They use gold, frankincense, and myrrh as emblems of their affirmation
In gospel times, politics and religion were intertwined, just as they today are in jurisdictions like the Vatican and parts of the Islamic world. Reading the gospels, the surface impression one gets is that Jesus was strictly a spritual crusader and politics was a turf only of the occupying Romans, the priesthood such as Caiphas and Annas, and the Herodian dynasty. The fact of the matter is that Jesus too was part of the politics of his day: he was very much in the thick of it.
His arrest and death sentence stemmed not from the arrant nonsense that he claimed to be divine: they were a political fallout. The gospels do provide hints about this state of affairs, such as when Pontius Pilate categorically stated in writing that Jesus was crucified not because he claimed to be God but because he claimed to be “the King of the Jews”, which was a boldfaced dig at the overarching authority of the mighty Caesar.
Yet politics was not a purely extraneous factor as far as Jesus was concerned. There was politics right in the bosom of his family (see next week’s piece). Let us not forget that Joseph was the Davidic heir and therefore all eyes in Judea and Galilee in particular were focused on him. It was he who was expected to produce Israel’s messiah, Christ in Greek. The Jewish messiah was not the spiritual messiah that Paul spun into a popular and abiding dogma. He was a political messiah who was expected to liberate Israel from the Roman yoke and turn it into a global super power.
Thus the Romans were not to know about who this messiah was. The Herodian dynasty was to be made to think that he would always be subordinate to them. The priesthood at the Jerusalem temple were to know who he was and even be counted upon to surreptitiously bolster his cause but since they so bountifully benefitted from Roman patronage, they were content that he be no more than a symbolic messiah. Only the Essenes genuinely deferred to him although they too used tact as the highest rank he could provisionally occupy in their hierarchy was that of third.
The temple priesthood, however, were not in total unanimity as to the messiahship of Jesus. Whether Jesus was the rallying-cry messiah or otherwise depended on which priestly clan was in office at the time. One clan, the House of Annas, so recognised him: the other, the House of Boethus, sidelined him and promoted his younger brother James instead.
MAGI’S WRONG TIMING We have already made the case that Jesus was born not in the city of Bethlehem but at Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls inform that the Essenes had code names for eminent persons in their ranks and for their settlements in the broader Judean wilderness. One of their code names for Qumran was Judea. The Queen’s House, the Qumran quarters for orphans, illegitimate children, and destitute women was nicknamed the Manger in that it had previously served as an animal paddock and even presently had a few domesticated animals milling around.
The other code name for the Queen’s House, so-called because it was administrated by the Davidic Queen – Mary at the time – was Bethlehem of Judea. It was here that Jesus was born in March 7 BC. He was born in such an ignoble surroundings because the incumbent High Priest of the Jerusalem temple, Simon Boethus, had pronounced that for a Davidic heir he was conceived in scandalous circumstances and so had to be born in a place of illegitimate and parentless children and be raised likewise. As far as the Boethusians were concerned, Jesus would never be a Davidic heir as he had forfeited this right of primogeniture on account of the stigma of the manner of his conception.
The Essene priesthood on the other hand unequivocally subscribed to Jesus’ legitimacy as the Davidic heir. The Magi were even more emphatically so. The term Magi in those days meant astrologers. Founded by Menahem in 44 BC, the Magi were a branch of Essenes who had a more liberal outlook of the Essene creed than the puritans of Qumran. Most of the Magi belonged to the tribe of West Manasseh, which was based in Samaria. It was the tribe of West Manasseh that constituted the bulk of the Diaspora Magi.
That the Essenes were astrologers who studied the stars and the planets for a clue on future developments is made very plain in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which bear unequivocal records of horoscopes (This was one reason the Vatican took 45 years to publish all the scrolls: the first 20 percent were reluctantly published in the mid 50s, with the remaining 80 percent being released only in 1991. The Vatican didn’t want Christians to know that the sect that produced Jesus were astrologers. Modern-day Christendom denounces astrology as secular and even sinister). In the gospel era, the Magi were also known as “Wise Men” because of their renowned capacity to project the future.
The Diaspora Magi, who had been eagerly looking forward to the birth of Jesus, expected him to be born in September 7 BC as they were well aware of dynastic procreational rules. They therefore arrived at Qumran in September 7 BC, their wagons loaded with gifts of the newly-born Jewish mascot. By that time, however, Jesus was six months old. Since they lived overseas, it had not come to their knowledge that Jesus had been conceived at the wrong time of the year and was scheduled to be born not in September but in March.
HEROD IS DECEIVED The gospels talk of a star that guided the Magi to a stable in which Jesus was born. That, as I explained at the outset of the Jesus Papers, was a astrotheological interpolation into the nativity story by redactors (editors) with vested interests (see “GREATEST STORY EVER SOLD”, Weekend Post edition of 6-12 September 2014). There was a star in the nativity story of course but this was not a heavenly body: it was a human being.
According to a Dead Sea Scroll text dubbed the Damascus Document, the Davidic heir also went by the nickname “Star of David” because the Star of David was the emblem of the descendents of David. In 7 BC, the Davidic heir was Joseph. It was Joseph, therefore, who was the allegorical Star of the Magian story. Joseph guided the Magi in that it was he who had tipped them as to the whereabouts of Jesus’s birth – Qumran. Joseph invited them over so they could lend legitimacy to his newly-born son.
