Re: Two Jesuses: the Provocative Parallels
thanks for responding to my suggestion that Jesus, son of Ananias,
modeled himself on Jesus of Nazareth. Your arguments are predicated
on certain assumptions, but I accept their logic.
However, it seems to me that in refuting my proposal, you may have
undermined your own thesis, to some extent.
You correctly point out that Jesus was a common name, so we have no
strong reason to suppose that Jesus son of Ananias named himself
after Jesus of Nazareth. Fine. But this observation also undermines
your own point that the common name is a parallel between the two
You also suggest that the "woe to Jerusalem" spoken by the son of
Ananias could have been a fiction invented after the war. But if
that were the case then it is equally plausible that similar sayings
attributed to Jesus were independently invented after the war for
similar reasons, and in that case you loose one of your supposed
parallels. If the invention of such things was common, as you
suggest, it is not so significant that they are ascribed to both
Incidentally, my suggestion does not require that particular details
about Jesus are historical. I only require that the traditions about
Jesus of Nazareth that are reminiscent of the story of Jesus-Ananias
were current in Jerusalem in the 60's. That is to say, I am
suggesting that Jesus-Ananias modeled himself on some traditions of
Jesus of Nazareth, which also found their way into the gospels.
>First, there are no discernible Christian elements in theor that the
> story itself, which would suggest that it had a Christian origin
> story teller knew of the link between Jesus-Ananias and Jesus ofNazareth.
I am not suggesting that Jesus-Ananias was a Christian.
- At 11:09 PM 2/2/2005 -0500, Theodore Weeden wrote:
>Good insight. I need to check that out.Thanks.
>Stephen Carlson wrote on February 2, 2005:I'd like to review the chronology.
>> That being said, I think that the collection of these omens is an
>> selection of various traditions by Josephus, so the historical value, if
>> any, of each one has to be assessed independently. In other words, the
>> credibility of the Jesus ben Ananias account does not stand or fall with
>> either the comet omen or the bizarre cow story.
>True. But I think the stories are told to make the point that God gave
>sufficient, and more than sufficient, warning of God's impending judgment if
>the Judeans pursued their rebellion against Rome. So the historicity of any
>of these omens is not at issue for the story teller(s) who first formulated
>them nor for Josephus. As I noted in my post to Bob Schacht tonight on the
>genre of the story of Jesus son of Ananias. I think that the story of
>Jesus-Ananias was fabricated to conform to the wisdom tale genre, with
>Isaianic suffering servant features, a Deuteronomistic hermeneutical
>creation produced after, and as a result of, the fall Jerusalem.
Josephus states that the Jesus ben Ananias incident started during
Sukkot about four years before the war started, so we're looking at
66-4 = 62 (autumn). After the incident, Jesus ben Ananias continued
to mutter "Woe to Jerusalem," especially at festivals, for another
7 years and five months, which takes us to spring of 70. When the
thing started, however, Josephus either on his way to Rome or in
Rome and did not return to Jerusalem until 65. The war started in
66, and Josephus was appointed to a military position in Galilee,
where he was captured in July 67. After some political maneuvering,
Josephus ended up being a translator for Titus and arrived at
Jerusalem on May 1, just in time for one of the Romans to kill
the guy with some kind of catapult attack.
Josephus was not in Jerusalem when the whole thing started, so
he had no personal knowledge of what happened at any trial. He
did have first-hand knowledge of this guy muttering "Woe to
Jerusalem" when Josephus was at Jerusalem in 65/66 and 70, and
it looks like this picqued his curiosity and Josephus asked
around and got an account or accounts of the 62 trial at least
second-hand. Josephus was politically connected, so his sources
were reasonably well placed, but I doubt that Josephus relied
on written records for this information but relied on his oral
inquiries probably under very informal circumstances.
It really seems unlikely to me that the Jesus ben Ananias is a
complete fabrication. The man's behavior was too public and
Josephus was too close to it for the complete fabrication
scenario to explain why Josephus would be making this up.
The way Josephus described Jesus ben Ananias, it just looks
to me that the latter was mentally ill (a "madman" as what
Josephus tells us about Albinus's concluded ). Interpreting
Jesus ben Ananias as an omen about the destruction of Jerusalem
can only be ex post facto, by one with a pro-Roman apolegetical
interest. This was Josephus's Tendenz in War, and I have to
think that this interpretation as a bad omen was largely invented
by Josephus. I think we see the Josephus's spin in the other
omens. For example, I doubt Comet Halley was thought of before
the War as a bad omen for the Jews, but as a bad omen against
the Romans. Frankly, I doubt that any Jew in Jerusalem except
for Jesus actually interpreted these as bad omen against them.
It's just post-war spin for Josephus.
