In the twenty-first century B.C.E., when nuclear weapons were first used on Earth, Abraham was blessed with wine and bread at Ur-Shalem in the name of the God Most High— and proclaimed Mankind’s first Monotheistic religion.
Twenty-one centuries later, a devout descendant of Abraham, celebrating a special supper in Jerusalem, carried on his back a cross—the symbol of a certain planet—to a place of execution, and gave rise to another monotheistic religion. Questions still swirl about him—Who really was he? What was he doing in Jerusalem? Was there a plot against him, or was he his own plotter? And what was the chalice that has given rise to the legends about (and searches for) the “Holy Grail”?
On his last evening of freedom he celebrated the Jewish Passover ceremonial meal (called Seder in Hebrew) with wine and unleavened bread together with his twelve disciples, and the scene has been immortalized by some of the greatest painters of religious art, Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper being the most famous of them (Fig. 122). Leonardo was renowned for his scientific knowledge and theological insights; what his painting shows has been discussed, debated, and analyzed to this day—deepening, rather than resolving, the enigmas.
The key to unlocking the mysteries, we shall show, lies in what the painting does not show; it is what is missing from it that holds answers to troubling puzzles in the saga of God and Man on Earth, and the yearnings for Messianic Times. Past, Present, and Future do converge in the two events, separated by twenty-one centuries; Jerusalem was pivotal to both, and by their timing, they were linked by biblical prophecies about the End of Days.
To understand what happened twenty-one centuries ago, we need to roll the pages of history back to Alexander, who deemed himself the son of a god, yet died in Babylon at the young age of thirty-two. While alive, he controlled his feuding generals through a mixture of favors, punishments, and even untimely deaths (some, in fact, believed that Alexander himself was poisoned). No sooner did he die than his four year-old son and his guardian, Alexander’s brother, were murdered and the quarrelling generals and regional commanders divided between them the main conquered lands: Ptolemy and his successors, headquartered in Egypt, seized Alexander’s African domains; Seleucus and his successors ruled, from Syria, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the distant Asian lands; the contested Judea (with Jerusalem) ended up in the Ptolemaic realm.
The Ptolemies, having managed to maneuver Alexander’s body for burial in Egypt, considered themselves his true heirs and, by and large, continued his tolerant attitude toward others’ religions. They established the famed Library of Alexandria, and assigned an Egyptian priest, known as Mane-tho, to write down Egypt’s dynastic history and divine prehistory for the Greeks (archaeology has confirmed what is still known of Manetho’s writings). That convinced the Ptolemies that their civilization was a continuation of the Egyptian one, and they thus considered themselves rightful successors to the Pharaohs. Greek savants showed particular interest in the religion and writings of the Jews, so much so that the Ptolemies arranged for the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek (a translation known as the Septuagint) and allowed the Jews complete religious freedom of worship in Judea, as well as in their growing communities in Egypt.
Like the Ptolemies, the Seleucids also retained a Greek-speaking scholar, a former priest of Marduk known as Berossus, to compile for them the history and prehistory of Mankind and its gods according to Mesopotamian knowledge. In a twist of history, he researched and wrote at a library of cuneiform tablets located near Harran. It is from his three books (which we know of only from fragmented quotations in the writings of others in antiquity) that the Western world, of Greece and then Rome, learnt of the Anunnaki and their coming to Earth, the prediluvial era, the creation of Wise Man, the Deluge, and what followed. Thus it was from Berossus (as later confirmed by the discovery and decipherment of the cuneiform tablets) that the 3600 “Sar” as the “year” of the gods was first learnt.
In 200 B.C.E. the Seleucids crossed the Ptolemaic boundary and captured Judea. As in other instances, historians have searched for geopolitical and economic reasons for the war—ignoring the religious-messianic aspects. It was in the report about the Deluge that the tidbit information was given by Berossus, that Ea/Enki instructed Ziusudra (the Sumerian “Noah”) to “conceal every available writing in Sippar, the city of Shamash,” for post-Diluvial recovery, because those writings “were about beginnings, middles and ends.” According to Berossus, the world undergoes periodic cataclysms, and he related them to the zodiacal Ages, his contemporary one having begun 1,920 years before the Seleucid Era (312 B.C.E.); that would have placed the beginning of the Age of the Ram in 2232 B.C.E.—an Age destined to come soon to an end even if the full mathematical length is granted to it (2232–2160 = 122 B.C.E.).
