The Book of Acts mentions both Queen Bernice and Princess Drusilla in ca 57-59 A.D. Paul had been arrested to save him from young priests who vowed to kill him for bringing Gentiles into the Temple and Roman Procurator Felix wanted to hear what Paul was saying that was causing such turmoil in Jerusalem. His nineteen year old wife Drusilla daughter of King Agrippa also came to hear him.
“And, after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. (Acts 24:24
As I have attempted to show, royalty did not marry for love…they made marriage alliances. If Jesus saved a betrothal or marriage until just before going up to Jerusalem to make his case to Pilate and through him to Rome, my guess is that the marriage was an alliance that would strengthen his bloodline case. Also, saving the marriage ceremony for just before going up to Jerusalem–Jesus is quoted often as being against marriage…until the kingdom came…this fateful trip up to Jerusalem, it seems, was his deliberate inauguration of the return of the kingdom.
The Family Whom Jesus Loved…
Simon, Martha, Mariamne, and Lazarus are the names of the “friends” of Jesus in Bethany. “Simon” in conjunction with a “Mariamne” rang a bell for me, as it might for you now, because of High Priest Simon son of Boethus and his daughter Mariamne II married to Herod the King. But I had to research the other two names to see if they would make a connection…
Believe it or not, in the last days of the war with Rome in 68-70 A.D., the rabbis tell several stories of rich arrogant (sinning) women of the city. One woman was named Martha daughter of Boethus:
“It happened that when Martha the daughter of Boethus was betrothed to Yehoshuaben Gamla,the king appointed him to be the High Priest, and they were married. Once, she said: I will go and see him (the High Priest) when he reads (the Torah) on Yom Kippur in the Temple. They laid out carpets for her from the entrance of her house to the gateway of the Temple so that her feet not be exposed (to the ground), even so, her feet were exposed….(Mishnah Yevamo 6:4; Sifra, Emor 2:6)
A Martha daughter of Boethus was betrothed to a Jesus/Yeoshua who was then named as the High Priest…a marriage alliance…and a typical way to keep the high priesthood in the family. (This story can be seen as a parody on the gospel stories…i.e.; similar use of the word “feet.” And, Martha’s feet are not even allowed to touch the ground but in John she is the one doing all the house work.
But from the story, we now know that “Martha” was also a Boethus family name. And Simon was variously called a Pharisee and a “leper.” Leper as a nickname was not unfitting for a High Priest who had been deposed, his daughter divorced and his grandson and heir kicked out of the succession and his two sons tortured over a plot to kill Herod…and who even thirty years later found themselves living in a “poor” village outside of the city. (“Bethany” means House of the Poor.)
That Name Lazarus
From Josephus, we know that Mariamne the High Priest’s daughter had two brothers named Joazar and Eleazar who were also High Priests. There are differing opinions on whether they were sons of Simon or brothers…but all three plus a brother-in-law, Matthias husband of another unnamed daughter, (Elizabeth…my theory) will be High Priest for a short time in the last days of Herod and the early reign of Archelaus.
But where is Lazarus in all this? The Jewish Encyclopedia On-Line says this about the name Eleazar…
Eleazar son of Boethuswas the High Priest of Israel from 4 B.C. to a time before 6 A.D. “Lazarus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew Eleazar. Like Lazarus, Eleazar had two well-known sisters, Miriam and Martha. Baltz uses texts from the Talmud and Midrashim to argue that these are the same Mary and Martha that we find in the gospels. Their brother and former High Priest Eleazar was the “Lazarus” whom Jesus raised from the dead,his Beloved Disciple.
The same source indicates that “Joazar” is a variation on the name “Boethus.” Lazarus has for some become the “Beloved Disciple” because of the passages on how Jesus loved him. (See last post) But I would like to add a daughter of the queen’s perspective:
Now when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus…loved his next brother Antigonus, and treated him as his equal; but the others he held in bonds…Antiquities of the Jews XIII.XI.1
Mariamne of Bethany, therefore, would be the link between the two tribes…she was the available virgin in the right place at the right time to make the alliance between an outsider heir to the kingdom raised in Galilee with a mother with a questionable background, probably anathema to her right wing… and an outsider High Priest exiled in a poor village in the hill country. If Jesus had become “King of the Jews,” she would have been queen, Mariamne VI by my count.
