In my mission to compare the gospel stories to those in Josephus and ferret out the royal women’s roles in both, I was struck by the story of Sapphira and Ananias in the Book of Acts in the New Testament. It is an odd story…out of the blue…because it shows a totally different side to the disciples. And, because, believe it or not, I can compare it to a royal woman’s story. See what you think.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?…And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost…And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her with her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. Acts 5: 1-11
One doesn’t like to think of the disciples of Jesus and even his brothers…either actual brothers or brothers in arms were this militant…either under the leadership of Simon nicknamed Peter, possibly a brother or James actually called the brother of Jesus. But as we saw in the last post, Peter was arrested and in jail and was miraculously freed by angels. The band of followers did feel like they had “Providence on their side.” But they also had squads of young men who could quickly appear to carry out the bodies from death sentences on their own people. They seemed to live communally which sounds sweetness and light but living under the strict rules of a military camp.
Queen Glaphyra wife of Alexander son of Mariamne the Queen
Now, remember this passage from Josephus about the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus…Aristobulus being, of course, the father of Mariamne III, Herodias AND Agrippa…not to mention the grandfather of Jesus. (My theory)
Then did the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus go round all the palace, and became the inquisitors and discoverers of what could not otherwise have been found out, and brought such as were the freest from suspicion to be examined…Wars of the Jews I.XXX.7
Who were those people that saw and reported on the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus? Coincidentally, Queen Glaphyra’s dream and what happened to her after the dream has serious similarities to what happened to Sapphira. Both women were “hurried away by death.”
The like accident befell Glaphyra his wife… who, during her marriage (to Archelaus) saw the following dream:–She thought she saw Alexander standing by her, and said, – “O Glaphyra; thou provest that saying to be true, which assures us that women are not to be trusted. Didst thou not pledge thy faith to me? Wast thou not married to me when thou wast a virgin? and had we not children between us… However, I will not forget thy former kind affection for me; but will set thee free from every such reproachful action, and cause thee to be mine again, as thou once wast.” When she had related this to her female companions, in a few days’ time she departed this life. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.4
The ghost of Alexander the son of Mariamne I struck Glaphyra dead for her own good. Did the ghost of Alexander (and whomever he was the voice for) become the Holy Ghost (or Jesus?) who is keeping tabs on the saints and the women (who clearly needed watching) and informing against members of their communal society…who are then also “hurried away by death,” their bodies carried off by young men/angels under orders… reminiscent, of course, of the one or two young men in white robes in Jesus’ tomb.
Agrippa the God vs. Jesus Son of God
Whether the group led by James was now united or in factions, militant or guided by angels, Essen or saints or Zealots, perhaps revenge best explains what happened to King Agrippa, their nemesis. In the very next paragraph after the one in Acts where Agrippa killed James son of Zebedee and tried to kill Peter, we learn:
And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied. Acts 12:21-24
Note the “royal apparel.” One could see plants among “the people” calling out blasphemies as perhaps justice for mocking Jesus and by putting a scarlet robe on him? (My theory) Josephus tells a longer, more telling version of the same story.
Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city of Caesarea… (where) a great multitude had gotten together of the principal persons. On the second day of (the festival) he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him: and presently his flatters cried out, one from one place and one from another (though not for his good), that he was a god…Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But, as he presently afterwards looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings…A severe pain also arose in his belly…He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, “I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life…I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death…” Antiquities of the Jews XIX.VIII.2
Called a god, called immortal, the angel of the Lord, “hurried away by death.” Sound familiar?
Gods and Goddesses
Agrippa was poisoned (?) for allowing others to call him a god, but also consider that his being “hurried away by death” was because Agrippa was calling himself a god in competition with the growing claims made for Jesus. The Mediterranean world was not bereft of gods. Agrippa grew up in Rome with Caius who was assassinated because he tried to have himself worshiped as a god. Agrippa should have known better. The Maccabean Hasmoneans, Pharisees, Zealots, and Essenes all believed in the ability of the dead to take a hand in the affairs of the living. The Book of Acts and Josephus are full of divine interventions. And this affront could not be born. Agrippa had made himself their enemy and did not live long. The writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls were also Agrippa’s enemy and inclined to “carry out punishment”:
From The Zadokite Document quoted from The Dead Sea Scriptures
The day on which God will carry out the punishment will be that to which the prophet alluded when he said: “The princes of Judah have become like them that remove landmarks; I will pour out My wrath upon them like water’ [Hos.5.10]. They shall hope for healing, but the blem<ish> shall cl<i>ng to them. They are all of them apostates in that they have not turned from the way of the treacherous but have sullied themselves with wantonness and with wicked lucre and with the nursing of grudges against their fellows and with hatred of their neighbors. They have cheated their own kin and have had contact with lewdness and have been overbearing by virtue of wealth and possession and have done every man of them what was right in their own eyes, and have preferred the stubbornness of their own hearts, and have not kept aloof from the rabble, but have behaved lawlessly and high-handedly, walking in the way of the wicked. vii,9-viii,21