THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch14 – part 2

THE OPPOSITION – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Jesus continued to teach for another hour, and then he and the disciples left the temple by way of the south gate. Because many of the crowd followed him out, they were not harassed by any of the religious leaders nor temple guards. They followed the columned corridor to the south-west corner of the Temple Mount; went down a short flight of stairs unto a vaulted portico. As they emerged, Cornelius was again treated to a panoramic view of Jerusalem. They stood at the top of a wide avenue of marble steps built to accommodate the incomings and outgoings of large crowds. The marble steps descended about forty feet down to the base of the Temple mount. He went over to the balustrade to get a better view. The first thing that caught his eye was a huge coliseum like structure which was directly below him. Unlike the Great Coliseum in Rome which was round, this one was elongated and was not as high. He estimated that this arena can sit about five thousand spectators. Chariot races are probably the most watched spectacles.

To the left of the arena were the high walls of the City of David. To the right across a deep ditch rose hundreds of dirty white squared buildings of the lower city. His eyes could clearly see the evidence of over population and squalid living conditions. About the same level of where he is standing beyond the lower city are the rich ornately decorated buildings of the upper city. One in particular that stood out was a large Greco-Roman Amphitheater.

Cornelius then followed the others down the wide marble steps to the bottom where they found a busy and noisy market place. Taking advantage of the busy market place, Jesus and his small groups of followers snuck away from the larger crowd that followed him down from the temple.

When they found a reasonably deserted alley, Cornelius went up to Jesus and said, “Lord, I have to go to the Praetorium and report to my superiors.”

“That is alright,” Jesus said. “We will be going to Bethany, to the home of a friend. You may find us at the temple courts in the morrow.”

After receiving directions from Judas Iscariot who knew the city well, he, Jacob, Trax and Cestus worked their way up-hill through the busy narrow streets of the lower city, always keeping the massive western wall of the Temple Mount on their right. The route they took brought them eventually to the low retainer wall of the upper city. They headed towards one of the six gates where there was a long line of people waiting to be questioned by Roman guards. Brandishing his cohort’s insignia and rank that was hidden under his robe, they were able to pass through the gate without being questioned or searched. Again the distinction between the upper city and the lower city was obvious. From dirty smelly narrow streets, they were now walking on clean wide flag-stone streets. The avenue that they were on was mostly lined with merchant shops. Richly robed patrons haggled with merchants over exotic materials from the east, intricately woven rugs from Persia, jewelry, aromatic perfumes and other trinkets. Jacob elatedly found a merchant selling scroll manuscripts of Greek poets and philosophers that the trader have bragged were elaborately copied by the scribes of the Great Library of Alexandria.

After pulling away a much disappointed Jacob from the shop, they eventually reached a tall wall structure with multiple arches. Bolted on one of the arches was a carved sign that read ‘TYROPOEON’ in Greek. As they were walking under one of the arches, Jacob told them that the Tyropoeon^ was originally a deep rugged ravine that in ancient times separated Mount Moriah from Mount Zion. This was one of depressed valleys that were filled in during the time of Solomon. The structure that they were walking under is actually the Zion Bridge that span from the western wall of the Temple Mount to the shiny palaces on Mount Zion. Cornelius also saw that the bridge separated the relatively new buildings of the upper city from what was before them, the old city, original site of Salem. The old city was built on a rolling plain. The streets were narrow and not always going on a straight line. A few times, they found the street that they were walking on stopped abruptly where they would either climb or descend a steep set of rough steps. Eventually, they finally came out onto an open plaza across of which rose the Fortress Antonia.

[ ^ Tyropoeon Valley – (i.e., “Valley of the Cheese mongers”), the name given by Josephus the historian to the valley or rugged ravine which in ancient times separated Mount Moriah from Mount Zion. This valley, now filled up with a vast accumulation of rubbish, and almost a plain, was spanned by bridges, the most noted of which was Zion Bridge, which was probably the ordinary means of communication between the royal palace on Zion and the temple. A fragment of the arch (q.v.) of this bridge (called “Robinson’s Arch”), where it projects from the sanctuary wall, was discovered by Robinson in 1839. This arch was destroyed by the Romans when Jerusalem was taken.
The western wall of the temple area rose up from the bottom of this valley to the height of 84 feet, where it was on a level with the area, and above this, and as a continuance of it, the wall of Solomon’s cloister rose to the height of about 50 feet, “so that this section of the wall would originally present to view a stupendous mass of masonry scarcely to be surpassed by any mural masonry in the world.” ]

Cornelius can appreciate the strategic placement of the fortress which was up against the north part of the city walls. If this city is to come under siege, it can only be here at the north wall. The east, south and west walls are very much protected by inaccessible terrain for large armies and siege machines. Connecting battlements from the north wall to the fortress make it easy for the defenders to quickly take their positions. The fortress itself was a large rectangular keep where the walls and battlements rose just slightly higher than the massive walls of the Temple Mount. But what were even higher were the four large towers built into the four corners of the keep.

They crossed the plaza, and then climbed two sets of wide steps to the top landing. There were two main gates which were on another landing a few more steps up. Before they approached the main gate, Cornelius paused and said to Jacob and Trax, “I am afraid that when we enter there, decorum requires that you both again must give the appearance of being my slaves.”

Jacob was again amused while Trax pouted his disappointment, because as a slave he could not freely explore the whole fortress which he so desired.

Cestus laughed out loud and clapped Trax on the shoulder. “You need not fret, lad. You can accompany me.” Trax beamed with delight.
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The story continues on in my next post.

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