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Chapter 5 - Speech of the head of the synagogue of Bethlehem, and answer of the Boy Jesus. The proud old Pharisee makes an unsuccessful attempt to interrupt.
1. Upon this the head of the synagogue turned to Me and said: “Is it not true that you want to hear from us most exactly all the dates and outward circumstances of that memorable birth at Bethlehem?”
2. I said: “O, as to that you may just as well save yourself trouble and labor, for none of you know as exactly and truly as I do Myself! After all, I only want to know from you whether, and in what connection, you find that all that took place at that time in Bethlehem is in agreement with the sayings of all the prophets, and especially with the saying of Isaiah. This is the question and nothing else at all, my elders!”
3. The head of the synagogue at Bethlehem replied: “Yes, my dear, gracious boy behold, there you demand of us things which are very difficult or even not possible at all for us to give you!
4. It is true that a kind of connection is undoubtedly to be sought for, and is even to be found with no great difficulty, between the declarations of the prophet Isaiah and that birth, twelve years ago, in a stable at Bethlehem – a place also mentioned by a prophet – but, my dear, how many similar things may have happened since the times of the prophet Isaiah, and yet there is no real sign of an incarnated Emanuel!
5. Judea was, as it were, several times already without a king, and many a young woman has brought forth at Bethlehem in some stable or another a little boy, sometimes indeed although only accidentally – with great ceremony – but the thing in itself was only looked upon as a natural phenomenon.
6. Weak and superstitious people admitted avaricious magicians of India and Persia; and astrologers who have never yet been wanting among us, knew how to make the best of such an opportunity. Versed in the sayings of the prophets, they always took advantage of such special opportunities and announced with serious, prophetical looks to the blind Jews, how now their hoped-for Messiah had undoubtedly been born into the world!
7. But time, the inexorable destroyer of all human works in myth and fiction, ever taught posterity about another and better one. Everything sank into the bottomless depth of an ever greater oblivion, and nothing more has come down to us but an empty legend in the greatest possible confusion. The declarations of the prophets are mystical pictures after which, centuries hence, men will hungrily pursue; but hardly any nation will arrive at a solution on this earth.
8. And see, my fine boy, it is the same with the miraculous birth which took place twelve years ago at Bethlehem, a place only too well known to me and which, just because the prophets proclaimed it so much, is continually overrun by all kinds of magicians and seers and astrologers, waiting in case there should be anything by which they might profit. The birth twelve years ago was a refreshing downpour on their dry fields.
9. The three magicians from Persia received, as I well know, in return for their presents brought to the virgin, a number of sheep calves, cows and oxen from the shepherds, and so had certainly not made their journey in vain. Now however twelve years have passed away since then, and already no one any longer remembers that story.
10. I am not at all surprised that you have again brought forward this story from the fanatical country of Galilee; for Galilee was ever the land of fanaticism, for which reason it was already designated of old, by the elders, as a country out of which no true prophet could ever come forth.
11. With that, my dear youth, I think I have completely answered your preliminary question! It is quite possible that sometime Jehovah will call forth for the now greatly oppressed Jews, some hero or other who will again lift them up to be a free people, but for that there is just now not the slightest prospect according to the natural state of affairs.
12. What would the outward appearance of such a hero have to be, and when must he come to be a match for the super-immense power of Rome? That might perhaps happen once in a thousand years if by chance all the other great world powers, as well as Rome, should become lax and weak, but so far there does not seem to be any chance of that for a long time to come and the preliminary question upon which you touched manifestly dissolves into air, which is as much as to say: it treats of nothing, and goes therefore into complete nothingness. Are you now quite clear about your preliminary question?”
13. I said: “Yes, yes, if you measure all that in a worldly way, you may be right; but here only a spiritual measure is to be used, but of this you seem to have no idea at all, and thus, in the end, you have as much as told Me nothing in regard to My preliminary question, with all your speech apparently so full of experience.
14. For when the Messiah shall come, He will found no material kingdom but only a spiritual empire on earth, and of His Kingdom there shall be no end unto Eternity, as is also foretold by the prophet Isaiah concerning the coming Messiah.
15. But what is a spiritual empire on earth? That is no empire with external pomp, but it must manifest itself interiorly in man; a man who shall attain this true Empire of God on earth among men, will be truly living, and will not see death, nor feel nor taste it in Eternity, as prophesied by David, Daniel and Isaiah.
16. If such be the case now with the promised Messiah, and can never be otherwise, how and for what reason should that most remarkable birth at Bethlehem be so entirely without significance?
17. God has marvelously protected that Child from the murderous hands of Herod. He is living today, certainly in great seclusion, and stands as He has to do, with a power over all the elements, such as is possible only for a God. No one can hide from Him; but as He hides Himself from the people, no one will then succeed in finding Him, before He Himself allows Himself to be found of His own free will.
18. He has never learned how to read or write, and yet there is no writing in the world which He could not read, and He writes in all tongues, and is clever in all the arts that can ever exist in the world, and has a power before which the mountains tremble, and the mightiest cedars bow their heads to the ground; even the sun, the moon, and the stars seem to obey His will! What I say here is no exaggeration, but a completely literal truth.
19. But if it be thus and not otherwise, I really think that it would be worth the trouble, on your side, to inform yourselves more closely about Him, and to look up in the prophets, if the prophecy of Isaiah does not coincide with the parents of the Child who are known – with the Child Himself, with His birth, with His birth place, with the time, with His present dwelling-place and with the numerous signs which He has already given of Himself up to now.
20. This matter, surely not unimportant in itself, ought not to remain so completely unnoticed by you priests, wise men, scribes, and elders of the people, since you still occupy those places among the people of which alone, and with every right, they have to expect the honest proclamation of the arrival of the promised Messiah. I speak now because of My dearly-bought right, and no one may silence Me! Here stands the Roman judge who alone has such a right!”
21. I would not have made that appeal to the judge if, during the course of My speech, an old, very proud Pharisee had not admonished Me to be silent (seeing that) ‘an impudent swine herdsman out of Galilee has no right to an opinion about such matters!’
22. But the judge who was quite on My side, seriously reprimanded the Pharisee for his coarseness, and commanded him never again to use such vulgar, imperious language in his presence. For My announcement concerning the boy prodigy living somewhere about Nazareth was more important for the Romans also, than their worn out and thoroughly thread-bare Jewish rubbish. To the Pharisees he spoke straight to their faces:
23. The Judge “Your doctrine requires a complete reformation, more than any other in the whole world, otherwise it will not last more than fifty years! For as your doctrine of God and your service of God now stand, the bacchanalia of Rome are a real sun in comparison, although as being the veneration of a Higher Divinity they represent a real miscarriage of human intelligence!
24. You, my splendid boy, just go on speaking quite courageously! No harm may be done to you; for within you there seems to be more intelligence than in the whole of this temple! Therefore continue, my fine boy!
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