Herodias sister of Mariamne III

Herodias_by_Paul_Delaroche
Herodias, look her up on Google images…this is the first image that comes up. It is almost impossible to find a decent representation of her without the head of John the Baptist. Yet, Josephus gives us a different side to her beside the evil she and her daughter have come to represent for over 2000 years.

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”

A Note about Joseph the Just

It has gotten complicated, and I even scare myself, worrying that I have gotten so far off the beaten path that I am “making stuff up.” [i] The thing that keeps me going on good days is that the similarities keep coming…take for instance, Joseph.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man…Matthew 1:18-20

Matthew says that “Joseph” was a “just” man as Elizabeth was a pure daughter of a High Priest, “just and righteous.”  But we are very carefully NOT told who Joseph is. Since Matthew and Luke give us genealogies that don’t agree on who Joseph’s father was…it is hard to accept either one. We are never told who Mary was, whose daughter she was, to what House she belonged. The House and lineage of both the mother and father of Jesus are veiled. So, I am here suggesting that “Joseph” might be Joseph of Elemus who we saw was the High Priest for one day, on the Day of Atonement, where he would have been expected to receive a prophecy as Joseph in the New Testament did and Zacharias husband of Elizabeth did also.

the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph…fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and though shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people….Matthew I:20-21

As we continue on with Josephus and the gospels, let’s read them with this Joseph in mind and see what happens…

The Long Death of Herod

By now even Herod knew he was dying and devised a way to harass his ungrateful people even after he was dead. After killing the “innocents” and the “wise men” as we saw in the last post, Herod, from his Jericho palace, hatched the following plot. He was…

…in such a melancholy state of body…when he proceeded to attempt a horrid wickedness; for he got together the most illustrious men of the whole Jewish nation, out of every village, into a place called the Hippodrome (at Jericho), and there shut them in. He then called for his sister Salome…“I know well enough that the Jews will keep a festival upon my death; however, it is in my power to be mourned for on other accounts… if you will but be subservient to my commands. Do you but take care to send soldiers to encompass these men that are now in custody, and slay them immediately upon my death, and then all Judea, and every family of them, will weep at it whether they will or no.”  Wars of the Jews I. XXXIII.6, and Antiquities of the Jews XII.VI.3

And, it is repeated, I think, by Luke in the New Testament…

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went…out of the city of Nazareth into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David); To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. Luke 2:1-5

This tax has always been a puzzle. Luke has caused centuries of perplexity over the actual birth date of Jesus because the only census in this time frame was taken ten years after the death of Herod—where Josephus places it. Most think that Luke simply got it wrong but I think that Luke was taking the existing story…that would have been well known…of the calling of the “illustrious” men to Jericho to ratify Herod’s new heir (or be killed, if they refused) and gave it a Davidic spin. Bethlehem was King David’s place of birth and was geographically near Jericho. And, like his reference to the “most excellent Theophilus” Luke is giving us a hint for those with eyes to see that “Joseph” was one of the principal men…as was the “most excellent Theophilus.” (I:1)  According to Josephus’ index two men named “Theophilus” will later be High Priests.

So, operating under the assumption, for the moment, that Joseph son of Heli according to Luke–was Joseph son of Ellemus of a high priestly family worthy of serving as the High Priesthood on the Day of Atonement when the actual High Priest Matthias son of Theophilus could not. It was an incredible honor to be the High Priest on the only day of the year that the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and was traditionally expected to receive a prophecy for the nation while in there. (And, except for the name change from Mattathias to Zacharias, it could be Zacharias’ story.)

This Joseph son of Ellemus was a kinsman of “Matthias son of Theophilus (Antiquities of the Jews XVII.VI.4) who was then also kin to the “most excellent Theophilus, to whom Luke addressed his gospel. Having a priest take over for you on the day of the fast was, I would think, a rare occurrence. The priest who took over for Matthias son of Theophilus would have been a celebrity in Jerusalem in those awful last days of Herod the King. Per Luke his Joseph would have been kin to Simon son of Boethus and Elizabeth daughter of Aaron…and would have been, at least momentarily, a priest with purer hands…a “just” man without Herodian blood.

