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Huwawa is Vanquished

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER   

…  as a gutsy Enkidu terminates the Terminator
 


Noting that Utu-Shamash was not returning as per schedule from a meeting with Mot, Inanna-Ishtar was perturbed. Scrambling into a flying saucer, she decided to follow after him just in case he had met with grave misfortune.

Arriving at Mot’s courts, she asked for her brother. The response she got from Mot was at once cheeky and ambiguous. “Am I your brother’s keeper Inanna? He was here alright a while ago but I cannot vouch for his whereabouts now.” Inanna knew Mot was spinning a yarn: Shamash’s flying saucer was within the vicinity and therefore he had to be around. She there and then threw up a tantrum, demanding that Mot produce her brother forthwith if he valued his life. The histrionics she put up bore fruit as Mot’s people informed her the two had engaged in “hand combat” and Shamash had been slain.

Inanna was wroth. Drawing on her skills as a martial artist and quivering with rage, she laid into Mot forthwith and downed him. Then reaching for a sword she had cleverly concealed under her clothing, she swung it and in a split second Mot’s head lay beside him with his eyes still staring. Then hollering at Mot’s officials like a heist man who has just staged a hold-up, she demanded, with steel in her voice, that they show her where her brother’s body was otherwise they would all be history.

The officials were wise enough to note the look of murder in Inanna’s eyes and therefore wasted no time in hearkening to her. Shamash’s lifeless body was immediately flown to Baalbek. At the same time, Ningishzidda, Enki’s genius son,  was alerted by radio to head for the same destination from where he was as a matter of life and death. Zidda did his “magic” and it worked since Shamash had been dead for less than three days. Within a month, he was fully recovered and was grinding again. As for Mot, it was curtains: he bit the dust alright. Apparently, Zidda wasn’t kin to apply the same reanimating techniques he had used on Shamash.

GILGAMESH WITNESSES ROCKET LAUNCH!

Coming back to The  Epic of Gilgamesh, we’re at a stage where Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk who was between two-thirds to three-quarters Anunnaki, at long last arrives at the Cedar Mountain and stands in awe of the magnificent Cedar trees. Gilgamesh, a grandson of Inanna, had undertaken the journey along with his bosom friend Enkidu with a view to access a shem, blast off to Nibiru, the planet of the Anunnaki, partake of King Anu’s Plant of Life and Water of Life, and consequently gain immortality like the Anunnaki were in the eyes of mankind. The trip was a perilous one in that whereas it had the blessings of Shamash, the god in charge of Baalbek, it had not been sanctioned by Ishkur-Adad, the god who oversaw Lebanon in its entirety and under whose political jurisdiction Baalbek fell.

Gilgamesh had arrived at Baalbek, the place where “one  could see Shamash rise up the Vault of Heaven”, late in the afternoon and therefore he and Enkidu decided to wait until the following morning before they made further inroads into the Cedar Mountain.  Accordingly, they pitched their tents right at the foot of the mountain and at nightfall retired to sleep. Sometime just before dawn, they were awakened by a “thunderous noise and a blinding light”.

Scrambling out of their tent, they stood amid their armed entourage in pitch darkness as they beheld an “awesome” spectacle yonder atop the Cedar Mountain. This is how Gilgamesh describes it in The Epic of Gilgamesh text:  “The heavens shrieked, the earth boomed.  Daylight failed, darkness came. Lightning flashed, a flame shot up. The clouds swelled, it rained death! Then the glow vanished; the fire went out. And all that had fallen had turned to ashes.”

Needless to say, what Gilgamesh and Enkidu had just witnessed was the launching of a shem– a shuttlecraft. Zechariah Sitchin superbly explicates the event thus: “One needs little imagination to see in these few verses (of The Epic of Gilgamesh) an ancient account of the witnessing of the launching of a rocket ship. First, the tremendous thud as the rocket engines ignited (‘the heavens shrieked’), accompanied by a marked shaking of the ground (‘the earth boomed’). 

Clouds of smoke and dust enveloped the launching site (‘daylight failed, darkness came’). Then the brilliance of the ignited engines showed through (‘lightning flashed’); as the rocket ship began to climb skyward, ‘a flame shot up’.  The cloud of dust and debris ‘swelled’ in all directions; then, as it began to fall down, ‘it rained death!’ Now the rocket ship was high in the sky, streaking heavenward (‘the glow vanished; the fire went out’). The rocket ship was gone from sight; and the debris ‘that had fallen had turned to ashes’.” The incident did not frighten or deter Gilgamesh: instead, he took it as reassuring evidence that he and Enkidu had come to the right place.    

THE FIEND MATERIALISES

To tell by the unperturbed way with which Enkidu and Gilgamesh had proceeded thus far, Shamash had done his utmost in smoothing the way for them. The fierce guards “who watch over Shamash as he ascends and descends”, whose “terror was awesome”, and whose “glance was death” were nowhere to be seen.  The “shimmering spotlight” that  “sweeps the mountains”  seemed to have wandered well away. By the same token, Enkidu had done a commendable reconnaissance job when he first came here for the first time around.

The two did not encounter a single living being standing sentry in the manner Lugalbanda did.  They were now very much poised to infiltrate their way into the silos in which the shems were kept. At daybreak, Enkidu and Gilgamesh got going. Using a map Shamash had supplied Gilgamesh with, the two made their way in the direction of a private, back door gate that was privy to the Anunnaki only, careful that they did not get into the cross hairs of “weapon-trees that kill”. 

