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 Mishnaabout Agrippa at the Feast of Tabernacles in 41 A.D. (King 41-44 A.D.) Agrippa read the set reading for the occasion from the Book of Deuteronomy: “Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee that is not thy brother” (17:15) Agrippa burst into tears feeling that he was unworthy and the multitude cried out to him, “Be not grieved, Agrippa! Thou art our brother!”
(A clue, perhaps, that a Jesus with Herodian blood, also, might have been accepted by the people…and Rome…if not for his feud with the Annas House of priests.)
While Agrippa was in bonds in Rome but apparently dressed as a prince, waiting to be put into prison for hoping that Tiberius Caesar would just go ahead and die and let his friend Caius be emperor, a strange thing happened.
Now Agrippa stood in his bonds before the royal palace,and leaned on a certain tree for grief…and as a certain bird sat upon the tree on which Agrippa leaned (the Romans called this bird bubo,) [an owl,] one of (the others) that were bound, a German by nation saw him and asked a soldier who that man in purple was; and when he was informed that (he was a principal man of the nation of Jews the man asked to be able to speak to Agrippa and) said thus to him…
This sudden change of thy condition, O young man! Is grievous to thee…now wilt thou believe me, when I foretell how thou wilt get clear of this misery…and how Divine Providence will provide for thee. Know therefore…that…I think it fit to declare to thee the prediction of the gods. It cannot be that though (wilt) long continue in these bonds…and wilt be promoted to the highest dignity and power…But, do thou remember, when thou seest this bird again, that thou wilt then live but five days longer. This event will be brought to pass by that God who hath sent this bird hither to be a sign unto thee…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.VI.7
That sign–King of the Jews–nailed over Jesus’ head was meant as a deterrent as kings everywhere put the heads of their enemies on stakes. Herod Antipas and Herodias were sending a warning not to get in their way, as they did with their killing of John the Baptist. They knew that only those of their own House would try to stop their bid for the kingdom…because that is where the bloodline was.
And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”Matthew 12:25 (Speaking from Hasmonean/Herodian family history?)
But with Jesus and John now dead, who was left to challenge Antipas?
After riding into the city as a king invoking David—but with levels upon levels of meaning…perhaps also as the King to Come “with all things in his power”—that might allow room for the return of a king who was a descendant of the Hasmonean Queen….the House of King and High Priest together who had defied the rule that only a descendant of David could be king for about 100 years…but lost the kingdom after a long war to Herod and his Roman legions in 37 B.C.
After Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king, it seems that things quiet back down and he goes into the Temple in the mornings to teach and at night returns to Bethany…another few ordinary days. Then one morning…
…they came to Jerusalem and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught them saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves…(Mark 11:15-17)
All four gospels say this happened and John says it happened twice. But they all say Jesus calmly went back into the porticos and taught and when even was come, he went out of the city.
As I have attempted to show, royalty did not marry for love…they made marriage alliances. If Jesus saved a betrothal or marriage until just before going up to Jerusalem to make his case to Pilate and through him to Rome, my guess is that the marriage was an alliance that would strengthen his bloodline case. Also, saving the marriage ceremony for just before going up to Jerusalem–Jesus is quoted often as being against marriage…until the kingdom came…this fateful trip up to Jerusalem, it seems, was his deliberate inauguration of the return of the kingdom.
The Family Whom Jesus Loved…
Simon, Martha, Mariamne, and Lazarus are the names of the “friends” of Jesus in Bethany. “Simon” in conjunction with a “Mariamne” rang a bell for me, as it might for you now, because of High Priest Simon son of Boethus and his daughter Mariamne II married to Herod the King. But I had to research the other two names to see if they would make a connection…
Believe it or not, in the last days of the war with Rome in 68-70 A.D., the rabbis tell several stories of rich arrogant (sinning) women of the city. One woman was named Martha daughter of Boethus:
“It happened that when Martha the daughter of Boethus was betrothed to Yehoshuaben Gamla,the king appointed him to be the High Priest, and they were married. Once, she said: I will go and see him (the High Priest) when he reads (the Torah) on Yom Kippur in the Temple. They laid out carpets for her from the entrance of her house to the gateway of the Temple so that her feet not be exposed (to the ground), even so, her feet were exposed….(Mishnah Yevamo 6:4; Sifra, Emor 2:6)
A Martha daughter of Boethus was betrothed to a Jesus/Yeoshua who was then named as the High Priest…a marriage alliance…and a typical way to keep the high priesthood in the family. (This story can be seen as a parody on the gospel stories…i.e.; similar use of the word “feet.” And, Martha’s feet are not even allowed to touch the ground but in John she is the one doing all the house work.
