Friday, September 25, 2009

In Memory of the Other Jesus

Nope, not the first person I saw named Jesus (other than Jesus, the Christ) during the gymnastic competition of the 1996 Olympic games when I was like 7 years old but the Jesus who also had some fun preaching woe to Jerusalem. That is, Jesus ben Ananus whom Josephus mentions in book of of the Jewish Wars. What I enjoy about this Jesus is how it has the potential to legitimise the apocalyptic preaching of Jesus within the gospels as pre-dating the fall and not necessarily being the invention of the later church.

So, without furthere adue the story of Jesus, son of Ananus:
But, what is still more terrible there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, 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 everyone to make tabernacles to God in the temple,g (301) began on a sudden 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. (302) 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 anything for himself, or anything peculiar to those that chastised him, but still he went on with the same words which he cried before. (303) 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; (304) where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet did he 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!” (305) 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. (306) 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!” (307) 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. (308) 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; (309) 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.
 What this story has reminded me of is that I am yet to finish Scot McKnight's Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus and Atonement Theory. With that in mind, this can be my non-spiteful quote of the day:

We have established that Jesus thought he would die prematurely, in the providence of God, and would probably die at the hands of those who rejected his mission as a potential source of rebellion. It only makes sense that one who thought he would die, who on other grounds considered himself a prophet, also tried to make sense of that death. We can assume that Jesus did not think of his death as a sad tragedy or as a total accident of history. After all, Jesus could have escaped Jerusalem during the night; he could have avoided all public confrontation; and he could have worked harder to maintain his innocence. (Scot McKnight, Jesus and His Death p.177)


f This here seems to be the court of the priests.
g Both Reland and Havercamp in this place alter the natural punctuation and sense of Josephus, and this contrary to the opinion of Valesius and Dr. Hudson, lest Josephus should say that the Jews built booths or tents within the temple at the feast of tabernacles: which the latter rabbis will not allow to have been the ancient practice: but then, since it is expressly told us in Nehemiah 8:16, that in still elder times “the Jews made booths in the courts of the house of God” at that festival, Josephus may well be permitted to say the same. And indeed, the modern rabbis are of very small authority in all such matters of remote antiquity.
Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987, S. Wars 6.299-309

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