🔼The name Aristobulus in the Bible
The name Aristobulus occurs only once in the Bible. At the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul greets several people, including "those of Aristobulus" (Romans 16:10). We're not wholly sure what Paul meant by that, but it seems plausible that either Aristobulus' household contained several members who had converted to Christianity, or else that he was so active in the early church that he had his own staff. But if the latter case were true, we would expect Paul to say something like: greet Aristobulus and his people. Unless, of course, Paul knew that Aristobulus wasn't home.
Who this Aristobulus was is also not clear, but Aristobulus was quite a popular name in those days, and it seems particularly connected to the Hasmonean royal family, which ruled Israel as an autonomous country from the time of the Maccabean revolt to the invasion by Rome:
- King Aristobulus I lived from about 140 BC to 103 BC and reigned only in the last year of his life. He was the first Jewish king since the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, five centuries earlier.
- Aristobulus II was both king and high priest. He lived from about 100 BC to 49 BC and reigned from 66 BC to 63 BC. In 63 BC, the Romans conquered Judea and installed rulers loyal to Rome, which in the case of the Sadducaic high priest Aristobulus II was the Pharisaic high priest Hyrcanus II (Sadducees didn't believe in angels and resurrection, but Pharisees did and were as such closer related to Roman ideologies). In 6 BC, Judea became a Roman province, directly under Roman rule, with the priestly elite consisting of Pharisees.
- Aristobulus III was the last of the royal Hasmoneans and younger brother of Herod's wife Mariamne, who was made high priest in Jerusalem by Herod. Fearing the young prince's unexpected popularity, Herod the Great had him drowned.
- Aristobulus IV was a son of Herod the Great and his wife Mariamne. Aristobulus IV, therefore was both a Hasmonean and a Herodian prince. He was educated at the imperial court in Rome, from age 12 to 20, and this was from 20 BC to 12 BC. His father Herod began to take a dislike to him, and in 7 BC, he had him and his brother Alexandros executed by strangulation. At that time, Mariamne had been dead for more than two decades. She too had been executed by Herod. Aristobulus had been married to his cousin Bernice, daughter of Costobar and Salome. Their son Herod Agrippa I ruled Judea as vassal-king from 41-44 AD. Aristobulus's son Herod V ruled Chalcis and was responsible for the temple in Jerusalem after the death of Herod Agrippa I. Aristobulus's daughter Herodias had John the Baptist beheaded.
Aristobulus was also the name of a Jewish Hellenistic philosopher (Aristobulus of Paneas; 2nd or 3rd century BC), and, according to Hypolytus of Rome (3rd century AD) and Dorotheus of Tyre (303 AD), also of one of the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent out as missionaries (Luke 10:1-24), and who became the bishop of Roman Britain. Dorotheus additionally declared that this Aristobulus was indeed the one Paul mentioned and that he was in Britain when Paul greeted the members of his household in Rome. In his Adonis Martyrologia (9th century AD), Ado of Vienne (in France) wrote that Aristobulus of Britannia was the brother of Barnabas.
🔼Etymology of the name Aristobulus
The name Aristobulus consists of two elements. The first part comes from the verb αριστευω (aristeuo), meaning to be the best or bravest:
The second part of our name comes from the noun βουλη (boule), meaning will, purpose or intention:
The name Aristobulus means Best Counsel or Best Intention.