HOW DID PAUL COME TO OVERSHADOW ALL THE OTHER APOSTLES WHEN HE NEVER MET JESUS IN PERSON? This may strike you as odd but Paul personally knew Jesus and in fact did spend a great deal more time with Jesus than all the other apostles post the sham crucifixion. Remember, the Romans were supposed to be under the blindfold that Jesus had died in the crucifixion of March AD 33. The Romans were indeed taken in as the demise of Jesus was even recorded in the annals of Rome, as he was a Davidic heir and therefore was of high standing among the Jews. Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman who was both a historian and senator, documents that, “Christus, from whom their name (of Christians) is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.” Hence, if Paul was personally acquainted with Jesus subsequent to the crucifixion, he wasn’t going to promulgate this privillege. Paul was only 16 years old when Jesus was crucified and assumed by the wider public to have died and if he had openly told the world he had an intimate personal knowledge of Jesus by AD 33, they would have thought he was out of his mind. So the only way he could rationalise his vaunted knowledge of Jesus was to couch his encounter with him in mystical terms. Yet even though to the public his commissioning by Jesus came across as supernatural, in pesher it is plain that he met Jesus in the natural.
WHY WAS PAUL SO VIRULENTLY OPPOSED TO THE EARLY CHURCH? A lot of hogwash has been said about Paul having never met Jesus even by scholars with PhDs in theology. Like every other Jew of the day, Paul knew about Jesus as a youngster. Paul was born in AD 17 and Jesus as the Davidic heir was a well-known figure at the time. Paul was partly educated at Qumran, the place where Jesus was often found and even taught (he was a rabbi, meaning “teacher”) and to say he never met Jesus is an absurdity. He knew both Jesus and his younger brother James at a very early age. When he became of age (between ages 12 and 16), Paul joined the Qumran faction known as the Hebrews, the faction that traditionally had been pro- John the Baptist and which promoted James as the Davidic heir at the expense of Jesus since Jesus was born in an irregular month for a Davidic heir and was thought to be tacitly cosy with the Roman oppressors. That’s what he meant when he referred to himself as a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” (PHILIPPIANS 3:5). Paul also hated the fact that Jesus fancied himself as a Priest-King when his father Joseph was of the tribe of Judah and not a Levite. When Agrippa I became Rome’s client King of the Jews in AD 37, Paul, who had always been attached to the House of Herod as the Essene order of Benjamin (to which Paul belonged) used to congregate at Agrippa’s home in Jerusalem became the instrument with which Rome persecuted the early church, then known as the Nazarenes or simply the Way. Paul was given authority to arrest any extremist Nazarene anywhere in Palestine. The Nazarenes were headed by James the Just but were actively led by Simon Peter. One of their firebrands, Stephen, was stoned to death by a mob superintended over by Paul in a tactical “coup” whereby the behind-the-scenes Anunnaki wanted to set up Paul as the main propagator in future of the Jesus saga at the expense of Stephen, who was already primed to do so.
JUST HOW EDUCATED WAS THE GREAT APOSTLE PAUL? He is said to have had the equivalent of two PhDs. He was educated at three schools. The first was Qumran, the Essene headquarters. The second was the School of Hillel in Jerusalem, which was run by the great Jewish rabbi Gamaliel, and where he was contemporaries with the evangelist Luke and the Annas brothers Theophillus (the sponsor of Luke’s gospel and Acts), Jonathan (the disciple Nathaniel) and Simon. Gamaliel taught his students not only the tenets of the Torah and other Old Testament texts but also subjects like classical literature, philosophy, and ethics. Finally, Paul attended the University of Tarsus, the Harvard and Oxford of the day. The Greek city Tarsus, in today’s south central Turkey, was the capital of the ancient province of Cilicia and one of the largest trade centres on the Mediterranean coast. It was in Tarsus that Paul was born, but he was not born a Roman citizen as most scholars would have you believe. A letter dated 23rd March 59 AD shows that Paul’s Roman citizenship was facilitated by Seneca, the famous Stoic philosopher who had tutored the schizophrenic Roman Emperor Nero and who had taken a keen interest in Paul’s version of Judaism (Paul and Seneca exchanged a great deal of documented correspondence which can be found in extra-biblical sources). It is clear from the gospels that Paul was a learned man both religiously and secularly. When he was in Athens, for instance, and debated the Greek philosophers in a bid to pitch Christianity to them, he copiously quoted their own savants. For instance, in ACTS chapter 17, where he addressed the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, he cited The Phaenomena by the great poet Aratus of Soli not only to demonstrate his erudition but to underline to the Athenians that their religion was tantamount to idolatry (v17). When in v28 he says, “For in Him we live and move and exist”, and in TITUS 1:12 he says, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons,” he was quoting Epimenides of Knossos (modern-day Crete), a Greek seer and philosopher-poet. In ACTS 17:29, he says, “As even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children’.” Here again, he was quoting Aratus. The expression “Bad company corrupts good morals” in 1 CORINTHIANS 15:33 was lifted straight from Menander, the great Greek playwright.
