Later gospel writers and church fathers seemed annoyed that there were so many women named “Mary” in the New Testament. Lists were often made trying to nail them all down…a hopeless task. The usual method of listing them was to combine a few as Marina Warner did in her book Alone of All Her Sex. She devoted an appendix to the thankless task she called, A Muddle of Marys, and ends with these words:
Theonly text to deal satisfactorily with the problem is the Twentieth Discourse, a spurious Coptic work attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem in which the Virgin introduces herself as all possible Marys: “I am Mary Magdalene, because the name of the village…was Magdalia. My name is Mary of Cleopa. I am Mary of James the son of Joseph the carpenter.”
Matthew was the first gospel to add a birth story, probably to answer questions about Mary that persisted in ca 100 A.D. Scholars say that Matthew is the most Jewish of the gospels, so his birth story is told from Joseph’s perspective. And yet, Matthew subtly makes Mary more important than Joseph, to the point of saying that he is not Jesus’ father.
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Messiah. Matthew 1:16
That is exactly the birth story Matthew fleshed out.
Now the birth of Jesus…was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child… Matthew 1: 18-19
If Joseph had a Davidic bloodline and had contracted an alliance with a young virgin princess who could bear a contender for the throne…this was a blow…even with her prophecy (See post on The Abuse of the Virgins) that she would be the one to bear such a son…even and especially if the real father was Herodian. Understanding that both Matthew and Luke’s birth stories are quite different, the emphasis in both was put on Mary’s virginity. First, Matthew calls up an old prophecy for a way in the past king that Isaiah tries to cheer up with a prophecy that this particular new young virgin wife (alma) would give bear him a blessed son in the normal fashion:
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel.” (Matthew 1:23)…changed to “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS…” (Matthew 1:21)…
We saw in the last blog that Salome was not a “damsel;” i.e.; 12 years old as Mark defined “damsel.
And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom…Mark 6 and Matthew 14
While Josephus and Luke, politically, lay the death of John the Baptist at the feet of Herod Antipas, Mark clearly blames Herodias and her daughter Salome for John’s beheading.
And when a convenient day was come,that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee…And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me…the head of John the Baptist.
And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought; and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. Mark 6:21-28
“Damsel” is a term often found linked with “virgin” as in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 which says: If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed…Also, Mark helpfully clarifies exactly what the term means…
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, “Talitha cumi;” which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightaway the damsel arose and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. (Mark 5:39-42)
We are being told that Herodias’ daughter was a young virgin—perhaps betrothed–as discussed earlier and we will see again–virgins were most often kept indoors to preserve their virginity. But we the reader have added to Salome’s character a voluptuous Lolita-like pre-teen pursuing her own perverted ways at the expense of God’s elect: a typical teenage girl in some circles. But Herodias’ daughter could not have been a mere “damsel.”
Herodias…had a daughter Salome…married to Philip, the son of Herod, the tetrarch of Trachonitis… Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.V.4.
The three Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) give accounts of John the Baptist’s feud with Herodias over her marriage to Antipas. The closest the gospel of John comes is to say…For John was not yet cast into prison. (3:24)
The Synoptic authors do not seem to care that Herodias is trying to get herself and Antipas named as the king and queen that would once again allow the Jews to reclaim rule in Jerusalem. John is most often depicted in the gospels as a hermit prophet and affiliated with the Essene priests perhaps living at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. In the earlier post on Elizabeth, we saw how John’s mother was adamantly described as a “daughter of Aaron”, a daughter of a High Priest. We saw how the Essen were expecting a king messiah and a priest messiah and that a priest messiah would outrank a king messiah. Especially for the priest messiah (an anointed priest/prophet), it would have been essential that he have a genealogy and bloodline uncontaminated with Herodian blood. Coincidentally, the gospels show Elizabeth to have a prophecy and be married to a worthy priest/high priest…which is what the terms “just” and “daughter of Aaron,” meant…meaning that John could, in real life, flesh and blood, be that High Priest Messiah longed for by the writers of the Zadokite Document quoted in the earlier post on Elizabeth.
Herodias of the New Testament was Mariamne III’s sister, also a granddaughter of Mariamne I and Herod the King and was kin to all the other Mariamnes in Josephus. Her father had been executed by her grandfather. Her other grandmother was Salome sister of Herod. She was a veteran of the harem wars and the “abuse of the virgins” trial along with her sister. If she hadn’t been cleared of the charge of un-virginity, she could never have been betrothed to Herod son of Mariamne II, daughter of Simon the High Priest.