Reaching the gate, the more daring Enkidu, who led the way, keyed in the access code provided by Shamash. There was an electronic click, some sort of green light. But it seemed Enkidu’s palm print did not match with what the computer picked up: the moment he tried to push the gate open, some electronic “punch” zapped him and he fell to the ground unconscious.  

A frantic Gilgamesh went  to work immediately. Using the paraphernalia Shamash had provided him, he managed to revive Enkidu but the damage, seemingly, had already been done: Enkidu remained numb.  He had no feeling from the neck downwards. Drawing upon the tips he had learnt from Enki, Enkidu asked Gilgamesh to fetch the roots of the plants that flourished around them. Gilgamesh did likewise and bent down to rub the nectar of the roots all over Enkidu’s limp body. This had the effect of making a “double mantle of radiance” emanate from Enkidu’s body (like the effect of Ormus) and by the 12th day, “paralysis left his body, impotence left the loins”.  Enkidu was one whole again and was raring to go but backwards rather than forwards.

Anxious that what had happened to him could also happen to Gilgamesh and maybe worse in his case, Enkidu suggested to Gilgamesh that they make no further attempts at opening the gate and that they retreat and beat a path back to Uruk.  Over the 12 days Enkidu had been an invalid, however, Gilgamesh hadn’t just lain idle: he had been ferreting around and in the process had stumbled upon a tunnel leading to the “enclosure from which words of command are issued”.

This was a chamber were the “Stone of Splendour”, the command centre that Shamash had installed,  was located. But there was a glitch: the tunnel opening was concealed with a natural overgrowth of trees and bushes as well as soil and rocks and what that meant was that there  was a job to be done before they pried open the tunnel.

“Do not stand by friend, “Gilgamesh implored Enkidu. “Take heart. Let us go down together.” Enkidu was galvanised and the two pressed on into the thick of the  forest. Reaching the cleverly camouflaged site under the convenient cover of darkness, the two, along with their henchmen, got down to work, with Gilgamesh’s team hewing down the trees, and Enkidu’s digging up the rocks. They had scarcely gotten into stride when they heard a noise not unlike the cascade of  water falling from a height. Then a beam of menacing light  engulfed them.     It was Huwawa!    

“I SHALL BITE YOUR WINDPIPE AND NECK”

Huwawa, a humongous mechanical robot with a human-like appearance and who was capable of moving on the ground as well as gliding in the void, threw a shudder into Gilgamesh and Enkidu. When he materialised at a distance of about 200 meters, Enkidu’s first instinct was to issue the cry, “Take cover” and everybody did likewise at once.

Then Huwawa, who was equipped with an electronic voice that sounded like Stephen Hawking’s synthesised voice, spoke out, even pronouncing forth Gilgamesh’s name: clearly, somebody was speaking through him from somewhere within the Baalbek nerve centre. Intelligence had already seeped through and the intruding twosome had long been anticipated. “You are so very small that I regard you as a turtle and a tortoise,” Huwawa boasted, sounding very sentient and rather  reasonable. “Were I to swallow you, I would not satisfy my stomach;

so I shall bite your windpipe and neck, Gilgamesh, and leave your body for the birds of the forest and for the roaring beasts.” Of course that was all programmed rhetoric: it was all metaphoric language for the damaged goods he would make of the duo once he had zapped them with his killer beam,

As the great android inched forward, Gilgamesh beheld him with searing alarm and trepidation, his heart thudding against his ribs. In those fraught moments, Gilgamesh considered that what Enkidu had told him was right: Huwawa was “mighty, his teeth as the teeth of the dragon, his face the face of a lion, his coming like the onrushing floodwaters. Most fearsome was his radiant beam, a killing force none could escape.”

Drawing nearer, the metallic monster demonstrated that he meant business. From the middle of his forehead, a killer beam shot out and traced a path of destruction that devoured the trees, grass, and thickets in the vicinity in a split second. The clearing that resulted exposed Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and their men like sitting ducks.  

Why did Huwawa’s killer beam vapourise vegetation but leave the men unscathed? It was all thanks to Shamash, who had emasculated Huwawa in advance of Gilgamesh’s arrival. Ordinarily, Huwawa operated at seven times his present strength but Shamash had electronically toned him down to about one-seventh of his strength. This tampering made Huwawa incapable of electronically harming anything with flesh and blood.

It also rendered him more susceptible to harm himself as he had been tactfully stripped of “six cloaks” and therefore he effectively had  six chinks in his armour.  But physically, he still was a formidable foe: just one single blow to any of the men lying supine to the ground would immediately draw the curtain on his life.  

ENKIDU SLAYS HUWAWA

As Huwawa loomed, the men from Uruk began to panic in the depressing knowledge that there simply was no way they could escape the clutches of this metallic beast. Just then, there was a sound of an approaching chopper and seconds later a message appeared on Gilgamesh’s timepiece. Alerted by the vibration of the wrist-strapped chronometer, Gilgamesh hastily brought his hand to the side of his head and read the text. It was Shamash. “Down from the skies spoke Divine Shamash,” The Epic of Gilgamesh says. The message read, “Do not try to escape; instead,  draw near Huwawa. You can take him on with the weapons in your possession.”

