Jesus and John the Baptist band together to inaugurate new dispensation
In terms of the change of the political guard, the year AD 26 was just as momentous as AD 14/15. The tectonic plates in fact began to shift in AD 23: that year, Drusus, Roman Emperor Tiberius’s heir and one of his only two children, died at the tender age of 34. The death was such a blow to Tiberius that he gradually began to withdraw from everyday conduct of the affairs of his empire. Finally in AD 26, he removed to the Isle of Capri, about 263 km from Rome, and fixed his abode there – the first time he departed from Rome since enthronement in August AD 14.
Although Tiberius still called the shots as emperor, the man he trusted to exercise imperial power on his behalf was his closest confidant Lucius Aelius Sejanus. In the very same year that he was so exalted, Sejanus had Valerius Gratus recalled as governor of Judea and replaced with his lapdog, Pontius Pilate, arguably history’s most infamous Roman. Pilate would remain in office from AD 26 to AD 36.
It was in the same crossroads year of AD 26 that John emerged from self-imposed hibernation to become the now famous John the Baptist. His partner-in-chief in this seminal mission was none other than Jesus. This enterprise was not incidental: it had been three years in the making, jointly charted by the two messiahs of Aaron and David. What was so special about AD 26 that John and Jesus had to earmark it as the “acceptable year of the Lord”? HEEDING THE DANIEL TIMETABLE
Both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible tell of the imminence of the “Kingdom of God”. Contrary to the interpretation of much of Christendom, this was not an ethereal, “Heavenly” Kingdom. It was a through-and-through righteous, Earth-based realm ruled by a descended God, also called a theocracy (Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate a truer understanding of this particular theme than evangelicals). This theocracy would not suddenly dawn on mankind: it was to be heralded by two Earthling messengers of God called messiahs. These were the messiah of Aaron and the messiah of David.
The term messiah in this context meant “anointed one”, that is, a figure who was divinely commissioned to undertake a divinely assigned role. The two messiahs were inferred from passages in the Old Testament – most of which imprecise – and were plainly anticipated in the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were to be preceded by Elijah and an unnamed prophet. The Old Testament document that Elijah did not die but was straightaway conducted to Heaven by God. (The more categorical Sumerian records relate that the Anunnaki, the Old Testament gods, transported him by a “celestial boat” to their planet Nibiru, like they had done with Enoch, Noah, and Jacob before). As such, he was expected to return and prepare Israel for the emergence of the Levitic and Davidic messiah just before the advent of the terrestrial Kingdom of God. As to when the two messiahs were to appear, the timelines were not uniform. But the first century was one of fevered expectation particularly that mathematically it marked a crossover into a new zodiacal age – that of Pisces. Just as the birth of Abraham had inaugurated the age of Aries, another epoch-making figure was expected to arise at the onset of the Age of Pisces. The time table that was the baseline frame of reference was that according to the prophet Daniel – the so-called Seventy Weeks of Daniel.
Daniel had postulated that from the time of a certain decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” following its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar to the “time of the end”, “seventy weeks of years” would elapse. In other words, every 7 years amounted to one week of years and therefore seventy such week-years yielded a total of 490 years. (According to Sumerian records, 7 was the number of Enlil, the Anunnaki god of the Jews who the Old Testament generally refers to as Jehovah or Yahweh.)
The Jewish number crunchers reckoned the beginning of these 70 weeks from 457 BC, the year Ezra the scribe returned from Babylonian exile. Counting from 457 BC to AD 26, we come to a total elapsed time of 69 week-years, meaning in that year there was only one more week-year remaining, that is, 7 years, for all the 70 week years to come to pass. AD 26 was therefore the beginning of the countdown to the establishment of messianic rule in Israel and it was in heed of Daniel’s timetable that Jesus and John the Baptist, the dynastic kingly and priestly figures of the day, decided to spring into action and institute a messianic revival.
JOHN BECOMES POPE
Although John the Baptist had disclaimed the Essene priesthood when he became eligible at age 30, he was in AD 26 persuaded to assume leadership of the order. He insisted, albeit, that he would do so only in an elective capacity and not as the dynastic Zadok priest.
Just to recap, the Essenes had to have three dynastic priestly heads. These were the Zadok, the Abiathar, and the Levi in line with the setup that obtained under King David in the 10th century BC. From 6 AD onwards, however, the top two positions had been vacant in a substantive sense. Zechariah, the Zadok, had been killed: Annas, who had acted on behalf of Zechariah’s heir John the Baptist, had forfeited his position when he was sacked as the national high priest in AD 14. Simeon, the Abiathar, had resigned right in AD 6. They did have a Levi priest all right, namely Jonathan Annas, but his stature was nowhere near that of the Zadok or that of the Abiathar. That’s why the Essenes pitted themselves as practically leaderless.
