The Birth of Christ
Herodian Identities of New Testament Characters
Mariamne IV, Daughter of "Joseph" and mother of Aristobulus III as "Elisha"
Six months after taking leave of a flabbergasted High Priest Simon and his daughter Mariamne II, Antipater as Gabriel impregnates another royal lady by the same name, Mariamne IV. This Mariamne was the daughter of Herod the Great's nephew Joseph and Herod the Great's own daughter Olympias by Queen Malthace. And her holy offspring, we are told in the Gospel of Luke, is to be called Jesus, the Greek form of Joshua and a variant of Elisha. In the Egyptian New Kingdom, Tutankhamun (Elisha/Joshua II) had been the son of Tiye the daughter of Yuya (Joseph). It was decided to mimic the same pattern in the birth of the Herodian Elisha.
In the Egyptian New Kingdom, Queen Tiye had been no virgin prior to the birth of Tutankhamun, but was already a woman near 40 years of age and a mother many times over. However, there was no time for the very young princess Mariamne IV to reach such a level of maturity. Instead, Herod the Great and his son Antipater found inspiration from the Book of Isaiah 7:14 (KJV): "Behold a virgin (almah) shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The Herodian Joshua/Elisha could then legitimately be the child of a very young woman. (This was also more consistent with general tradition. In more ancient times, the mother of a Horus-figure was expected to become the consort of her own son.) Having Olympias as grandmother of Jesus was an added bonus. A former Olympias had been the mother of Alexander the Great, one of the most renowned youthful conquerors and Joshua figures of all time.
The son of Mariamne IV was named Aristobulus, "good/wise/best counselor," which would have also been perceived as a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6 (KJV), "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor ..." The name also designates him as a replacement for the executed Aristobulus son of the first Mariamne. Aristobulus was a very noble name, but one badly tarnished by its previous bearers. The first two Hasmonean kings by this name had behaved badly, as did Herod the Great's son by Hasmonean Mariamne.
Mariamne IV is the only known child of Olympias and Joseph nephew of Herod the Great. Joseph and Olympias may not have had a son to inherit the name and title of Joseph within the family of Herod. If they did, the history of Josephus omitted him. Regardless, Herod the Great decided to transfer the title of Joseph to one of his own descendants, his grandson named Herod, the future Herod of Chalcis. Herod of Chalcis was the eldest son of Aristobulus son of Hasmonean Mariamne. Josephus puts him on record as the legal husband of Mariamne IV and father of Aristobulus III. The adoption of Aristobulus III by Herod of Chalcis effectively grafted him onto the Hasmonean line of Aristobulus II and made him a potential heir to that leading line.
In the two genealogies given for Jesus, his immediate father is called Joseph. The grandfather of Jesus is called Jacob in one genealogy and Heli in the other. Jacob and Heli are fitting Hebrew named for Herod the Great, who assumed the identities of Jacob and Solomon. Beyond this, it is difficult if not impossible to reconcile the two genealogies given for Jesus. Both however attempt to trace the ancestry of Jesus back to the glory days of the Egyptian New Kingdom.
Mariamne IV, Wife of Joseph
According to the Gospel account, Mary was already engaged to Joseph at the time of her visitation by "Gabriel." Because Mary was not yet fully married, Herod the Great could have easily changed her espousal, as he had many others, from Herod of Chalcis (Joseph) to Antipater (Reuben). Yet, there was ample reason not to. First of all, it was desirable to give Jesus a Hasmonean heritage. Neither Mariamne IV or Antipater had any Hasmonean blood, and Herod of Chalcis did. Second, it was doubly important that Jesus be associated with the "House of Joseph." There was precedent both in the Egyptian New Kingdom and Middle Kingdom for this. Finally, as the Herodian Horus, it was actually in keeping with tradition for Jesus to be adopted.
