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A book by Rich Van Winkle

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An Amazing Life: Jesus and the Nozerim

Appendix XXV

The Legitimate Jewish High Priest to the Time of Herod

(Mixed history & conjecture; follows Appendix VII)

After the High Priesthood was forcibly taken from the legitimate bloodline of Onias III in 175 BCE[1], the High Priesthood remained split between the pretenders and the contenders. Most historical records follow the succession among the pretenders. Here, we are focused upon the more obscure history of the legitimate High Priests - the Zaddokites/Oniads. Because the historical record is sparse, we may only speculate on many of the names and dates while remaining true to the framework of the historical record. This re-creation is largely based upon a rational assumption that the first High Priest named by Herod I – Hananeel the Egyptian (aka Ananelus the Babylonian) – was in the line of succession from Onias/Zaddok.

The context for the removal of the Jewish High Priest Onias III is detailed in history (and in Appendix VII herein). Basically, Antiochus (the Syrian King and Judean invader) sold the position of High Priest to Jason (an Oniad who was not the legitimate heir to the position - the “Wicked Priest” of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and forced Onias into exile. Jason was supplanted by his aide Menelaus (brother of Simon the Benjamite) who arranged the murder of Onias III in 172 BCE. That made his son, Onias IV (then 12 years old), the legitimate successor to the title “High Priest”. Onias IV and his entourage escaped to Egypt where they were received as friends by the Court of Ptolemy (Philometor) VI and Cleopatra III. We don’t know how large the fleeing group was, but it was sizeable enough to justify a gift of 100 square miles of land (in the ancient region named “On”- a coincidence) and the right to build a Jewish Temple near the former Bubastis Temple site (near Leontopolis[2] and known thereby) in the Nome of Heliopolis (see Appendices XIII and XVIII). There is plenty of evidence to show that the site also had military significance and that Onias had pledged military support for his benefactors.

The military aspect of the relationship was crucial because in 170 BCE, Antiochus IV invaded Egypt (the “Sixth Syrian War”) and captured the Egyptian King. To avoid Roman intervention, Antiochus allowed Ptolemy VI to remain as a puppet king along with his brother Ptolemy Euergetes. The Heliopolis Jews had served Ptolemy well and their new Temple was built like a fortress. Unhappy with his “puppet kings”, Antiochus led a second attack on Egypt in 168 BCE only to be stopped singularly by the Roman ambassador Gaius Popillius Laenas.

Meanwhile, rumors spread that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt and the deposed “High Priest” Jason gathered supporters and made a surprise attack on Menelaus in Jerusalem, forcing him to flee to Antiochus. Enraged by his “defeat” in Egypt and with army at hand, Antiochus stormed Jerusalem, slaughtered many of the Jews in the city, desecrated the Temple, and outlawed Judaism. Suddenly, the primary Temple of Judaism and the true leadership of the Jewish community was in Egypt. From this history we suppose the following…

Onias IV married Phoibe, the daughter of a wealthy and powerful Alexandrian Jew named Boethus[3]. They had four sons: Ananias, Chelkias, Banus, and Ari[4]. Under Onias IV, the Egyptian Jewish community and Temple thrived. Phoibe was as adept at politics as her husband, only she spoke better Greek, Egyptian, and Syrian. Since her father was a great benefactor to the Temple, she enjoyed unusually high status and privilege within the community.


                                                                                Onias IV

                                                                (m. Phoibe dau Boethus)

                                                ________________ |_______________

                                                |                 |                  |                 |             |

                                        Ananias    Chelkias     Banus     Berenice      Ari      


When Onias IV died in 142 BCE, Ananias assumed the title of High Priest at Leontopolis just as Simon, sole surviving son of Mattathias Maccabeus secured the freedom of Judea from Demetrius II. Whereas Onias IV had rebuked “reconciliation” attempts by the untrustworthy Macabbees (aka Hasmoneans), Ananias took Simon Thassi’s bait – a promise to restore his family as the High Priests in Jerusalem.  Ananias, his wife, and their infant son, Ananleus, travelled to Jerusalem and were promptly imprisoned. The newly reconstituted Sanhedrin then declared Simon the High Priest and Ethnarch (ecclesiastical, military, and civil head of the nation) and these offices were made hereditary to the Hasmoneans. The Oniads were screwed – so long as the legitimate heir to the High Priesthood was alive and qualified, no one else could succeed him. Meanwhile, the imposter High Priest enjoyed great stature by liberating Jerusalem and re-dedicating the Temple.

