Jesus and the Chalcis Connection
pictures to be re-formatted... see download
As has often been the case in pursuit of the real Jesus,
the quest takes an unexpected turn with a simple oddity: “And from there Jesus
arose and went to the borders of Tyre
and Sidon… Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went by way of Sidon
towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region (or “territory”) of the Decapolis.”
(Mark 7:24). Since we have reason to believe that the Tyrians were notoriously
bitter enemies of the Jews (Josephus, “Against Apion” 1:70, 71; LCL 1:191)
and since the gospel writers specifically mention Sidon, we have clear
indication that the group went well beyond northern Galilee. We should wonder why
they would go to Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21; Mark 7:24, 31).
A proper translation (as above) reads that Jesus and his
group went to the region bordering Tyre and Sidon – a region that included
northern Galilee and the area just north of Galilee properly referred to as
Chalcis. If you’ve never heard of Chalcis, you’re definitely not alone.
Because it is not mentioned specifically in the NT, it would seem unimportant in
the life of Jesus. And, if one limits their historical data to the accounts of
Josephus, it would be easy to miss the significance of Chalcis. However, closer
examination reveals both greater historical significance than commonly thought
and meaningfulness in the story of Jesus.
region that was known as Chalcis varied over time, but generally included the
areas shown here in red)
“Chalcis” is a name most commonly associated with the
city on the Greek island of Euboea but was also used to name an area including
the “Anti-Lebanon” between the coastal region of Phoenicia and Syria. The
name was also used to reference a city/state within the region and another more
northerly area (aka Chalcis ad Belum). In various references at different times
it included territories reaching from the Mediterranean Sea to Damascus, from
Galilee to Emessa and included the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, the region later
known as Abilene, the Anti-Lebanese Mountains, the Litani River, the Orontes
River, and the upper Jordan River. In some references, it is synonymous with or
confused with Iturea.
The early history of the region is very odd, as is most
evident in the remains at Baalbek. The origin of the incredible temples there
remains unknown, but it is clear that they pre-date “Chalcis” by thousands
of years. It is said that after the collapse of the region under the so called
"Peoples of the Sea" (Phoenicians?) that Ramses III (~ 1200 BCE) built
a temple to the god Amen in “Pa-Canaan”. This was likely built upon a
platform that was already ancient.
The pleasant and fertile Beqaa valley was home to a thriving population during
the bronze and iron ages and seemed to have an unusually large collection of
religious sites. Local tradition holds that Jeroboam, who had built the original
Jewish Temple for Solomon, built a “house of high places” at “Aven” (the
equivalent of “On” – as in Heliopolis in Egypt). This new temple was built
to surpass the temple of Jerusalem
and become the gathering place of the Ten Tribes or Northern Kingdom of Israel.
It is also local legend that Micah, the oracle/prophet, was still active in the
days of Jeremiah and taught at this Temple.
The relevant history of Chalcis begins during the time of
David and the “Great Divide”. Chalcis was a region occupied by the Hebrews
and was part of the “United Kingdom” of Israel: a fertile and prosperous
region of Hammath and Zobah separating the great empires of Phoenicia and Aram
(then becoming the Neo-Assyrian Empire). But the Hebrews arrived in the region
to find astonishing relics of earlier peoples who had built temples and
structures that defy modern understanding (as below). Those peoples worshiped
the god Baal (a title for Hadad, son of El) and at “first the name Baʿal
was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the
struggle between the two religions developed, the name Baʿal was given up
by the Israelites as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubbaʿal were
changed to Jerubbosheth” (in Hebrew bosheth means
As told within Part One of Book One, the United Kingdom of
Israel was mostly dissolved with the Assyrian invasions in the 8th
century BCE. The region was held through five centuries by a succession of major
powers until Alexander the Great gained it in 333 BCE. With his death in 323, it
became part of the Seleucid Empire. King Antiochus III married Princess Laodice
of Pontus and one of their daughters was Cleopatra (I). Antiochus also married
Euboea of Chalcis (the Greek city on the island of Euboea)
with whom he had a daughter. This is likely the source of the name Chalcis for
the region of the Bekaa valley within the Seleucid Empire (perhaps as a wedding
Chalcis contained several other prominent cities and
centers. Among its regions/cities were Abila (Abilene), Baalbek,
Apamene, Dan, Daphne, Ulatha, Chalcis, Hamath (north),
Emessa, and Kadesh. Its well-known regional centers included northern Hulah,
northern Galilee, Panias, Hormon, Perea, and others.
Baalbek/Heliopolis was a major religious and cult center
within Chalcis and a very wealthy priesthood controlled the area. Two centuries
after Antiochas and Laodice, the priesthood of Chalcis yielded the High Priest
founder of a dynasty which became involved with the family of Jesus. That story
is complex and convoluted. It is also obscure. Luckily, we have enough pieces of
the puzzle to add significant new images to the region’s history and to the
life of Jesus. Here are the key pieces:
His lineage (he had royal blood from both the Davidic and
His wives: the 1st was Arsinoe (not the IV), the
youngest daughter of Ptolemy Soter II; the 2ndwas Alexandra (III),
the Hasmonean daughter of Aristobulus II (making her the sister of Antingonus
He captured and held Damascus and part of Galilee during his
reign. He was said to have 8,000 horsemen which he paid for himself
and his archers were highly respected.
At one point, he led an alliance between the Judeans, the
Nabateans, and Chalcians against the Seleucids (as below).
When Pompey (then a Roman General) captured Syria for the Romans
in 63 BCE, Ptolemy retained his throne by paying a thousand talents to Pompey
(which was used to pay the wages of his soldiers. (Ant. 14.38-9).
Later that year, when Aristobulus II (King of Judea) was captured
by the Romans, his youngest son, Antigonus II Mattathias, and two daughters,
Alexandria II and Selene, were sent to P. Mennaeus for safekeeping. (He married
Alexandria and she bore his successor, Lysanias). (Ant. xiv. 7, § 4; B. J. i.
9, § 2).
Coins from his reign indicate that he was both "Tetrarch and
His legacy (he founded a short, but influential dynasty).
It seems apparent that the national Jewish party at that
time (aka “Zealots” and others) depended on Chalcis in many ways. The
following statement supports this: "On the 17th of Adar danger threatened
the rest of the 'Soferim' in the city of Chalcis, and it was salvation for
Israel" (Meg. Ta'an. xii.). Josephus notes that Chalcians played a notable
role in the defense of Jerusalem. (Ant. 13.9.1). And, there are several
historical references which prove that Chalcis was much more than Josephus wants
us to think.
Menneus of Chalcis
dau Alexander Janneus)
During the reign of John Hyrcanus (Judea: 134-104 BCE), the
Judeans sought to expand their territory (especially after the death of the
Seleucid Antiochus Sidetes). By raiding the tomb of David and stealing 3000
talents, Hyrcanus hired a mercenary army. In 112 BCE Hyrcanus conquered Idumea
and forcibly “converted” them to Judaism,
thereby setting the stage for later domination by the Idumeans (e.g. Herod).
Then he moved against Samaria (~110 BCE) destroying the Jewish Temple at Mount
Gerizim. He placed many of the Samarians
into slavery (violating Jewish law) and created animosity and hatred that have
endured since. Finally, Hyrcanus sought to bring certain Hellenized regions of
southern Galilee under his control and attempted to “convert them to
however the Chalcians stopped him.
With the death of Hyrcanus, his son Alexander Jannaeus (aka
Yannai or Jannai), continued military expansionism. During this period there
emerged a military alliance which brought together the Judeans, Idumaeans,
Galileans, and Chalcians as the “loudaioi”. It also seems that this
“League of loudaioi” was given an official position associated with the High
This alliance later expanded and mutated to include the Nabateans. During that
same period, the civil war in Syria split the Seleucids and opened the door for
outside forces to eat away at the Hellenistic kingdom. Antiochus IX Eusebes (aka
Cyzicenus), the son of Antiochus VII Sidetes and Cleopatra Thea, sought to
reclaim the throne from his
half-brother Antiochus VIII Grypus in 116 BCE. Together, Cyzicenus and Grypus
managed to reduce the Syrian kingdom to a few fortified cities and the regional
tribes of Chalcis began to unite as independent city-states.
During this period Chalcis was known for its many temples
and the Temple of Heliopolis (aka Baalbeck) was the most prosperous and
prominent. Because this temple is central to the history of Chalcis, we should
take a moment and review its history.
The early history of the Baalbek Temple is best told with a
Look closely to find the two men standing just right of the
center and you will get a sense of the scale. The large monoliths below these
men are the largest worked stones ever created and moved by humans. But we
simply have no idea who put them there. (Others, who we can identify, placed the
other massive and smaller stones on top of the monoliths). As one writer aptly
suggested: “It is as if some mysterious people brought the mighty blocks and
placed them at the feet and in front of the snow-capped Lebanon, and went away
Tradition holds that it wasn’t people who placed the stones and the fact that
even today we lack the ability to move such stones might point to a
“supernatural” source. What we think matters little – the people of
Jesus’ time could only imagine one source for such work – God.
While there were other amazing works or “wonders” of
the time, people knew that other people had created them. Such was uniquely not
the case with the Temple of Baalbek.
Thus, during a time when Herod’s magnificent temple in Jerusalem wouldn’t
rank as one of the “seven wonders of the world”, and the Middle East
contained five such “wonders”,
the Temple at Baalbek was the only known structure that seemingly could not have
been built by humans.
As amazing and mysterious as this temple is to us, consider how the ancients
must have viewed it.
Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the prosperity of
an ancient “temple” was largely dependent upon claims of divine presence or
divine influence. The priests at Baalbek had a unique claim (later recognized by
the Romans who not only built their largest temple at the site but relied upon
the temple oracles). I propose that it was simple jealousy which led Josephus to
wholly ignore this site and its significance.
In 96 BCE,
Cyzicenus was killed in battle by the son of Grypus and Syria was further
weakened. This opened the door for P. Mennaeus who captured Damascus. After
Alexander Janneaus (“Yannai”) successfully captured Ptolemais (Acco) along
the coast, Ptolemy Lathyrus (from Egypt via Cypros) invaded Judaea and soundly
defeated Yannai near the Jordan (95 BCE). Luckily for Yannai, Cleopatra (III)
intervened against Lathyrus (her son) and she took again Gaza and Ptolemais,
forcing Lathyrus to retreat to Cyprus. Once freed from the threat of Lathyrus,
Yannai turned to the Transjordan.
Then, along came Aretas III, the new Nabataean king, in 87 BCE (map below).
Josephus says that the people of Damascus didn’t care for
the rule of Mennaeus and asked Aretas for help. But, instead of helping them,
Aretas attacked Judea (?). This seems silly and ignores the larger picture.
Since Alexander Jannaeus had become ruler of Judea in 103 BCE, he was a constant
threat to Nabatea. The time was ripe for Aretas to put the Judean in his place
and he quickly did so. After a few quick Nabatean victories, Yannai capitulated
and accepted a treaty (of surrender) which left him in power but obliged to
Aretas. This treaty would eventually form the framework of a larger alliance.
Here again, we have no historical record with the details,
but it appears that P. Mennaeus and Aretas reached an accord resulting in the
transfer of Damascus to the Nabateans around 76 BCE. I suggest that this was a
three-way deal in which Aretas included the safety of Chalcis in his treaty with
Yannai in exchange for Damascus. This not only explains the transfer, but
After the death of Yannai in 76 BCE, Salome Alexandra (his
brother's widow and successor) supposedly sent her son Aristobulus II with an
army to Damascus against P. Menneus, who Josephus described as “a troublesome
neighbor to the city” (Ant. 13.16.2). But Aristobulus “did nothing
considerable there, and returned home” Ibid. (I agree with Jan Retso
that there is confusion regarding this sequence of events and discrepancies in
the names. But, most are best attributed to the fog of time. Cf. Aryeh Kasher).
Nabataean rule of Damascus continued until 72 BCE when the
Armenian king Tigranes II successfully laid siege to the city. Armenian rule of
the city continued until 69 BCE when Tigranes was forced to withdraw and deal
with a Roman attack on the Armenian capital (Tigranikert). Aretas then re-took
Damascus until Pompey arrived in 63 BCE.
Nabataean Kingdom at its apex. Note the importance of the Gaza.
Salome Alexandra died in 67 BCE and her son John Hyrcanus
II succeeded her. But the two brothers, Hyrcanus and Antigonus could not
reconcile their differences and “Antigonus, son of Aristobulus, also supported
Ptolemy in his effort to establish himself as king in Judea” ("Ant."
xiv. 12, § 1). It is quite unclear why P. Menneaus would have claim to the
throne of Judea unless he was a legitimate Davidic heir. Salome later sent
Aristobulus II to assist the Galileans who were supposedly under the
“oppression” of the Chalcians. But that mission left Galilee in the control
of Chalcis and resulted in Lysanias, the son of P. Menneaus, and Aristobulus
becoming friends (they were “cousins” as Alexandria II was Lysanias’
mother and Antigonus’ sister).
Once Pompey defeated Mithridates in 64 BCE, he turned his
attention to the principalities to the south. Josephus confuses us with
conflicting passages regarding Pompey and his passage through Chalcis on his way
to war in Damascus “to bring order to a vast and troubled land”. In one
account, Josephus holds that Pompey, on his way to Damascus in the spring of 63
BCE, "demolished the citadel at Apamea and devastated the territory of
Ptolemy bar Mennaeus.” Subsequently, Josephus recalls the passage of Pompey
through the land on his way to Damascus and Pompey is described as merely
passing by the “cities of Heliopolis and Chalcis” in order to cross the
Anti-Lebanon (Ant. 14.38-40). Given the facts that P. Mennaeus paid a large
to Pompey and thus remained both in power and minting coins,
it makes more sense that Chalcis was left unscathed. It is also highly likely
that the deal with Pompey involved Mennaeus sending troops to assist in his
mission. Pompey then set up offices in Damascus and placed his deputy Marcus
Aemilius Scaurus in charge of regional affairs.