Enkidu and Gilgamesh immediately sprang to their feet, but were unable to venture just one step forward so terror-struck were they by the mechanical creature that leisurely approached. As the two hesitated, Shamash’s chopper swooped low and “raised a host of swirling winds which beat against the eyes of Huwawa”. There and then, “the radiant beams vanished, the brilliance became clouded”.  But the dreaded monster was still trudging forward anyway,  so determined was he to terminate the daring Earthlings.

Once again, Shamash texted a tremulous Gilgamesh. “Do not run,” he urged. “Let Huwawa come near you,  then throw the dust at his face”. This dust was not ordinary dust: it was a special-purpose, neutralising powder that Shamash had provided Gilgamesh with at the outset of his journey.

Ferreting in his pockets, Gilgamesh produced the powder, moved two to three steps closer to Huwawa, and flung the chemical into his nondescript face.  The effect was instantaneous: Huwawa stood rooted in one place, as if  he had been switched off, whereupon Gilgamesh gleefully observed to Enkidu, “He is unable to move forward, nor is he able to move back.” But the great machine monster had not given up the ghost yet.

Once again, he spoke up, this time imploringly, beseeching Gilgamesh to spare his life in exchange for any amount of the seemingly priceless cedars he’d love to get his hands on. Enkidu cautioned Gilgamesh to be wary that he was sweet-talked into docility by the wily monster.  "Finish him off, slay him!" Enkidu hollered out at Gilgamesh. Noting that Gilgamesh was scrupling, as if it was a blood-and-flesh being he confronted, Enkidu reached for an axe, edged forward, and struck Huwawa not once but several times. The monster toppled over, landing with a thud that “for two leagues (about 10 km) the cedars resounded with”. The legendary robotic beast was no more.

In Zambia’s most widely spoken language, Bemba, uwawa means “One who has fallen (from a pedestal of some sort)”. The related term  Iciwa, meaning  “The Fallen Fiend” refers to a ghost, a demon, an apparition, or a vampire. Clearly, it was the fall of Huwawa at the hands of Enkidu that informed these terms.

GILGAMESH  RILES INANNA

Now that the monster that was the most daunting barrier to the Abode of the Gods had perished, Gilgamesh and Enkidu decided to toast to their triumph by indulging in some revelry of sorts. But before they did that, they thought they needed to placate the gods, who had fashioned Huwawa, by according him their own improvisation of a hero’s send-off first thing in the morning. “Lest the gods be filled with fury at them, they set up an eternal memorial,” The Epic of Gilgamesh says. “The comrades cut down one of the cedar trees, made poles of it, and formed of them a raft with a cabin on it. In the cabin, they put the head of Huwawa and pushed the raft down a stream so that the Euphrates carries it to Nippur.”

That done, they stripped off and began to splash  about in a brook as they chanted songs of merriment. “Gilgamesh washed his grimy hair, polished his weapons.  The braid of his hair he shook out against his back. He cast off his soiled things, put on his clean ones. Wrapped a fringed cloak about, fastened with a sash.” The hunky king was scarcely done when Inanna, who seemed to possess the prescience to turn  up at just the most tantalising moment, descended in a chopper.

Apparently, she had been spying on Gilgamesh with a zoom lens and having watched him undress and bath, she was once again roused by his mighty joystick and his overall  virility. She there and then  invited him to bed her.  “Glorious Ishtar raised an eye at the beauty of Gilgamesh,” The  Epic of Gilgamesh relates. “‘Come, Gilgamesh,  be thou my lover,’  she entreated on her knees.   “‘Do grant me of thy fruitfulness: thou shalt be a husband, I shall be a wife. Come, let us enjoy your vigour! Reach out your hand and touch my vulva!’” As usual, she proceeded to outline a whole series of benefits that would be at the Uruk King’s disposal if he  hearkened to her advances.

But for the umpteenth time now, Gilgamesh rejected her. In recent times, she had made hobby of liquidating men who she invited to sleep with her on the anniversary of her husband Dumuzi’s death  when they failed to satiate her.  Gilgamesh alluded to this curious state of affairs in his spurn of her. “After the death of Dumuzi, the lover of your youth, thou hast ordained a wailing year after year,” he told her point blank.

“Which of your paramours pleased you all the time?” Gilgamesh went on to make mention of some of these poor folk whose death  she had caused latterly. They included  a shepherd who fell out of a flying craft; one strong man whose  lifeless body  she had unceremoniously dumped into a pit; and two men she had turned into a wolf and  frog respectively using supernatural means, one of whom her own father’s gardener. “And how about me?" Gilgamesh asked rhetorically.  “At the end, you will love me and then treat me just like them.” The Gilgamesh rebuff did not amuse Inanna at all. This time, she vowed somebody’s head was certainly going to roll. Exactly what was in store for Gilgamesh?
     
NEXT WEEK:  ENKIDU’S SORRY FATE

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Hell Up in Judea

24th August 2021

A case can be made, General Atiku, that history’s most infamous Roman is Pontius Pilate. It was Pilate who condemned Jesus, the  “Son of God”, to the most cruel, most barbaric,  and most excruciating of deaths – crucifixion –  and cowardly at that as the gospels attest for us.  

