Meanwhile, all sorts of complications arise that throw a question mark over the legitimacy of Jesus
Nabunaid returned to Babylonia in 539 BC, when he heard that Cyrus, the mighty Persian King, had Babylon in his sights. It seemed the Babylonian priesthood had somehow become disenchanted with his regent Belshazzar’s rule when initially he had been their darling. For when Cyrus marched into the city of Babylon, he was welcomed in the manner of a messiah. The propaganda word Cyrus put out there was that he had been expressly invited by the Babylonian god Marduk himself.
Whilst Belshazzar was killed, probably because he wanted to get up to some kind of mischief, Nabunaid was spared and so lived to a ripe old age. Having grasped the hand of Marduk as a sign of the god’s seal of approval, Cyrus was prompt in effecting radical reforms in his new empire, which extended to the “Four Corners of the Earth” as he brashly announced in his inscriptions. Perhaps the happiest beneficiaries of his reforms were the Jews.
He declared their exile over, consented to the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, and ordered that all the articles Nebuchadnezzar had looted of the destroyed Temple be returned. Cyrus also proclaimed a general amnesty that allowed people to worship any god they pleased and not be force-fed a faith. The Jews, however, did not return all at once. The return occurred in waves and over a period of 110 years. The first wave comprised of 50,000 Jews and set off in 538 BC. They were led by Zerubabbel, who Cyrus appointed as the new governor of Israel.
The second wave was led by Sheltiel, Zerubabbel’s son. About 42,360 Jews were participants in this wave. With this reinforcement, the Temple was rebuilt and completed in 516 BC. The third wave of returnees set off in 458 BC. They were led by Ezra the scribe. Ezra was at the head of 5000 Jews. The fourth and final wave was led by Nehemiah, who was cup-bearer to the Persian King and who took over from Zerubabbel as Israel’s next governor. It is not known exactly how many Jews were in this group though it must have comprised a good number of the Jewish nobility as it was escorted by a sizeable contingent of the Persian army.
Nehemiah was responsible for performing the feat of constructing the Jerusalem wall in only 52 days. He was in Jerusalem for 12 years before he returned to Persia to resume his royal court duties but he was forced to beat a path back to Jerusalem in 431 BC to help arrest the deteriorating security, religious, and social conditions. Altogether, there were about seven Jewish governors of Judah from circa 538 BC to 443 BC. The last governor was Hananiah, whose exact circumstances are unclear. In the next 200 years after Hananiah, Persia dominated all of the Middle East and Egypt, During all this time Palestine was a client state of Persia and was directly ruled by a Persian governor.
WAS JESUS OF A CURSED LINEAGE?
There is a section of the gospels which practically nobody reads, including pastors. This is the genealogy, the lineage of Jesus. Throughout the 30 years or so that I have been a Christian, I have never heard a single sermon on the genealogy of Jesus. This is unfortunate because the genealogy, when investigated by cross-reference with Old Testament records, yields some very valuable insights on the ancestry of Jesus. Furthermore, it provides context as to why he was such a love-him-or-loathe-him figure as well as why the circumstances of his birth were overshadowed by a scandal that continued to haunt him for the rest of his life.
The genealogies are found in MATTHEW 1:1-17 and LUKE 3:23-38. The scope of each of the two genealogies is tailored to the audiences for whom the gospel narratives were primarily intended. Matthew was fundamentally writing for the Jews; hence he begins his genealogy with Abraham, the father of the Jewish race. On the other hand, Luke, a Greek, targeted Gentiles. Accordingly, he began his genealogy with Adam, the father of the human race.
Why did Matthew and Luke deem it necessary to furnish a genealogy of Jesus? Certainly, if Jesus was a God-man, as the bulk of Christendom believe, there would be no need for a genealogy. God will not need details about his family background. The only reason, therefore, why the two evangelists decided to include a genealogy in their accounts was because they wanted to set down evidence of Jesus’s royal credentials. They wanted to demonstrate that Jesus was a descendent of David, Israel’s covenant king, and therefore had the right pedigree.
Both Mathew and Luke do articulate Jesus’ Davidic connection. The very first line of Matthew’s gospel reads, “This is the record of the ancestry of Jesus Christ, the son of David …” In LUKE 1:32, we’re told, plainly, that Jesus would “sit on the throne of his father David”. It was the Jews’ Anunnaki “god” Ishkur-Adad – generically called Yahweh in the Bible – who through the prophet Nathan declared to David during his waning days that only a Jew of Davidic stock would ever rule Israel (2 SAMUEL 7:12-16).
Since “God” so said, the Jews simply never accepted anybody who wasn’t a descendent of David to rule over them. For example, King Herod (reign: 37 BC to 4 BC) went out of his way to try and win the devotion and affections of the Jews. He even built a magnificent Temple for good measure, the globe’s architectural masterpiece of the day. The Jews were unmoved.
