1. Mariamne Queen of the Jews-A Closer Look

"Esther" by Herman Anschutz, a 19th Century German painter...found on Google Images and used on many websites without attribution.
This is a painting by the German painter Herman Anschutz, 19th Century entitled “Esther. There is only one true older painting of Mariamne the Queen, and I will use it later, but I like to picture her this way, myself. She was young like Esther when she became a queen.

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.

Josephus

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.

Cleta M. Flynn

My Search for a Political Mary

Black Madonna
A Black Madonna…Our Lady of Czestochowa…see Page “Mary as the Black Madonna” for her story.

This blog is about my search for a Mary that made sense to me…a Mary that fit into the patriarchal culture of her day…but also a Mary that could travel with her son and tell him what to do… something only a queen mother could get away with. She had to be a Mary that could help explain why her son, a Galilean citizen brutally killed by the Roman Occupier of Palestine in Jerusalem at the behest of the Jewish High Court and the High Priest…all the forms of political power of the day…died with a sign over his head saying “King of the Jews.” All four versions of the story in the gospels include the sign but do not explain in real time why it was there and why the first question Pilate, the Roman governor and his judge, jury and executioner, asked him was “Are you a King of the Jews?” to which Jesus answered, “Yes” all four times.

 

Being a king in a Middle Eastern monarchy even in the first century A.D. required a royal bloodline….even to be a puppet king in an occupied nation…as we will see. As a curious layperson, after years of studying Christian “Search for the Historical Jesus” books, I literally stumbled across an 800-page book of The Collected Works of Josephus, a Jewish historian born 4 years after the death of Jesus who wrote Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews in basically the same timeframe that the earliest gospels were being written (ca 90 A.D.) but using Jewish court records. Josephus spoke at length about a Jewish Royal family–other than the legendary Davidic one–that included queens with the dynastic name of Mariamne, often translated in Christian documents as Mary.

I have re-written this manuscript a hundred times over thirty-plus years and continue to at least look at the indexes of books still being written on the Historical Jesus…or less common…Mary…to see if my “idea” holds up…so far, so good but others are starting to take a hard look at the women also. I will share their ideas as we go along.

Simply comparing the rich and royal women and their stories in Josephus with the New Testament story does reveal a time of liberated women that answer the questions…Why are there so many women in the New Testament? Was Jesus a feminist? Or…more to my theory…was Jesus accompanied by his royal mother and her handmaidens who supported him? If so, then a certain amount of “veiling” on both the Jewish and the Christian side has been going on, as we will see…

By simply comparing Josephus’ histories of the New Testament era from the Jewish side…with the story of Jesus “son of Mary” as it has come down to us from the Christian side…and by studying a history of Jewish queens and their role in the politics of their nation…gives much needed context to the New Testament Mary and her role in the life and death of her son…see what you think. Even if you disagree, with “my Mary,” you will have to agree that looking at the women’s history…changes our understanding of the era and the role that royal women were expected to play…and did play…and that they were  relevant…

In the nature of blogs…begin at the end if you want to read it like a book. Start with the earliest post under “Archives” October 2014 and come forward…if you want to look at queens from a specific time frame look under menus “Queens of Israel” as a sidebar. Under “Pages” are personal stories of my search and research and further topics that caught my interest but don’t flow chronologically. This blog presupposes a strong level of interest in the reader…a reader with some level of knowledge of the New Testament story…

Cleta Marie Flynn

Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan

The OrphansKing Herod had his two sons by Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen executed in 7 BCE clearing the way for his Idumaean son Antipater to be his first heir but…

…an intolerable hatred fell upon Antipater from the nation, though he had now an indisputable title to the succession…However, he began to be in a terrible fear, as he saw the posterity of those that had been slain growing up; for Alexander had two sons by Glaphyra, Tigranes and Alexander; and Aristobulus had Herod, and Agrippa, and Aristobulus, his sons, with Herodias and Mariamne, his daughters. Wars of the Jews I.XXVIII.I

