A Small Apocalypse

slaughter-of-the-innocents-ghirlandaio-domenico
This painting of the Slaughter of the Innocents shows the slaughter taking place in the Temple not in the tiny town of Bethlehem, more in keeping with Josephus’ recounting of the slaughter of mourners and lamenting mothers attacked in the Temple.

We are now entering into what many Christian writers have called “the lost years.” Except for one legendary episode in Luke that I will look at later, the two birth stories in Matthew and Luke fall silent. The two other gospels, Mark and John, begin when Jesus is “about 30 years old.” So from the beginning of the reign of Archelaus…and the birth of Jesus…both in about 4 B.C….until Jesus begins his public campaign—about 26 A.D. or thereabouts, we know nothing, really, of the life of Mary…other than she seems to have given birth to several more children. Josephus continues on through the ten-year reign of Archelaus before falling silent. After Archelaus there was no king in Judaea and hence no royal records for Josephus to use for his histories.

But Archelaus’ ten-year reign was not without further incident. The rebellion that began in Jerusalem over the lamenting of the mothers for their lost sons broke out into the countryside after Archelaus had left for Rome to be ratified by Augustus. Many men declared themselves to be king.  A king was needed NOW to challenge Archelaus, not in 10 years when the grandsons of Mariamne the Queen come of age or in 15-20 years when a son of Mary or a son of Elizabeth came of age…even with their prophecies. Here is only one of Josephus’ recounting of how certain individuals set themselves up to be the “king to come.” That prophecy was still unfulfilled….

There was also Simon, who had been a slave of Herod the king, but in other respects a comely person, of a tall and robust body;[1] he was one that was much superior to others of his order…This man was elevated at the disorderly state of things, and was so bold as to put a diadem on his head…and…he was declared to be a king…but…Gratus…met Simon, and after a great and a long fight…were destroyed; and although Simon had saved himself by flying away through a certain valley, yet Gratus overtook him, and cut off his head…And thus did a great and wild fury spread itself over the nation, because they had no king to keep the multitude in good order…And now Judea was full of robberies; and, as the several companies of the seditious lighted upon any one to head them, he was created a king immediately, in order to do mischief to the public. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.X.6-8

One wonders who this “Simon” was…who felt he could be a king after being a slave. Of course, I tend to see Hasmoneans everywhere, but many had “fallen to a low degree” under Herod and wanted their titles and palaces back. The Book of Acts writing well after the fact does include a story about “Peter and the other apostles” being brought before the Sanhedrin who then debated what to do with them, putting them in the same context as the men who “rose up” after Herod died and Archelaus took the kingdom and after the census in 10 A.D. that caused Judas the Galilean to rise up.

When they (the Sanhedrin) heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill him (Peter). But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them — in that case you may even be found fighting against God.” Acts 5:33-39 

But while Archelaus was in Rome,  the palaces of the rich were burned and looted and “collaborators” were killed. Genuine patriots and opportunistic robbers would all look alike to Varus the Syrian Legate and the Roman legions that would march in to put a stop to it. From Jerusalem, Varus sent out his army and caught 2000 of those responsible for the rebellion and crucified them outside the city walls. Two thousand crosses. [2]

But the Apocalypse passed. The Resurrection of the Just did not happen. Judas did not appear to lead them, the Saints did not rise from their graves, nor did the “king to come” appear, though many tried. If success meant the ability to beat the Roman legions in warfare and yet be ratified by Rome, it did not happen. God did not personally stepped in to aid His chosen candidate for “king to come” and it was hard to tell who that might be.  Archelaus “entered on his ethnarchy,” as Augustus would not allow him to be called “king” though the people did call him that. Archelaus’ brother Antipas was made the Tetrarch of Galilee and their even younger half-brother Herod Philip son of Cleopatra of Jerusalem was made Tetrarch of Chalcis.

Life went on.

[1] Saul also was a “tall” man which seemed to have been the main criteria for the first king.

[2] Two thousand trees were cut down turning Judea into a desert.

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