Thoughts on ancient gospels and the like

2 October 2007

Salome: goddess, saint, disciple, herodian

Filed under: Desposynoi,Female characters,Herodians,hypostasis,Mark — markandmore @ 19:05
  1. There are two Salomes in Josephus: Salome, the sister of Herod, called the Great; and Salome daughter of Herod son of Herod “the Great” and Mariamne daughter of Boethus. On her mother’s side, this second Salome was daughter of Herodias, daughter of Aristobulus who was son of Herod “the Great” and his other wife also called Mariamne who was one of the last survivors of the Maccabean dynasty. Also note that the second Salome was first cousin to Berenice, wife to two kings, to the Alabarch of Alexandria, and lover of the Roman emperor Titus.salome1.jpg
  2. In Mark 6.22 or Matthew 14:6-8, an unnamed daughter of Herodias dances for the brother of her father, her step-father, King Herod (not be confused with Herod “the Great” although neither Mark nor Matthew make this clear) in exchange for the head of John the Baptist. Given that the second Salome in Josephus is the daughter of Herodias and Herod, it is not unreasonable that the dancer is widely assumed to be Salome.
  3. The execution of John the Baptist as described by Josephus in Jewish Antiquities, 18, 5,2 mentions neither Herodias, nor Salome nor any other daughter.
  4. If there is a historical basis to the Mark/Matthew story perhaps it is found in Cassius Dio, Roman History, 66.15.3-5: “[Berenice] dwelt in the palace, cohabiting with Titus. She expected to marry him and was already behaving in every respect as if she wee his wife.; but when he perceived that the Romans were displeased with the situation, he sent her away. For, in addition to all the other talk that there was, certain sophists of the Cynic school managed somehow to slip into the city at this time, too; and first Diogenes, entering the theatre when it was full, denounced the pair in along abusive speech; for which he was flogged; and after him Heras, expecting no harsher punishment, gave vent to to many senseless yelpings in true Cynic fashion, and for this was beheaded”.
  5. The dance that Salome performed is often taken – again with no Biblical basis – to be the dance of the Seven Veils. While in modern striptease and belly-dancing the concept of the Seven Veils has become a cliché, it is associated with the ancient sacred dance by Ishtar as she descended into the underworld.salome2.jpg
  6. The Seven Veils of Ishtar concept is promoted by Barbara Walker in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1983 and Wendy Buonaventura in her book Serpent of the Nile, 1989. However two belly dancers, DeAnna Putman (here) and Shira (here) make a persuasive argument that a) the daughter is described as a korasion which is a small girl, and the word for dance is orkheomai which means jumping as well as dance, and therefore we should assume that Salome was pre-pubic at the time; the earliest translation of the myth of Ishtar into a modern European language was in 1872; the number 7 is not even mentioned in Mark or Matthew with relation to the death of John; the first association of Salome and the Dance of the Seven Veils is probably Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, 1891; the things that Ishtar surrendered were not veils but symbols of kingship, such as crown, measuring rod, breastplate and robe.
  7. In Mark (15:40, 16:1), and only in Mark, Salome is is one of three women, the other two both being called Maria, who were present at the Crucifixion of Jesus and visited his tomb the next day. Nothing else is said about this woman, and nothing is said which would justify assuming that she is the dancing daughter of Herodias. If the Salome at the death of John is a little girl, then she could not be an adult woman at the death of Jesus – not if she is mortal
  8. In the parallel passage of Matthew (27:56), the third woman is described as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” and by a logic that some Bible readers adopt, Salome is therefore taken to be the mother of James and John Zebedee.
  9. Salome is venerated as Saint Mary Salome, also known as Irene. Feast day 22 October. After the crucifixion of Jesus she is said to have gone to Veroli, Italy and stayed there as an apostle.
  10. The English of Mark 15:40 in the King James translation is “There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome”. Robert Eisenman in his James, The Brother of Jesus, p 772 and 845 reads this to say that Salome is ‘explicitly identified as the sister of James the Less and Joses’. He also reads Mark 16:1 “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices” in the same way. The problem with the English of 15:40 is that ‘of’ is not repeated before the name Salome. Let us look at the Greek: In 15:40 Salome is written Σαλωμη which is nominative not genitive. Where English uses a preposition to mean possession, Greek uses a different word ending. In the Latin: “Maria Magdalene et Maria Iacobi minoris et Ioseph mater et Salome”, the word mater (=mother) follows Iacobi and Ioseph but precedes Salome, meaning that Maria is the mother of the two men, but not of Salome.
  11. In the Gospel of the Egyptians, Salome is again a disciple of Jesus. She asks him how long death would hold sway, and he says to her, “So long as women bring forth, for I come to end the works of the female.” To this Salome replies, “Then I have done well in not bringing forth.”
  12. In the Gospel of Thomas, Salome and Mary Magdelene are listed among the disciples of Jesus. Jesus shares Salome’s couch at the meal. ‘Who are you sir,’ she asks him, ‘that you have taken your place on my couch and eaten from my table?’ And Jesus says, “I am he who is from the One, and the things that belong to the Father have been given to me.” Salome replies, “But I am your disciple”, and Jesus answers, “When the disciple is united he will be filled with light, but if he is divided he will be filled with darkness.”
  13. In the Protevengelion of James, 14, we find:
    “14 And the midwife went out from the cave, and Salome met her. 15 And the midwife said to her, “Salome, Salome, I will tell you a most surprising thing, which I saw. 16 A virgin has brought forth, which is a thing contrary to nature.” 17 To which Salome replied, “As the Lord my God lives, unless I receive particular proof of this matter, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth.”
    18 Then Salome went in, and the midwife said, “Mary, show yourself, for a great controversy has arisen about you.” 19 And Salome tested her with her finger. 20 But her hand was withered, and she groaned bitterly, 21 and said, “Woe to me, because of my iniquity! For I have tempted the living God, and my hand is ready to drop off.”horae8930.jpg
  14. Salome = ‘peace’ (Hebrew Shalom). Greek for peace is Eirene. Eirene is one of the second generation of Horae(=hours), goddesses who controlled orderly life. Eirene is third as Salome is third in Mark 15:40. The Horae had the task of closing and opening the gates of heaven. Such goddesses would be present at the sacrificial deaths of divine kings, as they had been at the birth of Aphrodite. Eirene had been the nurse of Demeter.
  15. In Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, he analyses the riddle poem Hanes Taliesin. Line 26 is, in the English translation, “I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdelene’. Graves proposed ‘Salome’ as the answer to that line.
  16. In his same book, p 372-3, Graves discusses the ancient goddess, Salma-ona, a name associated with easterlyness in contrast to the goddess Tar-Annis who had a name associated with westerlyness. Solomon, Salmon, Absalon and Salome are derived form the theonym Salma. Salma was the deity to whom the hill of Jerusalem was originally dedicated as Uru-Salim.

