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Babylonia Stands Tall

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Marduk empire at height of its power thanks to the military feats of the great Hammurabi

Although Marduk was declared the new Enlil in 2024 BC, it was not until seven years later that things in Sumer began to settle into a systematic rhythm. At the time, Enki had emerged from his 7-year self-imposed hibernation and he and Marduk were busy purifying Sumer’s water and decontaminating the radioactive soil so that people can resettle the lands without health anxieties.

Meanwhile, the Evil Wind had given rise to an exodus of huge waves of people out of Sumer. These great-trekked to far-flung places such as Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean regions. The trekkers conquered the people they found either in their own name or that of Marduk putatively. Others trekked not on their own but under the banner of their now peripatetic gods who did not wish to be directly subject to Marduk.

In their new habitations, the migrating Sumerians imposed their own culture onto the peoples they conquered or disrupted. Just how ingrained was the Sumerian influence in their dispersal into the four corners of the Earth? Zechariah Sitchin: “The evidence for a widespread Sumerian Diaspora with its language, writing, symbols, customs, celestial knowledge, beliefs, and gods comes in many forms.

Beside the generalities — a religion based on a pantheon of gods who had come from the heavens, a divine hierarchy, god epithet-names that meant the same in the different languages, astronomical knowledge that included a home planet of the gods, a zodiac with its twelve houses, virtually identical creation tales, and memories of gods and demigods that scholars treat as ‘myths’— there are a host of astounding specific similarities that cannot be explained other than by an actual presence of Sumerians.

It was expressed in the spread in Europe of Ninurta’s Double-Eagle symbol; the fact that three European languages — Hungarian, Finnish, and Basque — are akin only to Sumerian; and the widespread depiction throughout the world — even in South America — of Gilgamesh fighting off with bare hands two ferocious lions.”

But there is more.    “In the Far East, there is the clear similarity between the Sumerian cuneiform writing and the scripts of China, Korea, and Japan. The similarity is not only in the script: many similar glyphs are identically pronounced and also have the same meanings. In Japan, civilisation has been attributed to an enigmatic forefather-tribe called AINU.

The emperor’s family has been deemed to be a line of demigods descended from the Sun-god, and the investiture ceremonies of a new king include a secret solitary nightly stay with the Sun goddess — a ritual ceremony that uncannily emulates the Sacred Marriage rites in ancient Sumer, when the new king spent a night with Inanna-Ishtar.”

In the process of these massive population movements, new kingdoms that were to leave a permanent imprint on the visage of the Near East, Asia, and Europe emerged. They included Assyria to Babylon's north, the Hittite kingdom to the northwest, the Hurrian Mitanni to the west, the Indo-Aryan kingdoms that spread from the Caucasus on Babylon's northeast and cast, and those of the "Desert peoples" to the south and of the "Sealand people" to the southeast.

This happened within two to three centuries after the fall of Sumer. But just as hordes of Sumerians left Sumer, hordes stayed put too. A good proportion of these rallied in force, at the instigation of the still restive Enlilite gods, against Marduk rule. Marduk’s rule was not destined to be plain-sailing at all.

NABU TAKES PRIDE OF PLACE UNDER MARDUK RULE

When Marduk ascended to supremacy, he chose Babylon, his cult city since 4000 BC, as the “Navel of the Earth”. This was a title given to the foremost city on the planet in that such a city served as the Anunnaki’s Mission Control Centre and was therefore the command post of Earth’s Chief Executive. It was the Navel of the Earth that housed what was known as the DURANKI (“Heaven-Bond-Earth”), a high-tech communications hub which linked Earth and Nibiru.

Only two other cities had been so privilleged before Babylon – Nippur before the Deluge and Jerusalem after the Deluge. Since Babylon was the preeminent city in the Marduk dispensation, that epoch is frequently referred to as the Babylonian Era. With Marduk now calling the shots on the planet, his heir, Nabu, assumed disproportionate eminence. He was given formal executive powers in a province of Babylon known as Borsippa, where he had hitherto wielded the same power without the official sanction of Enlil.

With his breathtaking gift of the gab, Nabu was very popular in Europe, Canaan, and Mesopotamia. When he spoke at the public square, he so touched his audience they burst out into tears of joy and Utopian anticipation amid relentless applause and acclamation. Some people would break out into a delirious dance, singing impassionedly as they did so; others would all of a sudden be seized with a prophetic fit evangelical style. That his name came to mean prophet throughout the Near East made a great deal of sense. 

In Canaan, Nabu had quite a number of landmarks named after him, which included Mount Nebo, later the scene of Moses’s death.  Also, quite a number of Babylonian kings named themselves after him in using what are known as theophoric names – names prefixed or suffixed by that of an adored god. Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar are just two examples of such kings.