The available records suggest that the Seleucid kings, coupling those calculations with the Missing Return, were seized with
the need to urgently expect and prepare for one. A frenzy of rebuilding the ruined temples of Sumer and Akkad began, with emphasis on the
E.ANNA—the “House of Anu”—in Uruk. The Landing Place in Lebanon, called by them Heliopolis—City of the Sun god—was rededicated by erecting a temple honoring Zeus. The reason for the war to capture Judea, one must conclude, was the urgency of also preparing the space-related site in Jerusalem for the Return. It was, we suggest, the Greek-Seleucid way of preparing for the reappearance of the gods.
Unlike the Ptolemies, the Seleucid rulers were determined to impose the Hellenic culture and religion in their domains. The change was most significant in Jerusalem, where suddenly foreign troops were stationed and the authority of the Temple priests was curtailed. Hellenistic culture and customs were forcefully introduced; even names had to be changed, starting with the high priest, who was obliged to change his name from Joshua to Jason. Civil laws restricted Jewish citizenship in Jerusalem; taxes were raised to finance the teaching of athletics and wrestling instead of the Torah; and in the countryside, shrines to Greek deities were being erected by the authorities and soldiers were sent to enforce worship in them.
In 169 B.C.E. the then Seleucid king, Antiochus IV (who adopted the epithet Epiphanes) came to Jerusalem. It was not a courtesy visit. Violating the Temple’s sanctity, he entered the Holy of Holies. On his orders, the Temple’s treasured golden ritual objects were confiscated, a Greek governor was put in charge of the city, and a fortress for a permanent garrison of foreign soldiers was built next to the Temple. Back in his Syrian capital, Antiochus issued a proclamation requiring worship of Greek gods throughout the kingdom; in Judea, it specifically forbade the observance of the Sabbath and circumcision. In accordance with the decree, the Jerusalem temple was to become a temple to Zeus; and in 167 B.C.E., on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev—equivalent to today’s December 25—an idol, a statue representing Zeus, “The Lord of Heaven,” was set up by Syrian-Greek soldiers in the temple, and the great altar was altered and used for sacrifices to Zeus. The sacrilege could not have been greater.
The unavoidable Jewish uprising, begun and led by a priest named Matityahu and his five sons, is known as the Hashmonean or Maccabean Revolt. Starting in the countryside, the uprising quickly overcame the local Greek garrisons. As the Greeks rushed in reinforcements, the revolt engulfed the whole country; what the Maccabees lacked in numbers and weapons, they compensated for by the ferocity of their religious zeal. The events, described in the Book of Maccabees (and by subsequent historians), leave no doubt that the fight of the few against a powerful kingdom was guided by a certain timetable: It was imperative to retake Jerusalem, cleanse the temple, and rededicate it to Yahweh by a certain deadline. Managing in 164 B.C.E. to recapture only the Temple Mount, the Maccabees cleansed the Temple, and the sacred flame was rekindled that year; the final victory, leading to full control of Jerusalem and restoration of Jewish independence, took place in 160 B.C.E. The victory and rededication of the Temple are still celebrated by Jews as the holiday of Hanukkah (“rededication”) on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev.
The sequence and the timing of those events appeared to be linked to the prophecies about the End of Days. Of those prophecies, as we have seen, the ones that offered specific numerical clues in regard to the ultimate future, the End of Days, were conveyed by the angels to Daniel. But clarity is lacking because the counts were enigmatically expressed either in a unit called “time,” or in “weeks of years,” and even in numbers of days; and it is perhaps only in respect to the latter that one is told when the count does begin, so that one could know when it would end. In that one instance, the count was to begin from the day when “regular offering is abolished and an appalling abomination is set up” in the Jerusalem temple; we have established that such an abominable act indeed took place one day in 167 B.C.E.
With the sequence of those events in mind, the count of days given to Daniel must have applied to the specific events at the Temple: its defiling in 167 B.C.E. (“when the regular offering is abolished and an appalling abomination is set up”), the cleansing of the Temple in 164 B.C.E. (after “a thousand and two hundred and ninety days”), and Jerusalem’s complete liberation by 160 B.C.E. (“happy is the one who waits and reaches one thousand three hundred and thirty five days”). The numbers of days, 1290 and 1335, basically match the sequence of events at the Temple.