With the primary claim to legitimacy lost, the Temple at Leontopolis languished. The remaining Oniads were hunted by Simon’s agents and could not help their brother in Judea. Instead, they hoped for Divine intervention and thought they might receive such when Simon was murdered in 135 BCE[5]. Supporters of the Oniads (calling themselves Zaddokites and loyalists - or Zealots) tried to bring public pressure for the restoration of the “legitimate” priesthood.  But their timing was bad since Antiochus VII Sidetes, the Seleucid King, marched into Judea and laid siege on Jerusalem. John Hyrcanus (I) succeeded Simon and could ill afford to have distractions from competitors in Jerusalem.  Setting a precedent that would later affect his grandson similarly, John rid himself of the High Priest contender by disfiguring[6] Ananias before sending him into imprisonment/exile at the Hasmonean fortress at Qumran.

However, because Ananias was no longer able to serve as High Priest, succession within the Oniads was allowed and Banus bar Onias became the legitimate High Priest (Ananleus bar Ananias was only 10 years old). Banus was both competent and popular so that he sustained the prestige of the Temple at Leontopolis and an era of direct competition with the Jerusalem Temple ensued. Meanwhile, John Hyrcanus pulled off a comeback of his own after he destroyed the Jewish Temple at Mt. Gerizim, instituted forced conversions on the Idumeans, and Antiochus VII was killed (129-128 BCE). Hyrcanus began an era of conquest, consolidation, and consolation that marked a high point in Judean power[7]. His largely mercenary army was paid for by funds that Hyrcanus stole from the Temple and the Tomb of David, but he gained support from the Jewish Council (later, the Sanhedrin), the Aristocricy, and many Judeans. Much of this support was the result of his highly popular wife and queen, Salome Alexandra The High Priest with ephod and breastplate(aka Alexandra of Jerusalem).

Hyrcanus had wanted the famous Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach[8], who was well known for great wisdom, honesty, and piety, as a friend and adviser so he married the Rabbi’s youngest sister Shelomith (Salome) and made her queen. He also arranged for Rabbi Shimon to be “elected” as Nasi (President) of the Sanhedrin – a move which furthered the on-going dispute between the two major “parties”: the Sadducees and the Pharisees (see Appendix XVI). Between 120 BCE and 78 BCE, Salome’s husbands (brothers-in-law), and sons held the highest positions in Judea until she became the only female regent in Palestine during the era.

For Banus and the Jews in Egypt, the situation was entirely different. Hyrcanus sought and was granted favorable status with the Romans who, in turn, wanted him to maintain good relations with the Ptolemaic Court.  Thus, the Temple at Leontopolis avoided the fate of the Samaritan Temple (Destroyed by John Hyrcanus around 130 BCE). Jerusalem and its priests had power and position, but lacked religious authority – a situation best symbolized by their lack of sacred treasures (see Appendix XXVII).

When Hyrcanus died (104 BCE), turmoil returned. Hyrcanus had left a will with specific instructions for succession, but that was soon trashed. His son Aristobulus (I) was to receive the title of High Priest while Salome was to hold civil power. Instead, Aristobulus and his brother Antigonus imprisoned their mother (name unknown) and other three brothers. They allowed their mother to starve to death. Aristobulus declared himself "king" and wore “the diadem on his head” (Ant. xiii, 301) even though he was not descended from David[9]. (That Josephus offers this detail about the diadem while not mentioning the Sacred Ephod[10] points to the legitimate Ephod being elsewhere). He married his brother’s wife (Salome) so that she remained Queen.

Ananias and his wife died while in exile at Qumran, leaving their son, Ananleus, as the primary heir of the main line of Oniad succession. Upon the advice of Salome, Aristobulus had Ananleus released from his captivity and he was returned to Egypt where his Uncle Banus and family welcomed him warmly. There, he was introduced to his future wife, Soteira[11], daughter of Camithus bar Boethus, the brother of Phoibe. Soteira bore a son who they named Sethus. Ananleus would never become High Priest but his descendants would mix with the family of Boethus and form a High Priest dynasty that would last until the end of Second Temple Judaism.

Aristobulus was a Sadducee like his predecessors, but lacked their religious convictions. Under his short reign, for example, the name of the Jewish Counsel was changed from “Hever ha-Yehudim” (The Jewish Commonwealth) to the Greek name: “Synhedrion” (Sanhedrin). A sickly man, Aristobulus allowed others undue influence over him and he was convinced to murder Antogonas. When he died in 104 BCE, Salome Alexandra took control, released the imprisoned brothers and named Alexander Jannaeus the successor. He, in turn, married Salome so that she remained Queen (yes, again).

