Herodias of the New Testament was Mariamne III’s sister, also a granddaughter of Mariamne I and Herod the King and was kin to all the other Mariamnes in Josephus. Her father had been executed by her grandfather. Her other grandmother was Salome sister of Herod. She was a veteran of the harem wars and the “abuse of the virgins” trial along with her sister. If she hadn’t been cleared of the charge of un-virginity, she could never have been betrothed to Herod son of Mariamne II, daughter of Simon the High Priest.
But then, suddenly, Herodias, perhaps even still below the age of puberty” was on the outside looking in. Her mother-in-law was divorced by Herod for plotting against him and was thrown out of court and Herodias and her young husband with her. Her husband’s prophecy made in the Temple by Simon the High Priest and his alliance/betrothal to a granddaughter of Mariamne the Hasmonean queen was not fulfilled. See Post on Out of Egypt. They stayed married when her husband was deposed as an heir to the kingdom. When next heard from in Josephus Herodias has a grown daughter—unfortunately not a son—and was living in a palace in Caesarea and was still the wife of the same by-passed Herod. Continue reading “Herodias sister of Mariamne III”→
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?
So we know from the last post that an Essen prophet predicted that a young Herod would grow up to be the king and that certain Pharisees were making prophecies with life and death consequences during the last days of Herod about who would inherit the kingdom from him. Daniel’s prophecy also seems to have been revived, predicting that a “prince shall come” that will have “all things in his power.” I’ve even suggested that the virgin prophecy in the New Testament for Mary could fall into this same category of political prophecy about the kingdom…. stressing her virginity as the gospels do.
Following Josephus’s narrative, he now shares a more clear-cut prophecy; this one for Pheroras’ wife, the culprit in the “abuse of the virgins” trial. “Pheroras’ wife” was the second wife of Pheroras, Herod’s brother. When Herod was made king of the Jews, he had secured for his brother a political alliance to a previously unheard-of unnamed sister (or half-sister) of Queen Mariamne I which helped Herod “beg” a tetrarchy for Pheroras “beyond Jordan” from Caesar Augustus. But when the princess died childless, Herod betrothed Pheroras to one of his own daughters by Mariamne I, a prime alliance, but Pheroras wouldn’t marry her. He married a maid servant instead: Continue reading “The Handmaiden Prophecy”→
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”→
King Herod had his two sons by Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen executed in 7 BCE clearing the way for his Idumaean son Antipater to be his first heir but…
…an intolerable hatred fell upon Antipater from the nation,though he had now an indisputable title to the succession…However, he began to be in a terrible fear, as he saw the posterity of those that had been slain growing up; for Alexander had two sons by Glaphyra, Tigranes and Alexander; and Aristobulus had Herod, and Agrippa, and Aristobulus, his sons, with Herodias and Mariamne, his daughters. Wars of the Jews I.XXVIII.I
Like his father, Antipater, too, feared Hasmonean blood. Even with their grandmother and their fathers executed and with their royal bloodline diluted the sons and daughters of Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamne, were political rivals even though they were “below the age of puberty.” What Antipater feared was for the orphans to be betrothed in political alliances that would support the “orphans” before Augustus to take the throne away from him when his father died. Continue reading “Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan”→
With the deaths of Alexandra and Mariamne and a whole generation of Hasmonean male relatives and nobles 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. By design, I might add; the practice was age old, and it was the very thing the priests tried so hard not to let happen by allowing kings to exist in Israel. The House of Herod now ruled…even though its women are often Hasmonean princesses now safely married off to members of Herod’s family. 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.
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….
John Hyrcanus son of Simon the High Priest and Ruler of Judea for the House of the Hasmoneans and the unnamed daughter of the last Oniad High Priest, (my theory) ran into a bit of trouble because of his mother. If he had indeed tried to deify his “sainted” mother by saying she was one of the stars in the Pleiades (see previous post), for instance, it created a backlash. A frontal assault was made on her chastity as a way to stop him from officiating as the High Priest.
However, this prosperous state of affairs moved the Jewsto envy Hyrcanus; but they that were the worst disposed to him were the Pharisees…Now Hyrcanus was a disciple of theirs, and greatly beloved by them. And when he once invited them to a feast… there was one of his guests there, whose name was Eleazar, a man of an ill temper, and delighting in seditious practices. This man said, “(I)f thou wilt be righteous in earnest, lay down the high priesthood, and content thyself with the civil government of the people.” And when he desired to know for what cause he ought to lay down the high priesthood, the other replied, “We have heard it from old men, that thy mother had been a captive under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.”…This story was false, and Hyrcanus was provoked against them… Antiquities of the Jew XIII.X.5 (Use of bold emphasis is mine.)
John’s mother may well have been held hostage as a child of the High Priest Onias III who died in exile when the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes occupied Judea. That was what nations did then. The implication, of course, was that Hyrcanus’ mother could not have made it through being held as a hostage/captive as a virgin—no matter how young she was at the time. (More later.) The point being that she wasn’t a virgin when she married Simon, which totally disqualified her to be the wife of a High Priest…and more importantly, the mother of the next High Priest according to the law.