MARDUK INTRODUCES CONCEPT OF NATIONAL GODS

In Babylon, religion focused on a triad or trinity – Enki, Marduk, and Nabu. This was more the hype than the reality as Enkites, unlike Enlilites, never courted or solicited worship. The closest they came to being deified was to attain cult status, more so in the case of Marduk and Nabu. On his part, the humble and unassuming Enki was never even interested in a cult personality. He was busy unlocking mysteries of nature at the genetic and cosmic level to bother with such vainglory. But he was wildly popular with the Earthlings albeit, by virtue of his loving kindness and his unstinting strivings for their welfare being their creator at the flesh-and-blood level. 

Now, you will recall that when Marduk came to power, one of the first things he did was to construct pavilions for each leading Anunnaki god right in his sacred precincts and invite them to come and take occupancy of them in the spirit of reconciliation and continued harmonious relationship. Sadly, none of the gods hearkened to the offer. Enlil and Ninurta now spent much of their time in the now god-rich South America.

Enki was addicted to his age-old city of Eridu and when he wanted to vacation or simply retreat into introspection, he preferred Abu Island in Egypt. Ishkur-Adad and Ningishzidda had found new fiefdoms in the Andean regions and Mesoamerica respectively. Nannar-Sin had found his niche as El, a leading god of Enlilite Canaanites. Nergal hardly saw eye to eye with Marduk. Utu-Shamash and Inanna-Ishtar were staunch right-wingers who revolted at being dominated by an Enkite, least of all Marduk.

Marduk, however, was determined to build a bridge with his fellow gods. To get them to co-operate, he offered them the concept of National State Religions. In this setup, they were to base themselves not in Babylon as was the original intention but in the same Sumerian city-states they had presided over before, or in new city states or confederacies. Each god was to be the national god of that city-state/confederacy. 

Marduk would be the superintending god being Earth’s Chief Executive but the other gods would be autonomous rulers   of their domains. This state of affairs is what is known as polytheism, whereby one god is just superior to other gods and not hegemonic as such. Only their prerogatives would be subject to his control.

In the era of Enlil, when you were a god, say of justice, that applied throughout the Earth. In the Marduk era, there was no such universal god other than Marduk: a god was only a god of his cult-city.  If, for instance, his cult city was Uruk, it was only in Uruk he would be recognised as a god. To Marduk’s glee, the idea was enthusiastically embraced by the gods, especially the Enlilites. It was not that they were prepared to give Marduk a pat on the back for his gesture: they welcomed it simply because that way, it would be easy to undermine him and eventually topple him from his pedestal.

The new flexibility on the part of Marduk explains why we have such lead administrators as Ishbi-Erra (“Priest of Erra”, another name for Nergal) and why Hammurabi, the famous Babylonian king, was allowed to receive laws not from Marduk but from Utu-Shamash, and why the preamble on his stella invoked Enlil as much as it  Marduk. All treaties accordingly invoked not Marduk as such but national gods. About 200 years after Marduk came to power, national gods were riding on cloud nine, the most prominent of whom where Ninurta, Ishkur-Adad, Nannar-Sin,  Nergal, Utu-Shamash, and Nabu.

BABYLON CONQUERS MIGHTY ISIN AS ENLILITES REBOUND

Marduk, just like Enlil before him, was a god in two capacities. First, he was the universal god of the planet Earth, its Commander-In-Chief. Second, he was the god of Babylon, just as Enlil had been the local god of Nippur. You will be aware by now that gods did not directly rule their domains. They ruled through kings.

The first king of the First Babylonian Dynasty, also known as the Amorite Dynasty, was Suab, who began his reign circa 1900 BC, about 50 years after Marduk was officially installed as the God of the Age of Aries (which is significant considering that his ranking as the new Enlil was 50).  Suab was not from the ranks of the native Babylonians, the Akkadians: he was an Amorite, or Amaru – the formidable European warriors who were pivotal in Marduk’s propulsion to the Earthly perch 2024 BC.  

In those formative days, however, Babylon was not a full-fledged kingdom: it still was a work-in-progress. Hence, Suab and the next three kings who succeeded him did not refer to themselves as kings, simply rulers.Now, with the advent of national gods courtesy of Marduk’s decree, the Enlilites had resurged, giving rise to a state of affairs were non-Mardukite states formed a kind of vise around Greater Babylon, starting with Elam and Gutium on the southeast and east; Assyria and Hatti in the north; and as a western anchor in the chain, Mari on the mid-Euphrates.

