Agrippa vs. Herodias

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Agrippa the Great, grandson of Mariamne the Queen and Herod the Great. He beat out Herodias, his sister, and Herod Antipas to restore the kingdom.

In the last post we saw how Agrippa…dressed as a prince while waiting to be put into prison for hoping out loud that Tiberius Caesar would just go ahead and die so that his friend Caius could be emperor…a strange thing happened.

Now Agrippa stood in his bonds before the royal palace, and leaned on a certain tree for grief…and as a certain bird sat upon the tree on which Agrippa leaned (the Romans called this bird bubo,) [an owl,] one of (the others) that were bound, a German by nation saw him and asked a soldier who that man in purple was; and when he was informed that (he was a principal man of the nation of Jews the man asked to be able to speak to Agrippa and) said thus to him…

This sudden change of thy condition, O young man! Is grievous to thee…now wilt thou believe me, when I foretell how thou wilt get clear of this misery…and how Divine Providence will provide for thee. Know therefore…that…I think it fit to declare to thee the prediction of the gods. It cannot be that though (wilt) long continue in these bonds…and wilt be promoted to the highest dignity and power…But, do thou remember, when thou seest this bird again, that thou wilt then live but five days longer. This event will be brought to pass by that God who hath sent this bird hither to be a sign unto thee…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.VI.7

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Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection

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Mary Magdalene at the Tomb with two other “Marys” following behind her. These are the famous “Three Marys”  at the cross…Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25. his passage is the source of the Three Marys at the Cross paintings; “his mother, his mother’s sister Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. But it is just as easy to read that list differently, making four women at the cross; his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. You can place the commas so that there are two women; [1] “his mother and his mother’s sister; Mary the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene.” (The passage is reminiscent of the Gnostic Gospel of Phillip quote: “His sister, his mother,and his companion were each a Mary.”) (Luke says: It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women…24:10)
That verse in John is also the only time that “his mother” and “Mary Magdalene” are in the same sentence. I think that John wrote the scene at the cross around some well-known last words of Jesus directed at his mother and deliberately or not, separated “his mother” from “Mary Magdalene”…my theory. He put the Beloved Disciple into the scene and made it about him, knowing full well that Mary had other sons probably standing there with her. But heard in the context of Mariamne III pushing her son to go up to Jerusalem to fulfill her prophecy that her son would restore the kingdom, the words from the cross take on a bitter edge.
The power structure won the day. Caiaphas’ “prophecy” that Jesus should die for “the good” of the nation held and the son of Mariamne III with her Virgin prophecy that her son would rule was going by the wayside…as all the other prophecies had. Luke tells us in Acts that Mary was with her other sons and the disciples in Jerusalem after the crucifixion, but the authors of the gospels were confused as to whether she was at the cross or not…until John, written last, explicitly included her but without naming her…trying to clarify the situation.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

I think that John wrote her into the scene at the cross (perhaps not realizing she was there disguised as Mary Magdalene…my theory) because he wanted us to know about this last scene between Jesus and his mother that has also been veiled.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother…When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved…

The “disciple standing by whom he loved” has caused a lot of debate about who “he” was. He was first thought to be Lazarus “whom Jesus loved,” as we saw in the last post. And, if Jesus had just made a marriage alliance with Lazarus’ sister or daughter most likely, Mary of Bethany, it could make sense to turn her over to his wife’s family. But Mary often traveled with her other sons and one son James will be the leader of the family and followers in Jerusalem after his death…and she clearly stayed with them. She had no need to be taken care of by a “Beloved Disciple.”[1] But forget about all that for a moment and just see the last words John said Jesus spoke to his mother from the cross. A totally different picture emerges…

Woman, behold thy son!  (John 19:26)

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Jesus son of Mariamne

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The Samaritan Woman at the Well. “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, “Give me to drink.”…(after some back and forth about “living water” vs water in the well)…Jesus saith unto her, “Go call thy husband, and come hither.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said unto her, “Thou hast well said…for thou has had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” The woman saith unto him “Sir…I know that Messias cometh…when he is come, he will tell us all things.” Jesus saith unto her, “I that speak unto thee am he.” And upon this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with the woman…John 4: 7-26. Note that the disciples did not marvel that he talked to a Samaritan with whom Jews had many religious and political reasons for enmity. Nor did they notice that Jesus had just called himself the Messiah for the first time. They marveled that he spoke to a woman and a “sinner.” Remembering that Jesus taught that any re-marriage is adultery. “If a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Mark 10:12

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 and I stay away from the religious aspects of the story—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 went 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. The disciples or at least the writers of the gospels 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 next post. 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 in time and space 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.

