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Chapter 11 - The night conference of the temple officials
1. But the temple officials had no such quiet night; for it was My wish that men of this selfish and imperious nature should be made anxious by all kinds of things. And the High priest could not sleep for spite, anger and fear; for it worried him especially and above all that the Roman judge took Me with him as an honored guest. He therefore caused his spies to come unceasingly to the inn, so that they might bring him news of what we perhaps were saying together; but we did not talk at all, and thus did not talk about anything out of school.
2. But for that the temple officials gossiped all the more among themselves, and planned together how they might make Me confused and quite foolish the next day by means of all kinds of questions. Only the young Levite who was on the point of becoming an independent Pharisee and head of a synagogue, said to the assembly in a quiet, dry, matter of fact way to their faces, for he had seen and learned much on his missionary journeys:
3. (The young Levite): “None of you will have any success with this boy! At Nazareth I have heard truly miraculous things about his eloquence, and there is absolutely no learned man who has ever got the better of him! I tell you quite frankly: the tongue of this boy and his friend’s inconceivable strength of will are sufficiently powerful to subdue the whole world. And with this boy we have put quite a mighty obstacle in front of us, which we shall to easily get rid of without damage!
4. Therefore my opinion, which is of course by no means authoritative, would be: Leave him to his opinion, that at least that marvelous boy could possibly, or in time, become the promised Messiah, and as a matter of fact the sayings of the prophets do rather point to him as well as to this time!
5. We cannot get any further with him, no matter how we contradict him. And to make him angry by means of any threat would even be serious, in my opinion; for he knows about everything with the greatest exactitude, and our deepest temple secrets do not appear to be strange to him!
6. It would simply mean that we should fall into the hands of Beelzebub, if he just now began to talk openly about our quite special secrets both to Simon who is so much devoted to him, and to the Roman judge! Therefore we must be very prudent in this matter, leave him to his subject, and even rather confirm him in it, than try to estrange him from his idea!
7. What does it matter to us, who have long ago thrown over board the old dogmas of the Scripture into the sea of oblivion, whether there be a Messiah or no? But it is better to be cunning, and by that means to rule and to live very well at the charges of the stupid and blind mass of people, rather than usurp all kinds of authority which in the end we do not possess, besides letting ourselves be harassed by many an unnecessary sorrow and anxiety!
8. Already yesterday we made a bad impression on the Roman with our badlytimed pedantic pride, and the matter about Zachariah may still embarrass us greatly! For there is no joking with the heathen! Let us tomorrow but behave with a little more severity against the boy – and we shall all be truly standing in the hottest water with the Romans!
9. Therefore let us just be quite fine, cunning foxes, and let us repair as much as possible our faults of yesterday, and I will bet you that the Roman will completely drop the matter of Zachariah, otherwise he will at once use it against us as sharp a weapon! What do you think of my advice?”
10. The chief priest who was wide awake said: “Yes, yes, I am perfectly of your opinion; that would evidently be quite the best! We must let the boy talk and answer him, as he has a heavily purchased right to it; this we cannot set aside! Only I think we should give him tomorrow another set of examiners who will answer him more favorably than we did yesterday! What do you think of that?”
11. The young speaker said: “No! That is not my opinion! Strange examiners would have to be informed, in order to understand properly, what sort of a boy they have before them! But we know him, and also know what he really wants; therefore we can answer him easily. Strange examiners would stand tomorrow like a yoke of young oxen before a mountain, and would themselves not know how to answer him, even after the best information from us.
12. And then we have to take something else into consideration, which is quite important, meaning: can you know that the boy will not absolutely insist upon having us before him? We should then be obliged by Simon and the Roman judge to come and would have to answer this desperately clever boy, on which occasion we should not cut too good a figure before the Roman, as we should thereby visibly betray that we had got the worst of our struggle with the boy.
13. Of course I can and wish only to express my opinion, but not enforce it; still it is certain that we have to expect what I said, and that is truly not greatly to the liking of any of us!”
14. The chief priest said: “I quite agree with you, and we should certainly guide ourselves by your advice; but, my son, what do you think in general about this quite hopelessly cunning boy?
15. It is really quite satanic! We, the highest dignitaries of the whole country of the Jews, have to let ourselves be bullied over head and ears by nothing more nor less than a Galilean swine herdsman! We have to tremble before such a low worm of the gutter, and use all manner of means to get ourselves rid of him! No, no, such a thing as this has never yet existed within the memory of man!
16. But tell me, what do you think of the boy? How and when can this boy of twelve have acquired such universal knowledge?”