The High Priests of Leontopolis (speculative):

171-142 BCE: Onias IV

142-134 BCE: Ananias bar Onias (absent, 138-134 BCE)

134 - 99 BCE: Banus bar Onias

99 - 79   BCE: Boethus bar Banus

79 - 54   BCE: Phiabi bar Ari

54 - 22   BCE: Sethus bar Ananleus

22 - 4     BCE: Yohan bar Sethus


Banus bar Onias died in 99 BCE and the succession of the High Priesthood was disputed. Technically, Ananleus had the most legitimate claim, but many felt he was tainted by his upbringing in exile and his lack of priestly experience. Banus’ brother Ari was considered too feeble to assume the High Priesthood. Thus, a choice was made from the three other most legitimate eligible heirs: Boethus bar Banus, Khoni bar Ari, and Phiabi bar Ari. Although he was not the most popular choice, Banus’ only son, Boethus, was designated the most legitimate of these three and he was named High Priest[12]. Boethus would demonstrate that even legitimate High Priests could sometimes be less than pious. Because there was significant dissention regarding the appointment of Boethus, the Hever ha-Yehudim (“Sanhedrin”) of Heliopolis made a special provision regarding Ari’s descendants. This requires a short side story…

We should recall that "The Paralipomena of Jeremiah" (or “4 Baruch”) states that Jeremiah hid the Jewish sacred objects from the Jerusalem Temple just before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile (586 BCE) and that at the conclusion of the exile (538 BCE) the Persian King Cyrus allowed the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of Jewish worship there. The Book of Ezra provides a detailed listing of the objects returned to the Temple, but that list includes none of the most sacred objects (the Ark of the Covenant and its mercy seat, a golden table for showbread, a 75 pound solid gold menorah, a square bronze altar, a perpetual lamp, an incense altar, and a bronze laver). It is most likely that the objects remained in hiding even after the Temple was restored and that replicas were made to permit services in the restored Temple.

The continuous turmoil which surrounded and engulfed Judea over the subsequent half century would have rationally required that God’s most sacred objects remain hidden. The secret of their location would have been closely held within the High Priesthood and with the death of Onias III, that secret would have travelled to Egypt and Heliopolis with his son’s entourage. Thus, it was passed down in the line of Egyptian High Priests

171-142 BCE        Onias IV

142-134 BCE        Ananias bar Onias (absent, 138-134 BCE)

134-99 BCE          Banus bar Onias

However, in 99 BCE, the Jewish Council of Leontopolis gave the title of שָׁמַר (Shawmar or Keeper) to Phiabi bar Ari and subsequently the titles of Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and Shawmar were separate[13]. The ultimate authority within Judaism rested with whoever held the title of High Priest, possessed the sacred objects, and worshiped within the Jerusalem Temple. The three had not coexisted since before the exile – 500 years earlier.

Ptolemy X Alexander and Cleopatra Berenice (III) ruled Egypt during this time of trouble (101 BCE-90 BCE) and Boethus focused upon gaining wealth more than improving his piety. Boethus flowed with the political tide in Egypt and aligned with whichever Ptolemy was atop the heap. He provided tax revenue, soldiers, and skilled military leaders to assist the Egyptian Court. But the Egyptian people resented the Greeks along with the influential and prosperous Jews and in 90 BCE Alexandrians expelled Ptolemy X (partly because his close ties with the Jews)[14]. 

Boethus bar Banus had poor health and and he chose affluence and opulence over title. With the birth of his first child, Joazar, he functionally relinquished the High Priesthood and moved with his (first) wife to Alexandria (just after Cleopatra Berenice III became regent). Boethus could be accurately viewed in different ways: to the pious fundamentalists, he was a greedy radical who misused his position for personal gain; to the pragmatic Jews he was a shrewd businessman who brought wealth and prosperity to many. But even those who didn’t care for his type of “righteousness” had to acknowledge his success in expanding and improving the Temple and increasing its prestige. Part of that prestige was based upon a widespread belief that the Holy vessels and sacred objects used at Leontopolis were the real ones (as were its High Priests).

While the Hasmonean High Priests (pretenders) in Jerusalem held the preferred location and proper building for the Jewish Temple, they simply couldn’t convince any informed Jew that they legitimately represented God. So, instead, they tokenized and ritualized Judaism and convinced many that their religion was more about tithing, sacrifice, and pilgrimages than about righteousness and Divine duty. The Covenant became more about what you gave to God’s representatives than about what you did for God. Religious focus turned away from compliance with the Torah’s primary edicts and more towards obedience to rituals. For Judean Jews, Judaism became an easier but more expensive religion. The rift between orthodox Jews who were centered on the “old ways of righteousness” and the new Jews who were centered upon rituals and tokens was highly significant before, during, and after the life of Jesus.

