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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (11/21/13)

TITLE: Courtyard Collusion
By Noel Mitaxa


Sensing the tension building among his fellow scholars, Zebedee decided to call a halt, “Brother Pharisees, let’s break from our scrolls for today. But please, Brother Asher, a word with you.”

The men all rose at various speeds, tucking their scrolls under their elbows and ensuring that all phylacteries were securely strapped to their foreheads, before filing out of the synagogue with Jairus leading the way.

Watching them leave, Zebedee nodded for Asher to follow him into the courtyard, where a canopy of vines shaded two long benches from the afternoon heat.

“How has Brother Jairus caused you to seethe at him throughout our discussion?” he asked his younger colleague, as they reclined onto the seats.

“Because he returns to us just two days after that Nazarene carpenter has been in his house—when we all know that guy is nothing but trouble!”

“That Nazarene healed his daughter Talitha; so everyone can finalise her dowry. Is this so bad?”

“But this fuss over a daughter; when the scriptures declare the greater blessing of sons?”

“Asher, how foolish are you? How can we be blessed by sons unless daughters become women—and then become mothers to those sons?

“Jairus should avoid that Nazarene carpenter,” Asher replied, gathering momentum. “He’s bad news—wandering in from the hill country with none of our rabbi-school credentials—and low-lights are flocking to him. He claims to explain laws that the Almighty handed down to Moses: yet he ignores our Mishnah writings; he refuses to quote our Talmud’s oral traditions; he subverts four hundred years of the studies that have been our devotion since the Eternal One last spoke through Malachi! And to think that Jairus would welcome him …”

“Brother Asher, we can all keep an eye on Jairus,” commented Zebedee, “but this carpenter’s evil influence is spreading much wider…

“I was following the crowd to Jairus’ house, when the carpenter suddenly stopped. ‘Someone touched me!’ he called out. Imagine that—with everybody pushing to get up close and personal? Even one of his fishing buddies queried him.

“But he stayed put; until a woman shuffled forward. She was clearly afraid, and when she lifted a veil from her face, I knew why. We had declared her unclean twelve years ago; yet there she was, with no right to leave her house! She knew she was breaking our Law, but this carpenter suddenly told the whole crowd that her faith had somehow made her well!

“Is he now a doctor who stops blood flowing, and overrides our ritual cleanliness?” glowered Asher. “What’s next? Will Gentiles now start claiming equal blood links to the Almighty to our own—when we are called to be the light to these Gentiles!

“This carpenter tells clever sob stories about lost sheep, or lost sons, or corrupt judges…” His tone turned to ice. “But how can he know about judgement, when he consorts with harlots and tax-collectors? He even calls himself bread for life. Will his followers become cannibals?

“He also claims to be a good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Good shepherd, hey? He pretends to know about sheep, and so mild. Bah, I’d say the sooner he lays down his life the better,” he spluttered, “not just for his sheep, but for all of us!”

A smile lightly traced Zebedee’s face. “It looks bad, Brother Asher; but my cousin Jethrah brings good news from Jerusalem. He works as a scribe with Gamaliel’s Sanhedrin Academy, where a young scholar shows an outstanding grasp of the Law and its interpretation. Some very sharp-minded young disciples are taking his lead, and together they are mercilessly dismantling all arguments. They have become so skilful in tracking down and exposing bad doctrines and concealed sins, that they've been dubbed The Sleutherans! Gamaliel is convinced that they will also expose this Nazarene carpenter as the wolf in sheep’s clothing that he’s proving to be; so his disciples will also disperse.”

“Does this young Sleutheran have a name?” Asher’s features were also beginning to soften.

“Yes, his name is Saul and he hails from Tarsus; to the north of here in the province of Cilicia.”

Saul—how appropriate, thought Asher, just like our first king; a man who stood head and shoulders to rule over the house of Israel. Hah! Maybe we Pharisees will also stand tall and rule once again; after Saul puts this false prophet in his place...

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This article has been read 562 times
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LaVonne Wood 11/29/13
This is a different way of looking at it- Jesus being the wolf in sheep's clothing. I guess maybe those who are deceived may think so.

You have a good imagination of how the conversation might go back them. Good job!

Did you mean "low-life's" instead of "low-light's?"
Blessings, LaVonne
Joe Moreland11/30/13
This one confused me a bit with the dialogue. Simply because you move back and forth between a more modern style voice (things like "this guy" and "buddy") and a more period style of speech - sometimes in the same speech. That makes it more difficult to follow.

The idea of the article is an excellent one, and I love stories that reveal a "behind the scenes" look at how people may have reacted to biblical events. Your characters were good ones, but in the end I had a tough time getting past the back and forth nature of their voices. Others, I'm sure, won't be so distracted by it, but I'm an old scriptwriter, so I'm extra-sensitive about it, I guess.

Thanks for sharing, though. Your story made me go back and re-read this portion of scripture and see some things I never noted before, so excellent job!
Graham Insley11/30/13
An excellent slant on topic; from a Pharisee's point of view of course.

I saw the irony of the argument from a different perspective to the one I am used to; which is why you refered to the Screwtape Letters I guess. I think you did an excellent job of that.

My red ink is that I found it difficult to read and understand 'who' was talking; and even going back over it slowly I lost track until I finally figured it out.

Perhaps part of this was the mix of contempory and older style speech, as mentioned before.

Maybe a sloution would be transitions that show Asher is still speaking. ( His voice quickened as his anger rose, "“This carpenter tells clever sob stories...") for example.

I also really enjoyed the irony of joyful anticipation in your ending. Poor Asher, such disappointment awaited him.
lynn gipson 11/30/13
I thought this was excellent and had no trouble reading the conversation as you placed the quotation marks in just right places. I enjoy reading stories like this because I can put the characters in place with bible verses. I liked that the end lead up to the story of Saul. Excellent.
C D Swanson 12/02/13
A really clever and attention getting entry! Excellent job. Loved the different perspective and POV. Really beyond clever.

God bless~
C D Swanson 12/05/13
Congrats Noel! God bless~
Danielle King 12/05/13
I like these stories of yours. The different perspective gives me a fresh understanding of daily life in those days. I had no problems in understanding the dialogue and your little trademark words, like Bah, are reassuring. Congratulations on yet another EC!
Ellen Carr 12/06/13
Congratulations on your EC for this entertaining recounting of the Bible story. Already knowing who the author was,I was waiting for some puns. Calling Saul's group the 'Sleutherans' was an interesting choice! Well done!
Bea Edwards 12/15/13
Oh this was a spectacular dialogue and contained so many of the actual occurrences that might have enraged the religious leaders. And then the icing on the cake was your allusion to Saul of Tarsus. Woo hoo thanks for this wonderfully crafted piece.
Bea Edwards 12/15/13
Oh this was a spectacular dialogue and contained so many of the actual occurrences that might have enraged the religious leaders. And then the icing on the cake was your allusion to Saul of Tarsus. Woo hoo thanks for this wonderfully crafted piece.