The Murder of James the Just (62 CE)
And the Blood Libel
With the House of Ananus
Study into the Kahal (Hebrew) Nazarene Ecclesia (Congregation) of Yisra’el (Israel)
Called by Christians ‘The Jerusalem Church’
Commentary by Robert D. Mock M.D.
February 6, 1999
Rewritten July, 2004
Posted December, 2004
James the Just, the high priest in the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem
Still the testimony left in the history of the Nazarenes leaves an unsettling void. The dynamics and struggles of human events do not just happen but are part of a matrix of competition of ideas and ideologies. The motives behind the parties and the intent to foster and mold their own future are what drive goodness and evil. Conflicting ideologies many times produce catastrophic events that propel the participants to sweep a whole society in their struggle. This may change the destiny of their country. Such was the case between Ananus the Elder and James the Just.
On one hand we have the patriarch of the House of Ananus, the most influential political voice in the province of Judea whose sole mission was to establish his family as the undisputed leaders of Judea. At the same time, it was the goal of Ananus the Elder to protect the hegemony of his family to siphon the vast wealth of the temple of Herod into the family financial coffers. With a total grip on the ritual sacrificial system of the temple, they could with good management and slick bait and switch tactics produce huge profits at the three largest festivals of the year. By selling a lamb or a young heifer to the pilgrims over and over again by the money changers in the temple courtyard, a modest herd of livestock could enrich the house of Ananus a thousand fold. The moneychangers in the outer temple courtyard were essentially agents of the High Priest. The festivals of the Lord had degenerated to crass marketeering on the part of the leaders of the temple.
On the other hand, we are introduced to a phenomenon rarely seen in revolutionary religious reform. Yahshua ben David rode into Jerusalem on an ass as a prince awaiting his coronation as thousands of admirers shouted aloud, “Hosanna in the Highest, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of our Lord.” With millions of pilgrims packed into the narrow city streets of Jerusalem the event became electrified with anticipation. By every appearance, Jesus now had command of the city and was about to install Himself as the “King of the Jews”.
Yahshua immediately went to the temple courts for the second time and with a provocative show of force, he threw out the money exchangers. The entire commercial economy of the temple ceased. Then for two days he introduced the citizens of Judea to the ‘Kingdom of God’. For two days the entire sacrificial system ceased. For two days, with the pilgrims and their families surrounding Him, He preached, healed the multitudes and entered into religious legal dialogue with the Pharisees, scribes or attorneys. He was immune to retribution on the part of the temple security forces or the five hundred battle hardened Roman cohort of troops. They were afraid to arrest Him because they feared the throngs of people who were the sympathetic supporters of Jesus.
Once again Jesus challenged Ananus the Elder and the surrogate son-in-law, Caiphas, who was the current high priest of the temple. A two day shut down of a seven day festival with an estimated two to three million people in attendance was a major financial blow to the House of Ananus. It struck at the nerve center of power, greed and authority that had consumed the spiritual ministry of the temple of the Lord. It was not just the high priest, Caiphas, but especially the authority of his father-in-law, Ananus the Elder, who was the most powerful Mafioso style Jewish patriarch to control the city of God.
If ever the Roman authorities received the scent of a claimant to the throne of David aspiring to become the ruler of the Jews, there was always swift retribution and justice. Yet here was Jesus, recently anointed in Bethany now making a peaceful but highly visible entrance as a king entering his capital city. Yet the Roman troops stood motionless aside. The Sadducean temple guards were powerless to execute control of the temple, because there was no need to force any control. The pilgrims were at peace. They were thrilled and in awe as they watched the Son of God present in living color how the ‘kingdom of God’ was to be lived in the drama of real life on earth.
Recognizing fully the allegiance that the “Nazarene” commanded of the multitudes, His ability to harness the powers of nature, His ability to heal all manners of sickness and even to raise the dead to life, this legitimate claimant to the throne of David was in de-facto control of the city of Jerusalem. Yahshua was doubled lineage to the house of David on both of his grandfather’s lineage and double lineage on both of his grandmother’s lineages to the house of Levi.
Yet, twelve hours later, He allowed Himself to be captured in a Garden at night, convicted in an illegal trial by the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and crucified on a tree as a public witness to the extreme length His Father, the Eternal One of the universe, would go to bring salvation to all people.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the brother of Jesus, Jacob ben Joseph, known as James the Just was nominated as the leaders of the fastest growing Jewish sect or party in Judea, the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Israel. This was not a spontaneous response of a nominating committee eagerly searching for an aspiring leader. Rather James, the brother of Jesus was planned by the Almighty Himself, as Jesus testified:
John 5:19-29 – “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”
According to the Gospel of Thomas, the disciples inquired of Jesus before His death concerning the future leadership of His chosen ones.
