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The 12 “Disciples”

Benson C Saili

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.   

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.

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.     

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.   


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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

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.

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”


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.”


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.


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)


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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