Within the first hundred years of the incidence of the infamous Evil Wind, the Enlilites had substantially regrouped in southern Mesopotamia (the Old Sumer), with their principal bastion being Isin. The parallel Isin Dynasty was the first major menace to Babylon’s Amorite Dynasty. Founded in 1894 BC, by Ishbi-Erra after he took care of Ibbi-Sin, the last king of   Ur’s Third Dynasty and whose rule came to a virtual abrupt end with the fall of Sumer in 2024 BC, the Isin Dynasty seated 15 kings altogether before it ceased to exist courtesy of Babylon.

The fact that the kings of the Isin Dynasty bore theophoric names which venerated Enlilite gods (Lipit-Ishtar, Ur-Ninurta, Bur-Suen, Lipit-Enlil, Enlil-Bahn, Suen-Magir, etc)  and Marduk’s most antagonistic, Enlilite-aligned brother (Ishbi-Erra, Erra-Imitti, etc)   demonstrate how fiercely loyal they were to the supplanted Jehovah-Enlil and his clan.

The Isin kings and those of fellow Enlilite states were unstinting in their aggression against Babylon. For example, in the 13th year of his reign, Sin-Muballit, the fifth king of the First Dynasty of Babylon, successfully resisted and repelled the forces of Ur. Finally, in the 17th year of his reign, Muballit marched on the troublesome Isin, overthrew its king Damiq-Ilishu, and appended Isin to Babylon.

That a Babylonian king (and his predecessor father Apil-Sin) could carry a name exalting an Enlilite (Nannar-Sin) speaks volumes on what a liberal god Marduk was: even if you were the king of his domain, he didn’t care which god you worshipped for as long as you were doing a superb job in the conduct of the affairs of Babylon. Although Mubalitt ruled a relatively new and minor kingdom, he was the first of Babylon’s five rulers to date to declare himself King of Babylon and for good reasons: he expanded Babylon to include Dilbat, Sippar, Kish, and Borsippa. 

HAMMURABI’S EXTREME LAWS OF JUSTICE

In 1792 BC, an ailing Mubalitt abdicated and bequeathed the throne to his son, the famous Hammurabi. Although he was a great warrior leader who made a reality of Marduk’s desire to make Babylon a superpower, Hammurabi is best remembered as a law-giver and in particular for issuing the iconic Code of Hammurabi, a set of laws to ensure justice  throughout his territory.

When he was enthroned, Marduk’s principal brief to him was to promulgate laws of justice that would be the model of the whole wide world. Accordingly, the preface to the Code partly reads thus: “When the god Marduk commanded me to provide just ways for the people of the land in order to attain appropriate behavior, I established truth and justice as the declaration of the land, I enhanced the well-being of the people."

When the code was launched, Hammurabi invited the god Utu-Shamash, an Enlilite, to officially present it to him being the age-old god of justice. In the preface to the Code, Hammurabi salutes three gods, the third of whom is Nibiru King Anu. He says, “"Anu and Bel (Marduk) called me by name, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people (Earthlings) like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.”

     The laws enshrined in the Code were harsh in their retributive justice and to the extent where in our day, they would be regarded as barbaric. They placed greater emphasis on the physical punishment of the perpetrator. We will cite only a few examples:

      LAW NO. 2: "If anyone is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.”
      LAW NO. 15: "If anyone takes a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, he shall be put to death outside the city gates.”
      LAW NO. 129: "If the wife of a man has been caught lying with another man, they shall bind them and throw them into the waters.”
      LAW NO. 196: "If a man destroys the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye. If one breaks a man's bone, they shall break his bone. If one destroys the eye of a freeman or break the bone of a freeman, he shall pay one gold mina. If one destroys the eye of a man's slave or break a bone of a man's slave, he shall pay one-half his price.”

      LAW NO. 218:  “If a physician operates on a man for a severe wound with a bronze lancet and cause that man's death; or open an abscess (in the eye) of a man with a bronze lancet and destroy the man's eye, they shall cut off his fingers.”
     Another of the retributions according to the Code was that if a son struck his father, his hands would be cut off.

FROM BABYLON TO BABYLONIA

It was Hammurabi who turned Babylon from simply Babylon, a city-state, to Babylonia, an overarching empire, all the while fiercely enforcing obeisance to Marduk throughout the empire.  At the time he came to power, Babylon was overshadowed by the resurgent and more powerful kingdoms such as Elam to the east, which regularly invaded and forced tribute upon the small states of southern Mesopotamia; 

Assyria, whose territory had expanded into central Mesopotamia;  Eshnunna, which controlled the upper Tigris River;  Larsa, which controlled the river delta; and  the Semitic-dominated Mari, an ancient port city on the Euphrates River which  was a major crossing point for people, goods, and culture between Mesopotamia in the east, the Mediterranean lands in the west, and Anatolia in the northwest and whose murals honoured the irrepressible Inanna-Ishtar.