When the Magi, who were based in Persia (modern-day Iran) arrived at Qumran, they were received by Simeon, the second-ranking Essene priest who also went by the name “Angel Gabriel”. The Magi inquired from him as to where exactly the future “King of the Jews” had been born so they could pay homage to him (“bow to him” in direct translation), not worship him. The exact place of his birth would provide them a veritable clue as to the regard in which the Essene sages held Jesus, that is, whether they recognised him as the Davidic prince or had dismissed him as a bastard child. Simeon told them Jesus had been born at the Manger, the Queen’s House.
On the face of it, the implication this had was that he had been designated as an illegitimate kid. Simeon, however, explained to the Magi that Jesus had to be born at the Queen’s House simply to content the priesthood at the Jerusalem temple; otherwise, the Essene priesthood duly recognised him as the Davidic heir. On hearing this, the Magi broke into praise songs for the “Son of God”. The term Son of God carried two connotations. First, it was a title of the Davidic King. Second, it was a honorific to Zechariah, the highest ranking Essene priest whose other title was “Lord God”.
Now, although King Herod was the figurehead of both the Essene priesthood and that of the Jerusalem temple, he wasn’t made privy to every key development in Palestine. He was only part-Jew and a despot to boot and therefore he wasn’t trusted. Thus when Jesus was born, Herod was not apprised of this development. However, since the Magi arrived in Judea with great fanfare, Herod got wind of their presence and the object of their mission through his spies. Herod didn’t know the whereabouts of Joseph and Mary nor of Mary’s pregnancy: all this was kept from him for fear that he could order their execution as the last thing he wanted was a Davidic aspirant to the Jewish throne.
Gathering his advisors, he asked them as to where the Jewish messiah was to be born. Being patriotic Jews, his advisors answered him in the cryptic pesher language. They said the Messiah was prophesied to be born in “Bethlehem of Judea”. To Herod, this meant the city of Bethlehem in the province of Judea. In pesher, however, “Bethlehem of Judea” referred to the Queen’s House at Qumran. Herod, who had not been instructed in the pesher technique, was therefore hoodwinked.
Next, Herod sent for the Magi themselves to establish from them as to when exactly the messiah was or would be born. Now, according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Magi (as all Essenes) counted time slightly differently from the Jerusalem establishment, the Herodians. A Magian year was always two years ahead of the Herodian year by deliberate design. Some years also had specific designations.
For instance, 7 BC was dubbed the “southern generation year” in the Magian calendar. Since the Magian calendar was two years ahead, this meant that to the Herodians, the southern generation year was 5 BC. Thus when Herod asked the Magi as to when the Christ would be born, they simply said, “the southern generation year”. Herod automatically took that to be 5 BC, which was two years away as the present year was 7 BC. We can now understand why according to the gospels, Herod waited two years before he ordered the massacre of all infants who were two years and below. The Magi had deceived him big time.
SYMBOLISM OF MAGIAN GIFTS The Magi presented baby Jesus with three principal gifts. They were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Christendom has typically over-spiritualised the gifts. It is frequently bellowed from the pulpits that gold was symbolic of Jesus’ divinity – God in the flesh; that frankincense (which was burnt as a pleasant offering to God as per EXODUS 30:34) was a symbol of his holiness and righteousness and his willingness to become a sacrifice for the whole of mankind at Calvary, analogous to a burnt offering; and that myrrh foreshadowed his tribulations leading to death, being a substance used in embalming the dead.
All the above is pure theology: it is wishful thinking. The Magi were not Christians. They were Essenes. Essenes did not believe in or conceive of a spiritual messiah who would suffer, be crucified, rise from the dead, and ascend to some fanciful utopia called Heaven. They looked forward to an here-on-earth political messiah who would free Jews from Roman overrule and establish a wordwide kingdom in which he would rule and in which the nation of Israel would reign supreme. The notion of a spiritual messiah was invented by Pauline Christianity after Jesus turned out to be a feckless and pacifist messiah who didn’t live up to his politico-revolutionary billing.
In light of the above gainsayal, what did the three gifts stand for? In antiquity, gold was a gift for kings. For instance, everything King Solomon owned was made of gold because dignitaries from far-flung domains presented him with cartfuls of gold whenever they called at his courts. By presenting Jesus with gold, the Magi asserted that they recognised him as the Davidic King and not as an illegitimate kid born of fornication as per the stance of the priesthood of the Jerusalem temple.
Frankincense was an incense used by priests when they made offerings to God. What this gift betokened, therefore, was that not only did the Magi recognise Jesus as the Davidic King but they also recognised him as a Priest-King – the Melchizedek.
As for the myrrh, this was not meant for Jesus. It was meant for his mother Mary. According to the Song of Solomon, an Old Testament romantic book that lyrically documents the fervid passion between the King (Solomon) and his bride (the future Queen), myrrh was a perfume of marriage because it was reckoned to be amongst the best fragrances. The myrrh symbolism, therefore, was that the Magi saluted Mary as Joseph’s Queen and not as an outcast fornicator courtesy of the Jerusalem temple establishment.
In short, the Magian gesture was both a veneration of baby Jesus as Israel’s Priest-King and an endorsement of Joseph’s marriage to Mary. There was nothing spiritual, theological, or prophetic about it.
The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.
The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent. That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.
Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed
Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.
Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.
The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.
In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.
However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.
The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.
The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.
What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.
Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.
Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.
They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.
There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.
The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.
Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.
Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.
Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.
To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.
The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.