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The 12 “Disciples”

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

They comprised of Jews, Gentiles, and Samaritans and were headed not by Simon Peter but by Simon the Zealot!

Although John had baptised Jesus, it was a grudging act. He did it because he had to: there were overriding, shadowy  powers who forced his hand. For by the time he was baptising Jesus, in AD 29, the two messiahs barely saw eye to eye. The messianic movement had splintered into two, with one faction led by John the Baptist, called the Hebrews, and the other by Jesus, called the Hellenists. The split occurred because as we explained in an earlier article, John was rather old-school, dogmatic, and unbending.   


As far as John was concerned, Gentiles, women, and married men could not participate in ministerial roles as they lacked the  sanctity to do so: only Levites were eligible. Jesus, on the other hand, wanted an all-inclusive faith that embraced all and sundry, that did not discriminate along lines of sex, race, or ethnicism. John seemed to toe the exclusivist Enlilite line, whereas Jesus sought to promote the inclusive Enkite line. John was a puritan; Jesus was a liberal.


Since in the eyes of John Jesus had become a radical, he was not fit to partner him as the Davidic messiah. As a result, John decided to promote James, Jesus’s immediate younger brother,  as the Davidic messiah. Initially, James was reluctant to supplant his elder brother in this role but it was not only John  who prevailed over him: the sitting high priest of the Jerusalem Temple, Caiaphas,  as well as Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great,  also weighed in on this persuasion pitch.


The stance taken by James caused a serious rift in the family of Jesus. After the death of Joseph in AD 23, Jesus as the firstborn had become the head of the family. Titular-wise, he had become the David. James had accordingly  become the Jacob, the title of a Crown Prince (since at that stage Jesus was childless and therefore had no heir). Now that James was estranged from his senior brother,  Jesus decided to designate his other brother, Joses (short for Joseph), as the Crown Prince. Joses came immediately after James in the nuclear family line-up.


It was all a typical Anunnaki ploy, where they always make sure they drive a wedge between bothers, a stratagem that harped back to the rivalry between Horus and Set, Esau and Jacob, Cain and Abel, and Enlil and Enki. Theirs is divide and rule, for they know that under harmonious human relationships,  they cannot attain to their goal of riding roughshod over  us.   

JESUS CHOOSES  84 DISCIPLES
According to the gospels, Jesus had a total of 84 disciples. He first appointed 12, and subsequently 72 others (LUKE 10:1) he commissioned into crusading outreach. The word disciple, however, is correct only to a degree. The 12, the inner core, were more than disciples.

They were actually a future Cabinet of a liberated Israel as the world’s foremost geopolitical power. It was a shadow government, though in terms of legitimacy, it played second fiddle to that of John the Baptist, who was recognised as the official head of the Essene community as a whole (the Jesus faction was a kind of opposition party to the John faction).  Of the 12,  not all were Jews: some were Gentiles and others were Samaritans.


Simon Peter is obviously the most famous of the 12.  In the Bible, he is presented as the seniormost disciple and is invariably listed first.  The reason he enjoys such preeminence is fundamentally because he was the most instrumental in the founding of the church in Rome. It explains why Catholics hail him as the first Pope, though this is in a de facto sense rather than factually so as the first pope was actually Prince Linus of Britain (in office c. 67 to c. 76 AD and mentioned in 2 TIMOTHY 4:21)). 

The gospels were over time subjected to selective editing and embroidery and in the process Simon Peter was retrospectively exalted to a status he did not deserve. Luke also had a great deal to do with this accentuation of Peter in that in the book of Acts, he deliberately promoted him at the expense of James, the brother of Jesus, who was a rival to Paul, Luke’s principal. At the time Jesus was ministering though, Peter was nowhere near the top brass in the apostolic band. The seniormost among the 12 was Simon Magus, listed on the apostolic roll as Simon Zealotes (i.e. the  Zealot)  or Simon the Canaanite.


In the gospels, the older of seniority of the disciples is listed in reverse order: the top dogs appear last, whilst the minnows, to which Simon Peter belonged, appear first. One explanation for this has been outlined above – to deliberately put Simon Peter on a pedestal for the pioneer role he played in the establishment of the Roman church. 