Being half-Arab, Herod was not a true blue Jew. Worse still, he did not have a single drop of Davidic blood coursing in his veins. Even the prophets themselves – Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc – referred to Israel’s throne as “David’s throne”, that is, one worthy only of a descendent of David and no less. Yet although Jesus was of Davidic lineage, he was tainted in two ways. FIRST, THERE WAS A CURSE ONCE UPON A TIME IN HIS ANCESTRY. SECOND, HE WAS BORN IN CIRCUMSTANCES ANATHEMA TO A DYNASTIC HEIR. THE CURSE OF JECONIAH
The Jewish king who caused problems for Jesus, who considerably dented his legitimacy, was Jeconiah (also known as Coniah and as Jehoiachin). In terms of monarchical profile, Jeconiah was dismally undistinguished. He officially ruled over Judah for only three months but the effect he had on the fate of his nation was probably of eternal proportions.
Jeconiah ascended to the throne at the very tender age of 18, on December 9, 598 BC, following the foul death of his father Jehoiakim. Then just after 100 days on the throne, he was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar on March 15, 597 BC (“beware the ides of March” a soothsayer had warned Julius Caesar) and led into incarcerated exile in Babylon. In the greater scheme of things, his fate was inevitable: it was part of a series of Seven Chastisements Ishkur-Adad, had pronounced upon the Jews for diluting their loyalty to him with intermittent worship of rival “gods” (LEVITICUS 26:27-28 /PSALMS 12:6)). However, since the Babylonian Chastisement, the second of the seven, occurred on Jeconiah’s watch, a sadistic Adad slapped a further curse on him personally (?).
Adad pronounced the curse through the prophet Jeremiah thus: “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot, a vessel no one cares for? Why are he and his children hurled and cast into a land that they do not know? O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his seed shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah (JEREMIAH 22:28-30).” The boy king did no wrong: he incurred a personalised curse all because a national curse took effect when he was reigning. We Christians ought to wake up: our “God” is a joke really!
The Kingdom of Judah was not left without a king though as Nebuchadnezzar appointed his own client king in place of Jeconiah. This was Zedekiah, Jeconiah’s 21-year-old uncle, another youngster. About ten years later, Nebuchadnezzar struck again after an intransigent Zedekiah revolted. This was the beginning of the Babylonian captivity proper, when Solomon’s Temple was razed to the ground and virtually every able-bodied Jew, including Zedekiah himself, was matched off to Babylon.
To ensure there was no rabble-rousing heir for the Jews to possibly rally around, all of Zedekiah’s ten sons, who included toddlers, were killed in cold blood and Zedekiah had his eyes gouged out. He was to die whilst in captivity. The exile ended in 539 BC, when Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon and issued a decree to free the Jews. As highlighted above, the Jews left in batches.
The Jews naturally did not recognise Zedekiah as their king. Only Jeconiah counted as he was the linear and anointed king. At the same time, they were well aware of the fact that he was accursed, including his descendents, which meant that there was never going to be another King of Judah from his loins. That was what complicated things for Jesus. He was legally a descendent of Jeconiah and was by rights disqualified from ever occupying the throne of Judah. But did the Jeconiah curse indeed invalidate the accession of Jesus to the throne of a liberated Israel?
A CANCELLED CURSE
Let us take another look at the Jeconiah curse. There were three aspects to the curse. First, Jeconiah would not prosper in his life time. Second, his own descendents too would not prosper. Third, none of the Jeconiah offspring would ever be King of the Jews. We will begin with Jeconiah himself. Contrary to the wishes of his god, JECONIAH DID ACTUALLY PROSPER. True, Nebuchadnezzar did confine him to jail but he was released after 36 years, on March 27, 561 BC, by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor Merodach.
What happened upon his release? Merodach exalted him above every other king that was in captivity in Babylon at the time (2 KINGS 25:27-28). In other words, Jeconiah became a national patriarch in a foreign domain, a kind of elder statesman whose views in regard to the affairs of the nation were periodically sought. This may come as a shock to Christians but prophecies did not always come true.
For instance, this was what a “major” prophet had said about Jeconiah: “And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon saith the LORD: for I will break the yoke of the King of Babylon” – JEREMIAH 28:4. The same Adad who had surrendered Jeconiah and the rest of Judah for that matter into Babylonian bondage declared that he was nonetheless going to ensure that Jeconiah returned to Judah some day. This prophecy never came to pass as Jeconiah died right in Babylon. The Bible is full of consistencies which Christians tragically, hypocritically, and therefore comically assume away.
It is clear from these developments that the Jeconiah curse did not bear out in full measure: only the element of a descendent of his never having to sit on the throne of Israel was fulfilled though this was simply in the nature of things and not because Adad intended it. I say this because THE JECONIAH CURSE ACTUALLY LAPSED. In JEREMIAH 22:24, Adad had said thus to Jeconiah: “As surely as I live … even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim King of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.”
Adad had compared Jeconiah to a signet ring, a symbol of divine as well as monarchical authority: Adad himself wore this ring and so did other members of the Anunnaki royalty and Egyptian kings. Now, let us listen to what another prophet of the same Adad said to Zerubbabel upon his return from Babylon: “On that day … I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel … and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you … (HAGGAI 2:23).”
