Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Mystery of Jesus Revealed

Josephus was also aware that because of the corruption of the priesthood[i] many believed that in the future an ideal faithful priest would reign. This belief was based in part upon the prophecy contained in 1 Samuel 2:35, where God promises to bring Eli’s “house” down and raise up a faithful priest, for whom he will build a “sure house” (2.35).[ii] Josephus rewrote this prophecy to state that “the sons of Eli shall die on one day, and the priesthood shall be transferred into the family of Eleazar.”[iii]

Did Josephus obscure the reference to the High Priest he identified as “Jesus, son of Sie” because he knew “Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man” was born during the high priesthood of Jesus, son of Sie?

Jesus was born approximately 4 BCE – 6 CE, the exact date is not important, only the time frame is, when Jesus, son of Sie, was serving as High Priest. The first hint that Jesus is the new eschatological HP is his name which is given to him, not in accordance with Jewish custom but given to him, by the Archangel Gabriel, during the period of time when Jesus, son of Sie, is serving as the HP. It is unlikely that Luke knew the name of the High Priest or attached any significance. Most Excellent Theophilus knew.

At the age of twelve, Jesus is in the Temple answering the questions of the elders. Luke states: “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers (Lk 2:47).” One can say with absolute certainty that the news of this most unusual teaching session reached the ears of the man serving as the High Priest at that time. His name was Ananus and he served as High Priest from 6-15 CE.

Luke 2:40 and 2:52 act as bookends for this pericope: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” These statements are reminiscent of 1 Samuel 2.21; 2.26; 3.19: “And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.” “Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.” “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”

Lee Dahn has suggested that these bookend statements in Luke 2 and “The numerous metaphorical references to ‘house’ in Jesus’ teaching likewise find commonality with the story of 1 Samuel 2-3, where God promises to bring Eli’s ‘house’ down and raise up a faithful priest, for whom he will build a “sure house” (2.35). Dahn has further suggested that Luke by his Jesus in the Temple story at the age of twelve, with its allusion to 1 Sam. 2-3, has introduced as a background literary theme “the issue of the unfaithful and disobedient priests.”

As noted earlier, the account of Josephus for this time period is not clear. Josephus may have created the confusion in his account so that no one would suggest that Jesus was born in the time period when Jesus, son of Sie, was serving as the High Priest.[iv] However Mason was not confused. He stated that Jesus, son of Sie served as High Priest until AD 6 citing Ant 17.341.[v]

It is obvious that Josephus deliberately obscured the records because a word search for “Jesus” in Josephus reveals two entries in close proximity both of which are mentioned in this article: one about the appointment of Jesus, son of Sie, as High Priest and the second about Jesus, a wise man. By the time Josephus wrote his Antiquities of the Jews, he is aware that the followers of Jesus have proclaimed Jesus to be that “ideal faithful priest.”

This two part article is a work in progress. Additional footnotes need to be created.

Copyrighted 2009. All rights reserved.

[i] See for examples the following material which was well known to Josephus: T. Mos. 10:1 (where the existing priesthood is corrupt - 5:4; 6:1-3, cf. 7:3); Qumran community (for whom the Jerusalem priesthood is corrupt and the true priesthood is already in place (lQSb, 4Q400-405)); the so-called Fourth Philosophy (that is led, in part, by the Pharisaic priest Zadok as an alternative for the nation's priesthood over against the high priest of Roman choice, Joazar son of Boethus (Josephus Ant. 182-4)).

[ii] Luke considered the echo in his gospel of this prophecy to be important: see Acts 3:22-26.

[iii] Ant. 5.10.4.

[iv] Ant. 17.13.1 to Ant. 18.1.1.

[v] Josephus and the NT, 127.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Mystery about Jesus

In Ant. 18.3.3 we read “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.” This mention appears after the mention of the ensigns of the army which Pilate attempted to introduce into Jerusalem and the construction of a new water tunnel with sacred money. Numerous scholars have commented on the authenticity of this Jesus passage. In agreement with Gary Goldberg, “The Coincidences of the Testimonium of Josephus and the Emmaus Narrative of Luke", The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995) pp. 59-77, I consider the passage essentially authentic.

