Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Rescue Party

"It's been a while since I last met you,” Professor McGrath said.
He was a big man with a white beard, thinning white hair, and greyish blue eyes that failed to look myopic despite the thick spectacles he wore. I had asked him before about those spectacles: surely he could have had contact lenses or corrective surgery. He had said the spectacles made a better impression. They were more “academic”. It was an odd conceit of his. I have known him for over fifteen years and never found any other eccentricity in him.

“Yes,” I replied. “Two years and a bit, in fact. I did try to contact you but they told me you were on an extended sabbatical from the university. And then last week I was told you’d come back, but when I went to meet you I was told to wait because you were in a meeting. I sat and waited in your office for an hour and left because I had things to do. And of course your cell has been switched off.”

“Two years?” he sounded pensive. “That long? Yes, I suppose it must have been. I’m sorry about making you wait. I was – I am – engaged in a difficult project. It’s taken up all my time.”

“What have you been up to?” I asked. “Writing a book on some obscure historical point no one but your fellow historians will ever read?”

“Well…” he hesitated. “Not exactly. Although I suppose if it had come out all right I might have got a book out of it.” He got up, went over to the window, and stood looking outside at the bright sunshine on the trees. He was big and burly, the Irish genes he had inherited from the father’s side of the family showing clearly. In a red hat and suit he’d be a shoo-in for Santa Claus. Not unnaturally, he hated Christmas celebrations and I had long since learned not to greet him on that day. “Look here,” he said, turning around, “if I tell you something, will you promise it will stay between us? That you won’t give it any publicity? After all, this is something I don’t want widely known. None of us do.”

“I’m a mathematician,” I said. “Who’s ever going to listen to what I have to say? I can’t even make people listen to my ideas about Boolean algebra, for heaven’s sake! Who’ll listen to what I have to say about you, even if I did say anything?”

Now no one who knows me will ever give me credit for being observant or sensitive to other peoples’ moods, but it was obvious that he had something on his mind and that he wanted to talk. I’m not a total moron, after all.

“All right,” he said. “I’ll tell you. But it’s going to take a while.” 

“I’ve got time,” I said, smiling. “As much time as you need.”


You know Bishop Mathew. (Professor McGrath said) Maybe you don’t know him to speak to, but you’ve seen his photo in the paper, you’ve seen him on TV. You know what he’s like – he even looks like a fanatic, with his balding head, his thin, ascetic face, his burning eyes. He looks like some holdover from the Spanish Inquisition. I suspect he knows it and deliberately plays up the impression. And you know that his church is going through a revival phase. Which means, basically, that they are trying to re-invigorate faith in all the poor devils of the congregation.

Now, of course, I have no place on the list of the faithful. I have never been a believer in either the God hypothesis or organised religion. Odd for an Irishman born of a long line of Catholic Irishmen, wouldn’t you say? So I was surprised, a shade over two years ago, to get an invitation from Bishop Mathew’s office. Could I spare the time to meet him? He would come here and meet me in my office. I wouldn’t even have to make the journey to his diocese.

I wondered for a moment whether he had the intention of taking me to task for abandoning Christianity, but then I reasoned that this would be the last thing he would try. It would get him nowhere, and he must have known it. Still and all, what did a Bishop of the Church want with a professor of history?

I wasn’t left in doubt long. He came straight to the point, sitting in that chair you’re sitting in now. “The Church,” he said, “is in trouble. Faith is in decline everywhere. Morals have gone down the drain. Nothing is as it should be. No one lives as Our Lord said we should. We need to bring faith back into the world. Ordinary means will no longer suffice. We need something exceptional. Someone exceptional.” 

“How should I be of help?” I asked when he paused. 

“I’m coming to that,” he said. “There is, it has come to my notice, secret research being done. That research has almost succeeded in producing something. A wonder. Science does not always do Satan’s work after all. I need that thing to work and I need your professional expertise.”

