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.
Matthew was the first gospel to add a birth story, probably to answer questions about Mary that persisted in ca 100 A.D. Scholars say that Matthew is the most Jewish of the gospels, so his birth story is told from Joseph’s perspective. And yet, Matthew subtly makes Mary more important than Joseph, to the point of saying that he is not Jesus’ father.
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Messiah. Matthew 1:16
That is exactly the birth story Matthew fleshed out.
Now the birth of Jesus…was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child… Matthew 1: 18-19
If Joseph had a Davidic bloodline and had contracted an alliance with a young virgin princess who could bear a contender for the throne…this was a blow…even with her prophecy (See post on The Abuse of the Virgins) that she would be the one to bear such a son…even and especially if the real father was Herodian. Understanding that both Matthew and Luke’s birth stories are quite different, the emphasis in both was put on Mary’s virginity. First, Matthew calls up an old prophecy for a way in the past king that Isaiah tries to cheer up with a prophecy that this particular new young virgin wife (alma) would give bear him a blessed son in the normal fashion:
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel.” (Matthew 1:23)…changed to “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS…” (Matthew 1:21)…
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 get the nation back on track. And then he divorced his wife—I will go into who she was 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
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 relatedof 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)
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 (to kill Herod); 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. Now, 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 above 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 direct 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 had 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. Matthew also used a prophecy that I think should belong to Mariamne II and not Mary mother of Jesus…Mariamne III in my theory.
Consider this prophecy that has long 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 priest made the new High Priest by Herod marrying his daughter Mariamne III, Josephus went on to say her father was…
…one Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there… Antiquities of the Jews XIII.III.1
In the earlier 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 2:25And 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 makes 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 having a son who was heir to the throne…and also fell with her “fall” when Herod divorced her over a plot to kill him, true or not.
Even without other kings or queen mothers to back them, the “orphan” children of Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen will be honored for their bloodline by four Caesars from Augustus to Vespasian, from 6 B.C. until Israel’s destruction in 70 A.D. Three of the orphans have roles in the New Testament story, or four, if you consider that Mariamne III and Mary are one in the same—as I do.
As Mariamne II and her son fell out of the running, and Pheroras’ wife was discredited and her heirs side-lined by Antipater—both accused in plots to kill Herod—their unfulfilled prophecies fell to Mariamne III the Virgin, the only one still standing…or was she?
So we know from the last post that an Essen prophet predicted that a young Herod would grow up to be the king and that certain Pharisees were making prophecies with life and death consequences during the last days of Herod about who would inherit the kingdom from him. Daniel’s prophecy also seems to have been revived, predicting that a “prince shall come” that will have “all things in his power.” I’ve even suggested that the virgin prophecy in the New Testament for Mary could fall into this same category of political prophecy about the kingdom…. stressing her virginity as the gospels do.
Following Josephus’s narrative, he now shares a more clear-cut prophecy; this one for Pheroras’ wife, the culprit in the “abuse of the virgins” trial. “Pheroras’ wife” was the second wife of Pheroras, Herod’s brother. When Herod was made king of the Jews, he had secured for his brother a political alliance to a previously unheard-of unnamed sister (or half-sister) of Queen Mariamne I which helped Herod “beg” a tetrarchy for Pheroras “beyond Jordan” from Caesar Augustus. But when the princess died childless, Herod betrothed Pheroras to one of his own daughters by Mariamne I, a prime alliance, but Pheroras wouldn’t marry her. He married a maid servant instead: Continue reading “The Handmaiden Prophecy”→
Josephus, writing well after the Jewish war with Rome in 65-70 A.D., looking back with hindsight, blames the destruction of their nation on an “oracle” which seems to state that a world leader will be born in Israel.
“But now, what did elevate them(the rebels fighting Rome) in undertaking this war was an ambiguous oracle, that was also found in their sacred writings, how about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular; and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination…Wars of the Jews VI. VI.4
I will go into this prophecy more in chronological order, but Josephus also relates many other prophecies during Herod’s reign and immediately after his death, including this one made by an Essen prophet for Herod himself when he was yet a schoolboy in Jerusalem… Continue reading “The Virgin Prophecy”→