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Cracks In The Edifice

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

Factions emerge in messianic movement

Reading the New Testament, it strikes one as crystal-clear that the first century was gripped with apocalyptic fever. The nation of Israel expected a seismic change both at the political and theological level.  Paul, for instance, wrote that, “The appointed time has grown very short” (I CORINTHIANS 7:29). Peter said, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 PETER 4:7). James declared, “The Judge is standing at the door” (JAMES 5:9).  All these promulgations were based on the time table of Daniel’s prophecy primarily. And the rallying figure who had set the pace was none other than John the Baptist.


Having decided time was ripe to bring about a messianic awakening, John and Jesus now set to work in 26-27 AD. This was not an ordinary overlapping year: it was what in Hebrew is known as the Shemittah Year but commonly referred to as the Sabbatical Year. The Sabbatical Year was observed once every seven years, from one September to the next, and had been decreed to the nation of Israel by their Anunnaki god Enlil, called Jehovah or Yahweh in the Bible.


In LEVITICUS 25:3-4, this is what Enlil had said: “For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest, a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, you shall not prune your vineyard, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth of your harvest.”  That is to say, in the Sabbatical Year, the Israelites had to desist from cultivating their land, allowing it to remain fallow. 

Enlil had also pronounced thus: “At the end of seven years you will make a release. And this is the manner of the release: to release the hand of every creditor from what he lent his friend; he shall not exact from his friend or his brother, because the time of the release for the Lord has arrived” (DEUTERONOMY 15:1-2). In the Sabbatical Year therefore, creditors were under obligation by godly fiat to waive all the debts owed to them by anybody and everybody: it didn’t matter the magnitude of the sum.


Besides giving the people an opportunity to put their faith in God and see it fulfilled, the year-long abstention from farming also allowed them to collectively take a breather and focus on higher, more spiritual pursuits. In the event, therefore, they had occasion to pack the synagogues and study halls. Since thousands of peasants and villagers whose normal life was tied to agricultural cycles were largely free from their normal work, John and Jesus saw this as the perfect opportunity to spark a religious renaissance among the masses.  The prophet Zechariah had talked of “two sons of fresh oil” who he likened to two “olive branches” that stood before the Menorah, the seven-branched oil lamp that symbolised God’s spirit and presence. Doubtless, Jesus and John saw themselves in this light.

THE  BAPTISM OF JOHN
The method the two messiahs of Israel adopted to bring about the new apocalyptical awakening was baptism. This involved immersing somebody in water wholly or partially as symbolic of dying and being born anew. To most Christians, it’s like baptism was invented by John. It was not. It dated back to ancient Egypt where as we saw at one stage Horus, a type of Jesus, was baptised by Anup, a type of John. In the Old Testament, we have one of the prophets asserting, “Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (EZEKIEL 36:25). In the first century, the Jews conducted baptism of some sort though they did not refer to it as such: they called it ritual washing.


The Jews were obsessed with both bodily and spiritual cleanness. If you had a nocturnal seminal discharge, was on menses,  had drawn near a burial site  or came into contact with a corpse or animal carcass, to mention but a few,  you were unclean and so had to undergo a ritual bath within a stipulated period of time, typically seven days. Converts to Judaism, called proselytes, were also required to immerse themselves fully either in “living water” (river, stream, or spring water) or in a mikvah – a specially constructed bath directly connected to a natural source of water. 

This was baptism proper and it was called tevilah. Flavius Josephus, the iconic Jewish historian, also relates that the Essenes, the religious sect to which Jesus and John belonged, practiced immersion in water on a daily basis. People who were newly admitted into their fold were also immersed in water as an initiatory ceremony, which explains why at the Qumran ruins have been found communal stepped pools. Before the initiate was baptised, he first of all had to declare and adopt a pious and repentant attitude towards God. 

To that effect, a text in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls says, “It is by humbling his (that is, an initiate) soul to all God’s statutes that his flesh can be cleansed by sprinkling with waters of purification and by sanctifying himself with waters of purity”. Baptism, thus, was an outward public testimony of a cleansing of the spirit so that one started on a clean slate in terms of his attitude toward God, what is called a remission of sins. Clearly then, John’s baptism was not original but derived from customary Essene practice.


Yet Baptism served another purpose in the case of John.  It also marked a gesture of recruitment into the movement of John. John’s movement was called “The Way”, one of the original names of the Essenes, and its members were called people of The Way. Indeed, the people who would in future become known as Christians began as people of The Way. The Way was a new religious movement collectively begun by Jesus and John. It was not a splinter movement from Judaism or a radical departure from the tenets of Essenehood but was simply a new religious consciousness that alerted people to the imminence of the end times.  Sadly, it was misinterpreted by the powers that be and for that John ended up paying for his life.


