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Final Word on Josephus

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

This week we tackle questions about  the iconic Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the destruction of Jerusalem

HOW RELIABLE ARE THE WRITINGS OF FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS?
Like all history, they are reliable only to  a certain extent. No record of history is truthful through and through. There are accounts in which the bias in his writings are quite blatant. For example, Josephus      (37-100  AD) calls the Zealots in the AD 66 uprising against the Romans as terrorists. They were not terrorists: they were freedom fighters. In some cases,  he lies outrightly, such as when he says he was  a Pharisee. If he were, he would have written precious much about the Pharisees. But he wrote very little about them and instead  dwelt on the Essenes at disproportionate length. Clearly, he was an Essene, at least at some point in time, but he would not openly identify with the Essenes because at the time he was writing (post-70 AD), the Essenes had been outlawed for their centrality in the AD 66 uprising; only the Pharisees were allowed to operate. In general, however, Josephus is fairly reliable and is in fact crucial. Without him, our knowledge of the happenings in first century Palestine would be substantially diminished.

YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT TWO  PERSONS WITH THE NAME FLAVIUS – FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS AND FLAVIUS TITUS. WERE THE TWO RELATED?
They were related yes but in a political rather than a familial way. Flavius was the clan name of a succession of dynastic emperors who ruled the Roman Empire from AD 69 to AD 96. These were Vespasian (69-79 AD); his son Titus (79-81 AD); and his other son Domitian (81-96 AD). Each of the three emperors  carried the name Flavius in his full names after their ancestral patriarch Marcus Flavius who lived in the fourth century BC. The collective reign of the three emperors is therefore in history referred to as the Flavian dynasty.  Josephus was born Joseph ben Matthias. When he sold out to the Romans in AD 69, the year Vespasian became emperor, and became a Roman citizen, he adopted the emperor’s clan name Flavius and became interpreter and advisor to Crown Prince General Flavius Titus.  Since he wrote his books under the name Flavius Josephus, it is by this name that he is best known.

EXACTLY WHAT SPARKED THE  JEWISH REVOLT AGAINST THE ROMANS IN 66 AD? JOSEPHUS OFTEN  IMMERSES YOU IN SUCH IN SUCH A SEA OF UNNECESSARY DETAIL THAT YOU GET LOST.
It was the appearance of Halley’s Comet on January 25 of AD 66.  The Zealots were Essenes and Essenes were astrologers. They believed that  the appearance of certain heavenly phenomena signalled a watershed event. Their inspiration was the Great Revolt of 164 BC, in which the Maccabees  recaptured Jerusalem from Greek-Syrian domination. The Maccabees revolution was inspired by Halley’s Comet, which had appeared in that year too (it is seen every 71-74 years). Josephus actually plainly states that the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple was the result of  the Jews misinterpreting “a star resembling a sword which stood over the city, a comet that continued a whole year”. The Zealots thought they could replicate the Maccabees feat since the comet was a sign of good lucky. It turned out it was sometimes a sign of ill luck.

WAS YOUR “LEGENDARY” JOSEPHUS A MAN OF VIRTUE? I ASK BECAUSE EVEN WHEN HE RELOCATED TO ROME, HE WAS ALWAYS UNDER HEAVY GUARD AS EVEN THE JEWS OF THE DIASPORA BAYED FOR HIS BLOOD FOR  DINING AND WINING WITH THE ENEMY IN THE ROMANS.
He had his black marks; at the same time,  he had his plusses. First, he was very cerebral. As a kid he was a child prodigy. This is what he writes in his autobiography in this regard: “I made mighty proficiency in the improvements of my learning, and appeared to have both a great memory and understanding. Moreover, when I was a child, and about fourteen years of age, I was commended by all for the love I had to learning; on which account the high priests and principal men of the city came then frequently to me together, in order to know my opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law.” Second, he was a proficient lawyer and surpassingly eloquent in speech. For instance, in AD 62, at only age 26,   he travelled to Rome to argue before Roman Emperor Nero the release of  priestly men who Felix, the Roman governor of Judea, had imprisoned without trial on trumped up charges. He was successful.  It was his great eloquence,  coupled with his cunning,  that endeared him to the then Roman general Vespasian. Thirdly, he was an illustrious soldier. When the Zealot war against the Romans  broke out in AD 66, he commanded the Galilean forces at only age 29 with no  leadership or military experience  and bravely fought the Romans under General Vespasian  in the battle of Jotapata before he surrendered following  a seven-week siege in June-July AD 67. As much as he is deserving of condemnation for one reason or the other, let us give him credit where it is due.

