The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

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davidlau17
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The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by davidlau17 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:16 pm

When I read works by Josephus, I'm struck by how many figures are given the name Jesus/ Joshua. I realize this is hardly a novel perception; many others have noticed the enormous number of Jesuses mentioned throughout Wars, Antiquities, and Josephus' Vita. An explanation often given is that the name "Jesus" was widespread in 1st century Judea; but was it that widespread?

Most significantly, there is another Jesus in the retelling of the stoning of James, the brother of Jesus "called Christ". The story goes on to say that King Agrippa replaces Ananias (the high priest responsible for James' stoning) with a priest named Jesus son of Damneus. Others have noted this, and have argued that Jesus son of Damneus was orginally meant to be the brother of James in that story. Following this assumption, the "called Christ" bit, similar to the Testimonium Flavium, would be an interpolation by a later redactor.

Now, Jesus son of Damneus' reign as high priest was fairly short-lived; he lasted only two years. And who was he replaced by? Another Jesus. This one called "Jesus son of Gamla". That presents us with three notable men named "Jesus" in very short order.

1. Jesus, brother of James (alleged Christ)
2. Jesus son of Damneus (high priest)
3. Jesus son of Gamala (high priest)

This should probably make you raise an eyebrow at least, but admittedly, it could just be chalked up to chance. Unfortunately, however, that's just the beginning of the Jesuses.

At the same time that these two successive priests named "Jesus" were in power (c. 62 to 66 CE), yet another fellow named Jesus proved notable enough for Josephus to mention; Jesus, son of Ananias (as in the former hight priest, Ananias?), a "husbandmen and plebeian" (not a son of the former high priest, I guess). For those unfamilar with the "woe, woe to Jerusalem" story, this Jesus is described as follows:

Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.5.3
But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananias, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!" This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, "Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!" And just as he added at the last, "Woe, woe to myself also!" there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.

Putting aside this Jesus' obvious similarities to the Biblical Jesus, let's take a moment to put him in context. Josephus tells us Jesus of Ananias first went to the Feast of Tabernacles four years before the war - in 62 CE. He also states that Albinus was procurator. Albinus took power immediately after the stoning of James; thus, James must have just recently been killed at the time Jesus of Ananias enters the scene.

So taking all this into account, one might infer that this Jesus was the previously mentioned brother of James. Angered by the murder of his brother, he traversed to Jerusalem to ceaselessly condemn it, screaming at the top of his lungs. It's odd, however, once one considers that "certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes."

Why is this odd? Presumably, the high priest (very likely one of these 'eminent people' or 'our rulers') at that time was also named Jesus: the son of Damneus - who was already mentioned as a potential contender for being the brother of James. Even more bizarre is that "Damneus" seems to be a nonsense name - the Latin literally translates to "Damned" in English. So Jesus son of [not the recent high priest] Ananias is damning Jerusalem, while Jesus son of Damned is high priest.

Now, apparently, Jesus son of Ananias doesn't end his charade until the war breaks out in 66 CE. At that time, he gets killed in a somewhat comical fashion. Before the war, Jesus of Damneus/Damned had been replaced with Jesus ben Gamala. This Jesus (Joshua) ben Gamala is described in the Talmud as marrying Mary (or Martha), daughter of Boethus (Yebamot vi 4). While Josephus once indicates him to be the son of Gamiliel, he otherwise refers to him as "Jesus son of Gamala"; though Gamala probably refers to the stronghold near Galilee, rather than to a person: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamla

Additionally, a number of Jesuses are described as leaders on the battlefield. The most notable of which is Jesus son of Sapphias, who is described as being: one of the high priests, the leader of the Galilean city Tiberias, and the leader of a number of mariners/fisherman and poor people.
Josephus, Vita, 1.6.3 So Jesus the son of Sapphias, one of those whom we have already mentioned as the leader of a seditious tumult of mariners and poor people, prevented us, and took with him certain Galileans, and set the entire palace on fire, and thought he should get a great deal of money thereby, because he saw some of the roofs gilt with gold.

In addition, a Jesus son of Shaphat is described as leading a group of bandits near Tiberias; and sometimes a 'Jesus' is referred to without any identifiers in Wars and Vita.

So, to summarize, from the years 62 to 66 CE, we have:

1. Jesus brother of James (alleged Christ, relevant in 62 CE)
2. Jesus son of Ananias ("woe to Jerusalem" omen, 62-66 CE)
3. Jesus son of Damneus (high priest, 63-64 CE)
4. Jesus son of Gamala (high priest, 64-65 CE)
5. Jesus son of Sapphias (a high priest, c. 66 CE)
6. Jesus son of Shaphat (leader of bandits, c. 66 CE)

A number of other Jesuses are also mentioned, but most considerably pre-date the aforementioned figures. A 'Jesus brother of John' was killed by John around 180 BCE; a 'Jesus brother of Onias IV' became high priest in 175 BCE; a 'Jesus son of Fabus' was removed by Herod as high priest in 23 BCE; and a 'Jesus son of Sie' briefly replaced Eleazar ben Boethus as high priest in 3 BCE.

