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.
Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.
This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.
The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.
On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members. The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.
The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.
The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed. The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.
The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.
If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.
So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.
The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption. Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.
The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus. So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS. They demand a start from a clean slate.
The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.
Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.
Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.
In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.
Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.
The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.
There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.
But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.
There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.
He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.
The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.
For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way.
I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However, the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’. Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.
No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.
I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century. Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?
The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.
In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”
The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.
Nothing happens until something moves
The secret of getting ahead is getting started
Act or be acted upon
All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD! This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.
To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts: *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide. What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.
As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.
JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated. Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”
2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.
.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.
Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!