HOW DID JOSEPHUS END UP A CLIENT OF ROME?
When the Romans overran Jotapata in June-July AD 67, Josephus and forty others were  trapped in a cave. General Vespasian, who wanted Josephus alive as commander of the Galilean chapter of the rebellion, called upon them to surrender but they insisted they would rather they took their own lives. They therefore made a suicide pact (Josephus’s cleverly contrived idea) by  which they were to kill  each other by turns through drawing lots, with the last person killing himself. As it was, Josephus was  one of the last two. Since he cherished his life, he convinced the other guy that they simply surrender to Vespasian, which they did.  General Vespasian was taken in by the sharp wit and sweet tongue of Josephus. When he was being interrogated, Josephus told the Roman general that he was actually a prophet of  the Jewish god Yahweh and that Yahweh had made known to him that he had decided to punish the Jews and adopt the Romans as his people, that Vespasian was the messiah the prophets of old had spoken about, and that Vespasian was destined to be emperor. Instead of executing him, a smitten Vespasian simply imprisoned him to see whether his prophecy would bear out. It did,  as  Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in July  AD 69 after a draconian and seemingly deranged Nero committed suicide in AD 68. That’s how Josephus earned his freedom and the esteem of the emperor as a divine prophet.  He first became advisor and interpreter to the new Roman  general Flavius Titus right in Judea before he finally left for Rome with the general in AD 71 after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Roman temple.  There, he was given Roman citizenship and  a very generous pension and lived in the lap of luxury. That’s why he was branded a traitor by the Jews everywhere and became their mortal enemy.   

I DID READ PART OF THE JEWISH ANTIQUITIES BY  FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS AS PER YOUR RECOMMENDATION. I FIND THAT HE WRITES RATHER GLOWINGLY OF ROMAN GENERAL TITUS. IT SOUNDS LIKE PROPAGANDA RATHER THAN OBJECTIVE HISTORY. YOUR TAKE?
You are not the only one to have made such an observation. A number of historians have done so too.  Certainly, Josephus’s claim, for instance, that Titus saved an entire legion of Roman  soldiers by single-handedly fighting back crowds of armed Judeans is laughable to say the very least.  Josephus also says the temple was destroyed by  wayward Roman soldiers contrary to the wishes of  General Titus, who had ordered that it be spared “even if it be used as a fortress because its beauty should be preserved as a possession of Rome”.  However, another historian, Sulpicius Severus, writes that Titus expressly ordered the sacking of the  temple. It must be borne in mind, albeit,  that  the destruction of the temple and the  overall carnage in Jerusalem in  AD 70 arose not because Titus was bloodthirsty. He tried his best, using Josephus as his go-between,  to get the insurgents  to surrender but to no avail.  Moreover, though Titus was reputed as a merciless general who ordered the execution of suspected traitors on the spot and was received by Romans as “another Nero” when he succeeded his deceased father in  June AD 79,  it turned out he was actually a very, very good man. He ruled for just over  two years before his death  in September AD  81 but he turned out to be a very popular emperor. One of the first things he did as emperor was to proclaim an amnesty for traitors on trial. The historian Suetonius writes that if in one single day the emperor did not perform at least one beneficial act for his rein, he ruefully remarked, “Friends, I have a lost a day”. He was  tough and ruthless as a general only because that came with the territory: in those highly tumultuous times, a general had to be a Saddam if  he was to keep his emperor’s domain intact.

