I have been researching Mary mother of Jesus for about 40 years, now.
Most of those years were spent looking for and not finding that one elusive thing I thought I would find, arrogantly, some might say…including myself. A drive that appeared out of the blue and never left.
I had begun my search in the late 1960s with a slight New Age Christian bias…and didn’t realize at first that all the books I was reading were written by Christian scholars and theologians…and truth be told, were mostly written from the same outlook and mostly said the same thing with slight variations.
Then, books began to appear on the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1940 in Palestinian desert caves overlooking the Dead Sea. I read everything I could find, still looking for an elusive “something.” I soon discovered that while the Scrolls were Jewish documents about a mostly male priestly society, the first books on the Scrolls were also written from the Christian perspective…books that a novice like me could find at Barnes and Noble.
The scrolls did spark a new round of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” books…all variations again on the basic Christian message…but each Jesus reflected the books author. (Something the New Physics began to inform us on…. we each find what we are looking for.) One thing began to stand out for me, though. I could search the index on a new “Search” book and discover no listings for the gospel women or the usual nod to Mary his sainted peasant but more realistic mother, and/or to Mary Magdalene the fallen prostitute.
Then, rather serendipitously, another discovery of scrolls in the early 1940s, found this time in Egypt in 1940s, the Gnostic Gospels, were finally translated and the first books about them made it to the bookstores in the 1980. These scrolls were not Jewish but heretical Christian and were probably buried to keep them from being burned because they featured persons from the New Testament, especially Mary Magdalene but in a more central role. Their Mary Magdalene opened up whole new vistas for women. Once translated and published, this body of thought saw many women enter the heretofore mostly male world of biblical research. They were determined to reclaim women’s role in the New Testament story and clear the reputation of Mary Magdalene…even making her the wife of Jesus. It was all interesting and did get me to thinking there may be more to the women of the story than I had previously thought. Though I read all the books, women as the equals of the male disciples were intriguing but still was not what I was looking for…that I would know when I saw it.
Then, I found myself one day in the 1980s in collectibles shop in Painesville, Ohio. In a large bin of old books on sale, I found a book titled, The Collected Works of Josephus…I had never heard of him.
But it was one hundred years old and $13. I bought it and it changed everything.
I nearly destroyed this old book before I discovered a large paperback edition, also destroyed now with highlighting and dog-eared corners. Flavius Josephus or just Josephus as he is best known to those who love him, wrote three histories that are crucial to understanding the ancient history of the Jews, showing in horrifying detail how his people came to lose their war with Rome that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and led to the infamous siege of Masada in 65-70 A.D. and the loss of the nation.
Josephus was the Jewish commander of Galilee when the war with Rome broke out. He was captured by the Romans before the siege of Jerusalem and was befriended by Titus, the Roman commander, and was allowed access to Jewish royal records.
The most known books are Wars of the Jews, Antiquities of the Jews, and his own autobiography, Life. They reveal that his father was a priest high up in the Temple hierarchy and his mother had royal blood. He was born in 37 C.E. and was raised as a prince in Jerusalem. He knew personally all the kings and queens in the New Testament and the events in the Book of Acts. He was not without his biases, and he used other writers extensively…and was a product of his time and place, but he is the best we have…for a simple researcher like me.
Two distinct portraits of one man; one, Flavius Josephus in a Roman pose showing his adoption by the family of Vespasian the Roman Emperor who defeated his nation and allowed Josephus to chronicle the war…and the older Josephus son of Matthias in the robes of a Jewish prince. These two portraits symbolize the dilemma he and his tiny nation faced…first being a small prize fish in a big pond of competing kings and nation…and then the occupied nation of the winner, the Roman Empire…and the issue they always faced…resist and face losing everything or work with the enemy and try to save as much as you can.
I began reading the early history and it was interesting and new to me but still no BIG Ah Ha moment…Until one day….I remember exactly where I was when I (finally) asked myself, “I wonder if Josephus mentioned any women named Mary?” I flipped back to the index to see…he did.
I found what I was looking for.