During the 42 years that he reigned, from 1792 to 1750 BC, Hammurabi conquered all of the above nations. In Assyria, he deposed the king and installed a puppet king who was made to pay tribute to Babylon. With Larsa in the bag in his 30th year as King, he gained control over the lucrative urban centers of Nippur, Ur, Uruk, and Isin.     

Perhaps his crowning achievement was the conquest of Mari, once Sumer’s tenth capital. In 1760 BC, he attacked, sacked, and destroyed Mari, its temples and its palaces, thus completing Babylon’s political and religious domination of the old Sumer & Akkad whereby almost all of Mesopotamia came under Babylonian rule. Babylon would go on to dominate Mesopotamia for over a thousand years. It was in 1760 BC that Hammurabi began to call himself “The King of the Four Quarters”. And it was in that year that Babylon the city-state fully transformed to Babylonia, the empire. 
      

NEXT WEEK:  UGLY TWIST TO MARDUK’S FATE 

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Honesty – a fundamental human characteristic

12th October 2021

“When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (the Day of Judgment)”.  These are the words of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).  They paint a picture of the time leading up to the Day of Judgement, when righteous people will be sorrowful due to the lack of honesty around them. 

Influence of materialism

Honesty, like morality, is an in built and essential characteristic of every human but the influence of materialism and the greed and desire for status, position, fame, wealth, etc. have wreaked havoc in human society, to an extent never seen before. In the 21st century, we live in a world where honesty is less valued than ever before and in fact even shunned at times.  We expect people to be honest in their dealings with us yet we ourselves promote deceit and dishonesty through our action and speech on a daily basis.  Many of us even watch and applaud television shows and movies that promote and encourage lying, infidelity and deceitfulness.

Desire for worldly gain

In the corporate world, ‘deceitful’ statements and figures are announced and pronounced to lure investors, glamorous yet deceitful adverts to attract customers, etc. have all become the norm and honesty goes out of the window. Even in the media industry, honesty seems to be waning very rapidly. Let alone the due regard of one’s conscience but without a second thought or due consideration of the rights of the others, stories are churned out with so-called “sensational” add-ons, etc. simply for the sake of being the “first” to break the news or for the sake of having the “best” story or maybe even for the sake of just having increased an readership or viewership.

Thoughtless individual behaviour

Without thinking, we indirectly teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable.  When we expect our children to tell the caller on the telephone we are not home, this is a lesson in deceit.  When we answer the cellphone and say that we are busy in a meeting yet we very much relaxed and free, or we say we are out of town yet we are at home, etc. we are being blatantly dishonest. When we refuse to settle our debts and dues making all sorts of pretences, we are actually lying.  We admonish and reprimand our children for lying, yet the reality is we have been their teachers.  Whether we tell lies, or whether we allow our children to live in a world surrounded by deceit, the lesson is learned and the honesty begins to disappear from the hearts of people – in particular the next generation.

Integrity and reliability

We must understand that honesty incorporates the concepts of truthfulness and reliability and it resides in all human thought, words, actions and relationships.  It is more than just accuracy; it is more than just truthfulness, it denotes integrity or moral soundness.  Belief in God Almighty commands truthfulness and forbids lying.  In the Holy Quran, God Almighty commands that humans be honest: “O you who believe!  Be conscious of God Almighty, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (Ch  9 : v 119). A renowned Holy Quran scholar explained the meaning of this verse.  He said, “Being truthful and adhering to truthfulness, means you will be among the people of the truth (by speaking and behaving in a truthful manner) and be saved from calamity and that is what will really make a way out for you from your problems (in the long run)”.

Honesty and truthfulness go hand in hand

A true Believer, one who is truly submitted to God, has many characteristics by which he/she can be identified.  The most obvious of these noble characteristics are honesty of character and truthfulness of speech.  Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) was a perfect example of honesty.  The records of history clear show that even before he was bestowed Prophet hood by The Almighty, he had earned the titles of “As Saadiq” (the truthful) and “Al Ameen” (the trustworthy one), within the community. They had full trust in his honesty and integrity to such a degree that they would accept anything he said. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), once gathered all the people of Makkah at the base of Mount Safa and asked them, “O people of Makkah!  If I say to you that an army is advancing on you from behind the mountains, will you believe me?”  All said in one voice, “Yes, because we have never heard you telling a lie.”  All the people, without exception, swore to his truthfulness and honesty because he had lived an unblemished and extremely upright life among them up to that point in time – for forty years.