HOW LONG DID THE ROMAN SIEGE OF JERUSALEM LAST AND HOW WERE THE CASUALTIES LIKE?
The war itself is referred to as the first Jewish-Roman War. It lasted from AD 66 to AD 73, although it was practically over in AD 70 when Jerusalem was  destroyed. The siege of Jerusalem by General Flavius Titus lasted  7 months from March to September AD 70.  The Jewish insurgents, led by the Zealots, were a hard nut to crack. Titus used four legions (equivalent to about 40,000 troops inclusive of auxiliaries) in the campaign.  Josephus documents that 1.1 million were killed, the vast majority of whom Jews, and 97,000 were captured. Later, Titus released 40,000 Jews who were non-combatants but the insurrectionists, including their wives and children,  were  taken into slavery. Josephus says the supply of slaves so deluged the market that the slave price plunged precipitately! Josephus lost his parents and his first wife in the war. Josephus himself, whilst imploring his fellow Jews to surrender in his capacity as interpreter and go-between,  was struck in the head with a stone and knocked unconscious but he survived and was soon doing his duty again. The Romans erected a fence of palisades around the city so that it was fully enclosed and there was no means of escape. All trees within fifteen kilometers of the city were hewn down for this purpose and another – mass crucifixions. Captured insurgents were crucified in various mocking positions at a rate of 500 per day, with the result that no single tree was seen throughout Jerusalem!   The Romans used starvation of the fenced-in Jews as a physiological weapon, to the extent where the Jews had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Josephus provides one such example thus: ““One woman slew her son, and then roasted him, and ate  the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this,  the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son.”
 
SINCE YOU SAID THE ANUNNAKI CONTROL THE AFFAIRS OF EARTH FROM BEHIND THE SCENES, TO WHAT EXTENT WERE THEY INVOLVED IN THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN 70 AD?

It is they who cleverly orchestrated it.   In LEVITICUS 26: 27-33, Enlil, the Anunnaki God of the Jews who is best known as Jehovah, had served notice to the Jews that he was going to chastise them seven times for “whoring after  other gods” at his expense. The destruction of Jerusalem was the fifth such chastisement. Josephus hinted about this knowledge when  he wrote in War of the Jews that, “The Deity, indeed long since, had sentenced the Temple to the flames  …  And one may well marvel at the exactness of the cycle of Destiny; for, as I said, she waited until the very month and the very day on which in bygone times the Temple had been burnt by the Babylonians,” the Babylonian captivity having been the second chastisement. General Titus also had an idea about Anunnaki involvement in the whole saga. When he was asked to accept the wreath of victory by his lieutenants  for making mince of the Jews, he declined, saying, “There’s no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God”.  He said he was simply the instrument the Jewish god had used to punish them.   On his way back to Rome, he stopped over at Memphis in Egypt to venerate Apis, the bull deity. The bull deity as we now know was a symbol of  Enlil.

DID THE ZEALOTS REGISTER ANY SIGNIFICANT VICTORIES IN THEIR AD 66 WAR AGAINST THE ROMANS?
They were formidable. They solidly held out against the Romans for five years. The fortress of Masada for one did not fall until AD 73, three years after Jerusalem had fallen.  At one stage in AD 70,  General Titus was nearly captured by the Zealots during a sudden attack.  A case could be made that to a degree, the Zealots were the architects of their own demise. They were busy  warring against each other at the same time as they were fighting the Romans. They had four factions waging a mini- civil war. In addition, they were busy looting the temple of its treasures, particularly gold, besides extorting similar personal treasures from fellow Jews.   Jewish deserters to neighbouring Syria, fearing that the gold they had grabbed could be  appropriated by Roman soldiers if they encountered them, began to swallow it for temporary storage in their guts. Big mistake.  When rumour spread that all the Jews who were fleeing Jerusalem were a gold mine walking,  Arabs and Syrians resorted to cutting their stomachs open as a matter of routine. Josephus records that “in one night alone, no less than 2000 Jews were ripped up”. Whether they were stitched up after being ripped up he does not say.  Meanwhile, the haul of gold in the process was such that its market price, like that of slaves,  took a dramatic tumble.

NEXT WEEK: QUESTIONS ON THE BIBLE AS A TEXT

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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