There are many good books out there now that look at James/Jacob son of Mary. [i] It is possible they even have found his ossuary, stone bone box. [ii] We don’t know much about James, but we know more about him than about the other family and followers of Jesus because he is in the Book of Acts and in Josephus! In both instances his appearance is after the death of Jesus. Acts says that James lead the family and followers in Jerusalem after his brother was killed. He was one of the Pillars that Paul met and a strong Jew and well thought of in the city. Here, I want to touch on James being a Nazarite and his ongoing feud with the High Priesthood and with Agrippa.
As I have attempted to show, royalty did not marry for love…they made marriage alliances. If Jesus saved a betrothal or marriage until just before going up to Jerusalem to make his case to Pilate and through him to Rome, my guess is that the marriage was an alliance that would strengthen his bloodline case. Also, saving the marriage ceremony for just before going up to Jerusalem–Jesus is quoted often as being against marriage…until the kingdom came…this fateful trip up to Jerusalem, it seems, was his deliberate inauguration of the return of the kingdom.
The Family Whom Jesus Loved…
Simon, Martha, Mariamne, and Lazarus are the names of the “friends” of Jesus in Bethany. “Simon” in conjunction with a “Mariamne” rang a bell for me, as it might for you by now, because of High Priest Simon son of Boethus and his daughter Mariamne II married to Herod the King. But I had to research the other two names to see if there was a connection to be made…
Believe it or not, in the last days of the war with Rome in 68-70 A.D., the rabbis tell several stories of rich arrogant (sinning) women of the city. One woman was named Martha daughter of Boethus:
“It happened that when Martha the daughter of Boethus was betrothed to Yehoshuaben Gamla,the king appointed him to be the High Priest, and they were married. Once, she said: I will go and see him (the High Priest) when he reads (the Torah) on Yom Kippur in the Temple. They laid out carpets for her from the entrance of her house to the gateway of the Temple so that her feet not be exposed (to the ground), even so, her feet were exposed….(Mishnah Yevamo 6:4; Sifra, Emor 2:6)
A Martha daughter of Boethus was betrothed to a Jesus/Yeoshua who was then named as the High Priest…a marriage alliance…and a typical way, as we have seen, to keep the high priesthood in the family. (This story can be seen as a parody on the gospel stories…i.e., similar use of the word “feet.” And Martha’s feet are not even allowed to touch the ground but in John she is the one doing all the housework.
But from the story, we now know that “Martha” was also a Boethus family name. And Simon was variously called a Pharisee and a leper. “Leper” as a mean nickname was not unfitting for a High Priest who had been deposed, his daughter divorced, and his grandson and heir kicked out of the succession and his two sons tortured over a plot to kill Herod…and who even thirty years later found themselves living in a “poor” village outside of the city. (“Bethany” means House of the Poor.)
That Name Lazarus
From Josephus, we know that Mariamne the High Priest’s daughter had two brothers named Joazar and Eleazar who were also High Priests. There are differing opinions on whether they were sons of Simon or brothers…but all three plus a brother-in-law, Matthias husband of another unnamed daughter, (Elizabeth…my theory) will be High Priest for a short time in the last days of Herod and the early reign of Archelaus. See post on Elizabeth daughter of Aaron.
But where is Lazarus in all this? Well, The Jewish Encyclopedia On-Line says this about the name Eleazar…
Eleazar son of Boethuswas the High Priest of Israel from 4 B.C. to a time before 6 A.D. “Lazarus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew Eleazar. Like Lazarus, Eleazar had two well-known sisters, Miriam and Martha. Baltz uses texts from the Talmud and Midrashim to argue that these are the same Mary and Martha that we find in the gospels. Their brother and former High Priest Eleazar was the “Lazarus” whom Jesus raised from the dead,his Beloved Disciple.
The same source indicates that “Joazar” is a variation on the name “Boethus.” Lazarus has for some become the “Beloved Disciple” because of the passages on how Jesus loved him. (See last post) But I would like to add a daughter of the queen’s perspective:
Now when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus…loved his next brother Antigonus and treated him as his equal; but the others he held in bonds…Antiquities of the Jews XIII.XI.1
Mariamne of Bethany, therefore, would be the link between the two tribes…she was the available virgin in the right place at the right time to make the alliance between an outsider heir to the kingdom raised in Galilee with a mother with a questionable background but a royal blood tie, probably anathema to her right wing… and an outsider High Priest exiled in a poor village in the hill country. If Jesus had become “King of the Jews,” she would have been queen, Mariamne VI by my count.
Mariamne of Bethany
The gospels were written from ca 90 A.D. to 135 A.D., well after the war with Rome in 65-70 A.D. With the Temple destroyed, priests were no longer needed…and many of the younger priests had fought the Romans and died, but the Pharisees, soon to be called “rabbis,” were allowed to have a center to study in Galilee. We have seen a small portion of the rabbis’ war of words with the gospel writers reflected in the anti-Semitism in the gospels and the slanders of Mary in rabbinic writings…all happening after the death of Jesus but still affecting the written story that came later. Their writings are where I found Martha daughter of Boethus. In that vein, there is one other woman the rabbis speak of from the last days of Jerusalem named Miriam/Mary. Here is where it gets tricky…ha.