In Judea, John Hyrcanus had reigned only three months when
Aristobulus (II) claimed the throne as his own. The brothers met in a battle
near Jericho where many of Hycanus’ soldiers deserted to join Aristobulus.
Hyrcanus fled back to Jerusalem and took refuge in the citadel (the “Baris”
adjacent to the Temple). But
Aristobulus controlled the city and the Temple and Hyrcanus accepted a
negotiated surrender. According to its terms, Aristobulus would be King and High
Priest but Hyrcanus would continue to receive the revenues of the High
Priesthood. Hyrcanus (along with his chief aide Antipater) went into exile in Nabatea.
This seemed an amicable and reasonable solution, but
Antipater (the Idumean who had married a Nabatean princess) aligned with Aretas
III (the Nabatean King) with hopes of putting the weak Hyrcanus back onto the
Judean throne. Both of the Jewish brothers sought to gain the favor of Scaurus
with lavish gifts and promises and Scaurus accepted the 400 talents offered by
Aristobulus to name him as ruler of Judea. Scarus also ordered Aretas to
withdraw his army from Judea and during his retreat Aristobulus attacked and
crushed the Nabateans.
When Pompey arrived in Syria later in 63 BCE, “both
brothers and a third party
that desired the removal of the entire dynasty”, sent delegates to again seek
Roman favor. Pompey, who delayed his decision for months, eventually held in
favor of Hyrcanus deeming the weaker brother a more reliable ally of the Roman
Empire. Ptolemy Mennaeus died (~61 BCE) and his son (by Alexandra) Lysanias
succeeded to his throne.
He made a pact with Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, which would have great
influence in subsequent events (Ant. 14.330).
Aristobulus fled but Pompey sent his lieutenant Marc Antony
after him. Antony captured Aristobulus and his oldest son, Alexander, with the
intent of returning him to Rome for trial. Oddly and inexplicably, both
Aristobulus and his son later “escaped” from the Romans (57 BCE) and headed
for the fortress of Alexandrium
(built by and named for his father). (Ant. xiv. 3, 3 and 4; Wars i. 6, 5). When
the Roman army (under Gabinus and with Mark Antony) approached and offered
Aristobulus asylum, he surrendered and agreed to assist in turning over
Jerusalem to them. That didn’t work when his followers and others were
unwilling to open the gates to the Romans. Instead, the Romans laid siege to the
city and ended up damaging the Temple.
Pompey placed John Hyrcanus (II) back into the office of
High Priest but denied him political rule. Instead, he rewarded Antipater the
Idumean with a governorship of Judea while he went about subduing Aretas and
settling matters in Egypt. Josephus reports that Aristobulus, and his sons
Alexander and Antigonus, were sent to Rome (to be marched in the triumphant
parade), but Alexander (and Antigonus) escaped
along the way and returned to Judea (Ant. xiv. 4, 5). Here, we are lacking
in detail but have a few important clues which indicate that it was Lysanias who
provided them protection and essential support.
In 49 BCE, on the breaking out of the Roman civil war,
Julius Caesar set Aristobulus free and while he was on his way back to Judaea he
Pompey ordered Alexander seized and had him beheaded at Antioch. That left
Antigonus II as the head of the family and the Hasmonean dynasty. In 48 BCE,
Julius Caesar appointed Antipater (then, Pompey’s advisor and Herod’s
father) as Procurator of Judaea. Antipater appointed his son Herod as governor
of Galilee where he warred with the locals.
Also in 48 BCE, Cleopatra (usually designated as Cleopatra
VII – the most famous one and thus, just “Cleopatra” hereafter) was
removed from power and she went into exile along with her younger sister
Arsinone IV. While generally stated that her exile was in “Syria”, it is
more likely that it was in Chalcis (an area settled and controlled by former
Egyptian soldiers loyal to her family).
Some believe that Arsinoe married P. Mennaeus, but this is far from likely.
Cleopatra’s fate was to change dramatically when she somehow organized an army
while in Syria and returned to Egypt to reclaim her throne.
Meanwhile, the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey
was consuming Rome. Pompey was forced to seek refuge in Egypt, but was killed in
Alexandria by Ptolemy as Julius Caesar followed Pompey into Egypt. Then, in the
famous “rolled into a blanket episode”, Caesar met and fell in love with
Cleopatra. She bore him a son (Caesarion) in 47 BCE and returned with him to
Rome. But when Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE, she fled/returned to
Alexandria with Caesarion. She was likely then pregnant with Caesar’s child
– a not so well-kept secret.
After the death of Julius Caesar, the Second Triumvirate
(Mark Antony and Octavian) ruled Rome. While at Tarsus, Antony sent for
Cleopatra to determine her allegiances and plans. Cleopatra arrived and made a
lavish entrance into the city of Tarsus, obviously impressing Antony (who badly
needed her wealth). Again, Cleopatra was in a position to court a Roman ruler
into an extramarital affair that would change history. But first, she had to
find “solutions” for Caesar’s daughters.
VII Thea Philopator– “The Cleopatra”
of Ptolemy XII Auletes and Cleopatra V)
First “Marriage” – Julius Caesar
(via Phraates V)
Herod I – 3rd husband)
(via Gaius Julius Sohaemus)
Mamaea of Emesa
Zenobius of Palmyra
Coin showing Phraataces and Theramusa
Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
Second “Marriage” – Mark Antony
Coin with Mark Antony and Cleopatra Thea
C. Selene (left) and Alexander Helios
The lack of historical data regarding the daughters of
Julius Caesar and Cleopatra should not dissuade us from the probability. The
reported rumors and writings of Cicero rather clearly spell out the pregnancy
and although a son would have been BIG news, a daughter (or two) was anything
but such. If we note that J. Caesar returned from Spain in the fall of 45 BCE
and Cleopatra was living openly as his mistress/Queen in his trans-Tiber villa
until the assassination in the spring of 44 BCE, then there should be little
doubt that there was opportunity for such conception. We might also note that
Caesarion returned to Alexandria with his mother and this shows that Cleopatra
saw “the writing on the wall” for the future of any children of J. Caesar.
It was reported (Cicero) that Cleopatra had a miscarriage
either during the return trip or after her return to Alexandria. I agree with
those who suggest this was falsely reported. Some propose that Cleopatra gave
birth to a single daughter (Thermusa) who was raised in Rome with Antony’s
children (by Octavia Minor). I suggest that Cleopatra gave birth to twin girls,
the “younger” being Caesaria. Cleopatra understood the necessity of keeping
her last child a secret- both to protect the child and maximize her
She turned to her best non-Egyptian royal friend, Alexandra
II, the Hasmonean matriarch who had become Herod’s mother-in-law. The
relationship between Alexandra and Herod was clearly antagonistic: he had killed
her son Aristobulos soon after naming him High Priest (in 36 BCE) and Alexandra
had Herod brought before Antony to answer for his complicity in this royal death
(Herod escaped through bribes). Thus, we are certain that there was “back
channel” communication between Cleopatra and Alexandra and Alexandra would
have been the perfect choice for the task of secretly raising “Cleopatra of
Jerusalem”. We don’t know who Alexandra assigned to this task and the next
thing we know about Cleopatra Caesaria is that she first married Jacob ben
After sending her daughter by Caesar to Judea,
Cleopatra bore Antony three children: Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene (twins
in 40 BCE) and Ptolemy Philadelphus (36 BCE). Part of the relevant historical
change due to her relationship with Mark Antony was her request that the former
Egyptian territories in the East be returned to her control. This included
Syria, Lebanon, Chalcis, Auranitis,
Trachonitis, Batanaen, and Paneas.
Antony had Lysanias, then ruler and High Priest of Chalcis,
pay Cleopatra tribute, but retained him in power. That power would profoundly
change the politics of Judea.
“Now [in 40 BCE], when Barzapharnes, a
governor among the Parthians, and Pacorus, the king's son, had possessed
themselves of Syria, and when Lysanias had already succeeded upon the death of
his father Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, in the government [of Chalcis], he
prevailed with the governor, by a promise of a thousand talents, and five
hundred women, to bring back Antigonus [II] to his kingdom, and to turn Hyrcanus
out of it. Pacorus was by these means induced so to do, and marched along the
sea-coast, while he ordered Barzapharnes to fall upon the Jews [e.g. Judeans] as
he went along the Mediterranean part of the country; but of the maritime people,
the Tyrians would not receive Pacorus, although those of Ptolemais and Sidon had
received him; so he committed a troop of his horse to a certain cup-bearer
belonging to the royal family, of his own name [Pacorus], and gave him orders to
march into Judea, in order to learn the state of affairs among their enemies,
and to help Antigonus when he should want his assistance.” (Wars I.13.1;
The political intrigues and confusion of Josephus regarding
these events has led to gross misunderstanding regarding the circumstances and
Antigonus led his rebellion against Rome in 40 BCE but was defeated and killed
in 37 BCE.
Pompey had sought to stabilize the region by encouraging a loose alliance
between the cities of the Decapolis wedged between Damascus, Ituraea/Chalcis,
and Judaea. While Rome reserved a right of intervention the cities were heavily
influenced by Nabataea.
The obvious outcome was the Roman occupation of Judea and the installation of
Herod as puppet king, but there were other very significant events going on
which have been generally ignored.
Herod’s siege and taking of Jerusalem (with the help of
the Roman General Sossius) in 37 BCE was far from an absolute victory. Herod
knew that his claim to the Judean throne was weak and might not stand for long
so he sought to bolster his position through marriage and negotiation. Thus,
after Antigonus surrendered to Sossius, Herod bribed Antony to execute Antigonus
instead of taking him to Rome for Senate “hearing” (where Antigonus might
have offered the Romans enough to be renamed king). Even with Antigonus
captured, his wife Alexandra A. held the citadel (Baris) in Jerusalem and
“ruled” for some six months while Herod and his forces secured the rest of
Josephus tells us that Herod intervened upon the final
capture of the Temple to prevent its looting and destruction by paying massive
bribes to the soldiers and generals. No one seems to ask where Herod got this
great wealth – part of the answer would seem to be from the two Hasmonean
princesses: Alexandra dau Hyrcanus II and Alexandra dau Antigonus..
In return, they were not only saved, but became matriarchs in two different
Courts: Alexandra H. within the Herodian Court and Alexandra A. in Chalcis.
With control of Jerusalem and the title of “king”,
Herod gathered as many of the Hasmonens as he could (including the disfigured
patriarch Hyrcanus II who had been in exile in Syria) and either married them
(as with Marianne I), made them powerful “puppets” (as with Hyrcanus), named
them as High Priest (as with Aristobulus III), or had them killed. Alexandra H.
(II) was so powerful that she acted as “queen” during the early years of
Herod’s rule and her close friendship with Cleopatra (VII) had to be among the
great thorns nagging Herod. It would also frame the future of Chalcis.
But Alexandra H. wasn’t the only Hasmonean thorn Herod
had to deal with. It wasn’t until several
years after Herod’s ultimate ascendance that he took “Hyrcania,” a
fort held by “Antigonus’ sister.” This sister, whose name we don’t know
(“Mariamne” is commonly used), was honored by the Romans for her bravery and
skill. With her death, the remaining heirs of the Hasmonean dynasty fell under
Herod’s control – except for the other Alexandra - the wife of P. Mennaeus (who died in 36 BCE)
and mother of Lysanias. (For a
comprehensive analysis of Herodian intermarriages with the Hasmonenas, see the
section below regarding Herod).
What should be clear is that a great many Jews remained
loyal to the Hasmonenas and that their best opportunity to support them was in
Galilee – a region mostly controlled by Lysanias and the Chalcians. In 36 BCE,
Cleopatra VII beseeched her lover Mark Antony to kill Lysanias so that his
domains could become hers (Ant. XV. iv. 1; XIV. xiii. 3; I. xiii. 1). Antony
obliged her and killed Lysanias making his son Zenodorus the new ruler/landlord.
The region of Chalcis became yet another valuable Palestinian holding of the
(she also held regions that had been taken from Herod). History tells us little
about what happened to the families of the Hasmoneans or Davidics that had ruled
Chalcis, particularly Alexandria III and the offspring of Antigonus II. However,
the subsequent history provides interesting clues.
In Egypt, during 34 BCE, Antony and Cleopatra celebrated
their perceived future with the “Donations of Alexandria”.
They were joined by their six-year-old twins, Alexander Helios and
and the two-year-old Ptolemy Philadelphus. Antony granted Cleopatra portions of
Herod's kingdom, the balsam plantations near Jericho, the date plantations at
Ein Gedi, and parts of the Nabatean (Arab) kingdom. Herod was forced to lease
back these concessions from Cleopatra. Cleopatra, in turn, travelled through
Jerusalem, and according to a doubtful claim by Josephus she tried to seduce
Herod. He supposedly refused her
advances and even contemplated killing her, but this is very unlikely.
Here we must recognize that Josephus writes with a clear
bias against Cleopatra. He describes her as a seductress
who simply pretends to rule.