“And what is that wonder you mentioned?” I must confess that by this time I had begun harbouring doubts about his sanity. Maybe it would have been better for all of us if he had been insane after all. Not maybe; for sure. 

“There is a man, a physicist,” he said. “His name is Theopoulos. He’s a Greek, an unbeliever of the Greek Orthodox Church or maybe even an atheist, but he’s creating something that proves to me, at any rate, that God moves through the most unlikely routes to fulfil his purpose.

“He is making a machine to travel through time,” he said. “No, don’t scoff, or I am wasting my time talking to you. I have attended his demonstrations of the machine. He met me in Greece. He was desperate for two things: financial backing, and the opportunity to try it out in some venture great enough to win him recognition. You’ll understand, Professor, that anyone who says he is making a time machine might as well claim he can flap his arms and fly. The same number of people would believe him.

“So we made a deal. We – this diocese - supply him the money he needs, and he undertakes a mission for us. His machine is now almost ready. We’ve formulated the mission. Now what we need is the specialist knowledge to help us carry it out. You, being an acknowledged expert on West Asia in the time of the Roman Caesar Tiberius, have the knowledge we need.”

I was beginning to have a bad feeling about this. Obviously it was his project he was talking about, not the church’s; and I already told you he was a fanatic. Also, in the remote event that his mad scientist actually managed to create a working time machine, the mention of West Asia in the time of Tiberius had distinctly alarming possibilities. I decided to find out the worst right away.

“And what is the nature of the mission?” I asked.

He leaned forward over the desk until he was almost speaking into my face. His voice was very quiet, nearly a whisper.

“We want to go back, rescue our Lord Jesus Christ and bring him into the present,” he said. 


In the end I agreed. What else would you have me do? I am an academic, after all; and after talking and writing about ancient Judea and Galilee for years, wouldn’t you have thought it natural for me to see what happened there with my own eyes? Even if I was convinced it was impossible?

I took long leave from the University. I had it coming, so they made no serious difficulties. In any case, once I had told them it would end in a research paper they were happy enough. Universities have their egos just like individuals. 

I flew to Athens and then down to Rhodes where Mathew met me. Together we met Theopoulos. He was a short, pudgy man of middle years, almost completely bald. He spoke English, but with a heavy accent I often had trouble understanding. He had, he said, finally finished his time machine. It was, he assured me, capable of moving objects and people back in time. “But not into the future,” he said. “Because the future, it has not happened yet.” It took, however, an appalling amount of energy to make itself work, and unless he could get the energy consumption down it was still impractical.

“To do that I will have to work many years more,” he said. “I need much money. More than His Highness the Bishop can get for me. I need to do something which will attract enough attention for me to get official backing. The Bishop’s plan is what I am depending on.”


I don’t propose to bore you with details of all the preparations we went through over the next year. I’ll just mention the most important ones. Theopoulos demonstrated his machine, so well that even I was forced to admit that it worked, that it did send objects to the past (or at least made objects vanish) and then brought them back into the present when the controls were set accordingly. He made modifications – so many modifications! – and it was only when, one late evening, that I saw him send and bring back a dog that I finally admitted that he had done it. He had created something that actually was a time machine.

In the meantime Mathew made his plans and I did my research. Because between reading about something and actually preparing to go there lay gulfs of ignorance and peril. Mathew was the driving force; we would certainly have abandoned the project if he had not been at our backs all the while, cajoling, arguing, arranging. He must have stripped his diocese of every penny it could spare. And he had his own demands.

It was incredible, looking back on it, how little information there actually was about Jesus Christ in history. If your sources are the Gospels, you are faced with irreconcilable contradictions. If you depend on outside sources, you come up blank. No one seems to have heard of him, except the Jewish historian Josephus, in a couple of passages that are such obvious interpolations that they have no value at all.