Gospel of Thomas - “We know that you will go away from us. Who will be great over us? Jesus says to them, “In the place to which you have gone (Jerusalem), you will go to Jacob the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth were created.” (Gospel of Thomas, Saying eight)
Luke’s account in Acts of the Apostles confirms that “the apostles and disciples in one accord placed themselves under the leadership of James the Just, known as the brother of Jesus.” This fact is not only found in the canon but confirmed by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History when he quoted Clement of Alexandria in Outlines, Book 6,
Clement of Alexandria - “Peter, and Jacob and John did not contend for the honor because they had previously been favored by the Savior, but chose James the Just as Bishop of Jerusalem.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History II, 1)
Later in Book 7, Clements of Alexandria continues:
Clement of Alexandria – “After the resurrection of the Lord imparted the higher knowledge (gnosis) to James the Just, John, and Peter. They gave it to the other apostles, and the other apostles to the Seventy, one of whom was Barnabus. Now there were two Jameses: one, James the Just, who was thrown down from the Parapet (of the temple) and beaten to death with a fuller’s club; the other, the James who was beheaded.” (Act 12:2) (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, II, 1)
This is a most fascinating passage in that throughout Church History, the higher knowledge or Gnosticism has been found to be evil, heretical, corrupt and of the devil. Yet here is Eusebius, the great historian of the Early Christian Church, who truly had the ear of the Emperor Constantine the Great and was a participant in the authorship of the Nicene Creed, affirming with the earlier Clement of Alexandria that there were multiple planes or layers of learning about the workings of the Divine. He affirmed that Jesus the Lord Himself did teach His inner disciples a ‘higher knowledge’ which was the core or summary teaching which was to be transmitted to the rest of the disciples of Jesus.
With the dynamic speech of Peter at the Pentecost feast and the addition of five thousand converts into the fold of the Nazarenes in one day, the Nazarene congregation vaulted to a religious and political position which threatened to dominate and overshadow the parties of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Who else would be threatened the most but Ananus the Elder who controlled the Sadducean leadership of the temple?
The leader of the Jerusalem Ecclesia or Synagogue was called a nasi or president. This position later called the “patriarch” was the equivalent of the Jewish high priest. They were not called pastors or elders or bishops. Justin Martyr, as late as 150 CE, stated that the leadership in the gentile Christian Churches were also called presidents. So we begin to differentiate the differences between the Jewish Ecclesia and Synagogues and the Christian Churches.
The organizational structure of the Jerusalem Nazarene Ecclesia was wholly Jewish as it patterned itself after the Jewish Sanhedrin in which the three top leaders were James the Just, the Nasi or high priest, the Apostle Simon Peter, the sagan or deputy to the High Priest and the Apostle John as the Ab Beth-Din or the chief officer of the religious court. They formed the central leadership of the Nazarene Sanhedrin with the seventy disciples or elders.
We know from the New Testament there was a certain structural organization of the Jewish synagogue. Was it not Jesus who talked about a Jairus as the ruler of the synagogue? (Mark 5:3, Luke 8:41) It was the Apostle Paul who advised the believers that if they had legal issues and suits, take them to the court of the congregation. (1 Corinthians 6:1-2) Here in this court the nasi or president of the ecclesia would sit in judgment on issues pertaining to the ecclesia: admission of proselytes, tithe and donations, immorality and theft, the laying on of hands and a host of other issues that were also done by the Sanhedrin section of the Mishnah.
Because of the discovered in a monastery in Constantinople in 1883 and published by P. Bryennios, the Didache, called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, gives us insight of the of the Nazarene ecclesias in Asia Minor and Greece. In this land they treated the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Jerusalem with the same respect of authority that the Jewish synagogues did to the central Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Here we see that the Nazarene Sanhedrin was patterned after the Jerusalem Sanhedrin.
Yet was the Nazarene Sanhedrin a cosmetic facade of a bunch of Galileans who were wanna-be aspirants to be real temple leaders of Judaism? Most Christian historians are very quiet on the role of this dynamic and vibrant community of believers in the temple culture of Jerusalem. For what reason?
Is there a reason the Jewish nature of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia has such a minor emphasis and role in the books of the New Testament? Were some of the books of history on the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia stolen or hidden so that the history of the Early Christian Church would not reflect its Jewish in nature? It was not the 1st century Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia who gave us our present New Testament canon. It is true that they wrote the books, but the canon comprises only a small number of the extant gospel manuscripts that were available at that time. Are there other books that would shed a fuller picture of this dynamic Jewish sect? Is the diminutive role of the Nazarenes in the Book of Acts part of the historical compilation by the Roman Christian Church to affirm a historical history that would affirm the legitimacy of the ascendant Roman Christian Church?
Even though many of the teachings of the other gospels were recognized as heretical by the Church of Rome, the historical role of James the Just in the religious community of Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord is undisputed.
The relationship of James the Just with Jesus is also undisputed in church history. Once again it was the Church Historian Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia (315-403) who stated that:
Epiphanius - “We find that he (Jacob the Just) was of David’s race, being the son of Joseph, and that he was a Nazarene (Nazarite) as Joseph’s first born son, and thereafter dedicated…” (Epiphanius, Panarion, Lixivia, cited by Hugh Schonfield 148)
Earlier Eusebius, the Roman Church historian for Constantine the Great and the one most responsible for formulating the present canon of the New Testament left us with a most powerful testimony on James the Just.
Eusebius - “Now Jacob the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was termed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the Community with the apostles. This apostle was consecrated from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head; he never anointed himself with oil or used a public bath. He alone was allowed to enter the Holy place. He never wore woolen, only linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the Temple alone, and was often to be found upon his knees and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as a camel’s …And indeed, on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just (i.e. Tzaddik) and Oblias (i.e. Ophla-am), which signifies Justice and the People’s Bulwark; as the Prophets declare concerning Him.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, II.1)
Let us let these words sink in very carefully and resonate in harmony with the historical knowledge that we are learning about the power structure in Judea and the actors that controlled the Jewish economy in the 1st century. Here was a man, the brother to the recognized Messiah of the Jewish people by a large portion of the Jewish populous in 30 CE, who was a known Nazarite, or Holy Man consecrated to the Lord since his conception. He became known as a Tzaddik or a righteous man. Eventually his fame grew greater to life as the Oblias or the only man in Judea who represented justice and the protector (bulwark) of the people.
