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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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Flight To France

24th November 2021
THE “DRAGON” PURSUES THE “WOMAN”

The Lord’s wife seeks refuge in a European  “Wilderness”

In March 37 AD, General Atiku, Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar died after 23 years in office. He was succeeded by his nephew and adoptive heir Gaius Caligula. 

Caligula had forged a fraternal bond with Herod Agrippa, a grandson of Herod the Great, whilst hitherto cash-strapped Agrippa worked at Emperor Tiberius’ court in some capacity. It was on the basis of this mutual affinity that Caligula installed Agrippa as King of the Middle East territories his uncle Phillip the Tetrarch, who passed on in AD 34, had ruled over.

In 39 AD, Agrippa’s regal tentacles spread even wider when he was given the Herod Antipas domains after he politically poisoned the latter to Caligula. Thus it was that Agrippa became Rome’s client King of the whole of Palestine minus Judea. Meanwhile, the tiny territory of Chalcis in Syria was given to Agrippa’s brother Herod, best known to history as Herod of Chalcis, on the pleadings of Agrippa. 

It so happened, General, that during the rather short, six-year reign of Agrippa, four Jewish High Priests took turns in office, all appointed by he himself as per authority vested in him by the Emperor. One particular appointment, of a Boethusian High Priest at the expense of the incumbent Mathias Ben Ananus (the apostle Matthew), rankled with radical Jews.

Mathias was replaced in 43 AD, when he was scarcely one year in office. Given that the Boethusians held the Davidic dynasty in contempt, it goes without saying that the apostolate band were irate. In the event, Simon Peter and James the son of Zebedee with typical Zealot radicalism  conveniently saw common cause with Simon Zelotes and set about plotting the assassination of Agrippa. 

Somehow, General, the Herod establishment got wind of the plot and Herod of Chalcis had James executed and Simon Peter thrown into the slammer pending his own turn at the scaffold.  Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas were quick to hit back. First, Simon used his guile and connections to have Peter spirited out of prison, whereupon Peter sought refuge in Rome.

Simon Zelotes is the “Angel of the Lord” spoken of in the relevant passage (ACTS 12:7) as  that was his emeritus title as one of the Essene top brass. Second, Simon Zelotes had Agrippa assassinated by way of snake poison. Although Simon Zelotes got away with this intrigue, Barabbas, General, was not so lucky: as he made his getaway across the Jordan River and bogged down by age-related lethargy, he was seized and summarily executed by decapitation on the orders of Herod of Chalcis.  

Simon Zelotes set up a new base in Cyprus, leaving his step-daughter Mary Magdalene in the lurch in Judea. What would be her fate, General, now that she was associated with a fugitive from justice?

SCHISMS IN THE CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

The accession and rather untimely demise of King Agrippa, General Atiku,  had quite significant ramifications on the nascent Christian movement. Of particular import was the relocation of the Qumran community to Damascus in Syria. Indeed, the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Damascus Document makes a point of highlighting “the New Covenant in the Land of Damascus”, which now the Essenes propagandised as the place where the awaited Jewish Messiah would appear and not in Jerusalem as the Old Testament prophets had foretold.   

The change of scene, General, was spearheaded by James the Just, the immediate younger brother of Jesus and the incumbent leader of the Christian movement. It was necessitated  by the fear that the perpetually impecunious Agrippa (whilst he was alive, that is), who at some stage had been declared bankrupt, might eventually deplete the Qumran kitty (a portion of which the Herods were entitled to), of which James was the custodian following the ignominious death of Judas Iscariot.

James had also served notice that the Herods would  have no part to play in a sovereign Israel, that the conduct of its affairs would be the preserve solely of the Davidic dynasty, which he now headed. As if to underscore this apartness,  James even went on to reprise the Star &  Sceptre political tag team with Theudas Barabbas (before his assassination), which harked back to a similar partnership of yesteryears between his father Joseph and the same Barabbas, who was still revered as the iconic Zealot revolutionary.  

