Jesus of Nazareth 6

Jesus of Nazareth HW 6
Paul Fischer
7/27/2010
Relg 210


In Historical Jesus work, the story of Jesus of Ananias provides a respected, documented Jewish historical narrative with several significant parallels to the story of Christ (i.e. poor, religious leader, executed by Romans after prophesying the fall of Jerusalem and Second Temple Judaism). The similarities in their speech, their hatred for the Temple, and in their respective narrative stories shows that there was probably cross-pollination between the oral traditions that led to each history. More importantly, the story emphasizes the importance of  Jewish eschatology to Christ’s career. A similar prophet, Jesus of Ananias, without that critical advantage is ridiculed by his contemporaries and declared a mad man. Without eschatology to affirm his sense his arrival on the scene was special, Jesus of Nazareth may have remained an unimportant prophet mentioned just a couple of times in Josephus’ history.  

In Josephus’ account of Jesus of Ananias, like Jesus of Nazareth, though Jesus is punished by local Roman leadership, the Jewish high priests are to blame for his grizzly end. Both Jesus’ are killed, but the impact of Jesus of Nazareth’s death consequences a new religion, which is greater than the wailing fool who was released based on madness before finally dying from a stray Roman catapult’s stone (Josephus 6.5.3). Ironically, the stone both fulfills seven years of wailing prophecy, finally proving the accuracy of Jesus of Ananias, and ends Jesus’ career early, keeping him from the achievements of Jesus of Nazareth.
Figuring prominently in both of the Jesus’ teaching is a hatred for the Temple and Jerusalem, and prediction of their downfall (JoN: Mk 13:2,14 JoA: Josephus 6.5.3). The similarities between Josephus’ Jesus of Ananias and the Jesus of Nazareth in Mt. 24:1-2, where he also predicts the fall of the Temple, raises the question to what extent did Josephus know about Jesus of Nazareth, or to what extent the Christ story influenced his telling of Jesus of Ananias’ story. Because Jesus of Nazareth died around 30-40 years before Jesus of Ananias even hit the scene, there was undoubtedly a strong Anti-Temple sentiment in Jerusalem, that was able to produce powerful leaders for decades.
The similarities between Josephus’ account  of  the words of Jesus of Ananias and the words of Jesus suggest there might have been some connection between them. Because Josephus is dismissive, but not ignorant of Jesus of Nazareth, the chances of both stories’ authenticity is relatively high. Jesus of Ananias’ obsession with the Temple helps drive home the central spot that building would have taken in any leader’s life, and tells us there was enough anger with the Temple as to lend credibility to Mt. 24, where he prophesies the end of the Temple.
These leaders base their power almost solely on eschatology: the more of a sense that the Jewish community had that the system was corrupt, and the time had come for God to take empirical matters into his own  hands, then the greater the leader’s power. Jesus was, according to Christians, the sum of Jewish eschatological hopes and while others may have performed miracles or anything else, Jesus of Nazareth has an importance that is separate, that stems from his position in the expanse of religious history and prophesy.

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