Like his father, Antipater, too, feared Hasmonean blood. Even with their grandmother and their fathers executed and with their royal bloodline diluted the sons and daughters of Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamne, were political rivals even though they were “below the age of puberty.” What Antipater feared was for the orphans to be betrothed in political alliances that would support the “orphans” before Augustus to take the throne away from him when his father died. Continue reading “Mariamne III the Virgin Orphan”

The Sons of Mariamne

Sons of Mariamne I and II
The pages of Josephus through this entire time frame are full of references to Alexander and Aristobulus as the “sons of Mariamne” and Herod as “son of Mariamne the High Priest’s daughter.” Coincidentally, the first reference to a family designation for Jesus is in Mark 6:3, the first gospel written, where he says…”Is this not the…son of Mary.” Those who had eyes to see…who knew the recent history of the Jews in Palestine during the time that the boys were the heirs to the kingdom as “sons of Mariamne”…17 BCE to 7 BCE…when they were killed…would know exactly what he was hinting at…(My theory.)

Mariamne I’s two eldest sons were sent to Rome to be raised by Augustus as heirs to the Jewish throne. They also had two daughters but it is the sons that will now dominate the royal record.

By 17 B.C. when Alexander and Aristobulus were sixteen to eighteen years old, Herod could put it off no longer and brought them back home. He was in a dilemma…he had to treat them as his heirs or the people will rebel…and…he still greatly feared that if they developed backers, he was in danger of being deposed in their favor. He now feared his own son’s Hasmonean blood.

The first thing Herod did was “marry them to wives.” He married Alexander, the eldest boy, to Glaphyra, a descendent of Darius the Great, daughter of Aristobulus king of Cappadocia…yet a strange woman. Herod married the second son, Aristobulus, to his sister Salome’s daughter, Bernice, who was a more or less converted Jew/Idumaean/Nabatean on her mother’s side and daughter of an Arabian priest on her father’s side. But even with these “flaws,” the sons of Mariamne I were the people’s hope for the restoration of anything close to a Hasmonean or even truly Jewish kingdom. Continue reading “The Sons of Mariamne”

The Execution of Mariamne the Queen

waterh10
Mariamne Leaving the Judgment Seat of Herod (1887), by Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse. This picture is all over the internet as the only attempt to illustrate her life and death. There is at least one legend about her in Jewish sources. “According to Talmudic legend, when the rebelling slave, Herod, had killed all the other members of her royal family Mariamne threw herself from the palace roof to her death rather than marry him; Herod then preserved her body in honey for seven years”      ( Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.geni.com/people/Mariamne-I-Hasmonean for two.) What the legend illustrates is an attempt to redeem Mariamne from being a sinning woman for being a Jewish princess and marrying a “strange” man and defiling the royal bloodline for all times. In truth, her marriage alliance with Herod will change everything.

In the last post, Alexandra had prevailed upon Cleopatra to make Marc Antony demand that Herod come to Egypt to defend himself for killing her son, Mariamne’s younger brother; the seventeen year-old Hasmonean High Priest Jonathan Aristobulus. But now another woman is heard from: Salome, Herod’s sister who had hated Mariamne since those three years trapped with her on Masada—Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth—told Herod that Mariamne had been unfaithful to him with her own husband and their uncle Joseph while he was gone—Herod had left Joseph to guard the two women during his absence with secret orders to kill them if he did not return. Herod confronted Mariamne in private but she convincingly denied any impropriety and Herod again made a declaration of his love for her… until…she said too much…

Mariamne said, Yet was not that command thou gavest (to his uncle Joseph), that if any harm came to thee from Antony, I, who had been no occasion of it, should perish with thee, a sign of thy love to me?” When these words were fallen from her, the king was shocked at them, and presently let her go out of his arms, and cried out, and tore his hair with his own hands, and said, that now he had an evident demonstration that Joseph had had criminal conversation with his wife; for that he would never have uttered (his secret orders) unless there had been such a great familiarity between them. And while he was in this passion he had liked to have killed his wife; but being still overborne by his love to her…he only gave order to slay Joseph without permitting him to come into his sight; and as for Alexandra, he bound her, and kept her in custody, as the cause of all this mischief. Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9

Continue reading “The Execution of Mariamne the Queen”

Alexandra Queen Mother of Mariamne the Virgin

herod
A Young Herod…this photo of a statue of Herod was found in a Jerusalem dig. I could find no original source for it. But statues were forbidden Jews and no likenesses were to be used on coins, either. Herod did not put his “image” on coins he minted but Herod always pushed the envelope where practicing Judaism was concerned. As will Alexandra mother of Mariamne…as we will see.