Yet the exact circumstances under which the crucifixion took place and what followed thereafter far from jells with what is familiarly known. The fact of the matter was that there was a lot of political wheeling and dealing and boldfaced corruption on the part both of the Jewish authorities and the Roman establishment in the person of Pontius Pilate.  In this piece, we attempt, General, to present a fuller photo of Pilate as the centre of the whole machination.

Pilate’s historicity, General, is not in doubt. In 1961, an Italian archeologist unearthed a limestone block at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, which as of 6 AD was the Roman seat of government as well as the military headquarters.  The block bore the inscription, “Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea, has dedicated this Temple to the divine Augusti” (that is, then Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar and his wife Livia).

Pilate also gets varying degrees of mention in the works of Roman senator and historian Cornelius Tacitus (56-117 AD); the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher and chronicler Philo of Alexandria (25 BC to 50 AD); and the legendary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD).

Although his year of death (37 AD) is documented, his year of birth is a matter of conjecture, General. He came from the Pontii tribe (hence the name Pontius), a tough, warlike people. The Pontii tribe was of the equestrian class, the second-tier in the Roman caste system. Originally, the equestrians were those Romans with ample pocket power to bribe their way to knightly ranks in the Roman army. Pilate was born to Marcus Pontius, who had distinguished himself as a general in Rome’s military campaigns.

Following one of his particularly sterling military exploits, Marcus was awarded with the Pilum (javelin), a Roman decoration of honour for heroic military service.  To commemorate this medal of valour, the family took the name Pilati, rendered Pilate in English and Pilatus in Latin.

The son, Lucius Pontius Pilate, also distinguished himself as a soldier in the German campaigns of Germanicus, a prominent general of the early Roman Empire. Thanks to his scintillating military profile coupled with   strategic connections in the hierarchies of the Roman government, Pilate was able to wend his way into the heart of Claudia, the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire and ruler from 27 BC to 14 AD.

Claudia’s mother was Julia the Elder, who was also the biological mother of the apostles John and James. When Claudia was about 13 years of age, Julia sent her to Rome to be reared in the courts of Emperor Tiberius Caesar, to whom Julia was once married from 11 BC to 6 BC.

Although Tiberius was not the biological father of Claudius, General, he gladly acquiesced to being her foster father in deference to the memory of her late grandfather Caesar Augustus.
Pilate arrived in Rome when Claudia was sixteen years of age. In AD 26, the two tied the knot. Needless to say, it was a marriage based not on love as such but on political opportunism.

ASSIGNMENT JUDEA

The high-placed connection who facilitated Pontius Pilate’s smooth landing into the inner sanctums of Rome’s royalty and put him on a pedestal that saw him take pride of place in the cosmic gallery of rogues was Aelius Sejanus. Like Pilate, Sejanus came from the subordinate equestrian class, who would never be eligible for a seat in the Senate, the legislative council of ancient Rome.

Sejanus, however, had over time become Emperor Tiberius’ most trusted lieutenant and to the point where he was the de facto prime minister.  He had been commander of the Praetorian Guard, the elite Special Forces unit created by Augustus Caesar as a personal security force, which developed under Sejanus’ command into the most significant presence in Rome.

In AD 26, the emperor was not even based in Rome: he had confined himself to the 10.4 km2 island of Capri, about 264 km from Rome, and left control of Rome and the government of the Roman Empire to Sejanus. It was Sejanus who recommended the appointment of Pilate as prefect, or governor/procurator of Judea. The appointment was pronounced right on the occasion of Pilate’s nuptials with Claudius.

Philo records that when the bridal party emerged from the temple where the marriage ceremony was celebrated and Pilate started to follow the bride into the imperial litter, Tiberius, who was one of the twelve witnesses required to attend the ceremony, held him back and handed him a document. It was the wedding present – the governorship of far-flung Judea – with orders to proceed at once to Caesarea Maritima to take over the office made vacant by the recall of Valerius Gratus.

Pilate was notified by Sejanus that a ship was in fact waiting upon him to transport him to Palestine right away. The only disadvantageous aspect about the assignment was that Pilate was to leave the shores of Rome alone, without the pleasure of spending a first night in the arms of his newly wedded wife: by imperial decree, the wives of governors were not allowed to accompany them in their jurisdictions. Pilate, however, was a royal by marriage and so this prohibition was waived. By special permission granted by His Imperial Majesty Tiberius Caesar, Claudia soon joined her husband in Judea. The wily Pilate had calculated well when he married into royalty.

A SADISTIC ADMINISTRATOR

The Judean perch was not prestigious though, General. The prefects of Judea were not of high social status. At least one – Felix, referenced by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles – was an ex-slave, which says a great deal on the low regard in which the province was held by Rome.

Pilate was only secondarily sent to Judea on account of having married into royalty: his posting to the volatile province stemmed, primarily, from his being of a inferior social pedigree. Be that as it may, Pilate relished the posting in that it gave him the chance to exercise power, absolute power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and in Pilate was the archetypal example, General.

Pilate’s brief was simple: to collect taxes, maintain law and order, maintain infrastructure, and keep the population subdued. Although he was born lowly, he positively had the power of life and death over his Jewish subjects. Let us, General, listen to Josephus in his allusion to Coponius, Judea’s first Roman governor and who like Pilate was from the same subservient social class: “And now Archelaus’ part of Judea was reduced into a province and Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as procurator, having the power of life and death put into his hands by Caesar.”

