Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GREED (avarice, particularly for wealth and things) (01/22/15)
- TITLE: Temple Troubles
By Noel Mitaxa
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It was Josephus ben Camithus―of all the members of the Council. Why had Simeon, his man-servant, admitted him?
Away from his Temple commitments, Caiaphas’ peristylium had become his idyll; an elegant, partly-roofed garden courtyard with columns, benches, a fountain and extra shade from ferns and vines. A setting befitting any wealthy Roman residence―but no statues or images in mosaic floors or wall frescoes here; for not even High Priests could display any suggestion of household gods.
Joseph’s total subservience had now invaded this sanctum, and it was oozing towards him; promising no probing questions like other Council members could provide to sharpen the rebuttal that Caiaphas needed to deliver to the Sanhedrin.
Caiaphas outwardly purred to excuse his frown, “The sun is exceedingly bright today brother Josephus; come sit beside me.” While inwardly, “Best to deal quickly than to waste time plumbing these shallow depths...”
However Josephus’ perpetually-mincing expression masked a surprising grasp of the issue. “Noble Caiaphas,” he began, “Those Galileans have poisoned Gamaliel’s mind! He says we should let them be, lest we be working against the Eternal One―when we priests have more to do with Him than anyone!
“We conduct sacrifices,” he continued, quickly gathering pace. “We select what is worthy of sacrifice; and only the High Priest can enter the Holy of Holies!”
Recalling his own awesomely-indescribable Yom Kippur experience―before the curtain somehow got ripped―Caiaphas nodded. Then inwardly winced as he also relived the weight of his leg-rope―attached so other priests could retrieve him should he be overwhelmed by the glorious Presence.
“Josephus, you speak surprisingly well. Gamaliel’s Pharisees have no generational roots to an irreplaceable Temple which took forty eight years to build. He knows much, much more than he needs to know: like a resurrection idea that those Galileans promote―even though we pushed Pilate into crucifying their leader. More like fancy Greek philosophy than eternal truth to me!”
“Yet Caiaphas, those Galileans are spreading everywhere, while our Sanhedrin of seventy-one members who can only meet in Jerusalem. True, our festivals still capture pilgrims’ hearts, and we have tried hard to make life easier for them and for us.
“Our robes and vessels are expensive to make and to maintain, so we rejoice in how much our annual Temple Tax raises; for every Jewish man contributes his half-shekel; two drachmas or two denarii throughout the Diaspora - not so much a duty as a privilege!
“Our money-exchange agents make collecting the tax here much easier, and they know when to alter the exchange rate if pilgrims are carrying no shekels.”
“That is true Josephus,” replied Caiaphas―reflecting on how well he had married. His father-in-law Annas’ aviary on the Mount of Olives bred perfectly-acceptable doves for offerings. “Pilgrims need no longer burdened by carrying sacrifices. We can assist their desire to offer pure sacrifices by finding faults with any doves they do bring, and selling those we’ve bred. All authenticated by metal leg-bands.
"And if too many pilgrims arrive at the same time, we always have extra leg-bands to clip onto birds we had rejected earlier,” he added with a smirk.
“Until that rabbi took it on himself to drive them out, we could also collect rent from oxen and sheep sellers at the temple. Which only assisted pilgrims who could not handle beasts in the streets between the markets and the altars. What was he thinking?” grumbled Josephus.
“But now he’s gone, thankfully,” mused Caiaphas. “However, this so-called resurrection is a problem. We have not been able to produce his body, and it’s costing us more than we paid the guards at his tomb to say that they’d been asleep when his disciples stole that body.
“The whole story might wear a little thin; but Josephus, I’m deeply concerned. If those Galileans keep persuading people that their Jesus has made an eternal sacrifice, we will be in big trouble. The odd miracle is no problem―I quite welcome blind people not bumping into me anymore; and a few less cripples will make narrow streets easier to negotiate. But if they stop enough people stop coming to make daily or even annual sacrifices we could all be out of a job!
“Joseph the Aramithean told me that he had once heard this Jesus say that he had not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. Imagine that!
“Some fulfilment! What can I tell the Sanhedrin…”
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