14 July 2007

Mark: some of the candidates

Filed under: authors,Flavian,Herodians,Julio-Claudians,Mark — markandmore @ 22:39

So, who did write the Gospel of Mark?

Here are some of the persons who have been suggested:

1) The John Mark who appears several times in the New Testament, Peter’s secretary, and the first bishop of Alexandria. The founder of Coptic Christianity and whose body lies in the Cathedral San Marco in Venice. The orthodox version which we looked at in detail in the previous post.

2) Ptolemaeus Chennus (Ptolemy the Quail). This nomination relies on the fact that Dennis MacDonald in The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark analyzes the Gospel as a transvalued emulation of mainly the Odyssey, but also parts of the Iliad. Ptolemaeus Chennus wrote an ‘anti-Homer poem’ which we no longer have – unless it is the Gospel of Mark. Ptolemaeus Chennus – like John Mark – was an Alexandrian who came to Rome. He wrote versions of old mythologies that rewrote the past.

3) Marcus Mettius Epaphroditus (+23 – 96?). Sometimes known as Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus. The name ‘Epaphroditus’ means ‘of Aphrodite’, which may mean that he was raised as a sex slave, but not necessarily. Other New Testament characters e.g. Titus, Saulus have names with sexual connotations. Other NT characters have names dedicated to Greek gods: Apollos, Artemas (from Artemis), Zenas (=Zenodorus=gift of Zeus), Tychius (from Tyche). He was born in Chaeronea in Greece, a slave in the house of Archias, a grammaticus, who educated him. He was later sold to a Roman eques (of the lessor nobility), Marcus Mettius Modestus, who was prefect of Egypt in the +50s ruling from Alexandria (so like John Mark, Marcus Epaphroditus also came from Alexandria). Modestus freed Epaphroditus, and as per custom Epahroditus took the name of his ex-master. He moved to Rome, founded a school, founded a lepaphroditus_s.jpgibrary of over 30,000 scrolls, owned two houses and published several books: a grammatical Commentary on Homer (see Dennis MacDonald above), Lexeis (literary styles), Peri Stoicheion (first principles of language), a commentary on the Aitia by Callimachus of Cyrene, a commentary on the Shield of Heracles attributed to Hesiod. He also sponsored three of the books by Flavius Josephus. He rose at the court of Nero, first apparitor Caesarus, then viator tribunicius and finally libellis, which means that he drafted Nero’s replies to petitions. (As John Mark was secretary to Peter, Marcus Epaphroditus was secretary to Nero). In +65 he learned of the Piso conspiracy and shopped it to Nero. In exchange he received military honours and great wealth. When Nero was declared a public enemy by the Senate in +68, Epaphroditus and a few other freedmen helped him escape from Rome, and finally helped him to suicide (or maybe just killed him). He returned to the imperial court under Domitian, again as secretary. He also protected his now-freed slave philosopher, Epictetus, when Domitian was persecuting the philosophers (as John Mark had protected a slave devoted to himself). Finally Domitian had Epaphroditus executed. He also appears in Philippeans 2:25, 4:18, 4:23 as Paul’s emissary to the court of Nero. He is recognized as a saint by the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.

See Robert Eisenman. James the Brother of Jesus.