In many ways, this is a “what if” theory…as most are. Because, in Josephus’ index, I discovered Mariamne I Queen of the Jews and wondered how she might be connected to Mary mother of Jesus, crucified with the sign over his head, King of the Jews. I have a book as well as this website/blog on what I came up with I call My Search for the Political Mary — WordPress.com
In this series of posts, though, I just want to concentrate on the life and times of Mariamne the Jewish Queen, herself, as reported in the writings of Josephus, always my main source. “The Execution of Mariamne” is one of the most clicked on posts on my website. People are now interested in her, and she deserves a closer look at her LIFE. Mariamne Queen of the Jews was far more than her death.
All the prophecies of Armageddon and the End of Days were fulfilled. Millions were killed or enslaved or sent to the amphitheaters. But I believe there was a ray of hope for “certain” of those with eyes to see. Consider this last quote from Josephus just after the siege was broken…
Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency: this is, Phasaelus and Hippicus, and Mariamne…in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valour had subdued…This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind. Wars of the Jews VII.I.1
One other thing that Agrippa did to anger everyone hoping for a “purer” kingdom to come, was to “high-handedly” perpetuate the “wantonness” of his own virgin daughters. Josephus, bless him, tells us why they were so angered…
And thus did Agrippa depart this life. But he left behind him a son, Agrippa by name, a youth in the seventeenth year of his age, and three daughters, one of whom, Bernice, (he) married to Herod, his father’s brother, and was sixteen years old; the other two, Mariamne and Drusilla , were still virgins; the former was ten years old and Drusilla six. Now these his daughters were thus espoused by their father; Mariamne to Julius Archelaus Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus, the son of Chelcias; and Drusilla to the king of Commagena . Antiquities of the Jews XIX.IX.1
The Mary of Bethany stories have always been a puzzle, in part because they seem to conflate or combine a “sinning woman from the city” with the unusually positive story of sweet Mary of Bethany and her ungrateful old sister Martha. They give a lot of space to a houseful of women. Mark begins the Bethany round of stories with this:
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. (Mark 14:3)
Matthew 26:6, following Mark says the same thing. Luke 7:36-37 says:
And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him.And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And behold a woman in the city which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment…
Mark and Matthew ended their Bethany stories with Simon the Pharisee Leper and the anonymous sinner from the city who just randomly wandered in. I will look at her and anointing later in this post but now the story takes a dramatic turn. Luke and John added stories about Martha and Mary and Lazarus also living in (perhaps) Bethany.
Now it came to pass, as they went that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.(Luke 10-38)
John then radically changes it by identifying the unnamed rich woman with the ointment as Martha’s sister Mary of Bethany.
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus of Bethany,the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair.) (John 11:1-2)
The above passage is the only time that “Mary” is named before “Martha” because John was giving her special attention…and deftly changes the sinning woman with the expensive ointment to a young follower of Jesus…but most of the time, it is Martha named first.
Now Jesus loved Martha,and her sister, and Lazarus…And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary…Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him…(John 11)
Twice in the stories Martha complains to Jesus as an equal and expects an answer including the famous line about her being left to do all the serving while Mary sits at his feet…but also over the death of her brother. She demanded to know why he waited until after her brother was dead to come. Jesus then gave her one of his major revelations about his being the “resurrection and the life” and is probably the reason for the story. (John 11) It isn’t just Martha, though. When he approaches Lazarus’ tomb, “Jesus wept” and
“then said the Jews,Behold how he loved him!”
So…in effect, at Bethany there is a Pharisee named Simon possibly nicknamed the Leper, and perhaps a widow named Martha who owns her own house. Living with her are, Mary a younger sister and a brother or uncle… kin… named Lazarus. Jesus is said to love Martha and Lazarus more than Mary…who is thought by many to be the wife of Jesus…combined with Mary Magdalene. The Jesus-was-married-to-Mary Magdalene people combine these two Marys to make one woman worthy of being the wife of Jesus…although you might notice that Mary Magdalene is never in the Bethany stories…so Mary Magdalene was already combined with Mary of Bethany somewhere off stage.