The likes of Simon Peter (who had returned from Rome a free man since his alleged crime had lapsed with the death of King Agrippa as was the practice those days),  however, set up their base at Antioch in Syria, which suggests that there was a bit of dissonance between James and Peter at the time. Peter was reinforced by Paul and the latter’s personal doctor Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. The Peter faction was also anti-Herod but in its formative stage it touted Peter as the successor to Jesus at the expense of  James. 

In sum, General, there was a three-way split in the Christian movement after Jesus went into obscurity. This was the James party at Damascus, the Peter party at Antioch, and the Simon Zelotes party in Cyprus. It was the Peter party that with the benefit of hindsight stole the thunder in that it was at Antioch that members of The Way began to call themselves Christians. This was in AD 44. 

MARY MAGDALENE IN FRANCE

Meanwhile, General Atiku, Mary Magdalene was in a very precarious position. At the time, she was already pregnant with Jesus’ third child, having conceived in December AD 43.  It is not clear though whether she too had incurred the wrath of the Herods in view of what her step- father Simon Zelotes had done to King Agrippa, but taking precautions, she sought the protection  of Agrippa’s eldest son, Agrippa II. Agrippa II was only 17 years at the time and was based in Rome under the auspices of Claudius, who had become Roman Emperor in AD 41.

A former student of the Apostle Paul, Agrippa II was well disposed toward the Jesus family and so he readily acquiesced to Mary’s entreaty, whereupon he arranged for her safe passage to the famed Herodian estate in Gaul, France, in collaboration with his other brother Aristobulus. It was in Gaul that the brothers Herod Archelaus and Herod Antipas had by turns been banished by the Roman Emperor after their ouster in AD 6 and 39 respectively .  

Mary Magdalene, General,  was not all alone on the ship that conducted her to France. She was accompanied by her step-father Simon Zelotes; her mother Helena-Salome; the apostle Philip; the three sisters of Jesus; the wife of James the Just; and Trophimus, who is mentioned in ACTS 20:4; ACTS 21:29; and 2 TIMOTHY 4:20. In his book The Life of Mary Magdalene, Archbishop Rabanus Maurus partly documents the voyage thus: “And favoured by an easterly wind they travelled on across the Sea between Europe and Africa, leaving the city of Rome and all the land of Italy to the right. Then, happily changing course to the right, they came to the city of Marseilles in the Gaulish province of Vienne.” Upon arrival in France, Mary Magdalene had the privillege of being welcomed by the Queen of Marseilles. Once in 

France, Simon Zelotes, who  became known there as Lazarus the Great One, wasted no time in setting up a mission in Provence in south eastern France.

MARY MAGDALENE Vs ROME

Unbeknownst to much of Christendom, including the Christian clergy itself, General, the fate of Mary Magdalene is cryptically documented in the Book of Revelation! It is unfortunate that Revelation is placed last in the New Testament corpus when by rights it should have come immediately  after the Book of Acts and not after the  21 epistles in between since it is actually a continuation of the Jesus story. Although it is called the Revelation of Saint John, that is a misnomer.

It is a revelation by Jesus Christ himself, who we now know was very much in existence and in circulation more than fifty years after his sham crucifixion. That is exactly what REVELATION 1:1 states, although Christians have naively taken this to be no more than  figurative language. It was Jesus in his physical, blood-and-flesh  form who related much of the contents of Revelation to the apostle John, the literal author of the book. Jesus dictated the account; John  simply was the scribe. 

The relegation of Revelation (literally “The Unveiling”, the true meaning of the Greek world apocalypse from which the term “Revelation” is translated) to the very extremity of the biblical canon, General,  was contrived by Roman Emperor Constantine as the teachings of the Roman Church were founded, primarily, on the writings of Simon Peter and the apostle Paul. Says authoritative historian Laurence Gardner in his book The Magdalene Legacy:  The Jesus and Mary Bloodline Conspiracy: “At first glance it appears baffling that The Revelation was included in the New Testament at all, since it follows the post-Resurrection lives of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their offspring through a balance of the 1st century.

