Beloved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus & Simon

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation Jesus resurrecting his Beloved friend Lazarus with Martha and Mary in attendance. Notice that Mary is on her knees and facing Jesus rather than her brother newly out of the grave. She is usually depicted as doing obeisance to her Lord…as in betrothed…and as king.

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…

Martha

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 Yehoshua ben 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 Boethus was 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.[2] [3]

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

Mary 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 Nakdimon that 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.)[1]

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

 

[1] Wikipedia.com Martha daughter of Boethus

[i] See Jewish Women’s Archive for a fuller story of the very rich Martha daughter of Boethus who bought the high priesthood for her husband Jesus/Joshua/Yehoshua ben Gamla.

The Last Days of Herod the King

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

We are now actually in the last days of Herod. He has scourged the palace and the city torturing, killing, and deposing all those who were against him or for anybody else—including his own kin. Nobody wants Antipater to inherit, except Antipater…who has the blood of Mariamne I’s sons on his hands…the true heirs to the throne. It is why there are so many prophecies and why prophecies are so dangerous.

But now Herod was in great pain and humiliation with a body that had developed gangrene and “worms in his privy parts;” and he knew the people saw his afflictions as God’s revenge on him. He asks for a knife to pare an apple and giving a war cry, plunged the knife at his chest. A nephew grabbed it just in time; but Antipater in the dungeon under the palace heard the cry and thought that Herod was dead, and not a minute too soon. He tried to bribe the guard to let him out as he was now, finally, king. The guard, knowing where his bread was buttered, ran first to make sure Herod was really really dead this time. Finding him alive, he told Herod what his son had tried to do… Continue reading “The Last Days of Herod the King”

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

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

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

Then did the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus go round all the palace, and became the inquisitors and discoverers of what could not otherwise have been found out, and brought such as were the freest from suspicion to be examined; whereby it was discovered that Mariamne, the high priest’s daughter, was conscious of this plot; and her very brothers, when they were tortured, declared it so to be. Whereupon the king avenged this insolent attempt of the mother upon the son, and blotted, whom he had by her, out of his testament, who had been before named therein as successor to Antipater.  Wars of the Jews I.XXX.7

The Thoughts of Many Hearts

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

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

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

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

Out of Egypt

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

Consider briefly this prophecy that has also puzzled scholars—the family’s flight into Egypt.

And [they were] there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son…” (Matthew 2:15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him…Luke 2:25

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother (Mariamne his daughter), Behold, this child (his grandson) is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…Luke 2:34-35

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

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

Still Standing

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

003 (3)

 

The Virgin Mary on Trial

431px-Alfonso_boschi,_presentazione_di_maria_al_tempio
The Trial by Bitter Water showing Mary on the Temple Steps with the High Priest. Adultery “…also prevailed to such an extent that a new halakha (regulation) was recommended by Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai to abolish the ancient custom of the “water of bitterness” observed in the Temple, namely on the steps leading from the Women’s Court to the beautiful Nikanor Gate. This was notorious as the place where women suspected of adultery were tested. According to ancient law (Num. 5, 18-28), such a woman was given the “water of bitterness” to drink – a potion mixed with cereal offering, over which was pronounced a traditional curse. If she were guilty, “the water that brings the curse shall enter into her…and the woman shall become an execration among her people.” In addition, the judges could wear down the woman’s opposition to admitting guilt by making her go up and down the steps to the gate. (Mishna Sota 9).Footnote 562[b] (Wars V.IX.395 Gaayla Cornfeld, General Editor, Josephus, the Jewish War, Zondervan,Michigan 1982.)
Having just noted the trials and legal debates around the abuse of the virgins Mariamne III and Herodias in the last post, it is worth mentioning that there is a late tradition that Mary herself was also put on trial. The story surfaced in a Middle Ages document I have quoted before: The Protoevangelion claiming to be written by Mary’s second son James. The author tried to answer every question still “out there” about Mary; for instance, we learn parents’ names for her, Anne and Joachim, and the story of her being raised as a Temple Virgin in Jerusalem, and about her trial by “bitter water” before the High Priest for being defiled.