Mariamne of Bethany
The gospels were written from ca 90 A.D. to 135 A.D., well after the war with Rome in 65-70 A.D. With the Temple destroyed, priests were no longer needed…and many of the younger priests had fought the Romans and died, but the Pharisees, soon to be called “rabbis,” were allowed to have a center to study in Galilee. We have seen a small portion of the rabbis war of words with the gospel writers reflected in the anti-Semitism in the gospels and the slanders of Mary in rabbinic writings…all happening after the death of Jesus but still affecting the written story that came later. Their writings is where I found Martha daughter of Boethus. In that vein, there is one other woman the rabbis speak of from the last days of Jerusalem named Miriam/Mary. Here is where it gets tricky…
Miriam daughter of Nicodemus
The Rabbi’s loved to tell stories in the “Midrash” (Definition: an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text. The earliest Midrashim come from the 2nd century AD, although much of their content is older) of wealthy uppity women in the city and their tragic ends when the siege was broken and Jerusalem destroyed in ca 65-70 A.D. One of the stories is about one such woman of the city and ointment.
“A happening with Miriam the daughter of Nakdimonthat the Rabbis granted her…500 dinari a year for her perfume needs….She cursed them, saying: ‘I would like to see you apportion such an amount for your own daughters!’ R. Acha said: We answered “amen” after her! (From website Midrishet Lindenbaum of Irene Stern College: “A Shiu for Tisha Be’Av” Two Midrashim on the Destruction of Jerusalem (Eicha Rabba 1:47-8)
Miriam daughter of Nicodemus was an arrogant, spoiled (sinner) woman of the city with a fondness for ointments showing that a woman didn’t have to be a prostitute/sinner to have access to alabaster jars. She needed to have a rich father, though. I found this passage in the Jewish Encyclopedia On Line:
Men should not go out on the street perfumed (Ber. 43b); but women perfume themselves when going out (see Josephus, “B. J.” iv. 9, 10). A wife could demand one-tenth of her dowry-income for unguents and perfumes; the daughter of the rich Nicodemus ben Gorion was accustomed to spend annually four hundred gold denarii for the same (Ket. 66b).
Coincidentally, this Mary/Miriam’s father–or perhaps a next generation Nicodemus–shows up only in John’s gospel, as a secret follower of Jesus who also deals in expensive spices…
So (Joseph of Arimathea) came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices…. (John 3:1 and 19:38-42)
There is more.
Martha in the Last Days
They laid out carpets for her from the entrance of her house to the gateway of the Temple so that her feet not be exposed (to the ground)….
The rich and arrogant women’s decadent behavior in the last days of Jerusalem was used by the later Rabbis as a reason for God’s retribution. And, as was fitting, God inflicted a terrible end on Martha daughter of Boethus.…
The Talmud recounts the story of her last day during the Roman siege of Jerusalem (Talmud Gittin 56a.) At that time, Martha sent her manservant out to bring her some fine flour, but it was sold out…In desperation, without putting on her shoes, she went out to see if she could find anything to eat. She stepped in some dung and died of shock. Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai thus applied to her the Biblical verse. “The tender and delicate woman among you who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground.” (Deut. 28:56.)… When Martha was about to die, she brought out all her gold and silver and threw it in the street, saying, “What is the good of this to me,” thus giving effect to the verse, “They shall cast their silver in the streets.” (Ezek. 7:19.) (Talmud Gittin 56a.)
One further thing to note: According to Josephus’ index only one man had the name “Lazarus” so it wasn’t common and, oddly, not proving anything but showing a certain continuance…the story is about the last days of Jerusalem and dead bodies…
But why should I describe these calamities individually, for Manneus, son of Lazarus, who fled to Titus in those days told him that through a single gate that had been entrusted to him 15,800 corpses had been carried out…All of these were the bodies of the poor…The rest were “buried” by their own kin, who merely took them out and threw them clear of the city…Wars of the Jews V.XIII.7
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.