Earlier in Ant 17.13.1 we read

“1. WHEN Archelaus was entered on his ethnarchy, and was come into Judea, he accused Joazar, the son of Boethus, of assisting the seditious, and took away the high priesthood from him, and put Eleazar his brother in his place. He also magnificently rebuilt the royal palace that had been at Jericho, and he diverted half the water with which the village of Neara used to be watered, and drew off that water into the plain, to water those palm trees which he had there planted: he also built a village, and put his own name upon it, and called it Archelais. Moreover, he transgressed the law of our fathers and married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, who had been the wife of his brother Alexander, which Alexander had three children by her, while it was a thing detestable among the Jews to marry the brother's wife. Nor did this Eleazar abide long in the high priesthood, Jesus, the son of Sie, being put in his room while he was still living.

2. But in the tenth year of Archelaus's government”

The death, funeral and the testament of Herod the Great is recorded in Ant 17.8. This passage, in Ant 17.13.1, is about one of his sons, Archelaus who was appointed by Augustus as ruler of Judea. His appointment as ethnarch included the power to appoint and remove the high priest. His first act was to remove Joazar and appoint Eleazar in his place. Then Josephus says: “Nor did this Eleazar abide long in the high priesthood, Jesus, the son of Sie, being put in his room while he was still living.” I have not checked but this phrase “being put in his room while he was still living” appears to be unique. At this point in time, Joazar, the previous High Priest, is still alive. The next sentence notes Archelaus served ten years and then the principal men of Judea and Samaria filed charges against him in Rome.

There is no further mention of Jesus, son of Sie, in Antiquities. It seems strange that Josephus would omit this information about the removal or death of Jesus, son of Sie. Josephus was very careful in his recitation of the names of the high priests, their appointments and their removals.

In the next book, Josephus says in Ant 18.2.1: “WHEN Cyrenius had now disposed of Archelaus's money, and when the taxings were come to a conclusion, which were made in the thirty-seventh year of Caesar's victory over Antony at Actium, he deprived Joazar of the high priesthood, which dignity had been conferred on him by the multitude, and he appointed Ananus, the son of Seth, to be high priest;"

Thus Josephus notes Joazar was twice removed but only once appointed. Josephus recognizes the problem and states that Joazar had “the dignity [of the priesthood] conferred on him by the multitude.” But this addition does not solve the problem of no mention of the death or removal of Jesus, son of Sie.

Joazar is first mentioned by Josephus in this passage (Ant 17.6.4):

“But the people, on account of Herod's barbarous temper, and for fear he should be so cruel and to inflict punishment on them, said what was done was done without their approbation, and that it seemed to them that the actors might well be punished for what they had done. But as for Herod, he dealt more mildly with others [of the assembly] but he deprived Matthias of the high priesthood, as in part an occasion of this action, and made Joazar, who was Matthias's wife's brother, high priest in his stead. Now it happened, that during the time of the high priesthood of this Matthias, there was another person made high priest for a single day, that very day which the Jews observed as a fast. The occasion was this: This Matthias the high priest, on the night before that day when the fast was to be celebrated, seemed, in a dream, to have conversation with his wife; and because he could not officiate himself on that account, Joseph, the son of Ellemus, his kinsman, assisted him in that sacred office. But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.”

There is no question that Joazar is a prominent high priest as he mentioned again after his removal in Ant 18.1.1 in these words:

“1. NOW Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to he a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance. Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it, by the persuasion of Joazar, who was the son of Beethus, and high priest; so they, being over-pesuaded by Joazar's words, gave an account of their estates, without any dispute about it.”[i]

Joazar is twice removed as high priest by Josephus. Why? I suggest that the clue is Jesus, son of Sie, whose appointment is noted by not his death or removal. Josephus, who is a member of a high priestly family and proud of his genealogy and the accuracy of the genealogy records of the members of the priesthood, has deliberately obscured the reference to Jesus, son of Sie. Josephus knows the significant of the name of Jesus. He also knows that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a descendent of Joseph, the son of Ellemus, who served as High Priest for a single day (see Siverton). I suggest that Josephus, who believed in the veracity of Daniel 7-12 and considered Daniel to be one of the greatest of the prophets, was also aware that “the son of man” phrase which appears 108 times in the OT; twice in the Book of Daniel, 29 times in the Gospel of Luke and not at all in the writings of Josephus, is an allusion to a person who is the eschatological high priest.

This is a work in progress. (emphasis in bold added).

Copyrighted 2009

[i] Since Josephus called Jonathan, and other individuals, a High Priest even after their removal, his practice with respect Joazar (in Ant 18.1.1) is not unusual.