INTERVIEW WITH OFFICER [REDACTED] IN RELATION TO THE APPREHENSION AND SUBSEQUENT EXECUTION OF JESUS BAR JOSEPH OF NAZARETH
My name is [redacted] and at the material time I held the post of [redacted] in the [redacted] cohort of the Temple Police, in command of 20 men. My superior officer at the material time was [redacted] but in reality during the period specified I reported directly to the Temple authorities.
For normal operational purposes the cohort would normally be divided into four squads of five men each but this was flexible depending on circumstances.
I was initially given instructions to observe the behaviour of Jesus bar Joseph and his followers after a complaint to the High Priest that he and some of his associates were preaching sedition. Relations with Rome had been improving after the deposing of Archalaeus and there was an understanding between the High Priest and the Prefect that Rome would not interfere in local religious affairs so long as there was no overt opposition to Imperial rule.
Int(erviewer) When did the surveillance begin?
Off(icer) We had received reports about a man called John who was becoming known as ‘the baptiser’. He had been making certain statements that implied he was a precursor for the Messiah. There were also stories circulating that this man Jesus had been baptised by John and that there had been some sort of apparition or voice from the heavens. Some had used the phrase ‘Son of God’ in connection with these events.
Int Was there not also an incident in the Temple itself?
Off Yes. A few days before a Passover festival we were called to a disturbance in which a man had taken a whip to the merchants in the Temple forecourt. It was the custom for these licensed traders to sell the animals necessary for the sacrifices and they were permitted to set up their stalls in the Temple forecourt. As you know these animals must be paid for in the proper currency and there are also always a number of moneychangers present for that reason.
The man, who was identified to us as Jesus bar Joseph, had taken exception to this practice and had started ranting about the Temple being “his father’s house” and “a house of prayer”. When he was challenged he said something about being able to rebuild the Temple in three days. He wasn’t making a great deal of sense.
Int He wasn’t the first person to disagree with the practice of selling goods inside the Temple precincts, was he? Nor the first to argue strongly against the presence of moneychangers and their extortionate exchange rates. There is no authority in the scriptures for this, is there?
Off I’m not qualified to comment. It has been the custom and is authorised by the Sanhedrin. Since they are the ones who pay may wages I simply do what I am told. They don’t pay me for my opinions.
Int Quite. What happened next?
Off The Sanhedrin sent someone to talk to him on the quiet. He reported back that the man appeared to be a bit of a mystic with talk about being “born again”. Apparently he also said that if this Pharisee was the teacher he claimed to be he would know all these things because they were clearly written in scripture. After that we scaled things down a bit. He was a bit of a firebrand and some of his sayings were a bit obscure but he was evidently sincere and he was getting a reputation as a healer and a man of God.
As long as he was no threat to the established order or to the Romans we saw no reason to interfere.
Int So what changed?
Off There was a fairly high-profile event where he cured a man who had been ill for all his adult life. It was a festival; it took place at the Bethesda Pool; and worst of all (from the Pharisees’ point of view) it was the Sabbath.. If you want the full details you will need to speak to my deputy [redacted] …
Int We shall be doing so. Please continue
Off Apparently Jesus simply took him by the hand and said “get up and walk”. And the man picked up his sleeping mat and headed off. Of course one of the Pharisees stopped him and asked him what had happened and who had cured him and why he was wandering around carrying a mat on the Sabbath. They must have found out later who had worked the miracle because they challenged Jesus about labouring on the Sabbath.
Int If I might interrupt you there. The Pharisees concern with Jesus’ behaviour was that he had cured someone on the Sabbath. Is that correct?
Off They defined it as work. Though I was present on another occasion when he pointed out that they wouldn’t hesitate to pull their own animals out of a pit if they fell into one, Sabbath or no Sabbath.
But that was only part of it. He made it clear that saw himself as above the law. “My father and I are still working” he said and there could be no doubt he was referring to God as his father in a very particular way.
That was when I was ordered to set up a separate squad reporting directly to Caiaphas the High Priest and for us to concentrate solely on Jesus.
Int It is clear that something in what this Jesus was saying has touched a nerve with the Pharisees. You say that the general consensus had been that provided there was no reason for Procurator Pilate to be concerned prophets and mystics would be tolerated even if occasionally they were a bit disruptive. But it seems that in this case the Sanhedrin had decided that that tolerance couldn’t be permitted. Is that a fair summation?
Off [Pause] Yes. I think that is probably correct.
Int Thank you. We’ll leave it there for today and resume tomorrow morning.