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Curtains For John

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

The Baptist is beheaded at the instigation of a Jesus “disciple”

Reading the New Testament, the surface impression one gets is that the most influential Jewish  sects in first century Palestine were the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Scribes, the Sadducees taking primacy because they were aristocrats and dominated the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. Indeed, the incumbent high priest of the Jerusalem temple,  Joseph Caiaphas, was a Sadducee.


The truth of the matter, however, is that the most influential and popular sect was none of the above but the Essenes. It was the Essenes among whom the kingly messiah, Jesus, and the priestly messiah, John the Baptist, belonged. And in private, all the major political players of the day – Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa, and Joseph Caiaphas himself were Essenes  although this was only in a nominal sense and not in a philosophical sense. Essene membership lent legitimacy to high-profile  public office: no single holder of such office felt secure if was neither a member nor an affiliate of the Essene sect. Note that the Essenes were found throughout Palestine although their main base was the Judean wilderness.


Yet the problem with the Essenes was that they had two centres of power as of AD 29. There was a governing council headed by John the Baptist and a shadow governing council headed by Jesus. There were two bulls in the same kraal. Whereas John’s father Zechariah and Jesus’s father Joseph had gotten along so well as the dynastic nobles, their sons were adversarial thanks to John’s intransigency and his uncompromising stance.  Clearly, one of the two factional heads had to give. Sadly, it  was John who was forced to.


Now, whilst John was his party’s unequivocal head, Jesus wasn’t.  Jesus was simply a honorary leader by virtual of his being the Davidic heir. Remember,  the highest ranking Essene was not the Davidic heir; it was the Zadok, a descendent of  Aaron. John the Baptist, however, had decided to forego the dynastic Zadokite position and instead opted for the elective one, that of Pope, or Father. What that meant  was that one of his appointed deputies, called the Holy Spirit, who was No. 3 in the hierarchy, was his electable successor. His No. 2, the Son (the Davidic messiah), was not eligible for position of Pope just as Joseph was not eligible for the Zadokite position. A Davidic heir could not be Father.


After the split, John the Baptist had relieved Jesus and appointed James, his younger brother, as the Son. But he had not appointed somebody else to replace Nathaniel (Jonathan Annas), who now belonged to the Jesus faction, as  the Holy Spirit. In the event, therefore, Nathaniel,  still held the status of Holy Spirit. The reason  John had not demoted him was most likely because he came from the influential Annas family, who were represented in the John faction by Joseph Caiaphas, a  brother-in-law of Nathaniel. John’s hand must have been stayed by politics.   


It was Nathaniel who was the effective head of the Jesus party. Jesus was to his party  what the Queen is to England, whereas Nathaniel was to the party what David Cameroon is in British politics.   

BAPTIST STEPS ON HEROD’S SHOES

In AD 26, John the Baptist had postulated  that Palestine would be self-governing by AD 30, a development that was referred to as the Restoration. Since this prophecy was not fulfilled, his detractors made an issue out of it largely for political expediency and particularly that he boasted, according to his own words as recorded in a Dead Sea Scroll titled Hymns of Thanksgiving, that he was a “discerning interpreter of wonderful  mysteries”.  The unavailing prophecy was the excuse the Jesus party  used to break away from him and form a rival party in AD 29. As such, John’s position as Pope practically teetered on the brink.


In order to give him enough rope to hang himself, the Jesus party gave John one more year, from April 30 AD  to end of March 31 AD for his prophecy to possibly bear out (he had said Heaven would intervene miraculously to liberate Palestine from the Roman yoke). But the Baptist had already effectively lost his sway at Qumran and Nathaniel was already being hailed as the de facto Pope, with his coronation being not a matter of “if” but “when”. The Baptist was still wildly popular with the  grassroots and the fundamentalist Essenes: it was with the political Essenes, who he derided as “seekers-after-smooth-things”, that he fell out.  