Pilate, General, was callous to a point of being sadistic. He was scarcely the scrupling judge with the rare soft spot that we encounter in the gospels. Philo charges him with “corruptibility, violence, robberies, ill-treatment of the people, grievances, continuous executions without even the form of a trial, endless and intolerable cruelties”.

He further declares him to be a “savage, inflexible, and arbitrary ruler” who was of a “stubborn and harsh quality” and “could not bring himself to do anything that might cause pleasure to the Jews”. The essentially humane character of the Pilate who presided over the trial of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels may not be wholly fictitious but is highly embellished, General.

Why did Pilate have such a pathological hatred of the Jews, General? Sejanus had more to do with it than the spontaneous leanings of his own nature. According to Philo, Sejanus hated the Jews like the plague and wished “to do away with the nation” – to exterminate it. In AD 19, for instance, he forced the Jews in Rome to burn their religious vestments and expelled them from the city without much ado.

For as long as Sejanus was in power, General, Pilate could do pretty much as he pleased. He didn’t have to worry about compromising reportage reaching the emperor as everything went through the implacably anti-Jewish Sejanus. Sejanus was unrivalled in power: golden statues of the general were being put up in Rome, the Senate had voted his birthday a public holiday, public prayers were offered on behalf of Tiberius and Sejanus, and in AD 31 Sejanus was named as Consul jointly with Tiberius.

The Judea posting also gave Pilate a golden opportunity to make money – lots of it. The governors of the Roman provinces were invariably rapacious, greedy, and incompetent: this we learn not only from Jewish historians of the day but from contemporary Roman writers as well such as Tacitus and Juvenal.

As long as the money skimmed from the provinces was not overly excessive, governors were allowed a free hand. It is said of Emperor Tiberius that, “Once he ordered a governor to reverse a steep rise in taxes saying, ‘I want my sheep shorn, not skinned’!” For those governors, such as Pilate, who had support from the very acmes of Roman power, General, they were practically a law unto themselves.

PILATE’S WINGS ARE CLIPPED

Pontius Pilate, General, was untrained in political office. Furthermore, he was a sycophant to the core who was prepared to go to any length in a bid to curry favour with and prove his loyalty to the powers that be in Rome.    Both these attributes gave rise to a series of blunders that brought him the intense hatred of the Jews.

The first abomination he committed in the eyes of the Jews, General, was to set up a temple dedicated to Emperor Tiberius, which he called the Tiberieum, making him the only known Roman official to have built a temple to a living emperor.  True, Roman emperors were worshipped, but Tiberius was the one exception. According to the Roman scholar and historian Suetonius, Tiberius did not allow the consecration of temples to himself. Pilate’s act therefore, General, was an overkill: it was not appreciated at all.

Throughout his tenure, General, Pilate had a series of run-ins with the Jews, some of which entailed a lot of bloodshed and one of which sparked an insurrection that paved the way to Calvary. Then it all began to unravel, General. On October 18 AD 31, his patron Sejanus was summoned to the office of Emperor Tiberius and an angry denunciation was read out to him. It is not clear, General, what caused Sejanus’ fall from the emperor’s good graces but circumstantial evidence points to the perceived threat to the emperor’s power.

As the ancient historian Cassius Dio puts it, “Sejanus was so great a person by reason both of his excessive haughtiness and of his vast power that to put it briefly, he himself seemed to be the emperor and Tiberius a kind of island potentate, inasmuch as the latter spent his time on the island of Capri.”  Sejanus, hitherto the most powerful man in Rome, General, was thrown into a dungeon.

That same evening, he was summarily condemned to death, extracted from his cell, hung, and had his body given over to a crowd that tore it to pieces in a frenzy of manic excitement. His three children were all executed over the following months and his wife, Tiberius’ own daughter, committed suicide.  The people further celebrated his downfall by pulling his statues over.  Meanwhile, General, Tiberius began pursuing all those who could have been involved in the “plots” of Sejanus.

In Judea, Pilate, a Sejanus appointee, must have been badly shaken, General. Were his friends and family under suspicion? Would he be purged like others? Imperial attitudes to the Jewish race seemed to have changed now with the riddance of Sejanus. Tiberius made sure this was the case by appointing a new governor for Syria (who went by the title Legate and to whom Pilate was obligated to report).

The governor, Lucius Pomponius Flaccus, arrived in Rome in AD 32. Philo records that Tiberius now “charged his procurators in every place to which they were appointed to speak comfortably to the members of our nation in the different cities, assuring them that the penal measures did not extend to all but only to the guilty who were few, and to disturb none of the established customs but even to regard them as a trust committed to their care, the people as naturally peaceable and the institution as an influence promoting orderly conduct.”

So Pilate, General, had lost his supporters at the top, his new boss was on his doorstep, and there had been a change of policy regarding the very people he was in charge of. Surely, he would have to watch his step. The fact of the matter, however, General, was that he hardly did so.  In November 32 AD, for instance, he provoked a mini-uprising by the Zealots led by Judas Iscariot, Theudas Barabbas, and Simon Zelotes. It was this revolt, General, that culminated in those three “crosses” of Calvary that are indelibly etched on the mind of every Christian.