We did not even have any agreement on the year that Christ was executed – John had him executed in 33CE, while according to the other Synoptic Gospels he was crucified in 30CE. We had to read through the gospels to cherry pick bits and pieces which seemed to make sense, which were in accord with what we knew, and with that we made our own composite history. I personally was not even convinced that Jesus Christ even existed; but of course I went along with what I was sure was a mad plan. I wanted to see the Jerusalem of the first century CE for myself, you see.

What with astronomical data and checking the dates of Jewish Passover, we finally selected the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nissan, Friday, April 3, 33 CE, as the most likely date of the crucifixion. Why was the date of crucifixion so important, you ask? Why did we not just go over and grab Jesus from the cradle, as it were? Well, for one thing, there is no information about Christ in the days before he actually entered Jerusalem. All we can be sure of is that all the stuff about his birth in a manger in Bethlehem, and his escape to Egypt, and even the Nazareth part of his history – all that was rubbish. Nazareth did not even exist in the first century CE – it was a burial ground. For another thing, our dear beloved bishop insisted that we take Christ at the last possible moment – when he actually became fully Christ, as it were, when his ideology was fully developed. 

We prepared. And we made plans.

The first thing we had to contend with was the fact that at this distance of time the machine was not perfectly accurate. It could not insert us at exactly the moment we chose, except by accident. We could have snatched Jesus from among his disciples before he was arrested, if only Mathew had permitted, but that he refused. So, our window of opportunity was only after the time when Jesus was arrested, tried before the Jewish court, the Lesser Sanhedrin, condemned for breaking Mosaic Law, and sent to the Roman Prefect, Lucius Pontius Pilatus, for re-trial on the charge of proclaiming himself king. All this, you understand, was on the supposition that Jesus existed and that all these things happened. Then when Pontius had finally sentenced him to death, had him scourged and sent to be crucified, we planned to take him from his guards on the way. Before that it would have been impossible; at all times, Christ would have been too securely guarded. And according to our Bishop Mathew, of course, he would not have matured enough ideologically to be the Christ.

All told, therefore, we had an hour, maybe less, to do what we were supposed to do. And we were faced with the fact that we did not even know where he would be crucified, there being no place called Golgotha anywhere near Jerusalem and there never had been; and also that the machine could not even be depended to put us where and when we needed to be.

A pretty problem!

It was obvious that we would have to be prepared to stay around for a while, if necessary, to have a chance of sneaking him away. And during this time, we would have to dress and comport ourselves in a way that would not arouse suspicion.

And – need I mention it? – the three of us, between us, stood not a chance of success. Actually, it would be two of us, since Theopoulos would have to stay back at the controls of his machine. We needed some more people to help. Those, Mathew found for us – about ten brawny young men. I don’t know where he found them; some secret Church organisation, perhaps. We were given to understand that questions would not be welcome, so we did not ask any. We just got them ready for the job. It required a great deal of training.

Training for what, do you ask? There was only one way we might hope to be unrecognised and avoid challenge under any conceivable circumstance while we got ready to snatch Christ. That is, if we were dressed up as soldiers of the Legion.

From heaven knows where – theatrical costumers, perhaps – we acquired legionary outfits, complete with greaves, helmets, armour, sandals, bullhide shields with metal inserts, and even javelins and gladiuses, short swords. We learned as much classical Greek as possible, because that was the lingua franca of the legions. In this Theopoulos was not of great help; classical Greek is in any case not the same as the modern tongue. We had to pretend to be members of the Cohors Italica, the only Roman troops in West Asia at the time. All other legions were local levies; we would never have been able to pass ourselves off as them successfully. We prepared. We drilled, using as our source everything from Hollywood movies to Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. We planned.

How odd it all seems to me now, like the games of children!

And in the meantime, Theopoulos modified his machine and it grew and grew and grew. No, I can’t really describe it; it took up an entire floor of his building, a sprawl of wiring and plates and chambers and refrigerating units and huge storage batteries. I’m a historian, not a scientist. I’ll give you Theopoulos’ address if you want, but I don’t think he’ll give you the time of day.

