A short story by JQuisumbing
Elpida bent down to read the worn out and somewhat small inscription on the base which read “Agnostos Theos”, that is “Unknown God”. Shrugging her shoulders, she went on her way to do her business, forgetting it. But then in a country lane, she found another shrine; then another; then another. For the past month, she had discovered over ten of them mostly in Athens with a few in surrounding villages.
The priests told her that some three generations or so ago, the city was in the midst of a great pestilence. Epimenides of Crete, a prophet of great fame, came to the city at that time. It was he that counseled a rather odd plan after the sacrifices to the other known gods resulted in nothing. Flocks of hungry sheep were to be let loose throughout the city and the surrounding districts. Priests and their acolytes were to follow the sheep and observe them. Epimenides had instructed them to take note of any hungry sheep that stops to rest instead of naturally racing to the fields to graze. He also suggested that the sheep may identify which god was strongly offended by the Athenians. Skeptics were surprised that a great number of sheep did not graze but instead rested in numerous clusters in different parts of the city, none in front of any temple. Wherever the sheep rested, the priests erected an altar and sacrificed them there. Epimenides then declared that the god that was offended was a foreign deity and altars to this god was to be erected. Not long after, the plague ended.
Elpida was so intrigued that she would pester her teachers about this god, but most offered very little. She finally left that temple, moved to Athens and hounded the wise men of the different temples. Many speculated about this god but she was not satisfied. Eventually, her single mindedness for this foreign god had branded her as a heretic and was being driven out of the city. Her relatives told her that maybe she should return to the land of her birth.
“And so, you returned here in Sidon,” said the old cart driver. “I take it your travels down south not once but four times have something to do with your search and ah… for your daughter. How is she?”
“You are perceptive,” she smiled at him. “Before I left her over a month ago, Yllana was showing signs of no more than two evil spirits tormenting her. At times, one or both spirits would cause her to fall on the floor and shake uncontrollably. It was painful to watch. I have seen this before.”
“So have I, especially among the Jews. And I have also heard of a Jewish teacher with wondrous healing power. I take it that was your reason to go south.”
“Yes. I heard from a friend who was recently healed by him and that he was in the Capernaum district. I missed him by a week.”
“So, is there a connection between him and your mysterious unknown god?”
“I will know when he heals my Yllana.”
“When! You sound convinced. Besides the rumors, what made you think that this Jew can do this?”
“This is an even longer story to tell.”
To be continued…
Though this short story is basically fiction, the character of Elpida is based on an actual female personality described in Mark 7. She was a gentile who showed great faith.
There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them were not named at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.
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