Adad here designates Zerubbabel as a potential king by likening him to his signet ring. Clearly, the Jeconiah curse was at this point rendered null and void. It explains why Jerubbabel, Jeconiah’s grandson legally speaking, did prosper: when the exile ended, he was not only instrumental in resettling the freed Jews in Jerusalem but he was appointed governor of Judea.
Sadly, the matter of the status of the Jeconiah curse was a rather grey area to the Jews of Jesus’ day. Some thought Jesus was not entitled both to the symbolic and literal throne of Judah as his ancestral line had been the subject of a curse. This was the more influential view. Those who recognised that the curse had been withdrawn as per prophet Haggai were in the minority. Since the matter was not settled with cut and dry finality, later Christian redactors inserted phrases in the gospel texts that made it look like both Matthew and Luke had intimated that Jesus was not fathered by Joseph but was begot supernaturally.
IN TRUTH, HOWEVER, JESUS WAS UNAFFECTED BY THE JECONIAH CURSE.
THE ROLE OF NERI
Both Mathew and Luke were cognisant of the Jeconiah curse and the problems it threw up for Jesus. In their accounts, therefore, they made sure it was somewhat disambiguated. How? Let us begin with Matthew. On concluding his genealogical line-up, after the words “Jacob became the father of Joseph”, Matthew adds: “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Contrary to what some ranks of the so-called scholars aver, this statement had nothing to do with the drivel that Joseph was not the real father of Jesus or that Jesus was born to Mary only by supernatural means, without the involvement of a male agent.
Mathew featured Mary in a genealogy she was not part and parcel of, the genealogy of Joseph, for two reasons only. The first one was to demonstrate that Jesus was a descendent of David not only through Joseph but through Mary as well. As such, the Jeconiah curse had to be evaluated in this context.Matthew, however, did not expand on his point. Noting this shortcoming, Luke decided to plug it. Now, Luke is my most favourite evangelist.
Like the other three, he is not consistently truthful and even shows bias in some respects but he is the most accurate historically as even scholars now almost unanimously agree. The man was not only a chronicler but he was an intellectual, a doctor, and so he made sure he meticulously investigated everything to make sure what he set down was in general unimpeachable (LUKE 1:3-4). Whilst Matthew traces the ancestry of Jesus through Joseph, Luke does so through Mary. Both Joseph and Mary were descendents of David but Joseph came through the line of Solomon, David’s heir, whereas Mary came through the line of Nathan, Solomon’s elder brother.
According to Luke, Joseph and Mary’s lines did converge at Shealtiel as indeed the two genealogies bear the name Shealtiel. However, what Luke found was that Shealtiel was not the son of Jeconiah but the son of Neri (LUKE 3:27). WHAT MUST HAVE HAPPENED WAS THAT WHILST IN PRISON AND CONSCIOUS OF THE RAMIFICATIONS OF HIS CURSE, JECONIAH ASKED HIS COUSIN NERI OF THE LINE OF NATHAN TO “SERVE” HIS (JECONIAH’S) WIFE AND SIRE HEIRS FOR HIM PARTICULARLY THAT HE WAS NOT SURE WHEN HE WOULD BE RELEASED FROM JAIL.
Such arrangements, called levirates, were common among Jews particularly when a wealthy or dynastic relation died childless or simply was infertile. Thus whilst Jeconiah was the legal father of Shealtiel and at least four other children out of Jeconiah’s seven, their biological father was actually Neri. That way, the Jeconiah curse was rendered invalid, with all descendents henceforth – Jesus included – benefitting from such a setup. Indeed prophet Haggai’s euphoria over Zerubbabel says it all. But as I have already indicated, the issue was quite a sticking point to the Jews of Jesus’ day and therefore remained a divisive bone of contention indefinitely.
Princess Mary falls pregnant only one month after her betrothal to Prince Joseph
To put the lineage of Mary the mother of Jesus in context, General Atiku, it is in order that we begin with her grandfather Yehoshua (Jesus in Greek) III.
Mary was offspring of two royal lines, the Davidic line and the Hasmonean line. Yehoshua III was the Herod–appointed High Priest of Israel between 36 and 23 BC. He had no sons, only three daughters namely Joanna, Elizabeth, and Anna, all of whom he organised dynastic suitors.
Elizabeth would be married off into the House of Aaron, the legitimate priestly line, and Joanna and Anna would be married off into the House of David, the legitimate kingly line. That’s how Elizabeth became the wife of Zechariah of the tribe of Levi and in due course the mother of John the Baptist.
Mainstream Israel up to the level of the Sanhedrin had recognised Anna as the eligible mother of the future King of Israel and not the sitting impostor Herod (it is not clear what happened to first-born Joanna but she probably passed away before she got married). Anna was accordingly married off to Alexander III, a Davidic and Hasmonean prince who was best known as Heli as indeed the genealogy of Luke clearly attests.
