I tend to write a lot of stuff that walks the line between fact and fiction on this site. Sure, some folks would argue that “hauntings” is pure fiction, but we get far enough into our past and those lines blur significantly. As previously noted, I am a skeptic, but I do enjoy entertaining possibilities. The magical diad of phrasing that is: “What if…”
The tale of the Wandering Jew stems from a specific line from the Bible: Matthew 16:28 – “There be some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the son of man coming in his kingdom.” This dovetails into the tale of Joseph of Arimathea and an old Greek legend of the poet Aristeas, both of which were said to have long, unabridged lives for no explicable reason.
The melding of these three stories has been traced back to 1228 and the monks of St. Albans. While entertaining the Bishop of Armenia, they inquired about the possibility of a connection between Joseph of Arimathea and the man they had come to know as the Wandering Jew. The Bishop was not fluent in the French of the region and thusly had an interpreter, but the Bishop assured them that one Joseph Cartaphilus was a close personal friend with home he dined often and was, most assuredly, Joseph of Arimathea AND the Jewish gatekeeper to Pontius Pilate, cursed by Jesus to walk the land until the second coming.
A more detailed story follows. As Jesus, burdened with his cross, stumbled in the street, the man named Cartaphilus, mocked him, precipitating the response Jesus intoned above, which paraphrased: “Some here shall not taste of death until the Son of Man comes again.” And the legend begins. It is said that the Wandering Jew ages normally until a great old age then either shucks his skin and re-emerges as a man in his mid-30’s or falls into a coma and “dies” only to reawaken at the same age he was when he mocked Jesus. Over and again he comes and goes, learning dispirit skills, languages, and abilities and mastering them over lifetimes.
Which brings us inexorably to the Count of St. Germain. By many accounts a strange man, appearing and disappearing throughout the various courts of Europe through a 200 year span, dazzling the gentry with his myriad skills and abilities. One day, a particular group of English nobility got him fairly drunk and he confessed all – how he was cursed by Jesus Christ to wander the Earth till the second coming. That his true name was Cartaphilus and that he learned all his skills and abilities over the centuries, and that he was truly waiting to simply… die. And then, like most legends, he disappeared into the night and never returned to that place at that time.
To me, the legend falls into the category of just that: Legend. Some folks misinterpreting the teachings of the Bible. It has happened before, it is happening now, and it will happen again. The original text (or as original as we can get) says nothing of Cartaphilus. Neither do any of the gnostic texts I have read. In the end, it is another parable attributed to Jesus that has nothing to DO with Jesus. Honestly, it makes Jesus seem like more of a jerk than I tend to believe he actually was. I can’t imagine Jesus condemning someone for mocking him – if you feel that if the Son of Man were as he was advertised to be, he would offer only sorrow and forgiveness. But hey, that is me.