THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 3

The Fort, Bethsaida, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The fort was in shambles. It sat on a low rise that overlooks the lake. Located about three miles from Bethsaida, it’s design is typical of most Roman forts. It was built rectangular with rounded corners and can accommodate six hundred men – two cohorts. This one was built over forty years ago to guard the fertile valley from desert raiders from the east. The walls, made from timber, were supposed to sit above an earth rampart but because of forty years worth of erosion with practically little to no maintenance, Cornelius noted several sagging breaches along all four sides. If they were attacked right now, the fort would be inevitably lost. There are six towers set in intervals along the perimeter but two of them are in such disrepair that it’s not safe to man them. Cornelius didn’t even bother inspecting the ditches outside the walls because they were non-existent.

It’s been two days since they arrived. After Cornelius had a heated discussion with the fort’s commander (who was of lower rank) about the unnecessary destruction of the village’s prayer place – called a Synagogue – and the incredibly shabby condition of the fort, he gave him his relief orders and the next day, the auxiliary troops packed up and left the fort to return to Caesarea Philippi. This left his own troops at least a week’s worth of clean up duty and the proper refurbishment of the fort. Cornelius stood watching the ongoing progress on the third level of the only sturdy structure situated at the center. He heard familiar footsteps approaching.

“How is the work going, Flavius?”

“We are focusing on the outer defenses first. We commandeered over a hundred locals to dig out the ditches. Our own lads are using that dug-up dirt to shore-up the breaches on the earth ramparts. I have men in the forest getting us timber to replace the rotted wood in the palisade and also repair the towers. I figure we will complete the repairs by week’s end.”

“I have to the go and pay my respects to the Tetrarch of the region, Herod Antipas. I’ll be riding to Tiberius.”

“Tiberius?!” Flavius’ eyebrows went up mockingly.

“Yes… he named his city after our glorious emperor hoping to curry more favors. He still hopes that the emperor will give him control of Jerusalem and the Judean region. But the emperor will not give it back to the Herods… ever, I think.”

“Hold on! We are stationed in his region. Do we get ordered around by this… Jew?”

Cornelius was smiling inside. He was tempted to correct Flavius and tell him that the Herods were not really Jews. However, there was a kin relationship. The old Herod king, who ruled this entire region because of his close friendship with Augustus Caesar, was originally Idumean. In the first book of Moses, the miracle son of Abraham and Sarah was Isaac. He married Rebekah and gave him twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob became Israel, the chosen of God. And Esau became Edom, the rejected. There was enmity between the two brothers that have been passed on to generation after generation. Idumeans are the final descendants of Esau. It is ironic, Cornelius thought to himself, that Esau’s desire was to rule it over Israel. Generations later, his descendants succeeded.

“No! We are here to keep the peace. Our presence is for show only. We are a reminder to Herod that Pontus Pilate is the Governor,” Cornelius said. He then turned and walked towards the stairs that led to his quarters. “I will take Cestus with me and twenty cavalrymen. You get them ready to ride in half an hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

When they descended into the second floor, just as Flavius was about to go down to the ground floor, Cornelius turns to him and said, “Oh, Flavius… try not to lose the fort while I am gone.”

Flavius laughed as he went down the steps. Cornelius walked briskly down the corridor and entered his quarters. Jacob had laid out his formal armor. He cringed a little at the prospect of wearing that heavy armor which is good only for pomp and ceremony. He also noted with trepidation that the red cape was laid out as well. “Jacob?” he called.

His old tutor came from a curtained alcove with Trax obediently following. They then started to help him put his armor on.

“I will be gone for two days. Why don’t you go to the village and visit your kin? And to keep this rascal out of trouble, bring Trax with you.” Cornelius playfully shoved him away. Trax clapped in excitement and grinned.

“It will be good to visit my brother.”

“While you are at it…” He goes to a heavy chest and pulled out a pouch of coins. “Find the elders of the village and give them this. There should be enough there for them to rebuild their Synagogue.”

“You are a good man, Cornelius.” He did not think so. His motives for the money is to work his way into the hearts of the locals, so he can spy on them better. Jacob noticed him brooding in thought. “Is it right with you, my boy? Are you worried about something?”

He shook his head clear and smiled reassuringly. “I am fine, my old mentor.”