Heli and Anna too had no sons. They only had daughters, the firstborn of whom was Dorcas, whose was born in 26 BC and whose titular name was Mary. Mary was orphaned early in her childhood when her father Heli was killed in 17 BC at the orders of the increasingly paranoid Herod and when her mother Anna died a year or so later.
Since she was a dynastic heiress, it was likely that Herod would come after her. The Essenes thus secreted her somewhere in remote Galilee. It was actually in Galilee that most members of the Davidic royal line were concentrated not only to keep as far away from Herod as possible but to also enjoy the protective custody of the Zealots, who were the secret military wing of the Essenes and a thorn in the side of both Herod and the Romans. Joseph was also officially based in Galilee although both he and Mary were in truth based at Qumran in the Judean wilds.
JOSEPH CALLED TO “DUTY”
Dynastic marriages are often more politically strategic than spontaneous, General. For example, the union of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was motivated by the need to fuse the Windsor genes with those of the Stuarts as the Windsors, being predominantly Reptilians, were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their human form.
The Stuarts, the clan of Diana, had by far more human genes than Reptilian and they too were an aristocratic family. That’s why once Charles had produced a “heir and a spare”, he completely sidelined Diana, who he had never loved, and devoted himself to his real love – Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The marriage of Joseph to Mary, General, was equally strategic. Although both were from the tribe of Judah and of the royal Davidic line, they were from different branches. Joseph was a descendant of Solomon, whereas Mary was a descendant of Nathan, Solomon’s elder brother. The line of Solomon, as we once underlined, had been tainted by the Jeconiah curse.
The line of Nathan was clean. Since the son of Joseph and Mary would be the future King of Israel, it was important that he not be compromised by the baggage, rightly or wrongly, of the Jeconiah curse. Hence the desirability of the union of Prince Joseph and Princess Mary.
Now, both Joseph and Mary’s clans were Essenes. As such, their marriage process, formalities, and protocols had to strictly adhere to Essene dynastic rules. The Essenes were in ranks. Amongst the higher echelons were the two great dynasties, the Davids and the Zadoks, who had been the high priests and kings of Israel respectively before the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.
The Davids and Zadoks lived a strictly holy life, typically in a monastery at Qumran, the reclusive headquarters of the Essenes. They were sequestered there so that they did not fall prey to the machinations of the bloodthirsty King Herod though officially their address was Galilee. In fact, the major reason the Essene movement had come into existence was to preserve and safeguard the Davidic and Zadokite lines, the religio-politico haunt of Herod and the Hasmoneans initially.
According to the Essene code, General, the Zadoks and the Davids were not to engage in sex for recreational purposes because it was regarded as defiling: it diluted holiness. The only times they were supposed to do so was when need arose to produce heirs. In 8 BC, it was now opportune for Joseph, the David, to produce a heir and so he was excused from a life of chastity.
At this point in time in fact, the Essenes were focused on two dynastic figures. These were Joseph and Zechariah. The two were expected to produce the Messiah of David and the Messiah of Aaron, that is, the future King of Israel and the future High Priest of Israel.
According to Essene rules, the David had to marry at age 36, so that by the time he was 40, he had already sired a heir. The new heir had to be born when the David was 37. If the child was a daughter, she could not inherit, and so the David had to set about the procreation of a second-born, who hopefully would be a boy (copulation to that end was allowed only when the daughter was 3 years old).
The Davidic heir had to be born not in any other month but in September, the holiest in the Jewish calendar. In order to conform to these parameters, a betrothal ceremony was held at the beginning of June. During the betrothal period – the three months from beginning of June to end of August – sexual relations were not permitted.
Then at the beginning of September, a First Marriage was held. This was the beginning of the marriage proper as now the couple were allowed to become intimate. However, the intimacy began only in December, with a view to delivering a heir in September the following year. At the end of March, the Second Marriage was held for it was hoped that by that time the spouse was three months pregnant if there hadn’t been a miscarriage. With the Second Marriage, the wedlock was permanent: divorce was never allowed whatsoever.
Meanwhile, General, if the spouse hadn’t conceived in December, sexual relations were suspended till December the following year. The husband would then leave her spouse and return either to the monastery at Qumran or embark on a tour of duty elsewhere in furtherance of the Essene cause.
A BINDING ENGAGEMENT
According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, General, the Essenes were not only a spiritual, revolutionary, and philosophical movement. They were also ardent believers in astrology. They meticulously studied the stars and the movements of planets to read what they portended about the future.
Thus the reason a Davidic heir had to be born in September was not only because this was the holiest month of the year: it was also in recognition of the fact that September was ruled by the constellation Virgo. In other words, September was astrologically the month of the virgin. That was what Mary was.
Mary was both a virgin physically and a virgin titularly. A bride of the future king was required to be a virgin. As an Essene, Mary belonged to the Order (not the tribe) of Dan. This was the Order of Nuns, or virgins, both legal and physical virgins. Thus in the Order of Dan, a woman was not a virgin only before she slept with a man: she was a virgin until she was six months pregnant. In the case of a dynastic spouse like Mary, this was up to end of June. From then henceforth, she was promoted within the Order to the first stage of a Mother.
