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Josephus, Antiquities XI, 297-303: The High Priest and the Samaritans

Samaritan Ten CommandmentsJosephus, based on sources not known to us, supplies information about the relations of the leaders of the priesthood of Judea and the Samaritans in the later Persian Period. We see that by this time the families had entered into relationships cemented by marriage. He also makes clear the violent conflicts that divided the priesthood at this time. Some have taken this passage to indicate a date for the Samaritan schism ca. 330 B.C.E., on the eve of the coming of Alexander the Great.

(297) When Eliashib the high priest died, his son Judas succeeded in the high priesthood. When he died, his son John took that office. Because of him, Bagoses, 62 the general of Artaxerxes II’s 63 army, polluted the temple and imposed tributes on the Jews so that before they offered the daily sacrifices, they had to pay fifty drachmae for every lamb out of the public treasury. (298) Now Jesus was the brother of John, a friend of Bagoses who had promised to procure for him the high priesthood. (299) With this assurance, Jesus quarreled with John in the temple and provoked his brother so that in his anger his brother killed him. Now it was a horrible thing for John, when he was high priest, to perpetrate so great a crime, and so much the more horrible since there never was so cruel and impious a thing done, neither by the Greeks nor barbarians. (300) However, God did not neglect its punishment for the people were for that very reason enslaved, and the temple was polluted by the Persians. Now when Bagoses, the general of Artaxerxes’ army, knew that John, the high priest of the Jews, had killed his own brother Jesus in the temple, he came upon the Jews immediately, and began in anger to say to them, “Have you had the impudence to perpetrate a murder in your temple?” (301) And as he was aiming to go into the temple, they forbade him so to do. But he said to them, “Am I not purer than he who was killed in the temple?” When he had said these words, he went into the temple. Accordingly, Bagoses made use of this pretense, and punished the Jews seven years for the murder of Jesus.

(302) Now when John had departed this 1ife, his son Jaddua succeeded in the high priesthood. He had a brother whose name was Manasseh. Now there was one Sanballat who was sent by Darius, the last king [of Persia], into Samaria. He was a Cuthean by birth, of which stock were the Samaritans also. (303) This man [Sanballat] knew that the city Jerusalem was a famous city and that their kings had given a great deal of trouble to the Assyrians and to the people of Celesyria. So he willingly gave his daughter, whose name was Nikaso, in marriage to Manasseh, thinking that this alliance by marriage would be a pledge and security that the nation of the Jews should continue their good will to him.

61. All passages from Josephus are from W. Whiston, trans. The Works of Josephus (Peabody, MA- Hendrickson, 1987), revised by L. H. Schiffman in consultation with H. St. J. Thackeray, Ralph Marcus, Allen Wikgren, and L. H. Feldman, trans.,Josephus- in Nine Volumes (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge-Harvard University Press, 1976-79).

62. Probably the Bagoas mentioned in the Elephantine Papyri.

63. Artaxerxes II, 404-359 B.C.E.

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