8. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-The Accusations

Mariamne Wife of Herod and Her Children Going to Their Execution Edward Hopley 1868 The sons of Mariamne will be executed by Herod but not until they are grown men.

As stated in the last post Josephus’ narrative of what led up to Mariamne’s death is confusing. He tells it twice and it has perplexed scholars for centuries…was there one incident or two. I have chosen here to start with an Antiquities quote and then switch to the earliest version Josephus wrote in Wars of the Jews. It is shorter but also rawer with less embellishments than the Antiquities version, and Salome’s role is very clear. Salome and her mother Cypros are the main cause of the death of Mariamne.

While Herod was in Egypt because Cleopatra had gotten Antony to bring Herod to trial over the death of Jonathan Aristobulus, Mariamne’s younger brother, Alexandra tried to take back the government (as we saw in the last post). It had been falsely reported that Antony had killed Herod…but when letters were received from Herod…very much alive…

…the women left off their attempt…yet was not that purpose of theirs a secret; but when the king had …returned to Judea, when both his sister Salome and his mother, informed him of Alexandra’s intentions. Salome also added somewhat further against Joseph (their uncle left in charge of Mariamne and Alexander with orders to kill them if he didn’t return…Salome’s own husband Joseph), though it was no more than a calumny, that he had often had criminal conversation with Mariamne. The reason of her saying so was this, that she for a long time bare her ill-will; for when they had differences with one another, Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth.

But Herod, whose affections to Mariamne was always very warm, was presently disturbed at this, and could not bear the torments of jealousy…which made him ask Mariamne  by herself about the matter with Joseph; but she denied it upon her oath, and said all that an innocent woman could possibly say in her own defense…so little by little the king was prevailed upon to drop his suspicion…till at last, as usual between lovers, they both fell into tears and embraced one another….Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9

Switching to Wars of the Jews…after the death of her younger brother…

For these reasons Mariamne reproached Herod, and his sister and mother, after a most contumelious manner, while he was dumb on account of his affection for her; yet had the women great indignation at her, and raised a calumny against her, that she was false to his bed: which thing they thought most likely to move Herod to anger.

They also contrived to have may other circumstances believed, in order to make the thing more credible, and accused her of having sent her picture into Egypt to Antony, and that her lust was so extravagant, as to have thus shewn herself, though she was absent, to a man that ran mad after women, and to a man that had it in his power to use violence to her. This charge fell like a thunderbolt upon Herod and put him into disorder; and that especially, because his love to her occasioned him to be jealous, and because he considered with himself that Cleopatra was a shrewd woman, and…his fear did not only extend to the dissolving of his marriage, but to the danger of his life.

When, therefore he was about to take a journey abroad, he committed his wife to Joseph, his sister Salome’s husband, as to one who would be faithful to him, and bare him good-will on account of their kindred; he also gave him a secret injunction, that if Antony slew hm, he should slay her; but Joseph, without any ill design, and only  in order to demonstrate the king’s love to his wife, how he could not bear to think of being separated from her, even by death itself, discovered this grand secret to her; upon which, when Herod was come back, and as they talked together, and he confirmed his love to her by many oaths, and assured her that he had never such an affection for any other woman as he had for her,–

“Yes,” says she, “thou didst, to be sure, demonstrate thy love to me by injunctions thou gravest Joseph, when thou commandest him to kill me.”

When he heard that this grand secret was discovered, he was like a distracted man, and said, that Joseph would never have disclosed that injunction of his unless he had debauched her. His passion also made him stark mad, and leaping out of his bed, he ran about the palace after a wild manner; at which time his sister Salome took the opportunity also to blast her reputation, and confirmed his suspicion about Joseph; whereupon, out of his ungovernable jealousy and rage, he commanded both of them to be slain immediately…Wars of the Jews I.XXII.

In the Antiquities version, Salome could see that Herod was ready…finally…to do Mariamne violence and rolled out her plan to make it worse…

…Salome…sent to the king his cupbearer, who had been prepared long beforehand for such a design, and bade him tell the king how Mariamne had persuaded him to give his assistance in preparing a love-potion for him; and if he appeared to be greatly concerned, and to ask what that love-potion was, to tell him that she had the potion, and that he was desired only to give it him; but in case he did not appear to be much concerned at this potion, to let the thing drop; …

So he went in after a composed manner, to gain credit to what he should say…When Herod heard what he said, and was in an ill disposition before is indignation grew more violent; and he ordered that eunuch of Mariamne, who was most faithful to her, to be brought to torture about this potion…and when the  man was under the utmost agonies, he could say nothing concerning the thing he was tortured about, but so far he knew, that Mariamne’s hatred against him was occasioned by somewhat that Sohemus had said to her. Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.4

“Sohemus” is the culprit in Antiquities while Joseph is the hapless one in Wars. Both versions say that Herod “bound Alexandra and kept her in custody. In Wars (above) he had both Joseph and Mariamne slain immediately. In Antiquities, he had Sohemus killed immediately but …he allowed his wife to take her trial…Antiquities of the Jew XV.VII

7. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-The Queen

Josephus declares that Mariamne’s marriage alliance with Herod meant that the kingdom of the Hasmoneans had come to an end. And officially it did. The new king got to establish his new House and Mariamne was now part of it. Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus, Mariamne’s mother and Mariamne herself, though, did not for a minute think that it was the end of their family’s reign…just that now the ball was in the women’s court.

Because Herod…

…never left off avenging and punishing every day those that had chosen to be the party of his enemies…At this time Herod, now he had the got Jerusalem under his power, carried off all the royal ornaments, and spoiled the wealthy men of what they had gotten; and when, by these means, he had heaped together a great quantity of silver and gold…He also slew forty-five of the principal men of Antigonus’ party, and set guards at the gate so that nothing might be carried out with the dead bodies. Antiquities XV.I.1, 2

Even considering all that, Josephus was very fond of saying that the…

…affection (Herod) had for Mariamne was no way inferior to the affections of such as are on that account celebrated in history, and this very justly. Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.4

Mariamne and Herod in a 1959 movie “Herod the Great” Vic.
Many photos on http://www.facinate.com/people/queen-mariamne-facts

And she did live up to the marriage alliance agreement; she bore him five half-Herodian children in eight years…including two sons who would be Herod’s heirs. That was her role to play. Keep the new king happy and give him heirs. It may even have been a love-match…for a while. Herod had a passionate temperament and Mariamne was proclaimed to be a great beauty. And there had been signs and omens that it was good for her to make the alliance, like rain falling just when the women were out of water on Masada (last post). Josephus reports many times during this timeframe that…

 “…all the people believed that he was beloved of God, since he had escaped such a great and surprising danger…Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XV.11

At least Josephus quoting his source who tended to glorify Herod as was his job and put down Mariamne because she was the enemy…but it does appear that Herod was obsessed with his queen. He was also a pragmatist…he needed her buffer with the people—he needed the legitimacy she and Alexandra gave him that allowed him to use the title of king in Judaea; a non-royal Arabian/Roman converted Jewish warrior from “beyond Jordan.”  He walked a tightrope and so did she.