COULD YOU SHED CLEARER LIGHT ON HOW PAUL MET JESUS SINCE THE VERSION OF EVENTS IN ACTS SOUNDS SORT OF THEATRICAL? The so-called Damascus event as recorded in various passages of ACTS was not the first time Paul encountered Jesus. It simply marked the occasion of his switch of allegiance from the fundamentalist Pharisees (who were ready to kill to enforce and uphold rabbinical Judaism) to the Jesus movement, the so-called Hellenists who advocated pro-Roman cooperation. It did not even take place in Damascus: it took place at Qumran, in AD 40, when a conference was held to discuss the Jewish position in relation to Rome. Nor was it supernatural at all: it was natural through and through. At the Qumran sanctuary, the counterpart to the Jerusalem Temple, there was a prayer platform which had a half roof. The platform was metaphorically referred to as Heaven. Between noon and 3 pm each day, the half roof was open and therefore it was said “Heaven is open”. Paul arrived at the conference with a view to tear into Jesus. Paul was particularly irate that a statue of the reigning Roman Emperor Caligula had been set up within the Jerusalem Temple and put the blame for such a sacrilege squarely on people like Jesus, who advocated a passive stance toward Roman rule. When Paul entered the prayer room, in which the conference was being held, part of the roof had been removed, allowing the sun to shine down to indicate the time and to reveal the priest who was conducting prayers above. Paul first prostrated himself along with other congregants, averting his eyes to avoid looking too long up into the blazing sun. Then defying all protocols, he launched into an angry tirade at Jesus, denouncing him as a “bastard”. Jesus, who was on the pulpit, calmly asked him to come and sit at the front of the pews. Then he belted off a sermon in which he not only bemoaned why Paul was “persecuting” him but sagely pointed out the error of Paul’s ways. Having listened to Jesus’s persuasive sermon, it dawned on Paul that he had been blinded by sectarian dogma and immediately disposed himself to make amends, profusely apologising to Jesus. Later, Jesus asked Simon Zelotes ( who goes by the code name Ananias in ACTS chapter 9) to instruct Paul as to why Jesus was indeed Priest-King. Simon Zelotes was at first reluctant to address him, considering his reputation as the foremost afflicter of the Jesus movement but he at long last relented. Metaphorically, Paul had hitherto been “blind”: now after his enlightenment by Simon Zelotes, he “saw the light of life”, a phrase that we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. But it was not until three years later, in AD 43, that Paul was fully converted to the Jesus cause.
OTHER THAN THE DAMASCUS INCIDENT, WHAT EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE CAN YOU ADDUCE THAT JESUS DID INTERACT WITH PAUL POST THE CRUCIFIXION? One is 2 TIMOTHY 2:9. In the passage, Paul, who was under house arrest in Rome at King Agrippa II’s house (whilst awaiting his first trial before Roman governors Felix and Festus) sent a coded message that “The Word of God is no fettered”. “The Word of God” as we have long demonstrated was the pesher name for Jesus. The message Paul was trying to convey was that Jesus was free: he had not been pounced upon by the Roman authorities, who were looking for him not as the Jesus who had been crucified but as “Chrestus”, the underground leader of the Christians in Rome.
AT THE TIME OF HIS CONVERSION, PAUL IS SAID TO HAVE BEEN IN DAMASCUS WITH A MANDATE BY THE HIGH PRIEST TO ARREST CHRISTIANS. WAS DAMASCUS PART OF PALESTINE AT THE TIME? No: Damascus was part of Syria and the High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple had no jurisdiction in Syria. In fact, his jurisdiction was restricted to Judea only. The Damascus Luke alludes to in ACTS is actually Qumran, the Essene headquarters in the Judean Wilderness. The Dead Sea Scrolls’ Damascus Document makes it plain that Damascus was actually a name the Essenes had earmarked for Qumran in a liberated Israel and therefore used in their coded writings.
WHY, WHEN, AND HOW DID PAUL CHANGE HIS NAME FROM SAUL TO PAUL? Luke uses the name Saul until ACTS 13:9, when he switches to Paul. People have had the misconception that it was Jesus who renamed Saul as Paul upon his conversion. That’s simply not true. ACTS 13:9 says “Paul, who was also called Paul”, not “Saul, who became known as Paul”. What that means is simply that Paul went by both names since childhood. It was typical for first century Jews to have an original Jewish name and a secondary Greek name, e.g. “John, also called Mark” (ACTS 12:12) and Paul's companion Silas (ACTS 15-18), who was also known as Silvanus (2 CORINTHIANS 1:19). Paul means “a small man”. Certainly, Jesus would never have christened the apostle who was destined for great things with such a disparaging name. Saul therefore must have been also called by the name Paul from childhood apparently because he was of a slight physical stature. Luke’s onward reference to him as Paul from ACTS 13:9 was meant to underline the fact that before his conversion, he persecuted the Son of David, Jesus, just as the first Jewish King, Saul, persecuted Jesus’s genealogical father David before he became king. Upon his conversion, therefore, the name Saul had to be discarded completely since it had a negative historical connotation.