The Trial by Bitter Water

The Trial by Bitter Water is an ancient ordeal found in the Old Testament where God or Nature makes the determination of a woman’s guilt when a husband or betrothed thought that his betrothed/wife had “cheated” on him but he couldn’t prove it…[i]

Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall…set her before the LORD: and the (High) priest shall…uncover the woman’s head…and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse…and when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass that if she be defiled…that the water that enters into her shall become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot; and the woman shall be a curse among her people. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. (Book of Numbers 5:18-31)

According to rabbinic tradition, the trial took place on the steps in the Temple leading to the Women’s Court[ii]. In the Protoevangelium, Mary was a virgin dancing on the same Temple steps, perhaps a ghost of a persistent rumor about her being there. The author also does not understand what the trial entails as he has both Joseph and Mary receive the bitter water. The author is following Matthew’s birth story featuring Joseph. (1-22)

13. And she was in her sixth month; and, behold, Joseph came back …and…discovered that she was big with child. And he…wept bitterly, saying:…I received her a virgin out of the temple of the Lord, and I have not watched over her…Who has done this evil thing…and defiled the virgin?…Joseph…called Mary, and said to her…Why have you brought low your soul…? And she wept bitterly, saying: I am innocent….[iii]

Joseph then determined to “put her aside” quietly and in the night the angel of the Lord came to him and persuaded Joseph to keep her…but then…

15…Annas the scribe…saw that Mary was with child. And he ran away to the priest…and said to him…Send officers, and you will find the virgin with child… And the officers…brought her along with Joseph to the tribunal. And the priest said: Mary, why have you done this?…And she wept bitterly, saying: As the Lord my God lives, I am pure before Him…And Joseph said: As the Lord lives, I am pure concerning her…16…And the priest said…: I will give you to drink of the water of the ordeal of the Lord…And the priest took the water, and gave Joseph to drink and sent him away to the hill-country; and he returned unhurt. And he gave to Mary also to drink, and sent her away to the hill-country; and she returned unhurt. And all the people wondered that sin did not appear in them…

There is a lot of magic in the stories that I cut out for word count considerations…but I will go into one crucial example here; the “Dust Out of the Temple.” The High Priest has the option to…

…(take) some dust out of the temple, (if any happened to be there,) and put a little of it into the vial, and gave it her to drink…(Antiquities of the Jews III.XI.6.)

If the woman was

…unjustly accused, she conceived with child, and brought it to perfection in her womb in the tenth month; but if she had broken her faith of wedlock to her husband, and had sworn falsely before God, she died in a reproachful manner; her thigh fell off from her, and her belly swelled with a dropsy. (Antiquities of the Jews III.XI.6.)

I am not the only one who sees the “dust of the temple” as an abortifacient or as a poison given at the discretion of the High Priest.

Several commentaries on the Bible maintain that the ordeal is to be applied in the case of a woman who has become pregnant, allegedly by her lover. One reading is that the ordeal results in a prolapsed uterus if she is guilty. Some interpretations of the ordeal describe the bitter potion as an abortifacient, which induces a purposeful abortion or miscarriage if the woman is pregnant with another man’s child, and which confirms her innocence if no miscarriage is observed.[iv]

Two Trials

While Mariamne III in Josephus was more or less the subject of two trials—Pheroras’ wife’s trial for her abuse and the debate by the sages over how long a pre-puberty virgin could have sex and still be a virgin—oddly, the Protevangelium also includes a second form of trial for Mary. Again, Joseph is the narrator. (19, 20) When it is her time, he brings her to a cave in Bethlehem and sets out to find a “Hebrew’ midwife to deliver the baby. One is just then happening by but does not believe the virgin birth story Joseph tells her. But she agrees to enter the cave in time to see a “luminous cloud” that turns out to be the baby Jesus beginning to manifest himself and settle at Mary’s breast. The midwife is overcome with joy and steps out of the cave in time to meet a woman named Salome happening by and tells her …

20. I have a strange sight to relate to you: a virgin has brought forth—Then said Salome…unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth. And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show yourself; for no small controversy has arisen about you. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire. 

These “trials” are not evidence of anything, I know. Just one more little bit of circumstantial coincidence. Further, if such a trial as this last one were required—and events around Mariamne III may require it, as we will see—the one who might, perform such a trial would be her grandmother Salome. “No small controversies” were in the air around Mariamne III…as we have seen…in the last days of Herod the King and his sister Salome will be called upon to perform other acts for her dying brother and for his legacy.

[i] See Jewish Women’s Archive’s article on “Sotah,” the name given to a woman who undergoes the trial. .

[ii] See side bar under picture.

[iii] Protoevangelium continues with: And she said: “As the Lord my God lives, I do not know whence it is to me.” It struck me how similar Mary’s words in the Protoevangelion are to the widow words who urged her seven sons to martyrdom in II Maccabees 7:1-41 “I do not know how you appeared in my womb.”