Jerusalem was severely damaged after the siege, as we saw in earlier posts and Herod probably had a Hasmonean palace refurbished in time to bring his own family and his new wife back to the city, perhaps even Hyrcanus’ palace and Alexandra and Mariamne’s home…as Hyrcanus was still being held by the Parthians. While it was a time of jubilation for Herod, it was a time of sorrow for Mariamne and her mother…which they could not show to the new insecure king.

Antigonus had (had) the Parthians cut off Hyrcanus’ ears so he could not be High Priest anymore…the law required that this dignity should belong to none, but such as had all their members entire…(Moses’s Law in Lev. xxi. 17-24) Antiquities XIV.XIII.10

Knowing that Mariamne’s grandfather, Alexandra’s father, could not even be the High Priest anymore, Herod bargained with the Parthians to free Hyrcanus…who felt that since he had helped Herod in past times, including betrothing him to his granddaughter…that Herod would be appreciative and treat him benignly.

“But Herod’s zeal did not flow from this principle.” He knew that Hyrcanus was one of the few people left alive who could claim the throne over him. He brought him home with great pomp and respect…even calling him “father “and thereby deceived him that he was his friend.”

Alexandra also tried to live up to her side of the marriage alliance. While Mariamne was having children and antagonizing Salome and her mother, Alexandra was one of Herod’s trusted advisors at court in her role as queen mother of his royal wife and mother of Jonathan Aristobulus, a Hasmonean heir, though still young—until Herod went too far. Knowing that Hyrcanus could not again be High Priest and not wanting any Hasmonean to have the role, he brought in Ananias, a priest of a high-priestly line still living in Babylon to fill the role.

But Alexandra, the daughter of Hyrcanus, and wife of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus the king, who had brought Alexander two children, could not bear this indignity. Now this son was one of the greatest comeliness and was called Aristobulus…This Alexandra was much disturbed, and took this indignity offered to her son exceedingly ill, that while he was alive, anyone else should be sent to have the dignity of the high-priesthood conferred on him. Accordingly, she wrote to Cleopatra…to desire her intercession with Antony, in order to gain the high-priesthood for her son.  Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.5.

Cleopatra proposed that Alexandra flee to her in Egypt with Jonathan Aristobulus her 16-year-old son being smuggled out of Jerusalem in coffins, but someone tipped Herod off, and they were found…in the coffins.     

…Cleopatra hereupon advised her to take her son with her and come away immediately into Egypt. This advice pleased her; and she had two coffins made, as if they were to carry away two dead bodies, and put herself into one, and her son into the other and gave orders to such of her servants as knew of her intentions, to carry them away in the night-time. Now their road was to be thence to the seaside; and there was a ship ready to carry them into Egypt…

But word leaked out among the servants…one named Sabion…hoping to get on Herod’s good side…told the king of this private stratagem of Alexandra: whereupon he suffered her to proceed to the execution of her project, and caught her in the very fact; but still he passed by her offense: and though he had a great mind to do it, he durst not inflict anything that severe upon her, for he knew that Cleopatra would not bear it…Antiquities of the Jews XV. III 2

Herod still didn’t feel he could go after Alexandra because of Cleopatra and her relationship with Marc Antony, his benefactor. So, he set his mind, right then, to getting rid of Johnathan Aristobulus.

 Mariamne also, perhaps for the first time, lay “vehemently” into Herod to get him to confer the high priesthood on her brother.

At length, he gave in lest he should lose her and her mother’s “friendship” but when the boy, who was now seventeen years of age, officiated at his first festival, the people wept and were “merry” with “warm zeal and affection…remembering the glory of their past and the exploits of his father Prince Alexander and his grandfather Aristobulus King and High Priest. Exactly what Herod feared…that Jonathan’s royal bloodline might lead Antony, pressured by Cleopatra, to give the government to him. Herod had the young man “accidentally” drowned in a pool at Alexandra’s palace in Jericho while playing water polo after the service. Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.3

Herod put on quite a show of grief according to Josephus, but Alexandra knew…

Her sorrow was greater than that of others, by her knowing how the murder was committed; but she was under the necessity of bearing up under it, out of her prospect of a greater mischief that might otherwise follow; and she sometimes came to an inclination to destroy herself with her own hand, but still she restrained herself, in hopes she might live long enough  to revenge the unjust murder…Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.4

..Accordingly she wrote an account of this treacherous scene to Cleopatra…how her son had been murdered…and Cleopatra…made the case her own, and would not let Antony be quiet, but excited him to punish the child’s murder: for that it was an unworthy thing that Herod, who had by him been made a king of a kingdom that no way belonged to him, should be guilty of such horrid crimes against those that were of the royal blood in reality. Antiquities of the Jew XV.III.5

 (I must remind you, in fairness, that Josephus himself carried the same royal blood through his mother, so was, perhaps, a bit biased. See my post on Josephus’ Mother.)

Cleopatra VII Philopater
Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom
reigned 51-30 BC, Roman sculpture from ca 46-44 BC. Now in Berlin. If you are a Cleopatra buff, Josephus wrote a lot about her.

Eventually Alexandra got Cleopatra to prevail on Antony to call Herod to trial over it. Herod went to Egypt to face Antony, but he left the government to his uncle Joseph ordering him that if he did not return, Mariamne and her mother were to be killed. He feared Alexandra to take over HIS kingdom…and he knew she would try.

(Josephus relates two incidents like this. It is a scholarly dilemma to this very day. I will quote what Josephus says on things that Alexandra and Mariamne said and did in both incidents…mostly to show their actions, not to clear up the controversy Josephus left us with. Way above my paygrade. It is totally unprecedented to have this much information on women.)

While Herod was gone, Joseph said too much to the women letting it slip about Herod’s order regarding them. He tried to make it okay by saying…

Herod had such tender affection for his wife and was afraid of the injury that would be offered him, if after his death, she, for her beauty, should be engaged to some other man…Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.5

 What the women heard, though, was that “they would be killed and not allowed to take back the kingdom, even if he were dead.” And then there were reports that Herod WAS dead…

As this time a report went about the city of Jerusalem, that Antony had tortured Herod and put him to death…upon which Alexandra endeavored…to go out of the palace, and fly away with them to the ensigns of the Roman legions which then lay encamped about the city as a guard to the kingdom…XV.III.7

Herod was not dead, though. When he returned, he heard reports of what Alexandra had done. Herod could not ignore her any longer in the name of domestic harmony…

…as Alexandra had already made attempts tending to innovations…he gave a command that she should dwell in the palace and meddle with no public affairs: her guards also were so careful, that nothing she did in private life every day was concealed. All these hardships put her out of patience…

Josephus said that Herod hated Cleopatra with a grand passion because they were rivals over Antony’s favors, and she had an unfair womanly advantage. He advised Antony to kill her. She carried out “flagrant enormities…and bewitched Antony…and was “irksome to all.” He also called a council to determine if he should kill her. (Antiquities of the Jews XV.IV)

And then, the unthinkable, Cleopatra and Antony lost a war to Octavian, and both committed suicide…an option allowed them because of their rank and bloodline.