Jannaeus ruled with Salome during the period which included Roman disengagement from regional affairs (a Roman civil war started in 88 BCE) and the Jewish Civil War (82 BCE-78 BCE). Judea was expanded and further Hellenized – Jannaeus was concerned more about conquests than religious infighting between the Sadducees and Pharisees. Because his Queen was a friend of Cleopatra Berenice (III), he aligned with her against the Egyptian co-ruler Ptolemy Lathyrus. This alignment also involved Jewish generals in the Egyptian army who had ties to Heliopolis. Again, the Temple at Leontopolis was secure while wars took place all around Judea and intrigue governed Egypt.

The departure of Boethus led to the rise of Phiabi bar Ari. His older brother Honi would have assumed the duties of High Priest except that he was military leader of the community and deemed that role his calling. Phiabi would have been the choice of many for High Priest upon the death of Banus except for his young age. He had impressed everyone with his youthful wisdom and piety, but proved even more capable and competent than anyone expected. Amongst his greatest insights was an understanding of the degree to which the Romans would come to dominate their world. 

The Jews in Heliopolis were well removed from Alexandrian politics, but not independent or fully isolated. They had established a power base in the Egyptian military, but as Egypt became increasingly controlled by the Romans, the Egyptian military offered less and less to the Egyptian king (or queen). Luckily, the Jews had established themselves in the more stable role of tax collection. Regardless of who ruled Egypt, there was great need for taxation. The Ptolemies allowed the Romans to take control of the military and had to offer them large amounts of tribute to remain titular rulers of Egypt. The taxes which would pay that tribute were collected mostly by Jewish toll collectors, tax collectors, and tax farmers. Because of their crucial roles in tax farming and agriculture, the Jews in Heliopolis and the Temple at Leontopolis were allowed great independence.

From 89 BCE to 79 BCE, Egypt was in turmoil (basically, civil war). Ptolemy IX Soter took over. His son was killed and then Soter married his son’s wife.  In 81 BCE, Soter died and Cleopatra Berenice III assumed the throne. But less than a year later, Sulla[15] appointed Ptolemy XI Alexander king and the new king also married Berenice (III). After only eighteen days as king, he killed the popular Queen and an Alexandrian mob immediately lynched Ptolemy XI Alexander. He was replaced by Ptolemy Neos Dionysos Theos Philopator Theos Philadelphos, better known as "Auletes" to his friends or "Nothos" (Νόθος, - the Bastard) to others (or his friends in private). Under Auletes, Egypt would become a vassal state (under a “foedus” or formal alliance with Rome), a more priestly state, and a poorer state. He was detested by his own people and his Roman overlords[16].

Late in his life (~82 BCE), Boethus bore two more sons (twins) with his second (Egyptian) wife and he named the first Phabet (after his grandmother) and the second, Simon. But soon thereafter, Boethus died and his household (and family) turned over to his brother Eleazar. The triad of Boethus, Phiabi, and Honi had functioned remarkably well. Boethus became more and more wealthy, Phiabi became more and more revered, and Honi became increasingly powerful. Boethus expanded his wealth by expanding his investments into agriculture. Phiabi became more revered as his reputation for piety, fairness, and insight grew. Honi became more powerful by assuming command of the military units tasked with guarding the taxing agents and the treasury. Because all three of them valued the future of their community, their religion, and their children more than themselves, they saw the worth of cooperation and through their cooperation the Egyptian Jews prospered even more. The death of Boethus changed things quickly.

                                                 The Oniad High Priests and Family


                                                                                   Onias IV

                                                                (m. Phoibe dau Boethus)

                                                                     ________ |_______________________> Ari (as below)

                                                                    |                                                   |                                   

                                                            Ananias                                           Banus                                     

                                                                  |                                         _____|_______________

                                                      Ananleus                                  |                                                    |            

                                                       |                                           Boethus                                           Eleazar      

                                            Sethus                             _______|_________                    _____|______               

                                 ______|___                                               |                    |                   |                          |

                              |                        |                           Joazar      Phabet          Simon         Thea           Matthan

                         Jesus            Ananus                                             |                  |                                                |          

                                __________|___________                 Joshua       Mariamme                        Camithus

                             |   |             |               |                 Ishmael    (m. Herod-3rd)              _____|_____

                      Jonathan  Eleazar   Matthias   Pazit             Joses                 |                                |                       |

                                        (Theophilus)          (m. Caiphas)                   Herod II (“Rus”)           Simon          Josephus  




                                                                 Onias IV (Continued)

                                                                (m. Phoibe dau Boethus)

                                  _____________________ |_________________

                                |              |                                                                              |                            

                         Ananias  Banus                                                                         Ari

                                (as above)                                           ______________|_____________

