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Egypt Under Joseph

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

His accomplishments as Co-Pharaoh

Knowing as we do that Joseph was not an original name (we don’t know what his original name was), exactly how did a man who was called Yuya in Egypt come to be called Joseph in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), particularly that Joseph was not a Jewish name?  It appears that at least in this instance, the Genesis writers knew what they were talking about as they got the name dead right!

Both biblical and extra-biblical sources inform us that upon being made viceroy, Yuya was given a new, evocative name by the incumbent pharaoh. This was Zaphnath-Pa-Neah. It was a descriptive name meaning “Time of God, May He Live”.  Paraphrased, the message in the name was, “May God Shine in This Man’s Time”.  But it is the first syllable, Zaph, that is of particular interest. In the Egyptian spelling, this was “Seph” or “Sef”, meaning “time”.

So what did the Hebrews do? They combined “Yu”, the first syllable of the name Yuya, with “Seph” to form “Yu-Seph”,   or Joseph (pronounced “Yahewseph” in the Bible).  “Yu” was simply the shorter form of  “Yahweh”,  the generic name by which the Jews’ Enlilite gods  went. (Note that the Old Testament was written in the 6th century BC, by which time the Jews referred to their god as Yahweh.)  Thus the name Joseph as interpreted by the Jews meant “Yahweh’s Time”, which is basically the same as its rendering in Egyptian.

In another vein, the name Joseph also meant “Son of God”. One other meaning of the Egyptian term “sef” was “boy” or “son”. In this context though, Joseph was the son not of the Anunnaki god Yahweh but of  Egypt’s national god Marduk. This equated him to a pharaoh as all pharaohs were designated sons of the god Marduk, the reason why at least one of their throne names had to carry the name Ra, or Re, that being a component of Amen-Ra, the name by which Marduk was known  in Egypt. As we have already showcased, Joseph was for  all practical purposes a joint king with Pharaoh Thutmosis IV.  

The Egyptian writer Manetho confirms that the pharaoh Amenhotep III, Tuthmosis IV’s successor, did have a super minister called “Seph”.    And rummaging through ancient Egyptian historical archives, we find that the name Seph was actually a common one and was borne by both males and females.   

JOSEPH DWELT IN KING’S PALACE

The many titles the pharaoh conferred on Joseph included “Bearer of the Seal of the King of Lower (northern) Egypt;  "Bearer of the Ring of the King of Lower Egypt”; “Adjutant (Deputy) of His Majesty in the Chariotry”; “Him Whom the King has Made his Double”; “First Among the King’s Companions”; “Mouth of the King of Lower Egypt”; “Ears of the King of Lower Egypt”; “Mouth of the King of Upper (southern) Egypt”; “Master of the Horses”; “Royal Keeper of the Grain”; “Overseer of the Cattle of Min”; and “Lord of Ahkmin”.

As Master of the Horses and Adjutant of His Majesty in the Chariotry, Joseph commanded his own branch of the armed forces – the Chariotry, which waged horse-mounted  war. He was the first person in the history of Egypt to be entrusted such a responsibility. By dint of this same portfolio, he always rode in the second chariot after that of the pharaoh on ceremonial occasions. Perhaps to underscore that he once held this highly momentous position, Joseph was upon his death entombed with a miniature chariot.

At Joseph’s investiture ceremony, which was to all intents and purposes a coronation ceremony, the pharaoh presented him with three insignias of office. The first was a signet ring, which the pharaoh had all along won on his own finger. As such, the ring literally represented a transfer of power, suggesting a symbolic abdication on the part of the pharaoh in deference to Joseph.  The ring conformed to Joseph’s two titles of “Bearer of the Seal of the King of Lower Egypt” and "Bearer of the Ring of the King of Lower Egypt”. 

The second was a necklace of large beads of gold and Lapis Lazuli and the third was a set of royal robes of “fine linen”.   Whereas the gold necklace was found on his mummified body, the ring was not: apparently it had been stolen by grave robbers. Ecstatic at seeing him lap up all these trappings of power and glory, the priests of Heliopolis, Joseph’s most ardent champions, stopped just short of dancing a jig. They nicknamed him Sobekemsaf, which was a title of the pharaoh himself as if to say he was indeed “Him Who The King Made His Equal”.   

Now, since Joseph was practically a joint-Pharaoh, he was not allowed to live in his own posh residence:  being the King’s conscience, the two had to live cheek by jaw. Thus Joseph was accommodated in a section of the royal residence itself. His wife Tuya served the Queen as a butler, nanny, and lady-in-waiting, her official title being “The King’s Ornament”.   Tuya also served purely religious roles for the Anunnaki gods of Egypt. She was Singer of the Hathor (Ninmah, who though neither an Enkite nor  Enlilite was highly regarded by the Egyptians for her tenderness and her indefatigable efforts to reconcile the two clans); the Chief Entertainer (musically) of the gods Marduk and Horus; and Superintendant of the Harem (a bevy of mistresses) of Marduk in Thebes and Horus in Ahkmin.  

