Epistle Sent To Jesus From A Jewish Rabbi Who Knew A Certain Woman Taken in Adultery
Barlevim, son of Enosh, to Jesus the Galilean, Hail.
Much has been said of your teachings among us, and concerning your actions the people have spoken much. Though I cannot hear your public speeches, I have carefully weighed all the reports I hear of them. On one hand, these reports often are filled with many innovations and fables, on the other hand, I judge these to be added by the people and the priests who in modern times have been infected with the decadence of Babylon. I know the time comes when we shall be loosened from this exile, and I judge that you and the other prophets will make straight the paths to the ransomer and King promised by our fathers.
Many of the innovations I have heard in your words are clearly children’s fables, that you clearly have never said. Yet there is one story upon which many in my town have borne witness, and upon which many have given the same report. Let it not be said that I follow the vain imaginings of the people, but I must seek from you the exact retelling, for your doctrine is in danger of total destruction from the rumors which now afflict it.
There is a certain woman in this town whose father* was well known to me. On many occasions, this very father sought me, afflicted by the dishonor she would be spreading to her kin. Long before this woman came to the age to be given [in marriage] even then she was of wanton life. She joined herself to many shamefully and would “lie in wait for many on the low roads”. She afflicted her father to betroth her to an unfortunate man, one who would not deal with her according to the way of our fathers. Few came to the feast, for fear of being seen with her, and in sorrow that the pairing was so cursed before the law. Neither did her life become justified from the wedding tent. Still she carried on in secret with strange men, some of the tribe, others even of the nations. As often as she would be suspected or her shame known to us, so often her husband would refrain from the law. Her words “had made him as a broken urn”, and “he was carried away in the nights weeping on his couch”. Yet only to me did he tell his sorrow. The people of the town thought him the greatest of fools, a man most cursed. His afflictions struck him with rot of the belly, and a trembling of the vaporal humors. He took to wine and his afflictions progress even unto death. It was I who first decided to call her before the law.
The circumstances of my decision were these. In the time of the last moon, I found her husband in that place**. He had torn himself with his grief, and was not able to speak. I forced the story from him only through his broken speech. The details are unspeakable, though by this time it is clear that even you have heard of them.
It was I who forced him before the judges to tell his story. This woman had far exceeded the seven times we are called upon to look away; she was long cast aside in the eyes of the Blessed who sees all. The judges met in counsel and decided to delay the judgment another three days. I thought this was a foolish move, for all knew of your intent to come to our town at that time, and I thought that this matter should be dealt with quietly. They denied my wishes by bringing her before you. This could only add to her husband’s shame and disgrace. In the time the woman was being held, I am told she wept many tears. These were all, in truth, false, for a false woman is as rot to a man’s bones. One of the guards, knowing her shameful acts, claimed she tried to seduce him in the prison.
The tales of her meeting you are ever present now, yet the priests, and the other literate men who were there will say nothing. I can only discern from what I see that you did not render to her the appropriate judgment of the law. But that is to be expected. In these modern times, the law has been forgotten by so many that to abide by our the clear Laws of our Fathers would leave all the nations under the sword. It is prudent to leave the enforcement of the law to the most extreme cases, given the Roman dictum. It was not fair to you that you should judge this case, for none but He Who Sees All could immediately discern all the evil and wickedness that I have seen in this woman. No one who truly knows her could turn his face from her crimes.
I write you this that you might reconsider your judgment, which was clearly made without knowledge of all this woman’s crimes. I have had much respect for your doctrine, and I have tried to help you from falling into utter disrepute. I have made it clear to all that you are a Galilean, living some three days away. You were clearly unable to know the true squalor and filth of this woman’s life, unable to know the lives she has ruined, the families she has rent asunder, the children she has so disgraced. I ask that you return to give a second judgment, one that will give to her what she has merited through her actions.
Notes from translator:
* “father” or “legal custodian” the word is ambiguous.
** The place is unclear.
The characters here are ficticious.