John knew knives were already out for him so he decided to hit back both viscerally and justifiably.  As far as he was concerned, the instigator of the upsurge of feeling against him was Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (quarter king) of Galilee and Perea, who had substantial influence in the  Jesus party as he was its virtual patron just as Herod Agrippa, his young nephew, was the virtual patron of John’s party. It was Antipas that John targeted in his counter-attack.


Sometime between the years 24 and 28 AD (the exact date is not known for certain), Antipas married Herodias, his niece and sister to Agrippa. This marriage was problematic in a number of ways. First, it was an elopement as Herodias was already married to her other uncle. This was Thomas, a half-brother to Antipas and a  member of the so-called 12 disciples of Jesus (Thomas’s official name was Prince Herod Phillip I and most historians have therefore confused him with another Phillip [Herod Philip II], who at the time was  ruler of Iturea and Trachonitis). 

Thomas even already had a daughter with Thomas, whose name was Salome. Herodias’s marriage to Antipas therefore amounted to polyandry – a situation where a woman gets married to two men, the reverse of polygamy. Secondly,  the marriage was not only morally reprehensible but it went against the Law of Moses. LEVITICUS 18:6 said, "Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife, for this would violate your brother”. The penalty for such a transgression was death. Thirdly, the marriage went against the wishes of Herod the Great, the deceased father of Thomas and Antipas. When she was young, Herodias had been promised in marriage to Thomas by King Herod.


Fancing himself as the new Elijah, who had rebuked the King and Queen of Israel – Ahab and Jezebel – to their face, John made a vocation of vitriolically condemning the unlawful marriage. Ostensibly for that purpose, he even stationed himself in eastern Galilee, Herod Antipas’s domain, though he was strategic enough to  base himself at  the border with the Decapolis so that he could easily escape across the Jordan River if Antipas decided to go after him.  This attitude did not help John but only served to mark him out as the tetrarch’s enemy No. 1.


Meanwhile, in the Hymns of Thanksgiving, the unflappable and headstrong Baptist, who is referred to in the Dead Sea Scrolls as the Teacher of Righteousness amongst other titles,  made the following remonstrative entries as a dare to the people ganging up against him: “I have been a snare to those who rebel but healing to those of them who repent … To traitors, thou has made of me  a mockery and scorn but a counsel of truth and understanding to the upright of way. I have been iniquity to the wicked …  but to the elect of righteousness Thou hast made me a banner …”


No prize to guess who the Baptist meant by “rebels”, “traitors”, and “the wicked”.

BAPTIST BEHIND BARS

In March AD 31, John the Baptist was finally nabbed at the orders of Herod Antipas. The legendary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus relates that he was imprisoned without trial at Machaerus, a fortified castle located at the southern borders of Perea.


Machaerus was not a prison: it was a hilltop palace belonging to Antipas. That Antipas had John detained there signalled two things. First, he did hold the Baptist in high esteem notwithstanding  his vitriol against him. John was the most esteemed  figure by mainstream Jewry at the time and thus the circumstances of his incarceration had to reflect his stature. Prison for him simply meant lack of freedom: his actual circumstances were equivalent to that of Nelson Mandela at Victor Vester Prison, which amounted to three or four-star treatment. John was allowed visitors and continued to write  texts  for the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Second, Antipas feared that john’s detention might precipitate a rescue attempt by the Zealots although this was most unlikely given that the three Zealot top-brass – Judas Iscariot, Simon Zealotes, and Theudas Barabbas – all belonged to the Jesus party, of which   Antipas was a patron. To ensure that the rescue attempt was practically a non-starter, Antipas circumscribed John at the most secure location in the entire country.


With the imprisonment of John, Nathaniel officially became the acting Pope. The top three Essenes were now Nathaniel as the Father; Jesus as the Son; and Simon Zealotes as the Holy Spirit. What were Jesus’s feelings about the imprisonment of his great cousin? They are recorded in MATTHEW 11, where Jesus sounds very distraught and acknowledges John as the greatest man who ever lived. Jesus also pronounces “woes” against four cities, which was a code for people in his party who had something to do with the fate of  his cousin. As a naturally good-hearted  being, he sorrowed for the Baptist but as we have already demonstrated, he did not exercise much sway in his own movement being only a  ceremonial  leader. The wielders of real power were the likes of Nathaniel, Simon Zealotes,  and Judas Iscariot, all of whom were anti- the Baptist.   


