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The Lord is Engaged

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

 … on the occasion of the so-called “Wedding at Cana”

In March AD 30, Jesus turned 36 years of age, having been born in March 7 BC (there was no year 0: the transition proceeded straight from 1 BC to 1 AD, the AD era having begun with the birth of James the brother of Jesus, who unlike Jesus was born in the month of the year befitting of a dynastic heir, this being September).

Being a messianic heir, this was a significant date. A messianic heir (that is, the Davidic heir and the priestly heir) was supposed to be married between ages 36 and 40 at the most, the latter being referred to as a generation year. It was mandatory for the messianic heir to produce his own heir within this 4-year period. 

The four-year window allowed for the odds of siring at least one son as girls did not inherit. It also allowed for ample testing of the woman’s fertility: if she could not produce a child within this period, the marriage was terminated by legal divorce.

STAGES OF THE  MARRIAGE PROCESS

The Essenes, the religio-politico grouping to which Jesus belonged, had laid down very strict rules with respect to messianic heirs. Messianic heirs were never to indulge in sex for purposes of pleasure: it was for procreation only. Messianic heirs were therefore celibates in the grand scheme of things.

They were allowed to sleep with their wives only if the appointed time had arrived for them to produce a child. The time for both the marriage and the reproduction was strictly demarcated. First, there was a betrothal ceremony.

This took place between march and June. Then there was a First Marriage. This happened in September, the holiest month in the Jewish calendar. But the First Marriage did not permit a live-together: the couple only came under the same roof only in December, when intimate relations commenced with a view to conception on the part of the female spouse  so that the child should be born in September the following year.

The First Marriage was also referred to as a trial marriage. Thus, if the female spouse did not conceive in December, copulation was suspended till the following December. The couple were to live separately all the while, though technically they were regarded as husband and wife from the day of  betrothal.

If betrothal was to be terminated, it would require a formal divorce. A trial marriage was allowed for a maximum of three years, whereupon if the female spouse did not conceive, the marriage was annulled by way of divorce.  Divorce was necessary because Essenes did not countenance   the idea of polygamy.

On the other hand, if conception did take place in at least one December during the three-year trial marriage, a Second Marriage was held in March. By this time, the spouse was three months pregnant and as such,  the chances of a miscarriage were very low.

After the Second Wedding, the union was final and irrevocable: divorce was forbidden as royal marriages were meant to last “till death do us part”. A messianic spouse therefore was always three months pregnant at the time of her second and therefore final wedding.

Although she was already pregnant, she was still referred to as a Virgin titularly. She only ceased to be called a Virgin at six months of pregnancy, that is, in June, when she now assumed the title of Mother. Resultantly, all Davidic spouses – Mary the Mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; and Mary-Cleopas, the wife of James the brother of Jesus, were all referred to as Mother Mary.  

GROOM-ED FROM CHILDHOOD

The woman who had been earmarked for Jesus to wed was Mary, the daughter of Helena-Salome, a Gentile of renown from Syro-Phoenicia. In antiquity, a future king’s bride was chosen when she was practically a tiny tot. For example, Herod the Great had long chosen Herodias for his then favourite son and therefore heir apparent Herod Philip I, best known as the disciple Thomas in the gospels.

Typically, a dynastic bride was chosen from the immediate extended family so that King and Queen would be cousins or uncle and niece. In the case of Herodias, she was a niece to Thomas. But in a bid to cement diplomatic relations and therefore forestall the possibility of armed hostilities, a bride might be chosen from a foreign dynasty.  A case in point is Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (quarter-king) of Galilee and Perea, whose first wife was Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabataea (modern-day Jordan).

In the case of Jesus, however, convention was flouted: he chose a commoner and a Gentile for that matter as his bride. This is one reason Mary Magdalene was so viscerally loathed by the apostles, particularly Simon Peter, Judas Iscariot, and Paul. His father Joseph, on the other hand, had loyally heeded convention by marrying a Hasmonean princess in his (Jesus’s) mother.

In truth, however, Mary Magdalene was neither a commoner nor a Gentile.  She was royalty proper, far much more than any blue-blooded Jewish lass. Her real father was an Anunnaki and the Anunnaki were the gods of the Old Testament, which might explain why Helena gave her the name Mary, which meant “First Lady”, “First Princess”, or simply “Queen”. 

Even in New Testament times, the Anunnaki were around but operated behind the scenes, from which they subtly and systematically charted the course of Earthly affairs.  It was because Mary Magdalene had Anunnaki blood that Helena-Salome was unstinting in seeing to it that she married her off  to the future King of Israel who was at once the future King of the world.

Jesus must have taken Mary Magdalene’s Anunnaki stock into account when he succumbed to Helena’s overtures to marry her. Beauty was not an irrelevant factor either: as half-human, half-Anunnaki, Mary Magdalene was white skinned, that is, a Caucasian, which enhanced her aesthetic appeal compared to the genetically dark-skinned Jews of the day.    