According to Josephus,
Josephus - “He (James the Just) was surnamed the Just because of both his piety towards God and his benevolence to his countrymen.” (Josephus, Antiquities, Xii.43)
The reverence that the populous of Judea held towards James the Just cannot be overestimated. He became a person that was larger than life. The power of his ministry, the respect for his righteousness, the security that he gave to the population in a time of national turmoil made him the undisputed leader of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia and as we will affirm for most of Judaism for over three decades. It was Clements, who became the third president or patriarch (later called by the Christians as bishops) of the Church of Rome, who made these remarks about Jacob the Just.
Clements of Rome - Jacob (James) was called “the supreme Supervisor, who rules Jerusalem, the holy Community of the Hebrews, and the communities everywhere excellently founded by the providence of God” and was called or addressed as “Lord Jacob”. (Epistle of Clement to Jacob, preceding the Clementine Homilies., quoted in Schonfield 148)
Jerome, in his Commentary on Galatians, was speaking of the role and reverence that James the Just commanded in his ministry as the leader of the Nazarenes when he wrote that when James the Just did come from the temple where he spent most of his time in intercession and prayer, the populous of the city
Jerome - “would crowd around him and strive to touch the hem of his garment.” (Jerome, Commentary on Galatians. I.19.quoted by Schonfield 148)
Here was the same reverence and respect of the tzaddik that his brother Jesus also earned. As the tzitzits or fringes on his garment were touched in true Jewish custom, the holiness of a righteous man would be transferred to the one touching the hem. We see the same imagery with the mantle of Elijah and the miracles the mantle wrought when it was given to Elisha. Here was the legendary power and miraculous works that the mantle or prayer shawl of the Tzaddik wore as he walked and taught.
Let these words penetrate even further. Jacob the Just was not just a righteous man and a good church leader. He was much more. He was known as the “Supreme Supervisor” and he alone entered the Holy Place, in the manner that only the high priest of the Lord was allowed to do. He alone wore only linen garments that the high priest wore. He alone was found interceding for his people like the High Priest was to do. He is recorded as receiving from Jesus, the ‘Gift of Knowledge” or the “Higher Knowledge”. Every historical shred of evidence suggests that Jacob (James) the Just did become the spiritual High Priest of Israel. How could this be?
It was James the Just who kept the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia pure to the Torah. He rested assured that his congregation worshipped like their forefathers in the temple of the Lord, observance of the Shabbat (Seventh-day Sabbath) of the Hebrews, observed the festivals of the Lord, observed the 613 commandments of the Lord of hosts. He was last of the righteous ones who understood the real meaning of justice, mercy and benevolence to the poor, oppressed and the widows. It was the Mishnah, who attributed the following saying to James the Just:
Mishnah- “The world is sustained by three sayings, the Law, the Temple Service and the practice of benevolence.” (Mishnah, Aboth. I.2. See further the Jewish encyclopedia (Funk and Wagnalls) under Article. Simon the Just, as quoted by Schonfield 148)
By this time, the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia had effectively set up an alternative non-sacrificial Jewish Temple service centered on the ministry and teachings of Jesus in opposition to the Sadducean High Priest service. This concept may come as a shock to modern Christians who feel the Jerusalem Christian Church (the name “Christian” was never identified with Jewish followers of Jesus) was an apolitical religious company who for almost thirty years lived hunted and persecuted in the social life and matrix of Jewish life. Yet one again remember this statement by Epiphanius, the Bishop of Constantia (315-405) in his book, Panarion, which was quoted earlier:
Epiphanius, the Bishop of Constantia – James the Just “officiated after the manner of the ancient priesthood wherefore also he was permitted once a year to enter the Holy of Holies, as the Law commanded the High Priest ...Furthermore he was permitted to wear the high priestly diadem upon his head…” (Epiphanius, Panarion IXXVII, quoted in Schonfield 148)
The messianic Jewish Nazarene Ecclesia had grown and was also becoming diverse in style, outlook and in religious philosophy. Many of its adherents had never met Jesus. They were second generation followers of Jesus. The central core leadership was still closely tied with the original ministry of Jesus. The fact that the blood-brother of Jesus was the central leader gave stability and credibility.
As with all organizations, there were factional wings within the community. In spite of differences in ideology, the common bond between them was that they were all Jews or Jewish proselytes. From our understanding of 1st century BCE and 1st century CE Jew, the Jewish people were accustomed to divergence of ideology. Yet we see their bonds with one another was such that they remained true to their Jewish identity.
On the right wing were the ascetics, the monastics, the esoterics, and the mystics. On the left wing were the activists, the pragmatists, and the revolutionaries. This only highlighted the important and wise decision to nominate James the Just as the first leader of the Jerusalem Nazarene Church. According to the Jewish historian Hugh Schonfield,
Hugh Schonfield - “He could hold together all its diverse elements as no other could. He followed strictly the Way of the Law. His nationalism pleased the Zealots, while his extreme asceticism commended him to the Ebionite-Essene wing. He enjoyed the respect of the Pharisees, and was beloved by the Jewish populace of Jerusalem.” (Schonfield 149)
Common to all these elements was the common messianic belief that Jesus did fulfill the aspirations and prophetic utterances of the Hebrew prophets as they looked for the future Moschiach. True to their Jewish heritage, the divinity of Jesus was neither affirmed nor challenged. Ascribing deity to their King was to them but another pagan notion.