And he that is high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured…he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife… Leviticus 21:10-15
The sect called the Pharisees arose at just this time in Josephus’ Jewish history. They had two main areas of contention with the Sadducees, the High Priestly sect: one was that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and all that stuff about heroes being up among the stars. And two, the Sadducees were the “conservatives,” wanting to keep the Laws as written and Pharisees, in some respects, were more liberal and wanted to make the laws more responsive to their times. (Yes, Red vs. Blue went back at least that far!)
Josephus, bless him, actually gives an example of a change the Pharisees made to the exact law quoted above.
As for the priests, he (Moses)… forbade them to marry harlots. He also forbade them to marry a slave or a captive, and such as got their living by cheating trades, and by keeping inns: as also a woman parted from her husband, on any account whatsoever. Nay, he did not think it proper for the high-priest to marry even a widow of one that was dead, though he allowed that to the priests; but he permitted him only to marry a virgin, and to retain her. Antiquities of the Jews III.XII.2 (My underline to illustrate the portion added by the Pharisees that would affect Hyrcanus’ mother.)
I feel they made the change in the Law expressly to be used against Hyrcanus’ mother as a way to challenge his right to be the High Priest. Royal, priestly women in a war had to deal with being a hostage or a captive and therefore rape and may be why it wasn’t spelled out in the Law because the necessity of High Priestly women’s virginity…wives and daughters…was written into Mosaic Law. Hyrcanus could not let the accusation against his mother stand, though. He had contributed to her martyred death. Nor could he let the challenge to his right to the High Priesthood stand.
…the party of the Pharisees, and abolished the decree…and punished them that observed them…But when Hyrcanus had put an end to this sedition, and after that lived happily…and then died, leaving behind him five sons, he was esteemed by God worthy of the three privileges—government of his nation, the dignity of the high priesthood, and prophecy; for God was with him, and enabled him to know futurities. Antiquities of the Jews XIII.X.7
The first version of the life of John Hyrcanus that Josephus wrote in his earlier Wars of the Jews I.II.8, did not mention this passage on John’s mother but he does add it to his revision in Antiquities. Often his rewrites are to include or exclude passages on royal women. He goes to great lengths to include the stories of royal Hasmonean women, as we will see—in part, I think, because, as we will also see later, his own mother was a royal Hasmonean descended from Jonathan son of Mattathias son of Hasmon.
The Royal Seven
But it wasn’t just ancient history and old myths. The Book of Revelation in the New Testament uses the number seven and seven stars that scholars take to be a reference to the Seven Sisters:
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man…and he had in his hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword…The Revelation of St. John the Divine 1:12-16
Somewhere along the line, Mary became conflated with the queen in Revelation and the stars increased to twelve…but I think it is possible that the whole theme of a woman raised up into the firmament as a star, a very Catholic concept, might…in Judaism…go back to John Hyrcanus’ mother…just a thought. I sure wish we knew her name.
During the war against the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes, Judas son of Matthias Hasmon and his priest militia developed a strict code of purity and called themselves “Hasid” meaning “separated” [i] as in ritually pure, as a way to prepare to fight their Holy War against the Greeks. Judas was seen as the nation’s only hope to defeat Antiochus. Judas also attacked the high priests in Jerusalem as collaborators at the same time he drew his supporters from the lower priests. II Maccabees, whichever faction wrote it, saw Judas as the nation’s “Savior” and called upon the prophet Jeremiah to hand him a golden sword to “strike down your adversaries.” (II Maccabees 15:9)
But Judas also seems to have begun or at least made popular, the belief in a bodily resurrection and rewards in heaven for those who died in the Holy War. Such a doctrine was helpful because the warriors knew they were on a suicide mission, and most would die. II Maccabees adds a new dimension to the war…resurrection. ￼ Continue reading “A Widow with Seven Sons and the Resurrection”→
With Jeshua/Jesus son of Josedek and his new dynasty of High Priests in charge, we hear no more of strange women. But during the reign of Onias III, the fifteenth High Priest, it all came crashing down and for the same reason the House of David crashed: invasion. The Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes decided to conquer tiny Judah in the 160s B.C. The war is captured in The Books of the Maccabees in the Apocrypha and by Josephus using those books.
The book of I Maccabees tells the story from the point of view of Judas the Hammer who rose up against “Epiphanes”…a name that means “god”…making their resistance a Holy War. II Maccabees is written from the point of view of the priests in Jerusalem. Both sides tell the gruesome story of Antiochus’ plan to make Jerusalem “the common graveyard of the Jews.” Pigs and prostitutes were brought into the Temple and priests were forced to offer sacrifices to the Greek king. Mattathias son of Hasmon, a priest, killed another priest making the sacrifice and took off to the hills:
Let everybody who is zealous for the Law…come out after me.” I Maccabees 2