In my mission to compare the gospel stories to those in Josephus and ferret out the royal women’s roles in both, I was struck by the story of Sapphira and Ananias in the Book of Acts in the New Testament. It is an odd story…out of the blue…because it shows a totally different side to the disciples. And, because, believe it or not, I can compare it to a royal woman’s story. See what you think.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?…And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost…And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her with her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. Acts 5: 1-11
The first worm in Agrippa’s plan for being the “King to Come” was, of course, his grandfather Herod. He was in the same dilemma of all the grandchildren of the Queen…proving the priests with their genealogies and abhorrence of “strange women” right. Because not only was Agrippa Herodian on his grandfather’s side, but his own mother was also a strange woman. Bernice, widow of Aristobulus son of Mariamne the Queen was Idumaean on her mother Salome’s side and Arabian on her father’s side…which did not matter one bit to Rome.
But these were hard times for the royal blood. The multitude would take what they could get and Agrippa’s father was also a Hasmonean Prince of the Tower of the Queen. The multitude so desired to have a king in Judea again, one that had Providence on his side, that they would forgive Agrippa his Herodian blood. There is a tradition recorded in the Mishnaabout Agrippa at the Feast of Tabernacles in 41 A.D. (King 41-44 A.D.) Agrippa read the set reading for the occasion from the Book of Deuteronomy: “Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee that is not thy brother” (17:15) Agrippa burst into tears feeling that he was unworthy and the multitude cried out to him, “Be not grieved, Agrippa! Thou art our brother!”
(A clue, perhaps, that a Jesus with Herodian blood through his mother, also, might have been accepted by the people…and Rome…if not for his feud with the Annas House of priests.)
We are now entering into what many Christian writers have called “the lost years.” Except for one legendary episode in Luke that I will look at later, the two birth stories in Matthew and Luke fall silent. The two other gospels, Mark and John, begin when Jesus is “about 30 years old.” So, from the beginning of the reign of Archelaus…and the birth of Jesus…both in about 4 B.C…. until Jesus begins his public campaign—about 26 A.D. or thereabouts, we know nothing, really, of the life of Mary…other than she seems to have given birth to several more children.
Mark, the earliest written gospel said it this way:
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Juda and Simon? arand are not his sisters here with us? Mark 6:3
Josephus continues on through the ten-year reign of Archelaus before falling silent. After Archelaus there was no king in Judaea and hence no royal records for Josephus to use for his histories.