Joseph’s betrothal to Mary took place at Qumran in June 8 BC. Now, in our day, betrothal simply means engagement to be married. In ancient Israel up to New Testament times, betrothal was part and parcel of the marriage contract. It was definite and binding upon both groom and bride, who were considered as man and wife in all legal and religious aspects, except that sexual relations were not permitted.
For example, in 2 SAMUEL 3:14, King David refers to his betrothed woman as “my wife”. Also in DEUTERONOMY 22:24, a betrothed woman is referred to as “his neighbour’s wife”. In the betrothal formalities, dowry and bride price were included. If a bride and groom for one reason or the other wanted to opt out of the betrothal after the betrothal ceremony, they had to seek a formal divorce.
Since the betrothal took place in June, General, Joseph and Mary were not supposed to make love till December, that is, six months after the betrothal ceremony and three months after the First Marriage ceremony in September. Just one month after the betrothal ceremony (that is, at the beginning of July 8 BC), however, Mary became pregnant. Was it Joseph, General? Was it rape by a Roman soldier called Panthera as some contemporary records suggest? Or was it simply the supernatural act of the “Holy Spirit” as Christendom holds?
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Those who hold that the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy were supernatural, General, can be excused. This is because the language employed therein smacks of ethereality – Holy Spirit, Angel Gabriel, Son of the Most High, etc. To those who have read and rigorously studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, such terminology is well within the temporal context.
That is to say, it does not carry spiritual connotations as such. True, the idea of an angel speaking to Joseph and Mary in their sleep may seem supernatural but the dreams are theological interpolations, inserted into the gospels in onward editing to fit a contrived agenda – what Karl Marx called the opium of the masses.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are so named because they were discovered in caves around the Qumran plateau of the West Bank (about 40 km east of Jerusalem), at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, in March 1947. The discoverer was a Bedouin shepherd kid who was looking for a lost goat. The scrolls were found hidden in jars.
The 1947 find was the initial discovery: more discoveries were made after further excavations on the same site spanning 11 years in a series of 11 caves. Altogether, 972 texts were turned up. They are written in four languages, namely Hebrew (the majority), Aramaic, Greek, and Nabatean, mostly on parchment. Other texts were inscribed on papyrus and bronze.
Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are fragments. Fragments of all the Old Testament books have been found save for the book of Esther. The only complete book is Isaiah. There are also apocryphal books (those arbitrarily excluded from the Old Testament canon by the Constantine-convened Nicene Council of AD 325) such as the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, and sect-specific writings that embody rules and beliefs of the people who compiled them.
The latter include commentaries on the Old Testament, paraphrases that expand on the Law of Moses, rule books of the community, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymnic compositions, benedictions, liturgical texts, and sapiential (wisdom) writing. These texts have been given appropriate titles such as the War Scroll; Manual of Discipline; the Community Rule; the Temple Scroll; the Copper Scroll; etc.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written/preserved by the Essenes between 168 BC and 68 AD. We know this because Pliny, the first century Roman historian, wrote that, “On the west coast of Lake Asphaltitis (the Dead Sea) are settled the Essenes, at some distance from the noisome odours that are experienced on the shore itself.
They are a lonely people, the most extraordinary in the world, who live without women, without love, without money, with the palm trees for their only companions.” The Essenes stashed away the scrolls sometime in 70 AD, when Roman General Flavius Titus overran Jerusalem and laid waste to the Temple following a catastrophic Jewish uprising – led by the Zealots, the military wing of the Essenes – that began in 66 BC.
This they did in heed of JEREMIAH 32:14, which says, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences … and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.” The Dead Sea Scrolls have given us invaluable insight into the beliefs, customs, rituals, politics, philosophies, and traditions of first century Palestine.
The rivalry between luxury German automotive marques Mercedes-Benz and BMW is legendary. Both brands offer high-end, high-priced desirable models, always at the forefront of cutting-edge driving technology and excellence. And in the annals of the advertising world, a campaign between the two rivals is equally legendary and it happened on our own doorstep.
Many of you will be familiar with the coastal road out of Cape Town called Chapman’s Peak. It is a beautiful, sightseeing attraction, the road winding through spectacular coastal-mountain scenery, with cliffs sinking into the Atlantic ocean on one side, and steep mountains towering over the road on the other. However, the road is also notoriously dangerous, with its 114 sharp, meandering bends . It’s reputation is well-deserved . Several years ago, when a major coastal cleanup campaign was launched, a helicopter pulled a total of 22 wrecked cars out of the water adjacent to Chapman’s Peak and it was one such accident which prefaced the notorious marketing battle. The story is thus:
In 1988 an Irish businessman lost control of his Mercedes Benz when driving along this road, plunging 100 metres down the cliff. Miraculously, he not only survived the accident, but crawled out of the wreckage with hardly a scratch on his body.