In AD 26, John the Baptist finally consented to be the Essene leader but under the title of Father rather than the Michael-Zadok. The title of Father was not dynastic: it was elective. It was not as prestigious, therefore, as that of the Zadok succession but it had considerable clout nonetheless.
As the acting Zadok on behalf of young John, Annas also had held the title Father. His son Eleazer and his son-in-law Caiaphas had gone by the same title too, though unlike Annas the latter two never acted as Zadok priests. The title of Father was in homage to Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation. Hence the Father was sometimes also referred to as Abraham. As we saw in earlier articles, the great Rabbi Menahem was the Essenes’ first symbolic Abraham. The setup today where the Pope is elected and also carries the title “Holy Father” was purloined from the Essene setup. Indeed the term Pope is simply a corruption of “Papa”, meaning “Father”.
In the event therefore, Caiaphas stepped down as the Father and John, who had a qualifying pedigree, was elected in his stead. The Essenes were exultant. “For 20 years we were like blind men groping for the way” they wrote in a Dead Sea Scroll dubbed the Damascus Document. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, John is referred to as the “Teacher of Righteousness”. The Essenes document that the Teacher of Righteousness appeared 20 years after the formation of the “Plant Root”. The “Plant Root” referred to Jesus, who in AD 6 was officially recognised as the Davidic heir when he turned 12 on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah ceremony.
As the titular Father, John the Baptist had the right to appoint two deputies. These went by the titles “Son” and “Spirit”. Accordingly, John decided to appoint his fellow dynastic cousin Jesus as Son. As for the Spirit, he opted for Jonathan Annas, the son of former national high priest Annas. In the gospels, Jonathan Annas is best-known as Nathaniel.
The three were directly addressed as Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit and they were deemed to operate in one accord, that is, as “one”. This is highly instructive. When we read the Bible and we come across references to “Father”, “Holy Spirit” or “Son”, our tendency as Christians has been to generalise these into one, across-the-board meaning.
That is unfortunate. It is imperative that we look at the context and fathom whether “Father” in that situation meant “God in Heaven” or it meant something else. This is because there are times when the term “Father” or “God” actually refers to mere mortals, such as a sitting high priest or John the Baptist himself. By the same token, “Holy Spirit” at times referred to Joseph, the father of Jesus, particularly in the nativity accounts as we demonstrated in earlier pieces. Then as today, words or titles meant different things in different contexts and junctures of history.
THE BAPTIST ON PEDESTAL
In the gospels, it is not clear-cut as to who was senior in messianic status between Jesus and John. There are passages that suggest Jesus was senior and there are those that exalt John above Jesus. It is only when you read between the lines and filter out the sectarian interpolations that you realise who was the more esteemed of the two. Christians of course take it as an article of faith that Jesus was the main man and John was a mere harbinger. It is to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were never tampered with for over 2000 years, we have to turn if we are to know the real truth.
To the Essenes, John was senior to Jesus, just as Zechariah had been senior to Joseph. In a Dead Sea text titled the Testament of Levi and catalogued 4Q541, this is what the Essenes say of the messiah of Aaron: “He will atone for the sons of his generation and he will be sent to the sons of his people. His word is like a word of Heaven and his teaching is according to the will of God.
His eternal sun will shine, and his fire will blaze in all the corners of the earth. Then darkness will disappear from the earth and deep darkness from the dry land.” Put simply, John was the “atoning” messiah as far as the Essenes were concerned, not Jesus as Christendom wrongly believes. In another Dead Sea scroll titled the Community Rule, the Essenes state that in a future, liberated Israel, the Priest messiah would preside over the “Messianic Banquet” with the King messiah as his “companion”. Clearly, this makes Jesus subordinate to John.
There is also this apocryphal book titled The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs which dates from the 2nd century BC. In it, Judah himself declares that, “For to me the Lord gave the kingship and to him (his brother Levi) the priesthood and he set the kingship under the priesthood”. This is the messianic paradigm the Essene followed and therefore rightfully had John take precedence over Jesus.
In sum, two Jewish messiahs were expected by the children of Israel. They were the messiah of David, from the tribe of Judah, and the messiah of Aaron, from the tribe of Levi. The Davidic messiah was to be the king in a self-governing Israel and the Levitic messiah was to be the high priest. In the first century, the prospects in this regard were Jesus as the future king (with James his brother as a from-time-to-time contender) and John the Baptist as the future high priest. Although John did disown the Essene priesthood, he still valued the national priesthood as that was his birthright.
Of the two young messiahs, it was Jesus who was junior and was therefore expected to defer to and follow the direction of John. Jesus meekly accepted this relationship without rancour. It explains why he was comfortable with being the “Son” to the “Father” that was John.
The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella, Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.
That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.
Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.
Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.
What are these two Bills really about? The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.
The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.
In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.
According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.
The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.
He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.
This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.
This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.
The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.
The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.
The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced. According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.
Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.
One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.
They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.
In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.
There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.
The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.
While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered. It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.
The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.
The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.