NEXT WEEK: ZEALOT REVOLT AGAINST PILATE

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Hustle & Muscle

24th August 2021

Until as recently as the 1980s a career often meant a job for life within a single company or organisation. Phrases such as ‘climbing the corporate ladder’, ‘the glass ceiling’, ‘wage slave’ & ‘the rat race’ were thrown about, the analogies making clear that a career path was a toxic mix of a war of attrition, indentured drudgery and a Sisyphean treadmill.

In all cases you fought, grafted or plodded on till you reached retirement age, at which point you could expect a small leaving party, the promise of a pension and, oddly, a gift of either a clock or watch. The irony of being rewarded with a timepiece on the very day you could expect to no longer be a workday prisoner was apparently lost on management – the hands of time were destined to follow you to the grave!

Retirement was the goal at the end of the long, corporate journey, time on your hands – verifiable by your gifted time keeping device – to spend time working in the garden, playing with the grandchildren, enjoying a holiday or two and generally killing time till time killed you.

For some, retirement could be literally short-lived. The retirement age, and accompanying pension, was predicated on the old adage of three scores years and ten being the average life expectancy of man. As the twentieth century progressed and healthcare became more sophisticated, that former mean average was extended but that in itself then brought with it the double-edged sword of dementia. The longer people lived, the more widespread dementia became – one more life lottery which some won, some lost and doctors were seemingly unable to predict who would succumb and who would survive.

However, much research has been carried out on the causes of this crippling and cruel disease and the latest findings indicate that one of its root causes may lie in the former workplace – what your job entailed and how stimulating or otherwise it was. It transpires that having an interesting job in your forties could lessen the risk of getting dementia in old age, the mental stimulation possibly staving off the onslaught of the condition by around 18 months.

Academics examined more than 100,000 participants and tracked them for nearly two decades. They spotted a third fewer cases of dementia among people who had engaging jobs which involved demanding tasks and more control — such as government officers, directors, physicians, dentists and solicitors, compared to adults in ‘passive’ roles — such as supermarket cashiers, vehicle drivers and machine operators. And those who found their own work interesting also had lower levels of proteins in their blood that have been linked with dementia.

The study was carried out by researchers from University College London, the University of Helsinki and Johns Hopkins University studying the cognitive stimulation and dementia risk in 107,896 volunteers, who were regularly quizzed about their job.  The volunteers — who had an average age of around 45 — were tracked for between 14 and 40 years.  Jobs were classed as cognitively stimulating if they included demanding tasks and came with high job control. Non-stimulating ‘passive’ occupations included those with low demands and little decision-making power.

4.8 cases of dementia per 10,000 person years occurred among those with interesting careers, equating to 0.8 per cent of the group. In contrast, there were 7.3 cases per 10,000 person years among those with repetitive jobs (1.2 per cent). Among people with jobs that were in the middle of these two categories, there were 6.8 cases per 10,000 person years (1.12 per cent).

The link between how interesting a person’s work was and rates of dementia did not change for different genders or ages.Lead researcher Professor Mika Kivimaki, from UCL, said: ‘Our findings support the hypothesis that mental stimulation in adulthood may postpone the onset of dementia. The levels of dementia at age 80 seen in people who experienced high levels of mental stimulation was observed at age 78.3 in those who had experienced low mental stimulation. This suggests the average delay in disease onset is about one and half years, but there is probably considerable variation in the effect between people.’

The study, published this week in the British Medical Journal, also looked at protein levels in the blood among another group of volunteers. These proteins are thought to stop the brain forming new connections, increasing the risk of dementia. People with interesting jobs had lower levels of three proteins considered to be tell-tale signs of the condition.

Scientists said it provided ‘possible clues’ for the underlying biological mechanisms at play. The researchers noted the study was only observational, meaning it cannot establish cause and that other factors could be at play. However, they insisted it was large and well-designed, so the findings can be applied to different populations.

To me, there is a further implication in that it might be fair to expect that those in professions such as law, medicine and science might reasonably be expected to have a higher IQ than those in blue collar roles. This could indicate that mental capacity also plays a part in dementia onset but that’s a personal conclusion and not one reached by the study.

And for those stuck in dull jobs through force of circumstance, all is not lost since in today’s work culture, the stimulating side-hustle is fast becoming the norm as work becomes not just a means of financial survival but a life-enhancing opportunity , just as in the old adage of ‘Find a job you enjoy and you’ll never work another day in your life’!

Dementia is a global concern but ironically it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age and is the second biggest killer in the UK behind heart disease, according to the UK Office for National Statistics. So here’s a serious suggestion to save you from an early grave and loss of competencies – work hard, play hard and where possible, combine the two!

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The Lord Ties The Knot

18th August 2021
JUDAS

… as Judas Iscariot takes strong exception

The gospels which were excluded from the official canon, the New Testament, at the Council of Nicaea are known as the Apocrypha. One of these Apocryphal works, General Atiku, is the gospel of Phillip.  In this gospel, the intimate relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is openly discussed thus:

“And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth.  The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said unto him, why do you love her more than all of us? The Saviour answered and said to them, why do   I not love you like her? … Great is the mystery of marriage, for without it the world would never have existed. Now, the existence of the world depends on man, and the existence of man on marriage.”