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 2

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ENCOUNTER WITH A PROPHET

Galilee

A whistle was blown below. The men were picking up their gear and moving back into formation. Jacob went back to the wagon he rode with Trax. Cornelius got back on his horse and rode at the head of the column. As he rode, he thought more on the son of this impossible virgin birth whose name would be Immanuel. He learned early on when studying Scriptures, to pay special attention to the meanings behind names. Immanuel in Hebrew means ‘with us is God.’ There is no other way of interpreting these words. God will be born among men and the sign for mankind will be that His birth will be through a woman who have not known any man. Impossible as it sounds, Cornelius thought it made sense. He recalled another impossible occurrence in the book of Moses where God intervened and caused the barren wife of Abraham to give birth in her eighties. This was written as fact, as something that had already happened. There were a lot more supernatural events recorded in the Scriptures. Others would say that they were nothing more than tall tales… exaggerations, but not him. In his heart, he always believe them to be true.

 

A few hours later, the column reached the crossroads. To the right, the road goes to the city of Capernaum. According to Jacob, it is the trading center of the Galilee region with a population of thirty thousand people. The column turned left on a bridge over the Jordan River toward the village of Bethsaida. Bethsaida is a farming and fishing village with an estimated population of about four thousand people mostly Galilean Jews. The main village is about a mile from the lake and is enclosed by a perimeter wall. However, the fishing community preferred to keep their homes closer to the water where their boats lie on the pebbly shoreline.

The road they were on went through the main village then out the east gate. As Cornelius rode through the gate, he noted how the populace watched him and the column with outright disdain. The other towns and villages they went through, the people mostly stared with blank faces, but here their looks can almost be construed as rebellious. The reason becomes clear as the column enters the village square. The column came upon a crowd of angered men and weeping women. But they were not looking at his column. Their focus were mostly on a squad of thirty auxiliary soldiers** who were tearing down an unrecognizable building. But Cornelius figured by the reaction of the crowd that this building was significant to them. He signaled for the column to continue on through the crowd. The crowd who then realized that a greater number of Romans were there, began to disperse fearing greater violence. As his column marched by, he called to one of the Legionaries that always stayed with Cornelius.
** auxiliary soldiers are Roman Legionaries made up of foreign descent

“Cestus. You come with me,” ordered Cornelius “The rest of you march ahead with the column”

Legionary Cestus was a head taller than him. He was a veteran of the Spanish campaign and was one of the survivors who closely fought side by side with Cornelius in the trap that almost decimated their whole unit. Ever since then, he loyally followed Cornelius. Still on his horse, Cornelius rode through the remainder of the crowd with Cestus making way for him. He approached the soldiers that were tearing down the building.

Cestus then snapped to attention, took two steps ahead of Cornelius and with a commanding voice he shouted, “Auxiliaries! Cease what you are doing, NOW!”

The soldiers realized the presence of an officer, they halted in what they were doing.

“Who is in charge here?” Cornelius asked looking around menacingly.

Two soldiers stumbled out of a house hurriedly fixing their clothes. A sobbing sound can be faintly heard coming from the inside of that same house. An elder woman that was held back by some men of the village quickly dashed to the house and entered it. A scream of agony was heard within. Cornelius kept his focus on the approaching men, one of them clearly the squad leader – an optio.

“Sir!” They came to attention and saluted sloppily.

“What occurred here?” asked Cornelius. “Why was this place torn down by your men?”

“Your honor, serr. We were ordered to by our commander,” the squad leader spoke with a deep accent of that of a Syrian descent.

“Why?”

“Serr, one of our patrol was ambushed by Jewish rebels. The commander believes them from here. So, we destroy their praying place.”

“I see,” Cornelius could not fault them for following orders. “Well, you completed your task. You are done here!” He then turns to Cestus, “Cestus, take command of this men.”

“Auxiliary!” Cestus called in a commanding voice, “Alright lads. Form up into three lines and get ready to march like real Legionaries.”

“Halt!” Cornelius pointed at some of the men who were going to gather some bundled items that came from the collapsed building. He saw among the loot a large bounded scroll nicely covered in deep colored felt trim with silver tassels. He recognized what it was. It was the holy copy of the Scriptures, the Torah. He ordered, “No loot today. These items stay!”

The soldiers grumbled but they quickly went silent when the hulking figure of Cestus stared them down. The auxiliary unit was soon filing by, joining the column. Cornelius scanned the crowd until he spied a cluster of elderly men helping another older man sitting on a bench nursing a bleeding cut on his head. Cornelius called to them in Hebrew, “Please, take back what was taken.”

He did not wait for them to respond. He wheeled his horse around and went to the head of the column at a trot.