It was not mobile, of course; we couldn’t trundle it over to Jerusalem, but it did have an additional feature: it could project one, within limits, both in terms of space and time. We could be sent from Rhodes to Jerusalem as we went from the twenty first century to the first, and then back again. And there was a sort of radio by which we could send coded signals; not long messages, but something to let Theopoulos know when we wanted to come back again.

But where in Jerusalem should we go?

As I told you already, there is no place called “Golgotha” near Jerusalem, or the Place of the Skull, where the Bible says Jesus was crucified; in fact there is no word in Hebrew called Golgotha. However, it stood to reason that Jesus would be crucified somewhere close to the city. The only place that suggested itself was a hill called the Hill of the Stonings, where the Jews used to perform their own executions. We did not know where it was; but we could narrow it down. And, poring over maps and plans, we did.

Why did we not send a reconnaissance party over first to scout out the land? Remember the energy costs I was talking about?

Finally we were ready, as ready as we could get. The funds were running out anyway. We would either have to go through with it or call it all off. It could no longer be postponed.

We “left” late one afternoon, with rain slashing down outside, dressed as a decuria of the Cohors Italica. The Bishop chose to stay behind, as I knew he would. If we had failed to find Jesus, I think he would have gone crazy right there in first century Jerusalem, and we would have had, I think, to leave him there. In his absence, I dressed as the decurion, the officer in charge, of this ten man platoon. I even shaved my beard for the part. 

I should mention a couple of things. We were clothed as legionaries, of course, and armed each with a long javelin and a short sword, but we were carrying extras. 

On the hollow side of each shield, instead of the short loaded javelins of the legionary, we carried a selection of smoke bombs and stun grenades. These were essential; we had to have some way of covering our planned abduction. Drilling or not, training or not, we’d not last ten minutes if we had to fight real legionaries, as we knew perfectly well.

There was one other item. 

I’ve told you that there was no certainty that the machine would bring us to the right spot at the right time. Also we might spend much time looking for the site of the crucifixion and the procession bringing Jesus there. It was by no means impossible that we might actually find him crucified. According to our ecclesiastic boss, once Christ was actually affixed to his cross, it became holy and a blasphemy to leave the cross untenanted. We must, he said, leave a body there for the disciples to bury, venerate, and grieve over. I don’t know how crazy that sounds to you; but the whole thing was crazy anyway. 

So, we actually carried a body with us.

I don’t know where the corpse came from; some West Asian mortuary, probably, obtained with the payment of a judicious bribe. The man was naked, very recently dead, so that rigor mortis had not fully passed off as yet. He was in a coffin lined with padded silk, a coffin equipped with carrying rods like a stretcher. We were supposed to bring Jesus back the same way, if he was in no shape to co-operate. The corpse was bearded and long haired. He looked very like the Jesus one sees depicted in all religious art. I don’t know of what he had died. There was no mark on him so far as I could see. At least he was circumcised, though. If not, the whole thing would have descended to the level of farce. Who ever heard of an uncircumcised Jew?

The ten of us – eleven if you count the corpse – stood on a platform while, somewhere, unseen to us, Theopoulos made his adjustments. There was no sign of Mathew. I have no idea if he simply had no stomach to be present when we left on his mission or he was busy arranging for the reception of his Lord. When the moment came, there was no fanfare. No dramatic countdown. Just a shimmy in the air and a brief blurring of everything around us to grey.

Then there was stony ground instead of concrete beneath our feet and the walls of a city in the near distance. It was all very undramatic. It was sometime in the later afternoon, with the unmistakable sensation of a hot day giving way to a hot night. We were on a hillside, and that walled city must be Jerusalem. There was no one else but us around.

How did I feel at that instant? Triumphant? Ecstatic? No. I was worried, because I was convinced there was something I had forgotten. Something important. 

We looked at each other. We of course had no idea what the time was, and we had no means of telling if we were too late or if there was no execution at all. We might be three years too late. We might be looking to rescue a man who had never been born. We might even be a day or two off, here or there. How would we know?