                                                                                                |                                 |                              |                          

                                                                                           Honi                        Hanna                     Phiabi                    

                                                                               _____|_____        (m. Jeshua)    ________|________

                                                                              |                       |                                   |                         |     

                                                                          Sola                    Lucius                       Hanan                              Johanna          


                                                                                                                        |                                             |

                                                                                                        (with Deena[17])                      (with Dione)

                                                                                         ________|__________             _____|______

                                                                                        |             |             |             |                |                           |

                                                                                     Yoni   Yeshua   Yana     Yohan   Dositheus         Deanna                                                         


Pink = Daughters or wives of High Priests

Green = Served as High Priest at Leontopolis

Blue = Served as High Priest in Jerusalem
Eleazar was even more focused upon wealth than his brother – and he was greedier. Because of Eleazar, the House of Onias would become divided and enmity within the family would prevail for generations. Eleazar had little interest in the priesthood except for its income producing potential. With the death of Boethus, there was no doubt that the popular Phiabi would gain the title of High Priest to complement his functioning as such. But Eleazar was technically the legal successor and he suggested that he would fight for his right to the title (even though everyone understood his real intent was extortion). His demand was that either the title be returned to his line or that he be paid for its loss.

Phiabi shrewdly noted that the law would favor return of the High Priesthood to the main line of succession once Sethus was of age, so Eleazar’s position was weakened right off the bat. Nevertheless, Phiabi wanted to avoid a fight and hoped to retain family harmony, so he convinced his brother to offer one of the things Eleazar sought: control of the special troops that assisted and protected the tax collectors, toll collectors, and tax farmers. (Honi was ready to retire and Phiabi suggested that the Romans would soon take over the function of these troops anyway). Eleazar, thinking he had won a great bargain, sold the right of succession for his and his brother’s sons. In 79 BCE, Phiabi became the legitimate Jewish High Priest. The succession then followed this progression…

99-79   BCE          de jure: Boethus bar Banus/de facto: Phiabi bar Ari

79-53   BCE          Phiabi bar Ari

53-25   BCE          Sethus bar Ananleus

25-4     BCE           Yohan bar Sethus

On his deathbed (in 78 BCE) Alexander Jannaeus entrusted the government to his wife instead of his sons. This probably reflected both her capabilities as well as Jannaeus’ low opinion of his sons. Salome handled a very difficult situation with her normal aplomb and wisdom: Jannaeus had died at Ragaba in the midst of his siege there. Salome hid the fact of his death from both friend and foe until the siege was completed. Next, she went to the Pharisees (who held her loyalties since her brother had been their leader) and arranged a pact whereby Jannaeus would receive full honors and state burial and the Pharisees would be returned to power in the Sanhedrin[18]. This assured a peaceful transition in power and the continuation of the Hasmonean dynasty.

Salome ruled over a prosperous and relatively peaceful Judea and was beloved by the people. The Pharisees were the party popular with the people and from 76-67 BCE the Pharisaical movement grew strong roots through the establishment of “public schools” and decentralized religious authority (the rabbinical/synagogue movement). Of course, Salome could not act as High Priest and so she appointed her son John Hyrcanus II to that position.

Salome was a peacemaker and a pious Jew, so she wanted to reunite the priesthood and restore legitimacy to the Jerusalem Temple. Conversely, by the time she named her son as High Priest, several generations had lived with Hasmonean High Priests and acceptance of their authority was, well, accepted. So, despite her desire for reunification, she didn’t want to give up too much. The priests at Leontopolis seemed far removed from Judea and, for Salome, the troubles in Egypt signaled their decline. Nevertheless, Salome saw the clear advantage in making peace with the Egyptian Jews and their leaders – at a time of her advantage.

Unfortunately, after some success in opening a dialog with Phiabi, Salome died in 67 BC and Hyrcanus (II) became both King and High Priest. His chief advisor was Antipater, the Idumean general. Hyrcanus II (who shared his mother’s political views) had reigned but a few months before his younger brother, Aristobulus II, rose in rebellion (as his politics favored the Sadducees). The brothers met in battle near Jericho where some of Hyrcanus' soldiers deserted to Aristobulus’ side. Hyrcanus escaped and took refuge in the (Baris) citadel of Jerusalem. Aristobulus then captured the adjoining Temple and forced Hyrcanus to accept terms requiring Hyrcanus to transfer his titles to Aristobulus (although Hyrcanus continued to receive the revenues from the office of High Priest – showing his priorities). 