Yet, the ‘Son of Man’, using Daniel’s imagery, could still be claimed to have been predestined by the Almighty before the creation of the universe. He was revealed to the righteous and the elect since the beginning of mankind. Some of the more esoteric, spoke of the Light-Adam, the spiritual man in the sky, or the Primordial Adam in whose likeness, Adam, the earthling, was created. As their eschatology developed, the foundational ideas found in the traditions of the Essenes showed that Yahshua haMoschiach would eventually become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
On the sociological side, there were those who had more Pharisaic tendencies, that personal purity was the most important elements in bringing the culmination of the End of Time. They were willing to sit and allow God to produce His will. Any political activity of their part to hasten the Last Days would potentially be counterproductive to God’s ultimate aims.
On the opposite extreme, were the militants, the Zealots, who felt that the time of the end, could not come without their active participation and intervention. They were to go to the entire world and by concerted organized activity they would hasten the Day of the Lord. To them, this day meant the downfall of Rome. It was their faithful duty to promote that day: by acts of rebellion, by seditious literature such as the Sibylline Oracles, by mercenary acts, and by actively financing the underground in armed revolt.
We cannot understand the life and times that encompassed the life of Jesus, Paul, James the Just and eventually the life of Simeon the Just without understanding Ananus the Elder the most powerful man in Judea. Born to the Jewish name of Hanan, the younger, Ananus became the sixty-fourth High Priest to officiate in the temple of the Lord since Aaron the High Priest. As the nasi, or the high priest, it was his duty to preside over the service of the main festivals of Passover, Pentecost, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. He automatically became the president of the Great Sanhedrin which presided in the Council of Hewn Stones near the entrance to the Temple of Herod.
Ananus was no doubt a young priest serving in the temple when Jesus as a babe born on the Feast of Tabernacles about 6 BCE. Was this child not the one that the three Magi alerted Herod the Great to the potential of the birth of a rival Davidian ruler yet miraculously escaped the long arm of Herod’s assassin teams sent to Bethlehem to snuff out His life? Was Ananus not aware of the dedication of this child forty days after the purification of his mother, Mariam, a young teenage maiden? Was Ananus not aware when Simon proclaimed the oracles on the life of Yahshua? Being a strict Sadducee and meticulous for the observance of the Law, is it no wonder that great care was given in the gospels that every aspect of the birth, circumcision, and dedication of Yahshua were given according to the exact prescriptions of Torah?
It was in 6 CE that Ananus was inaugurated as high priest of the temple of Herod in Jerusalem. It was at that Passover in the spring of that year, the twelfth year of Yahshua’s life that Joseph, Mariam and Yahshua went to participate in the festival. Here just months before His Bar Mitzvoth, it was Ananus the High Priest who as the newly appointed chief priest along with the elders of the Sanhedrin had a private investigative session with this young man. This was an anticipated and well designed meeting as Jesus was destined to someday replace his great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea and sit in the ‘Seat of David’ as one of the elders of Israel in the Great Sanhedrin.
For thirty three of the next thirty five years, Ananus the Elder, the father of the dynasty of the House of Ananus was the most powerful controlling force in the political, social and religious governance in the land of Judea until the inauguration of King Agrippa in 41 CE.
For nine years Ananus served as high priest (6-15 CE), and then he was finally deposed by Valerius Gratus the new incoming Roman legate from Syria. Ismael the son of Phaebi (Josephus, Antiquities XVIII, ii, 2) was installed as the high priest but that lasted only one year, long enough for the bribes, gifts and gratuities with lavish service to the new governor. We then see Eleazar, the son of Ananus, was installed as the high priest.
Can one imagine what closed door politics was being conducted to ingratiate the new Roman legate? There was only one other year in this thirty five year stretch did the power of the high priest slip out of the hands of Ananus the Elder. Simon, son of Camithus (Josephus, Antiquities XVIII, ii, 2) was installed as high priest, because Ananus’ son Jonathan, who also was the high priest, overstepped the bounds of Roman law. He killed the deacon Stephen without Roman approval and commissioned the Pharisee Shaul to take Roman authority in his own hands. In the interim, Pilate the Procurator was recalled and sent in exile to Lyon, France.
It was this family, the House of Ananus, and the dynasty of his sons, grandsons plus his servants that maintained the power of this family that rivals the power of the mafia bosses of Russia and Sicily. To say that Ananus, the high priest was the most powerful and the wealthiest Jewish man in Judea is an understatement. It was Ananus who received all the revenue of the temple of Herod. It was the power of Ananus that Jesus was challenging when he drove out the ‘money changers’ who used switch and bait tactics in the animals used in the services of the Temple. Since that day, Jesus and his family were marked for elimination.
Yet on the other hand, Yahshua though He may have been raised under modest circumstances, was also able to weald also great power and authority. To understand that he was a double lineage descendent of the House of David was enough to bring Him to any table of authority. Yet there was another figure of power and wealth that rivaled the House of Ananus. It was Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea was a Roman army officer and designated by the Caesar as a Roman decurio to be in charge of the tin and lead mines of Britain. With his vast estates in Jerusalem and Ramallah, he was one of the esteemed elders of Israel who by right of his inheritance sat in the seat of David in the Great Sanhedrin. To say that Joseph of Arimathea was not only a most wealthy private citizen in the service of the Emperor and he was a competitor to the power of Ananus the Elder and Caiphas his son-in-law would also be an understatement.
