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)…
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.
We are now actually in the last days of Herod. He has scourged the palace and the city torturing, killing, and deposing all those who were against him or for anybody else—including his own kin. Nobody wants Antipater to inherit, except Antipater…who has the blood of Mariamne I’s sons on his hands…the true heirs to the throne. It is why there are so many prophecies and why prophecies are so dangerous.
But now Herod was in great pain and humiliation with a body that had developed gangrene and “worms in his privy parts;” and he knew the people saw his afflictions as God’s revenge on him. He asks for a knife to pare an apple and giving a war cry, plunged the knife at his chest. A nephew grabbed it just in time; but Antipater in the dungeon under the palace heard the cry and thought that Herod was dead, and not a minute too soon. He tried to bribe the guard to let him out as he was now, finally, king. The guard, knowing where his bread was buttered, ran first to make sure Herod was really really dead this time. Finding him alive, he told Herod what his son had tried to do… Continue reading “The Last Days of Herod the King”→
We need to backtrack a bit and look at the last year or so of Herod’s life from a different woman’s angle. Remember that when the sons of Mariamne the Queen had been brought back to court and were blaming Herod for killing their mother, Herod had brought to court also, his son from his first wife in the days before he married Mariamne I the Queen. He had sent Doris his wife and his son Antipater to the outback of Galilee. But then, with Antipater back at court and his mother Doris “back in Mariamne’s bed” and with the re-betrothals more in his favor, Antipater, along with just about everybody at court, now turned their attention to getting rid of his aging father. He plots with his uncle Pheroras, Pheroras’ women, and his own mother but not with Salome, his aunt. She runs to tell her brother Herod everything she hears…and she has spies everywhere. Herod again banished Pheroras and his women from court and forbids them to contact Antipater. Continue reading “An Unnamed Daughter of King Antigonus”→
Pheroras’ wife fascinated me: A handmaiden/maid servant who married a Tetrarch and who had a prophecy that the kingdom would come to her and her children when Herod died. I had to try to find her. I made a list of the things Josephus had so far told us about her… Continue reading “The Princess Handmaid”→
So we know from the last post that an Essen prophet predicted that a young Herod would grow up to be the king and that certain Pharisees were making prophecies with life and death consequences during the last days of Herod about who would inherit the kingdom from him. Daniel’s prophecy also seems to have been revived, predicting that a “prince shall come” that will have “all things in his power.” I’ve even suggested that the virgin prophecy in the New Testament for Mary could fall into this same category of political prophecy about the kingdom…. stressing her virginity as the gospels do.
Following Josephus’s narrative, he now shares a more clear-cut prophecy; this one for Pheroras’ wife, the culprit in the “abuse of the virgins” trial. “Pheroras’ wife” was the second wife of Pheroras, Herod’s brother. When Herod was made king of the Jews, he had secured for his brother a political alliance to a previously unheard-of unnamed sister (or half-sister) of Queen Mariamne I which helped Herod “beg” a tetrarchy for Pheroras “beyond Jordan” from Caesar Augustus. But when the princess died childless, Herod betrothed Pheroras to one of his own daughters by Mariamne I, a prime alliance, but Pheroras wouldn’t marry her. He married a maid servant instead: Continue reading “The Handmaiden Prophecy”→
Josephus, writing well after the Jewish war with Rome in 65-70 A.D., looking back with hindsight, blames the destruction of their nation on an “oracle” which seems to state that a world leader will be born in Israel.
“But now, what did elevate them(the rebels fighting Rome) in undertaking this war was an ambiguous oracle, that was also found in their sacred writings, how about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular; and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination…Wars of the Jews VI. VI.4
I will go into this prophecy more in chronological order, but Josephus also relates many other prophecies during Herod’s reign and immediately after his death, including this one made by an Essen prophet for Herod himself when he was yet a schoolboy in Jerusalem… Continue reading “The Virgin Prophecy”→
Herod betrothed his grandchildren by his son Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen as he should, to those that would enhance their position with Rome. If he didn’t, Augustus would object…Rome will continue to honor Hasmonean royal blood until the end of the kingdom (65-70 A.D.). The two granddaughters of the Queen had enough power with the multitudes and Rome that Antipater insisted on being betrothed to one of them, Mariamne III. The other girl, Herodias was betrothed to the next heir in line, Herod II son of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter.
There were others at court, though, hoping to secure places in the kingdom to come…the kingdom after Herod died…as well. They wanted the court rid of the prodigy of Mariamne the Queen even though her heirs were half-Herodian. With the sons of Alexander son of Mariamne the Queen sent back to Cappadocia with their mother Glaphyra and the sons of Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen sent to Rome to be raised with Caesar and not old enough to inherit at this time anyway, interest fell to certain other sons at court with blood lines that could sway Rome and daughters who could bear sons that might be king.
King Herod had his two sons by Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen executed in 7 BCE clearing the way for his Idumaean son Antipater to be his first heir but…
…an intolerable hatred fell upon Antipater from the nation,though he had now an indisputable title to the succession…However, he began to be in a terrible fear, as he saw the posterity of those that had been slain growing up; for Alexander had two sons by Glaphyra, Tigranes and Alexander; and Aristobulus had Herod, and Agrippa, and Aristobulus, his sons, with Herodias and Mariamne, his daughters. Wars of the Jews I.XXVIII.I
Like his father, Antipater, too, feared Hasmonean blood. Even with their grandmother and their fathers executed and with their royal bloodline diluted the sons and daughters of Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamne, were political rivals even though they were “below the age of puberty.” What Antipater feared was for the orphans to be betrothed in political alliances that would support the “orphans” before Augustus to take the throne away from him when his father died. Continue reading “Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan”→