According to the prophecies in the Book of Daniel, it was then that the clock of the End of Days began ticking.
The imperative of recapturing the whole city and the removal of uncircumcised foreign soldiers from the Temple Mount by 160 B.C.E. hold the key to another clue. While we have been using the accepted count of B.C.E. and A.D. for dating events, the people of those past times obviously could not and did not use a timetable based on a future Christian calendar. The Hebrew calendar, as we have mentioned earlier, was the calendar begun in Nippur in 3760 B.C.E.—and according to that calendar, what we call 160 B.C.E. was precisely the year 3600!
That, as the reader knows by now, was a SAR, the original (mathematical) orbital period of Nibiru. And though Nibiru had reappeared four hundred years earlier, the arrival of the SAR year—3,600—the completion of one Divine Year— was of unavoidable significance. To those to whom the biblical prophecies of the return of Yahweh’s Kavod to His Temple Mount were unquestioned divine pronouncements, the year we call “160 B.C.E.” was a crucial moment of truth: no matter where the planet was, God has promised to Return to His Temple, and the temple had to be purified and readied for that.
That the passage of years according to the Nippurian/Hebrew calendar was not lost sight of in those turbulent times is attested by the Book of Jubilees, an extrabiblical book presumed to have been written in Hebrew in Jerusalem in the years following the Maccabean revolt (now available only from its Greek, Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, and Slavonic translations). It retells the history of the Jewish people from the time of the Exodus in time units of Jubilees—the 50-year units decreed by Yahweh at Mount Sinai (see our chapter IX); it also created a consecutive calendrical historical count that has since become known as Annu Mundi—”Year of the World” in Latin—that starts in 3760 B.C.E. Scholars (such as the Rev. R.H. Charles in his English rendition of the book) converted such “Jubilee of years” and their “weeks” to an Anno Mundi count.
That such a calendar was not only kept throughout the ancient Near East, but even determined when events were timed to happen, can be ascertained by simply reviewing some pivotal dates (often highlighted in bold font) given in our earlier chapters. If we choose just a few of those key historical events, this is what transpires when the “B.C.E.” is converted to “N.C.” (Nippurian Calendar):
|3760||0||Sumerian civilization. Nipput calender begins|
|3460||300||The Tower of Babel incident|
|2860||900||Bull of Heaven killed by Gilgamesh|
|2360||1400||Sargon: Era of Akkad begins|
|2160||1600||First Intermediate Period in Egypt; Era of Ninurta (Gudea builds Temple-of-Fifty)|
|2060||1700||Nabu organizes Marduk’s followers; Abraham to Canaan; War of the Kings|
|1960||1800||Marduk’s Esagil temple in Babylon|
|1760||2000||Hammurabi consolidates Marduk’s supremacy|
|1560||2200||New dynasty (“Middle Kingdom”) in Egypt; new dynastic rule (“Kassite”) begins in Babylon|
|1460||2300||Anshan, Elam, Mitanni emerge against Babylon; Moses in Sinai, the “burning bush”|
|960||2800||Neo-Assyrian empire launched; Akitu festival renewed in Babylon|
|860||2900||Ashurnasirpal wears cross symbol|
|760||3000||Prophecy in Jerusalem begins with Amos|
|560||3200||Anunnaki gods complete their Departure; Persians challenge Babylon; Cyrus|
|460||3100||Greece’s golden age; Herodotus in Egypt|
|160||3600||Maccabees free Jerusalem, Temple rededicated|
The impatient reader will hardly wait to fill in the next entries:
|60||3700||The Romans build the Jupiter temple at Baalbek, occupy Jerusalem|
|0||3760||Jesus of Nazareth; A.D. count begins|
The century and a half that elapsed from the Maccabean freeing of Jerusalem to the events connected with Jesus after he arrived there were some of the most turbulent in the history of the ancient world and of the Jewish People in particular.
That crucial period, whose events affect us to this day, began with understandable jubilation. For the first time in centuries the Jews were again complete masters of their holy capital and sacred Temple, free to appoint their own kings and High Priests. Though the fighting at the borders continued, the borders themselves now extended to encompass much of the olden united kingdom of David’s time. The establishment of an independent Jewish state, with Jerusalem as its capital, under the Hashmoneans was a triumphal event in all respects—except one:
The return of Yahweh’s Kavod, expected at the End of Days, did not take place, even though the count of days from abomination time seemed to have been correct. Was the Time of Fulfillment not yet at hand, many wondered; and it became evident that the enigmas of Daniel’s other counts, of “years” and “weeks of years” and of “Time, Times,” and so on had yet to be deciphered.
