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?
The power structure won the day. Caiaphas’ “prophecy” that Jesus should die for “the good” of the nation held and the son of Mariamne III with her Virgin prophecy that her son would rule was going by the wayside…as all the other prophecies had. Luke tells us in Acts that Mary was with her other sons and the disciples in Jerusalem after the crucifixion, but the authors of the gospels were confused as to whether she was at the cross or not…until John, written last, explicitly included her but without naming her…trying to clarify the situation.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)
I think that John wrote her into the scene at the cross (perhaps not realizing she was there disguised as Mary Magdalene…my theory) because he wanted us to know about this last scene between Jesus and his mother that has also been veiled.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother…When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved…
The “disciple standing by whom he loved” has caused a lot of debate about who “he” was. He was first thought to be Lazarus “whom Jesus loved,” as we saw in the last post. And, if Jesus had just made a marriage alliance with Lazarus’ sister or daughter most likely, Mary of Bethany, it could make sense to turn her over to his wife’s family. But Mary often traveled with her other sons and one son James will be the leader of the family and followers in Jerusalem after his death…and she clearly stayed with them. She had no need to be taken care of by a “Beloved Disciple.” But forget about all that for a moment and just see the last words John said Jesus spoke to his mother from the cross. A totally different picture emerges…
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”—and though in practical terms that would have required a miracle– 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, perhaps checking out the lay of things, though it is said that 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 that after the huge disruption in the temple, Jesus calmly went back into the porticos and taught and when even was come, he went out of the city.
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 and I stay away from the religious aspects of the story—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 went 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. The disciples or at least the writers of the gospels 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 next post. 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 in time and space 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.
The executed sons of Mariamne I may be gone but they are not forgotten. If Herod had simply named Alexander firstborn son of Mariamne the Queen as his heir and sent Antipater back to Galilee, history would have taken a different path. But as Herod saw the ghost of Mariamne everywhere, stories of the ghosts of her sons circulated around the court and the city. Their spirit would not rest in the hearts of the multitude.
Then did the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus go round all the palace and became the inquisitors and discoverers of what could not otherwise have been found out and brought such as were the freest from suspicion to be examined; whereby it was discovered that Mariamne, the high priest’s daughter, was conscious of this plot (to kill Herod); and her very brothers, when they were tortured, declared it so to be. Whereupon the king avenged this insolent attempt of the mother upon the son, and blotted, whom he had by her, out of his testament, who had been before named therein as successor to Antipater. Wars of the Jews I.XXX.7
The Thoughts of Many Hearts
That passage is about Queen Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter. Now, put it together with this one in Luke’s birth story referring to a son of a Mary…
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel;and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.Luke 2:34-35
The sword passage has always been a puzzle. It is supposed to be a prophecy for Mary but the sword part above in parenthesis almost sounds like it was added later when Jesus was pierced by a sword on the cross…or vice versa. But the rest of the passage doesn’t really fit Jesus or Mary. He was not the cause of the “fall and rising of many in Israel,” according to the gospels. His death seems to have gone unmentioned by contemporaries and almost all hints that there was a direct connection between Jesus and the power structure have been carefully veiled.
Luke’s passage fits better with the fate of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter and her family in the Josephus passage and the accusations made against her by the “ghosts’ of the sons of Mariamne I (whomever they were a voice for). They and Josephus make Mariamne II alone responsible for her young son Herod II’s loss of his place in the succession to the throne— “her insolent attempt of the mother upon her son”—her father’s loss of the High Priesthood and position at court—her brothers’ being tortured and giving evidence against her—and her own loss of position and power at court as queen. She alone had caused the “downfall” and corresponding rise of many. These accusations would have been a “sword in her side.” There is a close affinity between “discoverers of what could not otherwise have been found out” attributed to the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus and “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” of Luke.
Out of Egypt
Matthew, writing nearly 60 years after the death of Jesus in probably 90 A.D., tried to show that Jesus fulfilled all existing prophecies about a King to Come, as we will see in the next post on Elizabeth daughter of Aaron. Matthew also used a prophecy that I think should belong to Mariamne II and not Mary mother of Jesus…Mariamne III in my theory.
Consider this prophecy that has long puzzled scholars—the family’s flight into Egypt.