 

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 1

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Galilee

The Cohort actually made good time. Four days out from the Phoenician city, Cornelius could just make out the inland sea, the Sea of Galilee. Of course, the sea was really a great lake of fresh water. From North to South, it is about thirteen miles in length then eight miles at its widest. The column of three hundred soldiers have been traveling on a caravan route following the tributary, Jordan River, which feeds the north side of the lake. The column halted and the men were lying about on the sides of the track getting some well earned rest. As they rested, Cornelius was standing on a shelf just above the track with a panoramic view. To the north were the Lebanon mountains. To the east was a wilderness of rocky hills, canyons and deserts. Then to the south toward the inland sea on the east side of the river, lies the lush green farm lands of Bethsaida. They were on the west side of the river following the rough craggy hills of the Galilee region. Though he could not make it out yet, his destination is a fort made by the first expeditionary Legion that conquered this land some fifty years ago. The fort lies about a few miles east of Bethsaida.

Cornelius saw Jacob climbing the shelf to join him.

“Look there, Jacob,” Cornelius pointed. “You are almost home.”

“I think I still have kin in Betsaida, farmers and fishermen both. I wonder if my brother is still living in Capernaum?”

“I have important work to do here, Jacob. They are your people and I am coming here as their conqueror and as another Roman oppressor.”

“An oppressor, yes. But that is not new for the people especially for those of us in the north part of the old kingdom. After the last exile into Babylon, those of my people who returned to Judah to rebuild the Holy city also remembered the lands of Zebulun & Nephtali, the lands of our ancestors. So, when the holy city was done, my family and many more returned to this area but the lands were already occupied by gentiles. There were some of the Israelites that were not exiled, the Samaritans, but they forgot the traditions of our people and generations of them intermarried with gentiles. Today, there is still deep enmity between our peoples. Anyway, we did re-establish the many settlements that were lost to us but had to learn to live with the gentile communities for they were protected by Persia at the time. Eventually, we became an independent province again but we were conquered by the Greeks, Egyptians and finally the Romans. So, we are not strangers to oppression but yet there is hope.” Then Jacob noticed Cornelius’ brooding look. “I have known you since your childhood. I have watched you grow into the man that you are today. I have surmised the difficult task you have to undergo to fulfill the orders of your superiors. I know you will be torn inside. All I can say is that when I chose bond servitude to you, it means I will support you. Does that help?”

Cornelius nodded and smiled.

“Now, how goes your study of the Prophet Isaiah?

“I have to reread the first quarter again. I did read something odd, though. ”

“What is that?”

“King Ahaz was king of Judah and it was reported to him that the king of Aram had made an alliance with the king of Israel. Both kings waged war against Jerusalem at that time. The Lord had prophesied to Ahaz that Judah will prevail against them and revealed a future that sixty five years from then both Aram and the north kingdom of Israel will be no more.”

“Yes, I recall that passage.”

“Right after that, God spoke to Ahaz again and gave him an opportunity to ask the Lord for a sign… which Ahaz foolishly did not ask, inviting a scathing rebuke. Then God gave him a prophesy anyway of ‘a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.’* I’m a little puzzled by this prophecy. I am not sure if this is literal or figurative.”
* Isaiah 7:14 NASB

“When it comes to prophecy, my boy, expect it to be both.”

“If it is literal, how can a virgin be with child?”

“I’m afraid I cannot answer that. It is an impossible mystery. However, when it comes to the impossible, it clearly belongs in the purview of the Spiritual. To be candid, I don’t think you or I will ever be a witness to any of the prophesies. I have been in this life for over sixty years, I have not seen any fulfillment. But I can hope.”

 

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

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Johann Q

 

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 6

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Tyre

General Gaius was a burly man in his mid fifties. He was reviewing some dispatches when Arturos and Cornelius entered his tent.

“Gentlemen, stand at ease,” said the General. He read for another minute or so. Then he stood up, walked around the table and greeted both men with the shake of their hands. “Centurion, you have come highly recommended from your last commanding officer and Tribune Arturos. Also, I believe I met your father one time or another.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You are probably wondering how you have rated the senior rank of Primus Pilus at your age?”

“The thought did occur, sir.”

The General walked over to a large map of Palestine and the surrounding region. “Our Governor General is the prefect of this entire region.” The General was gesturing on the map from north area of the Lebanon all the way down to the Red Sea and Egyptian border of Gaza. “Do you see the problem?”