After the beheading of her warrior prince husband, Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus II, (Hasmonean Ethnarch and High Priest backed by Rome) did not remarry but returned to her father’s home as a widow. She devoted herself to her daughter Mariamne and her son Jonathan Aristobulus as Queen Mother. Mariamne was at the age of betrothal for a royal virgin and was an asset to be used with care. Because…to add to the mix…their long-time benefactor and buffer with Rome, Antipater, had just been poisoned by someone.

The Marriage Alliance from Hell

Hyrcanus and his daughter Alexandra now make a controversial move that will change everything.  What pushed them to do what they did was the dire fact that Hyrcanus still needed a Roman protector because his nemesis, his now dead brother Aristobulus, had a second son who was beginning to make noises about getting an army together to fight Hyrcanus for the kingdom…yet again…So he and his daughter did something illegal and devastating but that also kept the nation intact under Roman protection rather than in another war they couldn’t win…Alexandra betrothed her young virgin princess daughter Mariamne to Herod son of Antipater. Continue reading “Alexandra Queen Mother of Mariamne the Virgin”

Two Alexandra’s daughters of the Hasmonean Civil War

Hyrcanus
Hyrcanus II son of Salome Alexandra

Queen Salome Alexandra died knowing that her younger son was hell-bent on destroying what peace she had managed to hold together. As Josephus tells it, Hyrcanus, the eldest son, the High Priest and Regent when their mother, was a wimp…and a Pharisee.  Aristobulus was a dashing warrior-type Sadducee, the high priestly party. Aristobulus basically told Hyrcanus to move out and leave the government to him and he wouldn’t kill him. Hyrcanus took the deal. Aritobulus moved into the palace and Hyrcanus left and became a “private man.”

Aristobulus
Aristobulus son of Salome Alexandra

No country operates in a vacuum and there was more going on than simple rivalry between brothers or Pharisees and Sadducees. Years before, “King Alexander and his wife” had appointed a man named Antipater to be the governor of Idumaea, an area conquered by John Hyrcanus and forcibly converted to the Jewish religion. Antipater became Rome’s adviser to Hyrcanus II. He insisted that Hyrcanus stand up and fight his brother for the kingdom…because their neighbors preferred the peaceful Hyrcanus on their borders to the warrior Aristobulus…and Rome preferred a civil war in the tiny nation that would make it easier for them to come in and take over. (Antiquities of the Jews XIV.II. 3) Continue reading “Two Alexandra’s daughters of the Hasmonean Civil War”

Salome Alexandra a Harlot in the Dead Sea Scrolls

GoogleDeadSeaScrolls-970-80
Fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls. Some small portion of the scrolls can now be dated to the late 60 BCE because they mention Queen Shalomzion. The fragmentary state of a lot of the scrolls make it frustrating to try to really research them but Google is getting involved. See link.

Salome Alexandra and her husband, “King Jonathan”, as he was called and their two sons are all named in a Dead Sea Scroll titled Annalistic Calendar.  Some places Salome is referred to as a Regent…a ruler, and other times as a Queen…meaning the wife of a king. “Shelamzion’s” mention does not really tell us anything about her, however, because it is so fragmentary; but it is a way to date that portion of the scrolls.

…[….) foundation, Shelamzion entered […] […] to receive […] […] Hyrcanus rebelled […]…(4Q322 Frag. 2. Also see 4Q324 with just her name.)

Continue reading “Salome Alexandra a Harlot in the Dead Sea Scrolls”