Cornelius

A fictional story about Cornelius a Roman Intelligence Officer ordered to send reports about the state of the Jewish nation in 33AD Jerusalem.                                                                                                  

Jerusalem, old, dirty and dangerous, bit like me really. This is not the ideal place for an Imperial Roman Army Intelligence Officer to end his days. Especially when I have to provide answers for Emperor Tiberius about his wayward son-in-law Pilate.

If only I could be back in the tranquillity of Gaul. At least the peasants there understood that peace is found by the acceptance of Roman authority. If these Jews carry on causing trouble then the whole place will be raised to the ground and what’s more I will advise it.

These fools want to resist Rome, yet are so divided they won’t accept any leader. They want their cake but can’t find a knife to cut it. Given the chance I would hang most of them as high as I did their phantom King.

Caiaphas, the high priest is not trusted, the rebel Barabbas has lost his credibility and they have just had their so-called Messiah killed. This whole place is a snake pit waiting for its next victim.

Caiaphas and Pilate were fools, weak-minded puffed-up pompous tyrants both of them! They should be on their way to Rome, not me! Let them explain their own actions to those scroll hungry senators.

Why should a senate committee want to know about the death of a Jewish prophet? Certainly the man had healing powers. Pilate our esteemed Procurator of Judea was somewhat short sighted in not sending him to Rome. Especially as our seventy three year old Emperor can’t have much longer to live. If Tiberius could be healed then someone would have been made a King.

Still Caesar’s irresponsible lap dog won’t be able to enjoy his protection forever. Then that pack of hyenas will line up Pilate as its prime victim. The old unwanted by the new. I wonder what truth my new masters will want to taste?  Truth needs to be served by a master chef, as a palatable dish. If I say the right things, I might do very well out of all this.

Socrates! How do I draw a line on morality having tasted the poison of truth? And the one time I can milk the cow, I end up with cold hands. Unfortunately self-inflicted treachery won’t allow me to retain any self-credibility and at my stage of life I need that.

Quirinus, of course, he’s the key. My first commander, as sharp as a gladiators trident. Being the senate chairman he’ll want to establish if Roman justice was compromised. His dagger for Pilate will be a little subtler than Brutus’ was for Julius.

Pilate deserves all he gets; he’s an arrogant fool and a bully. The idiot allowed himself to be manipulated and by a High Priest at that. Caiaphas is no better, putting country before people and committing legalised murder. But then Jesus was no king! Kings don’t live and die like he did; no doubt in a few months he’ll be forgotten.

Damn the Gods! I was there! I watched him die, hanging there in indignity and yet, somehow, virtue cloaked the shame. He may be a King to rule hearts, but was rejected because Israel wanted to rule territories instead. He must be the only Jew I’ve known not to incite rebellion against Rome. And our almighty governor rewards him by displaying Roman justice as corrupt, putting him to death with a total contempt for life and innocence. Rome was not established for that.

It was power that killed the republic and now the same thing is killing Rome. Tiberius and the senate have lost the vision. They can’t see it but total authority is beyond morals, those who attain it are seduced into perversion, falsehood and discrimination. Integrity is an unnecessary commodity and individuals, insignificant.

The only real hope for Rome was to educate the empire, then give it away. Rome was the hope of the common man; our ultimate objective was peace and justice. I was drilled to live by the principles of many, today it is live for yourself and let Rome hang. The worst bit is because Rome is hated, every Roman has to bathe in the same water.

The Jews will never be Roman. An odd, separate little race, clever, but far too controlled by their priests and traditions. While the rest of us ask our gods to work for us, Jesus taught that we should work for just one God. We find a purpose for our Gods and his God gives people a purpose. Gets over the problem of ultimate power, umm, attractive but too restrictive.

This message Jesus purported was also attractive. ‘Love God, love each other, live under God’s laws and live forever.’ He argued that our commitment towards god should determine our behaviour, not be decided by the whim of a priest. His naivety led to his downfall.

We’ve all been taught that there are god’s and if you can’t discover which is the right one, then we create one that fits. The god’s of the German Barbarian’s rewarded on how well you killed your enemy, whereas Jesus taught, you had to love your enemy to win life after death’.