It is clear from the above statement, General, that Jesus held marriage in high regard because he himself was part and parcel of it.  The disciples (that is, most of them) were offended not because he and Mary were an item but because they simply did not approve of her as she was a Gentile and a commoner.

Otherwise, the kissing was not offensive at all: it was a customary expression of mutual affection between the sacred bride and groom. This we gather from the prototypically romantic Old Testament text known as The Song of Solomon, which opens with the words, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”  As the Davidic groom, Jesus was therefore entitled to kiss Mary Magdalene as his bride.

THE FIRST MARRIAGE

In September AD 30, General Atiku, Jesus and Mary Magdalene had their First Marriage ceremony. Jesus had turned 36 in that year, the appropriate marriage age for a Davidic heir, and September was the holiest month in the Jewish calendar.  Having been born irregularly himself (in the wrong month of the year because of his father Joseph’s intransigence), Jesus was determined that he himself follow the law to the letter so that his child would not suffer the same indignities as he did. The First Marriage is captured in LUKE 7:35-50.

The marriage took place at the home of Simon the Pharisee. This, General, was another name for Simon Zelotes, the stepfather of Mary Magdalene. Although Mary Magdalene is not directly named, she is described as a “sinner”. This was another term for Gentiles, as in the eyes of the Jewish God, they were unregenerate and therefore hopeless sinners.  Mary Magdalene, whose mother Helena-Salome was of Syrian origin (Syro-Phoenicia to be specific), was a Gentile.

On the occasion, Mary Magdalene performed three acts on Jesus as set out in LUKE 7:38. She wept; kissed his feet; and anointed him with ointment. This is what a bride was supposed to do to her groom as clearly evinced in The Song of Solomon, a series of love poems concerning a spouse and her husband the King.

Of the three rites, perhaps it is the weeping that require elucidation, General. This was at once symbolic and sentimental.  The First Marriage was simply a ceremony: the moment the ceremony was over, the husband and wife separated, that is, they lived apart until the month of December, when they came together under one roof.  This was in accord with Essene stipulations for dynastic marriages, that is, those of the Davidic Messiah and the priestly Messiah.

Prior to the First Marriage, the bride was known as an Almah, meaning a betrothed Virgin. After the First Marriage ceremony, the Almah was demoted to a Sister. This was because the ensuing three-month separation meant husband and wife would not indulge in sexual activity and so the wife was as good as a sister to her husband. The imagery of Sister also being a wife is seen in 1 CORINTHIANS 9:5, where the apostle Paul refers to his wife as Sister. In ACTS 23:16, Paul’s wife is again referred to as his Sister.

Now, when the Almah became a Sister, General, she was metaphorically called a Widow, because she was being separated  from her newly wedded husband. As such, she was expected to symbolically weep on account of this separation. That explains why Mary Magdalene had to weep at her first wedding. It is a pity, General, that most Christians and their clergy miss the real story so wrongly indoctrinated are they.

In December AD 30, Jesus moved in with Mary Magdalene to consummate the marriage. It was hoped that Mary would fall pregnant so that in March the following year, a Second (and final) Marriage ceremony would be held.  Sadly, conception did not take place. According to Essene dynastic procreational rules, the couple had to separate again. They would reunite in December AD 31 for another try at conception.

The reason they separated was because for a dynastic heir, marriage was purely for procreation and not for recreational sex. But even that year, General, Mary did not fall pregnant, necessitating another year-long separation. What that meant was that Mary would be given one more last chance – in December AD 32, by which time Jesus would have been 38.  If she did not conceive this time around, the marriage would come to an end through a legal divorce and Jesus would be free to seek a new spouse.

THE FINAL MARRIAGE

In December 32, Mary Magdalene, General, finally conceived. When Jesus was crucified therefore in April 33 AD, his wife was three months pregnant. By this time, the Second Marriage ceremony, the final one, had already taken place, this being in March. The Second Marriage is cursorily related in MATTHEW 26:6-13; MARK 14:3-9; and JOHN 12:1-8.The John version reads as follows:

“Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany, where was Lazarus, who had died, whom he raised out of the dead; they made, therefore, to him a supper there, and Martha was ministering, and Lazarus was one of those reclining together (at meat) with him; Mary, therefore, having taken a pound of ointment of spikenard, of great price, anointed the feet of Jesus and did wipe with her hair his feet, and the house was filled from the fragrance of the ointment.

Therefore said one of his disciples – Judas Iscariot, of Simon, who was about to deliver him up – ‘Therefore was not this ointment sold for three hundred denaries, and given to the poor?’ and he said this, not because he was caring for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and what things were put in he was carrying. Jesus, therefore, said, ‘Suffer her; for the day of my embalming she has kept it, for the poor you have always with yourselves, and me you have not always.’”

This story (also see JOHN 11:1-44) centres on four people primarily, General. They are Jesus; Lazarus; Mary; and Martha. “Mary” was actually Mary Magdalene.  “Martha” was a titular name for her mother, Helena-Salome.  In the Lazarus story, the two ladies are referred to as “sisters”. This denotes conventual sisters, like the Catholics refer to conventual nuns, and not sisters by blood. Helena-Salome actually headed a nunnery. By the same token, the reference to Lazarus as “brother” has a connotation akin to what Pentecostals refer to as “Brother in Christ”.