“Sir, that is a large area to cover with only our twelve cohorts that we brought in plus the eight cohorts that were already here.” Arturos said.

“Precisely, gentlemen. The territory is about the size of over a fourth of Italy but worst since the entire eastern border is open with the Jordan River valley as the only natural barrier. The main problem for the moment is not external. It is internal,” he said tapping in the Judean part of the map.

“This country is riddled with rebellion,” said the General as he sat back at his table. He picked up a scroll and opened it. “According to this, our forces had to quell about thirty uprisings since the old Herod died. The last one was just two years ago. An upstart called Bar-Jesus who claimed to be the Jews’ messiah was able to recruit the gullible fanatics… they call themselves zealots… and it were they that almost brought the populace to rebel almost successfully that the eastern trade to the empire was disrupted. It was by sheer luck that this Bar-Jesus was inept in his own country’s politics. It was the greed of the Jewish leadership that gave up his hide out and we were able to quash this rebellion. A thousand crucifixions still line the north caravan road to Jerusalem. But most of the zealots have blended back among the masses. We don’t know who they are.”

“This is where you come in, Cornelius” said Arturos.

“Me? How so, sir?”

“The Tribune came to us and said that not only can you speak the language of the Jews but you have a working knowledge of their culture and religion. An education that took up most of your youth. That makes you an expert. With what your former commander have written on his assessment of your command capabilities and your specialized education, the Governor had approved your advancement and commissioning you with a very important assignment.”

“General, I am gratified to serve. What are my orders, sir?”

“The Emperor Tiberius has his eyes on us. Pontus Pilate must succeed in not just subjugating this province but to prosper it. He will need up to date intelligence. He must not be caught unaware like his predecessor. You requested to garrison in the region of Galilee. That is good. That area is currently a hotbed of zealot activity. Root them out, Centurion. Establish a base of operation there. Get us that intelligence. The Governor will be at Caesarea Philippi for a year or so. Then he will take residence in Jerusalem.” He reached into a drawer and took out a short white baton with a silver wolf emblem on its crown and handed it to Cornelius. “This will give you governorial authority to make request of any military command in this region.” He hands a sealed leather bound packet. “Here are your orders and signet ring. Any questions?”

“Where will you be, General?”

“While the Governor is up north, I will be at the port city of Caesarea down south. I will sail with the fleet in a forth night. Dismissed, gentlemen.”

Cornelius and Arturos saluted and then exited his tent.

As they were walking slowly back to their respective tents, Arturos broke the silence. “Well, Cornelius, it seems that you got your wish to be assigned in the Galilee region. I’m a little concerned about this assignment. This assignment can make or break your career. The General didn’t say it outright but the implication is clear. Failure is not an option especially for you. And lately, I could not help but notice that you have been occupied with something.”

Cornelius paused and was about to reveal his thoughts but instead… he said, “No problems, Tribune. I will not fail.”

“Very well, Cornelius. The gods seem to favor you. So, let us hope that you will be successful in all the things you do.”

‘The gods,’ thought Cornelius. In his mind, he really is having a hard time believing that the gods have any influence at all. In about a week from now, he will be in a land where the people were given a promise of true hope by a god that supposedly has no equal. He will find out the truth.

 

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

 

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 5

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Tyre

Cornelius saw that his ship was steering to shore north of the city. He saw anchored in a wide bay many other Roman ships busily unloading supplies and men unto a flotilla of small boats going back and forth to the shore. The other ships of his fleets were beginning to weigh anchor too but not his galley and the two other large galleys. All three ships had furled their sails and started to row closer to shore. At first, he thought the ships were going to be beached, then he saw several floating piers jutting out from the shore. His ship steered itself to one. Flavius who had come up to join him at the bow pointed at the pier ahead. Cornelius had to shade his eyes and peer at what he was pointing at. He finally focused on an officer waiting for his ship to dock. It was his commanding officer, Tribune Arturos, who arrived days earlier with the other three cohorts that sailed ahead of them.

Tribune Arturos was the son of a senator and belonged to one of the high class families of Rome. When Cornelius met him for the first time, he was unsure of the ways of the military. But he liked him. Unlike some high born commanders, he was not haughty and he was willing to learn. Eight months in, training and commanding two cohorts, Cornelius felt he will be a good commander.

“It looks like our young Tribune did not farewell on the sea voyage here,” commented Flavius with a little humor.