Joseph son of Ellemus drops out of the official record after his big day…at just this time, as will Mariamne III…at just this time…ca 6-4 B.C. Something to at least consider.

The Rabbi’s think it over…

There are two additional rabbinic thoughts on Joseph b. Elam/Ellemus, though. Quoting from the Jewish Encyclopedia on Matthias son of Theophilus:

On the eve of a Day of Atonement—for the priest the most important time in the year—he had become ritually unclean, and consequently was unable to perform the duties of his office, which were discharged instead by his kinsman Joseph ben Ellem (“Ant.” xvii. 6, § 4). This occurrence is mentioned in the Talmud (Tosef., Yoma, i. 4; Yoma 12b; Yer. Yoma 38d), although the name of Matthias ben Theophilus is omitted. “It happened to Joseph b. Elam of Sepphoris that after a disqualifying accident had happened to the high priest, he was appointed in the former’s place.”

The new piece of information is that Joseph ben “Elam” was from Sepphoris.[1] Sepphoris was a large city four miles from where the present day Nazareth is located. And…

The Rabbis forbade him afterward to officiate, even as a common priest (Yoma 12b; Hor. 12b)[2]

If Joseph was not allowed to be a priest in the Temple anymore, it would also free him up to move out of Jerusalem. I can speculate no further about Joseph. He is a mystery man…and so is Joseph son of Elemus. Try googling him. But he was kin to Matthias son of Theophilis and therefore also kin by marriage to Elizabeth mother of John the Baptist and it would make sense of Mary’s sudden trip to see her “cousin” after being betrothed to this “Joseph.”

But is here anything linking Joseph of Elemus to being a “carpenter?

The Carpenter Designation

The question then becomes even more crucial if Joseph b. Elem had high priestly ties, why was Jesus and/or Joseph thought to be carpenters?

Mark 6:3 “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…”

Matthew 13:55  “Is not this the carpenter’s son, is not his mother called Mary…”

So, rather belatedly, I googled “carpentry” and Jesus and eventually found this:

“The Mishnah mentions the fact that they (Davidic families) brought their wood offerings to the Temple on a special day. (The 20th of Tammuz, i.e., June-July). The author quotes Eisler: …like a few other clans, their impost fell due on a special day, and not, like the rest of the people…The reason for this arrangement evidently was that they owned so much real estate that the delivery of their wood required a great deal of time.”[3]

So…

  1. A Joseph tie to Sepphoris in Galilee 4 miles from where Nazareth is today.
  2. A Davidic genealogy tie that Matthew and Luke tried to establish, though using different charts, for Joseph is corroborated…
  3. The Davidic families tie to wood.

 One could see two things: One that there may well have been a Davidic tie for Joseph. If so, a marriage alliance between a priest/High Priest for a day with a Davidic tie…and Mariamne the granddaughter of Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen…would/could have been powerful. And when it failed…Joseph was not allowed to be a priest anymore and he dropped out…and stayed in Gailee….and the questions arising over Jesus’ father/his mother a virgin…in part led to his claim made to Pilate falling to be honored and his political rivals pushing for his death. The later rabbis would make a pun of the wood/Davidic tie designation as a slander against one who (falsely, in their opinion) died trying to claim to be a Son of David/King.

A lot to think about…Quantum Physics may be right…we find what we are looking for…amazingly, consciously or subconsciously, information I could not have predicted can and does pop up.

The Eclipse of the Moon and the Passing of Herod

Herod did die but he missed an eclipse of the moon by about four days. Josephus makes a point, though, of saying that it happened the night the “wise men” and their forty young students were executed:

And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon. Antiquities XVII.VI.2

The eclipse of the moon occurred March 13th, 4 B.C. This eclipse is verifiable and is what is used to help date both the death of Herod and in pure speculation, the birth of Jesus…which happened “about this time.”

