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The Midnight Hearings

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

Jesus  appears before high priests Annas and Caiaphas

Historians, scholars, theologians, and the Christian clergy invariably assert that Jesus was tried four times. He appeared before the court of former high priest Annas ben Seth, the court of incumbent high priest Joseph Caiaphas, the court of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and the court of tetrarch Herod Antipas. That is totally and utterly wrong. It is as mistaken as the belief that the trials took place in Jerusalem.

As we have reiterated time and again, Jesus was tried at Qumran 40 km from Jerusalem. And his only trials were before Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas. The appearances before Annas and Caiaphas (jointly, and not separately as suggested by some gospels) was not a trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court: it was a synod hearing. Indeed, none of the gospels categorically state that Jesus came before the Sanhedrin. He came before a synod, a joint  assembly of  ecclesiastical figures in the Essene governing council and the Jerusalem temple. What this panel sought to address was not the crime against Pilate, the November 32 AD riots, or whether Jesus had committed “blasphemy”. It restricted itself to two issues only.

The first was his status in the Essene hierarchy, that is, whether he was deserving of being the Davidic King or the Priest-King.  The second was whether  he still advocated peace with the Romans or had now adopted the Zealot stance that war had to be waged against  the Romans. Thus the Annas-Caiaphas panel was not a trial but a form of interrogation. It was a hearing,   with a view to review the political and institutional status of Jesus so that when he was sent before Pilate, Pilate knew exactly in what social capacity he was trying him.    

The fact that  Jesus’s appearance before Annas and Caiaphas was not before the Sanhedrin explains why the procedures and process to which he was subjected seem to go against every grain of Jewish jurisprudence. A whole galaxy of books have even been written about how the “trial of Jesus” before the “Sanhedrin” was a total travesty of justice. To the discerning, such as you, My Brother,  and me, this is understandable because it was not a trial at all: it was a hearing by an ecclesiastical panel which purely had to do with power politics and factional leanings. It is as simple as that.  The synod dealt with politics; Pilate dealt with the crime.   

SIMON ZELOTES DEMOTED AGAIN

The first to appear before the panel was Simon Zelotes. He took precedence because at the time of the November riots, he was the Pope and therefore was superior to Jesus, who was third in the hierarchy. Theudas Barabbas, who was one of the three accused, did not appear before the panel. He had already admitted his role in the insurrection and was now in remand awaiting an official plea of guilty before Pilate and onward sentencing.

Simon Zealotes was the second highest ranking Zealot after Judas Iscariot, who was the overall leader. The Zealots, who were the underground military wing of the Essenes, agitated for a forceful ouster of the Romans. They had  staged a number of uprisings to date against the Romans but all had come to naught. They had a particularly fanatical following in Galilee, where most of the uprisings erupted.   As a result, the term “Galilean” in Judea had come to assume the secondary meaning of “Zealot”.  

Simon Zealotes was close to Jesus in one vein: he was his father-in-law. Simon was the foster father of Mary Magdalene, the wife of Jesus. Where it came to political philosophy, however, Jesus and Simon were poles apart and were therefore always at odds. Whereas Simon was a champion of war against the Romans, Jesus was for peaceful co-existence till Providence itself intervened. Jesus was a staunch believer in non-violence.

His inalienable belief was that violence only begot violence, that those who lived by the sword always perished by the sword. Hence,  when Judas Iscariot, Simon Zealotes, and Theudas Barabbas staged that mini-uprising against Pilate in November AD  32,  Jesus strongly disapproved of their conduct and vociferously lashed out at them. It was therefore ironic that thanks to Judas, he too was now being associated with the bloody act.

Following the November uprising, Simon Zelotes (who also went by the titular name of Eleazer – Lazarus in Greek), had been excommunicated from the Essene community altogether by Jonathan Annas, who had succeeded him as Pope. Jesus, however, had  at the bidding of Mary Magdalene and her mother Helena-Salome unilaterally restored him, claiming to exercise his putative powers as Priest-King. This is the event referred to in the Bible as the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

The panel ruled that as an outlaw, a man  who was wanted by the Roman authorities for his role in the uprising, Simon Zealotes  no longer merited membership of the Essene’s council of the twelve. His reinstatement by Jesus was therefore invalid. Simon Zelotes was accordingly demoted to Grade 9 in the Essene hierarchy, that of a lower novice.

Protocol required that he be stripped of the clothes  he was wearing and remain only with a loin cloth – the ceremonial attire of a lower novice. In the Essene code language of pesher, a lower novice was referred to as a “young man”. When a person had been demoted to a lower novice, he was said to have been “stripped naked”.

This fate of Simon Zelotes is vividly captured in MARK 14:51, which reads, “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” This cryptic characterisation of the fate of Simon Zealotes as pronounced by a Jewish panel has escaped scholars and theologians alike, who have puzzled as to its necessity and relevance. There have even been some rather fanciful intimations that the young man was actually Mark himself!

The ruling by the panel now meant that Simon Zealotes would be standing before Pilate not as a venerable member of the Essene community (which could possibly be a mitigating factor in the judgement)  but as a nonentity.  

JESUS LAYS CLAIM TO WHOLE TRIARCHY

The gospels dwell comparatively more comprehensively on the Jesus hearing than that of Simon Zelotes because Jesus is their  main subject. Jesus was heard by Annas and Caiaphas. The two were simply the joint presiding officers; otherwise, all the country’s bigwigs  – the Herods, Jonathan Annas, Judas Iscariot, and his brother James – were in attendance.     