However, the inclusion of The Revelation proved to be a remarkable strategy in that its very esoteric nature enabled Rome to turn it to considerable advantage by misrepresenting its text from the pulpits; this, of course, was at a time when the general populace did not have Bibles to read for themselves.” Gardner goes on to say, “The Church has done its best to put people off this book ever since by portraying it as a sinister work of foreboding and doom. By way of propaganda from the 1662 Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, even the very word apocalypse has become emblematic of disaster.”

REVELATION CHAPTER 12, General,  is particularly pertinent with regard to the saga of Mary Magdalene. It talks about a pregnant woman  “clothed  with the sun” and with a “wreath of 12 stars on her head” (Verses 1 and 2).  This woman is being pursued and tormented by a  “great fiery-red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads seven diadems” (Verse 3). The dragon’s aim is to “devour her child when it is born” (Verse 4). The woman “fled into the wilderness, there where she has a place made ready  by God” (Verse 6).

Despite her trials and tribulations, the woman at long last “brought forth a son, a male, who is about to be shepherding all the nations with an iron club. And her child is snatched away to God and to His throne” (Verse 5). The dragon, though, will never relent: it  is “angry with the woman, and came away to do battle with the rest of her seed, who are keeping the precepts of God and who have the testimony of Jesus” (Verse 17).

As we  have reiterated time and again,  General, much of the New Testament was written  in a coded language with a view to keeping the Romans in the dark. Thus in the Book of Revelation, Mary Magdalene is simply referred to as “the woman” and Rome as “the dragon” or “the serpent”.  History documents that the Romans did display a reddish dragon on their imperial banner.  Moreover, Rome itself was known as the City of the Seven Kings in that this was the total number of Roman emperors before the empire became a Republic in 509 BC.

The woman is of royal pedigree because she is “clothed with the sun”,  an  age-old symbol of both royalty and divinity. The 12 stars on her head obviously refers to the 12 tribes of Israel, for whom she was the de facto queen being the wife of Jesus,  the Davidic King, and the wreath on her head denotes the fact of the nation of Israel’s enduring  subjugation to the Roman yoke.    The “wilderness” in this context is France, where Mary Magdalene as related above sought refuge with the assistance of Agrippa II.   

The pursued woman did give birth to a male child, which Mary Magdalene did as we shall relate in the next instalment. As a youngster, the child himself met no harm, but his relations, the broader Jesus family and their scions,  who became known as the Desposyni or the Sangreal, were continuously harassed  by Roman emperors, with some of them put to death, a detail we shall go into at the appropriate stage. 

Curiously, General, the Revelation passage indicates that the woman was transported to safety on “two wings of a large vulture”. This suggests an aircraft, and a hideous, military-type for that matter,   and not a ship as official history documents. This is not exactly far-fetched considering that the Anunnaki, who flew in aerial vehicles, have been ruling Earth from behind the scenes despite their official departure in the 6th  century BC. If Mary Magdalene had been earmarked as the progenitor of the planet’s blue blood, which she indeed was, then the Anunnaki had cause to ferry her to France in an aeroplane to make doubly sure she got to France in  one piece. It may explain, General, why upon her arrival in France she was welcomed by no less a figure than the Queen of Marseilles herself.  

NEXT WEEK: THE “QUEEN” IS IMMORTALISED

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Magma Carter

24th November 2021

When I was growing up dinosaurs didn’t exist.  I don’t mean I’m so old I pre-date the days of the prehistoric beast, simply that in those days, nobody bar a few nerdy scientists, gave them much of a second thought.  