Notes

[1] See The Jesus Dynasty, The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity by James D. Tabor for a good current look at Sepphoris and the origins of the name Nazareth. Simon & Shuster NY 2006

[2] Jewish Encyclopedia article JOSEPH (High Priest) by: Richard Gottheil, M. Seligsohn

[3] The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist…Robert Eisler Methuen & Co. Ltd. 1931 quoted by The Dead Sea Scrolls: And the Personages of Earliest Christianity by Arthur E. Palumbo, Jr., Algora Publishing, New York 2004, http://www.algora.com.

The Last Days of Herod the King

Albertinelli_Visitation
Another “Visitation” painting, this one by Albertinelli in the public domain, depicting that enigmatic visit between the “just and righteous” Elizabeth daughter of Aaron and the beleaguered Mariamne III quickly betrothed to “Joseph” as her betrothed Antipater is killed by his father, leaving her technically, hopefully, a virgin widow.

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”

An Unnamed Daughter of King Antigonus

wealthy-women-in-the-roman-world-and-in-the-church
Unnamed photo on the site Marg Mowczko, Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism, “Wealthy Women in the First-Century Roman World and in the Church” April 19, 2017

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”

Out of Egypt–a Prophecy for Mariamne II the High Priest’s Daughter

Head_of_Mary_Jose_de_Ribera_1637
Not a Mary painting but one that could apply to what happened to Mariamne II

The executed sons of Mariamne I may be gone but they are not forgotten. If Herod had simply named Alexander firstborn son of Mariamne the Queen as his heir and sent Antipater back to Galilee, history would have taken a different path. But as Herod saw the ghost of Mariamne everywhere, stories of the ghosts of her sons circulated around the court and the city. Their spirit would not rest in the hearts of the multitude.

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; whereby it was discovered that Mariamne, the high priest’s daughter, was conscious of this plot (to kill Herod); and her very brothers, when they were tortured, declared it so to be. Whereupon the king avenged this insolent attempt of the mother upon the son, and blotted, whom he had by her, out of his testament, who had been before named therein as successor to Antipater.  Wars of the Jews I.XXX.7

The Thoughts of Many Hearts

That passage is about Queen Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter. Now, put it together with this one in Luke’s birth story referring to a son of a Mary…

Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:34-35

The sword passage has always been a puzzle. It is supposed to be a prophecy for Mary but the sword part above in parenthesis almost sounds like it was added later when Jesus was pierced by a sword on the cross…or vice versa. But the rest of the passage doesn’t really fit Jesus or Mary. He was not the cause of the “fall and rising of many in Israel,” according to the gospels. His death seems to have gone unmentioned by contemporaries and almost all hints that there was a direct connection between Jesus and the power structure have been carefully veiled.

Luke’s passage fits better with the fate of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter and her family in the Josephus passage and the accusations made against her by the “ghosts’ of the sons of Mariamne I (whomever they were a voice for). They and Josephus make Mariamne II alone responsible for her young son Herod II’s loss of his place in the succession to the throne— “her insolent attempt of the mother upon her son”—her father’s loss of the High Priesthood and position at court—her brothers’ being tortured and giving evidence against her—and her own loss of position and power at court as queen. She alone had caused the “downfall” and corresponding rise of many. These accusations would have been a “sword in her side.” There is a close affinity between “discoverers of what could not otherwise have been found out” attributed to the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus and “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” of Luke.

Out of Egypt

Matthew, writing nearly 60 years after the death of Jesus in probably 90 A.D., tried to show that Jesus fulfilled all existing prophecies about a King to Come, as we will see in the next post on Elizabeth daughter of Aaron. Matthew also used a prophecy that I think should belong to Mariamne II and not Mary mother of Jesus…Mariamne III in my theory.

Consider this prophecy that has long puzzled scholars—the family’s flight into 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 2:15)

The only prophecy I could find in scripture about being called out of Egypt refers to the nation of Israel that “sojourned” in Egypt.

