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John Trashes Priesthood

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

When the Essenes referred to the year AD 6 as the Year of Wrath, It was not a mere figure of speech.  The loss of their high priest Zechariah to the thrust of a dagger wielded by an agent of Judas of Galilee was a crushing blow. For the next 20 years, they were practically leaderless, though by no means rudderless,  as Simeon, Zechariah’s deputy, had bowed out to  pursue purely philanthropic causes untainted by political chicanery of whatever guise.  Indeed, a line in a Dead Sea Scroll dubbed the “Damascus Document” bemoans that “for 20 years we were like blind men groping for the way”.    

 
Yet on a somewhat optimistic note, the Essenes had given the year AD 6 another moniker – the Year of the Plant Root. This primarily referred to Jesus, a “shoot” from the Davidic “root”, who had officially been inducted into the Essene fold  at his Bar Mitzvah ceremony in AD 6. They pinned on him their hope for  a popular political messiah who would spearhead the apocalyptic war against the “Kittim” – their sneering nickname for the Roman occupiers.  Morally allied with him would be a counselor, a counterpart messiah of the House of Aaron.

The messiah of Aaron, namely John,   would be the priest who would promote Jesus to the body politic before he finally strode onto the public stage. John would be the Elijah foretold in the Old Testament through a pronouncement by the prophet Malachi that “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (MALACHI 4:5-6).  


Meanwhile, Annas, the new high priest of the Jerusalem temple, was mandated to stand in for John till he was 30 years of age. Annas, however, was content with being a symbolic high priest of the Qumran temple: all his efforts were devoted to enriching himself from the loot of both temples. When it came to providing spiritual, moral, and ecclesiastical guidance particularly at the Qumran temple, he was as detached as made no difference: he did not care a damn at all. The provisional Qumran priesthood was little more than an opportunistic feather in the cap for him.  Age was also probably a factor: he was only 26 years old when he was appointed high priest and was way short of the qualifying  priestly age of  30, meaning for at least four years or so, he did not command commensurate priestly authority at Qumran.   


Sadly for the Essenes, their cherished hope for liberation messiahs  did not crystalise. It turned out neither Jesus nor John had that much of a zest for armed revolutionarism Zealot-style. Even worse, the two messianic mascots began to work at cross purposes with one another.

JAMES BACK IN LIMELIGHT
The second decade of the first century was not exactly epoch-making but it was fairly eventful as   Annas ceased to be high priest, a new Roman governor was installed, and the second Caesar was crowned.  


Augustus Caesar, who had been emperor since 27 BC, passed on in August 14 AD. He was succeeded by his stepson Tiberius, who had carved himself a reputation as one of Rome’s greatest generals.


Annas had been appointed high priest of the Jerusalem temple in AD 6. Sometime in AD 15, he was deposed by Valerius Gratus, who had just assumed office that very year as Roman governor of Judea. Gratus, Pontius Pilates’s predecessor, was a hard-to-please oddball. Of the four priests who followed after Annas, only one lasted for more than a year.  This was Joseph Caiaphas, the son-in-law to Annas.  Caiaphas was appointed in AD 18 and was in office up to AD 36, making him the longest serving high priest alongside Simon Boethus under Roman rule.  It was Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas who as members of the Jewish Supreme Court jointly heard the marathon “treason” case of Jesus in the early hours of March 20 AD 33.  


Unlike the Annas priests (that is, Annas and his son Eleazer) who had lent unequivocal weight to the messiahship of Jesus,   Caiaphas took the Boethusian view that Jesus did not qualify for the Davidic title as he had been born in sexually scandalous circumstances. As such, he promoted James as the next in line after Joseph. In AD 23, Joseph died aged 67 and Caiaphas officially recognised James as the new David. Until then, James had been known by his given name Cleopas.

At his father’s demise, he became the Jacob, which was his more familiar title as the David. And since he had been declared messiah of Israel by the religious establishment, he also assumed the name James, by which he was best known. In Aramaic, James was Iah-Mes, or Mes-Iah when reversed. Iah- Mes meant “Son of God”. All Davidic kings were addressed as Son of God as per PSALM 2:7.  That in fact was the original meaning of “Messiah”: the widely held view that it meant “anointed one” was a derivative and not primary interpretation.      


With such sagacious and sensible Essene elders such as Zechariah and Simeon no longer on the scene, James’s designation as the Davidic King de facto did have quite a resonance at Qumran and the national grapevine.  However, James, now aged 23, still privately deferred to his brother as the bona fide Davidic messiah at this stage at least. It was only in later years that he actively contended with Jesus for the title at the urging, unstintingly, of his mother Mary and not on account of personal ambition but in heed  of the sway, generally, of the politics of the day.   
 
JOHN GOES OFF AT  A TANGENT
In AD 23, John turned 30 years of age: remember he was born in  September 8 BC. As the Essenes’ Zadok priest, he had long been tipped to commence his priestly duties in that year. A priest, according to the Torah,  was to serve in the temple from 30 years to 50 years  of age (NUMBERS 4:3). It transpired, however, that John had decided he was not going to follow in the footsteps of his late father Zechariah and substantively assume the position of the Michael-Zadok – the high priesthood of the Qumran temple.

