Tuesday, July 3, 2007


You will pardon me, Beloved, if I pull a section from our earlier book. Other authors do this and even some composers. I think it will help you to understand where I have been. At a later time, I will tell you more of where we are going in this - such a long journey.
The time in Jerusalem was not as easy as it should have been for a young couple filled with love and its responsibilities. Our dear father was, after all, a provincial, and our mother felt confined at her father’s house with us two small children in an all but winterless climate. After Paul was arrested, and sent to Rome, Tertius was consumed by the work the Spirit had called him to, preoccupied with the formation of the written word, immersed in its Torah-like structure. They were good to each other, but the time came when the sectarian violence moved Ruth to ask her husband to take the manuscript somewhere else, as if moving the book would move us all to a safer place.

There was more than one book, more than one source of information. Levi, John Mark, his uncle Barnabas were all part of the mix of copying, creation, and recitation. Their collaboration contrasted with the ferocity of division round about.

For a thousand years from the time of David, Jerusalem had been the centre of the world for Judah, the place where God had set his name, the city of the great King. After the fall of the Northern Kingdom, even Korah had to be content with the southern location. There was rivalry, a Samaritan temple near Mount Gerizim, and there had been another Jewish temple in Egypt at Leontopolis. But these served only to emphasize the uniqueness of Jerusalem.

When the Babylonians destroyed the first temple, the resulting Diaspora marked the centre of that world again. When the temple was rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah, and extended by Herod, its empty Holy of Holies defined an attitude towards God that is without parallel in the world. So their writers expressed it. Philo: But he (Moses) provided that there should not be temples built either in many places or many in the same place, for he judged that since God is one, there should be also only one temple. And the Galilean general, Josephus: Let there be one holy city, a city that God shall choose for Himself by prophetic oracle. And let there be one temple therein, and one altar of stones. In no other city let there be either altar or temple; for God is one and the Hebrew race is one.

But that unity is broken. Jerusalem is not at peace. Her friends have all betrayed her and become her enemies.

News came from Rome that Paul and Cephas had been executed. The news, already years old, for few in Jerusalem wanted to remember Paul, helped convince Tertius that North Africa, not visited by his family in over one hundred years, would be more hospitable to young children than Corinth. Jerusalem was no longer the centre.

– When we have another copy, my dear, The final copies are nearly completed. Barnabas is to take one to Cyprus. Levi will go to Antioch. And John Mark and I shall have two, one for Alexandria and one for Cyrenaica where we will go. Rufus and Phoebe will be there so we will not be strangers to everyone in our own land.

According to our mother, the work never seemed to end. Alexander was a comfort to her. He had been in Rome when Phoebe arrived with the letter from Corinth a decade earlier. Then he too, wondering what new thing might happen in Jerusalem where his father had come to Passover that year a lifetime ago, had returned to the heat of this fractious place. Rufus stayed away. He knew Jerusalem was not where the future work lay.

And there was no future work there for Alexander, but rest eternal. They buried him beside Mnason’s grave before they left. They marked his grave in Hebrew, Alexander of Cyrene, for his friends in Judea, and in Greek, Alexander, Son of Simon, for the memory of his father. He had died in a clash over the Gospel the night the comets appeared in the constellation Ox-Herd.

– Go, now, before the winter comes.
– But there is no winter here, at least not to speak of.
– Pray that your flight will not be in the winter.
– The stars do not sing for joy as they did at Creation. Come, husband, we must away. Hear what the stars are saying.
– Go, before the violent stones of the temple are wrenched from their walls and scattered from their places.
– Not one stone will be left upon another.

Once there were sacrifices here. Once this was the place where the Name dwelt. No longer.

That week, the daily sacrifice ceased for the emperor. For five hundred cycles of the seasons, since the rebuilding of the temple under Ezra the scribe, the people had made sacrifice for the reigning king. Now no longer. The inner life of the temple was already gone. The shell was soon to be destroyed.

– Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those that are sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused! So be it. Your house will be left to you desolate.
– You can’t write that ...
– Tertius has written in Greek what the Master spoke. We cannot erase it. But the reality is coming upon us. Even my non-prophetic soul has no trouble seeing our conflict. We have broken the peace of Jerusalem.
– John Mark, the winter will pass, the fig tree will put forth its shoots, and the time of the singing of birds will come. Let love prevail. It is as strong as the death that is coming.

Living stones heard the falling stars and left. Four fires in three directions, they did not wait for additional instructions. One fled to the East to Antioch, one North to Cyprus, and two to the West, John Mark staying in Egypt, Tertius to his ancestral homeland. The Law had gone forth from Jerusalem, a new Law for all the nations carried by new scribes. A new temple, made of flesh, was already established as the dwelling place for the Name.

Before long, Herod’s gold plate, the donations of widows and orphans, among the spoils of the victor, would finance the building of theatres and even the great coliseum, another place for the sacrifice of animals and exploitation of the people. Within a few years, the Cherubim would find themselves in Antioch, overlooking a new seat of mercy, though only a remnant understood. Sooner than that, the seven-branched lamp would be carried by pagans in triumph to Rome, gloated over by the emperor to whom sacrifice was due but no longer made.

Also from this mix of booty, Roman patricians peruse the written scrolls of Torah, pondering that the law has been given by the conquered to the victors, a blessing but not yet perceived.

In the meanwhile, the true light, burning the oil of the Spirit, overflowing in the oil of gladness, was gathering its hosts. In due course, these are destined to conquer even the foreign king. Part of this gathering was in Cyrenaica, a peaceful place compared with Jerusalem, though Sicarii were known even there. For seven years, our family and the family of Phoebe and Rufus grew and taught in Libya and surrounding areas.

A letter from Barnabas brought us to Cyprus where grandmother still taught the ancient tales of the Law and the Prophets. We found the apostle in his last days secure in his hope. From his hands, Tertius received his own writing again and made another copy of Levi’s text to take with him. He then returned the original manuscript to Barnabas. The pull of Corinth exerted itself and we came here taking up residence at the estate of Gaius, sixteen years after our father had left with Paul to bring the collection for Jerusalem.

1 comment:

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