Go to Science Fiction page...Go to Spirituality page...Go to Cinema page...

The Apocalypse of Amaziah

Go to Home page...

TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION:

This startling text lay entombed inside a small cave in the bedrock of Jerusalem, Israel, until February 22, 1993. The cave's entrance, covered almost two millennia ago by fallen stones and an ash layer, was rediscovered during renovation of a building. Inside the cave stood a kiln-hardened clay jar with a lid that had been sealed with wax. Inside that ancient hermetically sealed environment was the scroll upon which the "Apocalypse of Amaziah" was written in Hebrew.

Carbon-dating of the goat-skin scroll shows the vellum is from the late first century or early second century A.D. Archeological evidence from the cave, including the remains of a man, a woman, and two children, is consistent with that date.

The document claims to describe events during the Jewish war (A.D. 66-70) preceding Jerusalem's destruction by the Roman commander Titus, one of the worst cataclysms in Jewish history. Jerusalem's temple, one of the architectural marvels of the ancient world, was never rebuilt. Jewish religion, until then centered on worship at the temple, was forced to change emphasis to local synagogues. Surviving Jews began to scatter across the world and did not have a stable national identity again until 1948 when the nation of Israel was resurrected.

The historian Josephus, who participated in the Jewish revolt and wrote its most complete record, expounds on certain themes hinted at in Amaziah's text. Josephus describes at length the course of the war, the horrors of the siege on Jerusalem, and the conflict between different groups of Zealots (the terrorists/patriots who incited the war against the Roman occupying army and then fought among themselves as well). Amaziah's account, nevertheless, offers incredible additional details.

All known paleographical and archeological evidence supports the authenticity of Amaziah's manuscript. Nevertheless, because of the extraordinary contents, accusations of incorrect translation or even forgery will surely be made. Even if one accepts the story as only a first-century fantasy, its similarity to current events is an extraordinary coincidence. 


In the first year of the revolt I, Amaziah, a scribe, son of Joram, was walking down the Mount of Olives toward the temple. And lo, though the sun shone brightly, I heard a noise like thunder. The sky seemed to split apart and two men stepped out of the crack in the air. I thought them to be angels or demons, and I fell to the ground with great dread.

As I lay trembling, they approached me. One spoke to me in my native tongue but with a strange accent. He said unto me, "Fear not. Our names are Menahem and Joshua. We have come from the time of Not Yet to help you in your struggle for freedom from the Gentiles. The Lord is with us and will be with you."

They lifted me up. They looked like mortal men except for their garments. Their white garments fit tightly around their bodies and limbs. On their shoulders were small patches. On the patches in Hebrew letters were strange words: "ISRAELI PHYSICS LABORATORY."

They told me prophecies of terrible things to come. They said Jerusalem and the precious temple were soon to be destroyed. The stones would be burned and thrown to the ground. A great slaughter would fall upon the people.

I wept as they described the horror. But Menahem told me, "Do not weep, for these prophecies will not come to pass. We have come to help you in your war. We have come to give new prophecies. The Jewish nation will be victorious and free. The great temple will never fall."

They showed me great weapons they had brought with them in their journey. Their straight metal bows shot fire and invisible arrows for many cubits. Menahem called his thunder bow "My Strength" [literally UZZI]. They said the thunder bows would give our nation strength. They also had metal rocks with pins and handles that, after being thrown, burst with violent flame and thunder. Surely these fearful weapons had been made by the wrath of God.

Together we journeyed to the temple where Menahem and Joshua kissed the ground and wept. They praised the beauty of the temple's glistening white limestone and gold. They vowed the temple would remain standing forever.

We met with the Zealot leaders of the revolt. Menahem and Joshua demonstrated their mighty powers, and all were greatly amazed. All thought surely Menahem and Joshua were messengers for the Messiah.

With such great powers on our side the Zealots grew bold. The hot embers of hatred and rebellion burst into flame. The revolt spread throughout the land as we cast out the Romans. After a lifetime of foreign domination, our people breathed freely.