17. The young speaker: “Dear highest ruler and patron, next to the High priest! Such a thing is absolutely nothing new in Galilee! Everyone in Galilee trades, meets with all nations of the world, and gains thousands of experiences of all kinds, learns different languages and had intercourse with Greeks, Armenians, Egyptians and a multitude of other nations as well. Hence it is understandable that it is no rare thing in the towns and boroughs and villages of Galilee to meet children, whose penetrating intelligence must arouse the greatest surprise in all of us who come from Jerusalem.
18. I myself, as is known, was born in the neighborhood of Nazareth and in twelfth year was more versed in all the Scriptures than I am now, when I have forgotten many things, and besides with them, quite a lot of other writings and things. Why not our fair curly-headed boy? I am not so surprised at this boy’s being so wide awake, although in so great a degree!”
19. The chief priest spoke further: “Yes, there would not be anything so very remarkable in the gifted learning of a talented boy, but how do these people get hold of the Scriptures – the only genuine copy is kept in the Holy of Holies in the temple, and in it no one may read except the High priest, the sub High priest, and the scribes?”
20. The young speaker said: “Highest Master, that is already no longer true since the time that the Romans conquered our country! All the statutes of the temple and all its books have to be delivered up for inspection to the conquerors. For the space of three years, the most exact copies of all were being taken.
21. And now, among the Romans and Greeks, there are already so many exact copies in all languages, that one can acquire for a few silver coins such a copy in the desired language. But if so, how could it possibly be difficult to find in a Galilean boy of talent a true scribe – non plus ultra?”
22. The chief priest said: “You still come to me with Roman expressions, and yet you know that I am a mortal enemy of everything Roman! What does the expression ‘non plus ultra’ mean?”
23. The young speaker: “Highest Master! I, being a Galilean, know besides Hebrew, also the Greek and the Roman tongues; also I understand Syrian, Chaldean, Armenian, Persian and Old Arabic which, as messenger, one must also understand, and it often and even easily happens to me when speaking quickly, that foreign tongue comes, as if of itself, into my mouth!
24. But the expression ‘non plus ultra’ one must also understand, because it is so much in use among us Jews owing to its shortness and conciseness, that it seems rather difficult to me to use the long and cumbersome Hebraic expression. Its proper meaning is that such a boy is ‘not to be surpassed’ by any one in his knowledge of the Scriptures.”
25. The chief priest: “Well, well, it does not matter; only for reasons easily understandable I am no friend of the Romans and consequently not of their tongue. But we will leave that on one side, and now tell me what you know of that wondrous boy of Nazareth whose father I know as also his mother!”
26. The young speaker: “Yes, Highest Master, this is a very difficult matter; I believe I saw him a few years ago in the company of several boys, who resembled one another far more than twin brothers. I was indeed told who this, that, and the other was, but as the boys were lively and continually running about amongst one another, it was impossible for me to keep my eye continually on the right one! So I saw him and yet did not see him.
27. Our boy who is now giving us much trouble was then certainly among the company, accompanied by a boy resembling him very much – as it now seems to me – with a still more serious face and not jumping gaily about. It looked very much as if these two boys were the masters of the others as it were, as the others seemed to move about quite according to their will.”
28. However I did not understand what game that was, this rushing-about of the boys, as I never before had seen anything similar. It did not seem to me to be without a plan, because, after watching for some time, one could perceive a certain order in it; but what it represented, no one of the onlookers could explain to me. They told me that the boys always amused themselves in a way that had never before been seen at Nazareth, but no one understood what such a stage game meant!
29. But that is now really everything I know personally about that boy from my own experience. But I certainly was also told the most extraordinary things which bordered on the incredible! To tell you all this again, we should need at least ten days; therefore I tell you only in general.
30. This or rather that wonderful boy is obeyed literally by all elements; even the moon and stars seem evidently subject to his will, he only needs to wish, and sun and moon will give no more light! And should he seriously say to the sun or moon, ‘Give light now’ the light would be at one present!
31. To persons blind from birth, he is able to give perfect sight merely by his word – just as clear a sight as that of a cat, which even in the darkest night sees its prey.
32. It is said that in the presence of many spectators and only by his word, he gave life again to a boy from among his comrades who, full of fun, climbed on a roof, fell and lay there quite shattered and dead; that the reanimated boy, healed of all his wounds, stood there as healthy and gay as if no harm had ever befallen him. Thereupon the wonderful boy is however said to have given the boy thus resuscitated, a very serious warning to be in future no more so mischievous and disobedient or else he would never help him again.