After the death of Antony and Cleopatra, Herod had to go to Rome to talk to Octavian…Herod had backed Antony over Octavian…he was again in fear of his life…this led him to thinking that now was the time to get rid of old Hyrcanus…

…he saw that there was no one of royal dignity left but Hyrcanus (who) was of so mild a temper…that he desired not to meddle with public affairs…but Alexandra was a lover of strife, and was exceeding desirous of a change of government; and spoke to her father not to bear forever Herod’s injurious treatment of their family…Antiquities of the Jews XV.VI.2

Herod still knew better than to kill Alexandra if he hoped to keep Mariamne (and the kingdom), but before he left for Rome, more out of fear of Alexandra, he had Hyrcanus put to death on trumped up charges of treason, a plan he had waiting for the right time to implement.

The stage is set…

6. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-Salome sister of Herod

Jigsaw Puzzle of Herod consults with Cypros and Salome
King Herod the Great discusses with his mother Cypros and sister Salome the alleged infidelity of his wife Mariamne Date: 0 B.C

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Herod Consults Cypros and Salome and Cypros

Mariamne, now Queen of the Jews at perhaps 15-17 years old…finally…found herself wedded to her family’s enemy and now ally Herod. Herod may have been now in his early 30s, having previously been made Governor of Galilee for is valor in fighting her family alongside Marc Antony and the Romans…and now for fighting her cousin for the kingdom…but he keenly knew that he did not have royal blood and therefore did not deserve to be King of the Jews. He was also now face to face with his own Hasmonean, Mariamne.

We have seen Mariamne’s family tree. But now Josephus begins to tell us about Herod’s large extended family that had just risen to power with him.

Josephus lists Herod’s family. His father Antipater was…

in great repute in Idumaea…out of which nation he married a wife, who was the daughter of one of their eminent men, and her name was Cypros, by whom he had four sons, Phasael and Herod, who was afterwards made king, and Joseph, and Pheroras; and a daughter named Salome. Antiquities of the Jews XIV. VII3

Thought to be a young King Herod

Herod’s family will play a large role in his personal life as king as well as in his administration of the kingdom. His older brother Phasael will also be Governor of Roman provinces and one brother will commit suicide when captured in the war with Antigonus. His uncles will be a great help to him and were given positions and power in the new government and Hasmonean women as trophy wives.

To understand what Mariamne and her mother Alexandra walked into, it will help to understand the role of two Herodian women in particular…another mother/daughter pair: Salome, sister of Herod and their mother Cypros. Josephus gives us tremendous detail so we can trace the inevitability of what happened…

***

One of many great maps on Google or Bing

Herod and his family came from Idumea, the country directly south of Judea. When Herod has to flee from Antigonus and the Parthians, he fought his way to Idumea where he had support and where he sheltered his women-folk in the desert fortress of Masada. Idumea or Edom had been subjugated by John Hyrcanus in ca 110 B.C. He later built the lavish palace complex there to commemorate his victory.

Hyrcanus also initiated a military campaign against the Idumeans (Edomites). During this campaign Hyrcanus conquered Adora, Maresha and other Idumean towns (Ant.13.257). Hyrcanus then instituted forced conversions on the Idumeans to Judaism…This was an unprecedented move for a Judean ruler. John Hyrcanus – Wikipedia

***

To do that, we need to go back to that moment (in the last post) when Antigonus son of King Aristobulus attacked Herod in a surprise assault, causing him to flee Jerusalem. He was betrothed to Mariamne but not yet wed and not yet king.  

(Herod) therefore …set his wives(?) upon the beasts, as also his mother and sister, and her whom he was about to marry…with her mother…with tears in their eyes, and sad lamentation…left their own country…

Fighting his way there, he “deposited the women and several hundred of his closest followers” in the rough desert fortress of Masada with “sufficient quantity of corn and water.” Those three years before Herod could rescue them will leave scars on the women that will not heal. Herod will be named king by the Roman Senate and sent back with Roman Legions and eventually won his kingdom and his Jewish queen…but…

…fortune was avenged on Herod in his external great successes, by raising him up domestic troubles; and he began to have wild disorders in his family on account of his wife…Wars of the Jews I.XXII.1

Masada

It will be a few more years before Salome is mentioned again and one can readily see the enmity that grew out of that time on Masada between Salome and Mariamne.

…but as for Mariamne his wife, because of the misunderstanding between her and his sister, and his sister’s mother, which made it impossible for them (the women) to live together…(more later) Antiquities of the Jews XV.VI.4,5

(Salome)…for a long time bare (Mariamne) ill-will; for when they had differences with one another, Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth. Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9

(later on)..so much the greater were the distresses that came upon him in his own family, and chiefly in the affair of his wife, wherein he formerly appeared to have been most of all fortunate; for the affection he had for Mariamne was no way inferior to the affections of such as are on that account celebrated in history, and this very justly. As for her, she was in other respects a chaste woman, and faithful to him; yet had she somewhat of a woman rough by nature, and treated her husband imperiously enough, because she saw he was so fond of her as to be enslaved to her. She did not also consider seasonably with herself that she lived under a monarchy, and that she was at another’s disposal, and accordingly would behave herself after a saucy manner to him, which yet he usually put off in a jesting way and bore with moderation and good temper. She would also expose his mother and his sister openly, on account of the meanness of their birth, and would speak unkindly of them, insomuch that there was before this a disagreement and unpardonable hatred among the women…Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.4

The new young king…not one born and bred to rule and a young queen who had been born and bred into a 100-year royal lineage, and though young, knew how to be a queen. Even in defeat, her House and nation would look to her to play to win. Beguile the king, give them heirs, and like Esther, know how to approach the king with petitions to help her people.  

Alexandra had her role to play at court as mother of the Queen and advisor to the King, but also as the only remaining royal in a position to aid her House return to any semblance of power and she had the warrior gene, as we will see. Mariamne will keep the king agreeable to their presence at court and presented him with heirs…five children in eight years…that were also heirs to her lost kingdom.  