Aristobulus II promptly reversed the positions of power established by his mother so that the Sadducees regained control of the Sanhedrin. The agreement between brothers did not last very long and Hyrcanus took refuge with Aretas III (the Nabataean King). Following Hyrcanus’ promises of tribute and returned territory, the Nabataeans laid siege to Jerusalem for several months. During the siege, the adherents of Hyrcanus II stoned the pious Onias bar Hilkiah (aka Honi ha-Magel or Honi the circle maker)[19]. As the siege wore on for months, Aristobulus offered bribes to and thereby received support from Aemilius Scarus, the Roman legate of Syria. Scarus went to Judea and ordered Aretas to withdraw. As the Nabataean army withdrew, Aristobulus sent his army in pursuit and the Nabataeans were decimated at Papyron (creating a lasting legacy of hatred).

Meanwhile, the Roman general Pompey arrived in Damascus (63 BCE) where Hyrcanus and other Judean groups[20] appealed directly to him for intervention. Both warring brothers appeared before Pompey, but Hyrcanus had offered Pompey greater bribes and as it became clear that Pompey favored Hyrcanus, Aristobulus left Damascus and took refuge at the Hasmonean fortress at Alexandrium (between Jerusalem and Damascus overlooking the Jordan valley). Pompey used this action as a pretext to attack Judea and Aristobulus promptly surrendered. However, Aristobulus’ supporters fortified themselves in Jerusalem (in both the temple and Baris) so that Pompey’s army laid siege, breached the walls, and slaughtered over 10,000 Jews. Pompey personally entered the Holy of Holies, but either found it empty or decided to leave it intact. Aristobulus was sent to Rome as a hostage, Hyrcanus was restored as High Priest, and Judea was placed under direct Roman control. The brotherly feud had been a disaster for Judeans – aside from falling under Roman administration, they were obliged to pay a large tribute and their territory was greatly reduced (the loss of the coastal plain deprived Judea direct access to the Mediterranean). Idumea and Samaria were made autonomous as were several Hellenistic cities (forming the “Decapolis”).

The biggest “winner” in this debacle was Antipater, son of Antipas the Idumaean[21]. Having worked his way up the ranks during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, he aligned himself with Hyrcanus II and became a key aide. Antipater had married Cypros (a Nabataean princess) and was very wealthy, crafty, and politically adept. Gabinius, who Pompey had assigned to deal with Judea (and later became the Roman proconsul in Syria) found favor in Antipater and made him the tax-collector of the Jewish realm. While serving Gabinius, Antipater worked with and assisted the young Mark Anthony. Antipater was subsequently named governor of Idumaea. His second son[22], Herod, would become the Judean King known as “Herod the Great”.

Meanwhile (58 BCE) in Egypt, aggravated by Aluetes’ heavy taxes (largely to pay for Roman bribes) and the oppressive cost of living, Egyptians stormed Alexandria and took control of most of the city. Auletes sneaked out of the city with his daughter Cleopatra VII and made his way to Rome. His wife/sister, Cleopatra Tryphaena (VI)[23], took control and kept Berenice IV[24] at her side. In the time (almost three years) it took Auletes to gather enough support for his return to power, Cleopatra Tryphaena had been poisoned (probably by or on behalf of Berenice). Cleopatra Tryphaena had had a good relationship with the Jews in Heliopolis, but Berenice was the opposite[25].

At Leontopolis, Phiabi groomed Sethus bar Ananleus (aka Sie) to be his successor and they became best friends. Until his marriage, Sethus treated Hanan, Phiabi’s son, as a brother. After his marriage, their relationship changed in unexpected ways. Sethus married a cousin named Deena and they worked diligently for two years at producing a child without result. Deena honored the law and tradition by asking her maid-servant to go in with Sethus and bear her a child. But, after six months it became apparent that the problem wasn’t with Deena. Not surprisingly, the law and custom for this situation was not the same and Sethus was unsure of the proper course of action. So, he asked Phiabi for advice.

The most common solution was to have one’s brother do the duty and attempt impregnation, but Sethus was the only male child of Ananleus. Sethus proposed that Phiabi act as his brother, but Phiabi declined because of his position, his age, and his wife. And so, Sethus asked if Hanan might perform this function. It was a complex question because Hanan was just of age, single, and inexperienced. It would have been preferable to have a man who had already fathered several children (ideally one who was recently widowed), since there would be little doubt as to his health and ability. An older man would also be more mature in other relevant ways. But Sethus didn’t want just any father for his children and he rejected his cousins Sola and Lucius (sons of his uncle Honi). Hanan was uncertain, but willing – even after his father explained that this might create future problems for Hanan’s marriage.