And [they were] there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son…” (Matthew 2:15)
The only prophecy I could find in scripture about being called out of Egypt refers to the nation of Israel that “sojourned” in Egypt.
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1)
Matthew’s use of the Egypt story seemed to be used to compare Jesus to Moses who brought the people out of Egypt. But now consider this: When introducing his readers to Simon son of Boethus, Mariamne II’s father, the priest made the new High Priest by Herod marrying his daughter Mariamne III, Josephus went on to say her father was…
…one Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there… Antiquities of the Jews XIII.III.1
In the earlier post on the new Jewish royal house–following the Books of Maccabees and Josephus–Onias IV and some priests did leave Jerusalem for Egypt and built a temple there when Simon the Hasmonean was officially made the High Priest instead of Onias IV. Herod then made Simon son of Boethus whose father was a “priest of note” in Alexandria, Egypt, the High Priest by his marriage alliance with Simon’s daughter, Mariamne II. (My theory)
What was being said was that Herod brought a high priestly line out of Egypt and gave that line the dynastic High Priesthood over the Hasmonean line and other Jerusalem lines and the “Babylonian” line he brought in when he killed his young brother-in-law Jonathan Aristobulus who should have been the Hasmonean High Priest.
So, a case can be made that it was Simon son of Boethus whose House was now poetically “called out of Egypt” and restored to what would have been seen as their rightful place by some—in place of the Hasmonean line that helped push them out. If true, it was a very astute move on Herod’s part. Mariamne II’s marriage alliance gave a line of priests back the Temple in Jerusalem—caused the “rise” of—and it was she who bore the brunt of their displeasure when she “fell”, and her son lost his chance at the throne and their chance to have the high priest and king from one house; consolidated.
Now read these passages in Luke in the context of “High Priest Simon son of Boethus a priest of note from Alexandria, Egypt.”
And behold,there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him…Luke 2:25And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother (Mariamne his daughter),Behold, this child (his grandson) is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…Luke 2:34-35
It was the High Priest’s duty to make a prophecy about the kingdom one day a year when officiating in the inner sanctum of the Temple. (More later.) During the last days of Herod, it would have been expected that he makes a prophecy about the next king to come. The Temple was his place. Simon/Simeon was the name of Mariamne’s father, the “just” High Priest when her son was born. They had high hopes that the kingdom would come to this “son of Mary.” The rise and fall of their House revolved around her “rise” in marrying Herod and having a son who was heir to the throne…and also fell with her “fall” when Herod divorced her over a plot to kill him, true or not.
Even without other kings or queen mothers to back them, the “orphan” children of Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen will be honored for their bloodline by four Caesars from Augustus to Vespasian, from 6 B.C. until Israel’s destruction in 70 A.D. Three of the orphans have roles in the New Testament story, or four, if you consider that Mariamne III and Mary are one in the same—as I do.
As Mariamne II and her son fell out of the running, and Pheroras’ wife was discredited and her heirs side-lined by Antipater—both accused in plots to kill Herod—their unfulfilled prophecies fell to Mariamne III the Virgin, the only one still standing…or was she?
Josephus, writing well after the Jewish war with Rome in 65-70 A.D., looking back with hindsight, blames the destruction of their nation on an “oracle” which seems to state that a world leader will be born in Israel.
“But now, what did elevate them(the rebels fighting Rome) in undertaking this war was an ambiguous oracle, that was also found in their sacred writings, how about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular; and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination…Wars of the Jews VI. VI.4
I will go into this prophecy more in chronological order, but Josephus also relates many other prophecies during Herod’s reign and immediately after his death, including this one made by an Essen prophet for Herod himself when he was yet a schoolboy in Jerusalem… Continue reading “The Virgin Prophecy”→
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. divide, 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 Mariamne I were of an age to be the grandmothers of the people around Mary mother of Jesus—and how odd that there is a young virgin princess in a key political position on both sides of that timeline…. named Mariamne/Mary…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 and his sources give speaking roles to the Jewish queens who are the same royal women that are in the New Testament. Mariamne/Mary will become a popular name among the royal and high priestly houses and among the multitudes, first because of Princess Mariamne and then into Christian circles because of Mary. They are relevant and they have been “veiled,” both by Jewish historians and New Testament theologians alike…both came to be known for their problematic betrothals…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 also 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…about 9-10 years old and about to be betrothed….