Herod knew he needed the good will of Mariamne (and Alexandra) to remain king…and often, that is what is meant by “love” among the ruling class. But Jerusalem is not Camelot. Josephus’ reports stress the conflict between Mariamne and Salome, but the strife will also include both their mothers. Strife that began at Masada. Newly royal Cypros was now mother of the king, a role valued by Mid-Eastern courts and the Jews in particular, as we have seen, as advisor to her son, a role Alexandra challenged her for. Cypros and Salome were learning their roles in the face of apparent harassment from Mariamne. Alexandra would be given her own castle in Jericho to get her out of the Jerusalem palace harem.

While Mariamne may have played her royalty card to the maximum…and even enjoyed some of it…she could not escape the new regime in her old family home in Jerusalem and all that was lost.

Not an easy way to try to pick up the pieces of their new kingdom depleted of men and treasures and a whole generation, and under the watchful eye of Rome.

The stage has been set for one of history’s tragedies…the war of the women inside those walls…

5. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-“Espousal” to Herod

Before we get to Mariamne herself there are still two people we need to know for context: One: Herod, the man who, now, for better or worse is tied directly to the young Princess…somewhere around 12 years old, the normal age of betrothals. And two: Salome sister of Herod. (In the next post)

As an overview derived from Josephus recounting of tales about him, like the examples in the last post, I came to see Herod was a fierce, arrogant, ambitious, intelligent, handsome, warrior…perhaps a touch bipolar…and with a thirst for power and the audacity and skill to pull it off. He was generous with the well-placed gift. He had a knack for negotiating the tricky Roman waters. He had fought side by side with Marc Antony. His whole young life had revolved around Rome. He had already been awarded the title of Procurator of Galilee for his valor in battle while an audacious young man…twenty-five according to Josephus.

One of many on Google Images

But Herod was a private man, “a man of no family” and Josephus who had royal blood called him a “vulgar” man and was not shy about reminding his readers of that at every turn. Herod’s father Antipater I and his mother Cypros were of the nobility class in Petra and Idumean/Nabatean/Arabian by birth though the family had been forcefully converted to Judaism generations before, perhaps by John Hyrcanus. Being betrothed to a Judean Princess was a huge boon for Herod, politically. His betrothal to the princess made him the protector of her side of the family…for better or worse.

And then…Mariamne’s Cousin Declares War

Rome’s fear that young princes of defeated nations will rebel to get their kingdom back, now happens. This younger son of King Aristobulus, Antigonus, had been left alive but exiled.  He now declares war on Hyrcanus and Herod after going to Caesar to throw himself at his feet to plead that the nation was rightfully his.

Caius Julius Caesar imperator and high priest, and dictator the second time…decree…that Hyrcanus and his children bear rule over the nation of the Jews…and be high priests of the nation.  Antiquities of the Jews XIV.X1-6

The pronouncement only sent Antigonus scrambling for backers. His sister, Alexandra III, was his main ally, funding his war. (see sidebar below)

Herod upheld his side of his marriage alliance pact as protector…and as Roman’s resident warrior:

When (Herod)…was gone to meet Antigonus, he joined battle with him, and beat him, and drove him out of Judea…but when he was come to Jerusalem, Hyrcanus and the people put garlands upon his head; for he had already contracted an affinity with the family of Hyrcanus by having espoused a descendant of his, and for that reason Herod took the greater care of him, as being to marry the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, and the grand-daughter of Hyrcanus. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XII.1.

Antigonus fled from Herod at first, only to come back with stronger allies, the Parthians, who he promised…

…a thousand talents, and five hundred women, upon condition they would take the government away from Hyrcanus and bestow it upon him, and withal kill Herod.  Antiquities of the Jews XIV. XIII. 5

The women Antigonus promised to the Parthians were the Jewish royal and noble women and their handmaids…all the Hasmonean women who were now in limbo having lost the war and under the weak government of Hyrcanus…which, I think, at least in part, was why Antigonus declared war…so Mariamne daughter of his brother and granddaughter of his side of the family, would not be given in an alliance to Herod…who, as seen in the last post, that side of the family hated…and most likely had poisoned Antipater, Herod’s father.

The Parthians captured Hyrcanus and caused Herod to flee in the night with the women, including his own mother and sister and his betrothed and her mother. They fought their way to Masada, a barren desert fortress, and he deposited them there with “sufficient corn and water” and left his brother Joseph to guard them.

A Mark of Providence

Antigonus laid siege to Masada to get the women back. The women were besieged in the desert nearly THREE years and at one point had run out of water. Joseph was about to flee but…

God, by sending rain in the night-time prevented his going away, for their cisterns were thereby filled, and he was under no necessity of running away on that account: but they were now of good courage, and the more so, because the sending that plenty of water which they had been in want of, seemed a mark of divine providence…Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XIV.6.

The rain may have been seen as divine intervention for Princess Mariamne.  Perhaps the rain was a sign that God favored her marriage to Herod. This portion of Josephus gives many examples of Herod receiving “signs.”  A favorable “sign” would have been helpful right then in condoning the betrothal of a Jewish royal virgin to the Roman friend and “Edomite” Herod.

Herod escaped to Idumaea, his family’s home, and raised enough money to build a ship and sail to Rome. He went immediately to Julius Caesar and Marc Antony to beg their assistance against Antigonus.

And this was the principal instance of Antony’s affection for Herod, that he not only procured him a kingdom which he did not expect, (for he did not come with an intention to ask the kingdom for himself, which he did not suppose the Romans would grant him, who used to bestow it on some of the royal family, but intended to desire it for his [betrothed cmf] wife’s brother, who as grandson by his father to Aristobulus and to Hyrcanus by his mother,) but that he procured it for him so suddenly, that he obtained what he did not expect, and departed out of Italy in so few days as seven in all. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XIV.5

The mystical seven days…Josephus was careful not to say that it was his betrothal to Mariamne that allowed him to be made King of the Jews and not a Roman Procurator, but Herod would always see the kingdom as Providence smiling on him like rain in the dry season because by rights it wasn’t his and he knew it. He also knew how fickle Fortune could be and would forever be caught between distrust of his Hasmonean enemy and his need of his “affinity” with Mariamne and her mother. One of his first acts upon returning was to rescue his womenfolk and take them to Samaria.

When the rigors of winter were over Herod…came to Jerusalem and pitched his camp… Now this was the third year since he had been made king at Rome…So he …encompassed the place with three bulwarks, and erected towers, and…cut down the trees  that were round about the city…(and)…even while the army lay before the city, he himself went to Samaria, to complete his marriage, and to take to wife the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus; for he had betrothed her already.

After the wedding was over (Herod gathered his armies) for they were about thirty thousand; and they all met together at the walls of Jerusalem…being an army of eleven legions…to take the government from Antigonus…and so that he himself could be king, according to the decree by the senate.

Now the Jews that were enclosed within the walls of the city fought against Herod with great alacrity and zeal, (for the whole nation had gathered together) they also gave out many prophecies about the temple…as if God would deliver them out of the danger they were in…they persisted in this way until the very last.

