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Born with a Bang: A rival arises in the bosom of Jesus’ own family

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman senate in 40 BC. But it was in 37 BC, when he captured Jerusalem which Antigonus the beleaguered Hasmonean ruler of Palestine had held on to, that he became undisputed King. That is why official history chronicles his reign as spanning the years 37 BC to 4 BC. In truth, however, his reign commenced in 40 BC.


Based on their reading of the apocryphal book of Enoch, the Herodians (and much of the Jewish establishment) naively reckoned that the world had been created in 3941 BC (Year 0) and that it was going to last for a total of 4900 years, or approximately 5000 years, before God came down to assume direct rule of Earth, a setup called a theocracy.

In line with this reckoning, therefore, the year  41 BC  marked exactly 3900 years since creation and the onset of the final, 1000-year epoch, a millennium. As such, the apocalyptic Last Judgement was expected to occur between 960 AD and 1000 AD. When Paul in his epistles stressed that “we are in the last days”, he essentially spoke in this context though mistakenly so of course.  


Now, in those days, a generation amounted to 40 years. Herod therefore called the first 40 years from 41 BC as Generation 1. Generation 1 was to be dedicated to an indoctrination of the world – disguised as evangelising – with the notion of the Kingdom of God.  Herod’s aim was for his descendents to rule not only Palestine but the whole wide world so that when God (not Jesus, please take note) descended to establish a theocracy, he would find a Herodian on the planet’s geopolitical throne.


Joseph, Theudas Barabbas, and their fellow Essenes took very strong exception to such a scenario. As far as they were concerned, God had to find a Davidic King on the world throne when he came circa 1000 AD. If this prospect was not to come to pass, it was only because Jesus, the next in the Davidic line of succession after his father Joseph, was a divisive figure: he was not universally recognised by the Jerusalem establishment owing to the questionable circumstances of his birth. In order to ensure the Davidic succession was not forever jeopardised, Joseph set about siring a son in a manner that perfectly conformed to the prescribed dynastic procreational parameters so that this son was acknowledged  by all and sundry as a fitting Davidic heir.  Of particular importance was that the son had to be born in the right  month – September, the holiest month in the Jewish calendar. Joseph did not intend to disinherit Jesus: he was simply hedging his bets.

JAMES, THE COMPROMISE MESSIAH
Jesus had been born on Sunday March  7 BC. According to Essene dynastic procreational rules, Joseph had to wait for six years before he sired a second-born (he would have waited for only three years had Jesus been a daughter). And so it was that in December 1 BC, Joseph resumed sexual relations with his wife Mary (since for dynastic families sex was purely for procreation and not for pleasure as per strict Essene chastity rules, the couple had not copulated in the intervening years). Nine months later, they were blessed with a baby boy as per their wish. Joseph gave him the name Cleopas, after one of his two younger brothers who were twins. He would, however, become best-known by the titular names Jacob and James in adulthood.


Since James was born at the prescribed time, he was straightaway hailed as the Jewish messiah by the High Priest of the Jerusalem temple Joazar, at the expense of his elder brother Jesus. The Essenes, however, still held  that Jesus was the rightful messiah irrespective of the scandalous nature of his birth. The controversy was to linger for a long time to come, both among the Jews and within Jesus’ own family, with Mary inclined, at least initially,  towards a recognition of  James and Joseph gravitating towards Jesus. More will be said on these family dialectics as the Jesus Papers progress.   


To the Essenes, it was the birth of James that marked the beginning of the countdown to 1000 AD and not the year 41 BC. Hence the year in which James was born was designated AD 1 (it was not called that before: it was called 754 AUC, that is, 754 years after the founding of the city of Rome). The years 41 BC to 1 BC were therefore unilaterally re-designated as Generation Zero by the Essenes. It was the first 40 years from AD 1 that became Generation 1. This revised outlook explains why this period was characterised by fevered evangelising and ministration by Jesus, John the Baptist, and the apostolate.      

ZECHARIAH IS KILLED
During the reign of Herod Archelaus, the dynamics radically changed at Qumran. First, the Diaspora Essenes became much more influential and increasingly assertive. The Diaspora Essenes, who included the Theraputae, were doctrinally more liberal than the rigid Palestinian Essenes, the latter of whom included Simeon and Joseph the father of Jesus. Because of their relaxed moral rules, the Diaspora Essenes were cynically branded as “seekers-after-smooth-things”. Second, schisms emerged, renting asunder the solidarity that held firm all along. There was a peace faction on the one hand and a belligerent faction on the other.


The belligerent faction was led by a fire-breathing nationalist known as Judas of Galilee, who had arrived at Qumran in AD 4 as commander of the Zealots, the private though ragtag guerilla army of the Essenes. Barabbas too was initially a member of the belligerent faction, as was Judas Iscariot, both of whom would in time become disciples of  Jesus.  

The  belligerent faction was privately sponsored by Herod Archelaus and supported by High Priest Joazar.  Its aim was to drive away the Romans  and therefore win independence for Palestine.  In order to effectively inculcate to his army  the art of war, Judas of  Galilee wrote up a war manual, now called the War Scroll and which was among the Dead Sea find. It was under Judas of Galilee that the Zealots became a household name.


The peace faction was led by Simeon, the Essene’s  second-ranking (Abiathar) priest who also went by the title Angel Gabriel. It included Joseph and Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist who sat at the apex of the  Essene priestly hierarchy. Its aim was to act as a check on the insurrectionist propensities of the belligerent faction though to no avail.