4) Marcus Julius Agrippa (28 – 100?). The last king of the Herodian dynasty. He was raised in Alexandria. He was the only male Herodian of his generation descended from the Hasmodians (via Herod’s wife Miriam). He was known to the Samaritans as Marqeh bar Titus (he, like Josephus, had been adopted into the Flavian family) who wrote texts and hymns that became part of the Samaritan tradition, and is regarded by them as the second Moses. He was recognized as the messiah of Daniel 9:24-7. He ruled as king an area in Syria for at least 30 years after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in +70. At the end of his life when he had fallen out with the Romans and was in their prison, he wrote another gospel, The Gospel of Me, explaining that the male child who reappears in the Gospel of Mark was himself.

See the various websites by Stephan Huller here, here and here

12 June 2007

Desposynoi – Part 2

Filed under: Desposynoi,Herodians — markandmore @ 22:31

I am going to bring together two quite different observations from different authors. As far as I am aware, these two have never been brought together like this.

The family of Saulus.

Robert Eisenman in his paper ‘Paul as Herodian’, which he wrote 11 years ago, and which is available in his book,The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians: Essays and Translations , and also online here, proposes that Paulus aka Saulus is the same person as the Saulus found in Josephus. He supports this with a close reading of the Pauline epistles where there are a surprising number of quick references that Paul knew and was related to members of the Herodian clan, the Jewish royal family who of course were not Judeans but Edomites. Edomites had been incorporated into Judea by the expansions of the Maccabees. Therefore an Edomite clan was as legitimate a ruling dynasty in Judea as the Scottish Stuarts were as rulers of England. Were they Jews? You can argue it both ways.

Certainly Herod the so-called Great was insecure about his Jewishness, which explains his rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple, his destruction of the genealogy scrolls of the old Jerusalem families, and his marrying into the Maccabean clan which was by then a decadent dynasty and after Herod had finished marrying and executing them, there were almost none left. There have been proposals from different writers that Herodians were involved in writing the various New Testament books – I will return to these proposals in later postings. However for the purpose of this posting I am provisionally assuming that both Jesus and Paul were historical.

Of course the Herodians were client kings reigning at the will of Rome. The Jewish view of their legitimacy and the Roman view of it were quite different. In one way and another the clan managed to stay on one throne or another until the Roman-Jewish war that terminated Nero’s reign in Rome.

Robert Eisenman provides a genealogical chart of the Herodians at the end of his James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here is the important part that shows the ancestry of Saulus. Salome was the sister of Herod called the ‘Great’. With one of her husbands, Costobarus, she had a son Antipater (there are other Antipaters in the Herodian clan so we must be careful), and the second son to this Antipator was Saulus. So Saulus is a great-nephew to Herod called the ‘Great’. The Herodians were Roman citizens, and Saulus being one of them, the mystery of his Roman citizenship as used in Acts 22:25-29 is cleared up.


The father of Jesus.

Here we turn to Robert Graves. In his King Jesus, 1946 and his Nazarene Gospel Restored, 1954, he proposes the following using the Jesus story in John’s gospel (18:29-38):

Pilate grants a private audience to Jesus, which he would have done only for a Roman citizen.

Pilate decides that Jesus is indeed king of the Jews. For a Roman like Pilate, this must mean that Jesus is king as per Roman law. Now Augustus had recognized Herod’s will nominating his son by Doris, Antipater, as his heir. If Jesus had explained that his father was Antipater secretly married to Mariam, and that his mother had remarried after Herod had changed his mind and put Antipater to death, then Pilate would indeed see Jesus as the rightful king of the Jews.

The Herod-Antipator-Jesus family was revived in Graham Phillips’ The Marian Conspiracy, 2000 (later reissued as The Virgin Mary Conspiracy, 2005). He gives no credit or even mention to Robert Graves (although Nazarene Gospel Restored is in his bibliography). Instead he gives credit for the idea of Antipater as father of Jesus to The Laws of The Jews by Joseph Schreiber, New York, 1956 (no publisher given). 1956 is later than the dates on Graves’ books and maybe Schreiber took the idea from Graves. If he came to the idea independently that is worth documenting. However there is something funny, or at least obscure, about Schreiber’s book. It is totally unknown to WorldCat, to Amazon, to the British Library and to the Library of Congress. Google finds only one reference to it: an italian site on ‘una possibile antistoria del cristianesimo‘ that as likely as not is using Phillips as a source.
Here is the genealogical chart for Herod-Antipator-Jesus.


Now let us put the two charts together:


Lo! Herod and Salome are siblings; Antipater and Antipater are cousins; Yeshua/Jesus and Saulus/Paulus are second cousins.

If we return to Luke’s Jesus Story (but not Marcion’s ), we are told that Miriamne (Mary) and Elisheba (Elizabeth) are cousins, and therefore Yohanon the Baptist and Yeshua are second cousins.

Yohanon the Baptist to Yeshua to Saulus.

John the Baptist to Jesus to Paul.

Second cousin to second cousin to second cousin.

Yohanon is not a descendant of Herod called the Great, but Yeshua and Saulus are.

Desposynoi – the family of the lord, the family of the great despot, Herod!!

These bible strands surely can be unwound in strange ways.

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