The next question to consider is where did the seemingly Christian
details in the account come from. I suppose there are a couple
of possibilties. For example, Josephus deliberately shaped the
telling of account to being out the parallels between Jesus of
Nazareth and the madman Jesus and possibly discredit Jesus in the
process. As another example, Josephus wanted to relate a trial
scence but did not have any real detais, so he took it from Mark
or Luke. Alternatively, one could flip it arround and argue that
Mark or Luke shaped their accounts of the trial around those of
Jesus ben Ananias. A final possibility is that when Josephus asked
about Jesus ben Anaaias's trial, his source got confused and
told him the details for another trial of a Jesus--i.e., Jesus
of Nazareth -- or the two trial accounts were already conflated
in the ppopular imagination by the time Josephus inquired about
it. I like the last possibility the best.
>> As for Jesus ben Ananias, I cannot help but wonder whether Josephus wasI'm having trouble understanding my point too. I'll be happy to
>> colored by the case of Jesus of Nazareth in choosing which details to
>> highlight and which ones to suppress. It is hard to do history when
>> there is only one source for an event, and a second source would allow
>> us to assess whether and how much the first source spun an earlier event.
>> Sometimes the spin is so great that what actually happened is
>Stephen, I am not sure I fully understand your point here. Could you help
help once I figure what I was aiming at. Don't hold your breath,
Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
"Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
- Stephen Carlson says:
>>The next question to consider is where did the seemingly Christian detailsin the account come from. I suppose there are a couple of possibilities.
For example, Josephus deliberately shaped the telling of account to being
out the parallels between Jesus of Nazareth and the madman Jesus and
possibly discredit Jesus in the process. As another example, Josephus
wanted to relate a trial scene but did not have any real details, so he took
it from Mark or Luke. Alternatively, one could flip it around and argue
that Mark or Luke shaped their accounts of the trial around those of Jesus
ben Ananias. A final possibility is that when Josephus asked about Jesus
ben Ananias's trial, his source got confused and told him the details for
another trial of a Jesus--i.e., Jesus of Nazareth -- or the two trial
accounts were already conflated in the popular imagination by the time
Josephus inquired about it. I like the last possibility the best.<<
Those seemingly Christian parallels ("details" suggests a connection that is
to be proved, not assumed) are pretty vague. Interrogation by a governor,
scourging and reviling, it would seem to me, may be the norm for all trials
of this sort. His continued laments may have caused fears among the
Jerusalem (Jewish) elite that the Romans might interpret them as
instigations to revolt or at least a potential cause of major unrest.
Josephus' portrayal of events makes it appear that the Jewish elites did not
think much of the man, but that is part of the ironic plot of the story.
Still, I would think that they really had no choice but to send him to the
governor, if he were indeed real, or risk recriminations.
The governor releasing him as nothing more than a madman may be a true event
(the prospect of the Jewish temple and city being destroyed was not a likely
one at the time, and perhaps even laughable to the Roman ruling class or
their soldiers, who were fully aware of and/or resentful of the significant
privileges accorded to Jews and their temple state), but may also again be
an intentional ironic plot twist. Like a lot of modern 3rd world nations or
areas, a good roughing up is meant as a "wake up call" for those who engage
in such behaviors lightly, or whose caretakers (and let's assume JbA had
some family) did not restrain them. Josephus is using him as a metaphor for
the Jerusalem elite who had not paid close enough attention to signs of the
impending disaster of the revolt.
BTW, I think your scenario for how Josephus could have heard the story about
this character, assuming it is not entirely made up, is quite reasonable. It
would be similar to "coffee table" or cocktail party small-talk talk among
certain crowds today.
As for Josephus' ability to fabricate pretty fantastic stories, how about
the one where the gates of the temple swing open on their own? If anything
like this actually happened, it may have been that the door somehow opened
unexpectedly (e.g., strong wind, earth movement, etc). The meaning he gave
to the event was secondary, of course, and pure spin, although here he at
least acknowledges that the wise men understood the true implications and
tried to warn the populace. Same with the omens preceding it.
Cleveland, Ohio USA
Jwr 6:290-300 290 Thus also, before the Jews' rebellion, and before those
commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds
to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month of
Xanthikos [Nisan], (Niese: April 25, Capellus: April 8) and at the ninth
hour of the night, so great a light shone around the altar and the holy
house, that it appeared to be bright daytime; which lasted for half an hour.
291 This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskilful, but was so
interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those events that followed
immediately upon it. 292 At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was
led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst
of the temple. 293 Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner [court of the]
temple, which was of brass, and extremely heavy, and had been with
difficulty shut by twenty men, and fastened with iron-bound bars, and had
bolts sunk very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire
stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the
night. 294 Now, those who kept watch in the temple, came hereupon running
to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up there,
and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. 295 This
also appeared to the common people to be a very happy prodigy, as if God
thereby opened to them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning
understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its
own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies.
296 So these publicly declared that the signal predicted the desolation that
was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the
twenty-first day of the month of Artemisios [Iyyar], (Niese: June 8,
Capellus: May 21) 297 a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon
appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not
related by those who saw it, 298 and were not the events that followed it
of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before
sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen 299
running about among the clouds, and surrounding the cities. Moreover, at
that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into
the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their
sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a
quaking, and heard a great noise, 300 and after that they heard a sound as
of a great multitude, saying, "We are departing from here." [Loeb
translation, via BibleWorks]