I had been to Jerusalem, of course, but that was the Jerusalem of the twenty first century. It had nothing to do with this walled city of two thousand years earlier. 

No way to find out but by walking along looking for the Hill of Stoning. So we did.


It was nearing sunset, and we had very nearly given up hope, when we finally found them. 

Three crosses, silhouetted against the reddening sky. 

I think I was more amazed that there was actually a crucifixion at all, and three crosses, that the Gospels had been borne out that far, than anything else. By that time we were all rather out of breath, because we had walked most of the way round the city, lugging our armour and that damned coffin along with us. We did not make exclamations; we did not point; we just walked silently towards the top of that hill. 

There was a thin scatter of people around. Very few, actually, and even fewer women, not the great crowds of Gospel. I don’t know who any of them were; but of the men, most were obviously not Jews. There was not a single unshorn beard or fringed robe in sight. This was no surprise. The following day was the Jewish festival of P’sach, the Passover. Jews would all be at home, preparing for it. A small guard of Roman legionaries sat near the crucifixes, chatting. None of the women, of course, were standing on the sides of the cross looking up at the man there with adoring eyes, as we see in the ludicrous Catholic statuary. They stood far away, averting their eyes, and most appeared to be sobbing. No wonder.

When we were close I looked up at the men on the crosses. They were, of course, all nude. Crucifixion never left a stitch on the condemned man’s body, no loincloth of the Catholic fantasy. The nearest to me was the one on the right. There was no doubt that he was either dead or close to death; his head hung on his chest, a swollen tongue protruded between parted lips, if he were breathing I could not detect it. I passed him by with no further glance; it was not he I was interested in. The soldiers were sitting at the foot of the centre cross. It was obviously that which we needed. But one had to be certain. 

As we trudged up to them, the legionaries glanced casually up at us. They were all local levies, obviously, with pronounced Semitic features. One of them said something I could not catch, then stood up. We stopped, a few metres away. He repeated what he had said. Now I am a historian of West Asia, but I’ll admit freely to you that my knowledge of spoken ancient Aramaic is poor, so I did not attempt to answer him in that language. Instead I asked him in Hebrew, which at least I can speak: “Which one is Yeshua ben Yosef?”

He looked instinctively up at the central crucifix, and that was all we required by way of confirmation. We could not delay any further. Every moment counted. We had rehearsed this many times, what we would do.

Our hands reached behind our shields and came out bearing smoke and stun grenades which we threw in all directions. Those legionaries and spectators never knew what had hit them. Just imagine; they had never heard of explosives, and suddenly their world went up in a series of deafening blasts and thick clouds of black smoke. Is it a wonder that most of them hit the ground and stayed there, shivering in superstitious fear, and the rest of them ran as fast as they could? I mean, those blasts were so loud, that smoke so dense, that they almost blinded and deafened us

And that is the source of the legend, I guess, of the darkness that fell upon the world when Jesus died, the noises and the earthquake. Of course no graves opened to let the dead walk; and nothing happened to the great veil in the Temple. But I think you know as well as I do how legends and stories grow in the retelling.

We did not hesitate; the tools we required, the mattocks and spades, were of course at the foot of the crosses. They had been placed there to put the crucifixes up in the first place. We grabbed them and went to work at the foot of the central cross. It was much shorter than the common idea which comes from the fantasies of the church. A cross is effective as soon as the condemned man’s feet are off the ground; any further height is superfluous and inefficient. Whatever else the Romans were, they were not inefficient. By the same token, the crosses were T shaped – the top part over the crossbar, as always, was missing. It had no function, would merely have made the crucifix top-heavy, and the Romans, as I said, did not mess around.

In minutes we had that cross down on the ground and were using our swords to cut the ropes that held the man to the wood. Because, of course, crucifixion involved tying the condemned to the cross; nailing was frowned on because the man usually passed out from pain and died relatively quickly from shock and blood loss. And crucifixion was a method designed to ensure that the prisoner lived in agony for the longest time possible. Days, sometimes. 