WHAT WERE THE SPECIFIC ROLES OF PAUL AND SIMON PETER IN WORLD EVANGELISM? James had decided that both were going to be his evangelistic ambassadors to the Roman world. But Paul was to concentrate on ministration to Gentiles, whilst Simon Peter was to devote himself to Jews of the Diaspora.
WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE THEOLOGY OF JAMES AND THAT OF PAUL? FOR JUDGING FROM GALATIANS AND THE EPISTLE OF JAMES, THE TWO DID NOT EXACTLY GET ALONG. James’ brand of Christianity was Judeo-Christianity. It was Christianity that was strictly Torah-observant. On the other hand, Paul’s brand of Christianity was a radical one which sought to breakaway from the straitjacket of Judaism, to forge a standalone religion. The Christianity that is observed today in all of Christendom is all Pauline Christianity. For example, Paul preached that faith in Jesus alone was sufficient for salvation, whereas James strongly countered that, scoffing that faith had to be accompanied by good and exemplary works; otherwise, it was a dead faith. Paul’s Christianity elevated Jesus to the status of a God-Man, whereas James’s Christianity received Jesus as a mere mortal but who was larger than life anyway. Because of Paul’s radical theology, there came a time when James had to send deputations to Asia Minor to try and undo the damage Paul’s theology had wrought. James and others called Paul the “Man of Lies”, a tag that we constantly encounter in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
JUST HOW PRONOUNCED WAS THE TENSION BETWEEEN PAUL AND JAMES AS YOU HINTED IN ONE OF YOUR ARTICLES? It was a heated one. Paul never exactly accepted James’s authority because he (Paul) was in constant touch with Jesus up until the time he (Paul) he died. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul angrily ticks off the men who came from James to right the “falsehoods” he had preached. He actually cursed them (GALATIANS 1:9) and crudely added: “I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves” (GALATIANS 5:12). He argued that he was commissioned into ministry not by any ordinary man (meaning James) but by “Christ himself”. He publicly denounced Simon Peter, who was wavering between the theology of James and that of Paul, as a hypocrite (GALATIANS 2:11-14).
IF JESUS WAS NOT GOD, WHY DID PAUL GO TO THE EXTENT HE DID IN PROJECTING HIM AS SUCH AND AT THE RISK OF HIS OWN LIFE? The Anunnaki (Enlil-Jehovah’s faction) hoodwinked him into doing so. Remember, Paul did not launch into outright evangelism after his conversion. He says he first went to Arabia for three years. It seems it was whilst he was in Arabia that he was indoctrinated by the Anunnaki to propagate a new religion that would project Jesus as God as part of their futuristic agenda to enslave mankind both spiritually and psychologically. In return, the Anunnaki promised him rich afterlife rewards on their planet Nibiru (2 TIMOTHY 7:8), to which they even astral-projected him at one time to demonstrate to him that his labours would indeed not be in vain (2 CORINTHIANS 12:2).
HOW DID PAUL AND THE OTHER APOSTLES DIE? Paul was put to the sword by Roman Emperor Nero in AD 64 after serving time at the notorious Mamertine Prison along with Simon Peter (Paul makes reference to his stint here in TIMOTHY 4:21/26 and PHILIPPIANS 1:13). Simon Peter was also crucified upside-down by the same anti-Christian emperor in the same year. Jesus, who was in Rome at the time (using the cover name Chrestus) actually decided to come out of hiding and hand himself over to the Roman authorities (who were looking for the ring leader of the Christian movement) but Simon Peter urged against the move, insisting he was ready to die in his stead. Simon Zelotes died whilst performing a levitation feat in Rome in the AD 40s. Of course we know what happened to Judas Iscariot, James the son of Zebedee, and James the Just. Only the apostle John lived to a ripe old age and died a natural death. As for the other apostles, the manner of their deaths as handed down to us is all embellished myth, with no tangible facts whatsoever.
Alexander and Aristobulus thrown behind bars on charges of treason against their own father
Of Herod the Great’s sons, General Atiku, the principal one was Antipater II. Born in 46 BC, he was named after his grandfather Antipater I and was Herod’s only child with his first wife Doris. As firstborn son, he should have been first in line to the Herodian throne but he was sidelined after Herod divorced Doris around 43 BC to hitch Mariamne I, the Hasmonean princess who was more politically expedient.
Doris was banished from the palace along with the then three-year-old Antipater. With Mariamne now elevated to wife No. 1 and having been espoused at the time of Herod’s coronation, it followed at least theoretically that it was her male offspring who would be the presumptive heir. That was how Alexander came into the frame.
Alexander, Herod’s first child with Mariamne, was born in 35 BC. Upon turning 22, he was sent to Rome to pursue studies in sciences at the Imperial Court, where he was under the tutelage of Caesar Augustus. He was later joined by his younger brother Aristobulus IV, who was born in in 31 BC. Because of their pedigree, the lads made a splash from the get-go. “As soon as the young men were come from Italy,” Flavius Josephus writes, “the multitude were very desirous to see them, and they became conspicuous among them all, as adorned with great blessings of fortune, and having the countenances of persons of royal dignity.”