Clues were the prophetic parts in the Book of Daniel that spoke of the rise and fall of future kingdoms after Babylon, Persia, and Egypt—kingdoms cryptically called “of the south,” “of the north,” or a seafaring “Kittim”; and kingdoms that shall split off them, fight each other, “plant tabernacles of palaces between the seas”—all future entities that were also cryptically represented by varied animals (a ram, a goat, a lion and so on) whose offspring, called “horns,” will again split apart and fight each other. Who were those future nations, and what wars were foretold?
The Prophet Ezekiel also spoke of great battles to come, between north and south, between an unidentified Gog and an opposing Magog; and people were wondering whether the prophesied kingdoms have already appeared on the scene— Alexander’s Greece, the Seleucids, the Ptolemies. Were these the subject of the prophecies, or was it someone yet to come in the even more distant future?
There was theological turmoil: Was the expectation at the Jerusalem Temple of the Kavod as a physical object a correct understanding of prophecies, or was the expected Coming only of a symbolic, of an ephemeral nature, a spiritual Presence? What was required of the people—or was what was destined to happen will happen no matter what? The Jewish leadership split between devout and by-the-book Pharisees and the more liberal Sadducees,
who were more internationally minded, recognizing the importance of a Jewish
diaspora already spread from Egypt to Anatolia to Mesopotamia. In addition to these two mainstreams, small sects, sometimes organized in their own communities, sprang up; the best known of them are the Essenes (of the Dead Sea Scrolls fame), who secluded themselves at Qumran.
In the efforts to decipher the prophecies, a rising new power—Rome—had to be figured in. Having won repeated wars with the Phoenicians and with the Greeks, the Romans controlled the Mediterranean and began to get involved in the affairs of Ptolemian Egypt and the Seleucid Levant (Judea included). Armies followed imperial delegates; by 60 B.C.E., the Romans, under Pompey, occupied Jerusalem. On the way there, like Alexander before him, he detoured to Heliopolis (alias Baalbek) and offered sacrifices to Jupiter; it was followed by the building there, atop the earlier colossal stone blocks, of the Roman empire’s greatest temple to Jupiter (Fig. 123). A commemorative inscription found at the site indicates that the emperor Nero visited the place in A.D. 60, suggesting that the Roman temple was already built by then.
The national and religious turmoil of those days found expression in a proliferation of historic-prophetic writings, such as the Book of Jubilees, the Book of Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Assumption of Moses (and several others, all collectively known as the Apocrypha and Pseuda-Epigrapha). The common theme in them was a belief that history is cyclical, that all has been foretold, that the End of Days—a time of turmoil and upheaval—will mark not just an end of a historic cycle but also the beginning of a new one, and that the “flipover time” (to use a modern expression) will be manifest by the coming of the “Anointed One“—Mashi’ach in Hebrew (translated Chrystos in Greek, and thus Messiah or Christ in English).
The act of anointing a newly invested king with priestly oil was known in the Ancient World, at least from the time of Sargon. It was recognized in the Bible as an act of consecration to God from the earliest times, but its most memorable instance was when the priest Samuel, custodian of the Ark of the Covenant, summoned David, the son of Jesse, and, proclaiming him king by the grace of God,
Took the horn of oil and anointed him
in the presence of his brethren;
and the Spirit of God
came upon David from that day on.
—I Samuel 16: 13
Studying every prophecy and every prophetic utterance, the devout in Jerusalem found repeated references to David as God’s Anointed, and a divine vow that it will be of “his seed”—by a descendant of the House of David—that his throne shall be established again in Jerusalem “in days that are to come.” It is on the “throne of David” that future kings, who must be of the House of David, shall sit in Jerusalem; and when that shall happen, the kings and princes of the Earth shall flock to Jerusalem for justice, peace, and the word of God. This, God vowed, is “an everlasting promise,” God’s covenant “for all generations.” The universality of this vow is attested to in Isaiah 16: 5 and 22: 22; Jeremiah 17: 25, 23: 5, and 30: 3; Amos 9: 11; Habakkuk 3: 13; Zechariah 12: 8; Psalms 18: 50, 89: 4, 132: 10, 132: 17, and so on.