Honesty in a comprehensive manner

This honesty, an essential ingredient of the human character, includes being truthful towards God by worshipping Him sincerely; being truthful to oneself, by adhering to God’s laws; and being truthful with others by speaking the truth and being honest in all dealings, such as buying, selling, social interaction, marriage,etc.  There should be no deceiving, cheating, falsifying or withholding of information, thus a person should be the same on the inside as he/she is on the outside.

Prophetic teachings

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) informed us of the great benefits of living in an honest and truthful way and warned us of the dangers inherent in dishonesty and falsehood.  He said: “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise.  In addition, a person keeps on telling the truth until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very truthful person.  And falsehood leads to wickedness (and evil-doing), and wickedness leads to the (Hell) Fire. In addition, and a person keeps on telling lies until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very great liar”.

For those who wish to be among the truthful, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) has left us with these words of guidance, “Let he who believes in God and the Last Day either speak good or (otherwise) remain silent”.

A successful, vibrant society is based upon honesty and justice, and is intolerant of dishonesty in all its various forms.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) exhorted the faithful to be scrupulously honest in all their social dealings, business transactions, etc. at all times.

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A Sham of a Trial

12th October 2021

Verdict a foregone conclusion as Pilate is bought

Although the interrogation of  Jesus in a joint hearing by Annas and Caiaphas was not a trial, General Atiku, it was more or less conducted along the lines of a trial.

Jesus had a defending witness. This was one of  his disciples, Bartholomew, whose real name was John Marcus. Apparently, Jesus was allowed only one such witness. Besides his principal accuser, the turncoat Judas Iscariot, there were a number of witnesses who testified against him. The gospels  refer to them as false witnesses but this is probably an exaggeration: they simply misunderstood some of his statements largely because he tended to use allegorical language, which could be properly interpreted only by Gnostics. On occasion, he chose to be deliberately ambiguous, as when he said, “Do to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God what is due to God.”

The crux of the matter  was whether there was anything in his conduct that could associate him with the Zealots. For example, he was accused of harbouring and voicing designs to destroy the Jerusalem Temple within “three days”. The Zealots did band about such threats, General. In truth, what they sought to destroy it was the Temple establishment – the priesthood and the Herodian Sadducees. The perception was that these somewhat benefitted from Roman patronage. Thus, if Jesus did instigate doing way with the Temple establishment by foul and crook, this could obviously not sit well with Annas and Caiaphas, both of whom belonged to this clique. But Jesus’ words had been taken out of context. In Gnostic language, the Temple (the correct translation should be “palace”  as the Jewish word for temple and palace is the same)   was the human body because it housed the real being – the spirit-soul. So what Jesus was saying to those who wished him ill, General, was that even if they physically killed him, his soul would continue to live (a person can be clinically dead but at the etheric level, he is irreversibly dead only after three days). Clearly, General, he was grossly misunderstood.

Jesus vehemently denied being a Zealot. He made it clear to the panel that every time he taught or preached, he was heard to promote peaceful co-existence with Rome. How then could he be a Zealot, who preached enmity with the Romans? Put differently, General, Jesus was saying he had played no part whatsoever in the November 32 AD riots against Pilate. The fact that Simon Zelotes was his father-in-law was pure happenstance.

In their heart of hearts, both Caiaphas and Annas were aware Jesus was not inclined to violence and therefore could not be a  Zealot. So the matter they seized upon was his claim to be Priest, Prophet, and King. This was what revolted them the most, the sin for which they sought to teach him a lesson.  The gospels say they set men (the Jerusalem Temple police who had escorted Caiaphas) on him who blindfolded him, slapped him around, spat on him, and dared him to “prophesy” as to “who has hit you” – a sneering allusion to his claim to be Priest and Prophet as only the High Priest could prophesy. This physical mockery did probably take place but there is an underlying symbolic language, General.  When a person was spat upon (by a “holy man”, such as the  High Priest),  it meant he had been demoted from priest to a mere layman. A “blind man” was another characterisation for an Essene who was of Grade 8 level, a novice. A novice was not yet initiated and therefore he was blind because he had not yet “seen the light”, that is, not yet been illuminated.

What it all boils down to, General,  is that by decree of the three priests Annas Sr, Caiaphas, and Jonathan Annas, Jesus had been downgraded from Grade 2, the third position in the Essene hierarchy (the first two being Grades 0 and 1), which was the position of the Davidic King (now held by his young brother James), to Grade 8, the position of a novice, a virtual nobody. Thus, when he appeared before Pontius Pilate, that was the status he would declare when his occupation was asked of him. This lowly social status would significantly bear upon Pilate’s psychology and therefore his contemplation of Jesus.

