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Chapter 36. – Joseph in a sharp interrogation and his report on the nature and the birth of the Child Jesus. Cornelius' letter. Joseph's advice to keep silent. Contradictions and doubts. Joseph's vehement justification before the 'public prosecutor'.
36,1. Joseph was himself most surprised and so spoke to Cyrenius: "Listen to me, powerful guardian of the land! It cannot be unknown to you, that according to the law of my people, every magician is to be burnt alive.
36,2. Consequently, if I were a magician, I would not have lived as long as I have; for I would have fallen into the hands of the high priests in Jerusalem long ago!
36,3. Therefore I can say nothing else than that this phenomenon is surely influenced by the great holiness of this Child!
36,4. For even during the birth of this Child there were signs that terrified everyone: all the heavens stood open, the wind was silent, the brooks and rivers stood still, the sun halted at the horizon;
36,5. the moon did not move, not for three hours; even the stars did not change their position; the animals did not eat or drink, and everything that usually stirs or moves fell into a deathlike repose; I myself was walking and had to remain standing!"
36,6. As Cyrenius heard such things from Joseph, he spoke to him: "So it is this strange Child, about whom my brother has written with the words:
36,7. 'Brother, I have some news for you: Near Bethlehem, a Child has been born to a young Jewish woman, and great miraculous powers emanate from this Child; I would like to believe that He is a divine Child!
36,8. But his father is such a highly sincere Jew, that I cannot bring myself to make further investigations!
36,9. If you happen to come to Jerusalem shortly, it might be of interest to you to visit this man in Bethlehem! – I keep on thinking that the Child is a disguised young Jupiter or at least Apollo. Come and judge for yourself!' –
36,10. Look, good man, I already know much of the matter; but what you just told me is totally unknown to me. Therefore tell me if you are the man, about whom my brother reported from Bethlehem?"
36,11. And Joseph spoke: "Yes, mighty lord, I am that man! It is good of your brother that he did not disclose more about the Child!
36,12. For he had received word from heaven to keep silent on all that had occurred! – Truly, if he had told you more, the same would have happened in Rome, what just happened in front of your eyes with the statues of the gods that stood there on the table!
36,13. You and your brother will remain unharmed if you remain silent; for you will therefore be blessed by the Lord, the everlasting living God, the Creator of heaven and earth!"
36,14. These words evoked in Cyrenius a great respect for Joseph and such a fear of the Child, that he immediately returned the Child to Mary.
36,15. After that he turned to Joseph once more and spoke to him: "Good, honest man, listen carefully to what I have to say to you;
36,16. for I have a good idea, and I would like you to hear it and concern yourself in this matter!
36,17. See, if this Child is of divine descent, then you, as his father, must also be such; for ex trunco non fit Mercurius, and grapes do not grow on thorns! – Neither can a godly Child be born of an ordinary man!
36,18. You, however, appear to be a very ordinary man, just as your five other sons, who are standing behind you; indeed, the young mother herself, although a good Jew, does not appear to possess anything godlike!
36,19. As we know from tradition, an almost supernatural beauty and great wisdom are the prerequisites of the women, who are supposed to have submitted to the gods, – for which, however, one has to have a most strong faith, which I do not possess in the least!
36,20. Moreover, I have to point out something else to you, and that is, that you, with your godlike Child arrived here instead of in Egypt. This was evident in your sadness and embarrassment when I indicated to you how far you had erred from the way to Egypt!
36,21. Can your God - or the Gods of Rome - be ignorant of the shortest route from Bethlehem to Egypt?
36,22. See, these are glaring contradictions, which increase the more one looks into the matter! Furthermore, you have threatened us with the destruction of Rome, if I or my brother would betray the Child!
36,23. Why should the Gods threaten the weak mortal, as if they were afraid of him? – They only need to step onto the earth, and all have to blindly obey their mighty will!
36,24. See, the matter of your declaration appears to me to be a weak excuse to pull the wool over my eyes, so that I cannot recognize you for what you really are, either a Jewish magician, who is going to Egypt to ply his trade for a living, because he feels unsafe in his homeland, –
36,25. or a clever spy, bribed by the tyrannical Herod, to espy the waterfront fortresses of Rome?!
36,26. Of course, I have the letter of safe-conduct written by my brother and the letter I mentioned to you, – however, I have not spoken to my brother, and hence these documents could be fake; for I know that my brother's writing can be imitated!
36,27. I now consider you to be both, that is, a magician and a spy! Now justify yourself thoroughly, otherwise you will be my prisoner and not escape lawful punishment!"
36,28. During this speech Joseph saw Cyrenius in the eye and said: "Send a messenger to your brother Cornelius, give both letters, and ask your brother to testify, whether my conduct is as despicable, as your bad opinion of me implies!
36,29. And I demand this of you now; for my honour is justifiable before the Eternal God, and should not be trampled on by a pagan! – For while you are a patrician from Rome, I am no less than a descendant of the great king David, before whom the world trembled, and as such I do not let a pagan dishonour me!
36,30. I will not leave your side until you have restored my honour to me; – for the honour, which God has given me, cannot be taken away by a gentile!"
36,31. Cyrenius was taken aback by these forceful words; for, as the governor, who had command over life and death, he had never heard anyone speak to him thus! – Therefore he thought to himself: Unless this man is aware of his extraordinary power over me, he would not be able to speak to me in such a manner! – I must thus talk to him in a very different manner. –
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