These are strong words, unmistakable in their messianic covenant with the House of David, yet they are also full of explosive facets that virtually dictated the course of events in Jerusalem. Linked to that was the matter of the Prophet Elijah.
Elijah, nicknamed the Thisbite after the name of his town in the district of Gile’ad, was a biblical prophet active in the kingdom of Israel (after the split from Judea) in the ninth century B.C.E., during the reign of king Ahab and his Canaanite wife, Queen Jezebel. True to his Hebrew name, Eli-Yahu— “Yahweh is my God”—he was in constant conflict with the priests and “spokesmen” of the Canaanite god Ba’al (“the Lord”), whose worship Jezebel was promoting. After a period of seclusion at a hiding place near the Jordan River, where he was ordained to become “A Man of God,” he was given a “mantle of haircloth” that held magical powers, and was able to perform miracles in the name of God. His first reported miracle (I Kings Chapter 17) was the making of a spoonful of flour and a little cooking oil last a widow as food for the rest of her lifetime. He then resurrected her son, who had died of a virulent illness. During a contest with the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel, he could summon a fire from the sky. His was the only biblical instance of an Israelite revisiting Mount Sinai since the Exodus: when he escaped for his life from the wrath of Jezebel and the priests of Ba’al, an Angel of the Lord sheltered him in a cave on Mount Sinai.
Of him the Scriptures said that he did not die because he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind to be with God. His ascent, as described in great detail in II Kings Chapter 2, was neither a sudden nor an unexpected occurrence; on the contrary, it was a preplanned and prearranged operation whose place and time were communicated to Elijah in advance.
The designated place was in the Jordan Valley, on the eastern side of the river. When it was time to go there, his disciples, headed by one named Elisha, went along. He made a stop at Gilgal (where Yahweh’s miracles were performed for the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua). There he tried to shake off his companions, but they went on to accompany him to Beth-El; though asked to stay put and let Elijah cross the river by himself, they stuck with him unto the last stop, Jericho, all the while asking Elisha whether it was “true that the Lord will take Elijah heavenward today?”
At the bank of the Jordan River, Elijah rolled his miracle mantle and struck the waters, parting them, enabling him to cross the river. The other disciples stayed behind, but even then Elisha persisted on being with Elijah, crossing over with him;
And as they continued to walk and to talk,
there appeared a chariot of fire with horses of fire,
and the two were separated.
And Elijah went up to heaven, in a whirlwind.
And Elisha saw and cried out:
“My father! My father!
the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!”
And he saw it no more.
—II Kings 2: 11–12
Archaeological excavations at Tell Ghassul (the “Prophet’s Mound”), a site in Jordan that fits the biblical tale’s geography, have uncovered murals that depicted the “whirlwinds” shown in Fig. 103. It is the only site excavated under the auspices of the Vatican. (My search for the finds, which covered archaeological museums in Israel and Jordan and included a visit to the site in Jordan, and ultimately led to the Jesuit-run Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem—Fig. 124—is described in The Earth Chronicles Expeditions.)
Jewish tradition has held that the transfigured Elijah will one day return as a harbinger of final redemption for the people of Israel, a herald of the Messiah. The tradition was already recorded in the fifth century B.C.E. by the Prophet Malachi—the last biblical Prophet—in his final prophecy. Because tradition held that the Mount Sinai cave where the angel took Elijah was where God had revealed himself to Moses, Elijah has been expected to reappear at the start of the Passover festival, when the Exodus is commemorated. To this day the Seder, the ceremonial evening meal when the seven-day Passover holiday begins, requires the placement on the meal table of a wine-filled cup for Elijah, to sip from as he arrives; the door is opened to enable him to enter, and a prescribed hymn is recited, expressing the hope that he will soon herald “the Messiah, son of David.” (As is the case with Christian kids being told that Santa Claus did sneak down the chimney and bring them the gifts they see, so are Jewish kids told that though unseen, Elijah did sneak in and took a tiny sip of wine.) By custom, “Elijah’s Cup” has been embellished to become an artful goblet, a chalice never used for any purpose other than for the Elijah ritual at the Passover meal. The “Last Supper” of Jesus was that tradition-filled Passover meal.