33. They do indeed speak of wonders of morality and of the wisest powers of speech on the part of the marvelous boy; only one thing sounds strange; he, the wondrous child, is said never to ask anything from anyone, and if anyone gives him anything he never thanks for it! He is said always to be very serious. He is often seen praying, also weeping in silence, but never laughing.
34. This is briefly speaking all that I have ever got to know about that wonderful boy. More I do not know. But to judge who and with what means that boy does such marvelous things, is far above the horizon of my knowledge and of my too limited intelligence. It may be that you do – the oldest and wisest of the temple; and I have spoken!”
35. The High priest: “With that other power if not that of the devil himself! For God never works miracles through children and roguish boys, but most rarely through pious men quite devoted to Him, of ripe years even like ourselves. But if at Nazareth a twelve year old boy does such things, it is quite apparent that they can only be done by the help of Beelzebub! This is my opinion; whoever can give another and better one, may get up and speak!”
36. An elder got up and said: “It is my opinion that you concede a little too much to Beelzebub! Speaking strictly among ourselves, Beelzebub is surely only an allegorical personality, representing the total idea of all evil and wickedness which lies in the perversity of the human will.
37. It is a matter settled long ago that a so-called Beelzebub is produced by the complete cooperation of a society of many persons sneering at all good laws and henceforth admitting no further good! For such, an evil spirit resembles a breath of moral pestilence, which continually poisons the hearts of the people forming such a society, that they, out of themselves; and by themselves, can never be better.
38. But this is not again the fault of a certain spiritual, personal evil spirit Beelzebub, but only the absolutely wrong, and thus bad, education of the children from the cradle. Such persons have no idea of an Almighty and Omniscient God; also in all other knowledge and sciences they are far behind the civilized nations, and therefore also are easily and quickly conquered by them.
39. But if we now consider the extraordinary education of our boy here, whose exceedingly pious and learned parents are only too well known to us, and if we take to heart his extremely great charity, it cannot possibly come into my mind even in the very worst dream, to declare that such a boy could be in full league with the chief of all devils, who would never be able to let even the smallest thought of light germinate in himself!
40. Or can any purpose, even if only apparently good, be attained by what is absolutely evil? To me at least such a thing has remained quite foreign up to now! Or perhaps does anyone know that thoroughly wicked men ever do a good, praiseworthy action? Or is it possible that true good has ever been got through the worst and most depraved means?
41. But if our marvelous boy with his power of will, inconceivable to us as it is, does all kinds of the very best and most sublime deeds of lasting good, how can he possibly employ means, that are most thoroughly bad? On this point I ask of you a tenable explanation!”
42. Several of the elders and scribes agreed with the speaker – only the chief priest and his not over numerous adherents did not. Now the chief priest rose and said to the defender of the marvelous boy:
43. The chief priest: “See now, I notice from your speech that you deny with ingenious words the personality of Beelzebub, as well as that of the devils that rank below him. If you want to show by your speech that you are right, then explain also to me in your way who it was, who, on Mount Horeb, fought three days with the Archangel Michael for the body of Moses, and remained victor.
44. Who was that figure of light which could dare to appear before the Throne of God, to ask lever to put Father Job to the test? Who was the serpent of Eve? Who was the evil spirit of Saul which the boy David banished with the music of harp strings? Furthermore, there are many passages in Scripture, especially in Daniel, where in repeated mention is made of the great dragon and the great whore Babylon! You wise one of the world, how would you actually explain all this in your way?”
45. The former wise elder and scribe said: “This would be a very easy task for me, if your intelligence had the degree of training necessary to understand it; but the complete night of your intelligence does not comprehend such things of the light, and thus I should only be preaching in vain to one deaf and blind, without any result – and so I leave it alone!
46. Those who wanted and could understand me, have already understood me; to preach a sermon to a hard will is worth as much as to put a stone into water in order to soften it! Have you then never read the great Kabbala which is the work of a great spirit? Therein is given a long explanation of the correspondence between the figures of speech and script, and the reality which they represent!”
47. The chief priest said: “The small one indeed, but not the great one.”
48. The speaker: “Then I cannot possibly speak with you, for the small one has another author and is not worthy to be called even the worst extract of the great old one!
49. Before God, there is no Satan and no devil, and therefore also not anything perfectly wicked; for all the powers and forces must obey Him, and none can operate above and beyond their circle.
50. Is not fire an element of power, which contains in itself the highest degree of evil and destruction? It is a product of Satan because it destroys whole towns, and changes them into dead ashes, if it is unchained by the bad will of men or by their punishable negligence!