PETER DOES A JUDAS

Now, when a hearing or trial was in progress, General,  the Essene rule was that there had to be two doorkeepers. These were two people who were close to the person who was the subject of the proceedings, typically a relative and an associate/friend.

In the case of Jesus, the doorkeepers he selected were Simon Peter and his mother Mary. Besides being Jesus’ disciple, Simon Peter was Jesus’ personal bodyguard and chief ecclesiastical minister. As the Davidic King, Jesus was entitled to a bodyguard and chief spokesman, both roles of which were ably performed by Peter. That made Peter arguably the closest to Jesus in an occupational sense. As for Mary, she substituted for Jesus’ wife Mary Magdalene, who was now three months pregnant and therefore was on mandatory separation from her husband according to Essene dynastic procreational rules. The two doorkeepers ceremonially opened the doors for the panelists or judges to enter the hearing room. As the male doorkeeper,  Simon Peter stood by the door in the inner corridor whilst Mary stood by the same door in the outer corridor.

Peter, however, had been assigned another role – that of the rooster of the night. The rooster that crowed three times as per the gospels was not a bird, General: it was Simon Peter. “Rooster”, or “Cock”,   was the term for a religious person assigned to call out the time. Remember,  they had no clocks those days and at nighttime, the sundial, which was used during the day to read time, could not be used. So during a momentous occasion such as this one (the week of Passover), a person was detailed to announce the time every three hours at Qumran. Since Jesus’ hearing took place shortly before midnight, Peter was expected to announce the times at 00:00; 3 am; and 6 am. 3 am was specifically called cock-crow (see MARK 13:34). It was just before 3 am that Peter “denied”  Jesus. He did not deny him at three intervals, General: he denied him only once but before three inquisitors.

Now, Simon Peter was also a Zealot, a point we have long underscored. It explains why in the gospels he comes across as combustible, argumentative, and highly assertive. He was known as Simon Bar-jonah, which has been wrong translated as “son of John”. Bar-jonah actually derived from “baryona”, which was Aramaic (the most widely spoken language of the day in Palestine) for “outlaw”. We know, courtesy of  Flavius Josephus, that Zealots were referred to as outlaws by the Romans. So as Jesus was being interrogated, one of the witnesses against him made mention of the fact that he must have been a Zealot since his own bodyguard was a Zealot. Peter was therefore instantly called upon to confirm or deny that he was a Zealot. As could be expected, Peter stoutly denied he was. He also proceeded to say that he was not as close to Jesus as many people thought.

Once he had exculpated himself, Peter resumed his vigil as doorkeeper. The hearing lasted for hours and there were intervals in between, during which Peter also took time off to warm himself before a fire. During one such break, Mary, Joseph (Jesus’ second brother)  and James (the son of Zebedee) also confronted him and demanded to know why he  without shame or scruple just stopped short of disowning Jesus. Peter was unflinching, saying they were all mistaken: he was not as close to Jesus as they thought. It was at this point that he stood up to announce the time 3 am for the hearings to resume. Shortly thereafter, it dawned on him that he had stabbed Jesus in the back and later apologised teary-eyed to Mary. The man Jesus called “Rocky” was far from being a rock: he was a chicken, a flip-flopper.  Maybe it was no coincidence, General, that on this fateful night he was assigned the role of a male chicken!

That said, Peter had very valid reasons to deny Jesus anyway. Jesus had elevated Judas Iscariot to his second-in-command in an independent Israel at the Last Supper and Peter was irate that that role should have been entrusted to him and not to Judas. Maybe Jesus deserved Peter’s betrayal given that Peter had served him loyally through and through both as a bodyguard and confidante.

JUDAS TREACHERY BACKFIRES

Pontius Pilate, General, arrived at Qumran towards 6 in the morning to conduct a kangaroo court trial for the people wanted for the November 32 AD uprising in which some Roman soldiers were killed. Why, if we may ask, General,  did the Roman governor have to travel all the way from Jerusalem, where he was based during the Passover week, to Qumran and not insist that the trial be held in Jerusalem itself?

There were two reasons for this in the main. First and foremost, there was something in it for him. He had been backhanded with a tantalising bribe by Herod Agrippa to excuse Judas Iscariot. We know Pilate was hopelessly weak where it came to palm-greasing and extra-legal trials. Philo, the Jewish philosopher and historian who was a contemporary of  Pilate, records that Pilate was prone to corruption (a streak that ran through all Roman governors and of which the emperor himself was acutely aware) and “continuous executions without even a form of a trial”. Second, a trial of the leading Zealots in Jerusalem at Passover time would have provoked another uprising as Jerusalem at this time of the year swarmed with Galilean pilgrims most of whom were either Zealots or pro-Zealot. Qumran was therefore a safe venue as it was remote and was not crawling with too many people. The trial would thus pass practically unnoticed by the wider population.

