Mariamne III through V vs. Mary Mother of Jesus

Black Mary
Modified photo by author. A statue at the Black Madonna Grotto in Eureka MO.

Now we enter a time of almost too many Marys to keep track of…many more qualified people than I have tried to determine which of the Marys named by Josephus could have been the mother of Jesus. I went through them and tried to track what betrothals and marriages we know about and came up with “my theory.”  I’ll lay it out here and you can see what you think. So far we know about…

Mariamne I was the Hasmonean Queen was married to Herod the King.

Mariamne II was the daughter of Simon son of Boethus’ marriage alliance with Herod the King which allowed him to have a High Priest in his House.

Mariamne III was the granddaughter of Mariamne I and Herod the King.

Mariamne IV

Mariamne IV did not play any role in the Jewish royal court though her mother Olympias was the daughter of Herod the King and Malthace the Samaritan and she was the sister of Archelaus and Antipas who were key players in the gospel stories as Herodian kings. She was given a good betrothal, though one meant to knock down the status of a grandson of Mariamne I.

Aristobulus (son of Mariamne the Queen) left these infants when he was slain by his father…but when they were arrived at the age of puberty, this Herod, (the eldest son), married Mariamne, the daughter of Olympias, who was the daughter of Herod the king, and of Joseph the son of Joseph who was brother to Herod the king, and had by her a son, Aristobulus…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.V.4

Mariamne IV will die young and not play a role except as wife of an heir of the next generation for awhile.

Mariamne V

I left out one crucial phrase about this Mariamne when I quoted it in my last post in order to give her her due…

Moreover, (Archelaus) transgressed the law of our fathers, and married Glaphyra…anddivorced his former wife Mariamne and married her, so great was his affection for her.  Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.1-4

This Mariamne that I have made Mariamne V is a mystery woman and this is the only mention of her in Josephus but she was a Queen in Judaea for maybe 8-9 years before Archelaus divorced her. (See genealogy chart below.)

Considering what happened to Archelaus after he divorced this Mariamne (in the last blog post) it wouldn’t be too far afield to suggest that the divorce—which meant breaking a marriage alliance with a Mariamne and her backers—and making a different alliance with the daughter of a foreign king not sanctioned by Rome, probably got him deposed by Rome.

Which Mariamne could be Mary the mother of Jesus?

I am by no means the only one trying to figure out which Mariamne during this time frame would be “our” Mary. As we have seen, Mariamne was a popular name among royals at just this time with both Hasmonean and High Priestly associations. It is a matter of time and availability. I have already stated that I think that Mariamne III is Jesus’ mother and I will defend her here while also laying out the reasoning behind other choices. The first concern is usually who was Mariamne V, the divorced wife of Archelaus…the choices are:

  • Mariamne III the Virgin, granddaughter of Mariamne the Queen betrothed widow of Antipater
  • The daughter of King Antigonus married to Antipater…unnamed but also newly widowed who, if she was then Archelaus’ wife, would now be known to be a Mariamne.

The Virgin Orphan as the Wife of Archelaus

Mariamne III is frankly first choice for most researcher to be the wife of Archelaus. She was young and about the age of puberty and recently betrothed to Antipater Herod’s heir to the kingdom. She was recently widowed with the execution of Antipater…and was perhaps still a virgin—if Antipater had saved the consummation of his marriage alliance to her for his coronation as Herod did with Mariamne I. But not likely because of the orneriness of Antipater and the “abuse of the virgins” trial. One could see Herod approving of a match for Mariamne III with Archelaus in his new will…though as mentioned, no betrothal for Archelaus was given by Josephus; nor has a re-betrothal listing for Mariamne III survived. If they were betrothed to each other, then just the one listing for both is missing.