When Mercedes heard the details, the marketing department decided to base a new advertisement on the story to promote the safety features and stability of the brand. In the video ad they intentionally drove an identical model off the road in the exact same location, having it plunge off the edge of the cliff, the driver stepping out similarly unscathed, proving the phenomenal survivability and strength of Mercedes Benz.
When the marketing suits at BMW saw this ad, they took a bold and ingenious decision to mimic it but with a twist. Only a week later, whilst the first ad was still fresh in the public’s minds, they shot their ad showing a BMW driving along the exact same stretch of road in the rain. However, when it reached the point at which the Mercedes plunged off the cliff, the BMW negotiated it safely, and continued driving along the road.
The catchphrase of the ad was “BMW beats the bends” . Or was it? It was cunningly recorded so that it could equally have been ‘beats the Benz’, implying that their cars had superior cornering and stability to their rival, Even more sneakily, they launched their campaign on a Saturday, mindful of the rules on competitive advertising in South Africa, safe in the knowledge that no objectionable actions could be taken till the new working week.
Mercedes-Benz wasted no time on Monday in issuing an injunction, the ad was swiftly pulled but the damage was done and the dog had had its day. The ad campaign ranks high in the history of advertising and can still be found online to this day. Meanwhile the rivalry between the two automotive greats goes on.
I reference this piece of marketing history in the light of this week’s horror crash by golfing great, Tiger Woods. Driving from a luxury holiday resort in California to a nearby country club Tiger Woods lost control of his vehicle on a downhill stretch of the road, smashed through a road sign, crossed over the central reservation and rolled his car several hundred feet. He had to be cut out and pulled to safety through the windscreen and the vehicle was so badly damaged, the attending police officers said he was ‘lucky to survive’.
The vehicle Woods was driving was a rented Genesis GV80 SUV. If you are unfamiliar with the brand that is not surprising since it is a relatively new spin-off from the South Korean Hyundai marque. The Genesis utility vehicle, not available locally yet, retails for around $50,000 or half a million pula, placing it in the higher end of town and country SUVs in the USA.
The model has certainly been widely publicised in the media coverage of the high-profile sportsman’s accident and I suspect that if asked to comment, Hyundai/Genesis would disagree with the police assessment, putting Woods’ survival down to build quality and in-built safety features such as crumple zones, anti-roll bars and airbags, which were deployed in the crash and would most certainly have played their part cushioning the effects of the rolling and ultimate impact. There is , of course, no suggestion that the manufacturers will capitalise on Woods’ survival but certainly it will have done the brand no harm that he did indeed emerge with recoverable injuries.
Comparing the two accidents, the driver of the Mercedes driving along Chapman’s Peak was, of course, an ordinary member of the public whilst Tiger Woods is a household name. That said, in humanitarian terms each tale of survival carries equal weight but the fact remains that the former was just another local story of yet one more victim of a notoriously tricky stretch of road whilst the latter went round the world in an instant because of the fame and name of the driver.
There is also no evidence that that stretch of Californian urban highway carried any inherent risk. His appears to have been just a loss of control and a freak accident. However, in the event that Hyundai/Genesis should consider making capital from that accident, a note of caution needs to be sounded.
In the advertising world, the use of celebrities to promote a product is a fall-back stance to sell anything from washing-up liquid to whisky but statistics have shown that it can be a double-edged sword in that yes, the ads are memorable and the public love them when the celeb is popular and personable. But…..what is often remembered is the name of the famous promoter, not the name of the product. In other words, they sell themselves far better than they sell the item.
In golfing terminology Hyundai/Genesis are not ‘out of the Woods’ yet and maybe they should go with a completely different Driver!
How Jesus’s grandfather sold his birthright to megalomaniac Herod
If you were to ask a Christian to name the main Jewish sects, General Atiku, he would no doubt begin with the Pharisees (because Jesus had innumerable slanging matches with them according to the gospels), followed by the Sadducees. Yet there was a third, equally momentous sect – the Essenes.
Although there’s not a single, one mention of the Essenes in the Bible, General, the New Testament is filled with Essene-type language as anybody who has read the Dead Sea Scrolls would readily recognise.
In point of fact, it was the Essenes who produced Jesus as well as the infamous Jewish band of freedom fighters known as the Zealots. Furthermore, almost all the New Testament writers were either Essenes or champions of the Essene cause as is apparent in their language and the drift of their overall philosophy. The Essenes have a palpable presence in the Bible, albeit a cloaked one.
The Essenes, General, were the most popular, the most esteemed, and the most influential of the Jewish sects. The Jewish historian Philo (20 BC-50 AD) devotes 90 percent of his description of the Jewish sects to the Essenes. He wrote that the Essenes “dwell in many cities of Judea and in many villages and in great societies of many numbers”.
Hyppolytus of Rome (170-236 AD) devoted nine-and-half chapters to the Essenes and only one to the Sadducees. The Essenes are the authors of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947 in Israel at a place called Qumran and which have given us even greater insight into the happenings in the first century than the Bible itself.