Into this power arena we now set the life of Jesus, the Jewish Rabbi called Yahshua ben Joseph ben Heli, who was the great nephew of Joseph of Arimathea. Yes, Joseph of Arimathea was the younger brother of Heli, the father of Mary. The Drama of the life, ministry, trial by the Sanhedrin of Yahshua and His death, resurrection and the final realization by His followers that He truly was the Son of God incarnated into human flesh become the political and religious trappings around the life of Jesus. It is this great Drama that the playwrights and movie producers have tried to portray in part on the theatres that has been created and recreated over the last two thousand years.
Through Ananus the Elder and five sons, Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Mattathias, Ananus, one son-in-law, Joseph Caiphas, and one grandson, Mattathias son of Theophilus, the power of Ananus and the House of Ananus extended clear to 66 CE and the start of the revolt with Rome. It was this family, the House of Ananus that put Peter and John in prison, captured Peter and many apostles, imprisoned and flogged them. They put Stephen the deacon to death by stoning, incited King Agrippa I to behead James the brother of John, and capture to kill the Apostle Peter. Then they stoned, beat and killed James the Just the brother of Jesus who was the leader for thirty two years over the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem.
A national feud had been going on since the death of Jesus. The Nazarenes held that the Sadducean House of Annas the Elder was responsible for the Jesus’ death. The Nazarene Ecclesia in turn had the ear and the allegiance of the Zealots, the Essenes, a large company of priests who lived in the Ophel in the Old City of David. They had the sympathy of a majority of the poor and lower class Jews who lived Lower City and the Tyropean Valley. More than that, the Nazarenes also felt that Jonathan the son of Annas, the High Priest, was responsible for the death of Stephen and the persecution of the Nazarenes throughout the wilderness of Perea above Damascus in 35 AD.
Consider this statement in seriousness, the recognized High Priest in the Temple of Herod has historically been recognized as being a Sadducean, usually coming from a member of one of the elite aristocratic families of such as the House of Annas. These were appointed by the Roman procurator or the nominated Herodian king, who usually sold it to the highest bidder. That money and graft was a big part of the Temple service and became the central focus around the highly politicized and bold bid Jesus made to drive out the money changers in the Temple. The Herod Temple, Inc. was the largest money making enterprise in the western provinces of the Roman Empire. It was this act that made the Sadducees despised by almost all other groups including the peasants in Judea, for they bought their power from the Romans and were thereby protected by the Romans.
What is interesting, though the traditional Sadducean High Priest is discussed in several works of antiquity, never has the name of any of the Roman appointed High Priests been mentioned in reference to the most important duty of the High Priest, ministering in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement.
What is known is that the official high priest of the temple of Herod from the House of Ananus sought a Roman procurator who was available to their whim and choosing and bribing of that Roman governor. This fact, whether for political or security reasons or breeches in the conduct of the prior high priest of their family who violated the Roman law, cemented the House of Ananus with the hated Roman authorities.
We will see this fact later when two sons of Ananus the Elder; Jonathan who delivered Stephen the deacon to be stoned to death without the permission of the Roman procurator and Ananus the son of Ananus who had James the Just stoned and beaten to death on the portico of the temple, were both done in a time vacuum when the new Roman governor was still in route to the land of Judea. Roman law forbad the killing of any person in the empire with the consent of the Roman authorities. Both of these times the sons of Ananus the Elder who were the presiding high priests were immediately stripped of their official duties as the high priest and given to the son of a rival Sadducean family.
Consider the fact that the Jerusalem Nazarene Church, in whose leader, James (Jacob) the Just, served in the role of the High Priest, when “he was permitted once a year to enter the Holy of Holies” and also “to wear the high priestly diadem upon his head”. This can only suggest that two separate Temple services were being performed in this era during the Day of Atonement. We must also consider that the Sadducean high priest performed his duties during the three major festivals; Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles when the economics of animal sacrificing enriched their family coffers immensely.
We must recognize that the Jerusalem Nazarene community held the allegiance of the majority of the Jewish population. This allegiance included the central Nazarene community, the Essenes of which a majority had come into the fold of the Nazarene Church and the Zealots, who’s religious and philosophically were akin to the Nazarenes. Some of the various factions within the Zealots, called the Sicarii, were willing to resort to military force and revolt. Yet we must consider that it was the peasants in the country who only knew that they, the poor and the oppressed, were served by the Nazarene religious leadership.
Who allowed Joseph to preside as the high priest of the temple? Common sense suggests it was not the Sadducees doing it out of their good will. Such an act would be economic suicide, when thousands of believers would worship without the traditional sacrifices, and thereby depriving the Sadducees from the huge profits derived from the sale of the sacrificial animals. It would make sense that the Romans did allow Jacob to serve in the position as the high priest because they knew that it was the will of the people during this era. The Romans retained custody of the vestments of the high Priest including the robe and the diadem that was worn in the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement. Jacob’s leadership appeased the populous and his role as High Priest brought peace and stability in a country so ripe for revolt.
Even more so, Jacob the Just was known for his non-violence and pacifist leadership. He did not pose a threat to the Roman authorities. In respect to the customs of the Jews, the Romans knew that Jacob the Just was of the priestly line of Aaron and such commanded the respect of the Essenes and the Zealots who believed the High Priest would only come from the lineage of Zadok, the High Priest of King David, and thereby from the lineage of Aaron.
John the Baptist, the Essene, was known to have been born in the house of Aaron, and was thereby of the priestly lineage. Jesus, being the cousin to John the Baptist through his mother, Mary, a cousin to Elizabeth, was also born into the priestly lineage of the House of Aaron on her maternal side. Jesus, whose paternal genealogy was of the House of David and of royal stock, was recognized as a legitimate contender for the long sought messiah. Through Jesus’ maternal lineage, he was recognized by the Zealots as the legitimate heir to the role of the High Priest.