However, here is my main quarrel with Mariamne “III” being Archelaus’ wife: Timing. If we take the gospels of Matthew and Luke as containing any “real” history, then Mariamne III disappearing from the court record after her betrothal to Antipater and “Mary” appearing in the gospel birth stories in opposition to Herod and Archelaus makes sense—but she could not be in two places at the same time. Both Matthew and Luke tell the birth story quite differently but when you take a step back, they do both use the same kernel of a story—that Mary was pregnant before she was betrothed to Joseph and that her pregnancy and son’s birth were cause for persecution from Herod and his son Archelaus, forcing her to flee Jerusalem and Judea.

Then compare that to a “Mariamne wife of Archelaus,” who at just this time was most likely in Jerusalem assisting Archelaus in his attempt to appear kingly…even needing her presence and bloodline beside him on the dais—and for the trip to Rome…”at just this time.”

Daughter of King Antigonus

That does not mean that “Mariamne wife of Archelaus” did not have a Hasmonean tie. The other most mentioned wife for Archelaus is the unnamed daughter of King Antigonus. A fly in the ointment is that she would have been born before her father was executed in 37 B.C. when Herod officially became King of the Jews. She was married to Antipater son of Herod who was in his 50’s when he was executed and they had a son and a daughter old enough to be caught up in the betrothal wars when Antipater had himself also betrothed to Mariamne III the pre-puberty virgin.

They seem to me to be two separate individuals. The daughter of King Antigonus would be considerably older than Archelaus—my guesstimate for her is around 40 years old to his seventeen. Mariamne III would be just past puberty. The wife of a king being considerably older is not unheard of in royal political marriage alliances, as we saw with Glaphyra being older than Archelaus…maybe he just liked older women…so that is not a deal-breaker. As wife of Antipater, she was documented as being in the city for his trial. She would have been a good choice politically for the weak Archelaus, as she was a genuine daughter of the last Hasmonean King and known to Rome as not being a troublemaker…She didn’t seem to be part of the band of “merry” women at court, for instance and accompanied her husband to his trial. So she is a possibility and since we now know that Archelaus’ wife was named Mariamne. She could then be Mariamne III and Mariamne the Orphan Virgin, Mariamne IV.

A Previously Unknown Younger Princess

I would like to add one more young woman to the list. There is another royal daughter who got sidestepped in the betrothal wars; the daughter of Antipater AND the unnamed daughter of King Antigonus (above). The daughter is also unnamed though she was betrothed second in the cement mixer of betrothals for the pre-puberty orphan grandchildren of Herod.

He(rod) also caused them to be betrothed against they should come to the proper age of marriage…Antipater’s daughter to Aristobulus’s eldest son (Herod) ….Antiquities of the Jews XVII.I.2

Trying to keep this bearable…Antipater would not allow this Herod, grandson of Mariamne I and brother to Mariamne III, to have a prime betrothal to his own daughter. (Young Herod son of Aristobulus will show up later married to Mariamne IV, above. He was, in effect, knocked out of the race to be king to please Antipater. But so was Antipater’s own daughter (granddaughter of King Antigonus).

Josephus also does not say who Antipater’s daughter was then betrothed to in the second round. She is not heard from again as “Antipater’s daughter.” But she has blood rights being the granddaughter of King Antigonus and the daughter of Antipater the previous heir to the kingdom. She would have to have been re-betrothed to someone worthy. So it is possible that she was then re-betrothed to Archelaus as next heir in line after Herod son of Mariamne II the High Priest’s daughter was deposed—as already noted, no re-betrothal for her or Archelaus was listed in Josephus. She is equally possible and if so she was Mariamne V…and has my vote.

All the Mariamnes vs. Mariamne wife of Archelaus and/or “Our” Mary

Mariamnes vs Mary

Conflation—or All the Above

It has long been standard operating procedure to conflate any combination of the royal women to make the wife of Archelaus. (The unnamed daughter of King Antigonus + Mariamne wife of Archelaus=“our Mary.” If you are a fan of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, you know that combining women is exactly what we like to do with Mary of Bethany+ the unnamed “sinning rich woman”+ Mary Magdalene=one wife for Jesus son of Mary.

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