Thus, the story revolves around Jesus the groom; his bride Mary Magdalene; his father-in-law Simon Zelotes; and his mother-in-law Helena-Salome. This is a family affair folks, which provides strong hints as to the exact relationship between Jesus and Mary. The raising from the dead of a man called Lazarus, sadly, was not a miracle at all:  it was a ceremonial restoration from excommunication back to the Essene governing council, which comprised of Jesus and his so-called 12 disciples.

The “Lazarus” who was thus restored was actually Simon Zelotes, at the time the most “beloved” by Jesus of the entire apostolic band, who had been demoted under circumstances relating to a Zealot uprising against Pontius Pilate.  More will be said on the subject at a later stage.

The anointing of Jesus by Mary with “spikenard”, General, harps back to ancient married rituals as patently demonstrated in The Song of Solomon. This was the second time Mary had anointed Jesus, first at the First Marriage in September AD 30 AD and now at the Second Marriage in March 32 AD. On both occasions, Mary anointed Jesus whilst he sat at table.

In SONG OF SOLOMON 1:12, the bride says, “While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof”.  The anointing in the gospels was therefore an allusion to the ancient rite whereby a royal bride prepared her groom’s table. Only as the wife of Jesus and as a priestess in her own right could Mary Magdalene have anointed both the feet and head of Jesus.

The anointing in effect had two purposes: first, to seal the marriage, and second, to officially announce to the Jewish nation that Jesus was the Davidic Messiah (and not his younger brother James, who had been so promoted by John the Baptist).  It all harped back to the tradition in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where Kings or Pharaohs were anointed for office (in their case with crocodile fat) by their half-sister brides.

The King’s bride actually kept the anointment substance for use for one more time – when the King died. You can now understand, General, why Jesus said “the day of my embalming she has kept it” in reference to his anointing by Mary Magdalene and why the first person to feature at the tomb of Jesus was none other than Mary Magdalene!

Three passages in the Lazarus story     (in JOHN11: 1-44) are particularly telling.  They are Verses 20, 28, and 29. They read as follows: “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house … After Martha said this, she went back and called her sister Mary privately. ‘The Master is here,’ she told her, ‘and is asking for you.’ When Mary heard this, she got up and hurried out to meet him.”  The reason Mary (Magdalene) first kept her place before proceeding to meet Jesus, General, is not supplied in the Johannine gospel.

However, the Apocryphal document which has come to be known as The Secret Gospel of Mark sheds more light, General.  It explains that on the first occasion, Mary did come out to meet Jesus along with her mother Martha (Helena-Salome) but upon being rebuked by the disciples of Jesus, she repaired back to the house. Why was she lashed out at, General? Because according to the Essene matrimonial code, she was not permitted to come out of her own accord and greet her husband: she was to wait until he had given her express permission to emerge.

There is yet another element in the conduct of Mary Magdalene that has parallels with Solomon’s queen, General. In the back-and-forth romantic dialogue between the couple, the queen is referred to as a “Shulamite” (SONG OF SOLOMON 6:13). The Shulamites were from the Syrian border town of  Solam and we have already seen that Mary’s first foster father, Syro the Jairus, was a Syrian, as was her mother Helena-Salome.

JUDAS DENOUNCES THE MARRIAGE

The marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene was vehemently opposed by most of his so-called disciples. The most vociferous on this position, General, was Judas Iscariot. The writer of the John gospel characterises Judas as a “thief” who used to pilfer alms money but that is a smear.  The gospels were written post-eventual and therefore Judas’ name was already in ignominy.

His detractors therefore had a field day at sullying his character. Yet prior to the betrayal, Judas Iscariot, General, was one of the most respected figures among the Essene community. At the time of Jesus’ marriage, Judas was the second-highest ranking Essene after Simon Zelotes (that is the meaning of “Judas of Simon” in the passage quoted above, meaning “Judas the deputy of Simon”): Jesus was third, although politically he was the seniormost.

Judas opposed the marriage on grounds, primarily, that Mary Magdalene was not only a Gentile but a commoner. Judas had the right to pronounce on Jesus’ marriage because it was he who was in charge of the Essene’s order of Dan, to which Mary Magdalene belonged prior to her marriage to Jesus and therefore had the right whether to release her for marriage or retain her in the convent. Judas would rather the spikenard (the most expensive fragrance of the day, the reason it was only used by queens) was sold and the money generated donated to the Essene kitty (“the poor” was another name for Essenes: when Jesus in the Beatitudes said “blessed are the poor”, he was not referring to you and me: he meant the Essenes).

Sadly General, as high-standing as he was, Judas had no right of veto over the marriage of a Davidic heir: only Simon Zelotes had by virtue of his position as the Essene’s Pope. Simon Zelotes was Mary Magdalene’s step-father and there was no way he was going to stand in the way of the marriage of his own daughter. Moreover, Jesus had already begun to fancy himself as Priest-King.

As far as he was concerned therefore, he was at once the Davidic Messiah and the Priestly Messiah – the Melchizedek. Thus even if Simon Zelotes had perchance objected to the marriage, Jesus would have gone ahead with it anyway. It was Jesus’ highly unpopular appropriated role as the Melchizedek, General, that set him on the path to Calvary.

NEXT WEEK: A NEW GOVERNOR COMES TO TOWN

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