But Mary of Bethany is more than just a younger sister not helping with dinner. Let’s look at the other passages dealing with just Mary…
Now it came to pass, as they went that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word…(Luke 10:38-42)
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him:but Mary sat still in the house…And Martha…called Mary her sister secretly saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him… And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother…when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out…and…when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet. (John 11)
The events in the story have a Christian slant…but I would like to note that no other disciple of Jesus falls at his feet…Reading the passages from a daughter of the king viewpoint, Mary of Bethany is not the first one mentioned where love is concerned. She sits at Jesus’ feet. She falls at his feet. She stays indoors until he calls her. She anoints his feet. She sounds like a virgin damsel to me…one betrothed to Jesus, her soon to be husband and already “lord and master.”
The waiting to be called by her lord before going out of the house reminds me of this passage I quoted from the war with Antiochus Epiphanes:
The women, with sackcloth girt under their breasts,thronged the streets, while maidens who were kept indoors ran together, some to the gateways, some to the walls, and some looked out from the windows; and all raised their hands to heaven and uttered their supplication. II Maccabees 3:19.
Mary was subtly being portrayed as a damsel virgin betrothed to Jesus. Virgin damsels are allowed to wear their hair long and loose…as are prostitutes…so it could go either way for Mary. John’s assertion that the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary of Bethany means she was not a prostitute…and not even Mary Magdalene. But the timing is important. His stop at Bethany is before he makes his way up to Jerusalem where he now feels “his time has come.”
Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany…and…took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.(John 11:1-2, 12:1-3)
A Wedding in Bethany
Coincidentally, six days was the length of a normal wedding ceremony according to The Jewish Encyclopedia On-Line. Perhaps anointing your betrothed husband’s feet was part of a particular group’s wedding ritual…or a ritual for the king to come…or a ritual to honor Jesus himself who also had a foot-washing ritual with his disciples at just this time.
And now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come…He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel…; he poureth water into a bason and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel…(John 13:1-20)
But during the six days in Bethany, Jesus also carefully orchestrated his entry into the city.
“Go ye into the village…ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither…” (Luke 19:30)
The Sinning “Anointing” Woman
I need to go back now and pick up the other thread in this story; the story of the woman that anoints Jesus who at first is just a woman with an alabaster box of ointment wandering by.
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made…And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me….Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13
The woman anointed Jesus on his head and Jesus defends and praises her for it. Luke radically changes the story by placing the event in Galilee and immediately called the woman “a sinner” and of the “city.” (The woman is from Jerusalem but followed Jesus to Galilee.) He then adds the “Mary Magdalene and her seven devils” story—leaving the Jesus-was-married-to-Mary Magdalene people to insist that it was her doing the anointing by that close association. But Luke did something more. He changed the head anointing in Mark and Matthew to a feet anointing and makes the woman a weeping repentant sinner…putting the woman in her place and cooling a tricky story of an anointing down by adding womanly emotions and sins…veiling it:
And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And… behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner…brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.[i] Now when the Pharisee saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him; for she is a sinner…(Jesus) said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven…And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils…Luke 7:36-50, 8:3
Yet Another “Mary” Heard From
This is when the Gospel of John rehabilitated the anointing woman by naming her as Mary of Bethany—but kept the anointing of the feet.
Now, a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair)…[the raising of Lazarus story follows]…Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany…They made him supper; and Martha served…Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment… John 11:1-2, 12:1-3
I think that John had information that the anointing woman was named Mary and so made her the only Mary he knew was there…Mary of Bethany. A good many of the thousands of books written about Mary Magdalene say that she was also Mary of Bethany by the somewhat convoluted path mentioned above. I do not as noted above. The mention of Jesus being in Bethany “six” days which the Jewish Archives, said is the length of a normal wedding ceremony and the fact that John does tell another story of Jesus and his mother at a wedding in Cana where she gives him orders very early on, plus the thought that Mary of Bethany could be Mary Magdalene because of the proximity of their stories in Luke…and the careful planning Jesus makes about his final trip up to Jerusalem for the Passover…
“Go ye into the village…ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither”…Luke 19:30
It all makes sense if “Mary” was “my Mary”–Jesus’ mother Mary Magdalene as as the granddaughter of the Great Queen with her Mariamne Tower, Mariamne III with a bloodline and prophecy. John has already had Jesus and his mother at a wedding. I think that all the careful planning before her son’s “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem included his marriage and an anointing…by the one with the bloodline…his mother. I have two reasons for thinking this. One, remember when Herod, his great-grandfather, who when he was about to break the siege of Jerusalem and enter the city for the first time as king, rode to Samaria and consummated his marriage alliance with the young virgin Mariamne I the Hasmonean Queen before he could be crowned as the King of the Jews.