But from the story, we now know that “Martha” was also a Boethus family name. And Simon was variously called a Pharisee and a “leper.” Leper as a nickname was not unfitting for a High Priest who had been deposed, his daughter divorced and his grandson and heir kicked out of the succession and his two sons tortured over a plot to kill Herod…and who even thirty years later found themselves living in a “poor” village outside of the city. (“Bethany” means House of the Poor.)
That Name Lazarus
From Josephus, we know that Mariamne the High Priest’s daughter had two brothers named Joazar and Eleazar who were also High Priests. There are differing opinions on whether they were sons of Simon or brothers…but all three plus a brother-in-law, Matthias husband of another unnamed daughter, (Elizabeth…my theory) will be High Priest for a short time in the last days of Herod and the early reign of Archelaus.
But where is Lazarus in all this? The Jewish Encyclopedia On-Line says this about the name Eleazar…
Eleazar son of Boethuswas the High Priest of Israel from 4 B.C. to a time before 6 A.D. “Lazarus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew Eleazar. Like Lazarus, Eleazar had two well-known sisters, Miriam and Martha. Baltz uses texts from the Talmud and Midrashim to argue that these are the same Mary and Martha that we find in the gospels. Their brother and former High Priest Eleazar was the “Lazarus” whom Jesus raised from the dead,his Beloved Disciple.
The same source indicates that “Joazar” is a variation on the name “Boethus.” Lazarus has for some become the “Beloved Disciple” because of the passages on how Jesus loved him. (See last post) But I would like to add a daughter of the queen’s perspective:
Now when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus…loved his next brother Antigonus, and treated him as his equal; but the others he held in bonds…Antiquities of the Jews XIII.XI.1
Mariamne of Bethany, therefore, would be the link between the two tribes…she was the available virgin in the right place at the right time to make the alliance between an outsider heir to the kingdom raised in Galilee with a mother with a questionable background, probably anathema to her right wing… and an outsider High Priest exiled in a poor village in the hill country. If Jesus had become “King of the Jews,” she would have been queen, Mariamne VI by my count.
Mariamne of Bethany
The gospels were written from ca 90 A.D. to 135 A.D., well after the war with Rome in 65-70 A.D. With the Temple destroyed, priests were no longer needed…and many of the younger priests had fought the Romans and died, but the Pharisees, soon to be called “rabbis,” were allowed to have a center to study in Galilee. We have seen a small portion of the rabbis war of words with the gospel writers reflected in the anti-Semitism in the gospels and the slanders of Mary in rabbinic writings…all happening after the death of Jesus but still affecting the written story that came later. Their writings is where I found Martha daughter of Boethus. In that vein, there is one other woman the rabbis speak of from the last days of Jerusalem named Miriam/Mary. Here is where it gets tricky…
Miriam daughter of Nicodemus
The Rabbi’s loved to tell stories in the “Midrash” (Definition: an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text. The earliest Midrashim come from the 2nd century AD, although much of their content is older) of wealthy uppity women in the city and their tragic ends when the siege was broken and Jerusalem destroyed in ca 65-70 A.D. One of the stories is about one such woman of the city and ointment.
“A happening with Miriam the daughter of Nakdimonthat the Rabbis granted her…500 dinari a year for her perfume needs….She cursed them, saying: ‘I would like to see you apportion such an amount for your own daughters!’ R. Acha said: We answered “amen” after her! (From website Midrishet Lindenbaum of Irene Stern College: “A Shiu for Tisha Be’Av” Two Midrashim on the Destruction of Jerusalem (Eicha Rabba 1:47-8)
Miriam daughter of Nicodemus was an arrogant, spoiled (sinner) woman of the city with a fondness for ointments showing that a woman didn’t have to be a prostitute/sinner to have access to alabaster jars. She needed to have a rich father, though. I found this passage in the Jewish Encyclopedia On Line:
Men should not go out on the street perfumed (Ber. 43b); but women perfume themselves when going out (see Josephus, “B. J.” iv. 9, 10). A wife could demand one-tenth of her dowry-income for unguents and perfumes; the daughter of the rich Nicodemus ben Gorion was accustomed to spend annually four hundred gold denarii for the same (Ket. 66b).
Coincidentally, this Mary/Miriam’s father–or perhaps a next generation Nicodemus–shows up only in John’s gospel, as a secret follower of Jesus who also deals in expensive spices…
So (Joseph of Arimathea) came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices…. (John 3:1 and 19:38-42)
There is more.
Martha in the Last Days
They laid out carpets for her from the entrance of her house to the gateway of the Temple so that her feet not be exposed (to the ground)….