Though retaining the semblance of choosing its own high priest and king, Judea became for all intents and purposes a Roman colony, ruled first from headquarters in Syria, then by local governors. The Roman governor, called Procurator, made sure that the Jews chose as Ethnarch (“Head of the Jewish Council”) to serve as the Temple’s High Priest, and at first also a “King of the Jews” (not “King of Judea” as a country), whomever Rome preferred. From 36 to 4 B.C.E. the king was Herod, descended of Edomite converts to Judaism, who was the choice of two Roman generals (of Cleopatra fame): Mark Anthony and Octavian. Herod left a legacy of monumental structures, including the enhancement of the Temple Mount and the strategic palace-cum-fortress of Masada at the Dead Sea; he also paid heed to the governor’s wishes as a de facto vassal of Rome.
It was into a Jerusalem enlarged and magnified by Hashmonean and Herodian constructions, thronged with pilgrims for the Passover holiday, that Jesus of Nazareth arrived—in A.D. 33 (according to the accepted scholarly dating). At that time the Jews were allowed to retain only a religious authority, a council of seventy elders called the Sanhedrin; there was no longer a Jewish king; the land, no longer a Jewish state but a Roman province, was governed by the Procurator Pontius Pilate, ensconced in the Antonia Citadel that adjoined the Temple.
Tensions between the Jewish populace and the Roman masters of the land were rising, and resulted in a series of bloody riots in Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate, arriving in Jerusalem in A.D. 26, made matters worse by bringing into the city Roman legionnaires with their pole-mounted signae and coinage, bearing graven images forbidden in the Temple; Jews showing resistance were pitilessly sentenced to crucifixion in such numbers that the place of execution was nicknamed Gulgatha—Place of the Skulls.
Jesus had been to Jerusalem before; “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast; and when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem” (Luke 2: 41–43). When Jesus arrived (with his disciples) this time, the situation was certainly not what was expected, not what the biblical prophecies promised. Devout Jews—as Jesus most certainly was—were beholden to the idea of redemption, of salvation by a Messiah, central to which was the special and everlasting bond between God and the House of David. It was clearly and most emphatically expressed in the magnificent Psalm 89 (19–29), in which Yahweh, speaking to his faithful followers in a vision, said:
I have exalted one chosen out of the people;
I have found David, my servant;
With my holy oil have I anointed him …
He shall call out to me:
“Thou art my father, my God,
the rock of my salvation!”
And I as a Firstborn shall place him,
supreme of all the kings on Earth.
My compassion for him forever I will keep,
My faithfulness I shall not betray;
My covenant with him will not be violated,
What I have uttered I shall not change …
I shall make his seed endure forever,
his throne [endure] as the Days of Heaven.
Was not that reference to the “Days of Heaven” a clue, a linkage between the coming of a Savior and the prophesied End of Days? Was it not the time to see the prophecies come true? And so it was that Jesus of Nazareth, now in Jerusalem with his twelve disciples, determined to take matters into his own hands: if salvation requires an Anointed One of the House of David, he, Jesus, would be the one!
His very Hebrew name—Yehu-shuah (“Joshua”)—meant Yahweh’s Savior; and as for the requirement that the Anointed One (“Messiah”) be of the House of David, that he was: the very opening verse of the New Testament, in the Gospel According to St. Matthew, says: “The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Then, there and elsewhere in the New Testament, the genealogy of Jesus is given through the generations: Fourteen generations from Abraham to David; fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian exile; fourteen generations from then to Jesus. He was qualified, the Gospels assured one and all.
Our sources for what happened next are the gospels and other books of the New Testament. We know that the “eyewitness reports” were in fact written long after the events; we know that the codified version is the result of deliberations at a convocation called by the Roman emperor Constantine three centuries later; we know that “gnostic” manuscripts, like the Nag Hammadi documents or the Gospel of Judas, give different versions that the Church had reason to suppress; we even know—which is an undisputed fact—that at first there was a Jerusalem Church led by the brother of Jesus, aimed exclusively at Jewish followers, that was overtaken, superseded, and eliminated by the Church of Rome that addressed the gentiles. Yet follow we shall the “official” version, for it, by itself, links the Jesus events in Jerusalem to all the previous centuries and millennia, as told heretofore in this book.