But in 1993 all that changed.  Movie buffs amongst you will immediately recognise that year as the release year of the original Spielberg Jurassic Park movie.  That’s not to say there hadn’t been films portraying these ancient beasts before – several had come and gone, seemingly without a trace, the oldest being from 1933 and filmed in black and white.  But what set Jurassic Park apart, aside from the impressive special effects and the sprinkling of magic Spielberg dust, was the relatively recent discovery of DNA and its genetic significance.

The scriptwriters exploited this concept with the quasi-credible discovery of a living lizard species, derived from dinosaur DNA, captured from an ancient mosquito, and preserved for millennia in a chunk of amber.  From there several other species are cloned and kept on an island which acts as a dinosaur game reserve, now open to the public.  But that wouldn’t have made much of a story, so of course some of the more dangerous dinosaurs had to escape and cause mayhem and murder in the modern world.

The film grossed over a billion dollars and won 3 Oscars for sound and visual effects.  And more importantly it generated so much interest in dinosaurs that the study of palaeontology experienced a record increase in applications.

So that’s where all the dinosaur hype and fascination started and since then it has spawned more movies from the same franchise, animated series such as Ice Age, and  led to a global fascination with finding out more about these beasts of the past.  

But only recently something quite fascinating emerged concerning these creatures, and that is that they began life as much smaller creatures and it was a major climate event on earth which led to their monster growth.  This finding is the result of a study between scientists from the UK’s Birmingham university in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts at the China Institute of Mining & Technology.   Their joint team of researchers recently presented compelling evidence that massive volcanic events probably helped the dinosaurs diversify and thrive, reaching their monumental sizes. 

Their results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and explain that the Triassic Period, which began roughly 250 million years ago, was a time of massive ecological change after the largest mass extinction event on record.  Earlier dinosaurs had been skinnier, more reptilian, less of the massive, marauding Spielberg monsters but it was during this time period that dinosaurs diversified until they became wondrous beasts such as T. Rex and Triceratops, dominating ecosystems all over earth. 

Scientists looked at a phase spanning 2 million years during the Triassic Period known as the Carnian Pluvial Episode or CPE, ‘pluvial’ deriving from the Latin word for rain, meaning it was a period of warm, moist, cloudy meteorological activity . During that episode, from 234 million to 232 million years ago there was a huge increase in global temperature, humidity and rainfall — a climate often referred to as a “mega-monsoon.”

Researchers analysed sediment and plant fossil evidence from a lake in Northern China and were able to match four intense phases of volcanic activity with the changes of the Carnian Pluvial Episode.  The study links the timing of the episode with four distinct peaks in mercury levels, a well-established indicator of volcanic activity,  which led to changes in the vegetation. 

“We’re often able to link volcanism to global warming, but our study is unusual in that we’ve also linked it to periods of intense rainfall,” said Jason Hilton, a paleobotanist at the University of Birmingham in England and co-author of the study. “With each pulse of volcanism, we see an increase in plants adapted to wet and aquatic… settings.” Jing Lu, a researcher at the China University of Mining and Technology and also a co-author of the study, added that these eruptions “were powerful enough to drive evolutionary processes during the Triassic. During the episode, plant species that couldn’t adapt to the more humid environment went extinct, as did a number of animal species, from large reptilian herbivores on land to small gastropods in the water. “These changes freed up ecological space for other groups of organisms such as dinosaurs, to thrive”

But every dog, and every dinosaur, has their day and the dinosaurs also faded away, most likely due to a massive meteor strike on the surface of the earth in what is now modern-day Florida, which set up a massive tsunami and eventually resulted in a global Ice Age, temperatures too cold for dinosaurs to survive.