Arriving at Qumran, Pilate was determined that he was going to sentence the culprits (save for Judas of course) to death. The November uprising had tarnished the record of his emperor: it was the only insurrection in Judea during the reign of  Tiberius Caesar. Pilate would use the sentence as a showcase to the emperor that he was a no-nonsense man who did not in the least brook dissident tendencies.

Now, Herod Antipas had learnt of Agrippa’s bribe to Pilate and he and Agrippa rarely saw eye to eye, being rival claimants to the Jewish monarchy.  Antipas was aware that the crucifixion Jesus would be subjected to would not be fatal but a partial one that would ensure his survival. However, Theudas Barabbas was too old to bear the strain of even partial crucifixion whereas Jesus and Simon Zelotes were much younger. Chances therefore were that Barabbas might perish right on the cross.  So in a private meeting with Pilate before the trial commenced, Antipas offered Pilate a bribe substantially higher than that which Agrippa had given him. Accordingly, the two agreed that Judas should be reinstated as a culprit. At the same time, Barabbas should be released. It was game, set, and match, General.

MAKE-BELIEVE REFERAL TO ANTIPAS

The trial was held in the north vestry, the same place where the hearings by Annas and Caiaphas took place. Annas, Caiaphas, the Herods, and the brothers of Jesus were in attendance.

The trial, General, was a farce. The proceedings were almost wholly orchestrated. On trial was Judas Iscariot too, who courtesy of  the Antipas bribe had been re-arrested, bringing the number of  respondents in the dock to four. Judas, as the overall commander of the Zealots, pleaded guilty. That is what the gospels mean when they say he “hung himself”. Now penitent of having falsely implicated Jesus, Judas also told the court that Jesus was innocent and had played no part whatsoever in the November 32 AD insurrection. Judas’ absolution of  Jesus is what is cryptically referred to in the gospels as “returning the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priest”, meaning he no longer was leader of the 30-man group that John the Baptist had established: its leadership had now reverted to the current Essene high priest Jonathan Annas. Judas was resultantly sentenced to death by crucifixion along with Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas.

However, General, Agrippa was determined that Jesus be found guilty in order to get even with his brother-in-law Antipas. He and Caiaphas were in full flow, insisting that Jesus not only was a “Galilean”, which was another code name for Zealots, but he urged Jews to refrain from paying taxes and also fancied himself as “King of the Jews” when that title now belonged to Emperor Tiberius Caesar. This was treason and for that he deserved to die.

Although Pilate had no intentions of acquitting Jesus (it was he who was to be sacrificed for Barabbas as per his stratagem with Antipas), he at least wanted to superficially cast himself as a reasonable and impartial judge. Judas had exonerated Jesus and the priests had countered that. So Pilate announced to the gathering that since Jesus was of Galilean origin (he feigned ignorance of the fact that the term Galilean was used in the context of  his being a Zealot), Herod Antipas, under whose  jurisdiction Galilee fell, was to break the ice. Antipas was asked to try Jesus in another room and whatever verdict he rendered would be binding. This aspect was not part of the pre-plan with Antipas but Antipas did welcome it nonetheless as it openly underlined that in the eyes of  Rome, he took precedence over his rival Agrippa. As for Agrippa, all he could do was froth at the mouth. From that day on, General, Pilate became his mortal enemy: on the other hand, Antipas and Pilate became abiding friends.

NEXT WEEK: JESUS SACRIFICES FOR HIS BROTHER

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Columns

Distress Flare

12th October 2021

No one could have predicted what we have just gone through with COVID 19, lock downs, State of Emergency, banning of international travel etc. etc. In fact that’s not quite true as many had been predicating the possibility of a global pandemic for a while – I guess it was the case of not listening or not wanting to listen.

This week I was left thinking what life would be like if the internet crashed. This was prompted after being deprived of social media when the services of Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp were disrupted for hours on Monday night. I am not much of a user of the 2 former platforms but I do use Whatsapp extensively and even had a call scheduled on the app which I was clearly unable to make. It is also the main way that I keep immediately updated of family whereabouts, comms etc.

Like many I felt quite cut off even though I could have made a normal telephone call or gone on the internet and sent mail messages. People kept saying that the internet was down because to some people Facebook is the internet!  Twitter, realising this, saw it as the perfect time to enjoy its rare spotlight and tweeted “Hello literally everyone” from its main account. It garnered 2.4 million “likes” in just four hours and a stampede of users eager to sign up.