Upon the death of Jesus, the number one national candidate for the High Priest would have been his brother, Jacob the Just. History records that this is what really happened, for Jacob (James) the Just, the brother of Jesus, became the “supreme ruler over all believers in Christ, remained the head of government for about a quarter of century until his death…followed the way of the Law… his nationalism pleased the Zealots…his asceticism pleased the Ebionite-Essenes…he was respected by Pharisees… and was beloved by the Jewish population.” (Schonfield 148-149)
It was Jonathan, the son of Annas, who as High Priest in 35 CE, was the responsible high priest who instigated and set up the deacon Stephen to stand before the Sanhedrin so that he could be condemned of blasphemy and sentenced to the Jewish death penalty by stoning. This was not a circumstantial event but well calculated to occur during a time when there was no Roman oversight but the firing and exiling of Pontius Pilate by the Caesar of Rome. Jonathan the high priest in turn set up Shaul the Pharisee to instigated a persecution again the Nazarene Ecclesia.
This was a beautiful cover as the Pharisees would have to share the blame for creating the chaos in the country when the new Roman Procurator arrived. In the meantime, the young Shaul, a student in the School of Gamaliel, took Roman law and authority into his own hands and carried with him temple security agents with the Gestapo tactics into the Syrian territory of Damascus. There they went to persecute, trail and capture the fleeing members of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia.
For many within the Nazarene community, Jonathan was feared and hated. He was their nemesis and persecutor. What his father, Ananus the Elder and his brother-in-law, Caiphas, did to Yahshua their Moschiach (Messiah) by sending the temple security forces to capture Yahshua and submit Him to an illegal trial so also Jonathan did to Stephen the deacon.
The Sabbatical Festival Year began in September, 54 AD when news reached the Jews that the Roman Emperor Claudius had died, in October, 54 AD. Nero became the new Emperor and Felix was reconfirmed in office. It was actually Jonathan, the son of Ananus and the high priest in 35-36 CE who was the acting agent on behalf of the House of Ananus, who recommended that Felix receive the office of Governor of Judea.
These were days of turbulence and omens which were being spread throughout the lands. The people were seething and in discontent. According to Josephus, the country was infected with “impostors and brigands who deceived the mob. Not a day passed, however, that Felix captured and put to death many of the impostors and brigands” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XX. 163-166)
Yet Felix was not so appreciative of Jonathan. It was Josephus looking into the tension between Felix and Jonathan who understood fully that bad blood was brewing.
Josephus – “Felix also bore an ill will to Jonathan, the high priest, because he (Jonathan) gave him (Felix) admonitions about governing the Jewish affairs better than he (Felix) did, lest he (Jonathan) should himself have complaints made of him (Felix) by the multitude, since he (Jonathan) it was who had desired Caesar to send Him (Felix) as procurator of Judea. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, 5)
How picturesque the arrogance of Jonathan the son of Ananus the Elder, who was the high priest during the time when the deacon Stephen was stoned to death. Here he was not only bribing but also black mailing the high priest. The desire of power and greed were part of the tools needed to manipulate and control the new governor. Felix was resentful and was not so appreciative, for he recognized that a majority of the population were politically against any involvement in Jewish politics by Jonathan. So Felix in return bribed, according to Josephus, the Sicarii to assassinate Jonathan, son of Ananus. The date of this assassination was sometime around the year of the Sabbatical festival year of 55/56 CE when again all the pilgrims of the Diaspora would come to visit and worship in the Temple of Lord in Jerusalem. So what did Felix do?
Josephus – “So Felix contrived a method whereby he might get rid of him (Jonathan), now that he was become so continually troublesome to him; for such continued admonitions are grievous to those who are disposed to act unjustly. Wherefore Felix persuaded one of Jonathan’s most faithful friends, a citizen of Jerusalem, whose name was Doras, to bring the robbers (Sicarii) upon Jonathan, in order to kill him; and this he did by promising to give him great deal of money for doing so.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, 5)
So there within the temple, a band of Sicarii, dressed as worshipping pilgrims from the Diaspora come to worship in the temple of the Lord during the Sabbatical Passover Year of 55 CE. They hid daggers under their garments and while mingling in the vast throngs of pilgrims, they killed Jonathan. From this moment, since this ‘murder was never avenged’ the Sicarii became recognized as a ‘new band of banditti’, who carried curved daggers beneath their cloaks and without impunity, killed their victims during seasons of festivals in open daylight and on the temple courtyard. As stated,
Josephus - “The Panic created was more alarming than the calamity…Men kept watch at a distance on their enemies and would not trust even their friends when they approached., Yet, even while their suspicions were aroused and they were on their guard, they fell; so swift were the conspirators and so crafty in eluding detection.’ (Josephus, Jewish Wars, II. 256-7)
It was seven years later, and another Sabbatical festival year was at hand. In the spring of 62 AD, Ananus the son of Ananus was now the high priest. He was the younger brother of the late Jonathan, who was assassinated seven years earlier. Ananus had a vendetta to repay for to him the blood of his brother, Jonathan, who was assassinated during the governorship of Felix by the ultra-right wing assassin squads of the Zealots, must be avenged.
What was known is that the members of the Fourth Philosophy: the Nazarenes, the Essenes, the Zealots and the Sicarii were all affected by his role in the death of Stephen and the first persecution of the followers of Jesus? They thereby despised the former High Priest, Jonathan. The common denominator or the person who held all of these various factions together was one: James the Just, the brother of Jesus.