So what's my point? Certainly, that something strange is going on here. I've noticed that none of the individuals called Jesus are ever identified separately in the same section - though I might have missed an instance of this occuring. Is it possible that Jesus #1-6, ever-so-elusively, refer to the same individual?
I always felt that a scientist owes the world only one thing, and that is the truth as he sees it. - Hans Eysenck

Giuseppe
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by Giuseppe » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:41 pm

Damneus may be a case of "damnatio memoriae" to replace a previous name. Something as "Bar Kosiba" in the place of "Bar Kokhba".
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by GakuseiDon » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:00 pm

davidlau17 wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:16 pm
So what's my point? Certainly, that something strange is going on here.
Is there in fact something strange going on? You might be right that it is strange, but you haven't shown this yet. How many 'Jesus'es would you expect to find in Josephus, and why?

In the OT there is Joshua son of Jozadak, the High Priest during the reconstruction of the Temple after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity. It might be a popular name given to children in later years who were expected to grow up to fulfil that duty, perhaps. I'd just like to see some evidence that it is strange to find the name 'Jesus' so many times in Josephus.
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by Trees of Life » Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:19 am

Where is the 'Jesus brother of James' personage text of 1. Jesus brother of James in the works of Josephus?
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StephenGoranson
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by StephenGoranson » Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:51 am

Tal Ilan, in Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part I, Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE (2002) 56, 126-33, 449 documented 103 men named Joshua, the sixth most popular male name in this collection.

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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by davidlau17 » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:22 am

StephenGoranson wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:51 am
Tal Ilan, in Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part I, Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE (2002) 56, 126-33, 449 documented 103 men named Joshua, the sixth most popular male name in this collection.
I'm familiar with that work - but if you mean to indicate that roughly 103/449 Jewish men in Palestine were named Jesus/Joshua, that's incorrect. There were 449 documented names. But 2,625 documented instances. Joshua was 1 out of the 449 documented names. Instances of the name Joshua were found 103 times among these 2,625 men. In other words, roughly 3.9% of all Palestine Jews from 330 BCE-200 CE were named Joshua.

I should also probably mention Tal Ilan used the works of Josephus in that study. Thus, the Jesuses I mentioned in the OP are 10 of those 103 men.
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:28 am

davidlau17 wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:22 am
StephenGoranson wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:51 am
Tal Ilan, in Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part I, Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE (2002) 56, 126-33, 449 documented 103 men named Joshua, the sixth most popular male name in this collection.
I'm familiar with that work - but if you mean to indicate that roughly 103/449 Jewish men in Palestine were named Jesus/Joshua, that's incorrect. There were 449 documented names. But 2,625 documented instances. Joshua was 1 out of the 449 documented names. Instances of the name Joshua were found 103 times among these 2,625 men. In other words, roughly 3.9% of all Palestine Jews from 330 BCE-200 CE were named Joshua.

I should also probably mention Tal Ilan used the works of Josephus in that study. Thus, the Jesuses I mentioned in the OP are 10 of those 103 men.
I believe the 449 in his post is a page number; he is referring to the mention of יהושע on the first page of the Addendum to Part 1, which is page 449.

ETA: Also, on page 54 (table 1) I am seeing a total of 721 male names, not 449.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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DCHindley
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by DCHindley » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:34 am

davidlau17 wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:16 pm
When I read works by Josephus, I'm struck by how many figures are given the name Jesus/ Joshua. I realize this is hardly a novel perception; many others have noticed the enormous number of Jesuses mentioned throughout Wars, Antiquities, and Josephus' Vita. An explanation often given is that the name "Jesus" was widespread in 1st century Judea; but was it that widespread?
...
So, to summarize, from the years 62 to 66 CE, we have:

1. Jesus brother of James (alleged Christ, relevant in 62 CE)
2. Jesus son of Ananias ("woe to Jerusalem" omen, 62-66 CE)
3. Jesus son of Damneus (high priest, 63-64 CE)
4. Jesus son of Gamala (high priest, 64-65 CE)
5. Jesus son of Sapphias (a high priest, c. 66 CE)

6. Jesus son of Shaphat (leader of bandits, c. 66 CE)

A number of other Jesuses are also mentioned, but most considerably pre-date the aforementioned figures. A 'Jesus brother of John' was killed by John around 180 BCE; a 'Jesus brother of Onias IV' became high priest in 175 BCE; a 'Jesus son of Fabus' was removed by Herod as high priest in 23 BCE; and a 'Jesus son of Sie' briefly replaced Eleazar ben Boethus as high priest in 3 BCE.