The plan worked remarkably well and had two unexpected results: Deena proved not only fertile, but very fertile. And, Hanan proved that sex can lead to love. But not only did Hanan fall in love with Deena, he loved the children that she bore him… and Sethus. Traditionally, the allowance or exception for “adultery” with the wife’s maid-servant was to provide a son and after a son was born, the allowance ended. After two daughters and two sons, Hanan and Deena were still working on more. Strangely, this was less a problem for Sethus than for Phiabi because of his fatherly desire that Hanan get married and go on with his life. But then, other matters came up which turned their focus elsewhere.

Auletes managed to gain Roman support for his return to the throne in a back-handed way: he convinced them that the only way he could pay his huge debt was if he was king of Egypt. Nevertheless, he was unable to gather enough support to impel his return to the throne. But, in 55 BCE, he offered a bribe of 10,000 talents (a fortune) to Aulus Gabinius and/or Pompey to act without Senate approval. With Gabiniani troops, they captured Alexandria and restored Auletes to the throne (Berenice was executed).  But there was one interesting addition: the Romans had seen that the daughter of Auletes was special and they wanted the 14 year old Cleopatra (Philopator VII – the most famous “Cleopatra”) as joint regent. (The Egyptian campaign included the young Mark Antony and Gabinius left part of his troops in Egypt to fight against rebels.)

The Egyptian Jews adeptly avoided Ptolemaic politics and the return of Auletes was a boon for them since he was desperate to come up with the 10,000 talents he owned the Romans. But the taxes and pressures he put on the Egyptian people led to continuous unrest[26]. Gabiniani troops (2,000 strong) were there to keep Auletes in power, not to help him collect taxes. Thus, Auletes “hired” additional troops under the control of Eleazar and Joazar to maintain “economic order”. The Egyptians hated these Jewish mercenaries (Eleazar was their leader) and friction between Jews and Egyptians increased. Security in Heliopolis and Leontopolis had to be increased.

Cleopatra was interested in the strange “foreigners” who held prominent positions in Alexandria and controlled some of the best agricultural land in Egypt (planted and maintained by five generations of Jews). During her first royal regalia up the Nile to honor the gods at Memphis, she arranged a side-tour to see the nearby Jewish Temple. There, she was greeted warmly by Phiabi and the Jews – all of who recalled the generosity of her great grandfather (Ptolemy Philometor) and remained loyal to the Ptolemies. In turn, Cleopatra was very impressed by the Jews and decided to learn their language (her language skills were legendary). She took special interest in Hanan and asked if he might be sent as an envoy and teacher to Alexandria. Phiabi had reservations, but thought it best for his son to get away.

Hanan had been in Alexander only a short while when he received word that his father was ill and so Cleopatra gave him leave to return home. He arrived just in time to say goodbye to his beloved father. It was an awkward time in three regards: Hanan’s departure had been difficult and emotional for all of Sie’s family, Yom Kippur was only a week away, and there was a general desire within the community to honor Phiabi by having his son succeed him. Hanan put a succinct end to the later problem by declaring that he was unable and unwilling to act as High Priest. He also made it clear that his father’s wish would have been for Sethus to become his successor. That left little time to deal with all the other family issues since the funeral and burial needed to occur before the festival. Sethus was promptly installed as High Priest and he presided over the funeral of his mentor, friend, and near father. Jews came from far and wide to pay respects to Phiabi and although it was an incredibly sad time for all, there was great rejoicing in remembrance and respect.

The acceptance of his new title and role humbled Sethus and brought forth unexpected changes in his character. He became more serious, more devoted, and more conservative. It was the later change which directly affected Hanan as Sethus made it clear that he could no longer share his wife or his family with another man. Although Hanan understood and respected this decision, that didn’t make it easy to accept or implement. First, they broke the news to Deena and she took it well (having cause to anticipate it). The children were not so understanding, especially the oldest daughter, Yoni, and the oldest son, Yeshua. In their view, Hanan was much more than a family friend (even though they didn’t know he was their actual father).

Before Hanan returned to Alexandria, he decided to reveal his role as Shawmar to Sie and proposed that they devise a better means of keeping and sustaining the great secret. Sie appreciated this trust but was taken back by the fact that Hanan did not actually reveal the secret or the details of how it was being kept before he departed. But with subsequent reflection, Sie understood Hana’s motives and thinking: such a secret required extraordinary protections. Sie invested plenty of thought into a new method of keeping the secret safe and enduring.

 For three years, Hanan lived in the royal palace in Alexandria while his heart and mind remained at home. He made the pilgrimages to his Temple and thereby stayed in close contact with Sie, Deena, and the kids – all of whom were growing quickly. On each visit home, Hanan and Sie found time to discuss the great secret and eventually agreed that the High Priest must know of the secret, but not the secret itself. A separate method of unraveling the secret was to be made available to Sie and his successors while Hanan would hear Sie’s suggestions and implement the methodology he alone selected.