Once the walls were breached the city…

…was taken by storm; and now all parts of the city were full of those that were slain, by the rage of the Romans at the long duration of the siege, and by the zeal of the Jews that were on Herod’s side…so they were murdered continually in the narrow streets and in the houses by crowds, and as they were flying to the temple for shelter, and there was no pity taken of either infants or the aged…yet nobody restrained their hands from slaughter, and then…

Antigonus, without regard to either is past or present circumstances, came down from the citadel, and fell down at the feet of Sosius, who took no pity of him…but insulted him beyond measure and called him Antigone, [i.e., a woman, and not a man] yet did he not treat him as a woman, by letting him go at liberty, but put him into bonds, and kept him in close custody.

Herod…worried that the Romans would empty the city both of money and men and leave him king of a desert…but he did what he could to spare total destruction by paying the soldiers from his own money not to pillage….and to the commanders…till they all went away full of money. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XV and XVI

Herod knew how important “completing his marriage” was by doing it before he entered Jerusalem, but he had to go to war to defeat the King Aristobulus-side of the country first. He did…at great cost in lives and treasure…but he needed the marriage alliance with Mariamne to make it official with the multitudes that he was king in the time-honored fashion, also…by marrying the daughter of the last official king…before he rode through the gates…before he appeared on a throne in Jerusalem.

Marc Antony wanted to take Antigonus to Rome for his triumph, but Herod feared that if Antony took Antigonus to Rome…

He might get his cause to be heard by the senate, and might demonstrate, as he was himself of the royal blood, and Herod but a private man, that therefore it belonged to his sons…to have the kingdom, on account of the family they were of…Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XVI.4

 Antony ordered Antigonus the Jew to be brought to Antioch, and there to be beheaded…as supposing he could no way bend the minds of the Jews so as to receive Herod…or be forced to call him king…Antiquities of the Jews XV.I.2

And thus did the government of the Asamoneans cease, a hundred and twenty-six years after it was first set up. This family was a splendid and an illustrious one, both on account of the nobility of their stock, and of the dignity of the high priesthood, as also for the glorious actions their ancestors had performed for our nation: but these men lost the government by their dissensions one with another, and it came to Herod, the son of Antipater. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XVI.4

Josephus was right in the male sense of wars…but the women knew that the ball was now in their court…

I think it worth the time and space of a “side bar” to look at the life of a daughter of King Aristobulus’ unnamed wife, the sister of Antigonus who helped him finance his war for the kingdom.

Alexandra III and her Queen Mother

There is a third role for daughters of kings; being sent to marry a foreign king to make a pact of mutual protection with an ally and “friend.” Alexandra III was the daughter of King Aristobulus. She and her younger brother Antigonus and an unnamed sister were sent to Rome when their father was captured, as we saw above. Their mother, the unnamed wife and queen of King Aristobulus who was the daughter of Absalom Commander of the Army played an active role in procuring the safety of her children…even negotiating with one of the Roman Commanders after her husband was captured and killed.

However…the senate let his children go, upon Gabinius’s writing to them that he had promised their mother so much when she delivered up the fortresses to him; and accordingly they then returned to Jerusalem. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.VI.1

“She delivered up the fortresses…” She was the daughter of the Commander of the Army. But seeing that her son Antigonus was too young to inherit, Alexandra III was married off in an alliance with a another Mediterranean king. It was her blood right as a royal princess to receive a royal partner—even a princess whose father and oldest brother were just killed by Rome for sedition. In effect, this marriage got the children of King Aristobulus out of town, leaving the field open for the grandchildren of Hyrcanus to inherit the kingdom and keep the peace.

Josephus tells the story of this Alexandra’s marriage…another young princess sent off to do her duty:

But Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, who was the ruler of Chalcis…took his brethren to him, and sent his son Philippion to Askelon to Aristobulus’ wife, and desired her to send back with him her son Antigonus and her daughters: the one of whom, whose name was Alexandra, Philippion fell in love with, and married her; though afterwards his father Ptolemy slew him, and married Alexandra, and continued to take care of her brethren. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.VII.4

Being a daughter…or a son…of a king was not for the faint of heart! This Alexandra, too, made the most of the hand she was dealt…Chalcis will play a role in New Testament times, and it was this Alexandra who got Chalcis to back her brother when he returned to fight Herod and Hyrcanus.

4. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-Alexandra the Maccabee

Photo on site Geni.com no artist attributed. https://www.geni.com/photo/view/6000000005790348026?album_type=photos_of_me&photo_id=6000000035805346583
Elizabeth Alexandra II…though so many of these photos are mislabeled…note the crosses she is wearing.

Prince Alexander son of King Aristobulus II was a “young man” when he was beheaded but he already had at least two children with his first cousin, Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus II. Theirs was a classic marriage alliance attempt to bridge the war between the two sides of the family by giving them heirs in common—but also, as ranking prince and princess, it was their right to marry each other. They would have started their own war if they were overlooked. They should have been the next king and queen.

With Prince Alexander and his father their King and High Priest dead, Alexandra returned to her father’s Hyrcanus’ home with her two small children. They were the hope of the nation to not be swept away by Rome. Rome favored letting nations rule themselves internally and allowed to keep their own royalty…if possible. It held rebellions of young princes to a minimum and they genuinely seemed to honor royal blood wherever they found it. Julius Caesar himself backed Hyrcanus over Aristobulus as the one less likely to go to war with them…yet again.

But times were tough. The nation was devastated by years of war and even greater loss of their relative freedom under stronger occupation. Hyrcanus had been backed and guided by Antipater, the governor of Idumaea for the Hasmoneans. He had taken Hyrcanus under his wing, to make him fight his brother Aristobulus for the kingdom. It still took Marc Antony’s legions to finally capture and kill Aristobulus and Alexander, as we saw in the last post. Josephus writes pages and pages of the war and wars between King Aristobulus and Prince Alexander.

And then Antipater, now the Roman procurator of Judea, was poisoned. Josephus suggests it was done by pro-King Aristobulus/Prince Alexander warrior factions still out there who hated Antipater and his son Herod and feared their strong ties with Rome and who had defeated them at great cost. Herod, especially was in great favor with Marc Antony as a valued warrior in the war against them. The Aristobulus faction still did not want Hyrcanus to the Regent/High Priest…they saw him as a traitor and apparently wrote the reports that Josephus used…

And (Antipater) seeing that Hyrcanus was of a slow and slothful temper, he made Phasaelus, his eldest son, governor of Jerusalem…but committed Galilee to Herod, his next son, who was a very young man, for he was but twenty-five years of age…but as he was a youth of great mind…But now the principal men among the Jews, when they saw Antipater and his sons to grow so much in the good-will the nation bare to them (Phasaelus and Herod)…and of the revenues which they received…but, the chief men of the Jews were therefore in fear, because they saw that Herod was a violent and bold man, and very desirous of acting tyrannically; so they came to Hyrcanus, and now accused Antipater openly… “Doest thou not see that Antipater and his sons have already seized on the government, and that it is only the name of a king which is given thee?

