Living in Truth:
Archaeology and the Patriarchs

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by Charles N. Pope
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Supplement 4
The Ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus
Herodian Identities of New Testament Characters

The Disciples

Josephus did not reveal the names of any children whatsoever in the families of Herod Antipas or Archelaus, and is even coy about mentioning their Jewish wives. We must then at least suspect that Josephus was trying to protect them from Roman scrutiny.

For example, Josephus did say that Herod Antipas married the daughter of Aretes king of the Nabateans in Petra, however he did not give us her name or even mention whether or not she had any children. Considering that the role model of Herod Antipas in the Egyptian New Kingdom was pharaoh Aye, renowned for his "fruitfulness," we would expect him to have had many marriages and children.

Simon-Peter would have been the son of the daughter of Aretes king of Petra. As such, he was a prominent prince in Petra, perhaps even crown prince, hence the nickname Peter. Peter corresponds to the Egyptian New Kingdom notable Pedubastet/Nakhtmin (Jehu/Amaziah) a son of Aye (Asa/Ahab). His brother or half-brother Andrew (Greek. Andreas) would correspond to one of Aye's other leading sons, such as Iuput (Jehoshaphat) or Panehesy (Jeroboam/Phinehas II), or even a grandson such as Harsiese (Joash). Antipas would have also been the father of Jesus' half-brothers Jose and James, born to him by Mariamne IV. They correspond to Osorkon I (Joram) and Takelot I (Ahaziah) the sons of Sheshonq (the Libyan identity of Aye) in the Egyptian New Kingdom.

James and John, "the sons of Zebedee" by Salome were sons of Herod the Great's fifth royal son and successor Archelaus (the Herodian "Zebulun"). The historian Josephus also withheld the Herodian names of James and John, possibly because they had emerged as leaders of the Church shortly before Josephus began writing his history. It seems that Josephus took the further precaution of not listing Salome as a wife of Archelaus along with Mariamne and Glaphyra. This Salome may have been the daughter of Herod the Great's wife Elpis by that name. The mother of James and John is however identified in the Gospels by her Herodian name Salome rather than a Hebrew name. Archelaus was also the father, by Mariamne IV, of Jesus' brothers Jude and Simon and his sister Martha (perhaps also called by the Hellenistic name Salome). Although Josephus states in passing that Mariamne was a wife of Archelaus who was divorced by him, he is careful not to specify that she was the daughter of Joseph and Olympias by that name.

The two sets of princes (James & John and Jude & Simon) then became doubles for Jesus and John the Baptist. In the Egyptian New Kingdom, Tutankhamun was not the first choice as Joshua. Another son of Queen Tiye (Libyan Karamat), known now only by his Libyan king name Sheshonq II and whose funerary mask was almost identical to Tut's, was favored above him in this role but was assassinated by Iuput. The mission of the chosen Herodian Joshua (Aristobulus III) would be no less perilous. It was therefore considered necessary to also designate back-ups (or "twins" as they were called), not only for him, but also the Herodian "Eliezer/John/Joktan."

Simon the Zealot was perhaps Alexander son of Alexander the eldest son of Hasmonean Mariamne. Alexander was of the Herodian "tribe" of Simon/Simeon and was appointed king of Armenia by Rome. Simon the Zealot was also strongly associated with the region of Armenia in Church tradition.

The three disciples Matthew (Levi), James (the Lesser), and Thaddeus (Lebbaeus/Judas) are singled out in the Gosples as the sons of Alphaeus. They correspond to the three sons of Phasael II, who was himself son of Herod the Great's older brother Phasael. The Herodian names of these three high-ranking princes were Antipater, Herod, and Alexander. Alphaeus (implying "first/eldest/successor") is an adaptation of the Herodian name Phasael and a subtle reminder of this prince's elevated status within the senior Idomean line of Phasael. The sons of Phasael/Alphaeus were further distinguished in that their mother was the leading princess Salampsio daughter of Herod the Great and Hasmonean Mariamne.

Thomas (Didymus, "the Twin") may have been Antipater III the son of Herod's sister Salome and the Nabatean prince Costabar. He was the double of another Antipater (Matthew/Levi) in name and perhaps also appearance and nature. He became a "twin" of Jesus himself in the east and is believed to have established churches in southern India, Kashmir, and Afghanistan.

Phillip and Nathanael/Bartholemew (an adaptation of Bar-Ptolemy) would have been the sons of Herod the Great's leading minister named Ptolemy.

Judas Iscariot the son of Simon, as the epithet Iscariot implies, was a member of the priestly house of Phillip I (Herodian "Issachar"). In the Egyptian New Kingdom, the High Priesthood was offered to Panehesy (Phinehas II/Jeroboam) son of Aye for performing the mercy killing of Tutankhamun (Elisha/Joshua II). Antipas (in the role of Aye) likely did not have any sons who were eligible for the priesthood. However, the family of Phillip I certainly did. Phillip's grandfather the High Priest was called Simon son of Boethus. Another son of Boethus, a future High Priest (41 A.D.), was known as Simon Cantherus. Judas Iscariot would have been a junior priest in this prominent priestly family.