Alexander and Aristobulus graduated in 17 BC and 12 BC respectively and upon their return to Judea, marriages were speedily arranged for them by their father, with Alexander tying the knot with Glaphyra, a daughter of King Archelaus of Cappadocia (in modern-day Turkey), and Aristobulus leading his cousin Berenice, a daughter of Herod’s youngest and most beloved sister Salome, to the altar.
The charismatic and good-looking Alexander cast a spell over the Jewish masses. Notes one chronicler: “Alexander’s handsome presence and frank bearing made him a favourite with the people, and they longed for the day when the House of the Maccabees should mount the throne instead of the half-Jew Herod.”
PHERORAS ESCAPES BROTHER’S WRATH
The heir and the spare, however, were unable to come to terms with the murder of their mother by their father way back in 29 BC, when they were only 6 and 3 years old respectively. They immensely abhorred their father for this unconscionable act and were themselves unsure of their continued wellbeing, for if their father could not hesitate to kill his own wife, what would stop him from eliminating his own children since to him nobody was sacred?
Then there was the Salome factor, General, Salome being Herod’s youngest and most cherished sister. Salome had hated Mariamne with a vengeance and this same visceral loathing she extended to Mariamne’s kids. Salome’s hatred for the two young princes stemmed from an obsessive feeling of insecurity on behalf of her brother. She just could not contemplate the possibility of Alexander ousting his father and the throne reverting to the Hasmoneans, who were more popular to the Jews compared to Herod.
Salome’s concern was not far off the mark, for that was exactly what the two princes set out to do – to scheme the death of their father both to avenge their mother’s death and to secure their own lives. In plotting their father’s demise, the two kids were not without sympathisers and willing collaborators, who included Pheroras, Herod’s youngest brother.
Exactly what beef Pheroras had with Herod is not clear. Herod had gone to every length to win his loyalty but to no avail. First, Herod had him marry his sister-in-law, Mariamne’s younger sister. Upon her death, he offered him his own eldest daughter Salampiso but Pheroras rejected her in favour of one slave girl who had melted his heart. At some stage, Herod tried to get Pheroras to hitch Salampsio’s younger sister Cypros and Pheroras acceded, only to renege on the act sooner rather than later.
That Pheroras was involved in the weaving of machinations against him Herod learnt from Alexander himself in one of the four letters Alexander wrote his father imploring him to desist from his habit of subjecting many a people to torture in a bid to extract confessions of treason from them. Upon learning of this, Herod braced to punish his brother but later relented thanks to Archelaus’ fruitful mediation efforts though only after Pheroras had owned up to his guilt.
It seemed Herod’s forgiveness of his brother was genuine as in 20 BC he persuaded Caesar Augustus to make Pheroras tetrarchy of Perea (part of today’s Jordan) with a tidy yearly allowance. It was there Pheroras was banished after his conspiracies against Herod were unearthed.
ROMAN EMPEROR ACQUITS HEROD’S SONS
Not very long after the execution of Mariamne I, General, Herod’s second and most adored wife, in 29 BC, Salome and Pheroras prevailed over Herod to reinstate his first wife Doris and her son Antipater, who was now 11 years old, to his good graces.
Their motive was two-fold. First, they thought Herod desperately needed her to lift his gravely sagged spirits following the demise of Mariamne and whose loss he just was unable to come to terms with. Second and even more crucial, they hoped that Antipater would serve as a bulwark against the thronal ambitions of Alexander and Aristobulus, who they hated being of part- Hasmonean blood, unlike Antipater whose mother was a full-blooded Arab and therefore much closer to them kinshipwise. Herod, however, did not pay heed to this entreaty until 15 years later, when he had his divorce with Doris rescinded and mother and son restored to the palace in 14 BC.
Like Alexander and Aristobulus before him, Antipater was straight off sent to Rome too to receive an education befitting a prince and patrician. Now, Antipater, General, was a clever political operator. Although he was effectively his father’s principal spy against his half-brothers, he at the same time egged on the latter to scheme against their father without Herod suspecting it in the least.
He told Herod that Alexander and Aristobulus were sworn never to rest until they had avenged their mother’s death by liquidating Herod. Salome too had with Antipater’s contrivance set a booby trap for Alexander by enticing him into bedding her, though this auntie-nephew sexual dalliance was perfectly normal in the culture of the times: it scarcely mattered that Salome was 30 years Alexander’s senior and was at the time 50 years old, though still glitteringly gorgeous anyway given the invariably plush circumstances of the nobility.
She would pretend to abhor her own brother over pillow talk, hear Alexander’s take on the matter and the length to which he was prepared to go just to get rid of his father, and feed all this dope to a raptly attentive Herod.
Thus it was, General, that sometime in 13 BC, Herod had Alexander and Aristobulus indicted before the court of Caesar Augustus for plotting to overthrow him (Herod). Though Herod sought the death penalty for his kids, Augustus found no hard enough facts that the kids were guilty of the charge preferred against them. He thus ruled that Herod and his sons should kiss and make up.