By every indication Antipater was completely set as king and he began to celebrate wildly. When word of this got back to his father he wasn't pleased. Antipater as "Reuben" was exhibiting the stereotypical lack of restraint. To avoid risking his father's wrath any further, Antipater received permission to leave for Rome. From there he anxiously awaited his father's death and perhaps even plotted to hasten it. He also launched slanderous attacks on Phillip, the next in line for succession, and on Archelaus who was after him. But while Antipater was in Rome, advisors finally convinced Herod of his son's many malicious intrigues. Rather than concede that his eldest son had outwitted him, Antipater was called home, not to defend his actions, but to face death for making a consummate fool of his father in the grand Roman arena.
Around the time of Jesus' birth, a terminally ill Herod entered into an argument with the Pharisees concerning how much longer he would live and rule. He had already ruled 33 years in Jerusalem as David and 37 years as king of Judah/Israel, but he wanted more. As the "incarnation" of David and Solomon he expected to rule for 40 years over Israel. (Solomon died in his 39th year and was credited with the balance.) According to tradition, the birth of Elisha (an incarnation of Joshua) took place about three years before the death of Solomon. Herod obviously felt that he was then destined to carry on for three additional years.
Seeing that there was still some doubt as to his legacy as Solomon, Herod orchestrated one more repetition of earlier history. And for this Herod is held in almost universal contempt. The event, popularly titled "The Massacre of the Innocents," was nevertheless deliberately styled after one in the life of Solomon. It has been shown that Shiloh-Solomon was implicitly the pharaoh that decreed that all male Hebrew children be put to death. However, the life of the infant Rehoboam (Moses II) was saved. Herod, so we are told, also killed only male infants and only those of one city, Bethlehem. This accomplished two things. First of all it better established Herod's role as Solomon for those who still doubted him. Secondly it assured that no other children except the one chosen from his own family could claim to have been born in Bethlehem at that particular time and thereby fulfill Messianic prophesy. (It should also be noted that a second episode in the account of Solomon further exemplifies his casual attitude toward life and death. In Solomon's despotic form of wisdom and justice, he had no qualms with threatening to chop a baby in half in order to solve a maternity case. The two women in dispute obviously believed that Solomon would follow through on that threat.)
Only after Antipater's recall from Rome would Jesus have been in any actual jeopardy. There may have been some concern that Herod might not only disinherit Antipater but also revoke the election of the baby Jesus (Aristobulus) as Herodian Elisha/Joshua and put him to death along with his condemned father. However, the Gospel of Luke informs us that Jesus was taken from Bethlehem to Jerusalem immediately after his birth for his circumcision and dedication at the temple. Jesus is also blessed at this time by the old "Simeon," which is probably a disguised manifestation of the High Priest Simon. Biblical Simeon had been promised that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Historical Simon did experience a symbolic death only a short time later when he was removed as High Priest.
Sometime after his dedication, Jesus was taken to the Nile Delta in identification with Horus. Probably Herod himself required this in order for his grandson to better fulfill his appointed role. However, once there, Jesus and Mary may have been advised to stay there until a physically and mentally tormented Herod passed away. This contingency allowed Jesus to add to his royal portfolio a secondary Moses aspect, for Moses II (Rehoboam) had to wait until the death of Solomon before his own return from exile. After Herod's death, Jesus was then brought to Nazareth, not to the village by that name in Galilee, but to the home of the Nazarene sect north of Galilee. This region was variously called Chalcis, Iturea, and Coele-Syria. The historian Pliny referred to this locale as the Tetrarchy of Nazarini. It was there that the adoptive father of Jesus would later be named king, as well as Jesus himself.
Solomon's Kingdom Divided
For bringing disgrace upon his father's house, Antipater was put to death only days before Herod. Herod the Great's will was changed for the last time, literally in his final hours, and in order to more closely match the political situation when Shiloh-Solomon (Amenhotep III) died. Archelaus and Phillip were cleared of the accusations made by Antipater. The "kingdom" (succession) and role of Rehoboam would be given to Archelaus. The daughter of the previously executed Hasmonean Aristobulus, whose name was Herodias, was also taken from Antipater and given to Phillip. Herod-Phillip was placed next in line for succession and given the role of Abijah (crown prince under Rehoboam) with his adopted son Phillip II as his own designated successor. Antipas too was given a regional kingship subordinate to Archaelaus. Antipas was the sole prince of the Herodian "tribe" of Judah and as yet had no sons old enough to play the required parts of princes within the Egyptian New Kingdom house of Judah. It was necessary to improvise. He would have to double as the "rebel" Jeroboam and the "wicked" king Ahab.