JOSEPH TOPS “THE FORBES RICH LIST”

In those days when people in power had carte blanche to enrich themselves from national coffers (not by theft but by official entitlement), Joseph became one of the wealthiest people on the globe, in keeping with  one of his titles which said “One Made Rich by the King of Lower Egypt”. He is said to have controlled over 20 percent of Egypt’s GNP. The portfolio that brought about these riches was that of Royal Keeper of the Grain Stores.

Since the great flood of Noah’s day, when north Africa began to turn into a desert, the river Nile has always been Egypt’s lifeline. Like most rivers, the Nile has its peaks and troughs: it swells with water during the rainy season (it originates in the more rain-abundant tropics, in Ethiopia and Sudan). But the Nile has had another age-old rainfall cycle that occurs in seven-year periods at its sources. In one such period, it experiences a heavy rainfall pattern and in the next seven-year period it is plagued by low rainfall, and so forth and so on. The grain harvest mirrored this climatic pattern:  seven years of abundance were always followed by seven “lean” years.

According to the Famine Stela, a hieroglyphical inscription into a natural granite cliff on Sehel Island in Egypt which tells of a seven-year period of drought and famine during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty, people were in dire straits during this harsh cycle of the Nile. “Grain was scant, kernels were dried up. Scarce was every kind of food. Temples were shut, shrines covered in dust. Everyone was in distress.” Talking of a similar situation in the time of Joseph, the Bible says the famished populace would match on the palace to plead with their king to do something to get them out of their predicament. “And the dearth was in all lands … And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread.”

Joseph was tasked with balancing out the availability of grain in Egyptian silos. He was in one way  or the other expected to turn the lean years into abundant years too so that the nation was consistently catered for foodwise. Thus Joseph’s first seven years, which coincided with the abundant cycle, was dedicated to stockpiling. Joseph made maximum use of this situation to amass a fortune for himself. Exactly how?

Writes Ralph Ellis in his phenomenally insightful book Jesus, Last of the Pharaohs: “Joseph had been stockpiling grain for years (during the bountiful seven years). As the famine worsened (during the harsh seven years), he began to sell this grain back to the people for the profit of the pharaoh. After a while, people had no more money to buy grain, so they sold their sacred cattle that they would not eat. Joseph bought them all and fed his people well.

Next, the people of Egypt came to Joseph and sold their land to him to pay for grain until all the land of Egypt belonged to pharaoh and Joseph. When the floods at last returned to the land, Joseph said to the people: here is seed corn for you, and ye shall sow the land. But in return you shall give one fifth part unto pharaoh and keep four fifths for your family. And they said; thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in your sight, and we will be pharaoh’s servants.

And Joseph smiled, knowing that he was the saviour of all of Egypt and, in addition, he would receive a 20 per cent return on all his investments and become the richest man in the world.” If there was such a thing as the Forbes Rich List in Joseph’s day, he would have  shot right to the first slot just in his thirties!

JOSEPH’S STUNNING CIVIL ENGINEERING FEAT

In order to ensure that there was sufficient grain at all times in Egypt, Joseph came up with  a most ingenious idea. There was at a place 60 miles south of Memphis a natural depression which he intended to turn into a lake with full-capacity water all-year-round. This feature, which was practically in the middle of the desert, was known as Qarun. Joseph decided to construct an artificial waterway that would link Qarun to the Nile River over a distance of about 30 miles and which would facilitate year-long irrigation.

The pharaoh of course acceded to the idea coming from the genius that was his No.2, but when  Joseph’s two viziers were told of it,  they, in a bid to undermine him, got the pharaoh to prescribe a rather tight time scale for the project. He was to complete it within a thousand days, or roughly 33 months, a significant Masonic number.

If the green-eyed viziers thought he would fail and so lose a bit of face in the eyes of the pharaoh, they were totally mistaken. Joseph dug feeder canals and created the artificial lake in the stipulated time period with a week or so  to spare. It was such a stunning feat that the place where Qarun was located became known as Alf Yum (or Fayyum), meaning “The Place of the Thousand Days”. Alf Yum became the bread basket of the whole of Egypt, noted not only for grain production but also for fresh vegetables, fruit, and fish.