Herod was also mandated to name a heir and if it pleased him to parcel off pieces of territory to his seniormost sons. In order to placate Herod for the setback in respect of his sons’ acquittal, Augustus had him richly rewarded. Says Flavius Josephus: “Caesar made him a present of half the revenue of the copper mines in Cyprus, and committed the care of the other half to him, and honoured him with other gifts and incomes; and as to his (Herod) own kingdom, he left it in his own power to appoint which of his sons he pleased for his successor, or to distribute it in parts to each one of them, that the dignity might thereby come to them all. And when Herod was disposed to make such a settlement immediately, Caesar said he would not give him leave to deprive himself, while he was alive, of the power over his kingdom, or over his sons.”
Soon after this episode, Herod, General, announced before a congregation in Judea that further to Caesar’s ruling, he had designated Antipater as his heir. However, he was not in position yet to apportion parts of his kingdom to his sons as Augustus had suggested: that had to wait until he was on his death bed, which was a long way off anyway as he still was in physically good shape.
Herod was 60 years old at the time and eager to look evergreen, he even took to dying his year to disguise a shock of grey. He however reneged on this undertaking and allotted a territory to Antipater which generated a sizeable annual GDP.
HEROD IMPRISONS HIS TWO SONS
Now that Alexander and Aristobulus had been bypassed as heirs, General, they became even more emboldened in their desire to erase their father from the face of the earth so deeply resentful were they. This time around, they had a wide array of sympathisers, who included Herod’s most trusted confidantes and some kings of neighbouring nations. The manner of death they conceived of Herod ranged from poisoned food to a lancing with a spear in an ambush deep in the woods.
Although Herod had spies and tipsters all around, General, he just could not gather tangible enough incriminating evidence against his sons that would stand up before a notoriously perspicacious Augustus, before whom he was obliged to appear and argue whatever case he had against his children that prima facie entailed capital punishment.
As such, he resorted to his well-honed device – excruciating torture to elicit confessions or pointers to the merest intrigue against him. In the process, one of three eunuchs who served him as butler, cupbearer, and palatial chief of staff respectively avowed to him that Alexander had given them sizeable bribes to see to it that the poison weapon got into their father’s system.
He even produced evidence of the very poison that was to be employed in the murder. And sometime in 10 BC, A famed skilled marksman also confessed that he had been detailed by Aristobulus to “lie in wait for their (Alexander and Aristobulus) father, as they were hunting, and kill him”. The same marksman even presented a cache of letters Alexander had written to Aristobulus carping about Herod’s partiality toward Antipater.
When Herod confronted his two sons over these developments, General, Alexander on his part owned up to it all and even besought his father to refrain from torturing people unduly and focus on him only. Now that Herod had heard it from the horse’s mouth, he ordered that Alexander and Aristobulus be detained whilst he took steps to again indict them before Augustus.
Meanwhile, a number of people, about 300 in all, were rounded up in connection with the same conspiracy and everybody who was deemed close to or simply matey with Alexander both historically and contemporaneously were banished in one way or the other. Writes Josephus: “He (Herod) expelled Andromachus and Gamellus, men who had of old been his friends, and been very useful to him in the affairs of his kingdom, and been of advantage to his family, by their embassages and counsels; and had been tutors to his sons, and had in a manner the first degree of freedom with him.
He expelled Andromachus, because his son Demetrius was a companion to Alexander; and Gamellus, because he knew that he wished him well, which arose from his having been with him in his youth, when he was at school, and absent at Rome. These he expelled out of his palace, and was willing enough to have done worse by them; but that he might not seem to take such liberty against men of so great reputation, he contented himself with depriving them of their dignity, and of their power to hinder his wicked proceedings.”
Once again, General, King Archelaus of Cappadocia, Alexander’s father-in-law, prostrated himself before Herod and begged him to pardon his sons. Once again, Herod paid heed, only for his rancour to resurface in 8 BC, when this time around he put the two sons behind bars and refused to grant Archelaus an audience to plead for clemency. Did the two boys have a prayer, General?
Before I get started on this week’s rant I want to put it out there that I am a tolerant guy, believe that black lives matter, common decency and I am sensitive that there is some privilege associated with being a white male although more so in Europe than ,Africa these days (smiley face in case I offend anyone).
But, I find myself staring at my children’s bookshelf wondering if I can still read books like Peter Pan, Dumbo and The Jungle Book since Disney slapped racism warnings on these and other classic stories due to ‘negative racial depictions and mistreatment of people or cultures.’ Disney is remaking them so that they can be more correct.
For example Aladdin’s story is effectively changed so that Jasmine is no longer a helpless damsel who is a trophy to be won. In today’s politically correct Disney movie she’s a strong independent “girl boss” who sings about how she won’t be silenced although this doesn’t stop the main villain capturing her shortly afterwards. I guess at least she did not go down without a fight! There are other examples…in Dumbo the “racist” singing crows are gone, in Beauty and the Beast remake, Belle tries to teach little girls how to read.
