Josephus’ Mother

911640514 Josephus
Flavius Josephus

The family from which I am derived is not an ignoble one, but hath descended all along from the priests…to be of the sacerdotal dignity, is an indication of the splendour of the family…I am of the chief family of that first (priestly) course also; nay, farther, by my mother, I am of the royal blood; for the children of Asamoneus, from whom that family was derived, had both the office of the high priesthood, and the dignity of a king, for a long time together...Life of Flavius Josephus

Josephus was born to be somebody and he knew it. His full name was Yosef Ben Matityahu or Joseph son of Matthias. He emphasizes his high priestly credentials from his father and yet…he also has a Hasmonean bloodline though his mother, though he will not name his own mother in his autobiography. He claims descent from Jonathan, brother of Judas the Hammer/Maccabeus, the “first brother to be a high priest/ruler.” Continue reading “Josephus’ Mother”

Agrippa vs. James son of Mariamne III

Madonna with Jesus and James
The Madonna and Child with St. James by Andrea Del Saito (1486-1531) from google image http://www.ntprints.com.  James, second son of Mary/Mariamne III has become quite popular of late.

Worms in Agrippa’s Golden Apple

The first worm in Agrippa’s dream of 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 priest’s with their genealogies and abhorrence of “strange women” right. Because, not only was Agrippa Herodian on his grandfather’s side, his own mother was 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 Mishna[1] about 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, also, might have been accepted by the people…and Rome…if not for his feud with the Annas House of priests.)

Continue reading “Agrippa vs. James son of Mariamne III”

Our Lady of the Tower

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The original Pillar and statue made of wood. Mary and her son Jesus are wearing crowns. Tradition dates the artifact to 40 A.D and Spain.

Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan could be vilified for her Herodian blood by her own people, but also celebrated for her Hasmonean blood. Her direct descent from Mariamne I, the Great Queen, was a key to understanding her. The Queen was beloved by the multitudes but also vilified by priests and “certain Pharisees” for marrying Herod and polluting the royal Hasmonean line. She was executed for adultery/unchastity which Josephus said was untrue and he sought to rectify the record.

And thus died Mariamne, a woman of an excellent character, both for chastity and greatness of soul…Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.6

She is virtually unknown today, I think, because she legitimized Herod as king and her heirs were known as Herodian.

 

Continue reading “Our Lady of the Tower”

Mary called Magdalene

The Tower of Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen built by Herod as part of his palace in Jerusalem...after he had her killed.
The Tower of Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen built by Herod as part of his palace in Jerusalem…after he had her killed.

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:

The only 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.”

Continue reading “Mary called Magdalene”

In Defense of Mary

Head_of_Mary_Jose_de_Ribera_1637
The Head of Mary by Jose de Ribera 1637 http://www.bible-people.info/Mary.htm

Matthew was the first gospel to add a birth story, probably to answer questions about Mary that persisted in ca 100 A.D. 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 that she would be the one to bear such a son…even and especially if the real father was Herodian…so it is understandable that the two birth stories, Matthew and Luke’s, while quite different, the emphasis was put on Mary’s virginity:

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel.” (1:23)…or “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS…” (1:21)…

Continue reading “In Defense of Mary”

Queen Glaphyra’s Dream

200px-Glaphyra
Glaphyra daughter of the King of Cappadocia, married to Alexander son of Herod and Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen, sent back home when Alexander was executed and who later married Archelaus…

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 to get the nation back on track. And then he divorced his wife—who I will go into 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

Continue reading “Queen Glaphyra’s Dream”

A Small Apocalypse

slaughter-of-the-innocents-ghirlandaio-domenico
This painting of the Slaughter of the Innocents shows the slaughter taking place in the Temple not in the tiny town of Bethlehem, more in keeping with Josephus’ recounting of the slaughter of mourners and lamenting mothers attacked in the Temple.

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. 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. Continue reading “A Small Apocalypse”

Archelaus son of Malthace

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Herod Archelaus from Guillaume Rouille’s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum (en.wikipedia.org). Archelaus was hated from the first moment and was only seventeen when he took over the kingdom. He killed three thousand Jews in the Temple and Jerusalem before he could even go to Rome to be ratified as king. Augustus Caesar did not allow him to be a king but he still honored Herod’s will by naming Archelaus as ethnarch and split the kingdom into pieces.

Matthew has Mary and her son visited by  “wise men” . Josephus for the same time frame tells of wise men who were early rabbi/teachers with Hasmonean names and a philosophy of martyrdom and rewards in Heaven…and it is just possible that Matthew wanted us to know that they supported Mary and her son….

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]

This would have totally 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. 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. As I’ve try to show, the High Priest at the time was “Simon son of Boethus a priest of note from 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…issuing prophecies  was a trademark of that “certain sect of Pharisees” who backed Pheroras’ wife with a prophecy. Nor did he understand the context of the Out of Egypt Prophecy as discussed in the last post.  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

Continue reading “Archelaus son of Malthace”

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”

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 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; 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 but 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 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 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 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, but also used another prophecy that I think should belong to Mariamne II and not Mary mother of Jesus…Mariamne III in my theory.

Consider briefly this prophecy that has also 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 new High Priest, 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 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 2:25

And 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 make 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 her “fall” when he 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 the recently widowed Mariamne III the Virgin, the only one still standing…or was she?

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