But then, suddenly, Herodias, perhaps even still below the age of puberty” was on the outside looking in. Her mother-in-law was divorced by Herod for plotting against him and was thrown out of court and Herodias and her young husband with her. Her husband’s prophecy made in the Temple by Simon the High Priest and his alliance/betrothal to a granddaughter of Mariamne the Hasmonean queen was not fulfilled. See Post on Out of Egypt. They stayed married when her husband was deposed as an heir to the kingdom. When next heard from in Josephus Herodias has a grown daughter—unfortunately not a son—and was living in a palace in Caesarea and was still the wife of the same by-passed Herod. Continue reading “Herodias sister of Mariamne III”→
Now we enter a time of almost too many Marys to keep track of…many more qualified people than I have tried to determine which of the Marys named by Josephus could have been the mother of Jesus. I went through them and tried to track what betrothals and marriages we know about and came up with “my theory.” I’ll lay it out here and you can see what you think. So far, we know about…
Mariamne I was the Hasmonean Queen married to Herod the King.
Mariamne II was the daughter of Simon son of Boethus’ marriage alliance with Herod the King which allowed him to become the dynastic High Priest.
Mariamne III was the granddaughter of Mariamne I and Herod the King.
Mariamne IV did not play any role in the Jewish royal court though her mother Olympias was the daughter of Herod the King and Malthace the Samaritan and she was the sister of Archelaus and Antipas who were key players in the gospel stories as Herodian kings. She was given a good betrothal, though one meant to knock down the status of a grandson of Mariamne I.
Aristobulus (son of Mariamne the Queen) left these infants when he was slainby his father…but when they were arrived at the age of puberty, this Herod, (the eldest son), married Mariamne, the daughter of Olympias, who was the daughter of Herod the king, and of Joseph the son of Joseph who was brother to Herod the king, and had by her a son, Aristobulus…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.V.4
Mariamne IV will die young and not play a role except as wife of an heir of the next generation.
I left out one crucial phrase about this Mariamne when I quoted it in my last post in order to give her her due…
Moreover, (Archelaus) transgressed the law of our fathers, and married Glaphyra…and…divorced his former wife Mariamne and married her, so great was his affection for her. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.1-4
This Mariamne that I have made Mariamne V is a mystery woman and this is the only mention of her in Josephus but she was a Queen in Judaea for maybe 8-9 years before Archelaus divorced her. (See genealogy chart below.)
Considering what happened to Archelaus after he divorced this Mariamne (in the last blog post) it wouldn’t be too far afield to suggest that the divorce—which meant breaking a marriage alliance with a Mariamne with a possible Hasmonean and her backers—and making a different alliance with the daughter of a foreign king not sanctioned by Rome, probably got him deposed by Rome.
Which Mariamne could be Mary the mother of Jesus?
As we have seen, Mariamne was a popular name among royals at just this time with both Hasmonean and High Priestly associations. It is a matter of time and availability. I have already stated that I think that Mariamne III is Jesus’ mother, and I will defend her here while also laying out the reasoning behind other choices. The first concern is usually who was Mariamne V, the divorced wife of Archelaus…the choices are:
Mariamne III the Virgin, granddaughter of Mariamne the Queen betrothed widow of Antipater.
The daughter of King Antigonus married to Antipater…unnamed but also newly widowed who, if she was then Archelaus’ wife, would now be known to be another Mariamne.
The Virgin Orphan as the Wife of Archelaus
Mariamne III is frankly first choice for most researcher to be the wife of Archelaus. She was young and about the age of puberty and recently betrothed to Antipater Herod’s heir to the kingdom. She was recently widowed with the execution of Antipater…and was perhaps still a virgin—if Antipater had saved the consummation of his marriage alliance to her for his coronation as Herod did with Mariamne I. But not likely because of the orneriness of Antipater and the “abuse of the virgins” trial. Her virginity would be in question. One could see Herod approving of a match for Mariamne III with Archelaus in his new will…though no betrothal for Archelaus was given by Josephus; nor has a re-betrothal listing for Mariamne III survived. If they were betrothed to each other, then just the one listing for both is missing.
However, here is my main quarrel with Mariamne “III” being Archelaus’ wife: Timing. If we take the gospels of Matthew and Luke as containing any “real” history, then Mariamne III disappearing from the court record after her betrothal to Antipater and “Mary” appearing in the gospel birth stories in opposition to Herod and Archelaus makes sense—but she could not be in two places at the same time. Both Matthew and Luke tell the birth story quite differently but when you take a step back, they do both use the same kernel of a story—that Mary was pregnant before she was betrothed to Joseph and that her pregnancy and son’s birth were cause for persecution from Herod and his son Archelaus, forcing her to flee Jerusalem and Judea.
Then compare that to a “Mariamne wife of Archelaus,” who at just this time was most likely in Jerusalem assisting Archelaus in his attempt to appear kingly…even needing her presence and bloodline beside him on the dais—and for the trip to Rome…”at just this time.”
Daughter of King Antigonus
That does not mean that “Mariamne wife of Archelaus” did not have a Hasmonean tie. The other most mentioned wife for Archelaus is the unnamed daughter of King Antigonus. A fly in the ointment is that she would have been born before her father was executed in 37 B.C. when Herod officially became King of the Jews. She was married to Antipater son of Herod who was in his 50’s when he was executed, and they had a son and a daughter old enough to be caught up in the betrothal wars when Antipater had himself also betrothed to Mariamne III the pre-puberty virgin.