Cornelius smiled a little as he saw that Arturos’ armor was noticeably larger for his wiry body. He took a mental note to speak with Arturos that he does not have to use that ornately decorated breast plate except for ceremonial purposes.

“Flavius, you better get our standard ready. Looks like, we will be going formal.”

The ship gently moored itself on its port beam and the sailors secured the gang lines. Then they laid out the gang plank. Flavius, two other sub-officers and the cohort’s Signifer, a legionary garbed with a gray wolf head and pelt over his armor stood attention by the gang plank waiting for Cornelius. The Signifer carried the standard – a tall staff with the cohort’s emblem on the top. The emblem had the carving of Rome’s eagle encircled by a wreath. There were four medallions in a line below the main emblem. Cornelius put on his helmet and worked his way to mid-ship where they waited. Then they followed him off the ship. They formed up and together in step, they marched toward the awaiting Tribune. Then they stopped in precision. Cornelius saluted by banging his right fist against his chest then extended it with his palm facing out.

“Hail, Tribune.”

“Hail, Cornelius,” smiled Arturos as he reached out to shake Cornelius’ forearm. “Well met, indeed. How was the journey?”

“We encountered a storm last week but no ships lost. How was your trip over?”

“I don’t mind telling you. I was sick all the way until we arrived two days ago.” Both of them laughed about it. “The camp is only three miles up the coast. The city of Tyre is about twelve miles south. City is off limits by order of the governor.”

“Tribune?” asked Flavius. “Why did we have to land here? I thought there was a Roman port farther south. What was the name of that port?”

“Caesarea,” answered Cornelius.

“Governor Pontus Pilate wanted to hold court at Caesarea-Philippi in the mountains of Lebanon. Tyre was a lot closer than our base down south. So far, our three cohorts plus five other auxiliary cohorts will bolster the old Ninth Legion there. The rest of the fleet with the rest of our forces will sail south tonight and garrison Caesarea. Meanwhile, Flavius, you disembark the rest of our men from those ships and get them settled at our camp. Cornelius, you and I have a meeting with General Gaius tonight.”

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 3

 

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Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Palestine

The fleet sailed a southerly course hugging the coastline on their left for better half of a day. Cornelius returned to the bow and watched the sparse land slowly passing by. The land revealed mostly high sandy dunes going down to the water. There were also clusters of short gnarly trees breaking the monotony of sand and rocks.

Cornelius heard heavy steps approach behind him. “The master of the ship says that we have another hour or so before we spot our destination.” The one who spoke was another Centurion.

“How are the men, Flavius?”

“Only two or three are still wrenching from the rough seas we went through yesterday. Most of the men are fairing well but everyone are eager to reach land after three weeks in this bucket.”

“Get the men ready.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cornelius cast his eyes out at the passing barren coast again then lost himself in thought. He was always deep in thought contemplating on the things of life. Even as a child, he would often go off by himself to just think instead of playing. Lately, he had been wrestling with questions of meaning. The search for meaning started when Cornelius was a survivor of his Roman unit that was almost slaughtered by barbarians in the mountains of Spain.

He was an officer under a commander who had no military experience and only attained his office because of his family’s wealth. He was leading about 150 men in search of a brigand tribe that have been harassing Roman villages in Spain. The commander had heard that the marauders eluded him into a canyon. Elated, he ordered his whole unit to quickly march in after them. Cornelius pleaded with him to send in scouting parties first but the commander wanted a surprise attack and a quick victory. But it ended up being a disastrous trap. More than two thirds of the unit were slaughtered including the inept commander. Cornelius then rallied the survivors and fought their way back out of the canyon. He lead them to a nearby mountain lake where a small rocky knoll jutted out on a finger of land onto the water. He saw that the knoll can be defended because there was only one narrow entrance with water and rocky shelf on both sides. But out of the forty men left, only fifteen were still able to bear arms. The rest were wounded with only a few who can shoot arrows. So, he ordered the wounded to the top of the knoll. Cornelius and the remaining men barricaded the narrow track with a couple of big drift wood trunks and some boulders that were easy to roll. They used the extra shields of the wounded and embedded them in a line to form a crude shield wall. By the time of the first attack, they were ready. The barbarians rushed the narrow track but only six to seven can hit the improvised shield wall at a time. Some tried to attack through the water but were hindered by mud and deadly arrow shots. For two days the attacks were repelled and dead bodies were so piled up high that the attackers had to climb over their dead comrades to get to the defenders who fought back ferociously. But Cornelius and the remaining ten soldiers that were still able were exhausted. When he saw the barbarians form again, he knew they were all as good as dead. But no attack came, instead the leader came to shouting distance and called to Cornelius. The leader spoke. Though Cornelius could not understand the language, the intent of the leader was clear when he saluted Cornelius with his weapon. Then he and his marauders disappeared into the dense forest. When reinforcement finally arrived, Cornelius moved among the dead barbarians and his men. He looked at their calm but dead faces and saw that there were no real differences between his men and theirs. So, he asked himself why? Why do men have to die like this? Why did this have to happen? All sorts of why questions raced through his mind but one kept coming back to him even unto this day, ‘why am I still alive?’