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Mary called Magdalene

The Tower of Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen built by Herod as part of his palace in Jerusalem...after he had her killed.
The Tower of Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen built by Herod as part of his palace in Jerusalem…after he had her killed.

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:

The only 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.”

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Archelaus son of Malthace

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Herod Archelaus from Guillaume Rouille’s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum (en.wikipedia.org). Archelaus was 17 years old and hated from the reading his father’s will leaving him Judaea.  

In the last post, I suggested that there was a tie between…or at least a major coincidence…between Matthew having Mary and her son be visited by “wise men” and Josephus story told in the same timeframe of two “wise men” who were early rabbi/teachers with Hasmonean names and a philosophy of martyrdom and rewards in Heaven. It is just possible that Matthew wanted us to know that Jewish wise men supported Mary and her son….the timing is 5-3 CE…AD.

And when (the wise men) were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped…[i]

If “wise men” rabbis and teachers in the Temple backed Mariamne III and a son to inherit the kingdom, it would, indeed, have sent Herod into a tailspin and may have contributed to his killing the teachers and their young students and his deposing of Matthias the High Priest, as we saw in the last post.  And, equally, it would make sense that Joseph wanted to stay out of Herod’s reach… Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt…though I’m not convinced that they actually fled to Egypt, though, because as also saw, there was an Egyptian tie involving Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter, “Simon son of Boethus a priest of note from Egypt.”. (See the post on “Out of 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 2:12-15

Matthew was invested in finding “prophecies” from the Old Testament that he could have Jesus fulfill. And issuing prophecies was a trademark of that “certain sect of Pharisees” who backed Pheroras’ wife with a prophecy. Matthew may not have understood the context of the Out of Egypt Prophecy, but he did understand the danger imposed by Archelaus.

But when (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither…he turned aside into the parts of Galilee…Matthew 2:22

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A Note about Joseph the Just

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 Joseph 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, whose daughter she was, to what House she belonged. The House and lineage of both the mother and father of Jesus are veiled. So, I am here suggesting that “Joseph” might be Joseph of Elemus who we saw was the 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 and Zacharias husband of Elizabeth 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 serving as the High Priesthood on the Day of Atonement when the actual High Priest Matthias son of Theophilus could not. 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. (And, except for the name change from Mattathias to Zacharias, it could be Zacharias’ story.)

This Joseph son of Ellemus was a kinsman of “Matthias son of Theophilus (Antiquities of the Jews XVII.VI.4) who was then also 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.”

But is here anything linking Joseph of Elemus to being a “carpenter?

The Carpenter Designation

The question then becomes even more crucial if Joseph b. Elem had high priestly ties, why was Jesus and/or Joseph thought to be carpenters?

Mark 6:3 “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…”

Matthew 13:55  “Is not this the carpenter’s son, is not his mother called Mary…”

So, rather belatedly, I googled “carpentry” and Jesus and eventually found this:

“The Mishnah mentions the fact that they (Davidic families) brought their wood offerings to the Temple on a special day. (The 20th of Tammuz, i.e., June-July). The author quotes Eisler: …like a few other clans, their impost fell due on a special day, and not, like the rest of the people…The reason for this arrangement evidently was that they owned so much real estate that the delivery of their wood required a great deal of time.”[3]

So…

  1. A Joseph tie to Sepphoris in Galilee 4 miles from where Nazareth is today.
  2. A Davidic genealogy tie that Matthew and Luke tried to establish, though using different charts, for Joseph is corroborated…
  3. The Davidic families tie to wood.

 One could see two things: One that there may well have been a Davidic tie for Joseph. If so, a marriage alliance between a priest/High Priest for a day with a Davidic tie…and Mariamne the granddaughter of Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen…would/could have been powerful. And when it failed…Joseph was not allowed to be a priest anymore and he dropped out…and stayed in Gailee….and the questions arising over Jesus’ father/his mother a virgin…in part led to his claim made to Pilate falling to be honored and his political rivals pushing for his death. The later rabbis would make a pun of the wood/Davidic tie designation as a slander against one who (falsely, in their opinion) died trying to claim to be a Son of David/King.

A lot to think about…Quantum Physics may be right…we find what we are looking for…amazingly, consciously or subconsciously, information I could not have predicted can and does pop up.

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

[3] The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist…Robert Eisler Methuen & Co. Ltd. 1931 quoted by The Dead Sea Scrolls: And the Personages of Earliest Christianity by Arthur E. Palumbo, Jr., Algora Publishing, New York 2004, http://www.algora.com.

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) 

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