Mary the Nazarite

Madonna_catacomb
The earliest known depiction of Mary and baby Jesus from the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome dated to “late 2nd century.” Can’t tell how she is wearing her hair but it is either long and loose or more likely she is wearing a mantle. By then Paul would have had his way…Wikipedia.

So, if two actual historical queens took Nazarite vows in Jerusalem 20 to 30 years after the death of Jesus, is it too far afield to think that Mary/Mariamne made a long-term even life-long Nazarite vow until her prophecy was fulfilled…until her son returned to claim the kingdom? It will be a short discussion.

My first thought is, if I had a prophecy that I would bear a special son, I would want to look up how to do it right. Pre-google, you went to a scribe to look it up in the Torah or the prophets, as clearly the gospel writers did for the prophecies Jesus fulfilled.

And…in another “believe it or not,” there is a prescription given to a young woman by an angel on how to bear such a son…it is the story of the mother of Samson.

livia-jpg
Livia, wife of Augustus Caesar, shown with curled hair in front, two long ringlets, probably braided in the back, with a crown and a mantle. Wikipedia

…And there was a certain man…whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren…And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren…but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines…Judges 13:1-14

For a son to be “a Nazarite from his mother’s womb” as James is depicted, his mother should be pure also. In a desert climate wine was the drink of choice. It would make sense that a pregnant woman should abstain in order to be sure that the child would not be brain-damaged from her drinking wine like water. The admonition in Judges was way ahead of its time…and had to be relearned in the U.S. not that long ago.

If James second son of Mary/Mariamne III was a Nazarite “from his mother’s womb,” was Jesus, also? Luke hints at it, perhaps for those with eyes to see. He has the angel say to Mary:

For he shall be great in the sigh of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:15)

Or, perhaps, a short-term vow until his mission was successfully completed…like this quote from Jesus’ last supper…

For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. (Luke 21:35)

The Jewish Encyclopedia on-line says that it was not uncommon for someone to take a vow like this;

“Let me be a Nazarite on the day when the son of David [the Messiah] shall come.” Such a Nazarite was allowed to drink wine only on the Sabbath and on feast-days, since the Messiah will not appear on these days (‘Er. 43a).

As mentioned in other posts the terms “Nazareth/Nazarene” used in the New Testament, have been thought to be misunderstandings of the term “Nazarite” by non-Jewish gospel authors…no town of Nazareth during Jesus’ lifetime has been found, for instance. I would like to think that Mariamne III was surely in the city when Queen Helena built her palace there. (Acts 1:14) And, she would have known of Helena’s long-term Nazarite vow so her “only-begotten” son would return to her alive from a war. Or, perhaps Helena was following Mariamne’s lead. Mariamne III would certainly have known Queen Bernice…her niece…and they would have known her. (If Mary was a damsel or ever before the age of puberty when she had Jesus in 4 B.C., she would have been in her early to mid-60s.)

How did Mariamne III wear her hair? That might be a clue as to how she saw herself. If she was trying to emphasis her royal blood, especially if she planned to appeal to Rome for her son, she would have been wearing her hair braided as Bernice is depicted in her statues, perhaps even with a crown of hair if a long Nazarite vow. If Mary was emphasizing her virginity–remember the trials she may have been put through over her “abuse”…she is known to this day as “the virgin,” she might have worn her hair, as she is often depicted, long and loose hair with or without a mantle. A fairly aggressive in your face move…If she is depicted as Mary Magdalene at the other end of the spectrum, she is shown with the long loose hair of a loose woman…but it might account for the “prostitute” slander against the name Magdalene.  Either way Mary as the mother of Jesus is normally depicted with almost no hair visible but with a crown and a mantle…But what if we throw a Nazarite vow into the mix?

As the Jewish Encyclopedia further says:

A Nazarite for life might cut his too abundant hair once a year but Samson Nazarites might not cut hair under any circumstances.

Perhaps Mariamne III did as Judges admonished her to do until the birth of her son and just continued on and did not cut her hair AND left it uncovered. If one looks it up–like for instance, http://www.bibleandjewishstudies.net/articles/haircovering, Dr. Leila Leah Bronner’s article, one finds that it is undetermined whether women kept their hair covered or uncovered.

My preference is that Mary/Mariamne III wore her hair long and braided and uncovered because the veils were for the termination of the vow to cover her shorn head…and my guess is that Mary was still waiting for her son to return…as were his followers. But here, really, is a reason to suspect this. Paul by the 50’s A.D. inherited groups of followers where women were doing things he didn’t approve of and since it was 20 years past the death of Jesus and he had not returned yet, Paul and his disciple Timothy, for one, felt he had to reign in the women who were doing things they felt entitled to do that were normally done by men. Read his letters and the many admonitions against women doing this and that….He mentions rules about women’s hair several times. The famous one is:

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn; but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered…For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels…Judge in yourselves; is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her for a covering. I Corinthians 11:5-6, 10-15

And this:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. I Timothy 2:9

I think this is a garbled admonition to women to stop already with the Nazarite vows and trying to emulate the women around Jesus. Paul would have known Queen Helena–they both tried to help Jerusalem’s famine–and as we will see, he also knew Queen Bernice. He never mentions Mary, though, merely stating that Jesus was born in the normal fashion…”born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4) I think we see her, though, in the “early church” in all Paul and his disciples prohibitions against uppity (rich and royal sinner) women still taking long-term Nazarite vows with braided but uncovered hair…and there are a lot of them. Paul wanted them shorn and veiled and back at home where they should be.

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