So what's my point? Certainly, that something strange is going on here. I've noticed that none of the individuals called Jesus are ever identified separately in the same section - though I might have missed an instance of this occuring. Is it possible that Jesus #1-6, ever-so-elusively, refer to the same individual?
Probably not, although the Jesus son of Shapat (leader of a band of "robbers" in Tiberias) may be same as Jesus son of Sapphias (governor of Tiberias).

FWIW, a full list of Jesuses in Josephus would include:
War (18)
2:566 Jesus, son of Sapphias – Governor of Tiberias.
2:599 Jesus, son of Sapphias – Governor of Tiberias.

3:450 Jesus, son of Shapat – Principal head of a band of robbers controlling Tiberias.
3:452 Jesus, [son of Shapat]
3:457 Jesus, [son of Shapat] – Departs Tiberius to Taricheae
3:467 Jesus, [son of Shapat]
3:498 Jesus, [son of Shapat]

4:160 Jesus, son of Gamala – Best esteemed, with Ananus ben Ananus, of High priests.
4:238 Jesus, no patronym – Eldest high priest after Ananus.
4:270 Jesus, no patronym – [Eldest high priest after Ananus].
4:283 Jesus, no patronym – [Eldest high priest after Ananus].
4:316 Jesus, no patronym – [Eldest high priest after Ananus].
4:322 Jesus, no patronym – [Eldest high priest after Ananus].
4:325 Jesus, no patronym – [Eldest high priest after Ananus].
4:459 Jesus [Joshua] son of Nun.
6:114 Jesus, no patronym – High priest, deserts to Vespasian.
6:300 Jesus, son of Ananus – Common man prophesied destruction of the temple.
6:387 Jesus, son of Thebuthus – One of the priests, deserts to Titus.

Ant. (20+)
03:049 (& numerous other instances) Jesus [Joshua] son of Nun (successor of Moses).
11:298 Jesus, (son of Eliashib), brother of John – friend of governor Bagoses.
11:299 Jesus, [son of Eliashib] – slain by brother John, the High priest.
11:300 Jesus, [son of Eliashib]
11:301 Jesus, [son of Eliashib] – slain by brother John, the High priest.
12:237 Jesus, brother of Onias III – High priest.
12:238 Jesus, brother of Onias III – Deposed as High priest in favor of Onias = Menelaus
12:239 Jesus, younger brother of Onias = Menelaus – High priest.
12:239 Jesus, brother of Onias III – Renamed Jason. Revolts against Onias = Menelaus.
15:041 Jesus, (brother of Onias III)
15:322 Jesus, son of Phabes – High priest.
17:341 Jesus, the son of Sie – High priest.
18:063 Jesus, no patronym – Condemned to cross by Pilate. He was [the] Christ.
20:200 Jesus, brother of Jacob – Called the Christ.

20:203 Jesus, son of Damneus – High priest.
20:205 Jesus, [son of Damneus] – High priest.

20:213 Jesus, son of Gamaliel – High priest.
20.213 Jesus, son of Damneus – Deposed as High priest.
20:223 Jesus, son of Gamaliel – High priest.
20:234 Jesus, son of Josadek – High priest.

Life (19)
1:066 Jesus, son of Sapphias – Governor of Tiberias.
1:067 Jesus, son of Sapphias – [Governor of Tiberias.]

1:105 Jesus, no patronym – Captain of those robbers in the confines of Ptolemais.
1:108 Jesus, no patronym – [Captain of those robbers in the confines of Ptolemais.]
1:109 Jesus, no patronym – [Captain of those robbers in the confines of Ptolemais.]
1:110 Jesus, no patronym – [Captain of those robbers in the confines of Ptolemais.]
1:134 Jesus, son of Sapphias – Governor of Tiberias.
1:178 Jesus, no patronym – Brother of Justus of Tiberias.
1:186 Jesus, no patronym – Brother of Justus of Tiberias.
1:193 Jesus, son of Gamala – High priest & Josephus’ friend.
1:200 Jesus, no patronym – Galilean at head of a band of 600, sent to depose Josephus.
1:204 Jesus, son of Gamala – High priest & Josephus’ friend.
1:246 Jesus, no patronym – Owned a house big as a castle. Governor of Tiberias?
1:271 Jesus, no patronym – Governor of Tiberias.
1:278 Jesus, no patronym – [Governor of Tiberias.]
1:294 Jesus, no patronym – [Governor of Tiberias.]
1:295 Jesus, no patronym – [Governor of Tiberias.]
1:300 Jesus, no patronym – [Governor of Tiberias.]
1:301 Jesus, no patronym – [Governor of Tiberias.]
DCH

davidlau17
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by davidlau17 » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:19 am

GakuseiDon wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:00 pm
davidlau17 wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:16 pm
So what's my point? Certainly, that something strange is going on here.
Is there in fact something strange going on? You might be right that it is strange, but you haven't shown this yet. How many 'Jesus'es would you expect to find in Josephus, and why?