Josephus also states that she "was very covetous and stuck at no
wickedness" and that “she destroyed the gods of her country and the
sepulchres of her progenitors". Josephus depicts Cleopatra as an evil,
avaricious, scheming, sensual, and treacherous woman who would stop at nothing
to satisfy her insatiable greed (Ant. 15.88-95) and he asserts that Mark Antony
was dominated by her because he was
on drugs (Ant. 15.93).There is simply no evidence to support these claims and
they defy compelling evidence to the contrary.
As we should always do, Josephus must be read with an eye to his biases.
The Second Triumvirate formally expired on the last day of
33 BCE and Antony’s efforts to supplant Octavian failed during the “Final
War of the Roman Republic”. By the end of 31 BCE (following defeat at Actium),
the fate of Antony and Cleopatra was sealed and she began unsuccessfully
negotiating for her children’s future. Her oldest son (and co-ruler) was
Caesarion (son of Julius Caesar) and she tried to send him to India (along with
All the male children of Cleopatra met the same fate – an early death. Selene
fared better and was sent to the care of Octavia Minor and eventually became
Queen of Mauretania (at the side of Juba II).
The actual territory which remained under the control of
the Chalcians during this period is uncertain, but clearly included the areas
west and north-west of Damascus. With the death of Lysanias in 32 BCE, his son
Zenodorus assumed the lease of his father’s territories from Cleopatra (a
common arrangement). Coins minted during his reign describe Zenodorus as
"Tetrarch and High Priest" (just as the coins of his father and
grandfather), thus indicating that he was more than the mere lessee of the
property. A severe earthquake struck Palestine in 31 BCE causing widespread
With the death of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BCE, their
holdings were largely distributed to regional rulers.
In the case of Chalcis, we are left in the dark about its fate (although we are
given details regarding cities and regions given to Herod). Josephus tells us
that Zenodorus (who Josephus
doesn’t say was the son of Lysanias, but we know from other sources
that he was) controlled “Iturea”
[Chalcis] (Wars i. 20, § 4). But then a few years later (20 BCE), at the death
of Zenodorus, Josephus reports that
Augustus gave Iturea to Herod the Great, who in turn bequeathed it to his son
“Herod Philip” (Ant. 15: 10, §
3). Here we encounter considerable confusion (or misrepresentation) by Josephus
because of similar names and confused lineage. Here again, it appears clear that
Josephus (possibly originating with Nicolas of Damascus, Herod’s historian who
Josephus often relied upon) intentionally
misleads and that historians have contributed greatly to the confusion by
following Josephus in this regard.
It seems apparent that Herod was not given the region of Chalcis and that it
remained largely independent during Herod’s difficult period from 30-25 BCE.
After Octavian affirmed Herod as “Basileus” (essentially “King – the
highest of royal rankings allowed by the Romans), Herod was beset by internal
With Octavian’s victory over Antony came Herod’s near
certain demise – he had chosen the wrong side. But at Rhodes, Octavian was
persuaded that Herod was both his best choice as Judean ruler and that Herod
would become a loyal supporter. Thus, “Augustus” (the new royal name for
Octavian) not only proclaimed Herod as “Basileus” (client king), but added
the coastal regions of Judaea (aka the “Gaza Strip”) and Samaria to his
realm. Soon thereafter, Augustus added Jericho and Gaza (which had been
independent) along with those regions which Antony had taken
from Herod and given to Cleopatra. Then, he added Gadara, Hippos, Anthedon,
Joppa, and Strato's Tower.
After the first games at Actium (28 BCE), Augustus added to Herod’s kingdom
the regions of Trachonitis, Batanea, and Auranitis (which may have previously
been held by the “House of Lysanias”).
Herod had his favorite wife (Mariamme I) killed after her
mother (Alexandra H.) testified against her for adultery (all part of a pattern
of “intrique” led by Salome, Herod’s sister). Then Alexandra declared that
Herod was mentally ill and named herself Queen. Herod had her executed. Soon
thereafter, he executed his brother-in-law (and close advisor) Kostobar for
conspiracy. In 29 BCE an assassination attempt against Herod was foiled, but he
warred against his sons. With the death of Cleopatra VII and Alexandra H., it
must have become known that an infant daughter of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra
had been left in the care of Alexandra H.
This news would have to be shared with Augustus and it
would have been Augustus who determined her fate. Because Julius Caesar had
become a “god” in the eyes of the Romans, his daughter held great potential
power. But she was also the daughter of the hated Cleopatra and had been raised
as a Jew. In the same manner that Augustus treated her half-sister Selene
(daughter of Antony & Cleopatra) with dignity and respect, he found a
solution for Caesaria. She was given in marriage to a Jewish prince known well
by Augustus and favored by Herod – Jacob bar Matthan. While not well known
through history, Jacob was one of the Davidic contenders kept under tight reigns
within the Herodian Court (most of the others having been killed or exiled).
Jacob had strong and powerful ties to Alexandria
and was used by Herod as a Roman liaison. After the death of Antony and
Cleopatra he had been serving as Patriarch (“mayor”) of Jerusalem.
Augustus would have given this Caesar-Cleopatra
“princess” a dowry and subsequent events show that her marriage gift was the
region of Chalcis. It was a region once controlled by her mother, it was mostly
Jewish, and it posed little or no threat to Rome. Herod would not have objected
since it had been a troublesome region basically under military control from
Then, in 28 BCE, Herod performed one of the many purges
within his Court. It began with his lustful infatuation with Mariamne (II) the
daughter of the Simon Boethus, another Alexandrian priest.
As part of his third marriage arrangements,
Herod took the title of High Priest from Jesus bar Phabet and passed the title
to Simon. Herod’s execution of Kostobar (his brother-in-law) for allegedly
hiding the sons of Baba (supporters of Antigonus) is another telling event of
the time. The sons of Baba were executed as were Herod’s aides Antipater,
Lysimachus, and Dositheus for being involved in some presumed plot against
Herod. Among the victims of this “shake-out” was Jacob ben Matthan, who was
apparently executed as part of the “conspiracy”. Cleopatra Caesaria was then
compelled to marry Simon Boethus (the acting High Priest).
Under odd circumstances, Herod then married Malthace the
Samarian. This may have been in response to public protests regarding his
execution of Mariamne I or merely a political marriage to improve his relations
with the Samaritans (who were favored by the Romans).
“Al! of his marriages to date had ended
in failure: his first wife, Doris, was banished after ten years of marriage to
pave the way for his marriage to Mariamme [I] the Hasmonaean. In roughly the
same year (37 BCE), he married his niece (whose name is unknown), and, three
years later (in approximately 33/34 CE), his cousin (also unnamed); but it
appears that neither of them produced any offspring. Under these circumstances,
it is reasonable to assume that he wished to "compensate" himself with
a new and more fruitful marriage.”
Thus, the marriage of Cleopatra Caesaria to Simon didn’t
last long and within a year she was married to Herod as his fifth wife.
We have no explanation for the short marriage to Simon (who continued as High
Priest) or the quick marriage to Herod, but the change had great impact upon
Chalcis. Subsequent events show that C. Caesaria’s marriage to Herod was
carefully negotiated (as was typical of most Jewish marriages of the time) to
include rights and privileges for any children they might have. They had at
least two sons: Sisines
(b. 24 BCE) and Phillipus (b. 23
BCE). Since both were sent to Rome for education,
it is clear that both Herod and Augustus deemed them as heirs.
It is useful to consider the reasons why Josephus largely
ignores these sons of Herod (and “Sissines” is not even named by Josephus).
Within Josephus’ writings the younger son is confused and conflagrated with
Herod Philip (the son of Herod via Mariamne II). I suggest that it is also
revealing that neither of C. Caesaria’s sons used the name Herod (not needing
that name to establish their royal status). Indeed, Josephus seems intent upon
having both sons of C. Caesaria conflagrated with the sons of Mariamne II,
especially in regard to Herodias. For the most part, Josephus was highly
successful in writing the sons of C. Caesaria out of history as most historians
merely echo Josephus who is either their sole or primary source.
To properly fit Sisines and Phillipus into history, it is
useful to understand Herod’s wills, wives, and heirs. Thus, we shall follow a
short diversion from the chronology…
According to Kokkinos (“Herodian Dynasty”, pp. 243-4)
Herod's first wife was Doris (47 BCE, divorced before 38 BCE and re-called to
court in 14 BCE). His second wife
was Mariamme (I) the Hasmonean (38 BCE, executed in 29 BCE). The third and
fourth wives (not counted by many historians) were an unknown cousin and an
unknown niece who Herod married around 29 BCE and yielded no known children).
The fifth wife was Mariamne II, daughter of the High Priest Boethus, who came
from Alexandria (after 29 BCE and divorced no later than 6 BCE). The sixth wife
was Malthace of Samaria (28 BCE) and the seventh wife was Cleopatra of Jerusalem
A quick examination of Herod’s descendants reveals some
of the confusion…
The Herodian Court:
Doris the Idumean (m.
son Antipater II, executed 4 BCE
Mariamne I the
son Alexander, executed 7 BCE
(m. 37 BCE)
son Aristobulus IV, executed 7 BCE
Mariamne II the
Levite (m. 29 BCE)
son Herod II
Malthace the Samarian
(m. 28 BCE)
son Herod Archelaus – a Tetrarch
Herod Antipas – a Tetrarch
Jerusalem (m. 24BCE)
son Sisines (“Herod IV”) – a
Phillipus – a Tetrarch
(at least five other wives…)
To exemplify the confusion, here is what Josephus records…
Emperor Claudius on
his ascent “confirmed that kingdom to Agrippa [I] which Caius had given him
[and] also made an addition to it of all that country over which Herod [the
Great], who was his grandfather, had reigned, that is, Judea and Samaria....”
Claudius “made league with Agrippa [I]...took away from Antiochus
[undesignated] that kingdom which he was possessed of, but gave him a certain
part of Cilicia and Commagena; he also set Alexander Lysimachus, the Alabarch,
at liberty, who had been his old friend, and steward to his mother, Antonia, but
had been imprisoned by Caius, whose son [eds. add Marcus] married Bernice
[B], the daughter of Agrippa [I]. But when Marcus, Alexander’s son, was dead,
who had married her when she was a virgin, Agrippa gave her in marriage to his
brother Herod [A], and begged for him of Claudius the kingdom of Chalcis.” AJ
XIX.V.1. Claudius “bestowed on Agrippa [I] his whole paternal
kingdom...besides those countries that had been given by Augustus to Herod [the
Great]: Trachonitis and Auranitis, and still besides these that kingdom which
was called the kingdom of Lysanias. ... He bestowed on his [Agrippa I’s
half?-] brother Herod [A], who was also his son-in-law, by marrying Bernice [B],
the kingdom of Chalcis.”
Josephus also tells us that “a brother [Aristobulus III]
of “one of Herod the Great’s wives [Miriam I] was the grandson of
Aristobulus [II] by his father [Alexander II] and grandson of Hyrcanus [II] by
his mother [Alexandra III]” (Ant. XIV.XIV.5).
While it is difficult to explain all that is going on, let us remember
that the region of Chalcis was held by Cleopatra (VII) before her death. If, as
I suggest, Cleopatra of Jerusalem was related to the Egyptian Queen, it would
make sense that her sons (by Herod) would receive the territories once held by
But why is her oldest son never named within Josephus and why isn’t he named
as one of the four “Tetrarchs”?
Other oddities emerge which provide significant clues to
the truth of the matter. First, whereas the sons of Malthace (who was Samarian
and not Hasmonean) retained the surname “Herod” (as in “Herod Archelaus”
and “Herod Antipas”) to provide the illusion of royal authority, the sons of
Cleopatra did not (despite the fact that some historians assign the name for
ease of identification). Second, the wives of Phillipus and his brother (who,
from logical deduction,
I will name “Sisines” herein) overlap exactly to suggest levirate marriage.
Due to the misdirection of Josephus, we need to adjust the
family tree of Herod. Here is a portion of the “adjusted” relevant
I > Herodians of Chalcis
(5th Wife = Cleopatra of Judea = her 3rd
(via others ??)
(1st Wife = Solome
sister) = her 1st husband)
b. Herod)___|_________(via Sisines)
(via H. Princess)
(via Cypros d. Phaesal)
Miramne d. Joseph)
Felix Vespasiana Polla Agrippa C.
b. Costobar (as
Cypros d. Herod)
(via Helcias Alexis)
For the genealogists out there, the major change involves
Antipater b. Herod (via Doris) who was executed in 4 BCE and his half-brother
Aristobulus b. Herod (via Mariamne I who was executed in 7 BCE. While some would
have Berenice married to both, this makes no sense. Josephus indicates that
Antipater first married his niece Mariamne III (daughter of Aristobulus) and
later married an unnamed high-ranking
Hasmonean princess (the daughter of Antigonus, the last Hasmonean king). This
unnamed second wife of Antipater is also identified as a first cousin of
Mariamne I and it was she who joined Doris at the palace during Antipater’s
trial before Varus in 5 BCE (Ant. XVII:5:2). This Hasmonean princess is a key
link between the Herodian and Chalcian royal families.
The most difficult links to derive from the family trees
are the important in-law relationships.
Augustus and other Roman Emperors encouraged intermarriages between the
royal families of ally kings. In some cases, existing relationships lead to
inter-family marriages (such as where Archelaus of Cappidocia offered his
daughter Glaphyra as a bride to Herod’s son Alexander) and in other cases,
inter-marriage made friends or allies between royals (especially among the
powerful women rulers). Many odd or
unexpected historical events or marriages are likely the result of such
“back-channel” friendships and dealings.
