Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Beginning of the Book

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PROLOGUE
(from Pella)
My name is Joseph, the youngest son of Jude, who was the son of Joseph and Mary and brother to Yeshua. My family—grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, all of us—were of the twenty and one hundred and have been, for generations, Nazorean Essenes from Galilee. We Essenes are a community the Sadducees and Pharisees have always seen as in some manner heretical, for we do welcome Gentiles among us and we interpret some of the Law of Moses differently; most of us worship ‘El, but others worship Brahma or Ahura Mazda or Serapis or Isis or whatever name they choose to give the Divine Being, depending on the land they are from. To us it is all the same: ‘El is ‘El, or ‘Elohim or YHWH: God. And Yahweh is within and without. My uncle Yeshua knew this and tried in his ministry to awaken others to this basic truth but suffered on the cross for his troubles. No matter. He lives on, both without in the next world, and within, inside the spirits and hearts of us all, for we are all connected to this great Master.
I think Yeshua would be astonished by the many sects and new beliefs that have risen in the forty-five years since his death, in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, across the Roman Empire, even down into Egypt and India and far across the Mediterranean Sea.  He would weep bitterly, as I still do, over the death of his brother James and, most horribly, for the way the priests condemned, stoned to death, then threw the aged James off the Temple Mount. He had refused to denounce his brother’s teachings and had offended them by criticizing them for not sharing their wealth. Then my own father, Yeshua’s brother Jude, also called Thomas Didymus, who so resembled Yeshua himself, died just a few years ago in India, being speared.  The only one left of his brothers is Simon, who replaced James as head of the Jerusalem Church but is considered so aged as to be harmless. However, since they are of the same Davidic line as Yeshua, and much younger, I fear for the two oldest sons of my brother Zoher. The present Roman emperor, Vespasian, was only too happy five years ago to personally lead his soldiers into Jerusalem and destroy that city and the Temple.  His men have not persecuted believers in Yeshua in the way that evil man, the Emperor Nero, did, but we lay low in this land. I fear the next Emperor of Rome, or the next, or the one following, may attempt to destroy us all. Men with power often dispense quickly with anyone who may possibly threaten it, as we saw with the terrible paranoia of Herod the Great.
It could have just as easily been I who was called forth, since I have no sons, but my uncle Simon, as Yeshua’s youngest brother, was the best choice to replace his brother James as the second Bishop of Jerusalem, the mother Church.  Hence, I stay at Pella, where our family did acquire a small plot of land and built a simple house during our brief sojourn there when Palestine erupted into full-fledged rebellion against Rome, even though most of us have returned now to Jerusalem and stay near Mt. Zion.  My daughters care for me and preach the gospel, and my sons-in-law farm the land.  As I said, teachings about Yeshua have taken many twists and turns since his death. Now some are saying Yeshua was the incarnation of God, which metaphorically speaking is certainly true, but that is true of all of us—yet some are holding him up as God himself.  Others say after Yeshua died on the cross, he rose on the third day and later ascended into heaven like Enoch—but not as an archangel as did Enoch, that scribe of the angels, but as God’s literal Son. There are other disagreements as well, over things Yeshua said and did, and things the disciples are said to have done, or were taught in secret, and books and letters beginning to be written and passed about, some of which are partially true and some of which are not even remotely so.  I cannot help but think these disagreements and rumors, and rumors of rumors, won’t do a thing to help spread the Word and the Way but will make us look only confused. Then some who hear receive the worse of distortions. There are pagans who actually believe we eat the flesh and drink the blood of children when we remember our Lord and Master. I think of Yeshua--this kind, gentle man whom I barely remember except for a time he tousled my hair and kissed my cheek. He looked intently at me with his soft eyes and told me, “One day, my Nephew, you will set down my story as it is.”
I grow old now, approaching sixty years, and I finally understand, looking at the chaos of the world around me and perceiving the tremendous suffering, what Yeshua meant by that. The Kingdom of God did not arrive, and we had all anticipated it would come sooner, within a generation of Yeshua’s death. So some sign or prophecy was misunderstood by us—or maybe, as so often happens, the prophecy will make sense once it is fulfilled. In the meantime, no one to my knowledge has written down a full account of Yeshua’s life and teachings, so I feel I must before the teachings are lost.
I am blessed, truly, to have been schooled at the Mount Carmel school, and like any good Essene--albeit today the Jewish followers of Yeshua are called Ebionites, or "the poor men"-- I can speak, read and write, namely some Greek, Aramaic, and even some Hebrew, that dying language or at the very least that language which has become of sacrilegious lip, and I know our teachings—though probably not as well as I should. I did indeed farm the land and tend the animals, but I always loved delicate work with my hands and chose cloth- and garment-making early in life, so I didn’t throw myself into my studies as assiduously as others. I was more interested in the art of spinning flax or wool for our robes, keeping a few sheep for this purpose, and later I learned how to make various dyes to sell colored textiles and mats on occasion in the forums in the Roman cities. I was even at Qumran, as are most Essene males at some point, in my twenties for a short period about two decades before the Romans scattered that community.  That was when I thought I would never marry. But, of course, I did, falling in love with a widow who has now preceded me in transition—but here I am, jumping ahead of myself.
My great work, it turns out, is not to weave, nor to spin, nor to war, nor to copy scrolls, but to compose a new one. My great work and service to all humanity is to tell the true and simple story of my uncle, Yeshua, our Savior, the man becoming known to the world as Jesus the Christ.

© Joyce Luck 2014. Please, no sharing without my express written permission.


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