Instead of becoming a monastic priest hidebound by ecclesiastical ritual, he disavowed all this, opting instead  for the life of an ascetic and reclusive  Nazarite in the Judean wilds.  He had decided to be the Elijah proper. John’s actions were informed by specific Old Testament injunctions which he read as applying to himself. One of these was ISAIAH 40:3, which said, “Prepare the way of Yahweh in the desert.”  Yahweh had also announced, through the  prophet Malachi, that, “I’m sending  my messenger to prepare the way before me” (MALACHI 3:1).


Read on the surface, John’s decision comes across as self-impelled, as the  stirrings of a purposeful impulse of a wayward, non-comformist  man. But the Anunnaki undertones behind  the move are loud and plangent. In ancient Egypt was a river called Iarutana. In modern, anglicized spelling, this is … the river Jordan. It was in the river Iarutana that Anup, the Egyptian John, baptised Horus, the Egyptian Jesus.  Indeed, the gospels themselves do not say John decided to retreat into  the wilderness proper of his own accord:  they say he heard a “voice” – that of Yahweh if we are to go by Old Testament prognostications.

Today, in 2015, we know who Yahweh was. He was Enlil, the head of the Anunnaki pantheon, the Anunnaki being Aliens from a little-known planet of the Solar System called Nibiru, seen only once  in 3600 years by Earthlings. Of course in the Age of Pisces, which mathematically began in AD 1, Enlil is not in direct charge of Earthly affairs.

It is his grandson Utu-Shamash (called Abbadon in Revelation) who sits at the reins (he was not uncontested though: the Enkites, led by Enki’s eldest son Marduk, challenge him to this day as the Age of Pisces was contractually one of those in which they were to exercise  hegemony as per the compact between the two ever-feuding clans). John’s move, therefore, was not voluntary  as such: it was a prompting – a setup.


From a purely mundane point of view, however, John’s course of action followed the pace the Essenes themselves had set. About 200 years before, some ranks of disaffected Jews had read the same Isaiah scripture and made a kind of  “Great Trek” from mainstream society to sequester themselves in the Judean wilderness at a settlement by the Dead Sea called Qumran, where they embarked on writing what have come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In the Community Rule, their foundational document, they state that they had “separated from the habitation of unjust men”  with a view to “prepare in the wilderness the Way… This is the time for the preparation of the Way in the wilderness”. They in future would become best known as Essenes but initially they did not call themselves that:  they referred to themselves as “The Way”, that is people who were paving the morally and spiritually upright way for God’s imminent direct rule of Earth. That must ring a bell, or doesn’t it?


Early Christians called themselves “Followers of the Way” (ACTS 19:20) and Jesus said ,“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (JOHN 14:6). All this is unequivocal enough evidence that Jesus, John, and the entire Christian movement were forged in the Essene crucible. A mature John, however, had now decided his concept of preparing for the Way did not exactly dovetail with that of the monastic Essenes.

Whilst the Qumran Essenes pretty much kept to themselves and did not proselytize, John had decided on a strategy of  reach-out. He wanted to actively minister to the nation of  Israel by clarion call so he could effectually get the message across to them and the only the only he could do this was to set up his own base well beyond the orbit of the Qumran establishment.    

A THREE-YEAR PREPARATION
The exact place in the Judean desert John chose as his hermitical perch was where the Jordan River flowed into the Dead Sea. This is 429 metres below sea level, the lowest inland spot on Earth. Called the Aravah, it was not totally barren desert: it was a valley with scattered stands of savannah vegetation in a general terrain of  colouful cliffs and sharp-topped mountains. There, John, with a handful of disciples who included Simon Peter and Andrew began life as a Nazarite and the new Elijah. This was his southern redoubt.


A Nazarite (very different from “Nazarene”) was a Jew who had taken a special vow of separation from society in line with NUMBERS 6. Accordingly therefore, he let his hair and beard grow long Rasta-style, abstained from liquor, and wore a rough camel’s hair garment with a leather belt. Nazarites did marry, examples of whom where Samson and James the brother of Jesus, but John took the institution to another level: he never married and never pursued a trade. His aversion  to an intimate relationship with women was almost certainly inherited from his father, who had to be bidden – if not browbeaten – to consummate his marriage and produce a heir.     


In addition to a southern, Judean lair,  John had a northern lair just within sniffing distance of Galilee. This was just south of the Sea of Galilee at a place called Aenon near the settlement of Salim. This was a strategic location for two reasons in the many. First, it was associated with the prophet Elijah, whose birthplace, Tishbe,  was just across the Jordan River to the east along a brook called Wadi Cherith. Wadi Cherith is the area around which Elijah hid from Ahab and his wicked queen Jezebel and was fed by ravens. But just as important, the spot John chose lay at the intersection of the Valley of Jezreel and the Jordan River.

This was the route the Galilean pilgrims used in travelling south to Judea for annual  festivals such as  the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. Thus John literally stood at the crossroads of a national thoroughfare  where  a captive audience for his apocalyptic sermons every now and again  processed.


Yet John did not begin to court the public straightaway. He waited for three years before he stepped into the public spotlight. This was not by mere happenstance: it was purposeful. He had a schedule based on the messianic timetable of the prophet Daniel. In working to this schedule, he was partnered by one of his cousins, a dynastic one like he was.
This was Jesus.  

NEXT WEEK: WHO WAS GREATER BETWEEN JOHN AND JESUS?
 

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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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