The way the gospels are written—and let me say again, I am no expert, merely obsessed with comparing the royal women in Josephus to the gospel women and seeing what happens– nothing deep and I stay away from the religious aspects of the story—it often seems to me that there were two factions among the followers of Jesus according to the way the gospels are written: women and everyone else. It has often been commented on that Jesus spoke to a lot of women for his day. The 70s feminists I read went so far as to make him the first “feminist.” For instance, Jesus was called upon to defend and/or “heal” the women around him, most of whom are considered to be “sinners” by the disciples. The disciples or at least the writers of the gospels also had a bias against the “rich.” If even some of the disciples around Jesus were Essen in their outlook…not surprising if they had been disciples of John the Baptist who has long been considered to be at least affiliated with the Essenes, then it is understandable. As Josephus said of the Essen:
This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not suffer anything to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who hath nothing at all. Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.I.5
Add to that the “sins” of Essen belief that I have quote twice earlier about how women are not to be trusted…and rich women were the worst sinners, even for the Rabbis, as we will see in the next post. Mary Magdalene had money enough to support Jesus but also had seven devils. The Matthew and Luke birth stories also accuse Mary, as do the Rabbis of being an adulteress. The women with enough funds to purchase expensive ointment had to have been “sinners.”
Remember that the very first designation of family for Jesus was Mark 6:3:
“Is this not Jesus…the son of Mary.”
It was changed by each subsequent gospel to make it more patriarchal…because to call a man the son of his mother was unusual. It usually meant that he was illigitimate…and that is a possibility…given all the fuss made about his birth. But I think it is something more, of course. I think that calling Jesus the “son of Mary/Mariamne” placed him immediately in time and space for his audience for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Even forty years after Jesus’ death and after the war that leveled the Jewish nation, Jews would have known what it meant as they were dispersed over the Mediterranean. He was a son of the royal house, a son of the Tower of Mariamne…and his wrongful death will play a part in the lead-up to that war with Rome…as I will attempt to show.
So it is not surprising that there was a tension between the family of Jesus and his disciples. It could be that THEY did not want Jesus seen with his mother. If Jesus had spent time with the Essen, he, too, would have been split down the middle about her. He needed her “substance” and her bloodline if he was ever going to be “King of the Jews” but he was constantly having to defend her for being royal and rich and arrogant as well as a sinner with her strange Herodian blood. Remember that Josephus says that Mariamne the Queen was not above lording her royal blood over the women of Herod’s family who were not royal and she dared even to be “saucy” to Herod himself.[i]
The Gossip about Mary
Let’s first look at the passages where Mary appears in the body of the story. She is allowed one line in the birth stories and is present in John at the cross but does not speak nor is she named. But, she was even allowed to speak in places in the gospels as Josephus let Queen Herodias, her sister, speak also:
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?…And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. Luke 1: 34, 38
Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? And Jesus answering, “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business. Luke 2:48-49
And when his friends heard of it, (picking his disciples?) they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils…There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?…Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. Mark 3:20-31-35
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yes rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. Luke 11:27-28
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come…John 2:3-4
Now the Jews feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world…Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come…Go ye up unto this feast. I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come…John 7 2-10
One way to look at the split is that Mary had an agenda for her son. She wanted him to be named King of the Jews to restore her bloodline and because of her prophecy. She and her other sons pushed him to go to Jerusalem peacefully and declare himself…which ironically led to his death. But the disciples, being at least partly Essene did not trust royal women anyway and Mary/Mariamne in particular.
The other thing to consider is that the gospels writers were all living in Roman controlled territory and all the gospels were written after the hugely destructive and expensive war with Rome in 65-70 A.D. As I’ve said before and will again, it was a bad time to be a Jew…and a bad time to be seen as aligned with Jewish royal blood but even a worse time to be seen as part of the resistance that led to the war…perhaps a resistance led–in part–by Hasmonean freedom fighters who saw themselves as Judas Maccabees holy warriors. Jesus’ bloodline was purposely veiled after the war, but Mariamne III was too well known to leave out. So, they tried to distance her son from her.
Or Jesus, himself, saw the role he was meant to play as something different and needed to break with his family…his mother and his brothers…
There is one more Mary in the New Testament that holds a key to the last days of Jesus; Mary of Bethany.
[i] Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.6…”She took too unbounded a liberty” with Herod who was, after all, the king.
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