Stephen Berer
Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #05, A Meeting with Saul of Tarsus

A Greek Diplomat’s Treasure Shop, Modified and colorized image from the public domain book, Picturesque Palestine, published 1884, owned by the author.
A Greek Diplomat’s Treasure Shop, Modified and colorized image from the public domain book, Picturesque Palestine, published 1884, owned by the author.

In this scene the Eternal Jew and the apostle Paul discuss philosophy and theology.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Second Era, Part 2, ~190 CE

Funny how memories just pop in your head. I met that Saul on this road awhile back, maybe twenty five years before Jerusalem fell, in a mikdash*, I can’t remember where. Mumblin’ prayers like the rest of us. Wouldn’t have guessed he’d make such a name. Cranky he were with a sand paper edge, like the sugar in his tea has a bitter taste and his tallit** weighed like an iron yoke on his narrow shoulders and knobby arms. Hard to stand straight, harder to bow.
* synagogue
** tallit: prayer shawl

After kiddush* and motzi* over bread we stood talkin’ among the vines in the courtyard, lush in summer bloom, crownin’ the courtyard walls. Typical me, without no walls between my sparkin’ thoughts and my tongue. (With an oven like that you’ll burn your house down.) I says to him, “From what I hears you ain’t prayin’ with Jews no more. I’m surprised to see you here today.”
* kiddush and motzi: two prayers, the first over wine, the second over bread

He looks at me with a bit of a sneer, like, ‘Where’s your manners?’ and ‘What did I do?’ and ‘You only think you know who I am.’

I seen that I hurt him. He turns to leave.
“Don’t go brother. I said that wrong. I meant to open a door for you to let you in, not to chase you out.”

“My fault too,” he say with a frown. “I make a stir wherever I goes. Some cry, ‘apostle!’ and wash my feet. Some cries, ‘apostate!’ and want me beat. I seen the inside a many a jail for nothin’ more than talkin’ of God. And I’ve tasted the dust of half the known world; shipwrecked and damn near drownded as well. The rod of the Lor driven me on.

“Truth is, I can’t hardly tell no more who is deliverin’ these bruises and welts, the Infinite One or the impotent ones, or where one ends and the other begins. But to answer the question you didn’t ask, I’m an Israelite, and I’m proud of it. What an honor to be a Jew! And so I prays whenever I have the chance to slip myself in, unnoticed, unknown, just another graybeard under his shawl.

“But just now, you spoke well, my friend. We Jews are required to open the door to these sons of Rome whose faith has failed; these orphans of gods turned ugly and cruel; no-gods whose future is no-good works; these orphans who finally face the truth – their guardian gods are failing them. They looks in our window and peeks in our door and sees a people inspired with faith by a God of justice and a Lor of love. Bring these lost and childlike souls into our brit* and up to our Lor. We must open our doors now and bring on the world!”
* covenant, community

I looks around this little place. For a moment it seemin’ like Aden to me. Together, Roman, Greek, and Jew without our sharp and poison words, without our jagged-edged thoughts, just sippin’ tea and quiet talk, a moment of peace in a tohu world.
* tohu: from Genesis 1:2, formless, chaotic

Then he pulls out an epistle writ to Rome. “Read,” he says, and gives it to me. Long it were. I squinch my eyes.
“You want to hear my thoughts on it or you just testin’ your writing craft to see if you can snag some fruit, a gift to bring to your Jesus feast.”
A wince of a smile, but he just says, ‘Read.’

We walks a ways to a shop he knows, owned by a Greek diplomat. All neat and tidy, arranged on shelves, books and scrolls and artifacts he come across servin’ the throne. He locks the shop and we leave through a door in the rear. Another Aden, this one a garden eight steps square. Carob and fig trees, viburnum, and palm.

I reads his letter while the two of them chats. Heat a the day begun to pass by the time I’m done. His eyes leap when he see me lay the papyrus down.
“So will you join me on my way?”

“Saul, your say ain’t writ to me. I’m a man of law and works, a Jew like you, well circumcised. But you cast law and works to the wind. Me, I’ll blow in the wind with them.

“But I likes your preachin’, urgin’ Greece and Rome to throw their idols down and find our Lor. And then you go and swerve away into a patch of brambly thoughts on grace and sin and God-will-save, as if you know how God will judge. And then you turn it all upside down, exhortin’ us to know good and do good. That’s the law and that’s our works, plain as any eye can see. I’ll let your philosophic Greeks sort their way through that thorny stuff.

“And then you end with noble advice, bright and gentle, wise and kind – how to make a community strong with trust and love and humbleness, and callin’ all the worlds to God. Isaiah would be proud of that.

“In sum, it ain’t a work of art, and all our words will soon be lost, but still it stands as fair advice. Send it. It might do some good.”

He turns to his friend like I’m just a fly.
“There it is as I’ve said before. The law is a curse, enslavin’ the mind. Egypt it is. I’m glad to be free.”

And they walks away into the house, me standin’ there like a stump of a tree.
‘No one will ever believe that stuff. He’ll turn around,’ I thinks to myself, as I makes my way back into town.


Next week: searching for the Garden of Aden

About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan with an awe of The Eternal and an unbounded love of Judaism that shapes everything I think and do. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen In the process of reconstructing lives, I also reconstruct English, in an effort to achieve heightened and multi-dimensional perspectives. You see, for me, English does not simply provide the building blocks with which I construct my edifices. The language itself is part of what I am constructing. This has been a slow, evolutionary process, requiring the re-thinking of spelling, grammar, and the conceptual implications of linguistic structures. I have recorded some brief thoughts about this philological journey in a series of essays entitled "Essential Notes on Linguistics." My creative life also includes arts and crafts. For example, my older son and I are working on an illuminated Megillat Esther. He is doing the calligraphy and I am producing the miniature illuminations. And altho my good friend Fred Nietzsche only knew how to philosophize with a hammer, I am also tolerably skillful at using hammers to drive nails and build structures like tiny houses. Finally, and in many ways most importantly, I currently live with my bashert just outside Washington, DC, and have two remarkable sons, the three of whom light my life. But as another good friend of mine once said: "Enough! Or too much."
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