Agrippa vs. James son of Mariamne III

Madonna with Jesus and James
The Madonna and Child with St. James by Andrea Del Saito (1486-1531) from google image  James, second son of Mary/Mariamne III has become quite popular of late.

Worms in Agrippa’s Golden Apple

The first worm in Agrippa’s plan for being the “King to Come” was, of course, his grandfather Herod. He was in the same dilemma of all the grandchildren of the Queen…proving the priests with their genealogies and abhorrence of “strange women” right. Because not only was Agrippa Herodian on his grandfather’s side, but his own mother was also a strange woman. Bernice, widow of Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen was Idumaean on her mother Salome’s side and Arabian on her father’s side…which did not matter one bit to Rome.

But these were hard times for the royal blood. The multitude would take what they could get and Agrippa’s father was also a Hasmonean Prince of the Tower of the Queen.  The multitude so desired to have a king in Judea again, one that had Providence on his side, that they would forgive Agrippa his Herodian blood. There is a tradition recorded in the Mishna[1] about Agrippa at the Feast of Tabernacles in 41 A.D. (King 41-44 A.D.) Agrippa read the set reading for the occasion from the Book of Deuteronomy: “Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee that is not thy brother” (17:15) Agrippa burst into tears feeling that he was unworthy and the multitude cried out to him, “Be not grieved, Agrippa! Thou art our brother!”

(A clue, perhaps, that a Jesus with Herodian blood through his mother, also, might have been accepted by the people…and Rome…if not for his feud with the Annas House of priests.)

James the “brother of the Lord”

Remember this statement from Mark: Is not this the…son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? (6:3) James was the second son of Mary and he and the disciples were the other worm in Agrippa’s apple. In true Middle Eastern fashion, James/Jacob took over the leadership of the group of disciples and family left in Jerusalem after his brother’s death. We learn that from the New Testament Book of Acts and from this one famous quote about James from an early church father:

Now Jacob, the brother of the Lordwho…from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the Church with the apostles…He alone was allowed to enter the Holy Place, He never wore woolen, only linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the Temple alone, and was often to be found upon his knees and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as a camels…And indeed on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just (i.e. Zaddik) and Oblias (i.e. Ophla-am), which signifies Justice and the People’s Bulwark; as the Prophets declare concerning him.  Hegesippus’s Fifth Book, quoted from The Essene by Hugh Schonfield

James was being presented in that passage as a righteous High Priest with the key word “just” as in Righteous, wearing only linen and entering the Holy Place “alone.” The passage was written by someone who had no clue that though the Maccabees were of a priestly line and were the High Priests until Herod, both Agrippa or James were also descendants of Herod and could not be priests let alone the High Priest…because the virgin princess Mariamne I was betrothed to Herod back in the day. The alliance saved the nation from direct Roman takeover…and… tainted the Jewish royal bloodline. But it apparently didn’t stop either one of the men…James and Agrippa his uncle (my theory) …from identifying themselves with the role and perhaps acting it out to some extent in the Temple precincts…perhaps in competition with each other. Here is the context, I feel, for this passage from my last post…

…Agrippa loved to live continually at Jerusalem and was exactly careful in the observance of the laws of his country. He therefore kept himself entirely pure…Antiquities XIX.VII.3

On the Side of the Angels

The Book of Acts’ early pages are taken up with the disciple’s confrontations with the House of Annas, including their hiring Saul/Paul to attack them.

And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people…through Jesus the resurrection for the dead. Acts 4: 1-6.

But Acts also tells us about the family’s continuing battles with King Agrippa. Remember my theory that Agrippa may have had a hand in the deaths of both Jesus and John the Baptist and was then given the kingdom after the death of Jesus son of Mariamne III and the exile of Herodias—both his sisters. Add to this, the seeming fact that James and his brothers and the disciples were still in the city loudly proclaiming that Jesus would be returning momentarily to claim his role as the prophesied King to Come. And Agrippa, newly on the throne and seeing himself as the King to Come[2] (with his own prophecy…see the last post) wasn’t about to let them steal his moment in the sun as Providence’s favored son.

Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword…Acts 12:112

We are not told precisely why “Herod” Agrippa killed James son of Zebedee but “killing with a sword” was a military punishment given a rogue soldier or seditionist…probably a beheading. Clearly, the disciples saw themselves as members of a kingdom whose king was temporarily “abroad.” When he returned, those who held firm would be rewarded for their “friendship.” The mother of James and John sons of Zebedee was said to have petitioned Jesus as a queen mother would petition a king before he died.

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshiping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, “What wilt thou?”  She saith unto him, “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom”…and when the ten heard of it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.  Matthew 20:20-24

Were the “followers of Jesus” peaceful or were they instigating a rebellion?

And because (Agrippa)…proceeded further to take Peter also…and put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him…in prison…And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers bound with two chains… And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him…saying Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself… And he went out…Acts 12:1-11 

If peaceful, why did many of the disciples have militant names like Simon the Rock, James and John the Sons of Thunder, Judas the Sicarii, (Iscariot) and Simon the Zealot? Josephus does not introduce the Sicarii and Zealots by name until closer to the war with Rome; not for another 30 years (as we will see). Were “Simon Peter” and Judas/Jude the brothers of Jesus? Were they attempting a rebellion like many others were beginning to do…or were the nicknames written in later to reflect a nationalistic character to the family civil war between James and Agrippa? Too much “veiling” going on to know for sure.


[1] Quoted here from The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus by Edward Schuer

[2] Another tangent I am fond of is the “fact” that it was Mary Magdalene in all four gospels who proclaimed that her son was resurrected and would yet be back to claim his throne…Would Arise and Thresh! From the prophecy in Micah...And thou, O tower/Magdal of the flock…Arise and thresh…(4:8-15)

3 thoughts on “Agrippa vs. James son of Mariamne III

  1. I actually don’t believe the mainstream view that Herod was Idumean. Most scholars today accept it because Josephus does, but even Josephus unwittingly gives that the accusation comes from Propaganda of Mattathias Antigonus during his rebellion. Herod’s Father and Grander Father had been governors of Idumea under the Hasmoneans which is the kernel of the accusation, but the Hasmoneans probably wouldn’t have given that to actual natives.

    Herod’s relationship with Costobarus shows that his regime wasn’t exactly serving the interests of the Idumeans.

    And as you’re said on this Blog, Rome appointed as Client Kings people with verifiable Royal Ancestry. So I’m inclined to believe that Nicolas of Damascus’s Davidic Genealogy for Herod was in fact correct.


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