Another, equally important reason was to blindfold  the Roman authorities. The likes of Simon Peter, Andrew, John (the Son of Zebedee)  and James  (another Son of Zebedee) were simple people who were practically anonymous: they were ordinary village Essenes who held no visible sectoral office. On the other hand, the likes of Simon Zealotes and Judas Iscariot were the embodiment of the freedom struggle: they were at the head – clandestinely so – of the Zealot movement.

It was therefore strategic that their profile be toned down so the Roman vigilantes focused on the more innocuous people. Thus by rearranging the names of the 12 as they did, the Gospel writers diverted Roman attention from those apostles in the very forefront of public life.  It was all politics at play here and not religion.


In truth, therefore, the leading and most influential members of the counsel of 12 were Simon Zealotes; Nathaniel; Judas Iscariot; Thaddeus; Matthew; and Thomas in that order. Rather than being literal disciples of Jesus, these six were his associates. It is they we will discuss first.

THE TOP THREE
Had the  gospel writers been non-partisan and objective chroniclers, Simon Zealotes would have enjoyed a prominence only second to Jesus. In extra-biblical literature,  more is written about him than even Jesus. To begin with, he was the closest associate of Jesus, his most ardent supporter. 

He was “the disciple Jesus loved” that we frequently encounter in the gospel of John. The Lazarus who was “raised from the dead” was actually Simon Zealotes. It was because of his affinity for Simon Zealotes that Jesus was condemned to death as we shall demonstrate when we dwell on the crucifixion.

Simon Zealotes was not a Jew but a Samaritan, the head of the Magians of  West Mannaseh, the group that was the first to recognise Jesus as the Davidic messiah at his birth. As the leading astrologer and medicineman of his day, Simon  was  vilified by his enemies as a “magician”,  the reason he was commonly known as Simon Magus. In later days, he became an arch-rival of both Simon Peter and the apostle Paul and for that his character was unduly blackened. He was labelled as the “Anti-Christ”, or “Anti-Pope”.

Yet it was he who even more than Paul consistently and steadfastly championed the co-option of Gentiles into Judaism. Although he was an extremist  who advocated war against the Romans as the only way of driving them away, his belligerent instincts were for the most part checked by the pacifist that was Jesus.  In the gospels,  Simon Zealotes is sometimes referred to as Simon the Canaanite, the latter of which is  a mistranslation of the Hebrew word qana, which means “one who is zealous”, that is, a Zealot. He also went by the name Zebedee, meaning “My Gift”.


In the 12-man apostolate, there were two sub-factions as we noted at one stage. There was a faction that was for war against Rome and the faction that was for peaceful engagement with Rome. Simon Zealotes headed the war faction also called the “Lightning Party”,  whereas Nathaniel headed the peace faction, also called the “Thunder Party”. 

Thus Simon Zealotes  and Nathaniel were mini-adversaries in the apostolic band. Nathaniel’s  real name was Jonathan Annas. He was the second-born son of Annas, who had been high priest of the Jerusalem temple from 6 to 15 AD and who according to the gospels part-presided over the trial of Jesus. Before the messianic movement split, Nathaniel had been third after John the Baptist (the Father/Pope   or the Abraham) and Jesus (the Son or the Isaac). Nathaniel was the Spirit or the Jacob/James. 

Thus in the gospel , he is at times listed as James son of Alpheus. “Son of Alpheus” was a title meaning “he of the succession”, or simply “deputy”. This referred to his being next in line to the position of Pope (Jesus was not eligible for the position of Pope as he was a kingly heir).      


Judas Iscariot is arguably the most despicable villain of history. Dante, the iconic Italian poet and caricaturist, not only designates him as the first sinner but places him right at the centre of Hell, ingested head-first by a horned and winged Devil. Until the crucifixion, however, Judas was a man of high-standing and high-esteem. First, he was the undercover commander of the Zealots, having succeeded Judas of Galilee who was killed in the abortive uprising against direct Roman rule of Judea in AD 6. As a mathematically erudite man, he was entrusted Essene treasury.