Menahem and Joshua discarded their strange white garments and began wearing ordinary robes. They lived among us, and they became like brothers to me. I welcomed them to many of my family's meals.


On the Day of Atonement in the second year of the revolt, Menahem, Joshua, and I were watching the priests sacrifice the burnt offerings upon the temple's altar. And lo, I heard thunder and saw the sky split apart once again. A man, dressed as Menahem and Joshua had once dressed, stepped out of the crack in the air.

The crowd in the temple court drew back in terror, but Menahem and Joshua approached him. The white-clad stranger spoke to them:

"Menahem and Joshua, I bring bad news. Your self-appointed mission both succeeded and failed. You changed history. As you hoped, you prevented the temple from falling in A.D. 70, but that is not the end of the story.

"Your temporary defeat of the Roman legions caused the empire to seem weak to other occupied lands and enemy empires. In Rome, angry and desperate, Emperor Vespasian gave the sentence of death to every Jewish man, woman, and child. Jews throughout the empire were systematically hunted down and murdered. Gaining new strength, the Roman legions swept across Israel and leveled cities in their wake.

"In the spring of 71 Jerusalem was the last city to be attacked. Your weapons eventually ran out of ammunition. No longer facing your technological advantage, the Romans breached the walls and burned the city. Upon the rubble of Jerusalem thousands of captured Jews were crucified. To make enough crosses, every tree for miles around was cut down. The country became a desolate wilderness. The survivors who fled eventually died out or were absorbed into the surrounding cultures.

"You tried to avert a great tragedy. But your efforts resulted in still greater tragedy. In 1993 no Jews live in Israel, no Jews live anywhere! Our people are extinct. In 1993 Jerusalem is an eroded heap of ruins surrounded by desert.

"The instant you made your unauthorized trip through the time-warp generator our homeland transformed into a wasteland. The few of us inside the lab's stasis field observed the change, but we were trapped. If we had ventured outside the stasis field, we would have vanished along with the rest of Jewish history. We used the last of the emergency power for my one-way trip here to find you.

"You should not have tampered with what was meant to be. You must destroy your machine guns and grenades. Perhaps that will change time again. Perhaps that will allow history to happen as it did originally. Perhaps you can still save our people."

Many heard the words of that terrible prophecy, but only Menahem and Joshua seemed to understand. They wept after they listened to the stranger, and they agreed to do as he said.

Menahem and Joshua removed the magic from their weapons. Then the three men from Not Yet told me they could not return home, but they also could no longer help us win our war.

This was a fatal blow to the revolt that had already been troubled by conflict among the different Zealot factions. The Zealot leaders, consumed with blind jealousy, hated each other as much as the Romans. When they heard the strangers from Not Yet would no longer help them, they burned with rage. With daggers and swords, the Zealots fell upon the strangers. The Zealots stole the wondrous weapons, but the weapons had lost their powers. Their magic was empty.


Eventually the Roman legion surrounded Jerusalem's walls. We suffered greatly during the long siege. We fought long, but without the magic from Not Yet, we were doomed.

The Roman soldiers are now upon us. They have finally breached the walls and are slaying my people with the edge of the sword. The streets run red with blood, and the temple is consumed by flames as if it were the sacrifice on the altar.

My family and I have taken refuge in the cave under our house. Upon this scroll I write what may be my last words.

Woe to us! God's holy city is ablaze! Has God turned away from us? Could anything really be worse than this? Will the burning of the temple atone for our sins? Will our nation rise again in the time of Not Yet?

 

 

Copyright 1993 Mark D. Stucky.
Originally published in the anthology The Testament of Lael (Maggie Cooper, ed. Jacksonville: Small Press, 1993).

 

Go to the Cinema, Spirituality, and Science Fiction Home page, or to the Cinema page, or to the Spirituality page, or to the Science Fiction page.