If there’s a moral to all this paleo-historical research it is that earth’s climate is governed by many factors, one of which may indeed by petrol fumes in the atmosphere but many of which are completely beyond our control.  Another massive meteor strike may occur next week or it may not. We could see a sudden surge in volcanic activity again or we might not.  But most of all the lesson is that talk of what is good or otherwise for the planet is based on a false premise.  Whatever happens on the surface of the earth, it keeps on spinning round and round the sun every 365 ¼ days  as it has done since the Big Bang and there is  no reason to suppose it will cease to do so, even if it were to transform into a an arid desert in its entirety.  That is the embodiment of perpetual motion, a force which man has yet to master.

No, what people really mean is ‘good for trying to keep the planet just the way we like it’ which is rather different and may be a complete impossibility.  Indeed mankind, like the dinosaur, may become extinct at some point in the future as part of the natural way of the world.

The planet, though, will be fine!

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Heaven on Earth

9th November 2021

 Jesus is admitted into the “Kingdom of Heaven”, which was a metaphor for the Essene priesthood

At Qumran, General Atiku, there were a number of caves on the cliffside (Qumran overlooked the Dead Sea), located  not very far from the site where the crucifixion had taken place.  Two of these caves were particularly important. One was Cave 4. Cave 4 was called Abraham’s Bosom. It was the burial cave for the Davidic King and the Pope, the Father of the Essene community. Across the chasm from Cave 4 was Cave 8. This was the burial cave of the Davidic Crown Prince. It was also known as Paradise.

Putting politics aside, the rightful Davidic King was Jesus and the Crown Prince was his immediate young brother James. Thus Cave 8 was owned and taken care of by James. The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm this. One text thereof, called the Copper Scroll, says ‘there was a tomb of the son of the third Great One”. In the Essene hierarchy, the third-ranking person was the Davidic Messiah, Jesus. But Cave 8 would not have belonged to his son in that he had no heirs yet. As such, it belonged to James, who was next in line till Jesus produced a heir.  Also in Pesher, the term “son of” meant “next in line” or “deputy”.      

Cave 8 had another purpose – a storage of money that was in the custody of James.  This was Essene initiation fees paid by Gentiles. It was entrusted to the care of the more cosmopolitan Davidic princes, who directly received the money because coming from Gentiles it was regarded as unclean money. Because James was in charge of these funds, he was cynically referred to as “The Rich Man”. This explains why Joseph of Arimathea (James) is characterised in the gospels as a rich man.

Cave 8 and Cave 7 were adjoined. The two caves had one entrance through the side of the roof, with steps leading from the entrance down to the floor of the cave. The entrance was covered with a huge stone that only people on the outside could roll away. The remains of the two joined caves can be seen even today in the ruins of Qumran. When Jesus was brought down from the crucifixion tree by James, he was laid in Cave 8 in keeping with his Davidic status. Judas and Simon Zelotes were laid in Cave 7. Note, General, that had he actually died, Jesus would have been placed in Cave 4.

Since this was the eve of the Sabbath, guards were posted around the caves to see to it that when the Sabbath took effect at midnight, Sabbath rules were not infringed upon in any way, shape or form. Ananus, the youngest son of former Jerusalem Temple High Priest Annas, was one of those who stood guard. In particular, he wanted to ensure that none of the three men in the tomb was removed during the Sabbath. He was to alternate with Theudas Barabbas, who had been strategically posted there as shall become clear shortly. 

THE DEATH OF JUDAS

At midnight, when Ananus took leave of his vigil and Theudas Barabbas replaced him, the latter stole into the cave (of course he had help to remove the huge stone cover). In the Passion story, Barabbas is disguised under the name Nicodemus (meaning “Conquering One,” exactly as Barabbas was hyped in his capacity as a leading Zealot revolutionary). The gospel of John says Nicodemus brought with him myrrh and aloes. From the nature and workings of these herbs, General, it is easy to tell what exactly transpired in Cave 8. 

Myrrh is used as a sedative (a drug that calms a patient, easing agitation and permitting sleep). This of course was used on Simon Zelotes, who along with Judas had been brought down from the crucifixion trees fully conscious. Both had received substantial scourging from the Roman soldiers and were therefore in acute pain. They badly needed some sleep as a form of provisional escape from the pain.       

