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.
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.
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
So while Josephus and Luke, politically, lay the death of John the Baptist at the feet of Herod Antipas, Mark clearly blames Herodias and her daughter Salome for John’s beheading.
And when a convenient day was come,that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said 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 she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me…the head of John the Baptist.
And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought; and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. Mark 6:21-28
“Damsel” is a term often found linked with “virgin” as in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 which says: If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed…Also, Mark helpfully clarifies exactly what the term means…
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, “Talitha cumi;” which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightaway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. (Mark 5:39-42)
We are being told that Herodias’ daughter was a young virgin—perhaps betrothed–as discussed earlier and we will see again–virgins were most often kept indoors to preserve their virginity. But we the reader have added to Salome’s character a voluptuous Lolita-like pre-teen pursuing her own perverted ways at the expense of God’s elect: a typical teenager girl in some circles. But Herodias’ daughter could not have been a mere “damsel.”
Herodias…had a daughter Salome…married to Philip, the son of Herod, the tetrarch of Trachonitis… Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.V.4.
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.
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
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.
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?