Summary: A skeptical reporter talks to the once-blind Bartimaeus about his encounter with the itinerant preacher Yeshua of Nazareth.

Good morning. This is The News Hour with Gaius Petronius, bringing you a special report from the Imperial Province of Judea in Palestine on Tuesday, April 9th, in the 16th year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius. Today we have a newsmaker interview from Jericho, where the notorious Galilean rabbi Yeshua bar Joseph is reported to have healed a blind beggar. First some background from our Middle East correspondent, Quintus Parvo.

Thank you, Gaius Petronius. Crowds have been following this obscure Galilean ever since he first appeared on the Judean political and religious scene about 3 years ago. John the Baptizer, the wild-eyed, flamboyant so-called "prophet" killed last year by King Herod for treason, performed the ritual Jewish rite of cleansing for Yeshua in the river Jordan, just a few miles to the east of this busy Judean market town. Some eyewitnesses claim to have heard a voice from heaven when Yeshua came up out of the river; while this is disputed by impartial observers, there is no doubt that many of John’s followers abandoned him for the new leader. Temple officials from Jerusalem and Roman soldiers from Caesaria have been keeping a close eye on this man; all remember the recent tax revolt which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Judeans. Morale in town and countryside alike remains low, especially in Galilee, long known for producing hotheads and troublemakers, and all large gatherings are strictly monitored for

fear of riots.

So far, however, fears of another such rebellion seem to be wholly unjustified. Yeshua’s followers refer to him as Rabbi, or Teacher, and although there is no evidence that he ever received any formal training, there is no doubt that this Yeshua has an impressive grasp of Jewish religion and history. He seems to spend most of his time healing sick people, and the crowds around him would look more at home in infirmaries than at political rallies. He appears to specialize in exorcisms, although this is not the first reported instance of a blind man recovering his sight. Yeshua preaches simple living, charity and forgiveness; his followers pay their taxes without complaint, and there are unconfirmed reports that he has healed Gentiles - even Roman soldiers - as well as Jews. His teachings seem largely benign, although the temple lawyers complain that he encourages the common people not to respect the law. Many of his followers are women, which is surprising in this part of the world, but they seem to behave very modestly, and there have been no reports of lewd behavior. From what we’ve heard so far, Caesar doesn’t seem to have anything to worry about.

For the last few weeks, Yeshua and his entourage have been moving somewhat erratically toward Jerusalem, for the annual feast of Passover, which draws Jews from all over the world. Tension is always at its height during this time of year; extra soldiers are sent in from the coast and a special effort is made to take known troublemakers into custody before the city begins to fill up. As Jericho is only a couple of day’s walk north of Jerusalem, everyone wants to know what this Galilean Rabbi Yeshua and his crowd are bringing to the city. What can we expect? Who are these people? One of our reporters has been traveling with them, and will bring us up to date.

Thank you, Quintus. It’s been a very interesting week down here with Yeshua and his disciples. There’s a real feeling in the air that something’s about to happen. The teams that were sent out on healing trips at the beginning of the year have all come back, full of stories and adventures, but the 12-man inner circle has been acting very strangely, whispering together in corners, and staring at Yeshua whenever he’s busy with someone else. There have been rumors that the rabbi will announce as the Messiah when they reach Jerusalem, but he refuses to confirm or deny. Everyone is on edge. Last night James and John got into an altercation over which of them was most important, and Yeshua got very upset. He gave them a long lecture, the essence of which seemed to be that even servants were more important than they were. He seems very much opposed to ostentation and display, doesn’t wear expensive robes or jewels, and just last week refused even to see a delegation that wanted to crown him king. One day he alienated a rich young man, a pillar of the local community, who probably could have been counted on for substantial support, and the next day he ate with the local pariah, a tax collector named Zacchaeus, which offended almost everyone else. It really doesn’t look as though this unusual man has any political ambition, but just exactly what he is up to remains unclear. One of the most dramatic events since I’ve been with the group happened yesterday.

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