51. Or is it perhaps Satan who is in the water, that it kills man and beast if they fall into it? Or is Satan perhaps in a stone, or in the height of the mountains, or in the poisonous animals and plants, or in short in everything that can give death to us men, when used foolishly? See, everything on the earth and in the earth can be full of blessing, but at the same time full of curse, according as man uses it ether wisely or stupidly!
52. What then was the famous fight of Satan with the Archangel Michael for the body of Moses?
53. The pious part of Jews who venerated Moses as a God, thought that he would not die in the flesh, as it is written: ‘They who strictly keep the laws of God shall not die, but enter as it were at once into eternal life, and their flesh shall not see corruption!’ Yet Moses in the end grew weak and died like every other man.
54. There were among the Jews a wise man and a physician.
55. The wise man said: ‘Carry the corpse to the summit of a high mountain, where the purest living breezes blow, and Moses will live again and will lead his people into the Land of Promise.’
56. The more judicious physician said: ‘No body from whom the soul had entirely departed, ever returns to life again.’
57. The wise man said: ‘If in three days Moses shall not be completely alive again on the top of the mountain, but shall remain dead, then you will have won the victory over men and my faith, and I shall be your slave as long as I live!’
58. But the physician said: ‘I know beforehand that I shall win; however you need not be my slave on that account. But I shall remain what I am, and what you are, and you will understand that the Prince of the Power of Death retains his victim, and will never relinquish him again.’
59. And Moses was brought to the top of the mountain of Horeb with great solemnity. Many thousands of the noblest Israelites accompanied the corpse, and when they reached the top of the mountain, Moses was exposed to the free living breezes, and for three days all possible experiments were made to revive him, both spiritual and material; but all in vain: the eye of the prophet opened no more to the light of this world.
60. On the fourth day the wise one spoke quite indignantly to the people: ‘See, you people of God, the power of Satan! Three days long did Michael (Power of Heaven) contend with Satan (Power of Death) for the body of the prophet, and Satan conquered him; but because of that, Michael said to him: God will judge thee for it!’
61. That was a speech before the people, figurative indeed, but yet necessary and in its specific reason surely also very true.
62. When the physician then spoke to him (but to be sure, only face to face) and reminded him how he had been right of course, then
63. The learned man said: ‘Unluckily you are right, but it is by all means sad for us men that Jehovah should make no exception even for His greatest prophet, but takes away his breath and slay him like some lower animal! Surely He might have guarded Moses, and thus have shown to the people that Satan has no power over His utterly sanctified one.’
64. But the physician said: ‘You do not plead justly with Jehovah! See, He has laid down beforehand the path for the flesh, and the path for the spirit; but the way of the flesh must be completely accomplished, so that the way of the spirit may remain eternally free!’
65. Whilst the two were still speaking together, quite suddenly the spirit of Moses came between them, and said: ‘Peace be with you! The order of God is immutable, and all He does is good! If the body dies first, nevertheless the spirit does not die. Keep the laws and do not dispute about my body, for I, Moses, live on eternally, even if the body I wore has died a thousand times.’
66. Thereupon the spirit disappeared and the matter was adjusted between the two.”
67. “Well, my dear brother in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, what do you say to that? Where is your personality of Satan? For what I have now told you is the simple historical truth, and the one written in the book, is only a figure given in poetic verse, like all such information which can only be understood in accordance with their nature through the science of parables. What do you now say to it, being yourself a scribe?”
68. The chief priest said: “Yes, yes, the matter has much for itself, and sounds quite plausible; but yet it depends upon faith and beyond this permits of no proof. Still there may be something in it; for if it is once a mere matter of faith, it is all the same whether I believe this or that – and something natural is always more easily believed than something supernatural. Therefore let us leave the matter. The night is gone and they will already be expecting us in the conference hall.”
69. The young semi Pharisee: “I am really very curious as to what turn this matter will take today! But one thing I should like to ask for the sake of our own welfare, that at least a little consideration should be given to my counsel regarding the Roman; for it surely does not matter so very much if we accept, apparently half way among ourselves and between the four walls, what the boy wants from us, as otherwise we would surely make the Romans into still greater enemies than they are already!”
70. The chief priest said: “Make your mind easy about that, my son! Whatever can be done shall not be omitted, for today we evidently know our point of view better than we did yesterday!”
71. Just as these words had been said, a servant of the temple announced with the deepest respect, that the Roman commissioner and the Boy, Simon of Bethany and a few men with him, were in the hall.
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