King of the Jews

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“What is Truth” by Nicholas Gai. Jesus before Pilate. Pilate is depicted looking Roman and Jesus looking like a Jewish peasant or revolutionary. But John says that the soldiers cast lots over Jesus’ clothes and that his “coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” It is hard today to imagine soldiers casting lots over scruffy rags and it is even harder to imagine my version of Mary/Mariamne III riding into Jerusalem beside her son being acclaimed as a King of the Jews and appearing before Pilate to make his case dressed as anything less than a prince of the realm.

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.

Continue reading “King of the Jews”

Queen Glaphyra’s Dream

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Glaphyra daughter of the King of Cappadocia, married to Alexander son of Herod and Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen, sent back home when Alexander was executed and who later married Archelaus…

Archelaus returned from Rome where he was ratified as “Ethnarch” not king. He began to rebuild his royal palace at Jericho that had been looted and burned and to get the nation back on track. And then he divorced his wife—who I will go into in the next blog post—but now I want to continue on with who Archelaus immediately remarried and what the repercussions were…

Moreover, he transgressed the law of our fathers, and married Glaphyra…who had been the wife of his brother Alexander (eldest son of Queen Mariamne), which Alexander had three children by her, while it was a thing detestable among the Jews to marry the brother’s wife[i] (if she had children by him before he died)…so great was his affection for her.  Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.1-4

Continue reading “Queen Glaphyra’s Dream”

A Small Apocalypse

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This painting of the Slaughter of the Innocents shows the slaughter taking place in the Temple not in the tiny town of Bethlehem, more in keeping with Josephus’ recounting of the slaughter of mourners and lamenting mothers attacked in the Temple.

We are now entering into what many Christian writers have called “the lost years.” Except for one legendary episode in Luke that I will look at later, the two birth stories in Matthew and Luke fall silent. The two other gospels, Mark and John, begin when Jesus is “about 30 years old.” So from the beginning of the reign of Archelaus…and the birth of Jesus…both in about 4 B.C….until Jesus begins his public campaign—about 26 A.D. or thereabouts, we know nothing, really, of the life of Mary…other than she seems to have given birth to several more children. Josephus continues on through the ten-year reign of Archelaus before falling silent. After Archelaus there was no king in Judaea and hence no royal records for Josephus to use for his histories. Continue reading “A Small Apocalypse”

A Note about Joseph the Just

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Dream of St. Joseph

It has gotten complicated and I even scare myself, worrying that I have gotten so far off the beaten path that I am “making stuff up.”[i]  The thing that keeps me going on good days is that the similarities keep coming…take for instance, Joseph.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man…Matthew 1:18-20

Matthew says that “Joseph” was a “just” man as Elizabeth was a pure daughter of a High Priest, “just and righteous.”  But we are very carefully NOT told who he is. Since Matthew and Luke give us genealogies that don’t agree on who Joseph’s father was…it is hard to accept either one. We are never told who Mary was the daughter of or who. The House and lineage of both are veiled. So, I am here suggesting that “Joseph” might be Joseph of Elemus who was High Priest for one day on the Day of Atonement where he would have been expected to receive a prophecy as Joseph in the New Testament did also…

the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph…fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and though shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people….Matthew I:20-21

As we continue on with Josephus and the gospels, let’s read them with this Joseph in mind and see what happens…

The Long Death of Herod

By now even Herod knew he was dying and devised a way to harass his ungrateful people even after he was dead. After killing the “innocents” and the “wise men” as we saw in the last post, Herod, from his Jericho palace, hatched the following plot. He was…

…in such a melancholy state of body…when he proceeded to attempt a horrid wickedness; for he got together the most illustrious men of the whole Jewish nation, out of every village, into a place called the Hippodrome (at Jericho), and there shut them in. He then called for his sister Salome…“I know well enough that the Jews will keep a festival upon my death; however, it is in my power to be mourned for on other accounts… if you will but be subservient to my commands. Do you but take care to send soldiers to encompass these men that are now in custody, and slay them immediately upon my death, and then all Judea, and every family of them, will weep at it whether they will or no.”  Wars of the Jews I. XXXIII.6, and Antiquities of the Jews XII.VI.3

And, it is repeated, I think, by Luke in the New Testament…

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went…out of the city of Nazareth into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David); To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. Luke 2:1-5

This tax has always been a puzzle. Luke has caused centuries of perplexity over the actual birth date of Jesus because the only census in this time frame was taken ten years after the death of Herod—where Josephus places it. Most think that Luke simply got it wrong but I think that Luke was taking the existing story…that would have been well known…of the calling of the “illustrious” men to Jericho to ratify Herod’s new heir (or be killed, if they refused) and gave it a Davidic spin. Bethlehem was King David’s place of birth and was geographically near Jericho. And, like his reference to the “most excellent Theophilus” Luke is giving us a hint for those with eyes to see that “Joseph” was one of the principal men…as was the “most excellent Theophilus.” (I:1)  According to Josephus’ index two men named “Theophilus” will later be High Priests.

