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Heaven on Earth

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

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

At Qumran, 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.        

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 (that is, 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 that had he 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, 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 because of their penchant for this kind of eliminations.   

Now, the emplacement of Jesus, Judas, and Simon Zealotes in the cave 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  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 he and Jesus.  

This gesture was communicated to the Jewish establishment by Barabbas. Judas Iscariot, however, 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 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 reinstate 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 vestment”.

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, 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?  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, 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, 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,  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 Jewish establishment. Jesus was careful though in his post-crucifixion appearances: he carefully 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, 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 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 1:10-11).

It was the Exodus imagery at play here. “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.  It is a subject will adequately dwell upon in the questions segment of the series.

POSTSCRIPT

The Jesus Papers have arguably been the most widely read of all the series to date. This is borne out by the fact that I have received more questions on the series than on any other. The questions have come from pastors, elders, deacons, lecturers, Bible  college students, theologians, and even non-Christians such as atheists and moslems.   

With such a blitz of questions, I will spend more time on the Q&A segment than I have done previously. The next series will therefore commence in October. Of course,  I cannot answer all the questions  and therefore will address only those I deem important. The rest of the questions will be dealt with in the book version of the series.
 
NEXT WEEK: COUNTDOWN TO CONCLUSION OF JESUS PAPERS

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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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