Antioch, in the province of Syria, on the 70th year after the birth of our Savior.
I’m a disciple of the great one. For three years, I walked alongside the prophet and saw sparks of divine truth flicker in his eyes. I know of his brisk amble over wastelands and downy green fields, searching for people of a mind to find eternal salvation. He preached the doctrine of brotherly love to the meek as well as to the spiteful—even to those who do not want to understand and are themselves afraid of being understood.
Forty years ago, when I was a young man, I met Jesus of Nazareth on the Jordan River’s banks. Since, I’ve been preaching his doctrine and announcing the Kingdom of God to come. Thus, pagans say that I’m mad. When I pass on to others his message of otherworldly bliss, the rapture of his doctrine overwhelms me: some times, tears of heavenly joy come to my eyes.
To make the world aware of the teacher’s life and of the significance of his words, I’ve learnt these Greek letters that are so widely understood. His life and deeds must not go unrecorded, for what he said is much too important. Most of what has been written in these scrolls has come to me directly, in Aramaic, from the master himself—the two of us had many long conversations under the stars. Kepha, the head of our church, as well as others who knew Jesus, have communicated the rest of the story to me.
The teacher was a sparely built man of normal height who exuded liveliness and good health; he had a ruddy face, dim chestnut-color hair and flashing russet eyes. His dress was a ragged tunic and, in the winter months, he threw over his shoulder a piece of camel hide to wrap his chest and back. His life was serene and he seldom smiled. Everyone saw in his shinning eyes and heard in his plain speech and noticed in his exemplary actions that a great undertaking guided his existence; yet, he bore his closeness to God with great modesty.
Jesus died when he was thirty-three years of age. I can attest to his passing. However, I suspect that only Kepha knew what took place at the end of the fateful day. The teacher had left to Kepha’s discretion the bringing to light—or not— of events that have lain hidden all these years. Kepha, a man of great wisdom, directed me to write the redeemer’s life story many years ago.
We, the followers of the great prophet from Galil, have lived our lives guardedly, through many perils—the commerce of truths is always dangerous and often fatal. Martyrdom seems to chase us implacably. Kepha, for instance, was killed by an order of the Emperor in the city of Rome. Being old now, I expect to wear away soon or to die of persecution. This winter, as it happened during the last year of the great one’s life, I’ve seen snow dust on tree branches and ice on the surface of brooks. During the coming spring, for the last time, I’ll see buds swell on trees and hear birds alight on rooftops, flap their wings and sing. This summer, my hand will have rustled the papyrus for the last time and my mission will have been accomplished. In autumn, my body will be under the earth, covered by fallen leaves, but my soul will have gone to meet the prophet and his apostles in the realm of the Father.
I shall end my account with the death of the teacher, for all life ends that way. An addendum ex post facto of the great master’s earthly existence may come from Kepha’s named successor. Any man who takes Kepha’s place is infallible and must be trusted.