This is all good and I have no problem that Ariel in the little mermaid is now black but cancelling old movies as if they didn’t happen and dismissing Aladdin as racist, well let’s get down to the nitty gritty. And if I offended you by the use of the term nitty gritty then you are not alone (although I suspect you’re in the vast minority).
News flash – don’t be throwing that around anymore in case the politically correct censors catch you and you land up in trouble. That’s what happened to political editor Laura Kuenssberg who used the term during a BBC talk show. The remark sparked a complaint from a listener about the use of the phrase which some anti-racism campaigners claim originates from Transatlantic slave ships, used by slave traders to refer either to the women or to the remains at the bottom of the transport ships that were covered in lice and grit.
Not according to the respected Chambers dictionary, which states that its origin is ‘ETYMOLOGY: 1960s: originally US; perhaps rhyming compound of grit’. That others dispute this is neither here not there for this story but the fact that the BBC complaints even investigated the issue is in my opinion, asinine. But whether its BBC or Disney, being politically correct(or PC) is very much in vogue.
The problem with living in this age of political correctness is you have to double think before any word comes out of your mouth for fear of offending someone. It a phenomenon to get people to “mind what they say” and is directed mainly at language that refers to women, black people, gay and disabled people – groups traditionally disempowered by the dominant white male and physically able majority, as the oppression these groups endured, it is said, was perpetuated in the very language used to describe them.
Fair enough! Obviously being PC is a noble cause against which no sane, rational 21st century man, white or other would disagree. So, we can no longer say “jump the dyke”, “manhole cover” and “accident blackspot”. You can no longer use the terms “rule of thumb” because of its racist and sexist origins (a law that said you couldn’t beat your wife with an instrument bigger than your thumb) and so it continues, all the way down to the nitty gritty.
What amazes me is the outrage that it seems to cause with people and how companies, governments, and people like overreacting for fear of being on the wrong side of public fashion opinion. But before you argue that being PC it is just being polite, it’s more like a weapon used to destroy normal people who display normal behaviour and say normal things – even when the haters want to package it as a hate crime. Just think about James Damore, the Google engineer who was fired a few years back for simply publicly musing about the differences between the sexes.
Just last week in the most famous office in the planet Joe Biden removed a Churchill bust. Maybe not so much of a surprise as in the UK the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament square in London is repeatedly covered in graffiti and attacked by people claiming that he was a racist and that his statue, should be no more ignoring the period he found himself in and the norms of those days – the fact that he was arguably the worlds most ardent anti-fascist leader and the role he played in defeating the Nazi’s, is forgotten. Had they won the war there certainly wouldn’t have been any tolerance at all. Just saying.
In 2015 The University of Michigan spent $16,000 advising students not to say “I want to die” because it’s offensive to the suicidal, nor “That test raped me” because some people actually have been raped, although probably not by calculus exams. At Minnesota’s Macalester College, posters and social media warned in 2014 against using the words “crazy,” “psycho,” “schizo” and “derp.” Excuse the pun but that’s nuts!
This year, ending the prayer opening the new session of Congress in the US, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) intoned, “ Amen and a-woman.” Eyeroll. Last week the Democratic-controlled lower chamber voted along party lines to approve new official language guidelines. Words such as “himself” and “herself” are to be replaced by “themself.” Out with “father,” “mother,” “son,” “daughter,” “brother,” “sister,” “uncle,” “aunt” and other familial terms, and in with “parent,” “child,” “sibling” and so forth. Madness.
The ridiculousness of it all was emphasised when the speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi made a speech a few days later where she referred to herself as ‘mother, daughter, woman’. She clearly didn’t get the memo! But when erasing “mothers,” and “women,” because the concepts are insufficiently inclusive to gender ideologues, the irony is not lost about the rights which women struggled to attain a vote, much less enter politics.
Salman Rushdie, author of the of the controversial The Satanic Verses, states that ‘No-one has the right not to be offended’ but the core of the ‘woke’ argument appears to be the exact opposite. Yet there is always another side to any argument and in the interests of free speech it has been the accepted norm to ‘agree to disagree’. This new culture of silencing that freedom is insidious and menacing – look to any dictatorship past and present and that is the dictator’s first move – silence the press, silence any voice of dissent, and punish the transgressor.
I suspect that poor old Walt Disney is spinning in his grave, unable to plead the case for his supposed sins but if new-age Disney wants to take this whitewashing (probably shouldn’t say that) to its logical conclusion, rather than worrying about Belle having a do-gooder occupation, let’s start with the title, Beauty and the Beast.
So Belle should no longer be the quintessential fair maiden and thus she can no longer be described as beautiful. As for the poor old Beast, i.e. ugly monster, that word is about as non PC as it comes, so better to steer clear of any and all ancient fables and fairy stories.
I would tell those Disney suits to put that in their pipe and smoke it but I suspect that’s off limits too as it is a clear reference to the Red Indians’ (oops again, Native Americans’) smoking of the peace pipe. In the words of Hamlet’s Ophelia ‘That way madness lies’, though I suppose even that should probably be ‘mental illness’!