They accused Herod of slaughtering Hezekiah, a beloved Galilean of their party and eventually brought Hyrcanus around to making Herod come to trial before the Sanhedrin over it. Herod appeared dressed in purple with his hair carefully trimmed and a large bodyguard with him. The court feared for their lives but were ready to accuse Herod until Hyrcanus eventually got Herod off and told him to leave for awhile. Herod did but came back with an army to fight Hyrcanus but his father and brother “pacified his vehement temper.”  Herod was persuaded that he had made a fine show of his power and could let it go. “…and in this state of were the affairs of Judea at this time….” synopsis Antiquities of the Jews XIV.IX  

Alexndra the Maccabee from Nuremberg Chronicle, published 1493 (on her Wikipedia page…these two images only depictions I could find.)

This is the state of affairs that Princess Alexandra faced. Her father did not have the warrior gene…but she did, and she had the ear of her father, the High Priest Regent. After Antipater’s sudden death, she knew they needed a protector who had Rome’s ear. She may have been torn between the war at any cost side of the family, her husband’s clan…and her realization that Hyrcanus was also right. Rome was a fact of life. They were under occupation. They had just lost a major war and the nation was in a nosedive. What to do?

Alexandra put on the mantle of Queen Mother as demanded by tradition regarding the mother of royal sons.

“(W)hom though mayest make princes in all the earth. Psalm 45:16

She had a young prince to protect but first she had a daughter. She moved back into her father’s house with her children and began to look at the situation from that vantage point.  She may have been as young as still in her 20s, but she will not remarry and will become a Queen Mother with a vengeance…as we will see.

A quick inventory of their options showed that her father’s rule needed another protector with Rome now that Antipater had been killed. Josephus tells of many interactions between Antipater’s son Herod and Hyrcanus and how Hyrcanus had helped Herod get out from under the death sentence that the Sanhedrin wanted to level on him. He perhaps felt that Herod owed him and would work with him now. But how to capture and keep his help?

If one had a need to make an alliance with an enemy or even a friend, there was a classic remedy. One King marries his daughter to another king/tyrant/principal man in order to form a political alliance now called a marriage alliance. And there was Hyrcanus’ granddaughter, Alexandra’s daughter, the virgin damsel Mariamne, as if a gift from Providence. She was their perfect asset to help keep their foot in the door with Rome and to keep her younger brother Jonathan Aristobulus alive long enough to inherit the kingdom and/or the High Priesthood. Mariamne was a Jewish Princess at the age of betrothal; she was their only, and in the way of their world, their best card to play. 

We don’t know her date of birth…but from the use of her in a marriage alliance, she must have been of a marriageable age, and it goes without saying a virgin. Betrothals could happen at any age usually before puberty with marriages happening just after puberty…she would have been a virgin princess damsel.

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)

Like it or not…Hyrcanus betrothed the Princess Mariamne to Antipater’s son Herod, recently made Procurator of Galilee for fighting with Marc Antony against their family if he would be their advocate with Rome. He was not a choice that would bring peace to Judea or reconcile the warrior half of the family, but it would keep the Hyrcanus half in power and in favor at Rome.

Princess Mariamne had the right bloodline and was the right age, at the right time to be betrothed in a manner that would assist her family and nation. Herod was the best candidate available. The battlefield would now be the bedchamber.

She had been born for this.

But it was a move that changed the history of Judea, Israel…now Palestine, forever.

I would like to note that from the Hasmonean sons and royal daughters of John Hyrcanus on took a Greek name as well as their Hebrew name. All the Alexander’s and Aristobulus’ also had a family name like Mattathias. I did not know until I found this site that Alexandra II was also named Elizabeth…I will need to go back and do some editing…such is the life of a researcher…ha.

Alexandra Hasmonean (dau. Hyrcanus II) (c.-63 – c.-28) – Genealogy (geni.com)

Elizabeth of Jerusalem, Queen Alexandra II

Alexandra Hasmonean (dau. Hyrcanus II) Hebrew: אלכסנדרה החשמונאית, Dutch: Alexandra Maccabaeus
Also Known As:“Esther (Elizabeth) of Jerusalem (bat Hyrcanus) Hasmonean Princess Alexandra II )”
Birthdate:before circa -63
Birthplace:Judea
Death:circa -28
Jerusalem, Judea (Killed by King Herod The Great)
Place of Burial:Jerusalem, Judea
Immediate Family:Daughter of Hyrcanus II Hasmonean, King & High Priest of Judea and 
Wife of Alexander II Hasmonean, High Priest and King Antigonus II Mattathias, [Last Hasmonean King of Judaea]
Mother of Queen Mariamne (Hasmonean)Jonathan Aristobulus III Last Hasmonean High Priest and N.N. ., Hasmonean Princess, 1st wife of Pheroras
Managed by:Yigal Burstein
Last Updated:April 26, 2022

1. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-A Closer Look

"Esther" by Herman Anschutz, a 19th Century German painter...found on Google Images and used on many websites without attribution.
This is a painting by the German painter Herman Anschutz, 19th Century entitled “Esther. There is only one true older painting of Mariamne the Queen, and I will use it later, but I like to picture her this way, myself. She was young like Esther when she became a queen.

I have been researching Mary mother of Jesus for about 40 years, now.

Most of those years were spent looking for and not finding that one elusive thing I thought I would find, arrogantly, some might say…including myself. A drive that appeared out of the blue and never left.

I had begun my search in the late 1960s with a slight New Age Christian bias…and didn’t realize at first that all the books I was reading were written by Christian scholars and theologians…and truth be told, were mostly written from the same outlook and mostly said the same thing with slight variations.

Then, books began to appear on the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1940 in Palestinian desert caves overlooking the Dead Sea. I read everything I could find, still looking for an elusive “something.”  I soon discovered that while the Scrolls were Jewish documents about a mostly male priestly society, the first books on the Scrolls were also written from the Christian perspective…books that a novice like me could find at Barnes and Noble.

The scrolls did spark a new round of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” books…all variations again on the basic Christian message…but each Jesus reflected the books author. (Something the New Physics began to inform us on…. we each find what we are looking for.) One thing began to stand out for me, though. I could search the index on a new “Search” book and discover no listings for the gospel women or the usual nod to Mary his sainted peasant but more realistic mother, and/or to Mary Magdalene the fallen prostitute.

