Josephus, lastly, tells a story about one final Mary…the last one in his index and on my list. The only one translated as “Mary.” This Mary’s story is pretty awful. She does something that is the crowning evil that a woman could do, and not just any woman but a wealthy noble woman. Even Josephus hesitates to tell her story, except I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age….
There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezub, which signifies “the House of Hyssop.” [i] She was eminent for her family and for her wealth and had fled to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude and was with them besieged therein at this time.
When all exits were closed to the Jews, every hope of escape was now eliminated; and the famine, strengthening its hold, devoured the people, houses and families, one after another. The roofs were full of women and infants in the last stages of exhaustion, the alleys with the corpses of the aged: children and young men, swollen with hunger, haunted the marketplaces and collapsed wherever faintness overcame them…Many, as they buried the fallen, fell dead themselves, while others set out for their graves before their fate was upon them. And throughout these calamities, no weeping or lamentation was heard…Deep silence blanketed the city, and night laden with death was in the grip of a yet fiercer foe—the brigands…Josephus andThe Jewish War V.XII.3 Cornfeld.
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.” 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…
During the war against the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes, Judas son of Matthias Hasmon and his priest militia developed a strict code of purity and called themselves “Hasid” meaning “separated” [i] as in ritually pure, as a way to prepare to fight their Holy War against the Greeks. Judas was seen as the nation’s only hope to defeat Antiochus. Judas also attacked the high priests in Jerusalem as collaborators at the same time he drew his supporters from the lower priests. II Maccabees, whichever faction wrote it, saw Judas as the nation’s “Savior” and called upon the prophet Jeremiah to hand him a golden sword to “strike down your adversaries.” (II Maccabees 15:9)
But Judas also seems to have begun or at least made popular, the belief in a bodily resurrection and rewards in heaven for those who died in the Holy War. Such a doctrine was helpful because the warriors knew they were on a suicide mission, and most would die. II Maccabees adds a new dimension to the war…resurrection. ￼ Continue reading “A Widow with Seven Sons and the Resurrection”→