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1)

Matthew’s use of the Egypt story seemed to be used to compare Jesus to Moses who brought the people out of Egypt. But now consider this: When introducing his readers to Simon son of Boethus, Mariamne II’s father, the priest made the new High Priest by Herod marrying his daughter Mariamne III, Josephus went on to say her father was…

…one Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there… Antiquities of the Jews XIII.III.1

Out of Egypt
In the earlier post on the new Jewish royal house–following the Books of Maccabees and Josephus–Onias IV and some priests did leave Jerusalem for Egypt and built a temple there when Simon the Hasmonean was officially made the High Priest instead of Onias IV. Herod then made Simon son of Boethus whose father was a “priest of note” in Alexandria, Egypt, the High Priest by his marriage alliance with Simon’s daughter, Mariamne II. (My theory)

What was being said was that Herod brought a high priestly line out of Egypt and gave that line the dynastic High Priesthood over the Hasmonean line and other Jerusalem lines and the “Babylonian” line he brought in when he killed his young brother-in-law Jonathan Aristobulus who should have been the Hasmonean High Priest.

So, a case can be made that it was Simon son of Boethus whose House was now poetically “called out of Egypt” and restored to what would have been seen as their rightful place by some—in place of the Hasmonean line that helped push them out. If true, it was a very astute move on Herod’s part. Mariamne II’s marriage alliance gave a line of priests back the Temple in Jerusalem—caused the “rise” of—and it was she who bore the brunt of their displeasure when she “fell”, and her son lost his chance at the throne and their chance to have the high priest and king from one house; consolidated.

Now read these passages in Luke in the context of “High Priest Simon son of Boethus a priest of note from Alexandria, Egypt.”

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him…Luke 2:25And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother (Mariamne his daughter), Behold, this child (his grandson) is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…Luke 2:34-35

It was the High Priest’s duty to make a prophecy about the kingdom one day a year when officiating in the inner sanctum of the Temple. (More later.) During the last days of Herod, it would have been expected that he makes a prophecy about the next king to come. The Temple was his place. Simon/Simeon was the name of Mariamne’s father, the “just” High Priest when her son was born. They had high hopes that the kingdom would come to this “son of Mary.” The rise and fall of their House revolved around her “rise” in marrying Herod and having a son who was heir to the throne…and also fell with her “fall” when Herod divorced her over a plot to kill him, true or not.

Even without other kings or queen mothers to back them, the “orphan” children of Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen will be honored for their bloodline by four Caesars from Augustus to Vespasian, from 6 B.C. until Israel’s destruction in 70 A.D. Three of the orphans have roles in the New Testament story, or four, if you consider that Mariamne III and Mary are one in the same—as I do.

Still Standing

As Mariamne II and her son fell out of the running, and Pheroras’ wife was discredited and her heirs side-lined by Antipater—both accused in plots to kill Herod—their unfulfilled prophecies fell to Mariamne III the Virgin, the only one still standing…or was she?

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A Widow with Seven Sons and the Resurrection

240px-Ciseri,_Antonio_-_Das_Martyrium_der_sieben_Makkabäer_-_1863
The Mother with Seven Sons from II Maccabees, depicted in Antonio Cisiri’s Martyrdom of the Seven Maccabees (1863) from Wikipedia.com

During the war against the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes, Judas son of Matthias Hasmon and his priest militia developed a strict code of purity and called themselves “Hasid” meaning “separated” [i] as in ritually pure, as a way to prepare to fight their Holy War against the Greeks. Judas was seen as the nation’s only hope to defeat Antiochus. Judas also attacked the high priests in Jerusalem as collaborators at the same time he drew his supporters from the lower priests.  II Maccabees, whichever faction wrote it, saw Judas as the nation’s “Savior” and called upon the prophet Jeremiah to hand him a golden sword to “strike down your adversaries.” (II Maccabees 15:9)

But Judas also seems to have begun or at least made popular, the belief in a bodily resurrection and rewards in heaven for those who died in the Holy War. Such a doctrine was helpful because the warriors knew they were on a suicide mission, and most would die. II Maccabees adds a new dimension to the war…resurrection.  Continue reading “A Widow with Seven Sons and the Resurrection”