 "Joazar son of Boethus" and "Eleazar son of Boethus" served as High Priests only a short time after the dismissal of Simon son of Boethus. Note the similarity of these two names Eleazar and Joazar, not only with each other, but also with Eliezer/Ezer/Issachar. Perhaps Simon son of Boethus was reinstated as High Priest under a new name after his grandson Herod-Phillip was exonerated. He may have been subsequently reconfirmed as High Priest after the death of Herod the Great by Archelaus. Alternatively, Simon son of Boethus was possibly asked to step down as High Priest in favor of his grandson Phillip II.

Herodias as Jezebel

Sometime after Phillip II began his prophetical role as John the Baptist, his adoptive father Phillip I met with Antipas to arrange a necessary scandal. It was agreed that Antipas should divorce his Nabatean wife the daughter of king Aretes. After this the wife of Phillip II, Herodias, would brazenly become the wife of Antipas. Phillip II (in the role of Elijah) could then publicly denounce both Antipas (as Ahab) and Herodias (as Jezebel) in fulfillment of the Egyptian New Kingdom precedent. The role of Jezebel was more properly to have been played by Mariamne II, the biological mother of Phillip II/John the Baptist. In the Egyptian New Kingdom Jezebel, Queen Tiye, had been the actual mother of Smenkhkare/Elijah. However, Mariamne II may have been deceased by this time or too old to be taken seriously as an adulteress. Herodias evidently volunteered for the part.

Regarding the royal polyandry of his mother, Elisha had a different attitude than Elijah. His was one of understanding and forgiveness rather than judgment. The memory of this attitude found its way into the New Testament story called "The Woman at the Well." When passing through Samaria, Jesus (as Elisha) stops to quench his thirst. He tells a woman he encounters there that she has had five husbands, not including the man she was currently living with. By association, the Samaritan woman was a high-ranking Herodian queen such as the Samaritan Malthace, Herodias, Mariamne II or especially the mother of Jesus herself, Mariamne IV. This latter Mariamne had been the consort of Antipater, Herod of Chalcis, Archelaus, Antipas, and by direction one other Herodian king or prince. Her role model, Queen Tiye of the Egyptian New Kingdom, had five known consorts, Amenhotep III, Aye, Yuya, Akhenaten, and Osorkon I.

In the Kings/Chronicles narrative history, Jezebel threatens Elijah with death by beheading. Although he flees from her, he is later taken into custody and brought to a fearsome mountain. It was there that Elijah was beheaded by command of Jezebel, even though Scripture suppresses the event.a John the Baptist would be subjected to the same fate. He is first arrested and imprisoned at a desert mountain fortress.b Immediately before his beheading, Salome daughter of Herodias and Phillip I performs the "Dance of the Seven Veils." This dramatized the mythological descent of Inanna (Isis) into the Netherworld to find the slain Dumuzi (Osiris). According to that very ancient tale, Inanna surrendered part of her royal attire at each of seven checkpoints until she arrived naked in the "Land of No Return."

The fact that Salome observed this rite prior to the death of John reveals two things. First of all, the execution of John was premeditated and carefully scripted. Secondly, Salome had been the wife of John the Baptist. Josephus recorded that Salome had been betrothed to Phillip II but that they had not produced any children. However, in order to satisfy tradition, Phillip II had to first be given the opportunity to sire a son and potential heir to the throne. This may also have occurred on the very night of his execution, as required by certain "sacred marriage" (hieros gamos) and "death of the sacred king" rites associated with the deities Inanna/Isis and Dumuzi/Osiris. Possibly Phillip II and Salome already had a child together or one was conceived at this time. Alternatively, they may not have had a child if Phillip II declined to go along with this aspect of his role, or if Salome was not yet even old enough to bear children. Regardless of the outcome, Salome from that time forward was known as "John the Beloved" in honor of Phillip II. (There is also an example in Roman high-society at this time of a woman assuming the first name of her deceased husband.)

Based on earlier precedent, Salome was next to become the wife of Aristobulus III, just as Ankhesenamun married Tut (Elisha/Joshua II) after the "sacrifice" of Smenkhkare (Elijah/Eliezer II) in the Egyptian New Kingdom. (In the Middle Kingdom period, Rahab married Joshua after the slaying of Joktan. The firstborn son of Rahab by Joktan then became the adopted son and eventual successor of Joshua.) Also in the Egyptian New Kingdom, Elijah, who was variously known in the trans-Jordan identity as "King Mesha," shockingly sacrificed his eldest son to Molech of Moab as a substitute for himself. This would have provided further reason or justification for John the Baptist to abstain from sexual relations with Salome. On the other hand, if Phillip II (John the Baptist) did in fact have a child by Salome, this child would have been adopted by Aristobulus III (Jesus) as his own. Evidence that this is what actually occurred will be presented later.

