A PRICELESS ARCHIVE: Donald Parry, author of Illuminating the Dead Sea Scrolls, pores over a text of what has been described as the greatest manuscript find of all time. Discovered at Qumran in the West Bank in March 1947 and availed to the public in September 1991, the Dead Sea Scrolls were a meticulously kept library of a basically ascetic Jewish sect called the Essenes, of whom Jesus was a member. They shed radically new light on the times and happenings of the gospel era and reveal a scribal code called pesher, which unveils a new layer of meaning beneath the familiar language of scripture.
Those who hold that the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy were supernatural can be excused. This is because the language employed therein smacks of ethereality – Holy Spirit, Angel Gabriel, Son of the Most High, etc. To those who have read and rigorously studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, such terminology is well within the temporal context. That is to say, it does not carry spiritual connotations as such. True, the idea of an angel speaking to Joseph and Mary in their sleep may seem supernatural but the dreams are theological interpolations, inserted into the gospels in onward editing to fit a contrived agenda – what Karl Marx called the opium of the masses.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are so named because they were discovered in caves around the Qumran plateau of the West Bank (about 40 km east of Jerusalem), at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, in March 1947. The discoverer was a Bedouin shepherd kid who was looking for a lost goat. The scrolls were found hidden in jars. The 1947 find was the initial discovery: more discoveries were made after further excavations on the same site spanning 11 years in a series of 11 caves. Altogether, 972 texts were turned up. They are written in four languages, namely Hebrew (the majority), Aramaic, Greek, and Nabatean, mostly on parchment. Other texts were inscribed on papyrus and bronze.
Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are fragments. Fragments of all the Old Testament books have been found save for the book of Esther. The only complete book is Isaiah. There are also apocryphal books (those arbitrarily excluded from the Old Testament canon by the Constantine-convened Nicene Council of AD 325) such as the book of Enoch and the book of Jubilees, and sect-specific writings that embody rules and beliefs of the people who compiled them. The latter include commentaries on the Old Testament, paraphrases that expand on the Law of Moses, rule books of the community, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymnic compositions, benedictions, liturgical texts, and sapiential (wisdom) writing. These texts have been given appropriate titles such as the War Scroll; Manual of Discipline; the Community Rule; the Temple Scroll; the Copper Scroll; etc.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written/preserved by the Essenes between 168 BC and 68 AD. We know this because Pliny, the first century Roman historian, wrote that “On the west coast of Lake Asphaltitis (the Dead Sea) are settled the Essenes, at some distance from the noisome odours that are experienced on the shore itself. They are a lonely people, the most extraordinary in the world, who live without women, without love, without money, with the palm trees for their only companions.”
The Essenes stashed away the scrolls some time in 70 AD, when Roman General Titus overran Jerusalem and laid waste to the Temple following a catastrophic Jewish uprising – led by the Zealots, the military wing of the Essenes – that began in 66 BC. This they did in heed of JEREMIAH 32:14, which says, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences … and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.” The Dead Sea Scrolls have given us invaluable insight into the beliefs, customs, rituals, politics, philosophies, and traditions of first century Palestine.
In their writings, as well as in the interpretation of Old Testament scriptures, the Essenes employ a technique called pesher (pesharim in plural). The present-day authority on this subject is Barbara Theiring, who after studying the Dead Sea scrolls for years on end fathomed the trick. According to the pesher technique, certain scriptures have two layers of meaning. There is the surface meaning, which is religious in orientation and is intended for lay people.
Then beneath the veneer lies the real meaning, which only those privy to pesher would tell. “The pesharist implies two levels of meaning,” Theiring says. “The surface containing a general religious matter, suitable for ordinary readers, and beneath it specific historical matter, available only to those with special knowledge, knowledge of the events which fitted the text handled in this way. The surface remains valid: it is not negated by the other meaning, and it meets people’s general religious needs. But it does set up a mystery, capable of solution by experts.”
Jesus, who was an Essene, did drop hints on the pesher secret when he said, “To you (his disciples) is given the mystery of the Kingdom of God but for those outside everything is in parables” (MARK 4:11). Theiring found that the four gospels, the book of Acts, and Revelation were written in pesher code. Theiring has explicated the pesher principle in her books Jesus of the Apocalypse (1995); John’s Gospel: The Book That Jesus Wrote (1998); and Jesus the Man (2006). Her only undoing is that her books are complex and require a special attention span, enormous reserves of patience, and a highly retentive mind to really grasp what they say.
Anyone who is not familiar with pesher and the traditions and customs of the Essenes as set out in the Dead Sea Scrolls will never understand the Jesus story: it is as simple as that. It explains why all the bible-thumping guys who rant and rave in the pulpits every Sunday and on religious television channels spew utter drivel. They preach nonsense because they run away only with the surface message of scripture. They are practically ignorant.
JOSEPH’S DELIBERATE BREACH
We have already made the point that a dynastic heir – that of the Davidic or Zadokite line – was supposed to be born in September, this being both the holiest month of the year as far as the Jews were concerned and the most astrologically appropriate as it was ruled by the constellation Virgo, the virgin. Joseph, however, decided to throw away the script. The Age of Aries (2160 BC-0) was transitioning to the Age of Pisces (0-2160 AD). Joseph’s son would come into the world at this crossroads. As the future King of the World, his son would be symbolically ushering in a new world order simultaneous with the advent of the Age of Pisces. Joseph therefore decided that his son must arrive not in a month ruled by Virgo but in a month ruled by Pisces. This was March.