How did the Essene movement come about, General? The Essenes, meaning “puritans of the faith”, were the Jewish sect that was the most loyal to the Davidic dynasty. They set themselves apart from the mainstream Jewish community circa 175 BC and established their headquarters at Qumran, about 40 km from Jerusalem.
Since the Jewish nation revered the Davidic royal line, the only legitimate and rightful rulers of Judah in their view, they rallied to the Essenes en masse. And because the Essenes were disparaging of the Hasmonean rule (140 BC to 63 BC), the mainstream Jews also took a dismissive view of Hasmonean rule too.
The Essenes were so highly regarded because of their virtue and spirituality. The legendary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) writes thus of them: “They are more mutually affectionate than the others (Pharisees and Sadducees). Whereas these men shun the pleasures as vice, they consider self-control and not succumbing to the passions virtue … Since [they are] despisers of wealth – their communal stock is astonishing – one cannot find a person among them who has more in terms of possessions.
For by a law, those coming into the school (that is, the Essene fold) must yield up their funds to the order, with the result that in all [their ranks] neither the humiliation of poverty nor the superiority of wealth is detectable, but the assets of each one have been mixed in together, as if they were brothers, to create one fund for all.”
In time, the Essenes, General, became quite influential even with occupying powers. For instance, when the Greek General Pompey installed Hyrcanus II as ruler of Palestine in 63 BC, he sought the opinion of the Essenes. The Essenes recommended that Hyrcanus go by the titles High Priest and Prince, not King, to which Pompey paid heed. In 142 BC, when Simon was installed by the Seleucids as ruler of Palestine, the Essenes had insisted on the same titular style. To the Essenes, everybody who occupied Israel’s seat of authority was simply holding fort for the real deal – the Davidic King.
In 37 BC, when Herod became King of Palestine, the potential Davidic King was Jacob-Eliakim – the father of the Joseph of the gospels – who was an Essene himself. It was in order to win the blessings of the historically popular Jewish royal family that Herod sought to curry favour with the Essenes.
JACOB’S PACT WITH HEROD
About the time Herod came to power, General, there were three citizens of considerable stature in Palestine – Hillel, Menahem, and Jacob-Eliakim, the grandfather of Jesus. Hillel is by all accounts ancient Israel’s greatest teacher and scholar.
He was the foremost spiritual sage in the development of the Talmud and the Mishnah, the most authoritative religious references of the Jews which are second only to the Old Testament in esteem. The renowned “Golden Rule”, which is invariably attributed to Jesus, was actually coined by Hillel. It is not certain whether Hillel was an Essene but his teachings did have a profound influence both on Essene philosophy and that of Jesus, who was an Essene too.
It was Menahem, however, who was an incontrovertible Essene. The Essenes were of two main branches, General. First, there were the puritans, the Palestinian Essenes. Then there were the liberals, the Diaspora Essenes, who sneered at the Palestinian Essenes’ dogmatism and rather strict views on morality. Menahem was the leader of the Diaspora Essenes.
He was also privilleged to be advisor to King Herod. Herod did hold Menahem in very high regard. Josephus relates that when Herod was a school-going lad, Menahem had patted him on his back and said to him, “one day you will be King young man.” Since the prophecy came to pass, Herod had a certain, atypical respect both for Menahem and the order of Essenes.
Jacob-Eliakim’s significance was by virtue of his pedigree. He was of the royal line of David and was therefore the uncrowned King of the Jews. Now, as we have already indicated, Herod had his own grand designs about rulership of the world notwithstanding the fact that he was in reality a vassal of Rome.
When he made overtures to the trio, they didn’t mince words: they told him that in the new Israel, the Israel that would rule Earth once the Romans had been toppled from the pedestal of world power, it was a Davidic King who would reign. Herod took very strong exception to such a prospect. Herod was neither a full-blooded Jew nor of Davidic stock but he was royalty in his own right.
His father, Antipater, had been the governor of Idumea and in due course Judea in the Hasmonean government and was in fact the real ruler of the entire Palestine, with John Hyrcanus being a mere figurehead king. When he (Herod) was only 25 years old, his father had appointed him governor of Galilee. Herod thus had strutted the corridors of power from the day he was born and he wasn’t going to give that up easily either for his own sake or that of his descendants.
As such, General, Herod maintained to the trio that in the new, overarching Kingdom of Israel, he was going to be the emperor and would be based in Jerusalem. Just like the Greek empire of Alexander had been a triarchy (a kingdom divided into three governments), the global Kingdom of Israel (“Thy Kingdom Come” in the Lord’s Prayer) was going to be likewise.
There was going to be a ruler in the east, a ruler in the west, and a ruler in the centre, that is Jerusalem, under the oversight of Herod himself. Hillel would rule in Jerusalem; Menahem in the east; and Jacob-Eliakim in the west. If these three happened to have disappeared from the Earthly scene by the time the Kingdom of Israel came into being, their descendants would observe the same setup.