A wife, uncle, and two in-laws fall at the hands of Judah’s despot
The pre-eminent Jewish chronicler, Flavius Josephus, said of Herod the Great that he was “blessed with every gift of looks, body, and mind” but he was a “slave to his passions”. This was in the context of a gloating bloodlust.
His sword knew no sacred cows: neither his own kids, wives, in-laws, next of kin, nor bosom friends were immune from it. He is on record as pestering Caesar Augustus with a barrage of letters seeking permission to execute his own flesh and blood, prompting the Roman emperor to at one time quip that, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son”, which was apt: as a “Jew”, Herod did not eat pork and therefore in the event that he kept any pigs, they would never have to be killed.
You are by now well-apprised of the death of Hyrcanus II by the same Herod, General Atiku, in 30 BC. Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean ruler of Judah twice over, was actually the grandfather of Mariamne I, Herod’s most beloved wife and his second of up to 10 wives. It was Mariamne’s own mother Salome, who dreading Herod’s pathological savagery, pitched Mariamne to Herod in the hope that that would insure her family from Herod’s murderous caprices.
Now, Mariamne, General, was as much a stunning beauty as her younger brother Aristobulus III was breathtakingly good-looking. Having tied the knot with Herod in 37 BC, Mariamne had prevailed over her husband to install Aristobulus as High Priest. The post had fallen vacant on the death of Antigonus in 37 BC and Herod had appointed one Ananel, who had no ties whatsoever to the Hasmoneans, the first such in more than a century, in his place. Unable to resist the spirited entreaties of his beloved wife, who had also lobbied Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and her beau Mark Anthony, Herod gave in and replaced Ananel with Aristobulus, who was only 16 years old, in 36 BC.
Because of his enormous charisma and overall affability, Aristobulus was a hit with the masses despite his tender age and Herod was envious of the young man’s rock star-like popularity. To make doubly sure the young man did not harbour a seditious ace up his sleeve, the morbidly paranoid Herod had his spooks watch on both Aristobulus and his mother round the clock. Sensing imminent danger, Aristobulus contacted Cleopatra, asking for a pre-emptive safe passage to Egypt and there enjoy absolute freedom. When Herod got wind of this, he decided to get rid of Aristobulus as he did not wish him to be a perennial thorn in his flesh from the utter safety of self-imposed exile.
The opportunity came at a banquet in Jericho which was organised by Aristobulus’ mother. There, Herod had one of his henchmen cause Aristobulus to drown during a dusk time horseplay in a swimming pool. Of course Herod would forever maintain the drowning was accidental when everybody knew it was in truth a tactical elimination. Poor Aristobulus was only 17 years old having been born in 56 BC. He was the last Hasmonean High Priest and was replaced by the previously deposed Ananel, who was to remain in that position till 29 BC.
HEROD ACQUITTED OVER THE ARISTOBULUS DEATH
It need not be over-emphasised, General, that Mariamne and her mother Alexandra did not take Herod’s line over the all too untimely demise of Aristobulus lying down. If he had reckoned that with the death of Aristobulus he had gotten rid of potentially the most potent threat to his omnipotence, he was totally mistaken. Herod had actually simply fanned the flames of intrigue against him, for mother and daughter confronted him and accused him of murdering their boy in cold blood.
Nor did the two Iron Ladies end matters there: Alexandra wrote a lachrymal letter to Cleopatra to get her to bring her influence to bear on Mark Anthony so that Herod paid dearly and likewise for his nefarious act. Anthony, who at the time was the Roman colossus in charge of the whole of the Middle East, was persuaded and during a visit to Laodicea (in modern-day Turkey, though some accounts say it was Rhodes in Cyprus), he commanded Herod to report to him forthwith and exculpate himself over the affair.
Although Herod put a brave face on the matter, General, he was rather unsure of his eventual fate after the trial. He also suspected rightly or wrongly that Anthony had a thing for the voluptuously beautiful Mariamne and the last thing Herod wanted was for any other man to bed his beloved Mariamne even in death. So before he set off for Laodicea, Herod instructed his uncle Joseph, who was married to his sister Salome, to make sure that in the event that Anthony sentenced him to death, he should immediately put her to the sword. He also detailed a certain Sohemus, a most trusted aide, to stand sentry over the entire womenfolk at the palace.
Herod, however, had the nine lives of a cat, General. Using his immense rhetorical skills and the time-honoured palm greasing, he won himself an acquittal. Meanwhile, the Judean rumourville was abuzz with chatter that Herod had been summarily executed by Anthony, as a result of which people became spendthrifts of their tongues.
Both Joseph and Sohemus disclosed to Mariamne the instructions Herod had left them with in relation to her fate once he was no more. Mariamne was both livid and distraught that her husband regarded her as so easily expendable when outwardly he cherished her beyond words. To her mind, his arrangements with Joseph had nothing to do with love but sprang from sheer monstrosity. She probably thanked God that he was dead, but the fact of the matter was that he was not and when he at long last turned up, she did not want to have anything to do with him, including the conjugation which he so eagerly pined for after such an extended absence.