In other parts of the world where apps are essential to commerce, health care and basic functioning of government it was a serious matter. In India, doctors sounded the alarm about being unable to coordinate their schedules or share patient scans. And in Malaysia, some small-business owners were left without a way to manage day-to-day operations as all business communications are conducted through the app.

In many developing countries, services including WhatsApp, Facebook and Facebook Messenger have become deeply integrated into the delivery of primary health care, education and other government services,” Marcus Leaning, a digital media education professor at the University of Winchester in the U.K., said. “In the global North, we tend to (merely) use such services as supplementary to other channels of communication, so the global outage will have a disproportionate impact.”  These platforms are also often offered on restricted-access (or non-smart) phones, meaning that those on lower income were disproportionately  disaffected in 3rd World countries, our own included.

Meanwhile, as netizens (citizens of the internet) were feeling somewhat inconvenienced and annoyed, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a financial hit losing $6 billion in just a few hours as Facebook stocks plunged, principally through lost advertising revenue and loss of business confidence and he himself personally dropped to No. 5 on the list of the world’s richest, below Gates. Talk about a bad day at the office!

The impact on myself was considerably less but with my ability to WhatsApp stopped I did feel quite put out and wondered what it would be like if the whole internet crashed one day and what that would it do to the markets, the military, the hospitals, not to mention how would I be able access all the movies on Netflix?

It couldn’t really happen, could it, if you understand that all the internet is, is a bunch of interconnected computers and that they would all have to crash at once? Conventional wisdom tells us that as a planetary network of computers and machines the internet is too big, too decentralised and too redundant to all fail at once?  But wait! Didn’t they say something similar when the Titanic was built? Surely the lessons of that hubris are still valid today?

According to Laura Brandimarte, Assistant Professor, Management Information Systems, University of Arizona, ‘Everything being connected today may bring along significant convenience, but it also implies that everything can be hacked. What if the nation’s power grid were successfully attacked? No electricity also means no internet access. The internet also relies on physical infrastructure, such as subsea cables and other fiber cables: any infrastructure issues (cable cuts, damages), whether due to criminal activity or natural disasters that were to affect major subsea cables could potentially shut down the Internet.

In a different sense, authoritarian governments can also potentially shut down the internet if they somehow all colluded against it, either blocking internet access to citizens altogether (we have seen that in Egypt during the Arab Spring, for example, or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo  HYPERLINK “https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/africa/81477-dr-congo-block-internet-kinshasa” \t “_blank” during a period of unrest); or substantially limiting it (we see that in countries where internet censorship is widespread and information access is controlled by the central government, as it happens in China). There are ways around censorship, of course: Privacy Enhancing Technologies, or PETs, such as virtual private networks or VPNs, and anonymous browsers such as Tor, can help circumvent it, but censorship essentially prevents the vast majority of the population, who may not be familiar with these tools, to access the internet, de facto making it disappear.’

And there are natural disasters that also could create havoc.   Patrick Juola, a computer science professor at Duquesne University, offers up one such interplanetary electronic disaster. “A sufficiently powerful solar flare could produce an electromagnetic solar pulse [EMP] that would shut down most of the computers in the world. While some systems are protected against EMPs, any human-built protection is only so strong, and the sun can be a lot more powerful.”

 

An internet crash resulting from this type of solar flare sounds like science fiction or one of those once-every-10,000-years events, but it isn’t. The worst recorded X-class (highest level) solar flare, called the Carrington Event, was a coronal mass ejection that produced a geomagnetic storm that spread across the earth over two days, September 1-2, 1859. The storm produced auroras around the world. The ones in the northern hemisphere reached as far south as the Caribbean, and were so bright people in the north-eastern United States could read newspapers by their light at night. The major electric utilities affected were the telegraph systems that failed across Europe and North America. The telegraph pylons threw sparks and shocked operators still at their keys. 

The frequency of recorded CMEs is worrying. Less powerful geomagnetic storms were recorded in 1921 and 1960, and a 1989 storm disabled power over large sections of Quebec. Then, on July 23, 2012, a “Carrington-lass” solar superstorm narrowly missed the earth by nine days when it crossed the planet’s orbit.

The Titanic was built to be unsinkable – all engineers and scientists agreed to that. Yet obviously they had not thought of every conceivable scenario and so when the boat was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the rest, as they say, was history. The same must be true of the internet. The thing that can take it down – not so much governmental censorship but some of that super global warming we hear so much about – could yet prove its downfall.  Now that really is solar power!

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