I am sorry my friend that I have not had a chance to write to you before now. My voyage overland to Tyre via Antioch was without incident and how relieved I was that I had chosen not to sail this time when I read your missive about the shipwreck off Cyprus. I have always been a reluctant sailor as you well know and I am beginning to doubt that nothing on earth will ever induce me to take to the water again.
I arrived in Jerusalem a fortnight ago having been forced to take a wide detour from Galilee to Judea to avoid the despised Samaritans. You will have heard that they dare claim to worship and believe as we do, but the Jewish leaders here in Jerusalem have informed me that there is no seed of truth in this. Consequently I was exhorted to have nothing to do with them. As you know, we must be on guard at all times to prevent our religious heritage from becoming tainted by such as these.
You will have been well aware of my sorrow at my journey being delayed and consequently I was not in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost. Being a God-fearing and devout Jew yourself you will understand my immense disappointment at not being able to celebrate such a significant festival here in Jerusalem.
However, I have heard the most appalling tales of a disturbance that occurred on that day when those who claim to follow the now-dead Nazarene named Jesus incited the people and forced many to follow their treacherous ways while in a drunken state. What a shame these people have been allowed freedom to do as they please. They are dangerous and must be stopped. I have heard that they now call themselves Christians. It is a strange name.
It has been a joy for me to revisit the Temple here in Jerusalem. Although it is still not finished it is further along than when I last beheld its magnificence. It is certainly an awe-inspiring structure in cream-colored stone, marble and gold. There have been rumors about a man claiming that he would destroy it and then rebuild it again in three days. Can you believe it? This temple that was begun the same year I was born and still not yet complete, and he claims to be able to rebuild it in three days. It is absolute lunacy!
I was able to witness an interesting incident just the other day. One of those claiming to be a Christian was stoned to death for blasphemy. I am sure you will agree with me that the sooner these Christians are destroyed the better. It is frightening the crowds of common people who are flocking to hear their lies. That these men – several of them fishermen I might add – consider themselves in a position to contradict the religious leaders is unbelievable. As you well know, I have been instructed in the law since a young boy, yet these men have had no training. How dare they consider themselves equipped to teach? Interestingly enough, this man (I cannot recall his name - it is of no import) was extremely articulate in his address to the Council. I cannot but wonder about his background.
I had hoped to visit either the Pool of Bethesda or the Pool of Siloam while here in Jerusalem in the hope of removing that thorn in the flesh that has plagued me since childhood. My dear and trusted friend, you know to what I refer. However my plans now dictate otherwise.
I have sought and been granted permission from the high priest to go to Damascus and take prisoner men, women and children who profess to follow this Christian heresy. We must not allow them to be misled or to mislead others any longer. The traditions of our fathers are at stake. This hated sect must be destroyed. There is no other way.
I leave at dawn via the Damascus gate and travel north, passing over the Golan Heights. My next epistle will be from Damascus where I hope to report that my mission has been successful.
Until then, farewell my faithful friend,
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