Early in the reign of Archelaus (typecast as "foolish" Rehoboam) the people petitioned him to lift part of the heavy burden laid on them by Herod (as Solomon). Clearly mindful of history, Archelaus was careful to avoid repeating the ill-advised response of Rehoboam. According to Josephus, "Archelaus spake the more gently and civilly to them . so Archelaus contradicted them in nothing." However, as in the case of the Egyptian New Kingdom Rehoboam, namely Akhenaten, Archelaus would not be allowed to escape his "fate." Antipas, vigorously pursuing the course of Jeroboam, formed an alliance against his "master" and succeeded in reducing his authority from all of Israel to only Judea. Caesar Augustus ruled that Archelaus would not rule the entire country as Herod willed but only half (as ethnarch). Phillip and Antipas would each be rulers of one quarter (as tetrarchs). So, the kingdom of Herod was effectively divided just as it had been in the days just after the death of Solomon.
There was no precedent for Mariamne IV to have any natural children by Herod of Chalcis and it was possibly considered inappropriate. Josephus at any rate did not report any besides Aristobulus III. Rather, Egyptian New Kingdom history dictated that Mariamne have two sons by Archelaus (in the place of Akhenaten) and two sons by Antipas (in the place of Aye). Unfortunately, Josephus did not provide the names of any of the royal children of Archelaus or Antipas, which again is highly suspicious. He did inform that Archelaus divorced his wife Mariamne to marry Glaphyra the widow of Alexander son of Hasmonean Mariamne. However, more likely Mariamne first left Archelaus for Antipas (as Queen Tiye abandoned Akhenaten for Aye in the Egyptian New Kingdom).
Akhenaten of the Egyptian New Kingdom was deposed by a cabal organized by Aye only five years after the death of Amenhotep III (Solomon). It would take nine years before a coalition of "brothers," probably led by Antipas, was able to depose Archelaus by accusing him once again before Caesar. Akhenaten was succeeded within about a year of his fall by the nine-year old Tutankhamun. Archelaus was however not replaced with the young Aristobulus III who was about 10 years of age at that time. Instead Caesar installed a Roman governor in Judea. Some other route to kingship would have to be devised for the stilted Herodian Joshua.
Judas Maccabee had made an alliance with Rome, which was reconfirmed by his brother Jonathan. The Hamoneans probably also had connections in the east (such as Hyrcania of Persia). Herod and his successors followed their lead, but would have to also gain Jewish independence if they ever hoped to be held in the same esteem by the Jews. Not to succeed in that mission and succeed quickly was tantamount to death as far as Herodian kingship was concerned. Stewart Perowne writes in The Life and Times of Herod the Great, page 93, "A client king therefore held his kingdom merely on a 'grace and favour' tenure. He could be dethroned at will. He could not bequeath his kingdom, except by Rome's permission, and then only to an heir approved by Rome. Frequently it happened that Rome, having used a king for a time, took over the kingdom and turned it into a province."
The family of Herod had the motive, opportunity, resources, and political mandate to establish one of their own as the worldwide Messiah of that time. After his appearance in the Jerusalem temple at the age of twelve, nothing more is mentioned in the Gospels of Jesus in his youth. Jesus, following the path of frustrated Horus/Benjamin types from the past, would need to recruit multitudes from the east in order to overwhelm his more established rivals in the west, namely the Romans. Eastern kings had supposedly been called upon (by Herod the Great) to witness the birth of Jesus. As Jesus grew older, it would be necessary to actively and continuously promote this same Jesus wherever messianic beliefs were still valued and a desire to reunite with the ancestral homeland strong. Therefore, accounts of Jesus traveling to places as far-flung as India are not all that far-fetched. Although the Herodians owed their kingship in Israel to the Romans, outside of Israel they would have promoted a sense of disgust that kingship in traditionally Semitic lands had been usurped by the "Kittim" of Rome. It needed to be returned to a Davidic heir at all costs.