They seem to me to be two separate individuals. The daughter of King Antigonus would be considerably older than Archelaus—my guesstimate for her is around 40 years old to his seventeen. Mariamne III would be just past puberty. The wife of a king being considerably older is not unheard of in royal political marriage alliances, as we saw with Glaphyra being older than Archelaus…maybe he just liked older women…so that is not a deal-breaker. As wife of Antipater, she was documented as being in the city for his trial. She would have been a good choice politically for the weak Archelaus, as she was a genuine daughter of the last Hasmonean King and known to Rome as not being a troublemaker…She didn’t seem to be part of the band of “merry” women at court, for instance and accompanied her husband to his trial. So, she is a possibility and since we now know that Archelaus’ wife was named Mariamne. She could then be Mariamne III and Mariamne the Orphan Virgin, Mariamne IV. Since it isn’t an actual quote from Josephus, I will leave the numbering the same…but you get the idea.
A Previously Unknown Younger Princess
I would like to add another young woman to the list of royal wives for Archelaus. There is a royal daughter who got sidestepped in the betrothal wars for the Orphans; the children of Herod’s executed sons by Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen; the daughter of Antipater AND the unnamed daughter of King Antigonus (above). The daughter is also unnamed though she was betrothed second in the cement mixer of betrothals.
He(rod) also caused them to be betrothedagainst they should come to the proper age of marriage…Antipater’s daughter to Aristobulus’s eldest son (Herod) ….Antiquities of the Jews XVII.I.2
Trying to keep this bearable…Antipater would not allow this Herod, grandson of Mariamne I and brother to Mariamne III, to have a prime betrothal to his own daughter. (Young Herod son of Aristobulus will show up later married to Mariamne IV, above. He was another possible heir to the throne, in effect, knocked out of the race to be king to please Antipater. But so was Antipater’s own daughter (granddaughter of Hasmonean King Antigonus).
Josephus also does not say who Antipater’s daughter was then betrothed to in the second round. She is not heard from again as “Antipater’s daughter.” But she has blood rights being the granddaughter of King Antigonus and the daughter of Antipater the previous heir to the kingdom and King Herod, himself. She would have to have been re-betrothed to someone worthy. So, it is possible that she was then re-betrothed to Archelaus as next heir in line after Herod son of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter was deposed as already noted, no re-betrothal for her or Archelaus was listed in Josephus. She is equally possible and if so, she was Mariamne V…and has my vote.
All the Mariamnes vs. Mariamne wife of Archelaus and/or “Our” Mary
Conflation—or All the Above
It has long been standard operating procedure to conflate any combination of the royal women to make the wife of Archelaus. (The unnamed daughter of King Antigonus + Mariamne wife of Archelaus = “our Mary.” If you are a fan of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, you know that combining women is exactly what we like to do with Mary of Bethany+ the unnamed “sinning rich woman” + Mary Magdalene = one wife for Jesus son of Mary.
Archelaus returned from Rome where he was ratified as “Ethnarch” not king. He began to rebuild his royal palace at Jericho that had been looted and burned and get the nation back on track. And then he divorced his wife—I will go into who she was in the next blog post—but now I want to continue on with who Archelaus immediately remarried and what the repercussions were…
Moreover, he transgressed the law of our fathers, and married Glaphyra…who had been the wife of his brother Alexander (eldest son of Queen Mariamne), which Alexander had three children by her, while it was a thing detestable among the Jews to marry the brother’s wife [i] (if she had children by him before he died)…so great was his affection for her. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.1-4
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.
Mark, the earliest written gospel said it this way:
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Juda and Simon? arand are not his sisters here with us? Mark 6:3
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.
In the last post, I suggested that there was a tie between…or at least a major coincidence…between Matthew having Mary and her son be visited by “wise men” and Josephus story told in the same timeframe of two “wise men” who were early rabbi/teachers with Hasmonean names and a philosophy of martyrdom and rewards in Heaven. It is just possible that Matthew wanted us to know that Jewish wise men supported Mary and her son….the timing is 5-3 CE…AD.
And when (the wise men) were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped…[i]
If “wise men” rabbis and teachers in the Temple backed Mariamne III and a son to inherit the kingdom, it would, indeed, have sent Herod into a tailspin and may have contributed to his killing the teachers and their young students and his deposing of Matthias the High Priest, as we saw in the last post. And, equally, it would make sense that Joseph wanted to stay out of Herod’s reach… Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt…though I’m not convinced that they actually fled to Egypt, though, because as also saw, there was an Egyptian tie involving Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter, “Simon son of Boethus a priest of note from Egypt.”. (See the post on “Out of Egypt:)
And they were there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.Matthew 2:12-15
Matthew was invested in finding “prophecies” from the Old Testament that he could have Jesus fulfill. And issuing prophecies was a trademark of that “certain sect of Pharisees” who backed Pheroras’ wife with a prophecy. Matthew may not have understood the context of the Out of Egypt Prophecy, but he did understand the danger imposed by Archelaus.
But when (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither…he turned aside into the parts of Galilee…Matthew 2:22