This, I propose, was partly (or mostly) responsible for
Jesus’ trip to Chalcis during a troubled time in his ministry – he had
powerful friendly relatives there and in Batanea (detailed in a separate
section) and “the Decapolis” (also covered elsewhere in this work). To
figure this out, one needs to fully view the Hasmonean, Herodian, and Chalcian
Herod I > Herodians of Chalcis
(2nd Wife = Mariamne
I = her 1st husband)
(not followed here)
G.J. Tigranes VI
(via Opgalli of Phrygia)
By tradition, we follow the genealogy of the male members
of the family, but in this case, it is much more useful to follow some of the
female lineages. I would deem this approach: “Follow the Daughters”.
One of the best ways to determine the “pecking order” in ancient
kingdoms was to see who got to marry which daughter – foreign or domestic.
Daughters held titles and carried royal bloodlines. They also held great wealth
(Cleopatra was the richest person in the world during her life and the Hasmonean
princesses held vast wealth). So, having looked at Herod’s male heirs, we
should also examine his daughters and nieces as offering a strong indication of
who Herod wished to have power. Here is a summarized list (names assigned in
quotes are for convenience only)…
& Cypros (mother) Salome
I, Phasael, Herod
I, Joseph, Pherorus
& ?? (aunt)
Achiab, NN daughter (“Phallas”), Antiochas
Salome I (sister =
Josephus – 1st)
(1st married to her uncle; offspring unknown)
Salome I (sister =
Kostobarus – 2nd)
Salome I (sister =
Alexas – 3rd)
Phaseal (brother =
Phaseal II, Cypros II
? bar Pheroras (=
? bar Pheroras (=
Salome IV )
? bat Pheroras (“Berenice
II”) (See below)
dau Mariamne III
Mariamne III (= Antipater II)
Doris (Idumean wife)
Antipater II e. 4 BCE
Antipater II (= Mariamne III)
Mariamne I, Hasmonean (e. 27)
J. Alexander, e. 7 BCE
Aristobulus IV, e. 7 BCE
Joseph Alexander II
Aristobulus IV (= Berenice
Herod of Chalcis
Salampsio (= Phaseal
I – 1st)
Phaseal II – 2nd)
Herod, Alexander, Alexandra, and Cypros III
Cypros II (=
Mariamne II, (d.
Herod Archelaus – a tetrarch
Antipas – a tetrarch
H. Archelaus I (=
Cleopatra of Jerusalem
“Herod IV” (“Sisines”) – a
– a tetrarch
Phaseal II (= Salampsio)
Antipater, Herod (V), Alexander, Alexandra, Cypros
I realize that this remains confusing, but these puzzle
pieces allow us to form a new picture of the Herodian descendancy which includes
the region of Chalcis. If we examine the key players with some additional
detail, we can affirm our new image…
Relevant “Queens” and “Princesses”:
Wives of Herod: One of the key sources of disruption within Herod’s royal
court was the divergent royal status of his wives. So, while all were
“royal” within the Court, some were royal before marriage to Herod. Those
wives held themselves above the others and undoubtedly flaunted their heritage
and status. We can see how this occurred when we review the basis of the first
Other Key Women in the Herodian Court:
Salome I: (57 BCE - 10 CE) Herod's older sister held sway over Herod
throughout his life as he trusted her and tolerated
her schemes all the way to his death. She acted as Queen until Herod’s
first marriage (to Doris). She was scorned as the daughter of a commoner and she
resented Herod’s relations with the Hasmoneans. Salome I was married three
Salome I was known to have three children :
Daughter of Herod and Mariamme I. Married to Phasael II.
Salome III: The only daughter of Herodias & Herod
II (the grand-daughter of Herod through her father and his
great-granddaughter through her mother). She
married at a young age her half-uncle Philip
(as arranged by Herod). Perhaps because this uncle/niece marriage paralleled
that of her mother, the gospel writers confused
her with Herodias when they state that Salome's father was Philip, the first
husband of Herodias, instead of Philip's half-brother Herod
II (Matt14:3; Mark 6:1; note Ant. 18.136).
While Salome was still an infant, her mother deserted her father to marry Antipas.
By later marrying Philip, Salome
became her mother's sister-in-law. She had no children with Philip and upon his
death she married her cousin, Aristobulus, the only son of Herod
of Chalcis. They had three sons who were confusingly given the same names as
her mother's brothers (“Herod”, Agrippa, and Aristobulos).
The daughter of Herod and his wife Elpis.
Mariamne I: The daughter of Alexander I (bar Aristobulus II) and his
cousin Alexandra (dau. John Hyrcanus II). Thus, she was a Hasmonean princess
from both parents. Her mother arranged (negotiated?) for her betrothal to Herod
(41 BCE), but because her brother Aristobulus (and his son Antigonus were
revolting against Herod, they were not wed until four years later in Samaria.
Mariamne rightfully saw herself as the legitimate heir to the Judean
throne and she gave Herod good cause to be suspicious of her.
Herod had her brother Aristobulus III executed in 36 BCE, her father Hyrcanus II
in 30 BCE, and executed her in 29 BCE (and her mother Alexandra in 26 BCE).
Finally, Herod executed her sons Alexander and Aristobulus (IV) in 7 BCE.
Mariamne II: The
daughter of Shimon bar Boethus of Egypt. According
to Josephus, Herod became infatuated with her beauty and so lusted after he that
he made her father High Priest just so that she would have sufficient
“status” to justify his marriage to her. This silly misdirection has been
largely accepted by historians. Shimon was identified as a high ranking priest
from Alexandria and the lack of strong objection to his being named High Priest
shows that he probably held both lineage and credentials to serve the office
(see other remarks regarding Hananiel, his predecessor). That the office of High
Priest was held within his family for several successive generations speaks to
his wealth and power.
Her son was known as Herod II, a name which clearly
indicates his high status and we know that he was considered the heir to the
throne for much of his life (until his mother was implicated in a plot against
Mariamne III: Daughter of Aristobulus
IV and his wife Berenice. She was
the wife of Crown Prince Antipater and, after his execution by Herod, she became
the first wife of Herod Archelaus, principal heir of Herod and Ethnarch of
Mariamne Alexandra/Miriam dau Antigonus:
Jospehus unquestionably intends to be vague regarding this remarkable
woman. He tells us, incorrectly, that Antipater had two wives: his niece
Mariamne III, daughter of Aristobulus IV and then the daughter of Antigonus the
(the last Hasmonean king who also served as High Priest and who was killed by
Herod in 37 BCE). This wife of Antipater was noted as being at the palace with
Doris (Antipater's mother), in support of her husband during his trial before
Varus in 5 BCE. This would seem to make her the principal wife. She is the focus
of detailed analysis below.
Berenice I: The daughter of
Salome I (Herod’s powerful sister) and Herod’s Chief Aide Kostobarus.
Berenice was neither Queen nor Princess and yet was given as wife to Herod’s
first heir – Antipater III. When Antipater was removed from Herod’s will,
she was taken from him and married to Aristobulus IV. With him, was born their
daughter Herodias, the woman who would be the downfall of John the Baptist. Her
siblings included Herod V (King of Chalcis), Herod Agrippa (King of Judea),
Aristobulus V, and Mariamne III.
Berenice II: Often
confused with Berenice I, she was likely the oldest daughter of Herod (via his
niece Cypros II, daughter of Pheroras). She became daughter-in-law of Herod
twice: by marriage to Herod II and
again by marriage to Herod Antipas.
Berenice III: Daughter of Antipater III and Berenice I, wife of
Salampsio I :
Herod's oldest daughter married
Phasael II (son of Herod's older brother, Phasael I). They had 3 sons & 2
daughters: Antipater, Alexander, Herod, Alexandra and Cypros.
Cypros III: The youngest daughter of Salampsio and Paheael II
married her cousin Agrippa I, the son of her mother's brother, Aristobulus IV.
She was the mother of Agrippa II.
Herodian Heirs (Successors of Herod):
Of course, the best indication of royal power was who was
named as heir or successor. Herod’s wills (as many as seven) record the
complexity of his family life and a high degree of intrigue.
Antipater: Herod’s first heir was Antipater, his oldest son (by
Doris). But when Herod decided to marry into Jewish royal blood (Mariamne I, the
Hasmonean princess), he sent Doris and Antipater into exile. Later, Herod sought
their return and made Antipater his heir again. But Antipater got caught up in
the investigation of the poisoning death of Herod’s brother (Pheroras) and
Herod removed him from his will (~7 BCE). Antipater’s first wife was given as
“Mariamne”, and she has generally been presumed to be Herod’s niece (the
daughter of Joseph and Olympias who was named Cypros). Closer study indicates
that the first wife of the principle heir and successor of Herod was actually the
daughter of Antigonus Mattathias (the last Hasmonean king).
This is a remarkable circumstance which is a cornerstone of the detailed
assessment below. Antipater’s second wife was Cypros, Herod’s niece (the
daughter of Phaseal and Salampsio).
Alexander and Aristobulus: When
Doris and Antipater were in exile, Herod named the sons of Mariamne I, Alexander
and Aristobulus, as heirs. They were sent to Rome to be trained as royalty, but
were antagonistic towards their father (as he was not Hasmonean and had killed
their mother). Herod was forced to go to Rome and bring his sons home (17 BCE).
Herod II: Mariamne II, the Levite daughter of the High Priest
Boethus, had a son known as Herod II. But he died young while in Rome.
Archelaus and Antipas: In
his third will, Herod named his sons by Malthace (the Samarian) as co-successors
(H. Archelaus and H. Antipas) with Antipater. This was the first time Herod
indicated that his kingdom might be divided upon his death (and followed
Augustus’ acknowledgment that Herod would be allowed to name his own
Sisinies and Phillipus: Next in the line of succession were the sons
of C. Caesaria: Sisines and
Phillipus. They are discussed in detail below as Sisines is the only son of
Herod to receive his rule before Herod’s death (and Phillipus became heir to
Herod’s territories including Iturea, Trachonitis, Gaulonitis and Paneas).
Herodian Era in Chalcis:
Now let us try to tie all this together as it relates to
Chalcis and the family of Jesus…
The year 23 BCE was eventful for Herod. His newest son (Phillipus
via C. Caesaria) was born and Herod gained the territories of Batanea,
Trachonitis and Auranitis. Those regions were taken from Zenodorus by Augustus
(supposedly for supporting brigands near Damascus) and given to Herod. Augustus
also made Herod one of the procurators of Syria giving him additional income and
greater status in the region. Meanwhile, Zenodorus went to Rome to protest but
was denied remedy. He then sold (for 50 talents) his personal property in Auranitis
to local “Arabs” who opposed Herod. They also appealed to Augustus to avoid
Herod’s takeover, but were unsuccessful. Herod then moved thousands of
Idumeans to the region (see Appendix III).
In the year 22 BCE, Herod received the right to name his
own successor from Augustus and sent his sons by Mariamne I, Alexander and
Aristobulus, to Rome for preparation as royal heirs. There, it is likely that
they went to the “academy” of Pollio
and were taught on occasion by the Emperor himself. But these sons, having
Hasmonean blood and the haughty attitude of their grand-mother (Alexandra),
publicly disparaged Herod (especially after the execution of their mother) and
so Herod travelled to Rome to bring his sons back to Judea (17 BCE). At that
time, he probably brought other sons to Rome so that they could begin their
education – Herod II (by Mariamne II) and Archelaus and Antipater (by Malthace).
Herod II then disappeared from the historical record and probably died while in
Rome. Archelaus and Antipater were next in the line of succession but suffered
from a lack of royal lineage. Herod’s succession was in trouble.
After Zenodorus’ sudden death in 20 BCE, Augustus annexed
part of his territory (the areas
between Trachonitis and Galilee including Ulatha and Paneas) to Herod's kingdom.
Herod became the third most influential man in the Roman Empire (after Augustus
and Marcus Agrippa) and was thereby able to procure the rule of Perea for his
brother Pheroras. But this left a significant part of Chalcis to be ruled by the
son of Zenodorus – Lysanias II (the one mentioned in Luke at 3:1 as
“tetrarch of Abilene”).
This younger Lysanias is only mentioned obtusely by Josephus and the historical
record regarding him is very sparse.
Our best guess is that Lysanias II is intentionally ignored
or minimized by Josephus. We know from inscriptions,
and other historical references
that Lysanias held the same formal rank as Herod’s sons (“Tetrarch”) and
was also titled “High Priest” (presumably of a Chalcian Temple). As the
likely grandson (or great grandson) of P. Mennaeus and Alexandra (the sister of
King Antigonus the Hasmonean), Lysanias II would have had significant stature
with the Roman Empire and Judean royalties. Since Luke uses his reign to
establish a timeframe and places him as Tetrarch during the 15th year
of Tiberias (29-30 CE), we know he was a contemporary of Jesus. There should be
little doubt that he was also associated with the Herodian ruler of “Chalcis”.
We shall return to this tie later.
Herod’s first son by Cleopatra Caesaria (“of
Jerusalem”) was Sisines (b. 24 BCE). We don’t have his name recorded in the
record or any specific historical reference to him, but some son of Herod
assumed control of Chalcis before Herod’s death (as below). By the “process
of elimination”, we know this was the oldest son of Caesaria. With both sons
of Herod by C. Caesaria having been sent to Rome for education,
we have strong indication of Herod’s intention to name them as heirs. We also
find later that Herod’s children
were kept at the home of Antonia Minor, daughter of Mark Antony, a Roman
princess, and mother of Emperor Claudius. Among their companions at the estate
of Antonia were the later emperors Caligula and Claudius.