Back to this damn report and this reputed, deceased King of the Jews. Named Joshua, a love child of Mary and Joseph. Born and registered at Bethlehem; in the census Quirinus oversaw while governor of Syria. I was there in Bethlehem when he was born.

It was my first assignment after I joined the intelligence unit. All I had to do was sit in an inn and listen. Shepherds came in talking about, Angels singing in the sky, ‘A baby born in the inn compound is the Jewish Messiah’ they said, ‘And we’ve just seen him.’

It had to be investigation, so I slipped outside and found the child, but he was nothing remarkable. The mother was about my age, they were a well off peasant family. His father was a Jewish carpenter who came from the tribe of Judah and the house of David.

My first report filed, laughed at and ignored, even when I added that some astrologists came looking for a child King. And when Herod found out a successor was there, the tyrant ordered the execution of all babies in the town. Jesus, as his name translates to in Greek, escaped and 36 years later in the year of Rome 782 he emerged as a prophet in the hill country of Galilee.

His life was unbelievable! If I write it as it was then it would be my last and like my first laughed at and ignored. The report will be buried and so will I be if I write down all my evidence. Compiling information is fun but writing reports is the intellectuals’ revenge on happiness, still it has to be done.

Jesus, a carpenter from the village of Nazareth in Galilee, head of household, no wife or children, leaves Mother, four brothers and some sisters; a self-made prophet and healer. Many thousands of Jews flocked to him and hailed him as the Jewish Messiah. Law abiding but became a threat to the authority of the religious leaders, crucified aged 38.

Certainly no ordinary person could have done the healings or miracles he was credited with doing. I have reliable informants who state he healed innumerable people, the blind, the lame, lepers and even restored withered limbs. It was claimed he even raised two men and one child from the dead. The witnesses to all these incidents have proved both consistent and reliable. Faldydus, a Centurion in Capernaum, told me, “I asked him to heal my servant and he did, Jesus said, ‘It is done’ and he recovered.”

The miracles being attributed to him were quite unbelievable, changing water into wine, controlling the weather, walking on water and twice feeding thousands of people with just a few loaves and fishes. My best witnesses could not discover any trickery and one of them was me!

If it were all true, then with five thousand men, all fed and immortal, he could take Rome in a few days, perhaps even without a fight.

His teaching was simple, he preached, “Love God, love others as yourself. Follow me and you will come to my heavenly Father and you will live forever.” In Rome his teaching of peace and love, would have him laughed off the Palatine. Yet there was a strength to him that made you want to believe him.

His message wasn’t for me though. My god’s are simple and touchable, a god of trees or of wine, and we can see them as statues. Roman’s have a god for everything, then if you upset one you can always appeal to another.

I couldn’t get my head round it, but he seemed to speak of two gods. A nameless God who created everything good and another called Satan, the evil one, using hate, greed, lies and oppression, dedicated to spoiling everything this good God does. Seems to me our Senate must be Satan’s training ground. Coming from peasant stock Jesus had a rather novel approach, he wanted everyone to be treated the same, politically so naive.

Perhaps I could tell the truth and ruffle a few feathers. Come on Cornelius, make a refreshing change you might enjoy early retirement so write it.

To Quirinus Senate Chairman Report on Jesus who was hailed into Jerusalem as a King, the Jewish people loved him. The priests dare not arrest him even when he challenged their corrupt practices and ejected illegal traders from the temple. This particular disturbance was an internal Jewish incidence; I advised Pilate that Rome should not get involved.

Jesus upset the Jewish leaders by constant criticism and undermining their authority. Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest asked and was given Pilate’s help to arrest Jesus in the middle of the night. Jesus however never incited any anti Roman fervour and most unusually for a Jew acknowledged that Roman taxes were to be paid.

After his arrest his followers betrayed, denied or abandoned him. Caiaphas had him questioned, he was then insulted, beaten and then underwent a mockery of a trial before the Jewish leaders. When asked the question, are you the Son of God? He could have said nothing and under their law walked free. After admitting he was the son of their god, the Sanhedrin had only two options, accept he was their Messiah or have him put to death.