The rich and arrogant women’s decadent behavior in the last days of Jerusalem was used by the later Rabbis as a reason for God’s retribution. And, as was fitting, God inflicted a terrible end on Martha daughter of Boethus.…
The Talmud recounts the story of her last day during the Roman siege of Jerusalem (Talmud Gittin 56a.) At that time, Martha sent her manservant out to bring her some fine flour, but it was sold out…In desperation, without putting on her shoes, she went out to see if she could find anything to eat. She stepped in some dung and died of shock. Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai thus applied to her the Biblical verse. “The tender and delicate woman among you who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground.” (Deut. 28:56.)… When Martha was about to die, she brought out all her gold and silver and threw it in the street, saying, “What is the good of this to me,” thus giving effect to the verse, “They shall cast their silver in the streets.” (Ezek. 7:19.) (Talmud Gittin 56a.)
One further thing to note: According to Josephus’ index only one man had the name “Lazarus” so it wasn’t common and, oddly, not proving anything but showing a certain continuance…the story is about the last days of Jerusalem and dead bodies…
But why should I describe these calamities individually, for Manneus, son of Lazarus, who fled to Titus in those days told him that through a single gate that had been entrusted to him 15,800 corpses had been carried out…All of these were the bodies of the poor…The rest were “buried” by their own kin, who merely took them out and threw them clear of the city…Wars of the Jews V.XIII.7
The way the gospels are written—and let me say again, I am no expert, merely obsessed with comparing the royal women in Josephus to the gospel women and seeing what happens– nothing deep—it often seems to me that there were two factions among the followers of Jesus according to the way the gospels are written: women and everyone else. It has often been commented on that Jesus spoke to a lot of women for his day. The 70s feminists I read going so far as to make him the first “feminist.” For instance; Jesus was called upon to defend and/or “heal” the women around him, most of whom are considered to be “sinners” by the disciples. They also had a bias against the “rich.” If even some of the disciples around Jesus were Essen in their outlook…not surprising if they had been disciples of John the Baptist who has long been considered to be at least affiliated with the Essenes, then it is understandable. As Josephus said of the Essen:
This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not suffer anything to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who hath nothing at all. Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.I.5
Add to that the “sins” of Essen belief that I have quote twice earlier about how women are not to be trusted…and rich women were the worst sinners…even for the Rabbis, as we will see in the later posts. Mary Magdalene had money enough to support Jesus but also had seven devils. The Matthew and Luke birth stories also accuse Mary, as do the Rabbis of being an adulteress. The women with enough funds to purchase expensive ointment had to have been “sinners.”
Remember that the very first designation of family for Jesus was Mark 6:3:
“Is this not Jesus…the son of Mary.”
It was changed by each subsequent gospel to make it more patriarchal…because to call a man the son of his mother was unusual. It usually meant that he was illigitimate…and that is a possibility…given all the fuss made about his birth. But I think it is something more, of course. I think that calling Jesus the “son of Mary/Mariamne” placed him immediately for his audience for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Even forty years after Jesus’ death and after the war that leveled the Jewish nation, Jews would have known what it meant as they were dispersed over the Mediterranean. He was a son of the royal house, a son of the Tower of Mariamne…and his wrongful death will play a part in the lead-up to that war with Rome…as I will attempt to show.
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:
Theonly 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.”
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)…
We saw in the last blog that Salome was not a “damsel;” i.e.; 12 years old as Mark defined “damsel.
And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom…Mark 6 and Matthew 14
The three Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) give accounts of John the Baptist’s feud with Herodias over her marriage to Antipas. The closest the gospel of John comes is to say…For John was not yet cast into prison. (3:24)
The Synoptic authors do not seem to care that Herodias is trying to get herself and Antipas named as the king and queen that would once again allow the Jews to reclaim rule in Jerusalem. John is most often depicted in the gospels as a hermit prophet and affiliated with the Essene priests perhaps living at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. In the earlier post on Elizabeth, we saw how John’s mother was adamantly described as a “daughter of Aaron”, a daughter of a High Priest. We saw how the Essen were expecting a king messiah and a priest messiah and that a priest messiah would outrank a king messiah. Especially for the priest messiah (an anointed priest/prophet), it would have been essential that he have a genealogy and bloodline uncontaminated with Herodian blood. Coincidentally, the gospels show Elizabeth to have a prophecy and be married to a worthy priest/high priest…which is what the terms “just” and “daughter of Aaron,” meant…meaning that John could, in real life, flesh and blood, be that High Priest Messiah longed for by the writers of the Zadokite Document quoted in the earlier post on Elizabeth.