Because of the continuing dissent of Alexander and
Aristobulus, Herod offered to bring Antipater, his son by Doris, back to his
Antipater, emboldened by this, negotiated to also have his mother returned to
Herod’s Court and together they worked (successfully) to further alienate
Herod from Alexander and Aristobulus. According to Josephus, by 14 BCE,
Antipater was declared to be Herod’s heir (in his second will) and was sent to
Rome (travelling there with Marcus Agrippa) as a way of commending him to
Augustus (and to have the new will accepted). Herod then took Alexander and
Aristobulus before Augustus and accused them of attempting to poison him (in 13
Augustus ordered reconciliation (that the sons obey their
father) and they all returned to Jerusalem (via Athens and Cappadocia)
where Herod made a proclamation
of his intent to divide his kingdom among Antipater, Alexander, and Aristobulus.
In a very unusual circumstance, it appears that Augustus would allow Herod to
divide his own kingdom. But the matter was certainly unresolved. It is also
important to note that Josephus makes no mention of Sisines or Phillipus who are
clearly heirs of Herod. So, the intrigue continued and it is well summarized as
at Herod's court worsens. Antipater continues to conspire against Alexander and
Aristobolus, having outside sources make false reports of their disloyalty to
Herod. This has the effect of increasing his regard for Antipater, at the
expense of his half-brothers. Herod's sister Salome detests the sons of the
first Mariamme and Glaphyra, the wife of Alexander, who looks down on Salome's
daughter, Berenice, wife of Aristobolus, and Salome herself as lowborn. Pheroras
falls in love with a slave-girl and dishonors his wife (and niece), Herod's
daughter Salampsio, and in so doing dishonors Herod. Herod gives his daughter to
his nephew Phasael, son of his brother Phasael, and eventually convinces
Pheroras to leave the slave-girl and marry his other daughter Cypros, which
he agrees to do, but reneges on his promise thereby further dishonoring Herod.
Salome convinces her daughter Berenice to turn against her husband, Aristobolus,
and to report to her anything incriminating about him, which she then forwards
to Herod. Herod begins to believe everything that he hears about everyone.
Pheroras tells Alexander that Herod desires his wife Glaphyra, which causes
Alexander to confront his father, who then takes his brother to task for
spreading such a report about him and attempting to incite Alexander to kill
him. Pheroras blames Salome for the plot, who denies it. Pheroras is also
accused of earlier having plotted to kill Herod, while he accuses his sister
Salome of plotting to marry Syllaeus, the procurator of Obadas, king of Arabia,
Herod's enemy. Both Salome and Pheroras are acquitted of charges…. and
soon everyone is betraying everyone else.”
Amidst the chaos, the sons of C. Caesaria remained in Rome
until Herod was persuaded to bring them “home”. Archelaus of Cappadocia
(father-in-law of Alexander) travelled to Jerusalem and managed to
reconcile Herod and Alexander (and also Herod with his brother Pheroras). Then
Herod headed for Rome (travelling with Archelaus to Antioch) and seemingly
prepared for his demise (as he was quite ill). It would seem that his wife
Cleopatra died about this time and while in Rome Herod apparently gained the
approval of (or was instructed by) Augustus to appoint Sisines as governor of
With Herod’s return to Jerusalem it should be no surprise
that things worsened again. Both Alexander and Aristobulus were accused of
planning Herod’s murder.
In 9/8 BCE Herod sent a delegation to Augustus and brought charges against his
two sons. Augustus suggested that Herod convene a court in Berytus
(Beirut-Lebanon/Chalcis) to hear the case and impose judgment (including the
tacit permission to execute his sons). The choice of location probably coincided
with the installation of Sisines as Governor of Chalcis.
Whether Herod was inclined to “reward” his oldest and
least troublesome son (Sisines) or he was merely honoring an old debt or
obligation (Cleopatra’s dowry), the Upper Galilee and major portion of Chalcis
became the first part of Herod’s kingdom to be set apart. It makes even more
sense for this to have happened during the period when Augustus had removed
Herod’s right to name his own successor(s).
Alexander and Aristobulus were found guilty (along with
some supporting members of the Judean military) and were executed in 7 BCE at
Sabaste (Samaria) (apparently to avoid potential disruption in Jerusalem). We
don’t know what happened with Phillipus until Herod’s death, but it would
seem that Phillipus returned to Rome (avoiding the craziness of the Herodian
Court). With the deaths of his latest heirs (from Herod’s third will), Herod
named Antipater as primary successor and gave him supremacy in the Herodian
Court. Herod sent Antipater to Rome
with the new will to have Augustus endorse it. Antipater worked with Pheroras to
remove the other sons of Herod and the children of Alexander and Aristobolus as
contending heirs by arranging marriages for political advantage:
Antipater married “Mariamne (III)” (Herod’s niece - the daughter of
Joseph and Olympias).
H. Agrippa (I) was married to Cypros, Phasael’s daughter.
Aristobulus (IV) bar Alexander married Iotapa, princess of Emessa.
H. Pollio (later “Herod of Chalcis”) married Mariamne (IV).
“Julius” Alexander bar Aristobulus married Mariamne (V).
Tigranes bar Alexander (by
Glaphyra of Cappadocia) married an unknown Armenian princess.
The marriages beyond Antipater’s influence were Sisines’
marriage to Mariamne (d. Antigonus) and Philipus’ marriage to Salome (his
niece, the daughter of Herodias and Herod Philip).
Josephus says nothing about Sisines and therefore says nothing about his
marriage, but there should be little doubt that the most favored son would get
the prize princess and that Mariamne Antigonus was at the top of the list.
Again, we should look carefully at the reasons for Josephus to ignore this
What we know about her is pieced together by hints,
supposition, and logical “filling of the gaps”. We are told about the family
and children of Antigonus when he sends them into the care of P. Mennaeus (his
brother-in-law) before starting his war against Herod (~43 BCE). We know that a
sister of Antigonus named Alexandra married P. Mennaeus (after his son
Phillipion went to get her from Askelon). And we know that a sister of Antigonus
held Hyrcania (the fortress where the bulk of the Hasmonean treasure was kept)
for years (37-32 BCE) after the death of Antigonus.
There is no reason to think that it was not Alexandra who was the “remarkable
woman, whose extraordinary courage, skill, and ingenuity enabled her to resist
Herod for several years”.
It seems apparent that Hyrcania was never actually “taken” but that some
settlement was negotiated between Alexandra A., Herod, and the Romans. Part of
that agreement involved her daughter (name uncertain, but generally deemed “Mariamne”)
who first became the wife of H. Antipater and then married Sisines. The
other part of the agreement appears to have made portions of Chalcis part of her
Antipater’s machinations didn’t pay off – mostly
because of Syllaeus, the chief minister of Nabatean Kings Obodas II and Aretas
IV (after 9 BCE). Herod and the Nabateans had gotten along pretty well until the
revolt of Trachonitis (starting in 12 BCE). There was also an issue of Syllaeus
offering to marry one of Herod’s daughters and then refusing to convert to
Judaism. With rebels from Trachonitis gaining refuge in Nabatea and other
factors, Herod decided to invade Nabatea (while Syllaeus was in Rome). Protests
to Augustus were fruitful and the Emperor scolded Herod, renounced their
friendship, and took away his right to name his successor. This obviously
irritated Antipater and subsequently, Antipater accused Syllaeus of bribing one
of Herod's bodyguards and two Arab accomplices to kill the ailing Herod.
Herod sent those accused of the plot to Rome for trial and then he
banished Pheroras (and his wife).
Pheroras soon thereafter died and Herod found (by torture)
evidence that Pheroras was poisoned at the instigation of Syllaeus. In the
process, Herod also discovered the depth of Antipater's animosity towards him.
Herod then banished Doris from his court as she is a major cause of the
dissension and disruption. Herod continued torturing servants and members of his
court until he found out that Antipater and Pheroras had conspired to poison
him. Even Mariamme (II), Herod’s favorite wife was implicated and he divorced
her, removed her son (“Herod II”) from his will,
and removed Simon (Mariamne’s father) as High Priest (5 BCE).
While still in Rome, Antipater arranged for forged letters
to be sent to Herod hoping to incriminate Herod’s other sons who were then
studying in Rome: Archaleus (son of Malthrace) and “Philip” (son of
Cleopatra of Jerusalem).
Finally, by the time Antipater returned to Jerusalem, Herod had figured out his
shenanigans and met him with chains. In proceedings before Varus (the Governor
of Syria), Josephus cryptically reports that Antipater's wife, the daughter of
Antigonus, appeared with him and Doris at his trial before Varus. It is this
single reference that throws much of Josephus’ history askew.
Antipater was found guilty, but due to his royal position
and having been previously approved as successor to Herod, Augustus needed to
approve the death sentence recommended by Varus. Augustus removed Antipater's
position as successor, granted that position to Herod Antipas (son of Malthace),
and approved the execution. Herod wrote a new will (or codicil) naming Archelaus
(Antipas’ older brother) as successor while designating other regions to be
under the rule of Antipas and Phillipus. Herod executed Antipater five days
before his own death (4 BCE).
Antipater’s actions, as described by Jospehus, are
and Herod’s execution of Antipater under the circumstances given is improbable.
Also odd is that Josephus made it clear earlier in his history that all
the Hasmoneans had been executed by Herod, but surprisingly a prominent
Hasmonean princess (the daughter of King Antigonus) mysteriously appears as the
of Herod's primary heir. As suggested by JJ Raymond, “it must have been a kick
in the ball for old and dying king Herod to find out his heir was married to the
daughter of the man who beheaded his brother Joseph, imprisoned his brother
Phasaelus … and had a hand in the poisoning of his father Antipater”.
All the indications are that Josephus is deceiving us.
In his telling of the events following Herod’s death,
Josephus never mentions Chalcis or its surrounding regions.
We are told that after long debate with the involved parties and a
substantial delay, Augustus decided on a compromise solution: Archelaus was
named Ethnarch over Idumea, Judea, and Samaria (with the promise to be made king
if he proved worthy – he didn’t); Antipas was named Tetrarch of Galilee and
Perea; and Phillipus was named Tetrarch over Gaulanitis, Tranchonitis, Batanea,
and Paneas. So we wonder again, who was the fourth Tetrarch and what happened in
Chalcis. At the same time we might wonder what happened to the elder son of
Cleopatra of Jerusalem. And finally, we should wonder what happened to the last
Hasmonean princess after the death of Antipas.
The chaos that followed Herod’s death was extensive and
involved personages largely ignored by historians.
We will also ignore many of the details. Having now said (and shown) how
unreliable Josephus’ history can be, I will point again to the confusion his
information has created. To exemplify this, here is a short section from one
detailed effort to piece together the Herodian family puzzle…
Based on a comparison
process of elimination it appears that Miriam IV [at E] was betrothed to
Antipater III, apparently (?) when a child; she subsequently is not
identifiable. Before the Great died he betrothed Antipater III’s unnamed
daughter to Herod A and an unnamed son of Antipater III to one of Bernice A’s
and Aristobulus IV’s daughters (at E). Antipater III also had contrived to
change the betrothal of a daughter of Pheroras from “[Tigranes] the elder of
Alexander’s s [III’s and Glaphyra’s] sons,” so that “Antipater’s son
should marry Pheroras’ daughter.”
There are five related events or historical references
which are generally ignored or overlooked by historians:
1. Even in the midst of rebellion
and revolt, H. Archelaus and H.
Antipas left for Rome to dispute the wills of Herod. They left Phillipus in charge while they were gone! Roman
intervention was required (first by Varus and then by Sabinus, the new Judaean
procurator sent by Augustus). Phillipus then joined his step-brothers in Rome (Schürer,
2. Josephus reports that a Jewish
delegation also went to Rome to argue for Roman rule. (Ant. xvii XI, I
(299-303); B. J. ii 6, I (83)), but he says nothing about a Jewish delegation
seeking independent rule.
Jewish rebel, Athronges, proclaimed himself the Mashiach/Messiah and “retained
his power a great while [two years?]; he was also called king, wore the Jewish
crown, and had nothing to hinder him from doing what he pleased”. Ant. xvii
10, 7 (278-84); B. J. ii 4, 3 (60-5).
4. After the death of Herod a
portion of the tetrarchy of Zenodorus went to Herod's son Philip [Phillipus](
Ant. ,XVII, xi, 4).
5. The NT Gospels refer to
“Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene”
as ruling during “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” [28 or
29 CE] while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea [26-36 CE] (Luke 3:1).
Josephus makes reference to this same Lysanias, but such is generally confused
with his mention of the earlier Lysanias. (Wars 2:12:8).
With these elements and what we’ve already discussed, we
may begin to fill some significant historical gaps. After the death of Zenodorus
(23 BCE) and before the death of Herod (4 BCE), the region of Chalcis (Iturea/Abilene)
is largely unmentioned. Upon the death of Herod, his kingdom is divided into
halves (northern and southern) and each half is divided into halves – a “tetrarchy”.
Because of Josephus’ misguidance, most historians have accepted that the
tetrarchy (a rulership by four) was
only ruled by three of Herod’s heirs with H. Archelaus ruling two fourths. But
this makes no sense by definition, geography, or history.
Josephus makes it clear that Augustus rewarded Herod with portions
of the territories of Zenodorus (aka, portions of Chalcis). Josephus carefully
ignores Chalcis and its history in his writings and then intentionally misleads
regarding Herod’s succession. It is only through the unavoidable later history
that Josephus acknowledges the Herodian rule over Chalcis (when Josephus
conflagrates the regional names). Thus, “Herod of Chalcis” emerges
mysteriously into history as the ruler of Chalcis after
the death of his brother. We will come back to him shortly.