So, we cut the ropes and lifted him from the cross. Did we, devout Catholics as we all – bar myself – were, stop to worship him? Did we pause a moment in reverence? Did we hell. So far we hadn’t even taken a good look at him; we hadn’t had the opportunity or the time. He did moan once as we put him down, so he was alive, at any rate. We worked in two teams. The coffin had already been opened, and even as we took Jesus down the other team had the corpse in place. And there was my problem. The thing I had forgotten.

How the hell would we lash the corpse to the cross? We did not have any ropes!

If we’d had time, of course, we could have found ropes somewhere. But we hadn’t time. 

The smoke was beginning to disperse. Before lobbing a few more smoke bombs, I saw a few sledgehammers lying among the mattocks. Those sledgehammers were meant to finish off condemned men who had lasted inconveniently long, by breaking their legs. With their entire weight suspended from the arms, the men died quickly after that.

“Get those hammers” I told one of my men. “You might find spikes there too.” Which he did; because it was easier to construct the crucifixes at the site of the execution than to make the prisoner carry them all the way to the place of execution. A prisoner who did that was usually too exhausted to last more than a few hours on the cross. And as I said a death by crucifixion is meant to be a lingering one…

So we nailed that poor devil of a dead man to the wood. We put spikes through his wrists; the bones of the hand are so weak that had we nailed his palms to the wood, they would have torn out as soon as we had raised the cross. We put another through his feet; and, as my men heaved together and got the cross up, I threw the last of the smoke bombs and stun grenades to keep everyone’s heads down. Even as they burst, I reached into a pouch at my belt and pressed a switch that would let Theopoulos know it was time to bring us back. 

At that moment there was a shouting. I turned round just in time to see the cross up, but swaying dangerously; it seemed as if it would fall at any instant. One of the “legionaries” of my decuria, in a gesture wholly instinctive, reached out with his javelin to steady the cross. The tip went straight into the dead man’s side. I did not wait to see if any blood emerged; the other men had managed to stabilise the cross, and that was all that mattered. I called them together quickly. Even as we all assembled round the coffin, the air shimmered, turned grey…

…and we were standing on concrete, in Theopoulos’ machine, and we had the man called Yeshua ben Yosef, alias Jesus Christ, in a coffin with us. 

Somehow it did not sink in right then. We had things to do. There was a medical team waiting, which was part of the contingency plans. They took charge of Jesus, and whisked him away at once, coffin and all. I did not see him again for a month.

In the next days, the team that had gone with me vanished as mysteriously as it had come. I stayed with Theopoulos for the time being. I had suggested that since my role was over, I should leave, but Mathew requested me to stay and help for the time being – and of course my burning curiosity held me. I tried to learn to speak Aramaic as well as possible. Theopoulos fiddled with his equipment. Mathew vanished on one of his mysterious missions. Jesus, presumably, was in hospital. 

Time passed. 


It was a hot summer day when I saw Jesus again. It was not on Rhodes – there is no point telling you where it was exactly, but it was in a house in a forested valley far from the nearest town. I don’t know who owns the house, but I think – no, I’m almost certain – that its owners were the same organisation that had supplied my fellow “legionaries”. 

I got there in a car sent by Mathew, and driven by a heavily muscled young man who spoke not at all the whole way. The Bishop himself met me at the door. He looked pale and drawn.

“You’ve got to help,” he said. “He’s impossible! He refuses everything!”

The man he was talking about sat in a chair, awkwardly. Someone had dressed him in a dressing gown. Probably it was the only garment of ours he could wear. He sat and stared at me and I looked back at him. You have to understand that this was the first occasion I have ever got a proper look at him. Earlier there just wasn’t time.

Throw all your notions out of the window. Jesus Christ was not a narrow faced Nordic with long straight blond hair and beard. I guess that was our doing, leaving that crucified corpse for them to worship and to bury. Men and women who fail to recognise their living Lord cannot be expected to fail to recognise him when he is dead, even though his appearance is changed.

