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Born then Reborn

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Jesus was biologically born in 7 BC and symbolically reborn in 6 AD   

The gospel of Luke is my favourite by a long shot. This is because it is very historically accurate and the least theological of the four gospels. Luke was more interested in telling history than promoting a faith we today call Christianity or making a case that Jesus was God incarnate. He had his political biases but his is the most credible of the Jesus chronicles.


Luke is the author of two New Testament books, the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. He is the only Gentile, that is, non-Jew, on the roll of New Testament writers: he was of Greek stock and was domiciled in Antioch, Syria, the third largest city in the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria.  His career, however, was not that of a scribe: he was a medical doctor.

This is evident both from the testimony of Paul and intimations in his (Luke) own writings. For instance, he names diseases in the manner of a medical buff rather than simply attribute them to “demon possession”. Luke was not only Paul’s travelling companion but he was also his personal doctor. We learn this from his own work, Acts,  and from the epistles such as 1 COLOSSIANS 4:14, where Paul says, “Our Dear friend Luke the Doctor and Demas send greetings”.


In penning his gospel, Luke did painstaking research and dared those who might criticise him by naming scores of people – both famous and ordinary – and several places. Now, if you relate your story in the wider context of global history and you even furnish names, you are in trouble if you are telling a lie. This gesture on Luke’s part is persuasive enough evidence that  what he set down was indeed true: you don’t set booby traps for yourself if all you are doing is spinning a yarn.


This is how Luke introduces his gospel to underscore the fact that it was very well-informed: “1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (LUKE 1:1-4).”


From the above preamble, we learn three more things beside the fact of the meticulous research. First, there were numerous stories  that had been written about Jesus and were in circulation at the time Luke wrote his gospel. Most of these have either been lost or form part of what we call the apocryphal – the accounts about Jesus that were excluded from the New Testament canon at the 325 AD Nicene Council, where the New Testament was collated. Second, part of the data that informed Luke’s gospel was provided him by people who knew Jesus personally.

These may have included the apostles themselves as well as the family members of Jesus, particularly his mother,  brothers, and sisters. Thirdly, Luke wrote his two books at the bidding of or in deference to a venerable man known as Theophilus, who features in the opening statements of  both the gospel and Acts. 

 
Who was Theophillus? It is important that we make his acquaintance for then we will be in position to put a approximate timeframe  to Luke’s embarkation on  his literary projects. In any case, it is Theophillus we owe a debt of gratitude for Luke’s two seminal books: without him, there would never have been a gospel of Luke and an Acts of the Apostles, in consequence of which we would be greatly diminished in our understanding of the Jesus saga.      

THE PRO-CHRISTIAN HIGH PRIEST
Luke addresses Theophillus as “Most Excellent”. There are only two other personages who are addressed likewise in the entire New Testament corpus. They were Roman governors in charge of Judea, namely Felix (ACTS 23:26) and Festus (ACTS 26:25). Inevitably therefore, Theophilus must have been a high-ranking political figure.

In gospel times, there was only one well-known VIP who went by the name Theophilus. This was Theophilus ben Annas, the son of the infamous Annas who presided over the trial of Jesus. He was High Priest from 37 to 41 AD. High Priests were appointed by the reigning King, himself an appointee of Rome.   


The argument that this was the Theophilus Luke reverenced in his gospel is more than persuasive. First, this Theophilus was not a total stranger to Luke. As youngsters, the two were classmates under the tutelage of the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel. Theophilus, his two brothers Jonathan and Simon, and the apostle Paul were contemporaries at Gamaliel’s academy.

It makes sense, therefore, that if Theophilus wanted an authoritative brief on the life and times of Jesus, the name that immediately came to mind was Luke, who was not only a member of the Jesus movement but was a constant companion of Paul, the most famous propagator of the Christ message.


Luke is also the only one of the four evangelists to have mentioned the names Theophilus and Joanna. Joanna, the wife of Chuza, who was the chief steward of Galilean King Herod Antipas. Joanna is mentioned in LUKE 8:3 and 24:10.

She was one of the women who financially supported the labours of Jesus and one of the female witnesses to the resurrection. Now, according to an archaeological find, Theophilus had a granddaughter called Joanna, which explains why she was married to Herod Antipas’ Chancellor of the Exchequer:  high society typically marries into high society. 

When in his prelude  Luke says to Theophilus that “you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught”, he must have been referring to Joanna, one of the “eyewitnesses and servants of the word”  who obviously must have  related the story of Jesus to her grandfather.


In the gospel, Luke addresses Theophilus as “Most Excellent”. In Acts, however, he simply addresses him as “O Theophillus”. What this implies is that by the time he wrote or concluded Acts, Theophilus was no longer High Priest.  Why did Theophillus commission Luke to do a story on the Jesus epic? The most plausible reason is that he was persuaded by his granddaughter Joanna, with a view to alter his perception of the Jesus movement.

In a political climate where the Herodians were so antagonistic toward Christians (Stephen had been killed for instance), it was necessary to disabuse the High Priest of certain distortions about it. Indeed of the Annas priestly dynasty, Theophilus turned out to be the most sympathetic to Christians. Three years after he  was removed from power, James the son of Zebedee was executed at the orders of King Herod Agrippa I.  