HEROD KILLS HIS WIFE AND HIS UNCLE
Now, if Herod had a kind of Svengali, General, it was his youngest sister Salome. Salome (65 BC-10 AD) was the most powerful woman at Herod’s court. A sly, scheming, and manipulating vixen, she arguably more than any other living being had the most sway in a negative sense on her brother, who took practically whatever she said as gospel truth.
Let us nevertheless, General, take stock of the fact that the bulk of what we learn about Salome comes from Flavius Josephus, who himself relied on the writings of Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus. For one reason or the other, Nicolaus did not see eye to eye with Salome and it is therefore possible that much of what Nicolaus relates of her is embellished to smear her before the court of history. Upon his return, Herod was told of the rumours of his death and so was surprised to find Mariamne alive when Joseph and Sohemus should in the circumstances have had her killed if indeed they were loyal to him. In fact, Joseph had even put Mariamne and Alexandra into the safe custody of Roman legions stationed in Judea just in case Jewish malcontents who abhorred Herod turned their wrath on them.
But there was more. Salome reported to Herod that Mariamne, who she hated like the plague, had had sexual relations with both Joseph and Sohemus, this being Mariamne’s reward to them for dishing out to her the dirt on Herod, and that she had on several occasions before attempted to poison him. Now, no one would hump Herod’s most beloved wife and get away scotfree. It is therefore small wonder that Herod straightaway ordered the execution of Joseph and Sohemus. Joseph was 61 years old at the time of his death in 34 BC, having been born in 95 BC. In the case of Mariamne herself though, he had her subjected to a formal court trial not on charges of adultery but of attempted regicide.
Herod had hoped that the court would acquit her, whereupon he would make bygones be bygones so great was his love for the woman, but sadly for him, General, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. Even then, Herod tactfully dilly-dallied on signing the writ of execution and simply had his wife detained at a fortress for some time until Salome prevailed over him to execute her at long last. Writes Josephus: “Thus, with the death of the noble and lovely Mariamne ended the glorious history of the Hasmonean High Priest Mattathias and his descendants.”
For a long time to come though, General, Herod was haunted by the death of his wife to the point of even sometimes coming across as if he had lost his mind. “When Herod realised what this meant (the death sentence passed on Mariamne), he tried in vain to have the verdict changed, but Salome did not rest until the death penalty was carried out,” Josephus informs us. “Herod was heartbroken; nothing could comfort him for the loss of his lovely wife.
For seven years he refused to have her body buried, and held it, embalmed, in his palace. Afterwards, he became so melancholy and despondent, nothing interested him or could arouse any enthusiasm in him for living … He was so far conquered by his passion, that he would order his servants to call for Mariamne, as if she were still alive, and could still hear them … He tried hard to forget his trouble by going hunting and banqueting, but nothing helped. Herod built new cities and erected temples and palaces. He also named a tower in honour of Mariamne.”
HEROD SLAYS SISTER’S EX-HUBBY
Mariamne’s death was not the only one which Herod perpetrated through the instrumentality of Salome. There were actually several and included those of her own husband Costobarus. Salome was married four times, to her uncle Joseph (45 BC); Costobarus (34 BC); Sylleus (circa 27 BC); and Alexas (20 BC).
Like the Herod clan, Costobarus was of Idumean stock. It was Costobarus Herod had made governor of Idumea and Gaza and upon Joseph’s death had him tie the knot with Salome, with the couple eventually siring two children, Berenice and Antipater III. Costobarus, though, soon began to harbour monarchical ambitions of his own and wrote to Cleopatra beseeching her to persuade Mark Anthony to make Idumea independent of Herod and install him (Costobarus) as Rome’s client King of the territory.
Of course upon learning of this, Herod was not amused. It was Salome who pleaded with him not to put her husband to the sword. Next time, however, a dumped Costobarus was not so lucky. Seven years after their marriage, Salome and Costobarus parted ways and a possibly hurt Salome decided to exact vengeance. She informed her brother that he had been harbouring two fugitives from Herodian justice for a full 12 years at his own farm.
The two were simply known as the Sons of Baba. Baba ben Babuta, their father and clan patriarch, was related to the Hasmonean ruler Antigonus, who Herod had replaced and killed in 37 BC with the help of Roman legions. Baba and his sons had resisted Herod at the time, with his sons henceforth persisted in insurrectionist activity against Herod. Baba himself had been captured and blinded by Herod but spared anyway as he no longer posed any threat. Writes Josephus: “Now the Sons of Babas were of great dignity, and had power among the multitude, and were faithful to Antigonus, and were always raising calumnies against Herod, and encouraged the people to preserve the government to that royal family (the Hasmoneans) which held it by inheritance.”
Costobarus had provided the Sons of Baba an indefinite lair “supposing that their preservation might be of great advantage to him in the changes of government afterward”. Following the Salome tip, Herod had Costobarus and the Sons of Baba summarily executed “so that none was left alive of the family of Hyrcanus (the Hasmonean), and the kingdom was wholly in Herod’s power, there being no one of high rank to stand in the way of his unlawful acts” per Josephus.