Monday, February 07, 2011

Did Herod Really Execute Mariamne and Three of His Sons?

No Hasmonean at any price - the Hasmoneans followed the prophets

The picture with the Vermes article, shows the judgement of Mariamne: There are some priestly figures in the background looking very severe. Yet when one reads the story (the supposed history in the writings attributed to Josephus) one gets very little interaction with priests which is strange given Herod’s piety. We do read about Herod occasionally 'offering sacrifice' before going into battle, and that’s about it.  I have to ask what type of sacrifice did Herod offer?  Was it an animal, or was it incense? 

The family tragedy in Herod’s life, as recorded in the writings attributed to Josephus, was a creation of the Church Fathers. There are some fanciful stories. We are led to believe that Herod executed his wife Mariamne who he loved madly, and that he is supposed to have killed his three sons Alexander, Aristobulus and Antipator.  The scholars swallow it. Herod was not the ogre portrayed by the Church Fathers in the writings attributed to Josephus. These stories are propaganda, with the Church Fathers doing the writing.  They have written a far-fetched story that is impossible for any rational person to accept.  The aim was to cover-up the truth, that priests had been involved in the murders of Herod's family because they didn't want a Hasmonean king who supported the prophets.  The person who survived was the son of Mariamne, Aristobulus (because he was in Rome) whom Herod later appointed king.  He was a Hasmonean.

Mariamne, a Hasmonean, was never executed by Herod, and neither was her father Hyrcanus (Hyrcanus was clearly her father not her grandfather as Josephus has it).   She was killed, along with her father Hyrcanus, her mother Alexandra and a number of other prominent Jews (including his brother Pheroras) during the battle of Arabia.  (See my post on Antiquities 15).  Herod had kept the Arabians at bay in the East while Augustus fought the battle of Actium against Anthony, and also the battle of Egypt against Cleopatra's army and the remnants of Anthony's army.  While the battle of Arabia was raging ( a very fierce war), the Arabians were tipped off by the priests that Herod's family had been placed in Alexandrium near the river Jordan for their safety.  But Herod's forces were stretched and were not able to get to Alexandrium in time.  His family and friends were wiped out. Augustus was later to honour Herod with a visit by his army.

Mariamne had given birth to four children. Her first child, a boy, and unnamed, was educated in Rome. He died, but the text doesn’t say why.  Antipator, and his mother Doris, were fabricated by the Church Fathers so that they could add to the bad character created for Herod.  Doris, Antipator’s supposed mother was invented - she appears briefly in the editor’s story, and then much later conveniently re-appears for a brief moment, again for the story, being later dismissed from the court.  Alexander died by poisoning - Herod was suspicious in the story as to how Alexander died - he didn't execute him.  Aristobulus survived. We can now see why the Talmud (also quoted in the Vermes article) calls Herod a “wicked slave of the Hasmonean kings”. Herod wanted a Hasmonean son of Mariamne to succeed him, and someone appears to be out to stop him. The priests were set against having a Hasmonean king. It was their betrayal of Herod that was responsible for the deaths of Mariamne and two of her sons.  This was because the Hasmoneans were prophets and supported the prophets.  Priests despised prophets.

Herod didn’t murder his wife Mariamne and two of her three sons.  The Church Fathers made it look as though he did in the writings attributed to Josephus.  The same editors added the third son, Aristobulus to the list of Herod’s victims – they wanted to blacken Herod's name and erase Aristobulus from history.  Aristobulus, the father of Agrippa the Great, was appointed king by Herod. He remained king until he died when Agrippa became king. Kokkinos rightly asks the question: “However, is it possible that a royal court of such magnitude…. lost its well placed manpower in a spectacular overnight disintegration?” The answer is, it didn’t.

All the Roman governors were fictitious – fabricated by the Church Fathers.  (Pilate was not a Roman governor, but was a prefect of soldiery in Caesarea).  Laughably, Martin Goodman has the governors hiding “in political isolation on their estates in the southern part of the province”. The so-called procuratorial coins were coins of king Aristobulus and his son Aggrippa I.  They, like their father and grandfather Herod, didn’t allow their image on their coins. Only for a short period did Agrippa I’s image appear on coins, when the editors were forced to admit that a Hasmonean was in power.  Agrippa I’s rule was considerably longer than the range of the dates on the coins with his image.  In Judaism, Agrippa I was known as Agrippa the Great.  The reign of Agrippa I was comparable to that of his grandfather Herod, and thus much longer than the three years allowed by the coins with Agrippa's image.  Agrippa I, a Hasmonean king, succeeded his father Aristobulus, also a Hasmonean, who in turn succeeded Herod. The history is garbled in the writings attributed to Josephus.  Agrippa I ruled until 64 CE when he was killed by the priests.  The killing of Agrippa I and the persecution of the prophets prompted the Roman invasion under Nero. This invasion lasted a few months.

The priests  had been thrown out of the temple earlier by Judas Maccabeus.  Hence Kokkinos could write: “the ‘priestly class’ as the sole ruling class in Judaea under Rome is a myth”.  Hasmonean rule was thus continuous from the time of Judas Maccabeus through the time of Herod, Aristobulus and Agrippa I.  During that time all kings were Hasmomonean and supported the prophets.