Yet to the Baptist’s loyalists, it was Jesus who was responsible for the fate of their leader. The scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls refer to Jesus as the “Wicked Priest”. Jesus did certainly rooting for the position of Essene High Priest (so that he could have real authority as opposed to the nominal authority he presently had) following the incarceration of the Baptist  though vainly so. The scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls had even before  John’s imprisonment  accused Jesus  of “working with the men of Ephraim and Manasseh (Simon Zealotes and Theudas Barabbas) who shall seek to lay hands on the Priest (the Baptist) and the men of his council at the time of trial which shall come upon them”.  


Meanwhile, whilst in detention, John the Baptist wrote the following psalm as recorded in a Dead Sea text: “I seek Thee (God) and sure as the dawn. Thou appear as perfect Light to me. Teachers of lies (the Jesus Party) have smoothed Thy people with words and false prophets (the Jesus Party)  have led them astray. They perish without understanding for their works are folly. For I am despised by them and they have no esteem for me that Thou mayest manifest Thy might through me. They have banished me from my land like a bird from its trees. All my friends and brethren are driven far from me and hold me for a broken vessel.”


It is clear from the above psalm that the Baptist had hope in the midst of his travails. Sadly, his fate was already sealed partly of his own making.         

BAPTIST IS NO MORE

In September AD 31, John was killed by beheading, after only six months in prison. We know he was killed in that year because one of  the Dead Sea Scrolls speaks of a period of 40 years that elapsed between the death of the “Teacher of Righteousness” and the “end of the heretics”. This was anticipated by the puritan  Essenes, who were unflinchingly loyal to John,  at around AD 70. AD 70 was the year Jerusalem was stormed and razed to the ground by Roman general Flavius Titus.


The Baptist was not killed in the barbaric manner most Christians have come to believe – his head delivered on a silver platter to a loathing queen – but he certainly was terminated by decapitation.  To those of us of our day who are accustomed to seeing the Jihadi Johns of this world fiendishly brandishing  the head of an executed hostage, beheading may appear like a most gruesome way of extinguishing somebody’s life. In Jesus’s day, beheading was the most dignified procedure of execution available that could have been chosen for John. It was an easier way to die than to be hanged, drawn and quartered, garotted, impaled, flayed or burnt alive, torn limb from limb, crucified, or stoned to death. Of these methods of execution in fact, stoning was the most preferred method  practiced by Jews in the first century and earlier.  That Herod Antipas consented to dispatch  John  by way of decapitation  was a attestation of the esteem in which he held him.  


Antipas did not intend to kill John: he did so only after being craftily coaxed. Indeed, John’s death continued to haunt him for the rest of his life. The gospels depict him as  a person wracked with grief and guilt over John’s demise (MATTHEW 14: 9/MARK 6:26). According to some extra-biblical records, he was prepared to release John if he retracted what he had said about  him and promised never to repeat it. In all fairness, John’s obsessive diatribe against the tetrarch amounted to sedition: it was like calling for the death of a monarch since the penalty for the kind of marriage Antipas had entered into with Herodias was death according to the Law of Moses. True to form, however, the  Baptist was adamant: he made it clear he stood by what he said and would never desist  from saying the same thing again.  John’s greatest weakness was an implacably stubborn will.


    If Antipas was cajoled into killing John, who schemed it all and who  was the instrument of the plot? Well, it was not the tetrarch’s wife Herodias and his step daughter Salome as the surface narrative of the gospels suggest. It was a disciple of Jesus. Exactly who it was we reveal next week.  

NEXT WEEK: HOW THE BAPTIST’S DEATH WAS SCHEMED

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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