With Lysanias II a descendant of P. Mennaeus still ruling
part of Chalcis (perhaps the key portion of the patriarch’s kingdom in the
Beqaa Valley) until at least 26 CE and the note that Jesus chose to go to the
region bordering Tyre and Sidon (the Beqaa Valley) to escape Herod Antipas
(“that fox”), it seems likely that Chalcis was his choice. It also seems
likely that the region was ruled by a Herodian senior to Phillipus. What we do
“know” is that a Herodian was given control of those territories upon his
death (Ant. 17.11) and that he was a “brother” of Phillipus.
Unfortunately, history has left us without information regarding this
person – our “Sisines”.
So let us piece together some of the puzzle and see if a
cogent picture emerges. Here are the
The picture that emerges from the facts, the evidence, and
the most logical presumptions looks like this…
When Herod married Cleopatra Caesaria (“Cleopatra of
Jerusalem”) he also accepted her ancestral rights, dowry, and marriage
contract. This gave her a favored position within his court and independent
income from one of the most prosperous regions in the Levant. That region was
divided into Roman controlled areas (“Syria” and the independent cities),
Herodian controlled areas (Lower Galilee and the Golan regions), and Chalcis. As
the dynasty established by Ptolemy Mennaeus faded, more and more areas that had
previously been part of Chalcis became territories ruled by Herod. By the time
Jesus was born (7 BCE), Herod’s fate (demise) was clear and his succession was
in doubt. As others struggled to become the primary heir of Herod, Cleopatra
focused on gaining an advantage for her sons by having her oldest son appointed
to rule Upper Galilee (and adjacent regions of the former Chalcis).
The “historian” Josephus detested Cleopatra VII and
that dislike carried over to Cleopatra Caesaria. Thus, her sons are largely
ignored by Josephus and her oldest and most influential son was ignored entirely
within the histories of Josephus. Nevertheless, it is pretty clear that
Caesaria’s oldest son was given control over her properties in Chalcis
(perhaps upon her death) and that his rule of the region was arranged or
approved at least two years before Herod’s death. He was also the person
likely to have gained Mariamne dau Antigonus as a wife after the execution of
This royal couple – the united grandson of the
Caesar (Julius) and the Cleopatra
(VII) with the senior Hasmonean princess – could have constituted a serious
threat to both Augustus and Herod. It should not be a surprise that they were
kept “hidden away” in Anti-Lebanon. Perhaps they chose “the quiet life”
or they were compelled to remain obscure. It may even be the case that it was
dangerous to mention them in a “historical work”. Otherwise, it is difficult
to explain why neither of them has notoriety. Even their only child, Pollio, is
It is difficult to ascertain the boundaries of the region
they ruled. Map makers rely upon historians, archeologists, and good guessing to
depict uncertain regions and draw their boundaries. The areas known as Coele-Syria,
Upper Galilee, Gaulanitis, and Batanea are not well established and when we look
at modern maps of the ancient Levant we should note the large area which might
have been encompassed by these regions. We should also note the inexplicable
void in the area of Chalcis and the failure of most to identify it. The
strategic, political, and economic importance of the region is readily apparent
and our lack of historical detail regarding it is striking.
Thus, it is during the most relevant period that we have
the least amount of information and here again we confront the misdirection of
Josephus who incorrectly records that in 37 CE, Caligula (Emperor Gaius)
appointed H. Agrippa I
as ruler of “the tetrarchies of Philip and Lysanias.” Combining this
reference with one in Luke (3:1) to “Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene”, we
have important clues to the historical progression. Somewhere between 7 BCE and
37 CE, Chalcis was divided into a Tetrarchy in much the same manner as the
territories of Herod.
Unlike the Tetrarchy of Herod, which was divided among his
four favored sons, the Tetrarchy of Chalcis was divided among those who had
ancestral claims to regions of Chalcidene (including Herodians and descendants
of P. Mennaeus)…
Lysanias II, a grandson of P. Mennaeus, gained control over the
eastern region (Abilene).
Pollio, the son of Sisines and grandson of Herod and C. Caesaria,
retained the core region in the Bekka valley (Chalcis).
Philipus, the son of Herod by Cleopatra, took over the southern
As noted above, Lysanias II was a direct descendant of P.
Mennaeus, the founder of the Chalcian dynasty. His link to Pollio and Phillipus
was multifaceted and complex. Instead of trying to detail the full extent of
their relationship and overcome the confusing conflagration of names, we will
consider the example of “Drusilla”:
Drusilla of Mauretania was the great
granddaughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony (she was the daughter of Julia
Urania of the Royal family of Emesa and Ptolemy of Mauretania, son of Juba II
and Cleopatra Selene). Thus, she was a great niece of Cleopatra of Jerusalem,
mother of Sisines and Phillipus via Herod. Her namesake was her Aunt Drusilla,
first cousin of Emperor Claudius (and thus a second cousin of Caligula). It was
Claudius who arranged for her to marry Marcus Antonius Felix, the procurator of
Judaea. Herod Agrippa I also had a daughter (via Cypros) named Drusilla of Judea
who was betrothed to Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes, first son of
King Antiochus IV of Commagene. But that marriage didn’t get consummated when
he refused to convert to Judaism (by circumcision). Instead, she married Gaius
Julius Azizus, King of Emesa – only to later divorce him and marry Marcus
Antonius Felix – the same man as above! Thus, Felix’s first wife was
Drusilla of Mauretania and his second was Drusilla of Emesa/Judea. But wait…
Drusilla of Mauretania married her second husband Sohaemus,
the Emesene Priest King, in 56 CE (also making her a Drusilla of Emesa). Drusilla
and Sohaemus had a son named Gaius Julius Alexio (aka Alexio II), who later
succeeded his father as Emesene King (after 73 CE). Drusilla’s sister Berenice
married her uncle Herod of Chalcis and later lived (incestuously) with her
brother Agrippa II. Hoping to reduce the scandal, she married Polamo, king of
Cilicia, but that didn’t work so she returned to Agrippa until his death
whereupon she began a “common-law” marriage with Emperor Titus.
Honestly, if I tried to write a more complex or convoluted
fictional account, I probably couldn’t. The Chalcian Tetrarchs Lysanias II,
Pollio, Phillipus, and Azizus were all related to Drusilla and to each other in
a complex web of descendent intermarriages. Thus, they were also related to the
Herodian Tetrarchs, especially H. Philip (the son of Herod by Mariamne) who was
Tetrarch of the neighboring areas that had once been part of Chalcis (Panias and
the Golan heights). These rulers were also related to Yeshua ben Yosef ben Yakob
ben Matthan – “Jesus” whose grand-father had first married Cleopatra of
While others have speculated that Jesus was related more
closely to the Herodians and the Hasmoneans (usually via his mother), I propose
that his closest tie was through this marriage of his grandfather. Furthermore,
it seems obvious to me that Josephus attempted to disguise the fact that the
Herodians split into factions and that his Jerusalem/Judean faction became the
lesser one. (Both Josephus and his primary source, Nicholas of Damascus, had
clear Judean biases. So did Paul of Tarsus.)
Thus, both Christian and secular historians have followed the track which
over emphasizes the role of Jerusalem in the life of Jesus. In a multi-year
ministry, Jesus spent a small portion of his time there (perhaps a few months
Where did Jesus spend his time? We don’t really know. His
“home base” seemed to be along the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee:
Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Magdala, but the gospels report frequent activities in
the surrounding regions and along the Jordan River…
It is noteworthy that the Gospel of John repeatedly states
that Jesus avoided Jerusalem/Judea because of dangers or threats there (e.g. Jn
7:1; 11:54). It is noteworthy that Jesus travelled freely through Samaria during
a time when Judean Jews were generally afraid to do so. And it is especially
relevant for this work that every trip mentioned for Jesus other than to and
from Jerusalem involves a Tetrarchy associated with Chalcis.
Here we confront one of the difficult questions regarding
the life of Jesus – the year of his death. This topic is fully discussed in a
different work, but my conclusion holds that Jesus lived until 36 CE. Christian
writers work diligently in reaching a different date based upon the last days
and crucifixion story of the NT gospels but generally ignore conflicting
evidence. The cornerstone fact we should build from is that Jesus lived beyond
John the Baptist and John’s execution by H. Antipas occurred no earlier than
30 CE and most likely occurred between 34-36 CE.
This matters here because things changed greatly in the
Chalcis region between 34 and 36 CE. Phillipus the Tetrarch died in 34 CE
(perhaps the reason for Jesus’ trip to Caesarea Philippi, his capital) and
Tiberius ordered his realms to be added to the Province of Syria. It is
likely that the death of Phillipus was the cause of H. Philip’s trip to Rome
where his wife, Herodias, fell for H. Antipas. Her subsequent move to live with
her half-uncle was unlawful for a Jew for three reasons:
In accordance with the NT gospels, this unlawfulness
brought on John the Baptist’s wrath and public criticism and that led H.
Antipas to arrest John and detain him at Macherus (the Herodian fortress nearest
Aretas IV then invaded Perea and soundly defeated the army of H. Antipas
partly because soldiers from the army of Phillipus supposedly joined the
Nabateans (Ant. 18.109-118). It was during this period (and soon after
the execution of John) that Jesus travelled to Perea (“across the Jordan”) -
probably because the area was then under the control of the Nabateans
(Jesus also had reason to fear H. Antipas and many of his movements are best
understood as an effort to avoid regions under his control).
From this information we should see more of the connection
between Jesus and Chalcis:
The year after the death of Jesus (37 CE), Caligula (aka
Emperor Gaius) appointed another grandson of Herod as ruler of Chalcis. We hear
of him as “Herod of Chalcis” and he is said to be the son of Aristobulus
(IV). He was given the same title as his grandfather (“Basileus”)
and Josephus seems intent to conflate him with others. Indeed, Josephus offers
little but confusing misdirection regarding him. But even Josephus couldn’t
avoid or ignore a simple fact: from the period immediately after the death of
Jesus until the destruction of Jerusalem (70 CE), Judea and Jerusalem were
controlled by a Herodian in Chalcis. Subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem,
Chalcis, Batanea, and the surrounding regions were far more prosperous and
significant than Judea. We should wonder if perhaps they weren’t so before the
destruction of Jerusalem.
showing “Herod of Chalcis” and his brother H. Agrippa I crowning Claudius I.
See “Egyptianization and Elite Emulation in Ramesside Palestine:
Governance and Accommodation on the Imperial Periphery” by Carolyn
Higginbotham, Brill Academic Pub. (2000). p. 57. There is also a record
showing that Rib-Hadda, of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) note, resided in Sidon
during the period of great Egyptian temple building (14th C.
BCE). See The Kingdom of the Hittites” by Trevor Bryce, Clarendon Press
(1998), p. 186.
Around 600 BCE.
Zondervan's Pictorial Bible Dictionary (1976): For the early Hebrews,
“Baal” referred to the Lord of Israel, just as “Baal” farther north
designated the Lord of Ugarit. Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions
p.121. We should note that our knowledge of these designations comes mostly
from opponents – the Judeans.
Antiochus and Euboea gave birth to one unnamed daughter who is mentioned at
Livy (“The History of Rome”) 37.44.6 and in the Babylonian Astronomical
Diaries in 187 (“The Roman War of Antiochos the Great, Volume 239
by John D. Grainger, Brill (2002), p. 329; “A Seleukid
Prosopography and Gazetteer” by John D. Grainger, Brill, Leiden - New York
– Köln (1997), p.71; and “Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death: the
Hellenistic Dynasties” by Daniel Ogden, Duckworth with the Classical Press
of Wales (1999), p. 137. She was possibly betrothed to Demetrios I, King of
Baktria. See Polybios, Histories 11.39.8-9.
The city of Baalbek was re-named Heliopolis ((Greek:
Ἡλιούπολις - with direct
Egyptian influences) during the Seleucid period. During the Roman period it
was one of the largest sanctuaries in the empire and still has some of the
best preserved Roman ruins.
There were several cities named “Hamoth” or Hammath” in Palestine.
Hamath (north) was the capital of the Canaanite kingdom mentioned in Genesis
10:18 and 2 Kings 23:33; 24:21.
Son of Eudamus bar Jeshua (Anti-Exilarch of Judea) and Tacallippis (Princess
of Egypt); married to Arsinoe IV, Princess/Queen of Egypt. Aka Mennius/Menni.
Other sources typically list his period from 85-40 BCE, but such does not
fit the evidence.
By comparison, the Syrian Consular army of 2 legions would have included
about 4,000 horsemen.
We have no indication of this High Priesthood, but he was allowed to marry a
Jew without objection and he generally led a Jewish nation (which came to
the defense of Jerusalem. As was typical of Josephus, any priesthood which
competed with that of Jerusalem was discounted (as with the Egyptian Oniads
and the Samarians) or ignored (as here)).
It is not clear why Jospehus sought to diminish, downplay, and misrepresent
the history and significance of Chalcis, but my guess is that they strongly
opposed the Jerusalem Temple (as a competitor) and Judean “corruption”
of Judaism (as remnant people of the Northern Tribes/Israeilites).
This Hasmonena princess, daughter of Antigonas (the last Hasmonean king –
40-37 BCE), is mentioned favorably in the historical records, but she is not
named. She was previously married to H. Antipater (d. 4 BCE) and would have
been a high-ranking princess.
The cousin of Mamaea, wife of Polemon II of Pontus.
This probably means that the Hebrew Idumeans were compelled to circumcision
and thereby became “Jews” to those who believed that only the
circumcised were actually Jewish.