Miriam daughter of Nicodemus
The Rabbi’s loved to tell stories in the “Midrash” (Definition: an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text. The earliest Midrashim come from the 2nd century AD, although much of their content is older) of wealthy uppity women in the city and their tragic ends when the siege was broken, and Jerusalem destroyed in ca 65-70 A.D. One of the stories is about one such woman of the city and ointment.
“A happening with Miriam the daughter of Nakdimonthat the Rabbis granted her…500 dinari a year for her perfume needs…. She cursed them, saying: ‘I would like to see you apportion such an amount for your own daughters!’ R. Acha said: We answered “amen” after her! (From website Midrishet Lindenbaum of Irene Stern College: “A Shiu for Tisha Be’Av” Two Midrashim on the Destruction of Jerusalem (Eicha Rabba 1:47-8)
Miriam daughter of Nicodemus was an arrogant, spoiled woman of the city with a fondness for ointments showing that a woman didn’t have to be a prostitute to have access to alabaster jars. She needed to have a rich father, though. I found this passage in the Jewish Encyclopedia Online:
Men should not go out on the street perfumed (Ber. 43b); but women perfume themselves when going out (see Josephus, “B. J.” iv. 9, 10). A wife could demand one-tenth of her dowry-income for unguents and perfumes; the daughter of the rich Nicodemus ben Gorion was accustomed to spend annually four hundred gold denarii for the same (Ket. 66b).
Coincidentally, this Mary/Miriam’s father–or perhaps a next generation Nicodemus–shows up only in John’s gospel, as a secret follower of Jesus who also deals in expensive spices…
So (Joseph of Arimathea) came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So, they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices…. (John 3:1 and 19:38-42)
There is more.
Martha in the Last Days
They laid out carpets for her from the entrance of her house to the gateway of the Temple so that her feet not be exposed (to the ground) ….
The rich and arrogant women’s decadent behavior in the last days of Jerusalem was used by the later Rabbis as a reason for God’s retribution. And, as was fitting, God inflicted a terrible end on Martha daughter of Boethus.…
The Talmud recounts the story of her last day during the Roman siege of Jerusalem (Talmud Gittin 56a.) At that time, Martha sent her manservant out to bring her some fine flour, but it was sold out…In desperation, without putting on her shoes, she went out to see if she could find anything to eat. She stepped in some dung and died of shock. Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai thus applied to her the Biblical verse. “The tender and delicate woman among you who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground.” (Deut. 28:56.) …When Martha was about to die, she brought out all her gold and silver and threw it in the street, saying, “What is the good of this to me,” thus giving effect to the verse, “They shall cast their silver in the streets.” (Ezek. 7:19.) (Talmud Gittin 56a.) 
One further thing to note: According to Josephus’ index only one man is listed under the name “Lazarus”, so it wasn’t common and, oddly, not proving anything but showing a certain continuance…the story is about the last days of Jerusalem and dead bodies…
But why should I describe these calamities individually, for Manneus, son of Lazarus, who fled to Titus in those days told him that through a single gate that had been entrusted to him 15,800 corpses had been carried out…All of these were the bodies of the poor…The rest were “buried” by their own kin, who merely took them out and threw them clear of the city…Wars of the Jews V.XIII.7
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
We are now actually in the last days of Herod. He has scourged the palace and the city torturing, killing, and deposing all those who were against him or for anybody else—including his own kin. Nobody wants Antipater to inherit, except Antipater…who has the blood of Mariamne I’s sons on his hands…the true heirs to the throne. It is why there are so many prophecies and why prophecies are so dangerous.
But now Herod was in great pain and humiliation with a body that had developed gangrene and “worms in his privy parts;” and he knew the people saw his afflictions as God’s revenge on him. He asks for a knife to pare an apple and giving a war cry, plunged the knife at his chest. A nephew grabbed it just in time; but Antipater in the dungeon under the palace heard the cry and thought that Herod was dead, and not a minute too soon. He tried to bribe the guard to let him out as he was now, finally, king. The guard, knowing where his bread was buttered, ran first to make sure Herod was really really dead this time. Finding him alive, he told Herod what his son had tried to do… Continue reading “The Last Days of Herod the King”→
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)
With the deaths of Alexandra and Mariamne and a whole generation of Hasmonean male relatives and nobles their dominance in the royal record recedes and we learn of other royal and noble women, some will be Hasmonean, and some will not. Some we will know the names of and some we will not. But from now on—with Mariamne’s heirs half-Herodian—the royal bloodline is no longer pure. By design, I might add; the practice was age old, and it was the very thing the priests tried so hard not to let happen by allowing kings to exist in Israel. The House of Herod now ruled…even though its women are often Hasmonean princesses now safely married off to members of Herod’s family. It was the Hasmonean women’s due as royalty to be part of the new government though they could not do much but maintain spy rings, plot and bide their time, as we will see.