Well, then. Jesus Christ was stunted, scrawny, and sunburnt. What else had I expected of a carpenter and itinerant religious teacher? He had a round head with the skin stretched tight over the bones, a scrubby black beard, and kinky black hair. When he opened his mouth his teeth were worn down and stained dark brown. But his eyes were what I stared at longest.

The look in those eyes was that of a man enraged to the point of being beyond reason.

“He’s furious,” Bishop Mathew said behind me. “He says he wanted to be crucified, that he schemed and worked to be crucified, that we’ve stolen his death from him, that he won’t help us whatever happens, and that our church,” he swallowed audibly, “is evil, is a parasite, an abomination.”

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

“Talk to him! Get him to understand!”

I could hear the desperation in the poor man’s voice. I could sympathise. He had schemed for this for so long, gathered allies, made preparations, probably seen himself overthrowing the established order, bring the Lord Jesus out to sit in the Vatican and rule the Christian world, an authentic Godhead, with Mathew himself as his vicar on earth. He had done so much. And just because of the exasperating, inexplicable mulishness of that rescued Godhead, it was all in danger of falling apart.

I tried. I talked to Jesus, in Hebrew and in Aramaic. He did not answer a word except to curse me as Satan’s angel. Probably he did not speak a word of Hebrew, and as for my Aramaic, the accent may have defeated him. I could have written down what I wanted to tell him, but it wouldn’t have done the least bit of good. He was, naturally, absolutely illiterate. Which carpenter’s son of that era from Galilee wouldn’t be? 


At last we sent him back. What else could we have done about him? We couldn’t keep him indefinitely. Once word leaked out, as it would, he would have been mobbed. And – fanatic that he was – if he had begun condemning the church in public, as he most assuredly would have, there would have been hell to pay. I could just see him being torn to pieces by a crowd of the furious devout.

He wanted to commit suicide by others’ hands. Balked once, he would have tried again.

I was present the day he went back. By that time he had stopped communicating in any way at all. 

There was nothing to it. He was put on the platform, alone, in a white shift, Theopoluos pressed some buttons. And the Lord Jesus disappeared to the time he had been brought from.

I came back here and rejoined work without a word to anyone. Theopoulos as far as I know is looking for another sponsor for fine tuning his invention. I have no idea where Mathew is – he disappeared after Christ left. I wonder sometimes if he has got himself transported to another era to get away from the consequences of his defeat. For, make no mistake about this, he staked all he had, money, faith, ambition, and he lost.
You don’t recover from that kind of defeat.


And that’s all I have to say about the whole bloody mess,” Professor McGrath told me. “I wouldn’t mind going back to that era again, but not for any more ecclesiastical kidnappings. No sir. Put me in a nylon toga and send me back for a study tour, that’s all I want. Not that it’s going to happen again. Shall we go and have some beer? It’s on me.”

Quite a bit later, as he drained his second glass and wiped the suds off his moustache, McGrath spoke again on that topic, as if getting some thing off his chest. 

“There’s just this one big doubt I have,” he said. “Or call it a niggle, a worry, whatever you want. You know I said that when we went back, the machine couldn’t be depended on to get us to the precise point in time we needed? Well, we did send him to the site of a garden not far from the crucifixion site, but we slipped up a little on the time.

“We’d meant him to reach Jerusalem at the time we took him, before dusk on Friday before Passover. He actually got there, Theopoulos told me, only two days later.

“Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ walked again in Jerusalem three days after being publicly crucified, on Sunday morning…”

 Copyright B Purkayastha 2011


  1. Great story, it would explain a lot. In catechism we were taught that Adam (that Adam) was buried below the Cross, and that we (we Catholics) were saved in that moment in which Jesus' blood soaked into the soil and touched the skull of Adam. A nice little tidbit I used to use to scare my younger siblings with.


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