To Be Crowned by Your Mother
The second reason is because of this passage:
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart. Song of Solomon 3:11
We are told that Jesus went up to Jerusalem directly after one or two anointings to orchestrated shouts of Hosanna:
And when he was come nigh,even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice…Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest! (Luke 19:37-38)
It would also have been essential for Jesus to have a potent marriage alliance…an alliance with someone who could help him with his claims. I think that young woman was Mary of Bethany. (More on who I think she may have been in next blog post.) My wishful thinking/guesstimate is that the entry into Jerusalem on the seventh day (!) shortly after his anointing and espousal, included his mother with her bloodline and prophecy riding beside him on that elusive second “colt of an ass.” The son of Mariamne III of the Mariamne Tower/bloodline would have been riding into Jerusalem with his queen mother at his side….a deliberate reversal of the last Davidic king and his mother as they rode out of the city to be sent into exile in Babylon…for those with eyes to see…[iii]
Mariamne’s I through VI
[i] Read the entire passage in Luke. He mentions “feet” SEVEN times and the use of the word “head” has become “hairs of her head” for the weeping sinner woman who anointed his “feet.” Jesus also goes to great lengths telling a parable to show that the woman has been forgiven because she loves him much. I will give an example of this kind of love in the next post. We are conditioned to see the word love and think sexual love.
[ii] Remember that the gospels are written during the time of slanders being flung back and forth between rabbis and disciples and the family of Jesus. The gospel writers, even after the horrible war with Rome in 65-70 A.D. have to defend Mary.
[iii] II Kings 24:12…There is so much contradictory information in the New Testament as to whether Jesus was a “son of David.” Herod thought of himself as the “son of David” and it is rumored that he had a genealogy drawn up to show that he was, technically (if one believed that genealogy) making Mariamne III a tiny part “daughter of David.” As Timothy 1:4 said about Davidic genealogies…Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions….so do.
 The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail by Margaret Starbird, Bear & Company, 1993…She wrote her book in answer to Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, Dell 1982. Also a favorite is The Moon Under Her Feet, The Story of Mari Magdalene in the Service of the Great Mother, a novel by Clysta Kinstler, one of the Goddess books suggesting a ritual marriage between Jesus and Mari, a priestess…so big for a while. Harper SanFrancisco 1989.
Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan could be vilified for her Herodian blood by her own people, but also celebrated for her Hasmonean blood. Her direct descent from Mariamne I, the Great Queen, was a key to understanding her. The Queen was beloved by the multitudes but also vilified by priests and “certain Pharisees” for marrying Herod and polluting the royal Hasmonean line. She was executed for adultery/unchastity which Josephus said was untrue and he sought to rectify the record.
And thus died Mariamne, a woman of an excellent character, both for chastity and greatness of soul…Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.6
She is virtually unknown today, I think, because she legitimized Herod as king and her heirs were known as Herodian.
Later gospel writers and church fathers seemed annoyed that there were so many women named “Mary” in the New Testament. Lists were often made trying to nail them all down…a hopeless task. The usual method of listing them was to combine a few as Marina Warner did in her book Alone of All Her Sex. She devoted an appendix to the thankless task she called, A Muddle of Marys, and ends with these words:
Theonly text to deal satisfactorily with the problem is the Twentieth Discourse, a spurious Coptic work attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem in which the Virgin introduces herself as all possible Marys: “I am Mary Magdalene, because the name of the village…was Magdalia. My name is Mary of Cleopa. I am Mary of James the son of Joseph the carpenter.”
Now we enter a time of almost too many Marys to keep track of…many more qualified people than I have tried to determine which of the Marys named by Josephus could have been the mother of Jesus. I went through them and tried to track what betrothals and marriages we know about and came up with “my theory.” I’ll lay it out here and you can see what you think. So far we know about…
Mariamne I was the Hasmonean Queen was married to Herod the King.