In the OT there is Joshua son of Jozadak, the High Priest during the reconstruction of the Temple after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity. It might be a popular name given to children in later years who were expected to grow up to fulfil that duty, perhaps. I'd just like to see some evidence that it is strange to find the name 'Jesus' so many times in Josephus.
Well its difficult to prove such a thing. I admit I didn't provide evidence for the number of Jesuses being strange. It was just assumed - and maybe incorrectly.

Was my assumption incorrect? In my reply to StephenGoranson, I mention that we could estimate that roughly 4% of Palestinian Jewish males from the Second Temple Period were named Jesus (using the work of Tal Illan). If we wanted to see if there is anything suspicious going on in the works of Josephus, I could count off the occurences of all male names and compare that to the total occurences of the name 'Jesus'. Since the time period of interest here is 1st century AD, I would prefer to use volumes 15-20 of Antiquities, and all of Wars and his Vita. But that will take me a bit of time.

We could also compare the works of Josephus with that of his contemparies. If the name was so common, I should expect it mentioned in the works of Philo. But Philo never mentions any notable men by the name of Jesus/Joshua alive in his time.
In the NT, there are three occurences of the name Jesus - Jesus Christ, Jesus Barabbas, and Elymas Bar-Jesus. In the case of Barabbas (a murderous rebel) the name Jesus is ommitted in a number of manuscripts. In the case of Elymas (a heretical magician) he himself is not named Jesus; it was the name of his father.
I always felt that a scientist owes the world only one thing, and that is the truth as he sees it. - Hans Eysenck

davidlau17
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Re: The Legion of Jesuses in Josephus

Post by davidlau17 » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:53 am

DCHindley wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:34 am
davidlau17 wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:16 pm
When I read works by Josephus, I'm struck by how many figures are given the name Jesus/ Joshua. I realize this is hardly a novel perception; many others have noticed the enormous number of Jesuses mentioned throughout Wars, Antiquities, and Josephus' Vita. An explanation often given is that the name "Jesus" was widespread in 1st century Judea; but was it that widespread?
...
So, to summarize, from the years 62 to 66 CE, we have:

1. Jesus brother of James (alleged Christ, relevant in 62 CE)
2. Jesus son of Ananias ("woe to Jerusalem" omen, 62-66 CE)
3. Jesus son of Damneus (high priest, 63-64 CE)
4. Jesus son of Gamala (high priest, 64-65 CE)
5. Jesus son of Sapphias (a high priest, c. 66 CE)

6. Jesus son of Shaphat (leader of bandits, c. 66 CE)

A number of other Jesuses are also mentioned, but most considerably pre-date the aforementioned figures. A 'Jesus brother of John' was killed by John around 180 BCE; a 'Jesus brother of Onias IV' became high priest in 175 BCE; a 'Jesus son of Fabus' was removed by Herod as high priest in 23 BCE; and a 'Jesus son of Sie' briefly replaced Eleazar ben Boethus as high priest in 3 BCE.

So what's my point? Certainly, that something strange is going on here. I've noticed that none of the individuals called Jesus are ever identified separately in the same section - though I might have missed an instance of this occuring. Is it possible that Jesus #1-6, ever-so-elusively, refer to the same individual?
Probably not, although the Jesus son of Shapat (leader of a band of "robbers" in Tiberias) may be same as Jesus son of Sapphias (governor of Tiberias).

FWIW, a full list of Jesuses in Josephus would include:
Thanks for the full list. It looks like I may have missed four or five additional men named Jesus. Jesus, son of Josadek – High priest seems to be most obvious. It appears this is meant to be the Jesus son of Jozadak from the OT (and mentioned by GakuseiDon). From the years 62-66 CE, I missed Jesus son of Thebuthus.

One that strikes me as also being potentially noteworthy is:
1:246 Jesus, no patronym – Owned a house big as a castle. Governor of Tiberias?
In the Whiston translation at least, Josephus describes his big house as being similar to a Citadel. I had assumed this to be Jesus son of Sapphias - governor of Tiberias (though it may not be).
Last edited by davidlau17 on Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:39 am, edited 2 times in total.
I always felt that a scientist owes the world only one thing, and that is the truth as he sees it. - Hans Eysenck

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