Jesus Christ And Jesus ben Ananias

The first century’s most remembered historian, Josephus, tells us of a farmer named Jesus ben Ananias who for years moaned “woe to Jerusalem” and referenced the “bridegrooms and bride”.  Jesus Ananias endured capital punishment and prison by Albinus, who served as the Judean procurator from 62 to 64.

Jesus ben Ananias was eventually categorized as mentally ill, and was released from prison.  He died by getting hit by a stone, after which, Josephus writes that he “gave up the ghost” – note the bracketed numbers within the Josephus text, which aligns to the Gospel of Mark:

…there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman[1], 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 [2] 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[3], a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides[4], and a voice against this whole people!” …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[5], 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!”[6]…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[7] 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[8].

There are several undeniable links between Jesus ben Ananias and the New Testament, notably in the Gospel of Mark, as well as 2 separate traditions recited in Acts of the Apostles.

Consider these Mark Comparisons:

1.  Mark 12:  …built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen
2.  Mark 9:5:  …let us make three tabernacles
3.  Mark 13:27:  …shall gather together his elect from the four winds
4.  Mark 2:19: …while the bridegroom is with them
5.  Mark 15:1:  …carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate
6.  Mark 14:21: ..woe unto that man…
7.  Mark 5:5:  …cutting himself with stones; Mark 16:4: …stone is rolled back
8.  Mark 15:37:  …gave up the ghost

This link is amplified by an earlier passage in Mark 2:19-20, and the reference to the bridegroom (this terminology was also used by the Johannines in the Gospel of John 2 and 3):

It is quite a coincidence, or perhaps not, that the Gospel of Mark uses, word-for-word, Josephus’ passage when he says Jesus “gave up the ghost” and makes reference to the “four winds”.  This is not the only example in the New Testament where Josephus was borrowed, but one gets to wonder:

Was Mark’s Jesus the same Jesus that Josephus mentions in Wars of the Jews (C. 75 CE)?

My position is that Mark’s original author, who was a member of the Cerinthian (pre-Marcionite)* community, did imagine Jesus ben Ananias as the worldly manifestation of the Jesus Christ who was sent by the highest God, the Monad who was separate from the God of Abraham and Moses.  Considering that Jesus ben Ananias foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and was subsequently alienated from his own people and suffered under Albinus because of his obsession, this link is obvious.

*Note:  In Against Heresies, Irenaeus writes “Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel of Mark…”

This was a Docetic view that Jesus and the Christ were separable, and Irenaeus earlier linked that theology to Cerinthus; Irenaeus went further to say that Ebionites held a similar view:  “but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus…”

This connection between Cerinthus and the Ebionites leads me to believe that this separable Docetism was one of the central tenets in the earliest theologies, regardless of who the Christians imagined created the world (Demiurge).  Out of the Ebionite community emerged the Gospel of the Hebrews, which seems like it was a James-centric forerunner to the Gospel of Matthew; the Gospel of the Hebrews lacked a birth story.

Of course, one cannot think of the name Ananias in a Christian context without thinking of Paul’s divine proxy, Ananias, who is described in Acts of the Apostles 9:10-17 as having helped Paul truly see the error of his persecutions.  In other words, Ananias was Jesus Christ’s counterpart in revealing the truth to Paul!  Consider how that might correspond to the Docetic view, where the Spirit fell upon Jesus like a dove after his baptism; like in Mark, when God spoke to Jesus after his baptism, Jesus likewise spoke to Ananias to show Paul the way.

Acts 9:10-17

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

In Acts 9, Ananias is a hero and something of a savior for Paul; however, a few chapters earlier, there was another (or was it another?) Ananias who holds an infamous place in the Christian story:

Acts 5:1-5

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.  With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.

Poor (different) Ananias – he withheld money for himself, instead of giving it all to the apostles!  Let that be a lesson to any Christian – if you sell property, give the proceeds to the church (for crying out loud!).

But isn’t it interesting that this money-grubbing jerk in Acts 5 shares the same name as the divine proxy in Acts 9.  Likewise, isn’t it interesting that both of these Acts characters share their name with such a curious character who so seemingly resembles Mark’s Jesus?

Here’s My Opinion

My suspicion is that all 3 of these characters are rooted in the same Christian tradition; it is no coincidence that the downfall of Ananias from Acts 5 was money-related.  This is the same stigma attached to Paul, and it was same stigma attached to Marcion.  Whereas Marcion tried to buy his way into the orthodoxy (similar to Simon Magus in Acts 8:9-24), Ananias tried to keep money for himself (“remember the poor, Paul!”).  The detail which adds to my suspicion, that Ananias is a representation of Paul and Marcion, is that it was specifically Peter who commanded Ananias to drop dead; this echoes the ugly confrontation between Peter and Paul in Antioch as described in Galatians 2:11; it is also similar to Peter’s run-in with Simon Magus in Acts 8.

Another detail which cannot be ignored is that the most pointed response to Mark came via the Gospel of Matthew; we read in Galatians “Paul” lamenting about an increasing Jamesian influence; if we presume that it was actually Marcion who wrote Galatians, then what he is really talking about is the Ebionite influence on the Syrians and Johannines.

The hidden “Easter Egg” tucked inside these traditions is that the community which produced the Gospel of Matthew would have been well aware that Mark’s Jesus referenced Jesus ben Ananias.

Acts of the Apostles, by killing money-loving Ananias, told Mark, his author, and the Docetic community that their Jesus was dead.

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Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

15 thoughts on “Jesus Christ And Jesus ben Ananias”

  1. Interesting! I’d never heard of this Jesus. Does lend credence to the idea that Jesus is a composite character, melded out of many crisis cultists and rebels, including Simon of Paraea.

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    1. I had never noticed until yesterday how unapologetically Mark borrowed from this Josephus passage about JBA.

      I had heard this idea before (that JBA was a template for JC), and had even presumed JBA was the primary model for JC, but Mark’s references to Josephus put all the pieces together.

      When I was re-reading Acts of the Apostles, the separate references to Aninias made it really obvious that the Acts 5 Ananias was a reference to Marcion and/or Paul, given that Ananias in Acts 9 served that proxy role for Paul – in a sense Acts 9’s Aninias played the role of Demiurge in the construction of Paul.

      Killing Ananias (Acts 5) for money-related issues really drove it home in my mind.

      In this sense, it really is quite poetic, and I’m almost certain that was the intent.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do think that the parallel of Jesus ben Ananias to our canonical Mark means that whoever is writing that gospel has the works of Josephus in front of them in order to anchor the docetic Jesus to a flesh and blood person. While some people may go euhemeristic where they may identify this Jesus ben Ananias to the historical Jesus, I think that position is erroneous for the rest of Jesus ben Ananias isn’t the same as to our Jesus of NT even if we strip away the magic tricks. Some might pander with some theses like the theory that Flavius Josephus wrote the four gospels commissioned by the Roman Aristocracy, I think this thesis is a rush to judgement and hasty generalization. Just because there are parallels with the gospels and Josephus doesn’t mean that it was Josephus who wrote the gospels.

    Liked by 1 person

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