Mariamne II was the daughter of Simon son of Boethus’ marriage alliance with Herod the King which allowed him to have a High Priest in his House.
Mariamne III was the granddaughter of Mariamne I and Herod the King.
Mariamne IV did not play any role in the Jewish royal court though her mother Olympias was the daughter of Herod the King and Malthace the Samaritan and she was the sister of Archelaus and Antipas who were key players in the gospel stories as Herodian kings. She was given a good betrothal, though one meant to knock down the status of a grandson of Mariamne I.
Aristobulus (son of Mariamne the Queen) left these infants when he was slainby his father…but when they were arrived at the age of puberty, this Herod, (the eldest son), married Mariamne, the daughter of Olympias, who was the daughter of Herod the king, and of Joseph the son of Joseph who was brother to Herod the king, and had by her a son, Aristobulus…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.V.4
Mariamne IV will die young and not play a role except as wife of an heir of the next generation for awhile.
I left out one crucial phrase about this Mariamne when I quoted it in my last post in order to give her her due…
Moreover, (Archelaus) transgressed the law of our fathers, and married Glaphyra…and…divorced his former wife Mariamne and married her, so great was his affection for her. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.1-4
This Mariamne that I have made Mariamne V is a mystery woman and this is the only mention of her in Josephus but she was a Queen in Judaea for maybe 8-9 years before Archelaus divorced her. (See genealogy chart below.)
Considering what happened to Archelaus after he divorced this Mariamne (in the last blog post) it wouldn’t be too far afield to suggest that the divorce—which meant breaking a marriage alliance with a Mariamne and her backers—and making a different alliance with the daughter of a foreign king not sanctioned by Rome, probably got him deposed by Rome.
Which Mariamne could be Mary the mother of Jesus?
I am by no means the only one trying to figure out which Mariamne during this time frame would be “our” Mary. As we have seen, Mariamne was a popular name among royals at just this time with both Hasmonean and High Priestly associations. It is a matter of time and availability. I have already stated that I think that Mariamne III is Jesus’ mother and I will defend her here while also laying out the reasoning behind other choices. The first concern is usually who was Mariamne V, the divorced wife of Archelaus…the choices are:
Mariamne III the Virgin, granddaughter of Mariamne the Queen betrothed widow of Antipater
The daughter of King Antigonus married to Antipater…unnamed but also newly widowed who, if she was then Archelaus’ wife, would now be known to be a Mariamne.
The Virgin Orphan as the Wife of Archelaus
Mariamne III is frankly first choice for most researcher to be the wife of Archelaus. She was young and about the age of puberty and recently betrothed to Antipater Herod’s heir to the kingdom. She was recently widowed with the execution of Antipater…and was perhaps still a virgin—if Antipater had saved the consummation of his marriage alliance to her for his coronation as Herod did with Mariamne I. But not likely because of the orneriness of Antipater and the “abuse of the virgins” trial. One could see Herod approving of a match for Mariamne III with Archelaus in his new will…though as mentioned, no betrothal for Archelaus was given by Josephus; nor has a re-betrothal listing for Mariamne III survived. If they were betrothed to each other, then just the one listing for both is missing.
However, here is my main quarrel with Mariamne “III” being Archelaus’ wife: Timing. If we take the gospels of Matthew and Luke as containing any “real” history, then Mariamne III disappearing from the court record after her betrothal to Antipater and “Mary” appearing in the gospel birth stories in opposition to Herod and Archelaus makes sense—but she could not be in two places at the same time. Both Matthew and Luke tell the birth story quite differently but when you take a step back, they do both use the same kernel of a story—that Mary was pregnant before she was betrothed to Joseph and that her pregnancy and son’s birth were cause for persecution from Herod and his son Archelaus, forcing her to flee Jerusalem and Judea.
Then compare that to a “Mariamne wife of Archelaus,” who at just this time was most likely in Jerusalem assisting Archelaus in his attempt to appear kingly…even needing her presence and bloodline beside him on the dais—and for the trip to Rome…”at just this time.”
