Both Jesus’ mother Mary and the Magdalene impacted Jesus’ life. His origins are revealed in the Arabic Infancy Gospel attributed to the apostle Thomas. The Infancy Gospel is historically significant because it gives a chance to date Jesus’ exile to Egypt.
Verse 1:4 says, “In the three hundred and ninth year of the era of Alexander, Augustus published a decree…” The slaughter of children by Herod such as is recorded in Luke’s nativity story and in the Infancy Gospel begins Jesus’ exile. Subject peoples were forced to date their civil calendars from the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest of their countries. Alexander conquered Judea in
333. At present scholars date the nativity to 4-5 BCE. The time for the exile for the young Jesus was about 29-30 BCE according to the Infancy Gospel.
The Magi visit from the East presented Herod with an immediate political and military problem. This Parthian delegation of warrior priests would have brought with it a sizable armed contingent. The Parthian empire’s invasion of Judea and installation of Antigonus II of the Maccabean dynasty in 40 BCE was still fresh in Herod’s twisted, paranoid mind when he was forced to flee and return in 39 BCE with a Roman army to retake the country.
Herod was obsessed with protecting Judea from Parthia. He wanted to prevent Roman intervention in his affairs and the end of his regime. Therefore, he purged his uncle Joseph and his wife Mariamne (Mary) whom Herod accused of having affair. Eventually, he snuffed out his own children from Mariamne out of fear that they plotted to reinstitute Maccabean rule as well.
This first “Mary and Joseph story” supplements the Gospel accounts with what are the political elements that were censored out by the church. The Mary and Joseph in Herod’s household are parallel to the Mary and Joseph stories of the Gospels and the Talmud. Origen refers to Joseph as Pantera, the Greek form of the Aramaic name that the Talmud Shabbath 104b uses for Jesus. To add further to this, the Talmud designates Miriam as a hairdresser or harlot in Hagigah 4b. In Aramaic, this is magadla. Like Mary Magdalene, a woman suspected of illicit relations.
The Christians did not accept that the stories of Mary Magdalene were connected to Miriam the mother of Jesus in the Talmud. They argued that the name “Magdalene” means a person from Magdala and that Jews invented “Miriam the hairdresser (mgadla nshaya) either to mock the Christians, or out of their own misunderstanding of the name “Magdalene.”
Unfortunately, this ignores Greek grammar. The correct Greek form “of Magdala” would be “Magdales” and the correct Greek form for a person from Magdala is “Magdalaios.” Secondly, Magdala only got its name after the Gospels were written. Before that it was called Magadan or Dalmanutha. The ruins of this area were renamed Magdala by the Christians because they believed that Mary Magdalene had come from there.
To see Joseph as a nagauro (carpenter, wiseman) would be natural. In Talmudic Aramaic, a scholar, philosopher or political figure was referred to colloquially as a carpenter or craftsman. Later Christian theologians misunderstood and literally interpreted nagauro as a carpenter. Joseph was an adviser to Herod and second in command to Herod.
The church father Origen noted in Origen Contra Celsum that the name of Jesus’ father was Pantera to discount the Roman philosopher Celsus’s story of Jesus’ father being a Roman centurion by that name. However, Origen does not mention the Herodian connection to this name. Herod’s uncle Joseph would have taken a Roman name and citizenship, just as his nephew Herod had.
Archaeology has produced evidence as well. In 1906, a tombstone belonging to a Roman soldier named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera was found in
BingerbrÃƒÂ¼ck, Germany. The tomb belonged to a Jewish or Semitic Roman soldier who served in the Roman army under Tiberius Caesar. The name was used by Jewish and Semitic soldiers as a military nickname.
The image of Jesus being a descendent of the Davidic dynasty is challenged by Herodian and Maccabean connections to Jesus. It was important for the Church to distance itself from these connections. Both Matthew and Luke give genealogies to try to prove their point. Both fail. For instance, they contradict on the number of generations from David to Jesus. Matthew lists 28 generations (1:6-16) while Luke lists 43 ( 3:23-31).
Another contradictory tradition to Jesus’ Davidic descent was that Mary’s family was descended from Levites. In the Gospel of Luke and in The Infancy of Mary, it is shown that Mary was related to the Levite family of John the Baptist. What is especially striking is that in chapter one of the book of Luke, John’s the Baptist’s father had a vision in the temple in the Holy of Holies where he is by himself. Only the high priest did this, and then only on Yom Kippur when he atoned for Israel’s sins.
Undoubtedly, the family is not only Levitical, but also had high priests in their lineage making them invalid as kings of Israel from the rabbinical point of view. Jewish law forbids a leader of non-Davidic descent except in an emergency. Since the Maccabees disregarded these laws, they were enemies of the rabbis.
To decipher the confused stories of the life of Jesus, Jewish sources and sources outside of the canonical Gospels must be used. Without the Talmud and extra-canonical Gospels no one can be unsuccessful in recovering the original Jewish-Christian traditions.