To ensure Mary Magdalene met the grade as Jesus’s  wife when she came of age, Helena put her in conventual sisterhood at Qumran from a very young age. The Essene convent into which she was placed was that of the Mary’s in the female order of Dan. Mary’s were groomed as future spouses for monarchs, princes, and other members of the nobility. The female head of the order of  Dan was Mary the mother of Jesus. But overall, the Mary’s were overseen by men. Altogether, there were seven men who supervised them. 

They all were Zealots but were metaphorically known as the Seven Demons or Seven Satans. “Demon” and “Satan” were alternative terms for Zealots, the military wing of the Essenes who sought to overthrow the Romans by force of arms but were neutralised by highly influential pacifists such as Jesus and John the Baptist. 

The Seven Demons were headed by the Essenes’ Chief Scribe, who also went by the title Demon No. 7.  In gospel times, Demon No. 7 was Judas Iscariot. Judas, whose other title was the Jairus, was therefore Mary Magdalene’s principal, another reason why she was also referred to as “Jairus’s daughter”.

Mary Magdalene was very rich in that her mother was wealthy. By tactfully and strategically inserting her into the order of Dan, it now meant she no longer was eligible to inherit her mother’s wealth as an individual. Whatever would be bequeathed to her would vest in the Essene fraternity as members of the order of Dan were not allowed to own individual property. But Helena didn’t mind the pauperish situation into which she had thrust her daughter. As the future Queen, Mary Magdalene would be even wealthier than her mother.  When people said Helena was a schemer, it wasn’t simply a mere stereotype.

TURNING WATER INTO WINE

Yet if Jesus had to marry a Gentile, that Gentile had to be approved by the Father of the Essene community, the Pope. In AD 29, the Pope was John the Baptist. John, however, was a puritan. If Jesus was a Davidic messiah, there was simply no way he was going to be allowed to consort with a Gentile woman. Moreover, John and Jesus were at this time at loggerheads with each other, with the result that Jesus had broken away from John to form a rival party.  John had in fact de-recognised Jesus as the Davidic messiah in favour of his younger brother James.  

Since John the Baptist was not seeing eye to eye with his equally great cousin, Jesus decided to assume the role of priest-king at least for the purpose of his beloved Mary Magdalene. In doing so, he had the support of his principal associate Simon Zelotes, who was the foster father of Mary Magdalene. 

Thus when Mary Magdalene came of age at 12 and underwent the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, Jesus performed another rite on her.  He elevated her from figurative death (the unregenerated Gentile state) into the community of life (the Essene state in the sight of God). This initiation is recorded in MATTHEW 9:18-25 though it has been grossly misinterpreted as raising “Jairus’s daughter from the dead”.

As far as Jesus was concerned, this was no big deal as his notion of the Kingdom of God embraced Gentiles as much as it did Jews. In any case, even the great Jewish patriarchs of old had consorted with Gentiles. With the rite performed, Mary Magdalene was now not only admitted into the Jewish fold (“grafted onto Israel” as the apostle Paul would say) but she was also effectively unofficially engaged to Jesus, though official engagement required its own ceremony.

Jesus’s official betrothal to Mary Magdalene took place at “Cana”, which was a structure at Qumran where women and Gentles were allowed and where Mary the mother of Jesus was the Mother Superior of the female convent. The incident is related in JOHN 2:1-12.

Although, it is called a wedding, it was actually not: it was a sacred meal that preceded the betrothal. The bride and groom are not expressly mentioned. This was  deliberate: somebody didn’t want to put it in no uncertain terms that the groom was Jesus and the bride was Mary Magdalene. But it is clear that a matrimonial ceremony involving a member of Jesus family is going on as his mother is clearly the hostess and Jesus  himself takes centre stage.

The Essene betrothal custom was for there to be a formal host (as  appears in the account), who would be in full charge as the Ruler of the Feast. Secondary authority rested only in the bridegroom and his mother, and this is entirely relevant for when the matter of the communion wine arose, Jesus’s mother said to the  servants (JOHN 2:5), “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”. No invited guest would have had any such right of command. It is plain,  therefore, that  Jesus and the bridegroom were one and the same.

The event is referred to as a wedding because betrothal was as binding as  a marriage proper. It was in fact a dual ceremony. First, Jesus initiated a class of people who Essenes regarded as unclean into the “Drink of the Congregation”, which was a kind of communion.

These were married men, novices Gentiles, and all lay Jews. At such a ceremony, the unclean were not eligible to partake of the wine: they were restricted to a ritual bathing with water only (that’s why there were so many jars of water). Only already initiated Jewish celibates were allowed to drink wine.  

Jesus, a radical reformist,  would have none of that. To him, there was no longer a divide between the clean and the unclean. All were equal before the sight of God. Jesus therefore allowed the unclean to partake of the wine too. In Qumran language, the act of allowing unclean persons to drink wine at a communion was referred to as “turning water into wine.” This was called a “miracle” by virtue not of its wondrousness but of its strange, aberrational nature.    

In such a Gentile-friendly setting, it is little wonder that Jesus decided to betroth the Gentile Mary Magdalene to underline that she too had been received into the exalted Jewish-Essene fold and was therefore worthy of his bride.  

NEXT WEEK: THE NUPTIALS

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020
FATED “JIHADI” JOHN

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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