Daughter of King Antigonus
That does not mean that “Mariamne wife of Archelaus” did not have a Hasmonean tie. The other most mentioned wife for Archelaus is the unnamed daughter of King Antigonus. A fly in the ointment is that she would have been born before her father was executed in 37 B.C. when Herod officially became King of the Jews. She was married to Antipater son of Herod who was in his 50’s when he was executed and they had a son and a daughter old enough to be caught up in the betrothal wars when Antipater had himself also betrothed to Mariamne III the pre-puberty virgin.
They seem to me to be two separate individuals. The daughter of King Antigonus would be considerably older than Archelaus—my guesstimate for her is around 40 years old to his seventeen. Mariamne III would be just past puberty. The wife of a king being considerably older is not unheard of in royal political marriage alliances, as we saw with Glaphyra being older than Archelaus…maybe he just liked older women…so that is not a deal-breaker. As wife of Antipater, she was documented as being in the city for his trial. She would have been a good choice politically for the weak Archelaus, as she was a genuine daughter of the last Hasmonean King and known to Rome as not being a troublemaker…She didn’t seem to be part of the band of “merry” women at court, for instance and accompanied her husband to his trial. So she is a possibility and since we now know that Archelaus’ wife was named Mariamne. She could then be Mariamne III and Mariamne the Orphan Virgin, Mariamne IV.
A Previously Unknown Younger Princess
I would like to add one more young woman to the list. There is another royal daughter who got sidestepped in the betrothal wars; the daughter of Antipater AND the unnamed daughter of King Antigonus (above). The daughter is also unnamed though she was betrothed second in the cement mixer of betrothals for the pre-puberty orphan grandchildren of Herod.
He(rod) also caused them to be betrothedagainst they should come to the proper age of marriage…Antipater’s daughter to Aristobulus’s eldest son (Herod) ….Antiquities of the Jews XVII.I.2
Trying to keep this bearable…Antipater would not allow this Herod, grandson of Mariamne I and brother to Mariamne III, to have a prime betrothal to his own daughter. (Young Herod son of Aristobulus will show up later married to Mariamne IV, above. He was, in effect, knocked out of the race to be king to please Antipater. But so was Antipater’s own daughter (granddaughter of King Antigonus).
Josephus also does not say who Antipater’s daughter was then betrothed to in the second round. She is not heard from again as “Antipater’s daughter.” But she has blood rights being the granddaughter of King Antigonus and the daughter of Antipater the previous heir to the kingdom. She would have to have been re-betrothed to someone worthy. So it is possible that she was then re-betrothed to Archelaus as next heir in line after Herod son of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter was deposed—as already noted, no re-betrothal for her or Archelaus was listed in Josephus. She is equally possible and if so she was Mariamne V…and has my vote.
All the Mariamnes vs. Mariamne wife of Archelaus and/or “Our” Mary
Conflation—or All the Above
It has long been standard operating procedure to conflate any combination of the royal women to make the wife of Archelaus. (The unnamed daughter of King Antigonus + Mariamne wife of Archelaus=“our Mary.” If you are a fan of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, you know that combining women is exactly what we like to do with Mary of Bethany+ the unnamed “sinning rich woman”+ Mary Magdalene=one wife for Jesus son of Mary.
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”→
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. 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)
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.”
 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
 Jewish Encyclopedia article JOSEPH (High Priest) by: Richard Gottheil, M. Seligsohn
We need to backtrack a bit and look at the last year or so of Herod’s life from a different woman’s angle. Remember that when the sons of Mariamne the Queen had been brought back to court and were blaming Herod for killing their mother, Herod had brought to court also, his son from his first wife in the days before he married Mariamne I the Queen. He had sent Doris his wife and his son Antipater to the outback of Galilee. But then, with Antipater back at court and his mother Doris “back in Mariamne’s bed” and with the re-betrothals more in his favor, Antipater, along with just about everybody at court, now turned their attention to getting rid of his aging father. He plots with his uncle Pheroras, Pheroras’ women and his own mother but not with Salome, his aunt. She runs to tell her brother Herod everything she hears…and she has spies everywhere. Herod again banishes Pheroras and his women from court and forbids them to contact Antipater. Continue reading “An Unnamed Daughter of King Antigonus”→