The Other News from Rome

My watching of news of the arrival of Pope Francis in the U.S. was interrupted by a Discovery Channel news bulletin about an exciting find from the reign of Roman emperor Tiberius Julius Caesar. It is amazing to learn the odd sorts of things that got them upset back in those iron-age days.

The same famous biblical archeologists who discovered Pilate’s Memo for the Record about Christ’s crucifixion this time uncovered an earlier intelligence briefing (“Intelligentia Propter”) prepared for Caesar, also about Jesus. These are highlights of the translation of the precious papyrus papers:

  • Roman Senator Georgeus Voluntas complained that Jesus was damaging the empire’s economy by encouraging citizens to sell all they had and follow him.
  • Praetorian Prefects Jebius Rubi raised concerns that Jesus was overstepping from religious teaching into economic policy by warning followers not to store up treasure on earth. He explained this could do great damage to the Roman stock market (“forum”).
  • Consul Orangeus Maximus proposed scaring Jesus into believing he should be less interested in economic inequality than about the remnants of the Pannonian revolt coming by sea to invade Judea.
  • The builders of chariots and makers of swords expressed great alarm that Jesus urged that the response to violence be to turn the other cheek. Several asked if Jesus could be persuaded to explain he only meant this figuratively and in no way was criticizing the war effort.
  • A moneychangers group complained Jesus reorganized the bank operating in the Jerusalem temple.
  • Religious leaders from Judea protested that Jesus spent too much of his time with prostitutes, internal revenue agents and other ne’er-do-wells, causing their parishioners to question their rules-based religion. Others complained Jesus never spoke out against the rampant homosexuality in the Empire.
  • An unnamed group of (left-leaning) senators argued that Jesus was too conservative, for condemning divorce while failing to challenge degradation caused by large-scale domestication of cows, sheep, and goats.
  • Centurio Primus Pilus Rushus Limbogus asserted that Jesus’ telling people they would be cast into a lake of fire if they did not feed the hungry and clothe the naked promoted a culture of dependency.
  • A source identified only by the initials “J.I.” claimed to be not only a Christ follower but even in Jesus’ inner-circle. This “J.I.” queried whether Jesus’ extreme behavior had become “unchristian.”
There are scribbles in the margins of the document, apparently by Tiberius himself, concluding that these problems were the natural result of Jesus trying too hard to be popular. At the bottom of the briefing is a routing stamp showing the matter was referred to Pilate for appropriate action.

David Schleicher is an attorney with offices in Waco, Houston and Washington, D.C.

This column originally appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald, where David is a member of the Board of Contributors.

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