The Qarun depression was in fact two lakes in one – the smaller Lake Keroun and the larger Lake Moeris, named after the reigning pharaoh. Moeris is the Greek rendition of the name of an Egyptian pharaoh. The Greek historian-geographer Herodotus wrote of a huge lake that was formed artificially in the time of “Pharaoh Moeris”. The lake had a circumference of 400 miles, equivalent to the entire length of Egypt along the sea coast. It is not easy to assign the name Moeris to a particular pharaoh since pharaohs had several throne names but since Joseph thrived in the time of Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III, Moeris may be one of these two. As for the waterway itself, even today it is known as Bahr Yousof in Arabic, meaning “The Waterway of Joseph”.

JOSEPH MILITARILY RESCUES A NATION IN DISTRESS

As head of the Chariotry, the horse-mounted branch of the Egyptian army, Joseph was a formidable general. We don’t know exactly how many campaigns Joseph took part in but these must have been very few in that Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV and his successor Amenhotep III were not particularly belligerent kings having entered into many peace accords with foreign nations. But at least one campaign headed by Joseph is documented in the apocryphal Book of Jasher.

     The war pitted Egyptians against the Tarshishites. The Tarshishites were from the state of Cilicia, in modern-day Turkey. For years, they had made the lives of the much smaller, populationwise,  and therefore weaker Ishmaelites a total misery. It was the latter who called upon the pharaoh to help get them out of their predicament. The Book of Jasher relates the story as follows:

“At that time the children of Tarshish came against the sons of Ishmael, and made war with them, and the children of Tarshish spoiled the Ishmaelites for a long time. And the children of Ishmael were small in number in those days, and they could not prevail over the children of Tarshish, and they were sorely oppressed. And the old men of the Ishmaelites sent a record to the king of Egypt, saying, send I pray thee unto thy servants officers and hosts to help us to fight against the children of Tarshish, for we have been consuming away for a long time.

And Pharaoh sent Joseph with the mighty men and host which were with him, and also his mighty men from the king's house. And they went to the land of Havilah to the children of Ishmael, to assist them against the children of Tarshish, and the children of Ishmael fought with the children of Tarshish, and Joseph smote the Tarshishites and he subdued all their land, and the children of Ishmael dwell therein unto this day.

And when the land of Tarshish was subdued, all the Tarshishites ran away, and came on the border of their brethren the children of Javan, and Joseph with all his mighty men and host returned to Egypt, not one man of them missing.” It is ironic that the Ishamaelites (Arabs) whose safety the pharaoh of a black nation safeguarded would eons later occupy Egypt and drive its entire black population out of the country. This Earth, My Brother …

WHICH  GOD DID JOSEPH WORSHIP?

Now that Joseph was an Egyptian, which god did he worship?  Did he continue venerating the gods he had worshipped in Canaan, the Enlilites, notably  Jehovah-Enlil, Nannar-Sin, and Ishkur-Adad, or embraced the major Enkite gods such as Enki (called Ptah in Egypt), Marduk, Osiris, and Horus?

That question is not easy to answer. That is because the god one worships publicly is not necessarily the god one worships at heart. We know, for instance, that the overwhelming majority of evangelical churches have today been infiltrated by Satanists, who in public worship Jesus when under cover of darkness they worship Reptilian gods who go under the generic term “Devil”. As for Catholicism, the less said the better: the Vatican and its Pontiff do not have an ounce of spirituality in them.  To cite just one example, every time there is a sting exposure of priests who have sexually abused little boys for ages, all the “Holy Father” says is,  “forgive them: they know not what they are doing”.  

With regard to Joseph, at least on the face of it, one would say he worshipped Enkite gods. At least four of his official titles exalted Enkite gods. They were “Overseer of the Cattle of Min” (Min was Horus primarily); “Prophet of the God Min”; “Overseer of the Cattle of Amun” (Amun, or Amen, was Marduk);  and “Praised of His Lord Amun”.  And as priest of the temple of Heliopolis, a position he later occupied, Joseph was known as Ptah-Seph, meaning “Son of Enki”.

However, the manner in which he was buried, likely according to his wishes, suggests he was in truth not Enkite-oriented. Typically, Egyptian nobles, including pharaohs, were buried with their hands crossed over their chests in homage to the god Osiris, who was said to be the god presiding over the passage of the dead on their way to higher realms of existence.  Joseph, on the other hand, had his palms facing his neck under the chin. His was the only Egyptian mummy to have been buried in that posture.      

Clearly, Joseph may have publicly venerated Enkite gods when deep down he was contemptuous of them. At the same time, if he worshipped Enlilite gods, he must have done so in utmost secrecy. Note that the Jewish population in Egypt did not also worship Enlilite gods. Having lived in Egypt for hundreds of years, most of them worshipped Marduk (who  in Egypt was known as the Apis Bull, meaning Taurean Bull) in the time of Joseph. This aspect was one of the reasons the Enlilites cleverly orchestrated their repatriation to Canaan during the time of Moses.

NEXT WEEK:   JOSEPH’S LEGENDARY GRANDSON IS BORN

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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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