First, any doubt, if it still exists, that Jesus came to Jerusalem at Passover time and that the “Last Supper” was the Passover Seder meal must be removed. Matthew 26: 2, Mark 14: 1, and Luke 22: 1 quote Jesus saying to his disciples as they arrived in Jerusalem: “Ye know that after two days is the Feast of the Passover”; “After two days was the feast of the Passover, of the unleavened bread”; and “Now the feast of the unleavened bread drew nigh, and it is called the Passover.” The three gospels, in the same chapters, then state that Jesus told his disciples to go to a certain house, where they would be able to celebrate the Passover meal with which the holiday begins.
Next to be tackled is the matter of Elijah, the herald of the coming Messiah (Luke 1: 17 even quoted the relevant verses in Malachi). According to the Gospels, the people who heard about the miracles that Jesus performed—miracles that were so similar to those by the prophet Elijah—at first wondered whether Jesus was Elijah reappeared. Not saying no, Jesus challenged his closest disciples: “What say you that I am? And Peter answered and said unto him: Thou art the Anointed One” (Mark 8: 28–29).
If so, he was asked, where is Elijah, who had to appear first? And Jesus answered: Yes, of course, but he has already come!
And they asked him, saying:
Why say the scribes that Elias must first?
And he answered and told them:
Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things …
But I say unto you
That Elias has indeed come.
—Mark 9: 11,13
This was an audacious statement, the test of which was about to come: for if Elijah has in fact returned to Earth, “is indeed come,” thereby fulfilling the prerequisite for the Messiah’s coming—then he had to show up at the Seder and drink from his cup of wine!
As custom and tradition required, the Cup of Elijah, filled with wine, was set on the Seder table of Jesus and his disciples. The ceremonial meal is described in Mark, Chapter 14. Conducting the Seder, Jesus took the unleavened bread (now called Matzoh) and made the blessing, and broke it, and gave pieces of it to his disciples. “And he took the cup, and when he had thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it” (Mark 14: 23).
So, without doubt, the Cup of Elijah was there, but Da Vinci chose not to show it. In this The Last Supper painting, which could only be based on the New Testament passages, Jesus is not holding the crucial cup, and nowhere is there a wine cup on the table! Instead there is an inexplicable gap to the right of Jesus (Fig. 125), and the disciple to his right is bending sideways as if to allow someone unseen to come between them:
Was the thoroughly theologically correct Da Vinci implying that an unseen Elijah did come through the open windows, behind Jesus, and took away the cup that was his? Elijah, the painting thereby suggests, did return; the herald preceding the Anointed King of the House of David did arrive.
And thus confirmed, when the arrested Jesus was brought before the Roman governor who asked him: “Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus said unto him: Thou sayest” (Matthew 27: 11). The sentence, to die on the cross, was inevitable.
When Jesus raised the cup of wine and made the required blessing, he said to his disciples, according to Mark 14: 24, “This is my blood of the new testament.” IF these were his exact words, he did not mean to say that they were to drink wine turned to blood—a grave transgression of one of the strictest prohibitions of Judaism from the earliest times, “for blood is the soul.” What he said (or meant to say) was that the wine in this cup, the Cup of Elijah, was a testament, a confirmation of his bloodline. And Da Vinci depicted it convincingly by its disappearance, presumably taken away by the visiting Elijah.
The vanished cup has been a favorite subject of authors over the centuries. The tales became legends: the Crusaders sought it; Knights Templar found it; it was brought over to Europe… the cup became a goblet, a chalice; it was the chalice representing the Royal Blood—Sang Real in French, becoming San Greal, the Holy Grail
Or had it, after all, never left Jerusalem?
The continued subjugation and intensified Roman repression of the Jews in Judea led to the outbreak of Rome’s most challenging rebellion; it took Rome’s greatest generals and best legions seven years to defeat little Judea and reach Jerusalem. In A.D. 70, after a prolonged siege and fierce hand-to-hand battles, the Romans breached the Temple’s defenses; and the commanding general, Titus, ordered the Temple put to the torch. Though resistance continued elsewhere for another three years, the Jewish Great Revolt was over. The triumphant Romans were so jubilant that they commemorated the victory with a series of coins that announced to the world Judaea Capta—Judea Captured—and erected a victory archway in Rome depicting the looted Temple’s ritual objects (Fig. 126).
But during each year of independence, Jewish coins were struck with the legend “Year One,” “Year Two,” etc., “for the freedom of Zion,” showing fruits of the land as decorative themes. Inexplicably, the coins of years two and three bore the image of a chalice (Fig. 127)…
Was the “Holy Grail” still in Jerusalem?