Contrary to some historical references that seek to mislead (e.g. the
current Wikipedia article), these captives were clearly Jews and not
“Macedonians”. Note “History of the Jews”, Vol. II by Heinrich
Graetz, Project Gutenberg (2013 Ed.)
This meant that they would either accept either circumcision or be put to
See “The Early Roman Period”, Vol. 2
by William Horbury, Cambridge University Press (1999), pp. 210-11.
Note that the temple base was used for later temples and their archaeology
tells us nothing about the original temple which we may date
Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at
Ephesus, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and Lighthouse of Alexandria.
“Archaeologists, unable to resolve the mysteries of the transportation and
lifting of the great blocks, rarely have the intellectual honesty to admit
their ignorance of the matter and therefore focus their attention solely on
redundant measurements and discussions regarding the verifiable Roman-era
temples at the site. Architects and construction engineers, however, not
having any preconceived ideas of ancient history to uphold, will frankly
state that there are no known lifting technologies even in current times
that could raise and position the Baalbek stones given the amount of working
space. The massive stones of the Grand Terrace of Baalbek are simply beyond
the engineering abilities of any recognized ancient or contemporary
builders.” From http://sacredsites.com/
middle_east/lebanon/baalbek.html. As if to prove “cognitive
dissonance”, theories have been proffered from aliens to secret Roman
societies to explain the stones.
Josephus followed the anti-Northern/anti-Samaritan biases of the
Deuteronomistic history. For interesting analysis, see “The Samaritans in
Josephus’ Jewish ‘History’” by Ingrid Hjelm, The Fifth International
Congress of Samaritan Studies, Helsinki, 2000.
See “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State” by Ḥanan Eshel,
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (2008), Ch. 4.
See Wars, XIII, 358-60. Note “Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy
Land” edited by Avraham Negev, Shimon Gibson, Continuum, 2005, p. 356.
“The Arabs in Antiquity: Their History from the Assyrians to the Umayyads”
by Jan Retso, Routledge (2013)
“Jews, Idumaeans, and Ancient Arabs: Relations of the Jews in Eretz-Israel
with the Nations of the Frontier and the Desert During the Hellenistic and
Roman Era (332 BCE-70 CE)”, Aryeh Kasher, Mohr Siebeck (1988), pp. 86-125.
Given as 1000 talents – 2 ½ times the amount later offered by Aristobulus
to Scaurus which led to his being named as ruler of Judea (as below).
The privilege of minting coins was reserved for those principalities which
held higher esteem from the Romans. Thus, coinage is not only a critical
part of the historical record, it is highly indicative of regional power.
When new rulers came to power, one of their first acts usually included the
minting of coins.
Antipater had married a high ranking Nabatean.
This may very well have been Lysanias – a Davidic heir not of the
Hasmonean line. It also fits with Josephus not explaining this remarkable
note.as he repeatedly downplays the Chalcis connection.
Lysanias was called “King of the Itureans” by Dio Cassius (xlix. 32).
At the border of Samaria on a mountain near the Jordan Valley between
Scythopolis and Jerusalem.
This is where Josephus notes that Pompey entered the Holy of Holies, but
removed nothing Ant. xiv. 4, 4; Wars i. 7,6. Indeed, he allowed the
resumption of services within the Temple.
Aristobulus was killed by poison given him by someone in Pompey's party.
Alexander was beheaded by Pompey’s father-in-law, Q. Metellus
Scipio, at Antioch.
Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra (VI) "entrusted their whole kingdom
to Jews, and the generals-in-chief of the army were the two Jews Onias and
Dositheus” ("Contra Ap." ii. 5). Cleopatra VII (their daughter)
appointed two Jews as generals in her army, Helkias and Ananias sons of the
high priest Onias who built the temple at Leontopolis ("Ant."
xiii. 10, § 4; 13, § 1). JE. It is likely that Helkias was the general
sent to wage war against her son Ptolemy Lathyrus,
The most logical source for this army was the former Egyptian soldiers that
had settled in Chalcis with the Jewish-Egyptian general
Halkias (see note above). It is also likely that she was related to
P. Mennaeus both as blood relative and possible as a sister-in-law.
There was a rumor that Cleopatra was pregnant when she left Rome after
Caesar’s assassination. See “Cleopatra: A Biography” by Duane W.
Roller, Oxford University Press (2010), pp. 74-75. For convenience, we shall
give the daughter the name Cleopatra Caesaria (a name not recorded in
history). The subsequent story that led to her becoming Herod’s fifth wife
is a “best guess” which fits the available evidence.
Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar. Never officially acknowledged as
the son of Julius Caesar.
Thea Urania (Astarte or Thea Musa).
Poisoned by Thermusa in 2 CE. Phraates other sons by other wives (Saraspades
[Vonones I], Cerospades, Phraanas, and Boones - per Strabo) are sent to Rome
and are otherwise unknown although some say that Boones was also called
According to Josephus. The oriental writers on Persian history offer
different names and accounts so that he was also known as Arsaces XVI. He
ruled but a short time before being convicted and expelled.
Son of Juba II and Cleopatra Selene II Roman appointed monarchs of
King Sampsiceramus II of Emesa Iotapa (born around 20 BC-unknown date of
death) was a princess of Commagene, daughter of King Mithridates III of
Commagene, Queen consort of Syrian.
As Julius Caesar was declared a deity after his death and although his named
heir was an adopted son (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, his great-nephew),
any true son would have also been viewed as deity by the Romans. This is why
the older male descendants of J. Caesar and Mark Antony were promptly killed
by Octavian while the daughters were used as prized brides.
Jacob ben Matthan a Davidic prince who acted as Herod’s envoy/ambassador
to Egypt, was also likely to have been Joseph’s father (thus, the
grand-father of Jesus).
Oddly, although Caesarion could not retain property of his mother, a
daughter may have be able to hold certain property through the law of
Parapherna (the property of a woman that on her marriage that is beyond her
dowry but remains her own to dispose of as she pleases entirely free from
the control of the husband (although he may be given administration of the
property during the marriage). Upon the end of the marriage, the parapherna
was restored to the woman or her heirs. See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parapherna;
"’Pherne’ and ‘parapherna’ in the documents of Augustus' reign:
on the subject of P.Ryl. II 125 once again.” By Carlos Sánchez-Moreno
Ellart in Aegyptus, Anno 86, (2006), pp. 177-193; “Handbook of the
Roman Law”, Vols 1-2” By
Ferdinand Mackeldey, T. & J. W. Johnson, 1883, III:C:573 at page 432;
“Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law, Vol.43” by Adolf Berger American
Philosophical Society, 1968, p. 617.
See “Fasti Sacri: A Key to the Chronology of the New Testament” by
Thomas Lewin, Longmans, Green and Company (1865) and cites therein. Also
note Porphyry's comment in “Eusebus Chronicle” per Alfred Schoene, Vol.
I, Berlin (1875), Col. 170.
While here it is Lysanias who is said to induce the Parthians to depose
Hyrcanus in favor of Antigonus Mattathias, in Ant. 14.330-331 Josephus
states that it was Antigonus who made the offer to the Parthians. The later
See “The Ituraeans and the Roman Near East: Reassessing the Sources” by
E. A. Myers, Cambridge University Press (2010), pp.
“In the end, it was Ptolemy who brought Antigonus back to Judea with an
army, "because of their kinship"
(BJ I. 239; A XIV, 297, Emph. Added).” “Josephus, the Bible, and
History” edited by Louis H. Feldman & Gåohei Hata, BRILL (1989), PP.
See “Damascus: A History” by Ross Burns, Routledge (2005), pp. 47-48.
See "Herod the Great, Sosius, and the Siege of Jerusalem (37 B.C.E.) in
Psalm of Solomon 17" by Kenneth Atkinson, Kenneth, Novum
Testamentum (October 1996) (Brill), 38: 312–322. Her cousin Alexandra dau
Hyrcanus was also wealthy and part of Herod’s Court.
The daughter of John Hyrcanus II is commonly and elsewhere herein deemed
Alexandra II. Also as noted elsewhere herein, the daughter of Antigonas
(“Alexandra A” / Mariamne?) held up for several years at the Hyrcania
fortress (where the Hasmoneans kept much of their treasure).
For an informative analysis of relevant dowry and property laws regarding
women, see “Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mt. Gerizim and Samaria
Between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV Epiphanes” by Jan Dušek, BRILL,
(2012), p. 119, et seq. (I know the title seems incorrect, but it’s the
right one). Also see note below.
Born on 25 December 40 BCE.
I would guess that one major purpose of Cleopatra’s visit to Jerusalem was
to see her daughter.
A common method of denigrating one’s enemies during this era (and
afterwards) was to suggest what couldn’t be easily disproven – that they
lacked sexual scruples.
Octavian persuaded Caesarian to return to Egypt with false promises, then
killed him and stole his riches.
Octavian celebrated his military triumph in Rome, by parading the children
of Antony and Cleopatra in chains through the streets of Rome. They were
then taken by Octavian and placed under the care of Octavia Minor,
Octavian’s sister and Mark Antony's former wife.
A funerary inscription found at Heliopolis (Baalbek) was dedicated to "Zenodorus
the son of Lysanias the tetrarch" (of Iturea).
Octavian was so impressed with Herod’s composure and resolution that he
not only confirmed him in his kingdom, but added to it the territories of
Chalcis and Perea to the north and east of the Jordan. (“Josephus” Ch.
I, "The Jews and the Romans" by
Norman Bentwich, , Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of
Historical references would indicate that Zenodorus led a regional band of
“robbers” and “brigands”, but we should not take this literally.
Instead, they probably attempted to remain as independent from Rome as
possible and such made them seem criminal. They were hunted out by the
forces of the Syrian Legate and their lands seized.
Augustus also gave Herod four hundred Galls [Galatians] who had served
Cleopatra as personal bodyguards and took Herod’s two sons (Alexander and
Aristobulus IV) as “hostages” to Rome.
Among the duties Jacob had performed for Herod were “ambassadorship” to
the Court of Antony and Cleopatra (38-30 BCE), the arrangement to bring the
Alexandrian Ananelus to Jerusalem as High Priest (36 BCE), and back-channel
negotiations with Antony regarding his “trial” (35 BCE at Laodicea).
The sequence of Herod’s marriages is unclear (see “Herod's Judaea: A
Mediterranean State in the Classical World” by Samuel Rocca, Mohr Siebeck,
2008), p.75) and some historians would make Mariamne II his fourth wife.
Whether he married Malthace before Mariamne makes little difference and it
remains unclear why he married Malthace at all. What is clear is that they
met while he was recovering from some nasty illness in Samaria.
“King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor : a Case Study in Psychohistory and
Psychobiography” by Aryeh Kasher, Eliezer Witztum, Walter de Gruyter
(2007), p. 175.
The order of Herod’s marriages is less than clear, but the sequence of the
major wives is better known or assumed.
Sometimes labeled as “Herod II”, this prominent son and heir is unnamed
by Josephus or historical record. I have assigned this name based upon
Herod’s naming “logic”. Archelaus Sisines Archelaid IV, King of
Cappadocia, was one of Herod’s best and most trusted friends while
Archelaus’s father was Cleopatra’s brother-in-law and thus Caesaria’s
See “The True Herod” By Geza Vermes, Bloomsbury Publishing (2014), p.
Herod made his first-born son Antipater (his son by Doris) first heir in his
will (of which he made several).
Written out of Herod’s will in 4 BCE because his mother knew of the plot
to poison Herod and didn’t act. Aka Herod Philip, Herod Boethus, and “Rus”.
Some historians quickly ignore the meaning of “tetrarchy” (from the
"leadership by four [people]" http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Tetrarchy.html
and “ruler of a quarter” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/589118/tetrarch
assuming that Herod’s kingdom was divided into fourths and the two-fourths
were given to Archelaus (making the term meaningless).
Herod’s good friend was Archelaus Sisines Philopatris of Pontic Comana who
was made King of Cappadocia by Octavian in 36 BCE. He was the father of
Glaphyra, the wife of H. Alexandra (brother of H. Archelaus). See
“Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt” by Margaret Bunson, Infobase Publishing
(2009), p. 45; “The Annals of Tacitus: Volume 2, Annals 1.55-81 and Annals
2” by Cornelius Tacitus, Cambridge University Press (2004), p. 319
(2.4.2); and Josephus (War I:499-512 and
Aka Herod II (conflated), Herod of Chalcis (erroneously) or Aristobulus IV
Hasmonean daughter of King Antigonas. Probably the ranking princess of her
time. Previously married to heir-apparent H. Antipas. This was likely an
“arranged” levirate marriage. Some suggest “Salome II”.
Philip first married his niece Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Herod II
(the son of Herod and Mariamne II, and the grandson of the High Priest Simon
Boethus). This Salome followed her mother when she left Philip to marry H.
Antipas (the marriage which John the Baptist opposed and for which
opposition he was killed following Salome’s famous “dance”). Upon H.
Antipas’ (childless) death, she married Aristobulus of Chalcis and they
had three sons, Herod, Agrippa, and Aristobulus.
The daughter of Salome I (sister of Herod the Great) and thus Herod’s
niece. Later married to her third husband, Theudion, brother of Herod I's
first wife Doris and therefore uncle of Herod Antipater.
“Aristobulus of Chalcis” - the first of two. Aka “Herod of Chalcis”
(erroneously), Herod III (misleading), and “Pollio”.