It has been suggested that the Gospel episode called "The Wedding at Cana" c was actually a disguised account of Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene. This is not likely because John the Baptist was still alive at the time, at least according to the sequence of events presented in the Gospel of John. However, the wedding could quite reasonably have been the royal wedding of Mary Magdalene (Salome) and John the Baptist (Phillip II). Even after the death of Phillip II, it may have been "prophetically incorrect" for Aristobulus III and Salome to be married before the appointment of Aristobulus as king. In the Egyptian New Kingdom Tutankhamun (Elisha/Joshua II) and Akhesenamun (Rahab II) were not married until after the death of Smenkhkare (Elijah/Eliezer II) and succession of Tutankhamun to the throne. This may have required Salome and Aristobulus III to also wait. It would also explain the promiscuous behavior of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the Gospels.

The Three Year Ministry of Jesus-Elisha

Phillip II is thought to have died in 34 A.D. According to Josephus, the elder king Herod-Phillip also died without an heir "about that time" and his dominions were therefore appropriated by Rome. This indicates that the death of Phillip II (John the Baptist), as the designated heir of Phillip I, occurred shortly before the death of Phillip I. The elder Phillip was also considered the father of Salome, but apparently he had no eligible male heirs (other than Phillip II) to succeed him.

If John the Baptist was beheaded in 34 A.D., it follows that the crucifixion of Jesus occurred in 35 or 36 A.D.  By then, Aristobulus III was 40 years of age or fast approaching that mark, which in the minds of many would have made him too old for the part of Joshua. And not everyone seems to have been satisfied with his performance in the role anyway. Even the Gospels admit that on at least one occasion his closest family members expressed open criticism and doubted his competence. His disciples similarly had their reservations. This was however later used as confirmation that he was the Messiah, because a true Messiah had to prove that he could hold the field and save the day when everyone else either rejected or deserted him.

Antipas and Herodias, in the roles of Ahab and Jezebel, had not spared the life of Phillip II (John the Baptist) as Elijah. There was not reason to expect they would spare Aristobulus III as Elisha. Although Ahab had been patron rather than persecutor of the younger Elisha, this changed when Elisha became terminally ill and unable to rule. It was ultimately Ahab who approved the attack on Elisha that resulted in his death. Antipas then had every political motive, as well as a clear historical precedent in the Egyptian New Kingdom, to let Aristobulus die on the cross, and to raise up a new Joshua from among his own natural descendants. The agony and prayers of Jesus for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemene would have been genuine.

It has been pointed out by other researchers that the Sanhedrin would not have convened just before Passover, the most holy of Jewish days, for the trial of a humble carpenter's son. However, it was certainly within the power of Herod Antipas to assemble this body at any time, especially in the middle of the night and at Passover if it was considered necessary for a Herodian Messiah to face a mock trial and be condemned "according to the Scriptures." All aspects of this event were therefore carefully scripted, including the arrest. Jesus was to be sold out by Judas Iscariot, a prince who coveted and was possibly also promised the High Priesthood (just as Panehesy was in the Egyptian New Kingdom for attacking Tutankhamun).

In the days of the pharaohs all males of the royal family were qualified to become High Priest. In the Egyptian New Kingdom Tutankhamun as Horus was attacked by Panehesy son of Aye, who became High Priest as a result. The name Pa-Nehesy ("The Southerner") would have been a suitable epithet of the god Set, whose stronghold was in southern Egypt. In the Herodian re-enactment of the classic battle, the tables were turned. Jesus as Horus prevailed and his Sethian accuser was killed instead. Whether or not Jesus was actually placed on the cross or not, he was raised politically from the dead. His "ascension" thereafter represented a political appointment, perhaps a minor one initially, but ultimately as a king in Chalcis and crown prince there under his adoptive father Herod of Chalcis beginning about 41 A.D.

Everything recorded in the Biblical Kings narrative about Elisha finds an equivalent expression in the life of Jesus. Like the Egyptian New Kingdom Joshua, the New Testament Joshua multiplies food and feeds the poor. He crosses the Jordan to be with Elijah (John the Baptist). Once anointed, he can walk on water and cause valuable metal to rise to the water's surface. He makes unclean food fit to eat. He restores health, property, and even souls. He accepts the paltry contribution of a widow, but refuses and even punishes profit taking. He has the power to open blind eyes and also close them. He predicts future events. He raises the dead and he himself is raised from the dead.

However, there were things known about Elisha that had not been documented in the Kings/Chronicles history. Most importantly, Elisha had not died after his three-year ministry, but like Elijah he first relinquished the office of prophet for a stint as king. The nine-year reign of Elisha (as pharaoh Tutankhamun) was marked by a program of reconciliation, but had ended traumatically. It had not been memorialized in the Kings/Chronicles narrative, therefore the kingship of Jesus in the Gospels was also not to be made explicit, at least in an earthly sense. After being raised to kingship, Jesus became a veritable phantom, even as Elisha had been during his reign as pharaoh. Jesus also could no longer walk the streets of Jerusalem as a private person. His disciples would no longer have easy and public access to him.

  1. See Chapters 25 & 26 of Living in Truth: Archaeology and the Patriarchs.
  2. This detail comes from Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Chapter V.
  3. John 2:1-11
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