It was important that Annas, a former high priest who nevertheless had retained his title just as former presidents continue to be addressed as President in our own day. This was because the legitimacy of  Jesus as the Davidic King was at stake here. Annas represented the Sadducees, who recognised Jesus as the Davidic King, whereas Caiaphas represented the Pharisees, who  had embraced  James as the Davidic King. The Davidic King was typically third in the Essene hierarchy.  

It’s crucial  that you understand some of the terminologies that are used in the gospels in regard to titles and which Christians sadly take literally and therefore superficially. I have explained this point many a time  in the past but I think it bears repeating here.

The highest ranking Essene, the chief priest, had several titles. He was the Archangel Michael because he was the  representative of God on Earth. Hence,  he was also referred to as the Lord God,  the I am, the Blessed, and the Power (that is, the Almighty). His most invoked title, however, was that of Pope, that is, Father of the Community. Presently, these titles belonged to Jonathan Annas, the second-born son of the very Annas who was presiding over the proceedings.

The second-ranking Essene went by the title Angel Gabriel.  As the Gabriel, he was the Lord God’s messenger to mankind. His other titles were therefore Son of God and simply Man.  And since it was he who bore the “glory of the Lord God” by representing him to mankind, he was also referred to as the Glory. The Gabriel was also known as the Prophet. Presently,  this should have been Judas Iscariot but since he had not been cleared yet in his role in the November uprising, he was represented by a certain man called Eleazer.

The third-ranking Essene was the Sariel. This was always the Davidic King, also known as the messiah or Christ in Greek. Since the Davidic King was junior to  the Gabriel, who also  was known as Man, his other title was Son of  Man – Jesus’s most favourite title. As firstborn, Jesus was the widely recognised  Davidic King but he had now been challenged by his brother James. In short, the top three were the Priest, the Prophet, and the King in that order. They were also referred to as the Power, the Glory, and the Kingdom, a setup hinted at in the so-called Lord’s Prayer, and the Michael, the Gabriel and the Sariel.

Now,  if you recall, during the Last Supper, Jesus had challenged Jonathan Annas for the position of  chief priest, which  Jonathan had meekly yielded knowing the fate that awaited Jesus. Jesus had thus become the joint Priest-King, that is, the Melchizedek. But after his arrest, he had forfeited his newly gained status. The position of chief priest had thus reverted to Jonathan Annas and that of the Davidic King had been contested by his brother James.

Annas, the joint-chair of the hearing  who was pro-Jesus,   expected Jesus to lay claim only to the status of the Davidic King, a pitch he was ready to endorse.  Jesus, however, took Annas by surprise. Not only did he insist on his entitlement to the position of Priest-King: he also now declared that he also merited the title of Prophet.

In other words, he was three-in-one – God, Son of God, and Son of Man. In the gospels, the question Jesus was asked by Annas and Caiaphas are a bit convoluted because of faulty translation that was not informed by the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as knowledge of pesher.

Thus  the responses Jesus gave are not that clear-cut and in some cases sound contradictory. But the point Jesus was trying to make was that he was actually Priest, King, and Prophet rolled into one – the very embodiment of the triarchy.  Was he justified in this claim?

A DESERVING MELCHIZEDEK

In the Dead Sea Scrolls are to be found two highly instructive texts. These are the Prince Melchizedek Document and the Damascus Document. Both these documents make it clear that the dynastic high priest  was called the Melchizedek, meaning  King of Righteousness in one vein and  Priest-King in another.  In the first century, the dynastic high priests, also called the Zadokite dynasty,  were Zechariah initially  and his son John the Baptist subsequently.  

John, however,  had chosen a reclusive life and had therefore relinquished  the dynastic high priesthood. He was nevertheless persuaded to accept the elective position of Pope, that is, Father of the Essene Community. To the mass of the Jewish population, however, for as long as he was alive he would be regarded as the Melchizedek. But after his execution, the Zadokite dynasty came to a sudden  end as John died  childless and therefore without heirs.

In truth though,  John was not a Melchizedek proper. Although he was of the priestly line as a descendent of Aaron, he was not of the kingly line – a descendent of David. He was Priest but not King. It was Jesus who was king as he was descended from David. But Jesus was also priest.

Why? First, his mother Mary was a descendent of Aaron. Even more important, Enlil, the Anunnaki god of the Jews familiarly known as Jehovah, had told King David that, “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (PSALM 110:4), the first Melchizedek having been Abraham’s father Terah, who was once the King of Jerusalem and priest of Nannar-Sin, the son of Enlil. Thus if King David was priest-king de facto (he voluntarily never exercised the priesthood, leaving it, instead, to Zadok the Aaronite), then Jesus too merited the same status.

By the same token, Jesus was entitled to position of Prophet. This was because when he and John the Baptist formed the messianic movement, he was the No. 2 in the hierarchy. John had chosen him to be his deputy, whose other title was Son of God. If the two hadn’t parted company and had John been alive presently, Jesus would still be the No. 2.  Jesus therefore was in order when he  claimed  all the top three positions.

He was God, Son of God, and Son of Man. He was Priest, Prophet, and King. He was the Michael, the Gabriel, and the   Sariel. He was indeed the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last and something else besides. It was he who was the rightful successor to John though in reality he had all along being greater than him.

This claim of his being the be-all and end-all outraged everybody present, including his erstwhile staunch supporter, former high priest Annas. He was called all sorts of names and even physically roughed up. But he was unrepentant because he was convinced  he was right by every reckoning.

NEXT WEEK: TRIAL BEFORE PILATE

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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