But, see below for alternative.
first married Marcus Julius Alexander (brother of Tiberius Julius Alexander)
(41-44 CE), then she married her father's brother, Herod of Chalcis (45-48
CE). Finally, she lived with her brother Agrippa for several years, married
Polemon II of Pontus (king of Cilicia in an effort to dispel rumors of an
incestuous relationship with her brother) and then left the King to return
to her brother. Upon his death, she became consort to Titus (who was eleven
years her junior) and one of the most powerful women in Rome. She has been
described as a “miniature Cleopatra” (“The History of Rome”, Book V:
“The Establishment of the Military Monarchy” by Theodor Mommsen (1885)).
The nephew of Philo and grandson of Alexander the Alabarch
King of Emesa
His father’s name is unknown, but he is identified as a noble and priestly
Also married the former wife of H. Antipater, an unnamed high-ranking
princess (the daughter of Antigonus).
1st married Antipas b. Herod I and had no children, then married
H. Philip I (levirate).
His second wife was Berenice d. Agrippa and they had two sons, Berenicianus
Son of Josephus (brother of Herod) and Olympias (daughter of Herod).
Aka Julia Berenice. 1st married Marcus Julius Lysimachus
Alexander of Alexandria. 2nd married Herod III Pollio, King of
Chalcis. 3rd married Julius Polemon (aka Polemo II of Pontus),
King of Cilicia and subsequently became the partner/consort of Titus, the
Roman Emperor. What a woman?
First married Gaius Julius Azizus of Emesa with no children then married
Antonius Felix and had one son: Agrippa Felix. Her two sisters were Iotapa
who married the Herodian Prince Aristobulus Minor and Mamaea.
married Alexander I (son of
Tigranes V), King of Cilicia, and
bore him Princess Julia de Cilici.
The daughter of King Archelaus of Cappadocia (Herod’s good friend). She
was of Greek, Armenian and Persian descent as her mother was an unnamed
Princess from Armenia (likely Artavasdes
II of the Artaxiad Dynasty). After the death of Herod, Glaphyra's children
renounced Judaism and came to live in Cappadocia with her. Later (~3 CE), she married
II of Mauretania
and then (~5 CE) married her former brother-in-law, H. Archelaus.
King of Armenia from 6 to 12 CE (d. 36 CE). See Res Gestae Divi Augusti, V.
xxvi. pp.390-91. Upon Herod’s death, his mother returned to the Court of
her father, Archelaus, who sent Tigranes to live and be educated in Rome.
Tigranes may have married Erato (daughter of Tigranes III and wife of
Tigranes IV) as she served as either Queen or Queen consort during his
reign. See “The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius
Dio’s Roman History, Books 55-56 (9 B.C.-A.D. 14)” by Peter Michael
Swan, Clarendon Press (2004), pp.119-120 & 128-30.
King of Armenia during the reign of Nero (54-68 CE).
According to B. J. i. 28, § 6, Phasael was married to Salampsio. But in
Ant. XVIII 5:4 she is married to his son. Perhaps both are correct.
Pheroras was an odd character. He initially refused the offer of Herod to
marry his oldest unmarried daughter (Cypros) as he was in love with a slave
girl whose name is unknown (and who became his wife). The Pharisees
persuaded him that he was the Messiah ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 4).
Because Jospehus didn’t like her, she is denigrated in his writings and
her name was not given. We are told that she aided the Pharisees by paying a
fine imposed on them after they had refused to take an oath of allegiance to
Herod (Ant. 17:42–43). This may partly explain Josephus’ position as he
was pro-Sadducee. We should probably ignore his claims that she was
notoriously promiscuous as this was a favored way to denigrate women.
Both sons were dowered by Emperor Augustus ("Ant." xvii. 11, § 5;
"B. J." ii. 6, § 3).
Princess of Cappadocia, daughter of King Archelaus Sisines (son of Archelaus
III and Berenice IV, princess of Egypt).
Cypros married Agrippa I, the son of Aristobulus and Alexandra married
Timius of Cyprus.
Alexandra had significant negotiating leverage since Herod desperately
wanted and needed royal validation.
Note Ant. 15:71–73; 205–206 where she tries to gain control of the army
while Herod is away.
Thus, she was also first cousin of Mariamne I (above), the powerful and
renowned 2nd wife of Herod.
Whom Herod had earlier made Governor of Idumea.
Clearly not “Cypros” (per Knoblet – “Herod the Great, p. 171) and
possibly “Mary” per J.J. Raymond (http://www.jjraymond.com/religion/marymotherofjesus2.html),
as the reasoning is sound. I picked the name “Miriam” because it is
logical and distinguishes her.
See “Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social
Conflicts” by Kenneth C. Hanson & Douglas E. Oakman, Fortress Press
(1998), p. 35…
Josephus says “a part of his eparchy – Auranitis” which some have
mistakenly read as having sold the entire region (for a mere 50 talents and
without a legitimate claim?).
I agree with Peter Richardson (and other) that this was Asinius Pollio. See
“Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans” by Peter Richardson,
Fortress Press (1999), p. 231, fn 49.
Since Aristobolus married Berenice, the daughter of Salome (Herod's sister)
and Alexander married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archaelus (Herod’s good
friend and the king of Cappadocia), those arrangements must have been made
before the “falling out” between Herod and sons.
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius
Pilate was Governor of Judea, Herod Tetrarch of Galilee, his
brother Philip Tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias Tetrarch of
Abilene…” Luke 3:1.
“Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum -” Vol. III Pts. 17-32, compiled by
August Bockh and edited by Johannes Franz, Patrologia Latina Graeca et
Orientalis, (1853), Ch. 26, p.240 (#s 4521 and 4523).
See Appendix XXXVII – Coins and Statues
E.g. the inscription at Suk noted in “The History of the Jewish People”,
Vol.1 by Emil Schurer (Appendix 2). Note http://www.josephus.org/FlJosephus2/MailAndFAQ.htm#Lysanias.
From the historical records related to H. Agrippa, Herod’s grandson by
Aristobulus. H. Agrippa was sent to Rome when only 3 years old (8 BCE). See http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodians/herod_agrippa_i.html.
When Herod married Mariamne I, he sent his first wife Doris and her son
Antipater into exile.
Where Herod’s good friend and in-law Archelaus ruled.
In War (1.23.5 457-66), Josephus includes a speech given by Herod to the
people expressing his resolution about his sons.
Professor Barry D. Smith, Crandall University, Religious Studies 2033 –
“The New Testament and Its Context” at http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/ntintro/intest/hist7.htm.
At this point in his telling, Josephus relates the story of Eurycles the
Spartan (a “vile fellow” indeed) who ingratiates himself with Herod and
then begins the “calumniation of the sons of Mariamne” (see Wars, I.23)
leading to the deaths of Alexander and Aristobulus.
Note Ant. 16:335–55.
See “History of the Daughters”, 68b.
See “Josephus and Judaean Politics” by Seth Schwartz BRILL (1990), p.
In the Gospel of Mark (6.17) Phillipus is mistakenly mentioned as the first
husband of Herodias. The Phillip intended was his step-brother H. Phillip.
See “Queen Salome: Jerusalem's Warrior Monarch of the First Century B.C.E.”
by Kenneth Atkinson, McFarland (2012), p. 232.
“Josephus, the Bible, and History” by Louis H. Feldman, Gåohei Hata
(BRILL) (1989), p. 141. Note that she was the mother of Lysanias, the King
of Chalcis (d. 36 BCE), whose son Zenodorus probably assisted her.
For a well written overview of these events, see “The Jewish people in the
first century: historical geography, political history, social, cultural and
religious life and institutions”, Vol 1 by Shemuel Safrai, Van Gorcum
(1974), pp. 244-248.
Mariamne’s son seemed to be well positioned to succeed his father, but is
ignored by Josephus. Perhaps this is a result of his loss of status or more
likely it results from Josephus’ biases.
It becomes clear later that these half-brothers and competing heirs became
trusting friends while in Rome together.
He was named as successor and his father was deathly ill… why plot to kill
Herod had already troubled Augustus with changes in his will and requests
for successors to be executed. Augustus had recently informed Herod that the
privilege of naming his own successor has been revoked and it had only been
restored through the oratory skill of Nicholas od Damascus. Why would he
risk losing that right again?
Antipater was also betrothed to the “second” daughter of Aristobulus IV
(and Bernice), but that marriage was probably prevented by Antipater’s
trial and execution.
Two Jerusalem rabbis, Judas and Matthias, sought punishment for Herod's
counselors and started a revolt which forced Archelaus to call out his
entire force such that amid great bloodshed the rebellion was only
temporarily suppressed. Judas bar Hezekiah overtook Sepphoris, its garrison
and its armory. Athronges, a remote Davidic prince, and his four brothers
began a successful revolt and Athronges even managed to wear the royal
diadem (crown) and for a “long time” made the country insecure. See
“Disturbances after Herod's Death” (Ch. 16) in “A History of the
Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ”, Vol. 2 by Emil Schürer,
Pliny (v. 23. § 19) speaks of a city named Chalcis in the district
Chalcidene, which he describes as the most fertile of all Syria. Strabo and
Ptolemy (of Alexandria) also note Chalcis. Historians have over-relied upon
While I disagree with the basic conclusion, it is worthy to note that at
least two well-researched and considered works suggest that Mary, the mother
of Jesus, was the same person as Mariamne, the daughter of Antigonus:
“King Jesus” by Robert Graves (1946) in “Collected Works of Robert Graves” edited
by Robert A. Davis (Carcanet Press); “King Jesus” by Robert Graves,
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st paperback edition (1981) and Herodian
Messiah: Case for Jesus As Grandson of Herod by Joseph Raymond
(Tower Grove Publishing, 2010). Also note http://www.jjraymond.com/religion/marymotherofjesus2.html.
To reiterate that Chalcis was both well known and significant, in the
preeminent geographical work, “Geogrphica” by Ptolemy of Alexandria, he
lists the 13 major provinces of “Syria”: Commagene, Pieria, Cyrrhestica,
Seleucia, Casiotis, Chalibonitis, Chalcis,
Apamene, Laodicea, Phoenicia, Coele-Syria, Palmyrene, and Batanea.
Herod Agrippa I became Tetrarch of Chalcis in 37 CE. Phillipus ruled Ituraea
and Trachonitis until his death in 34 CE where he was succeeded as Tetrarch
by Herod Agrippa I. Agrippa then surrendered Chalcis to his brother Herod
and ruled in Paneas. In 39 CE, with the death of H. Antipas, H.Agrippa
became ruler of Galilee and then in 41 CE was made ruler of Judea by his
friend Claudius. Chalcis was then ruled by Aritobulos (V) until 92 CE.
Although these are commonly deemed the “Decapolis”, there were more than
ten and they changed over time. There were probably ten within the area
controlled by Herod and thus the term was widely used by Judeans.
As Rev. James Martin described Baalbek (northern Chalcis) in “Histoire de
Liban”: “…its advantageous position of the northern entrance of Bekaa,
on the road the caravans travelled, a position commanding a tract of land,
sixty leagues square, which this beautiful and fertile valley embraces;
which enabled it to extend Its power, to arrive at great prosperity, to have
most active intercourse with all the great nations of antiquity…”
(Arabic Translation, Vol I Ch. III, p. 381).
Caligula was probably twenty or more years younger than Agrippa when
Caligula became emperor. In Ant. 18:6, we hear that Agrippa’s freedman
Eutychus is the one who reported to Piso and then to Tiberius that Agrippa
foresaw the day when “this old fellow” [Tiberius] would pass away and
Caligula would replace him. The sequence places the event before 37 CE. Note
Ant. XVIII:6:495 and Wars II:183.
Viewing the confusing references in Josephus more openly and logically and
knowing that popular names were often reused for royals, we should not
conflate the Phillip references of Josephus with Luke’s “Philip,
tetrarch of Ituraea” or Phillipi, the son of Sisiines. (I am using
somewhat arbitrary variations of the name to help avoid confusion).
See Ant. xv. 6. 5, 7. 1-4 referring to Soemus as a friend of Herod.
By the end of the second decade of the “common era” the descendants of
P. Mennaeus (including Lysanias and Zenodorus) had royal blood from other
regional “kings” mixed with theirs and the prominent successors arose
from marriages of daughters and grand-daughters. Thus, Lysanias II and
Azizus were close cousins. They were also related to the Commagene royalty
AKA Soaimos (king of Emesa) who was the father of Varus/Noarus by a
Nicholas of Damascus was a chief aid to Herod and his “Historia
Universalis” provided the basis of Josephus' history of the Herodian
kingdom. See https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/
ejud_0002_0015_0_14822.html. Paul’s Jerusalem/Judean bias has early
roots and is discussed in other sections.
Southern Perea was never a Chalcian region, but during the time of Jesus’
ministry it was largely controlled by Chalcian fugitives from the former
Tetrarchy of Phillipus who had sided with the Nabateans in the war
between H. Antipas and Aretas IV. (Phillipus had died in 34 CE and his
territories came under the rule of the Syrian Governor).
It is interesting that Phasaelis, the first wife of H. Antipas and daughter
of the Nabatean king Aretas IV “escaped” to return home through Macherus
after hearing of her husband’s plan to marry Herodias.
The title was “King” and was the favored
designation of the Roman client kings. Some sources state that he gained his
title from Claudius in 41 CE, but the earlier date seems more likely. He was
a personal friend of Claudius and even went to Rome to participate in his
crowning. Sources also report his date of birth as late as 10 CE, but since
Aristobulus IV was killed by Herod in 7 BCE, he was obviously born earlier.
See “The Middle East Under Rome” by Maurice Sartre, Harvard University
Press (2005), p. 408, et seq.
Please let me know if you have comments about or corrections for the book or the web site.
This website and its contents are Intellectual Property - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED! 2010 by Rich Van Winkle