They choose the later but still needed Roman approval and it was then that Pilate became involved. For political convenience Pilate was requested to have him crucified. This was an astute move in trying to make Jesus a criminal and in shifting the blame for his death onto Rome. The reason given was Jewish loyalty to Rome, a contemptible lie. Pilate was told, “Jesus has made himself a King, and Caesar allows no-one to share his throne.”

The Governor questioned Jesus and under Roman law found him innocent of all charges. But to satisfy the crowd’s unwarranted lust for blood, Jesus was given a flogging of 39 lashes. As this did not appease the mob and to avoid a riot Pilate had Jesus crucified.

Jesus was then mocked and abused by our own soldiers and in a very weakened condition he was hung on a cross and died after only six hours. Guards pierced his side confirming he was dead. Jesus was buried and the tomb sealed. Like the Jewish leaders I expected he would soon be forgotten just as smoke drifting away from an extinguished ritual pyre.

He predicted that after three days he would come back to life, so temple soldiers were set to guard the tomb, however the body still went missing. My enquiries led me to understand the guards were paid to say that Jesus’ followers had taken the body. I found no evidence of theft nor have I been able to locate the body.

I vigorously investigated the various sighting that Jesus had been seen alive. On the first day there were three examples: in a graveyard by a wealthy Jewess, on the road to Emmaus by two of his followers and in Jerusalem, by his disciples.

If Jesus did rise again it would be seen as the ultimate proof he was the Jewish Messiah. Jesus predicted he would overcome death and that it would be his greatest miracle!

He was innocent of the charges laid against him and in truth my conclusion must be, ‘I find that Jesus was indeed a prophet. Amazingly just before he died on the cross he prayed to his God, saying, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” I stand by my initial advice that Rome should not have become involved in his death’.

His followers are preaching that he rose from the dead. I find this as yet unproven, however I now need to investigate closely the remnants of the group. It seems that some of them may be portraying the same powers as Jesus and therefore if banished by Caiaphas they may then look to Rome. This is unlikely to have any long-term consequences towards Roman society, but I would recommend caution.

Centurion Cornelius, Italian Legion, Intelligence Section.

 

9 years later when Peter visits him after being asked by Cornelius to come to his home.

Setting Caesarea, the home of Cornelius, a Roman Intelligence’s officer. 42AD

Peter, thanks for coming to Caesarea, particularly as I’m a Gentile. I confirm that I had an  amazing vision to call you here, but you asked me what I knew about Jesus, sorry I’ll use his Jewish name, Joshua.

I was an intelligence officer and made it my business to know about him from his birth to his death, I told Caiaphas and Pilate he was the only Jew I knew not to incite rebellion against Rome, they were afraid for their positions and yes they murdered an innocence man.

but let’s go to the beginning Old Quinny’s was Governor of Syria when I joined the Italian Regiment. Since I could pass off as a native I was sent to Judah to listen to gauge the mood of the people. At the inn in Bethlehem, shepherds came in saying Angles had told them The Jewish saviour had been born there, no-one but me took any interest, but it did start some interesting conversation about prophecies of a Messiah who would sweep away the corruption and us Romans and be a King like David. I went to the stables and saw Joshua, lying in a manger, surrounded by horses, donkeys and a few camels.

I did some digging after that and found out he was a love child of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth.

Anyway I was fascinated and followed them to the temple in Jerusalem. An old priest came over to them and said the child was to be the salvation of all people even Gentiles, then said a sword would pierce the soul of his mother. That came true when she watched him die at the foot of his cross.

They stayed in Bethlehem but a few weeks later some astrologists appeared, they went to King Herod looking for a new born King after they left he ordered the killing of all babies in the town but I know Joshua escaped heading toward Egypt.

I lost track of him but some 35 years later he emerged as a prophet in the hill country of Galilee with you in tow.

Joshua healed my servant and I was in that crowd of 5,000, when everyone was fed. His miracles, his teaching proved he was The Messiah.

It was my own guards who piercing his side to confirm he was dead. When the body went missing I questioned the guards, they admitted the priest had paid them to say that Jesus’ followers had taken the body. I investigated the sighting of Joshua in the graveyard, on the Emmaus road and in Jerusalem, and Peter I even spoke to you. He was The Messiah!

Since then I have tried to live as Joshua taught and now I’ve had this Vision asking you to come here.