[iv] See Wikipedia for an excellent well-footnoted entry on the trial. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordeal_of_the_bitter_water

The Virgin Orphans on Trial

i2446-05-virgin-trilestvuyuschaya-icon-cardboard-average_enl
A Russian Icon, The Virgin, by Trile Stvuyuschaya

Herod betrothed his grandchildren by his son Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen as he should, to those that would enhance their position with Rome. If he didn’t, Augustus would object…Rome will continue to honor Hasmonean royal blood until the end of the kingdom (65-70 A.D.). The two granddaughters of the Queen had enough power with the multitudes and Rome that Antipater insisted on being betrothed to one of them, Mariamne III. The other girl, Herodias was betrothed to the next heir in line, Herod II son of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter.

There were others at court, though, hoping to secure places in the kingdom to come…the kingdom after Herod died…as well. They wanted the court rid of the prodigy of Mariamne the Queen, also, because her heirs were half-Herodian. With the sons of Alexander son of Mariamne the Queen sent back to Cappadocia with their mother Glaphyra and the sons of Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen sent to Rome to be raised with Caesar and not old enough to inherit at this time anyway, interest fell to certain other sons at court with blood lines that could sway Rome and daughters who could bear sons that might be king. Continue reading “The Virgin Orphans on Trial”

Mariamne II the High Priest’s Daughter

220px-Livia_Drusila_-_Paestum_(M.A.N._Madrid)_02
Livia Drusilla, or Julia as Josephus calls her, wife of Octavian. They will both be deified after they died and were then called Augusta and Augustus. Salome, sister of Herod, was a good friend of Livia, who was a true force to be reckoned with in Roman politics. http://www.womeninthebible.net/jewish_princess.htm#Salome

With the deaths of Alexandra and Mariamne and a whole generation of Hasmonean males their dominance in the royal record recedes and we learn of other royal and noble women, some will be Hasmonean and some will not. Some we will know the names of and some we will not. But from now on—with Mariamne’s heirs half-Herodian—the royal bloodline is no longer pure…the very thing the priests tried so hard not to let happen. The House of Herod now rules…even though its women are often Hasmonean princesses now safely married off to members of Herod’s family. That is the way of the world. It was the Hasmonean women’s due as royalty to be part of the new government though they could not do much but maintain spy rings, plot and bide their time, as we will see.

A Man Possessed

As mentioned in the last post, Herod appears to have had a nervous breakdown after the execution of his “beloved” Queen: Continue reading “Mariamne II the High Priest’s Daughter”

The Execution of Mariamne the Queen

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Mariamne Leaving the Judgment Seat of Herod (1887), by Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse. This picture is all over the internet as the only attempt to illustrate her life and death. There is at least one legend about her in Jewish sources. “According to Talmudic legend, when the rebelling slave, Herod, had killed all the other members of her royal family Mariamne threw herself from the palace roof to her death rather than marry him; Herod then preserved her body in honey for seven years”      ( Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.geni.com/people/Mariamne-I-Hasmonean for two.) What the legend illustrates is an attempt to redeem Mariamne from being a sinning woman for being a Jewish princess and marrying a “strange” man and defiling the royal bloodline for all times. In truth, her marriage alliance with Herod will change everything.

In the last post, Alexandra had prevailed upon Cleopatra to make Marc Antony demand that Herod come to Egypt to defend himself for killing her son, Mariamne’s younger brother; the seventeen year-old Hasmonean High Priest Jonathan Aristobulus. But now another woman is heard from: Salome, Herod’s sister who had hated Mariamne since those three years trapped with her on Masada—Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth—told Herod that Mariamne had been unfaithful to him with her own husband and their uncle Joseph while he was gone—Herod had left Joseph to guard the two women during his absence with secret orders to kill them if he did not return. Herod confronted Mariamne in private but she convincingly denied any impropriety and Herod again made a declaration of his love for her… until…she said too much…

Mariamne said, Yet was not that command thou gavest (to his uncle Joseph), that if any harm came to thee from Antony, I, who had been no occasion of it, should perish with thee, a sign of thy love to me?” When these words were fallen from her, the king was shocked at them, and presently let her go out of his arms, and cried out, and tore his hair with his own hands, and said, that now he had an evident demonstration that Joseph had had criminal conversation with his wife; for that he would never have uttered (his secret orders) unless there had been such a great familiarity between them. And while he was in this passion he had liked to have killed his wife; but being still overborne by his love to her…he only gave order to slay Joseph without permitting him to come into his sight; and as for Alexandra, he bound her, and kept her in custody, as the cause of all this mischief. Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9

Continue reading “The Execution of Mariamne the Queen”