Now, Archelaus seemed to have a kind of split personality. Although he professed a predilection to free the Jews in the behind-the-scenes counsels with the Essene high command, he ruled his subjects with an iron fist. He was said to be even more callous than his deceased father.

The peace faction therefore had justification to suspect that he was actually working in cahoots with Rome as an  agent provocateur whilst pretending to be allied with the Essenes. As a result, the peace faction convinced Barabbas to defect from the pro-Archelaus belligerent faction and join forces with them in a plot to eliminate  Archelaus and  depose a supine Joazar from the priesthood.

This conspiracy was broached at a top-secret meeting where Zechariah, Simeon, and Joseph were  in attendance early in AD 6.  Also present was Annas, the “new kid on the block” who was tipped to replace Joazar as High Priest. Annas, who in future  would part-preside over the trial of Jesus,  had undertaken to recognise Jesus, now on the cusp of 12 years of age,  as the Davidic messiah, a position that had consistently been the stance of the Essenes.


The meeting was a stormy and fateful affair. For reasons that are not amply chronicled in the records of the day, sparks flew and violence ensued. In the process, Zechariah was killed by an agent of Judas of Galilee. Joseph’s younger brother  Ptolas, Cleopas’s twin, also died in this same scuffle. As the spiritual leader of the Essenes – and probably as a term simply of veneration – Zechariah was also known as the Teacher of Righteousness, a titular distinction that is regularly encountered in the pages of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Shortly thereafter, his only child, young John the Baptist, was named as his successor. In other words, Little John was the new Zadok Priest, Archangel Michael, Lord God, and  Teacher of Righteousness, all titles of which his father had carried. He was to be mentored and chaperoned by the patriarchal Simeon. Meanwhile, Annas was briefed to hold fort for Little John  till he was 30, the age of high priesthood.   

ARCHELAUS IS DEPOSED
Herod Archelaus was vindictive to a point of self-destruction. Josephus relates that he “used not the Jews only, but the Samaritans also, barbarously; and this out of his resentment of their old quarrels with him”. When he had 3000 protesting Jews slaughtered in the temple whilst his father was in his death throes in 4 BC, he was petitioned before Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. The Jews bemoaned to the emperor that they had had enough of Herodian tyranny and would rather they were directly ruled by a Roman authority than a dynasty of dubious Jews. They bid the emperor that Judea be overseen by the Roman governor in charge of Syria, one reason Archelaus was put on an open-ended probation.   It was apparent that this probation now seemed to have run its course.  


In AD 6, things came to a head. Once again, Archelaus was arraigned before Augustus. Josephus: “In the tenth year of Archelaus's government, both his brethren, and the principal men of Judea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, accused him before Caesar.” As he sailed to Rome to answer to the charges preferred against him, Archelaus was almost certain this was a one-way voyage.  The Qumran sage Simeon had indicated to him that that might well be his fate. Archelaus had had a dream in which he saw “nine ears of corn, full and large, but devoured by oxen”. Seeking an explanation to this riddle, he consulted Simeon, who Josephus acknowledges as the greatest fortune teller of his day. Simeon spelt out to him that he would rule no more than 9 years, after which an eerily dark chapter would dawn in his life. Exactly five days later, Archelaus was summoned to Rome, distressed that AD 6 was his 9th year on the throne.  


The glory days were certainly over. At Rome, Augustus confirmed the inevitable. He had given Archelaus more than ample time – or was it ample rope? – to prove himself and he had been an absolute fiasco. He was dethroned and banished to Vienna in modern-day France, where he would die in obscurity. The Jews were now going to be given what they had requested of Caesar in 4 BC. Judea, along with Samaria and Idumea, was annexed to Syria. It was to be overseen by the governor of Syria and directly administered by a Roman procurator. The first such procurator was Lucius Coponius though the most famous is Pontius Pilate.


Now that Judea had come under direct Roman rule, Augustus commissioned Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, the governor of Syria, to conduct a census there for purposes of assessing potential tax income (LUKE 2:2). All Jews who owned property in Judea were required to return home for the census. This included Joseph, who although officially domiciled in Galilee (for strategic purposes) actually had property in Jerusalem bequeathed to him by his father Jacob-Heli.  At the time though, Joseph was already in Judea, at Qumran, with Mary and young Jesus, who was being prepared for his Bar-Mitzvah ceremony which had fallen due now that he was 12 years old.


The AD 6 census was the first one of its kind in Palestine. Judas of Galilee, the Zealot commander, vowed he would resist it to the death. To him, Rome was consolidating its rule over the Jews rather than relax it. Besides, he was indignant that his secret allies Archelaus and Joazar had been deposed. So having disposed of Zechariah, Judas of Galilee broke ranks with fellow Essenes and incited a full-scale revolt against the incoming Roman administration (ACTS 5:37). The upheaval was promptly put down by Coponius and Judas was captured and killed. The bulk of the insurrectionists, however, simply melted into the civilian population Al Qaeda-style.    


The failure of the Judas uprising meant the belligerent faction at Qumran had lost out in the bigger picture and the peace faction had triumphed. In the event, Annas, who was allied with the peace faction, replaced Joazar as High Priest, trusted by Coponius to foster harmonious relations between Jews and Rome.   That, however, did not mean that the Zealots were no more. They remained very much a cornerstone of the Essene institutional edifice as they were central to a future popular revolution that was always imminent. In fact, following the demise of Judas the Galilean, another Judas promptly took his place.   
     He was Judas Iscariot.
     
 
NEXT WEEK: JESUS COMES OF AGE

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020
FATED “JIHADI” JOHN

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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