With such a political backdrop, we can now confidently date the writing of the gospel of Luke. This was between AD 41 and 44. In fact, by AD 60, all the gospels had been written. What we have today are not originals but subsequent editions, which were revised by the authors themselves and over time embellished by editors with sectarian agendas.  

TWO BIRTHDAYS OF JESUS
We have already asserted, from what we glean from the pesher of the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Jesus was born in 7 BC. Does the Bible agree with this date or otherwise?


The biblical clues on Jesus’ birth date are furnished by Matthew and Luke. We will begin with Matthew. Matthew indicates that Herod the Great was alive when  Jesus was born. Herod died in 4 BC, meaning Jesus could not have been born later than this date.  Luke’s assertion, however, remains a moot point. Scholars actually continue to pan  him for his timeframe, charging that he was grossly mistaken as he was more than ten years off the mark. Well, I beg to differ.

When it comes to the timing of events, Luke is infallible. Scholars are a swell-headed lot who think they  know it all when they actually do not. So what has made scholars cast cynical aspersions at Luke in relation to the birth date of Jesus?


Luke situates the birth of Jesus in the year Quirinius was governor of Syria and when there was a census “throughout the Roman world” as decreed by Emperor Augustus (LUKE 2:1-3). Quirinius was appointed governor of Syria in AD 6.

In that year,  Archelaus, the Herodian ruler of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea was deposed by Augustus and his three territories came under direct Roman rule, with a Roman prefect, also called procurator, mandated to take charge of them. At the same time, the three territories, now known as Iudaea,  were made subordinate to the legate of Syria, who was also referred to as governor.

The first such legate was Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, an iconic and decorated  Roman general. Since Iudaea was now under direct Roman administration, Quirinius was instructed by Emperor Augustus to conduct a census in the region for purposes of taxation.  Being the first one of its kind in Palestine, the census sparked a Zealot  uprising led by Judas the Galilean (ACTS 5:7).   


In AD 6, Herod the Great had been dead for nine years and it is such a scenario that makes scholars sneer at Luke. This is unfortunate because as always Luke was correct. How do we know? The answer is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which few scholars have bothered to read and decipher.


In March AD 6, Jesus turned 12. At this age, he had to undergo a ceremony known as Bar Mitzvah, a coming-of-age ritual. Whilst mainstream Jewry celebrated Bar Mitzvah at age 13 for a boy and with hardly any fanfare, the Essenes did so at age 12 and with an elaborate ceremony particularly for a dynastic child. The Essenes regarded Bar Mitzvah as a symbolic rebirth. At the ceremony, therefore, they reenacted the actual birth of the person  concerned.  

To the Essenes, Bar Mitzvah was more important than even the biological birth date because at age 12 the person was conferred a grade in the Essene hierarchy – 18, the lowest grade. Thus the birth Luke alludes to in his gospel is not the year Jesus was actually born: it is the year he was re-born, when he was initiated into the Essene hierarchy. Calculating backwards from AD 6 to the 12th year gives us the year 7 BC as the birth date of Jesus (there was no year 0)!


By highlighting the Bar Mitzvah date of Jesus instead of his actual birth date, Luke was signalling two things to discerning readers – that  Jesus was an Essene and that  he became the legitimate heir to the Davidic throne in  AD 6. Exactly how did the latter  come about?  

JAMES INAUGURATES AD ERA
The acronym BC means “Before Christ”. How then could Jesus have been born in 7 BC, before he was actually born? The official explanation is that one Roman monk called  Dionysius Exiguus erred in his calculations done in the year 526 AD. He first dated Jesus’ birth as 753 years after the founding of Rome. The birth date was designated AD 1, with AD  being a Latin acronym for “Anno Domini”, meaning “In the Year of our Lord”.  In due course,  however, it transpired Dionysius  had made a mistake as Jesus was actually born between 746 to 749 years after the founding of Rome as we now know, meaning Jesus’ birth date now relocated into the BC era.  


The “official” version, however, is not true as is often and typically the case. The demarcation between the BC era and the new, AD dispensation was determined at Qumran, by the Essenes. What happened was that when the powers-that-be, the Temple priesthood led by then High Priest  Simon Boethus, refused to recognise Jesus as the Davidic heir as he was technically born of fornication and at the wrong time for a dynastic heir (March instead of September), Joseph was now under obligation to produce a “bona fide heir”. According to the Essenes’ procreational rules, Joseph had to embark on this assignment six years after the birth of Jesus.   Joseph paid due heed and his second-born son James was  born when Jesus was  seven years old.


In the year James was born, the High Priest was a son of Boethus, Joazar, and as per the Boethusian stance James was eagerly embraced as the Davidic messiah  as not only was he born  in strict adherence to dynastic procreational rules but he was born in the holy month of September. It was with the birth of James that the Essenes inaugurated a new world order and therefore designated his birth year as Year 1, what we now call AD 1. Since Jesus had now been sidelined, his birth date was referred to as “7 years before the beginning of the new era”, or 7 BC as we refer to it today.    


Yet Jesus was not to be marginalised forever. In AD 6, when he turned 12, there was a change of the guard at the helm of the priesthood. The new High Priest de-recognised James as the Davidic heir and reinstated Jesus. The name of the High Priest was Annas ben Seth. How and why did this state of affairs came about?


NEXT WEEK: WHO WERE THE MAGIANS?
 

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

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.

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