Aloes are a strong and fast-acting purgative (a substance used to induce rapid bowel movements so that the bowels are quickly emptied).  No doubt these were used on Jesus to expel the poison that he had been fed as he hung on the tree. This was a task to which Theudas Barabbas as head of the Theraputae was best suited. The Theraputae specialised in knowledge of medicines and poisons, including snake poison. In fact, one of their assassination “weapons” was snake poison. In 44 AD, for instance,   Herod Agrippa I was murdered by the Zealots with snake poison. In his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke ascribes Agrippa’s death to having been “eaten with worms”. The term worms was a metaphor for snakes and snakes was a metaphor for the Theraputae top brass.   

Now, the emplacement of Jesus, Judas, and Simon Zealotes in the cave, General, was not only about hoodwinking Pilate. It was primarily about fulfilling a ritual. This was excommunication of the three from the Essene fold. However, the excommunication of Jesus and Simon in particular did not have the blessings of Herod Antipas, who was very close to Simon and held Jesus in high esteem, who he recognised as the bona fide Davidic King.

So Antipas had schemed with Simon Zelotes that while in the cave, he should reclaim the status of  Pope, currently held by Nathaniel, and invoke papal powers to  reinstate both and Jesus and he himself. This had to be done within three days of the crucifixion as beyond that excommunication would be irrevocable. This explains, General, why there were such frantic efforts to medically attend to the men in the cave. 

The herbs and therapeautic methods employed by Barabbas worked like a charm and the following day Simon and Jesus felt much better. Accordingly, Simon Zelotes wasted no time in reclaiming the papacy and exercised it by lifting the excommunication of  Jesus and he himself.   This gesture was communicated to the Jewish establishment by Barabbas. Sadly, Judas Iscariot, General, received the short end of the stick.

He never benefitted from the medical attention Jesus and Simon received. Simon denounced him as a traitor for betraying his colleagues. The adjoining cave – Cave 7 – had a ventilational window. Judas, who had been weakened by scourging, was thrown out the window. Hurtling headlong down the cliff, he landed on some jagged rocks and with his stomach punctured his bowels spilt out.  His death is recorded partly accurately by Luke in ACTS 1:18.    

SIMON FORMS OPPOSITION PARTY

Early on the morning of the first Sunday after the Passover Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, pregnant with Jesus’ first child, pitched up at Cave 7. She could have come on Saturday but movements of a certain radius were forbidden on Sabbath Day. Mary as the wife of Jesus was anxious as to his condition: she wanted to ensure that he indeed was safe, that he had indeed survived the crucifixion ruse. 

The gospels say she encountered two angels. Of one such angel, MATTHEW 28:3 says: “His countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow.” This, General,  is either cryptic language or simply a distortion on the part of the translators. We already know by now that Simon Zelotes was nicknamed “Lightning”. We also have seen that he had at this juncture challenged   Nathaniel for the status of Essene high priest, that is, that  of  the Archangel Michael, and so had garbed himself in priestly attire with a view to reinstating to the Essene fold both Jesus and he. Thus, the correct translation should read, “His countenance was like that of Simon Zelotes in his priestly vestments”. 

MATTHEW 28:2 reads, “There was a great earthquake and an angel appeared”. Ancient records do not mention a single earthquake in Palestine in the first century. Once again, General, this was pure allegorical language. Earthquake was another of the nicknames of Theudas Barabbas. He was an angel because Simon Zelotes had designated him his No. 2 in the Essene hierarchy, that is, the Angel Gabriel. Thus, the two angels Mary saw were Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas. 

Mary also saw another man who at first she mistook for a gardener. Garden was another name for Cave 8. It was likened to the Garden of Eden, or Paradise – another of its nicknames – because the person in its charge, James the brother of Jesus, became the second Adam when he challenged Jesus for the status of the Davidic King. James was thus the gardener Mary thought she had seen. But it wasn’t James: it was Jesus. Apparently, Jesus and James looked very much alike. 