What was the process of John’s baptism like? Shimon Gibson, author of The Cave of John The Baptist, combined bits of information taken from the Old Testament, the works of Josephus, and the gospels to outline for us a scenario in the following words: “Crowds of people gathered by the Jordan River to listen to his teachings and exhortations … John then spoke to those gathered there, asking them to lead righteous and pious lives… Subsequently, the souls of the people gathered there were cleansed and there was a remission of sins … This was performed with the sprinkling of some water … Only those who had completed this part of the procedure were then allowed to proceed to the next step … The people then immersed themselves in the river, dipping themselves seven times  in the water  in order to purify the flesh of their bodies from contamination. On emerging from the water, John would have called again on the divine name and asking for the holy spirit (the shekinah) to descend upon the crowd. The ceremony may have ended with doves (symbolic of the special relationship between God and the Chosen People) being let loose from the cages.”

JOHN OUTSHINES JESUS
It was decided that the two messiahs conduct the revival in opposite geographical locations. John was to be based in the north, at the crossroads of the territories of Galileee, Perea, and the Decapolis, and Jesus in the south, into the countryside of Judea, that is, the Qumran area.


Although it was John who gained fame as the “Baptiser”, it wasn’t him alone who baptised. Jesus also baptized, although the gospels tried to downplay this aspect of his ministry by attributing the actual conduct of baptism to “his disciples” when at the time they were mounting the baptism campaign (that is, AD 26-27), Jesus had no disciples of his own. But John became the  more renowned of the two for two reasons. First, he was the leader of the  movement and movements are typically associated with their leader. Secondly, he was a gifted evangelist and bristled with authority. Josephus says he “commanded”, not appealed to the Jewish masses to repent and lead righteous lives both towards each other and God.  The Dead Sea Scrolls say he was gifted with an  “eloquent tongue”.


In the Dead Sea Scrolls, John is fondly referred to as the “Teacher of Righteousness”. On the occasion that he made a tour of duty down south, he attracted enormous throngs to his wilderness pulpit such was his ministerial prowess. The nation of Israel had never seen an evangelist of his caliber.   

SCHISMS EMERGE
All groupings, whether they be political or religious, give rise to factional dynamics. The Essenes always had factions too but under the leadership of John the Baptist, the factional rivalry became intense and practically came to a breaking point.


To begin with, there was the faction called the Hebrews on the one hand and the Hellenists on the other. The Hebrews were  the faction John aligned himself with. Their  other leading lights were Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple; Agrippa, the grandson of  Herod the Great; Gamaliel, the greatest rabbi of the day who was also head of the Essene order of Benjamin; and James the brother of Jesus.

It was this faction that would in future produce the fiery apostle Paul. When Paul  said I was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”, he did not mean he was a devout follower of Judaism as Christians wrongly infer: he meant  he was a Jew who had belonged to the Essene faction called the Hebrews. It goes without saying that Paul was an Essene too, a member of the order (not “tribe” as wrongly translated in the Bible) of Benjamin.


The Hebrews were the stricter of the two factions in terms of their moral standpoint and religious observance. They conducted their worship services in the Hebrew language and did not allow women to minister, a stance Paul would  in future advocate. They also  did not permit Gentiles to minister. Even more importantly, they did not recognise Jesus as the Davidic  heir  (owing to the questionable circumstances of his birth) but instead rallied to his brother James, who they had co-opted into their faction.

     
Jesus naturally belonged to the  Hellenist faction, a faction comprising of people who had steadfastly endorsed him as the Davidic messiah from the day he was born. The prominent members of this faction were Theudas Barabbas; Jonathan Annas, better known as Nathaniel in the Bible; Simon Magus, who was best known as Simon the Zealot; and the Essene orders of Ephraim and West Manasseh, who included the Magi and all of whom were Samaritans (hence the parable of the Good Samaritan). The Hellenists were more liberal and tolerant in their application of Judaism.

They accepted women as equals and allowed both they  and Gentiles to minister, an attitude we witness in the ministry of Jesus and the evangelism of the early church. All their worship services were conducted in Greek because it was a cosmopolitan language, the “English” of the day, as opposed to the restrictive Hebrew language.   


While the Hebrews were united in what they stood for, the Hellenists were divided. One sub-group, headed by Simon Magus, advocated the overthrow of the Roman occupiers by violent means. This group called itself the Figtree. The other sub-group, headed by Jonathan Annas, stood for passive resistance towards Rome, and not recourse to arms.

This group called itself the Vineyard. When Jesus “cursed the fig tree” for not bearing fruit, there was no tree involved at all: all he did was condemn the Figtree  faction in the Hellenist group for adopting methods that were at cross-purposes with his pacifist  ways of bringing about political change in Jerusalem. 

NEXT WEEK: WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO BE BAPTISED?

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting

Fever

Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness

Diagnosis

The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.

Treatment

The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.

Complications

Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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