This was a very senior position, considering that at the Jerusalem temple, the temple treasurer was only second in seniority to the high priest. Certainly, had the Romans been ejected from power in the time of Jesus and a Jewish government established in its place, Judas would have become the nation’s Chancellor of the Exchequer although he aimed higher than that as we shall soon demonstrate.

After the death of John the Baptist but before the  crucifixion, Judas occupied the position of the second-highest ranking member of the 12 after Simon Zealotes, hence his other title as “Son of Simon” as per the gospel of John, “son of” simply meaning “deputy”. Furthermore, Judas was the Chief Scribe, or lead script writer, which suggests he was a skilled writer.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were produced under his direct oversight alongside Judas of Galilee. His surname Iscariot could mean two things. In one sense, it could have been “Sikariotes”, Greek for “dagger man”, that is, a Zealot trained in assassinations. In another vein, it could have been a posthumous nickname derived from the Hebrew word “Sikkarti”, which meant “to deliver up”, in this case “delivery“ suggesting the  betrayal of Jesus to the Jewish establishment.     

THE SECOND TIER
Theudas, alternatively rendered Thaddeus, is the disciple who also appears on the gospel lists under the name Judas (not Iscariot), a variant of the same name. His other name was Lebbaeus. But Christians are not aware that Theudas was actually the Barabbas who featured in the trial of Jesus. He was the oldest of the 12, having been a contemporary of Jesus’s father Joseph. Not only was he a Zealot but he had been head of the Theraputae since 9 BC. Although he was in the Jesus faction, he was closer to James,  Jesus’s brother (who was in the John faction), than he was to Jesus. His tile of Barabbas, meaning “Son of the Father” (that is, “Deputy of the Father”), derived from the fact that he later became Nathaniel’s deputy when Nathaniel became Pope following the demotion of Simon Zealotes. His characterisation as “Judas of James” on the list of disciples attests to this. Remember, Nathaniel’s other title   was “The Jacob”, Jacob being the same name as James.


Matthew was the immediate younger brother of Nathaniel and was the most humane and pro-Christian of the Annas dynasty. It was Matthew who sponsored the gospel of Matthew whilst he was high priest of the Jerusalem temple from AD 42-43. At some stage, Nathaniel became the chief priest (not the same as high priest) in the Essene hierarchy. The holder of this position went by the nominal title “Levi”. After the death of  Nathaniel in AD 57, Matthew succeeded him as the Levi, which explains why Luke and Mark refer to him as Levi rather than Matthew. Earlier in the 20s and 30s AD, Matthew was a publican, that is, a tax official who was responsible for collecting taxes from Diaspora Jews for the Essene treasury.  


Of all the disciples, Thomas had the noblest pedigree although he was to develop a mocking cognomen as “Doubting Thomas”. His real name was Crown Prince Philip I. As a youngster though, he was known as Herod II. He was the son of King Herod the Great (37 to 4 BC) by his wife Marriamne II. Then when Marriamne II was sent packing after being implicated in a poison plot against the King, young Phillip was disinherited, whereupon his half-brother Herod Antipas was named heir. Because of the ignominy of his forfeiture of the inheritance, Phillip I was given the nickname Esau, who lost his birthright to his younger brother Jacob, and was therefore derisively called “Teoma” (Thomas in English), which is Aramaic for “twin”. In Greek, the word for twin is “Didymus”. Thus Thomas Didymus (“Twin Twin”), as he is sometimes referred to, is tautologous.  In the Jesus faction, Thomas was also a twin to Jesus figuratively speaking because only the two of them were of royal descent. Indeed, some petty, early historians mistook this hilarious characterisation of the two to band about the bunkum that Jesus and Thomas were biological twins.   

NEXT WEEK: JESUS VERSUS JUDAS

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.

The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.

A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.

He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.

They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.

Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.

‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.

Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.

He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.

Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.

Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.

Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.

A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul

The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people

The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]

With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

 

With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).

These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.

 

The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.

But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.

It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.

Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.

We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?

Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.

 

It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.

 

So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.”  Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.

Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)

The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.

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