughed.
– Kill it. Why raise their last hope? No, wait. Find a wet nurse. It is not good to boil a kid in its mother’s milk. Call him Tertius. Perhaps the third time we will be lucky.

My name is Secundus. I grew up in Judea, Libya, and the Achaean peninsula, the child of a colonial Latin household in Corinth. Born in Jerusalem eight years before the destruction of the Temple, I am of the seed of Tertius the scribe, also named for his sequence. He was the only surviving son in the third generation of slaves at our estate. I follow the third and I follow the firstborn, my sister, Prima.

This is my second book. Prima helped in the flesh with my first. Together, we recounted the lives of my parents and their colleagues. It is in memory that she will help me today. I gave her body to the ground four years ago. She was my ears. From her, I learned to see words and form sounds. Having seen words formed, I strove to master every written language I found.

I inherited the estate and its business from my father who had it himself from Gaius whose only son was a victim of a Corinthian brawl. I began writing twenty years ago, a decade after my father’s death. Many words weary, I read in the book by the preacher. But still I write, emptiness expressing ecstasy.

I also inherited the scriptorium with all its letters, scrolls, and parchments. Included among these are four records of recitations under the names titles: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. KATA MATTHEON, KATA MARKON, KATA LOUKAN and KATA IWANNHN. If you want to see them, you can find written copies here at the estate in Corinth and in many other places. I am not the only one to have studied these things so you will not find it difficult to get further information if you need it.

Updated June 28: Next episode


Tim said...

Bob, there some lovely touches in this it is beautifully crafted. It makes me keen to read on. It gives enough but not too much information so I want to know more about the characters.

My hesitation is the mention of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It seems both early and very convenient to have all four present and with their current names... wouldn't the Graeco-Roman world like the ANE use the first words as titles? (That last is an open question for me, I am woefully ignorant about the NT after 25 years focusing on the Hebrew Bible.)

Bob MacDonald said...

Tim - you are right. The fourfold Gospel would not have appeared yet. The year Secundus is writing in is 117. The first mention we have of the fourfold gospel (reminiscences of the apostles) is I think about 150. I debated how to express these and I have had a few thoughts but they seemed awkward. I use Dr. Loukas occasionally but then wanted a shorthand. So I have used the modern names - perhaps I will find a better archaism as we proceed. I think your idea of using the first word is an interesting one. I also have my doubts if all four were recitations. Mark particularly has an oral structure and John maybe, but Matthew and Luke seem too long to handle - maybe not - about 2.5 hours orally I expect.

Tim said...

For the first words idea you might need to check this it is definitely ANE and Jewish custom, but not sure about Western antiquity. Luke took just a bit over 2 hours in CEV with amateur readers doing 15min shifts. So for one or two speaker/readers probably 2.5 is about right (need more pauses!).

It was more actually the idea of copies of all four in one place that first troubled me. But the contemporary names also add to the impact...

I did not mean though to short cut either my appreciation, or others comments on other things...

Bob MacDonald said...

Tim, I am very grateful for your feedback. I have changed the names to greek - small caps - to reflect the labels that might have hung in a scriptorium. All 4 in one place by this year? My construction is barely plausible, but I propose a scriptorium that Paul would have used at the estate of Gaius who will develop into an important character in this story - he is the wailing child, about 8 years older than Tertius the infant. I think it not impossible that his business connections in Corinth, Rome, and Ephesus together with some other incidentals to be revealed later after his baptism c 51-52 would have produced this not impossible scenario.