Realising that it was Jesus and not James, Mary was overcome with emotion and fervidly reached out to hug him but Jesus kept her at bay. Why, General?  Because according to Essene dynastic protocols, she was not, as a pregnant spouse, allowed physical contact with her husband for at least three years. 

All in all, General, the three men at  Cave 8 had, with the blessings of  Herod Antipas,  declared themselves as the heads of the new Essene shadow council of the 12 in opposition to the official one led by Nathaniel pending official elections. Simon Zelotes was the shadow Michael; Barabbas the shadow Gabriel; and Jesus the shadow Sariel. But it would take six more months before they became formally so. 

JESUS FINALLY IS PRIEST-KING

Although the so-called crucifixion took place in the relative quiet and seclusion of Qumran, General, it was not meant to be kept under wraps for long. Pontius Pilate wanted to demonstrate to his subjects that the key people in the AD 32 uprising had been dealt with decisively. The crucifixion though was publicly announced after the Passover celebrations were done with. This was tactical on the part of Pilate: he did not wish to foolishly provoke another uprising at a time when Jerusalem was teeming with the highly radical Galilean pilgrims. 

By the time the crucifixion became common knowledge, however, General,  Jesus was sufficiently fit to make appearances to people who were close to him – his family members and his so-called disciples. He would later appear to a gathering of over 500 at Qumran, most of whom were Diaspora Essenes.  To those who did not know about the crucifixion ruse, he had conquered death.

He was therefore hailed as a veritable Messiah. Voices now clamoured to make him Priest-King – the Melchizedek, the very status that he had laid claim to and that had put him at odds with the Jerusalem establishment. Jesus was careful though in his post-crucifixion appearances: he tactfully picked his audience and cautiously timed his showings. He didn’t wish Pilate to get wind of the fact that the crucifixion was a hoax. In fact, very few Jews were aware he had survived the crucifixion. 

Meanwhile, General, Simon Zelotes decided to make political capital out of what had transpired. In his campaign for the papacy, he boasted that it was he who was responsible for “the miracle in the tomb”. Hence, his marks of respect too grew exponentially. From that point on, he became known as “Simon Magus”, that is, Simon the magician. With his popularity reaching such dizzying heights, he was in September 33 AD elected as Pope, thus replacing Nathaniel.

With his accession to the papacy, he decided to heed the wishes of the people and have Jesus installed as the Melchizedek. This event is what has come to be known as the Ascension although it has been wrongly interpreted as   a physical entry into Heaven,   the abode of God. It is captured by Luke in ACTS 1:9, which reads, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight”.

The incident, General, is nothing more than the admission of Jesus into the priesthood as Priest-King of Israel. The “Kingdom of Heaven” was the inner sanctum of the Essene priesthood. Jesus was conveyed into this inner sanctum by his brother James, who now unequivocally recognised him as such, and ordained by Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas (the “two men who stood by in white apparel” as per ACTS 1:1011). It was the Exodus imagery at play here General. “Cloud”  was another title of James.

It was a cloud that had led the ancient Israelites into the Promised Land (EXODUS 13:21-22) and the appearance of God on Mount Sinai had been accompanied not just by thunder and lightning but by a cloud as well (EXODUS 19:6). Thus, the terms “Thunder” (Nathaniel); “Lightning” (Simon Zelotes); “Earthquake” (Theudas Barabbas); and “Cloud” (James) were retained as symbolic designations in the Essene community. 

If Jesus didn’t die in AD 33, what was his life like in subsequent years and when did he actually die? Thanks to the Pesher device, this we can partly glean from the book of  Acts, the Pauline epistles, and the book of  Revelation.   

NEXT WEEK: THE LORD SETS ABOUT PERPETUATING THE JESUS STOCK!

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