There are many good books out there now that look at James/Jacob son of Mary. [i] It is possible they even have found his ossuary, stone bone box. [ii] We don’t know much about James, but we know more about him than about the other family and followers of Jesus because he is in the Book of Acts and in Josephus! In both instances his appearance is after the death of Jesus. Acts says that James lead the family and followers in Jerusalem after his brother was killed. He was one of the Pillars that Paul met and a strong Jew and well thought of in the city. Here, I want to touch on James being a Nazarite and his ongoing feud with the High Priesthood and with Agrippa.
One other thing that Agrippa did to anger everyone hoping for a “purer” kingdom to come, was to “high-handedly” perpetuate the “wantonness” of his own virgin daughters. Josephus, bless him, tells us why they were so angered…
And thus did Agrippa depart this life. But he left behind him a son, Agrippa by name, a youth in the seventeenth year of his age, and three daughters, one of whom, Bernice, (he) married to Herod, his father’s brother, and was sixteen years old; the other two, Mariamne and Drusilla, were still virgins; the former was ten years old and Drusilla six. Now these his daughters were thus espoused by their father; Mariamne to Julius Archelaus Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus, the son of Chelcias; and Drusilla to the king of Commagena . Antiquities of the Jews XIX.IX.1
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
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 Mishnaabout 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.)
In the last post we saw how Agrippa…dressed as a prince while waiting to be put into prison for hoping out loud that Tiberius Caesar would just go ahead and die so that his friend Caius could be emperor…a strange thing happened.
Now Agrippa stood in his bonds before the royal palace,and leaned on a certain tree for grief…and as a certain bird sat upon the tree on which Agrippa leaned (the Romans called this bird bubo,) [an owl,] one of (the others) that were bound, a German by nation saw him and asked a soldier who that man in purple was; and when he was informed that (he was a principal man of the nation of Jews the man asked to be able to speak to Agrippa and) said thus to him…
This sudden change of thy condition, O young man! Is grievous to thee…now wilt thou believe me, when I foretell how thou wilt get clear of this misery…and how Divine Providence will provide for thee. Know therefore…that…I think it fit to declare to thee the prediction of the gods. It cannot be that though (wilt) long continue in these bonds…and wilt be promoted to the highest dignity and power…But, do thou remember, when thou seest this bird again, that thou wilt then live but five days longer. This event will be brought to pass by that God who hath sent this bird hither to be a sign unto thee…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.VI.7
That sign–King of the Jews–nailed over Jesus’ head was meant as a deterrent as kings everywhere put the heads of their enemies on stakes. Herod Antipas and Herodias were sending a warning not to get in their way, as they did with their killing of John the Baptist. They knew that only those of their own House would try to stop their bid for the kingdom…because that is where the bloodline was.
And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”Matthew 12:25 (Speaking from Hasmonean/Herodian family history?)
But with Jesus and John now dead, who was left to challenge Antipas?