From the dungeon at Machaerus
Yohanan bar Zechariah, known as ‘the baptizer’, to Yeshua bar Ioseph, my disciple. Shalom. May the God of our forefathers grant you strength.
I remember when I first heard whispered behind my back the nickname that people had given me – ‘the baptizer’ – I was furious. How dare they mock the means God provided for them to express repentance in these last days! I gradually came to realize that they were probably only expressing their amazement at seeing me stand in the Jordan to help people perform their immersion. Well, it has been a few months now since Herod Antipas had me arrested. How I wish I could be a ‘baptizer’ again, for I had grown used to having easy access to water. Here in this arid region the guards barely provide me enough water for drinking. And there is certainly none for me to bathe, even though water is not scarce here due to the cisterns built by the father of Herod Antipas.
You were away when Antipas' soldiers came to arrest me, so let me tell you what happened. As you know, we were considering moving the focus of our baptizing and preaching to the western bank of the Jordan, in Judaea. There we would have been safe from Antipas, for though he rules over Peraea and Galilee, he has no power in Judea (of course, Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judea may then have begun watching us).