Mariamne I Queen of the Jews

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Mariamne I Queen of the Jews.  Images were forbidden in Judaism but here is an instance when Alexandra Queen Mother made use of them…for good or ill. Alexandra was much distressed at Herod for not letting her son be the High Priest as was his due.  A friend of Antony’s gave Alexandra this advice on how to get his attention: “…when he saw Aristobulus, he stood in admiration at the tallness and handsomeness of the child, and no less at Mariamne, the king’s wife, and was open in his commendations of Alexandra, as the mother of most beautiful children: and…he persuaded her to get pictures drawn of them both, and to send them to Antony, for when he saw them, he would deny her nothing… Accordingly Alexandra…sent the pictures to Antony…(And his friend) also talked extravagantly, saying that these children seemed not derived from men, but from some god or other. His design in doing so was to entice Antony into lewd pleasures with them, who was ashamed to send for the damsel, as being the wife of Herod, and avoided it because of the reproaches he should have from Cleopatra on that account…” Antiquities of the Jews XV.II.5-6

Herod consummated his marriage alliance with the young teenager Mariamne, officially making himself king to the Judeans, Samaritans and Galileans, having already been king by Roman appointment for three years. While he was away in Rome and since his return, he has been battling Antigonus son of Aristobulus…the current royal house…for the kingdom, though. Now, he had to rush back to Jerusalem to take the city and Antigonus, Mariamne’s uncle, who was barricaded in the Temple. Antigonus had actually been the King/High Priest for about three years before Herod could get his siege towers and Roman legions in place. But he now “stormed the city,” pleading with the Roman commander to not totally destroy it and leave him “king of a desert.” Thousands were killed and the city nearly destroyed but Antigonus was taken prisoner and was going to be shipped to Rome for Marc Antony’s victory parade but Herod feared that in Rome, Antigonus with his royal blood would plead his case before the Senate…

Out of Herod’s fear of this it was that he, by giving Antony a great deal of money, endeavoured to persuade him to have Antigonus slain.

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

The Fight Falls to the Women

The only thing was, the Hasmonean women did not know that it was the end. Josephus was writing with the benefit of one hundred years of hindsight—not to mention a male viewpoint. For the Hasmoneans left alive then, the struggle continued even though it now fell primarily to the women of the family…Queen Mother Alexandra and new young Mariamne I Queen of the Jews…locked into a marriage alliance with an Idumaean warrior in occupied Palestine that had just been through another devastating war with Jerusalem as good as destroyed.

One of the Great Romances

Josephus assures us that Herod and Mariamne loved one another and that their love rivaled that of any of the great loves of history such as Antony and Cleopatra, who were their friends.[1] (Well, Antony was Herod’s friend and Cleopatra was Alexandra’s friend. Herod hated Cleopatra with a grand passion because they were rivals for Antony’s favors and she had an unfair womanly advantage. He repeatedly advised Antony to kill her.) Continue reading “Mariamne I Queen of the Jews”

Two Virgin Marys…

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I could find no identification of this painting of the young virgin Mary but I have given the coordinates. I chose this picture because she looks closer to what I think the young virgin princess Mariamne, daughter of both sides of the civil war might also have looked like…a crown and a blue mantle…royal blue…

We should now have a slightly better understanding of the role that royal women could and did play in the political life of the Jewish nation…mostly through their marriage alliances and their advocacy for their children as heirs…but not always.

We have also seen the beginning of religious sects and political parties who will vie for dominance until the nation’s last days…the Sadducees, Pharisees, and the Essene. We know that there is a purist/priest/warrior faction/militia that believes in Holy Wars and bodily resurrection and/or resurrection as a star into heaven as a reward for martyrdom. We will see the rise of another cycle of this group as we go along from both Josephus and the New Testament…

As we approach that great dividing line in history, the B.C./A.D. year, I hope to show that all things progressed along a continuum. I don’t have the expertise or inclination or even space to show all of what befell this small nation, of course. Josephus wrote reams of pages on all of it and it is fascinating and one gets pulled this way and that…but…my red thread running through it all is the very fact of the existence of royal/noble women even if often unnamed.

The generation of women that were of an age to be the grandmothers of the people around Mary mother of Jesus crossed that B.C./A.D. divide—and how odd that there is a young virgin princess in a key political position on both sides of that time line….as we will see. Both these young girls, though two generations apart, carry with them the story of what happened next to the House of the Hasmoneans and the nation. Josephus gives speaking roles to their queens who will be the royal women in the New Testament. A good many of these women in both narrations will be named Mary/Mariamne. They are relevant and they have been “veiled,” both by Jewish historians and New Testament theologians alike…all because of a marriage alliance from Hell, as we will see.

As we pick up the story of the first Mariamne–daughter of Alexander son of King and High Priest Aristobulus son of Regent Salome Alexandra AND daughter of Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus Ethnarch and High Priest son of the same Salome–with both sides of the civil war in her very person, being the eldest child and not a boy…is about 9-10 years old and about to be betrothed….