And so we see James the Just participating in the temple when the moment of time had come. It had been thirty two years since the showdown between Yahshua the Moschiach and the House of Ananus. History was about to play another tune. This tune was “His blood shall be upon us and our children.”
For centuries there has been a vendetta of malice and hatred that has poured out upon the Jewish people because according to the history of the church that has been preserved by the Roman Orthodox Christian Church has stated, “The Jews killed Jesus.” This venom has permeated the Jewish-Christian relations for the last two thousand years.
This document has tracked the history of Ananus the Elder who was a young priest who later became the high priest and later father to several high priests with Yahshua the Rabbi who became the Moschiach (Messiah) for possibly a majority of the province of Judea. The evolving picture of the House of Ananus and the family of Jesus leads to one conclusion; it was not the populous of the Jewish people who rejected the messiahship of Jesus. It was not the Jewish people who killed Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem on 30 CE. It was the House of Ananus with Ananus the Elder the godfather of the clan, who were ‘the Jews’ that killed the Son of the Living God.
It was the priest Josephus who gives us a profile of Ananus son of Ananus and how the family of the House of Ananus operated in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
Josephus – “And now Caesar, upon hearing of the death and Festus, sent Albinus into Judea as procurator; but the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus.
Now the report goes, that this elder Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons, who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and he had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 1)
To get a profile of the House of Ananus, let us look at Ananus the Younger and what type of person he was.
Josephus – “This younger Ananus, who as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who were very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity (to exercise his authority). Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, whose name was James, and some others. (or some of his companions;) and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned; but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they dislike what was done.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 1)
Here Josephus calls Ananus the Younger, “rash in his temper” and unusually daring. His religious theology was harsher or “more rigid” than any of the other Jews when they sat in judgment of offenders. He was an opportunity seeker trying to advance his own style of power, greed and authority. He thought nothing to bend the law (the Roman law) to seek his own personal gain but there may have been something more sinister. It appears that Ananus the Younger was seeking revenge, revenge for the death of his brother, Jonathan by the dagger blades of the Sicarii. He knew that the Sicarii were an ultra-right assassin group that hid under the broader label of Zealots, or those that were known to “zealous for the Torah (Law)”. The Zealots were a sub-party under a larger sect or Jewish party called the Nazarenes. The Nazarenes were named after “The One”, the Messiah (HaMoschiach) of a large part of the entire populous of the Jews in Judea, Jesus (Yahshua), the Nazarene.
There in the temple of the Lord was a priest who knelt in supplication day after day pleading to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for mercy for his people. The record of history states that he and possibly he alone served as the true ‘High Priest” of Israel and entered the Most Holy Place in the Temple of Herod. There he went to seek mercy for the Jewish people on the Day of Atonement.
Would it be hard to suggest that though the House of Ananus and all the priests that came from this family, from Ananus the Elder through five sons, one son-in-law and one grandson, that served as high priest in the temple did not dare to enter the Holy of Holiest and meet the God of their patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob face to face? Even though they were skilled at flaunting the Roman law when they knew they could flaunt forever the God of Israel.
Ananus the Younger went for the juggler of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Jerusalem. More than anything else, he wanted to destroy this sect or party of Judaism that continuously stood up against his family. He wanted to destroy the family, the House of Joseph that were the political and spiritual heirs of Jesus the Messiah. Like his father Ananus the Elder did thirty two years earlier, he used the Jewish Sanhedrin to “accuse” and then deliver up the man to stand up against the corrupt corporate power of the House of Ananus, Inc that virtually owned The Temple of Herod, Inc. There was only one man that represented the only person that stood up against the power of the House of Ananus, Jesus the Nazarene. That man was James (the Just) the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus
There were many Jews of prominence and position who were offended and insulted by the actions of the High Priest Ananus the Younger. They were called the “most equitable of the citizens.” According to Josephus, it was they who:
Josephus – “were the most uneasy at the breach of the law, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king (Agrippa), desiring him to send to Ananus (the high priest) that he should act so not more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrim without his consent: whereupon Albinus complied with what they had said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 2)
As soon as Albinus, the incoming governor of Rome entered the city of Jerusalem, Ananus the Younger was dismissed from the office of the high priest and the position was given to the son of a rival Sadducean family. The power politics began to move. Ananus the Elder, no doubt now in his eighties, brought out his lawyers (scribes) and public relation managers. Once again he had to fend off the Roman authorities and rebuild the cozy corporate-political alliances that he was so adept at doing. Once again the young priest, Josephus, writes with great clarity:
Josephus – “Now, as soon as Albinus was come to the city of Jerusalem, he used all of his endeavors and care that the country might be kept in peace, and this by destroying many of the Sicarii; but as for the high priest Ananias (Ananus the Elder) he increased in glory every day, and this to a great degree, and had obtained the favor and esteem of the citizens in a signal manner; for he was a great hoarder up of money: he therefore cultivated the friendship of Albinus, and of the high priest (Jesus son of Damneus), by making them presents; he also had servants who were very wicked, who joined themselves to the boldest sort of the people. And went to the thrashing floors, and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them, So the other high priests acted in the like manner, as did those his servants, without any one being able to prohibit them; so that (some of the) priests, that of old were wont to be supported with those tithes, died for want of food.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 2)
Power breeds corruption and money is the grease that allows the wheels of corruption to plow onward. Ananus the Elder, now for fifty six years, since he first became high priest in 6 CE, knew well how to buy off opponents with money and presents. Soon the newly arrived governor of Rome and his rival high priest were feeding out of his corrupt hands. This was his infamous ‘glory’, the very same glory that for thirty pieces of silver, he bought the life of Jesus the Nazarene from the hands of one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas the Iscariot, the Sicarii.