The pecking order would thus be like this: Herod as the emperor; Hillel as the senior king; Menahem as the second-ranked king; and Jacob-Eliakim as the junior king. Put differently, Herod had by the stroke of a pen reduced the Davidic dynasty from foremost to least important as it posed the most serious threat to his office. Meanwhile, the three kings-in-waiting would go by the names of the Old Testament patriarchs.
Hillel would henceforth be called the Abraham, or the Father (or Papa, which later morphed into Pope), since Abraham was the Father of the Jewish nation; Menahem would be called the Isaac (Abraham’s son); and Eliakim the Jacob (Isaac’s son). Half a loaf was better than nothing at all and so Jacob-Eliakim meekly accepted this arrangement.
When Jesus later said, “Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the new Kingdom of Heaven (MATTHEW 8:11),” he did not mean an afterlife kingdom: he referred to the Earthly setup proposed by King Herod.
FALLOUT WITH ESSENES
Those days, General, the Davidic heir used the title “Jacob” rather than “David” as the latter title was very risky, particularly under the Hasmonean government. Given that Joseph was the most beloved son of the Old Testament Jacob, the next in line, that is, the firstborn son of the Jacob, used the title “Joseph”.
In September 44 BC, a son was born to Jacob-Eliakim. As the crown prince to the Jacob, he was given the titular name Joseph, the name by which he became best-known. Like his father Jacob-Eliakim, Joseph was a missionary. But he also had a trade. He was a carpenter, a boat builder primarily, and a master of his craft. The word translated “carpenter” in the Bible is the ancient Greek word “ho hekton” which means a master artisan or craftsman.
In 31 BC, Qumran, the Essenes’ Judean wilderness bastion, was struck by an earthquake. The hermitic Essenes had no choice but to trek back to Jerusalem, from where they operated indefinitely at a place they called the Essene Gate. Then in 23 BC, Herod struck again. He had Jacob-Eliakim killed on trumped-up charges of sedition, his motive simply being a continuation of a systematic purge of the Davidic “pretenders” to his throne.
The Essenes were wroth. They now set about promulgating to the Diaspora Essenes that Herod would have no part to play in the coming Kingdom. Instead, the overall King would be Joseph, the son of Jacob-Eliakim. This, General, was the beginning of a permanent rift between Herod and the Essene sect.
THE SAGA OF JOSEPH
The prospective global world, General, was subdivided into ten provinces to facilitate governance and tax collection. Palestine would have two provinces, Judea and Samaria, the latter of which would include Galilee. Asia Minor (largely present-day Turkey), where the bulk of Diaspora Jews were concentrated, would have five provinces.
The last three provinces would be Babylon, Rome, and Alexandria in Egypt. The future capital of the West was not Rome: it was Ephesus in Asia Minor. Having been allocated the West, it was in Ephesus and Alexandria that Jacob-Eliakim spent most of his time evangelizing to fellow Jews about the future Kingdom of Israel. This was the beginning of the New Covenant, whereby Jews who converted to the ideal of a new Kingdom of Israel were baptised by immersion in water.
To mainstream Palestinian Jews, General, Jacob-Eliakim was a sellout. Herod had demoted his pedigree but to somewhat placate him, he gave him the honorary title of Patriarch or Prince of Jerusalem. By subordinating the Davidic throne-in-waiting to Herod, Jacob-Eliakim had gone against what the nation of Israel’s God, Enlil, the Bible’s main Jehovah, decreed – that every King of Judah had to be a descendant of David. So when the unpredictable Herod had him killed in 23 BC for “sedition”, as part of a pogrom against the line of David, there was very little sympathy for him.
In 44 BC, Joseph had been born to Jacob-Eliakim. Joseph was a title: it was not his real name. At the death of his father, Joseph became the Jacob. However, he preferred the title “David”, the more apt one historically. Joseph would become the father of Jesus. When Joseph attained 30 years of age in 14 BC, his uncles and the Essene sages sent him to Rome and Alexandria to do his part in missionary work, which was simply about promulgating to the Diaspora Jews the future Kingdom of Israel in which a Son of David, that is a descendant of King David, would rule. Egypt was also a special place because Joseph’s maternal relations were Egyptians.
Jacob-Eliakim, General, had two wives. The one was called Euchariah, a Jewish princess, of whom very little is known, and the other, the dynastic wife, was an Egyptian princess, a daughter of Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Julius Caesar. Jacob-Eliakim and this princess had three sons: they were Joseph, the father of Jesus, and the twins Cleopas (after whom James, Jesus’ immediate younger brother, whose given name was Cleopas, was named) and Ptolas. Joseph was thus the Davidian Prince of Israel as well as contender to Crown Prince of Egypt. Despite pretences to the contrary on the part of the Jews, Egypt and Israel have always had ties of monarchical kinship.
In 8 BC, General, Joseph was required by Essene custom to return home and fulfill his obligations for a dynastic marriage. A wife-to-be had already been chosen for him by his uncles and other patriarchal Essenes. This was Dorcas, better known today by her title name Mary.