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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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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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