When he returned to his home in Italy after four more years in Spain, he confided with his tutor and mentor, Jacob.

“You are not alone in your search,” Jacob said. “I am afraid the gods of Rome will provide you with no answers that will satisfy your desire for the kind of enlightenment you seek.” Cornelius saw a twinkle in his old teacher’s eye and knew what was coming next. “However, the One true God may provide you the answer.”

Cornelius, of course, had decided to study more what the Scriptures had to say.

“Since you were a boy, you have studied and even mastered the books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and the collected histories of the Kings of Israel. The love of history was always your strongest suit. Of course, keeping you awake in the study of the Psalms and the books of Wisdom was always trying. I have to admit that as a boy, I too struggled with the songs, but I persevered and gained a closeness with my God especially when I sing the songs in prayer. You should try it. However, I know you are more into the intellectual and not much into the spiritual. But it is in the spiritual that you’ll gain your answers. The writings of the Prophets is where you and I must venture.”

“You?” Cornelius asked quizzically.

“Of course, my boy,” Jacob said delightedly. “Besides, it had been ages that I closely studied the Prophets. We can journey together.”

“Tyre ahead”, a shout came from above.

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The story continues in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 2

Chapter 1 – Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Palestine

“My inquiries have come back from the Senate,” he spoke in a conspirator voice. “The governor general position of Syria and Palestine had been given to Pontus Pilate.”

“I don’t know him,” Cornelius said.

“I met him once in Rome. He is a career politician who is also trying to impress Tiberius and the Senate. The talk is that with the volatility of that region… with its increasing insurgent problems and foreign intervergence, the eastern trade supply had been steadily strangled. For Pilate, this governorship may be a career maker or breaker. He is taking a real risk.”

“Father, what have you heard about my sudden promotion? I don’t think I am senior enough in the roster to merit the Primus Pilus position.”

“All I know is that a General Gaius had put in the request. I remember meeting him many many years ago. He was a Tribune then but quite popular among the public masses because he also rose through the ranks.”

“General Gaius is in command of my division. I don’t remember ever meeting him in Spain nor in Rome,” Cornelius sat down on a marble bench. “So, why would he petition for my promotion especially a rank usually reserved for men in their fifties.”

“Ah remember… this rank is also awarded to those who have special skills. I believe you have been chosen for a task that is unique only to you. This assignment may advance you or break you. Be wary.”

“Be wary,” Cornelius repeated to himself as he stared from the bow of the ship blankly looking out into a foggy sea.

 

“The wind!” A voice shouted from the stern which brought Cornelius out of his deep thoughts to the present. He looks around as several commands were shouted unseen from the stern and he watched the sailors run to their stations; a number of them climbed the rigging like monkeys. Then they would precariously crawl out to the ends of the yard arm with both ends extending out about thirty feet from the center. The massive sail unfurled which slowly expanded and fluttered in the wind. Things became clearer as the fog swirled away and steadily dissipated. Cornelius could now just make the other ships in the fleet. The galley started to roll on increasing swells. Another unseen command was given and sailors as well as loitering legionaries from his own command were mustered roughly into two line on opposite sides of the ship. One line faced the stern with each man grasping a thick rope. The other line was facing the bow also grasping a rope.

The command was given. “Heave!”

The two lines started to move in the respective direction with every hand pulling and grunting. Cornelius looked up as the yard arm ponderously pivoted to the port side in a more or less 45 degree angle allowing the fluttering sail to suddenly balloon as it caught the wind. Another command was given and the ropes were secured. Cornelius felt his balance shift as the ship picked up speed. The other sail smaller than the first was also set until it too billowed into the wind.

Cornelius turned again and looked out into a hazy horizon. He knew there is land there and sure enough a voice from above, a look-out on the crow’s nest, on top of main mast hailing, “Land ho!”

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The story continues in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q