Now, the overall global agenda as we now know is driven by two factions of Anunnaki royalty, the Anunnaki being the Sumerian term for the Old Testament gods, and the Sumerians being the world’s first-known civilisation that thrived in Mesopotamia in modern-day Iraq 6,000 years ago. The Enlilites, led by Enlil, called Jehovah in the Bible, are the hawks, whereas the Enkites, led by Enki, the Serpent of Genesis, are the doves. Joseph, as did Jesus, subscribed to the Enkite agenda. Pisces had always been the age in which the Enkites exercised hegemony as per the pact between the two factions. Hence the idea of Jesus being born in a month ruled by Pisces perfectly conformed to the Enkite agenda.
At their betrothal ceremony in June 8 BC, Joseph and Mary were told in no uncertain terms that dynastic procreational rules demanded that they not indulge in sexual relations till December, the least holy month on the Jewish calendar. Remember, the Essenes frowned upon sex: to them it was defiling and therefore desecrating. On the occasion that it was sanctioned – and only for those members who had to produce heirs, namely the Davids and the Zadoks – it had to take place only in December.
Since Joseph had a scheme, he could not wait: he slept with Mary bang on the very night of the betrothal ceremony and “scored”. The following month, Mary announced to her husband that she was carrying his seed. Joseph was ecstatic. At the same time, he was worried sick as he was not sure how the Essene sages were going to receive this blatant breach of royal procreational norms.
JESUS, MARY DISOWNED
If Joseph were an ordinary Joe, his sexcapade with Mary would hardly have made a ripple. It would actually have been a non-issue. But he wasn’t: he was the prospective heir to the Jewish throne. Everybody – the Essenes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the ordinary man in the street either knew him or had heard of him. The rumour thus spread like a wild fire practically overnight. His transgression became a national scandal that reverberated all the way from Galilee, his place of residence, to every nook and cranny of Palestine. The scandal was to dog his unborn son for the rest of his life.
The reason the indiscretion so rapidly became public was largely because the Sadducees, the rich Jewish elite of the day who profited gargantuanly from Roman patronage, were content with the status quo. They were therefore just too eager to pounce on the merest whiff of scandal on the part of the Davidic heir – a veritable threat to the perks of privilege they presently enjoyed. If the scandal had happened in our day, the Sadducees would have made sure it was splashed on the front page of every major newspaper across the country. For according to dynastic procreational rules, what Joseph had committed was not a mere breach: it amounted to fornication, sleeping with a woman you are not married too (JOHN 8:41).
Joseph, who had not anticipated the thunderclap splash his misdemeanour created, began to have second thoughts. The evangelist Matthew puts it this way: “Then Joseph, her husband being a just man and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily (MATTHEW 1:9).” This is pure male chauvinism on the part of Matthew, a trait that was prevalent among the Jews of the day. This sexist stance where women were the ones invariably in the wrong in matters of this nature went back all the way to Genesis, when Eve was unjustly blamed for causing Adam to disobey God. The fact of the matter is that it was all the fault of Joseph, the result of his personally devised scheme having boomeranged back horrendously.
In order to at once extricate himself from blame and appease the disquieted and disapproving public, Joseph decided to do two things. First, he was to privately divorce Mary. Second, he was to place her in monastic custody: that is the meaning of the term “put her away privily” in pesher language. Now, Qumran had several quarters. One of these was called the Queen’s House. The Queen’s House was a place where newly-born babies who had been abandoned by their mothers on a wayside were philanthropically raised. Girls were groomed as nuns and boys were groomed as monks. These two classes of celibates served the Qumran priests. Joseph decided that his unborn son be classed as illegitimate and be raised as an orphan-cum-monk. The spirit of the unborn Jesus must have uttered a sigh of desperate protest in its mother’s womb.
HOLY SPIRIT CONSULTS ANGEL
The contemplations of Joseph were all his own: poor Mary had no say whatsoever. In gospel times, women simply did not matter. Their only role was to produce children and do household chores. In fact, women were so looked down upon that they were not even allowed to testify in court. However, the final say rested not with Joseph alone but the Essene top brass.
Now, according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essene order had a hierarchy comprising of 19 grades (that is, 0-18 in descending order, with 0 being the top grade). I will confine myself to the top three as these bear the most relevance in the nativity story.
If you recall, the main reason the Essene movement came into being was to champion the cause of the House of David (the royal lineage) and the House of Aaron (the priestly lineage). From the time of King David, the line of Zadok was the senior priesthood and the line of Abiathar was the second in rank. Thus in the Essene order, the High Priest was the Zadok and his Number 2 was the Abiathar. The priests also had angelic designations. The Zadok was called “Archangel Michael”, whilst the Abiathar was called “Angel Gabriel”. You can read all about this in the Community Rule document as well as the War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In 8 BC, the year of the Joseph scandal, the Archangel Michael, also referred to simply as “The Lord”, was Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. The Angel Gabriel, also referred to as the “Angel of the Lord” in that he was the Michael’s deputy, was Simeon (LUKE 2:25-35).
Simeon was the priest in charge of Grade 4 celibates, that is, those of the House of David and House of Aaron who had to be given leave at specified intervals so that they can produce heirs. He was also mentor to the Grade 2 Essene, called the Sariel (another angelic title), who was third in the hierarchy. As the Davidic heir, Joseph was the Sariel. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Sariel also went by the title … Holy Spirit.
Since Joseph the Holy Spirit was under the direct supervision of Simeon the Angel Gabriel, it was to the latter he headed for advice on his predicament.
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.