So operating under the assumption, for the moment, that Joseph son of Heli according to Luke–was Joseph son of Ellemus of a high priestly family worthy of taking the High Priesthood on the Day of Atonement from Matthias son of Theophilus. It was an incredible honor to be the High Priest on the only day of the year that the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and was traditionally expected to receive a prophecy for the nation while in there.

This Joseph son of Ellemus was a kinsman of “Matthias son of Theophilus (Antiquities of the Jews XVII.VI.4) who was kin to the “most excellent Theophilus, to whom Luke addressed his gospel. Having a priest take over for you on the day of the fast was, I would think, a rare occurrence. The priest who took over for Matthias son of Theophilus would have been a celebrity in Jerusalem in those awful last days of Herod the King. Per Luke his Joseph would have been kin to Simon son of Boethus and Elizabeth daughter of Aaron…and would have been, at least momentarily, a priest with purer hands…a “just” man without Herodian blood.

Joseph son of Ellemus drops out of the official record after his big day…at just this time, as will Mariamne III…at just this time…ca 6-4 B.C. Something to at least consider.

The Rabbi’s think it over…

There are two additional rabbinic thoughts on Joseph b. Elam/Ellemus, though. Quoting from the Jewish Encyclopedia on Matthias son of Theophilus:

On the eve of a Day of Atonement—for the priest the most important time in the year—he had become ritually unclean, and consequently was unable to perform the duties of his office, which were discharged instead by his kinsman Joseph ben Ellem (“Ant.” xvii. 6, § 4). This occurrence is mentioned in the Talmud (Tosef., Yoma, i. 4; Yoma 12b; Yer. Yoma 38d), although the name of Matthias ben Theophilus is omitted. “It happened to Joseph b. Elam of Sepphoris that after a disqualifying accident had happened to the high priest, he was appointed in the former’s place.”

The new piece of information is that Joseph ben “Elam” was from Sepphoris.[1] Sepphoris was a large city four miles from where the present day Nazareth is located. And…

The Rabbis forbade him afterward to officiate, even as a common priest (Yoma 12b; Hor. 12b)[2]

If Joseph was not allowed to be a priest in the Temple anymore, it would also free him up to move out of Jerusalem. I can speculate no further about Joseph. He is a mystery man…and so is Joseph son of Elemus. Try googling him. But he was kin to Matthias son of Theophilis and therefore also kin by marriage to Elizabeth mother of John the Baptist and it would make sense of Mary’s sudden trip to see her “cousin” after being betrothed to this “Joseph.”

The Eclipse of the Moon and the Passing of Herod

Herod did die but he missed an eclipse of the moon by about four days. Josephus makes a point, though, of saying that it happened the night the “wise men” and their forty young students were executed:

And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon. Antiquities XVII.VI.2

The eclipse of the moon occurred March 13th, 4 B.C. This eclipse is verifiable and is what is used to help date both the death of Herod and in pure speculation, the birth of Jesus…which happened “about this time.”

 

Notes

[1] See The Jesus Dynasty, The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity by James D. Tabor for a good current look at Sepphoris and the origins of the name Nazareth. Simon & Shuster NY 2006

[2] Jewish Encyclopedia article JOSEPH (High Priest) by: Richard Gottheil, M. Seligsohn

Elizabeth daughter of Aaron

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The Visitation…Mary visits Elizabeth… “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…” Luke 1

Luke began his birth story for Mary with a birth story for “Elizabeth daughter of Aaron”  meaning a daughter of a High Priestly House if not the High Priest himself.

In the days of Herod king of Judaea, there was a priest named Zacharias of the priestly class of Abijah; his wife was of the daughters of Aaron and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless… Luke 1:5-6.

To get a little background, before we look at Luke’s birth story for Elizabeth, it would be helpful to note this passage from Josephus on John Hyrcanus the Hasmonean High Priest:

Now a very surprising thing is related of this high priest (John) Hyrcanus, how God came to discourse with him: for they say that…he was alone in the temple, as high priest, offering incense, and heard a voice (make a prophecy)… And this he openly declared before all the multitude on his coming out of the temple; and it accordingly proved true…He was esteemed by God worthy of the three privileges—the government of his nation, the dignity of the high priesthood, and prophecy… (Antiquities of the Jews XIII.X.3, 7) 

Continue reading “Elizabeth daughter of Aaron”

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?

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