Then, rather serendipitously, another discovery of scrolls in the early 1940s, found this time in Egypt in 1940s, the Gnostic Gospels, were finally translated and the first books about them made it to the bookstores in the 1980. These scrolls were not Jewish but heretical Christian and were probably buried to keep them from being burned because they featured persons from the New Testament, especially Mary Magdalene but in a more central role. Their Mary Magdalene opened up whole new vistas for women. Once translated and published, this body of thought saw many women enter the heretofore mostly male world of biblical research. They were determined to reclaim women’s role in the New Testament story and clear the reputation of Mary Magdalene…even making her the wife of Jesus. It was all interesting and did get me to thinking there may be more to the women of the story than I had previously thought. Though I read all the books, women as the equals of the male disciples were intriguing but still was not what I was looking for…that I would know when I saw it.

Then, I found myself one day in the 1980s in collectibles shop in Painesville, Ohio. In a large bin of old books on sale, I found a book titled, The Collected Works of Josephus…I had never heard of him.

But it was one hundred years old and $13. I bought it and it changed everything.

Josephus

I nearly destroyed this old book before I discovered a large paperback edition, also destroyed now with highlighting and dog-eared corners. Flavius Josephus or just Josephus as he is best known to those who love him, wrote three histories that are crucial to understanding the ancient history of the Jews, showing in horrifying detail how his people came to lose their war with Rome that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and led to the infamous siege of Masada in 65-70 A.D. and the loss of the nation.

Josephus was the Jewish commander of Galilee when the war with Rome broke out. He was captured by the Romans before the siege of Jerusalem and was befriended by Titus, the Roman commander, and was allowed access to Jewish royal records.

The most known books are Wars of the Jews, Antiquities of the Jews, and his own autobiography, Life. They reveal that his father was a priest high up in the Temple hierarchy and his mother had royal blood. He was born in 37 C.E. and was raised as a prince in Jerusalem. He knew personally all the kings and queens in the New Testament and the events in the Book of Acts. He was not without his biases, and he used other writers extensively…and was a product of his time and place, but he is the best we have…for a simple researcher like me.

Two distinct portraits of one man; one, Flavius Josephus in a Roman pose showing his adoption by the family of Vespasian the Roman Emperor who defeated his nation and allowed Josephus to chronicle the war…and the older Josephus son of Matthias in the robes of a Jewish prince. These two portraits symbolize the dilemma he and his tiny nation faced…first being a small prize fish in a big pond of competing kings and nation…and then the occupied nation of the winner, the Roman Empire…and the issue they always faced…resist and face losing everything or work with the enemy and try to save as much as you can.

I began reading the early history and it was interesting and new to me but still no BIG Ah Ha moment…Until one day….I remember exactly where I was when I (finally) asked myself, “I wonder if Josephus mentioned any women named Mary?” I flipped back to the index to see…he did.

I found what I was looking for.

In many ways, this is a “what if” theory…as most are. Because, in Josephus’ index, I discovered Mariamne I Queen of the Jews and wondered how she might be connected to Mary mother of Jesus, crucified with the sign over his head, King of the Jews. I have a book as well as this website/blog on what I came up with I call My Search for the Political Mary — WordPress.com

In this series of posts, though, I just want to concentrate on the life and times of Mariamne the Jewish Queen, herself, as reported in the writings of Josephus, always my main source. “The Execution of Mariamne” is one of the most clicked on posts on my website. People are now interested in her, and she deserves a closer look at her LIFE. Mariamne Queen of the Jews was far more than her death.

Cleta M. Flynn

Mariamne VI of Bethany

Bethany
The Sinner Woman and/or Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet. http://www.christian-miracles.com/photos/Images-of-Faith/Bethany.jpgAnointing

The Mary of Bethany stories have always been a puzzle, in part because they seem to conflate or combine a “sinning woman from the city” with the unusually positive story of sweet Mary of Bethany and her ungrateful old sister Martha. They give a lot of space to a houseful of women. Mark begins the Bethany round of stories with this:

And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. (Mark 14:3)

Matthew 26:6, following Mark says the same thing. Luke 7:36-37 says:

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And behold a woman in the city which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment…

Mark and Matthew ended their Bethany stories with Simon the Pharisee Leper and the anonymous sinner from the city who just randomly wandered in. I will look at her and anointing later in this post but now the story takes a dramatic turn.  Luke and John added stories about Martha and Mary and Lazarus also living in (perhaps) Bethany.

Now it came to pass, as they went that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. (Luke 10-38)

John then radically changes it by identifying the unnamed rich woman with the ointment as Martha’s sister Mary of Bethany.

Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair.) (John 11:1-2)

The above passage is the only time that “Mary” is named before “Martha” because John was giving her special attention…and deftly changes the sinning woman with the expensive ointment to a young follower of Jesus…but most of the time, it is Martha named first.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus…And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary…Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him…(John 11)

Twice in the stories Martha complains to Jesus as an equal and expects an answer including the famous line about her being left to do all the serving while Mary sits at his feet…but also over the death of her brother. She demanded to know why he waited until after her brother was dead to come. Jesus then gave her one of his major revelations about his being the “resurrection and the life” and is probably the reason for the story. (John 11) It isn’t just Martha, though. When he approaches Lazarus’ tomb, “Jesus wept” and

then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!”

So…in effect, at Bethany there is a Pharisee named Simon possibly nicknamed the Leper, and perhaps a widow named Martha who owns her own house. Living with her are, Mary a younger sister and a brother or uncle… kin… named Lazarus. Jesus is said to love Martha and Lazarus more than Mary…who is thought by many to be the wife of Jesus…combined with Mary Magdalene. The Jesus-was-married-to-Mary Magdalene people combine these two Marys to make one woman worthy of being the wife of Jesus…although you might notice that Mary Magdalene is never in the Bethany stories…so Mary Magdalene was already combined with Mary of Bethany somewhere off stage.[1]

But Mary of Bethany is more than just a younger sister not helping with dinner. Let’s look at the other passages dealing with just Mary…

Now it came to pass, as they went that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word…(Luke 10:38-42)

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house…And Martha…called Mary her sister secretly saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him… And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother…when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out…and…when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet. (John 11)

The events in the story have a Christian slant…but I would like to note that no other disciple of Jesus falls at his feet…Reading the passages from a daughter of the king viewpoint, Mary of Bethany is not the first one mentioned where love is concerned. She sits at Jesus’ feet. She falls at his feet. She stays indoors until he calls her. She anoints his feet. She sounds like a virgin damsel to me…one betrothed to Jesus, her soon to be husband and already “lord and master.”

The waiting to be called by her lord before going out of the house reminds me of this passage I quoted from the war with Antiochus Epiphanes:

The women, with sackcloth girt under their breasts, thronged the streets, while maidens who were kept indoors ran together, some to the gateways, some to the walls, and some looked out from the windows; and all raised their hands to heaven and uttered their supplication.  II Maccabees 3:19.

