Archaeologists excavating along the North West coast of Palestine close to where Pontius Pilate had his palace have made a remarkable find. It is a letter written on papyrus. Experts are not sure if it is a copy or not. Was it ever sent? Did Tiberius Caesar read it and respond? If not, we could well be living now in a very different world indeed.
Because what they unearthed is a letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius that is here reproduced:
Your Divine Eminence Filius Dei Tiberius Julius Caesar
I hope you will ignore my impertinence in writing to you uninvited but I have here a nasty problem in Judaea that requires your counsel. I have in custody a fellow by the name of Jesus Christ, a Nazarene, youngish, of no income and no fixed abode. He has a most pleasant and agreeable demeanour and smiles constantly. As soon as I saw him I thought what a wonderful waiter or even kitchen supervisor he would make at your court as he is well educated and has even read Tacitus and Vergil.
However, he claims to be the Messiah, the Annointed One and all that guff, which is very much in vogue here at the moment with the lunatic fringe - the Zealots and such like. He also claims to be the "Son of God"; and that is where the difficulty lies. Such a claim is, of course, a public insult to Your Divinity not to mention the many statues and busts I have of Your Eminence all around my palace. We have had a warrant out for him for some time now.
He was finally betrayed into our hands by one of the twelve who make up his gang of moochers. His name was Judas Iscariot. I say "was" because the silly, little man hurled himself off a cliff only last night. An unsightly mess by all accounts. One shudders at the thought.
Apparently he had received thirty pieces of silver from the council for his dastardly betrayal and is said to have lost the lot in a dice game with some of our soldiers. In any case, I have come here at the invitation of the Jerusalem council to deal with this matter.
Jesus is being held here in Herod's dungeons at the Antonia Fort, refusing to eat or speak while outside the Jewish Sanhedrin bay for his blood. These Sanhedrin fellows are most diagreeable Your Eminence and no better than barbarian slaves, in my humble view.
He is not guilty of any crime worthy of the death sentence but I have to say relations with the Jewish hierarchy have never been so bad. If I execute this Jesus chappie they say they will sign a declaration acknowledging your Divinity and that would go far indeed to cementing the differences between us.
Jesus is hated by them because he has an immense following and his teachings on scripture are delivered with more authority and all of them put together. Jealous you could say? The Pharisees in particular find it difficult to accept the notion that the son of a carpenter from a one-horse town like Nazareth could be so much smarter than any of them.
Hatred is probably too mild a word for what they feel as they watch their standing in the community sink to an all-time low. At least three of them, that I know of, have committed suicide.
But, more importantly Jesus is very bad for business as he preaches against killing people which, as you know, is the only sport in town; and the gates at the amphitheatres such as the one at Caesarea where I live have fallen drastically as a result. My wife Claudia has succeeded in dissuading even me from going there and I haven't had a bet on a chariot race in months. So, we are all affected by this Jesus character. He also has an infuriating habit of turning water into wine and other such trickery that has put many local street performers out of business. Tourism has virtually stopped. The shekel loses value as we speak.
The Jewsish council of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin, have convinced me, that by the mere expedient of getting rid of Jesus, things will return to normal. Crucifixion has been suggested as the chosen method of dispatch.
But I have a gut feeling that this silly boy could become more popular dead than alive. Hence my difficulty. I await your counsel, most Worthy and Illustrious Eminence, God of Gods, King of Kings.
Pontius Pilatus. Procurator. Judaea.
PS: Hope you enjoy the figs.