Yet, we can see the trends in which lawlessness and violence breeds national political and moral destruction. When justice and mercy depart from any social culture, the internal decay is rapid and swift. It can be assumed that the Sabbatical Passover and Pentecost of 62 CE was spent in growing apprehension and fear. The progressive strife within the country and the trend towards a state of anarchy was destroying all sanity in religious and political life.
The Sicarii went to the ground and they became a menace to every citizen of Judea. Like the suicide bombers of today, the only word for “Peace” were the words, “with great security.” The assassination plots became kidnapping plots and the House of Ananus soon felt the death grip. Josephus continues:
Josephus – “But now the Sicarii went into the city by night, just before the festival, which was now at hand, and took the scribe belonging to the governor of the temple, whose name was Eleazar, who was the son of Ananias (Ananus the Elder) the high priest, and bound him and carried him away with them; after which they sent to Ananias (Ananus the Elder), and said that they would send the scribe to him if he would persuade Albinus to release ten of those prisoners which he had caught of their party; so Ananias was plainly forced to persuade Albinus, and gained his requests of him. This was the beginning of greater calamities; for the robbers perpetually contrived to catch some of Ananias’ servants; and when they had taken them alive, they would not let them go till they thereby recovered some of their own Sicarii; and as they were again become no small number, they grew bold, and were a great affliction to the whole country.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 3)
The evil that permeated the House of Ananus became contagious. Soon the other Sadducean families that were rivals in the high priest lottery joined the fray. One by one, high priest came and went, there was not integrity, and neither was there any trust left. All civility had collapsed in the Jewish social economy.
Josephus – “Now Jesus the son of Gamaliel became the successor of Jesus, the son of Damneus, in the high priesthood, which the king had taken from the other; on which account a sedition arose between the high priests, with regard to one another; for they got together bodies of the people, and frequently came, from reproached, to throwing of stones at each other; but Ananias (Ananus the Elder) was too hard for the rest, by his riches, - which enabled him to gain those that were the most ready to receive. Costobarus, also, and Saulus, did themselves get together a multitude of wicked wretches, and this because they were of the royal family; and so they obtained favor among them because of their kindred to Agrippa; but still they used violence with the people, and were very ready to plunder those that were weaker than themselves. And from that time it principally came to pass, that our city was greatly disordered, and that all things grew worse and worse among us.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 4)
Within this world of progressive insanity, the Jerusalem Nazarene leadership under Jacob the Just became the central stabilizing factor in the social matrix of Jerusalem and Judean life. It was a grim picture as insiders and outsiders watched the Jews spiral towards self-destruction. The non-militant role played by Jacob the Just was but an extension of the equally non-violent role played by his brother, Jesus the Messiah. It is here we see Jacob, praying in the courts of the Temple day after day for his people, till legends account that his knees became as thick as camel skin. One only has to read the Epistle of James, in the New Testament attributed to Jacob (James) the Just as he counsels peacefulness and the patience of Job. His works echoes the ideology of the Sermon on the Mount. His leadership as the nasi and high priest of the Nazarenes was one of pacific saintliness.
We must also be careful not to stigmatize the Zealots in this era. The underlining drive and fervor from the Zealots was coming from a very deep spiritual passion for the freedom and liberation of God’s chosen people. They firmly and fervently believed in the soon coming of the Messiah with His tens of thousands of angels and the literal installation of the Kingdom of God on this earth within their own generation. Not all violence and revolts were the responsible acts of Zealots. Many other groups with less notable aims took advantage of the societal disintegration as they plundered, raped and murdered both Roman and Jews alike.
The patriotism of the Nazarene must not also be questioned, even though they like their predecessors, the Pharisees and the Essenes, being non-violent, believed that God would intervene in His appointed time to deliver them from their enemy, the Roman rulers. What they soon learned, God could not deliver them from their own people, for “the Jews” lead by the power, money and example of the House of Ananus, who would soon bring Jerusalem and all Judea to ruin. It was “the Jews”, the House of Ananus who were the most responsible for the exile of the Jewish people for the next two thousand years.
The Nomination of the Cousin of Yahshua (Jesus), Simeon ben Clopus,
As the High Priest or Nasi of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia
The Deaths of the Apostle Paul and James the Just
The Nomination of Symeon ben Clopus as the Nasi or High Priest of the Nazarenes
The Contested Candidacy of the Position of President or Nasi of the Hebrew Nazarene Sanhedrin
King Agrippa and the House of Ananus
Was Theophilus the high priest a friend of the Apostle Paul and the Luke the physician?
King Agrippa I and the Hebrew Nazarenes
The Primitive “Apostolic” Nazarene Ecclesia
Jesus (Yahshua) and Joseph of Arimathea
The Birth of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem
Crisis in the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia –
The Sanhedrin and Rabbi Shaul are Coming
Joseph of Arimathea and the Friends of Jesus Flee to Caesarea
Final Exile of Joseph of Arimathea from Judea to the Isles of Avalon
The Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia after the Stoning of Stephen
Antioch and Agrippa – The Nazarenes evangelize the world
The Royal Family of Caradactus and the Roman Christian Church
The Murder of James the Just (62 CE) and the Final Years of the
Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem - Part One