Mary was subtly being portrayed as a damsel virgin betrothed to Jesus. Virgin damsels are allowed to wear their hair long and loose…as are prostitutes…so it could go either way for Mary. John’s assertion that the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary of Bethany means she was not a prostitute…and not even Mary Magdalene. But the timing is important. His stop at Bethany is before he makes his way up to Jerusalem where he now feels “his time has come.”

Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany…and…took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. (John 11:1-2, 12:1-3)

A Wedding in Bethany

Coincidentally, six days was the length of a normal wedding ceremony according to The Jewish Encyclopedia On-Line. Perhaps anointing your betrothed husband’s feet was part of a particular group’s wedding ritual…or a ritual for the king to come…or a ritual to honor Jesus himself who also had a foot-washing ritual with his disciples at just this time.

And now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come…He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel…; he poureth water into a bason and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel…(John 13:1-20)

But during the six days in Bethany, Jesus also carefully orchestrated his entry into the city.

Go ye into the village…ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither…” (Luke 19:30)

The Sinning “Anointing” Woman

I need to go back now and pick up the other thread in this story; the story of the woman that anoints Jesus who at first is just a woman with an alabaster box of ointment wandering by.

And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made…And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me….Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13

The woman anointed Jesus on his head and Jesus defends and praises her for it. Luke radically changes the story by placing the event in Galilee and immediately called the woman “a sinner” and of the “city.” (The woman is from Jerusalem but followed Jesus to Galilee.) He then adds the “Mary Magdalene and her seven devils” story—leaving the Jesus-was-married-to-Mary Magdalene people to insist that it was her doing the anointing by that close association. But Luke did something more. He changed the head anointing in Mark and Matthew to a feet anointing and makes the woman a weeping repentant sinner…putting the woman in her place and cooling a tricky story of an anointing down by adding womanly emotions and sins…veiling it:

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And… behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner…brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.[i] Now when the Pharisee saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him; for she is a sinner…(Jesus) said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven…And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils…Luke 7:36-50, 8:3

Yet Another “Mary” Heard From

This is when the Gospel of John rehabilitated the anointing woman by naming her as Mary of Bethany—but kept the anointing of the feet.

Now, a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair)…[the raising of Lazarus story follows]…Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany…They made him supper; and Martha served…Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment… John 11:1-2, 12:1-3

I think that John had information that the anointing woman was named Mary and so made her the only Mary he knew was there…Mary of Bethany. A good many of the thousands of books written about Mary Magdalene say that she was also Mary of Bethany by the somewhat convoluted path mentioned above. I do not as noted above. The mention of Jesus being in Bethany “six” days which the Jewish Archives, said  is the length of a normal wedding ceremony and the fact that John does tell another story of Jesus and his mother at a wedding in Cana where she gives him orders very early on, plus the thought that Mary of Bethany could be Mary Magdalene because of the proximity of their stories in Luke…and the careful planning Jesus makes about his final trip up to Jerusalem for the Passover…

“Go ye into the village…ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither”…Luke 19:30

It all makes sense if “Mary” was “my Mary”–Jesus’ mother Mary Magdalene as as the granddaughter of the Great Queen with her Mariamne Tower, Mariamne III with a bloodline and prophecy. John has already had Jesus and his mother at a wedding. I think that all the careful planning before her son’s “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem included his marriage and an anointing…by the one with the bloodline…his mother. I have two reasons for thinking this. One, remember when Herod, his great-grandfather, who when he was about to break the siege of Jerusalem and enter the city for the first time as king, rode to Samaria and consummated his marriage alliance with the young virgin Mariamne I the Hasmonean Queen before he could be crowned as the King of the Jews.

To Be Crowned by Your Mother

The second reason is because of this passage:

Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.  Song of Solomon 3:11

We are told that Jesus went up to Jerusalem directly after one or two anointings to orchestrated shouts of Hosanna:

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice…Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest! (Luke 19:37-38)

It would also have been essential for Jesus to have a potent marriage alliance…an alliance with someone who could help him with his claims. I think that young woman was Mary of Bethany. (More on who I think she may have been in next blog post.) My wishful thinking/guesstimate is that the entry into Jerusalem on the seventh day (!) shortly after his anointing and espousal, included his mother with her bloodline and prophecy riding beside him on that elusive second “colt of an ass.” The son of Mariamne III of the Mariamne Tower/bloodline would have been riding into Jerusalem with his queen mother at his side….a deliberate reversal of the last Davidic king and his mother as they rode out of the city to be sent into exile in Babylon…for those with eyes to see…[iii]

Mariamne’s I through VI

Mariamnes I through VI

 

Notes

[i] Read the entire passage in Luke. He mentions “feet” SEVEN times and the use of the word “head” has become “hairs of her head” for the weeping sinner woman who anointed his “feet.”  Jesus also goes to great lengths telling a parable to show that the woman has been forgiven because she loves him much. I will give an example of this kind of love in the next post. We are conditioned to see the word love and think sexual love.

[ii] Remember that the gospels are written during the time of slanders being flung back and forth between rabbis and disciples and the family of Jesus. The gospel writers, even after the horrible war with Rome in 65-70 A.D. have to defend Mary.

[iii] II Kings 24:12…There is so much contradictory information in the New Testament as to whether Jesus was a “son of David.” Herod thought of himself as the “son of David” and it is rumored that he had a genealogy drawn up to show that he was, technically (if one believed that genealogy) making Mariamne III a tiny part “daughter of David.” As Timothy 1:4 said about Davidic genealogies…Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions….so do.

 

[1] The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail by Margaret Starbird, Bear & Company, 1993…She wrote her book in answer to Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, Dell 1982. Also a favorite is The Moon Under Her Feet, The Story of Mari Magdalene in the Service of the Great Mother, a novel by Clysta Kinstler, one of the Goddess books suggesting a ritual marriage between Jesus and Mari, a priestess…so big for a while. Harper SanFrancisco 1989.

[2] From website Jewish Encyclopedia on line who recommended the article they were using… See more at: https://sojo.net/magazine/march-april-1997/who-was-lazarus#sthash.a9c96WDy.dpuf

[3] The New Testament Code by Robert Eisenman Watkins Publishing London1988. He sees the story of Mary and Martha as irony…or code.

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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”

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”

A Note about Joseph the Just

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Dream of St. Joseph

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 he 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 the daughter of or who. The House and lineage of both are veiled. So, I am here suggesting that “Joseph” might be Joseph of Elemus who was 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 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 taking the High Priesthood on the Day of Atonement from Matthias son of Theophilus. 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.

This Joseph son of Ellemus was a kinsman of “Matthias son of Theophilus (Antiquities of the Jews XVII.VI.4) who was 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.”

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