Hanan learned politics, Egyptian language and culture, and regional economics. He was impressed by Cleopatra even though many of her ideas seemed worse than odd to him. But one of her ideas would change his life: she wanted Hanan to marry into her family. He successfully resisted that idea until he was introduced to Dione, daughter of Theophilus and Selene (Cleopatra’s niece). It was infatuation at first sight and over a short period it transformed into admiration, lust, and love. Sie and Deena were happy to see Hanan happily in love, but questioned his marriage to a non-Jew. Cleopatra attempted to solve that problem by ordering her niece to convert and Hanan explained that only a voluntary conversion would be considered valid. Dione, without knowing what her conversion really meant, volunteered because she found Hanan both attractive and interesting (and she was anxious to escape the continuous intrigue of the Egyptian royal court).

Auletes died in 51 BCE and his will made the 18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother (10-year-old Ptolemy XIII) joint monarchs. Their early years were problematic due to their father’s poor management, his massive debt, drought of the Nile, famine, and a variety of political conflicts. Despite her father’s will, Cleopatra quickly made it clear that she had no intention of sharing power with her brother. However, Auletes had made Rome the executors of his will, so they had more to say about the matter than pleased Cleopatra. Rome ensured that the young Ptolemy had Roman advisors (Pothinus, Achillas, and Theodotus) and they sought power for their ward. On the other, hand, Rome and its Senate were busy with its own affairs[27], so when Ptolemy’s advisors rose against Cleopatra, she was forced to flee (along with her sister Arsinoe).

The split between Cleopatra and her brother also split the Oniads: Joazar (who now led the Boethus/Eleazar side) bet on Ptolemy while Hanan (and Dione) went with Cleopatra. Cleopatra headed for Pelusium (just north of Heliopolis Nome) to hold up and gather forces who favored her. The Jews generally favored her and offered what support they could, but the aristocratic Jews tried to remain neutral as they had for decades. Since Joazar controlled most of the Egyptian Jewish military, they were unable to offer the assistance Cleopatra needed. Sie was also forced to remain neutral since such was in the best interests of the community. Seeing Hanan’s dilemma, Cleopatra suggested that he remain in Leontopolis.

The next few years completely altered human history: Caesar defeated Pompey, Pompey tried to flee to Egypt, he was betrayed and killed by Ptolemy’s advisors in a way that angered Caesar, Cleopatra gathered an army in Syria, Caesar took Egypt and Cleopatra arranged perhaps the strangest alliance in history (having herself hidden in a rolled up carpet, she met Caesar and bore his child 9 months later). In 48 BCE, Caesar returned Cleopatra to the Egyptian throne (after defeating Ptolemy's army and having Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile).

In 47 BCE, Caesar also appointed Hyrcanus “Ethnarch of Judea[28]”, but since Antipater controlled everything of significance, Hyrcanus was largely a figurehead. Cleopatra travelled to Rome and continued a scandalous affair with Caesar. Then, the Roman world returned to chaos when Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE. Antipater displayed his political prowess by appointing his sons (Phaesal and Herod) to prominent positions and aligning with Mark Anthony. But then, Antipater was poisoned (in 43 BCE) and his son Herod hastened to avenge his father’s death and take his place (aligning with Cassius).

Meanwhile, Antigonus, the younger son of Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus' nephew, gained the support of Ptolemy, the son of Mennæus of Chalcis, and made an attempt to take the Palestinian throne. Herod defeated Antigonus, quelling the revolt and, on his return to Jerusalem, was greeted triumphantly by Hyrcanus who offered Herod marriage to his beautiful granddaughter, Mariamne (daughter of Alexander and Alexandra). This secured the continuity of the Hyrcanus line and gave Herod prestige and power. He aggressively expanded his authority (executions without trials) and was accused of abuses by Judeans such that he was ordered to stand trial before the Sanhedrin (led by Shemaiah). But Herod appeared for trial in royal garb attended by a contingent of guards sufficient to intimidate the Court. Instead of acting directly against Herod, they waited to send representatives to Mark Antony seeking Herod’s replacement (as below)

Hanan’s return to the Heliopolis community was somewhat awkward. Dione was already aware of Hanan’s close relationship with Sie and Deena and when she learned the whole story, she was shocked. But Hanan had approached the revelation thoughtfully and did it with Sie and Deena present. Dione asked some obvious and personal questions as she passed through several emotional stages in quick succession: anger, jealousy, empathy, and understanding. Then she dropped her own “bombshell” – she was pregnant.

After the battle of Philippi (42 BCE) made Mark Antony and Octavian the new Roman leaders (the “Second Triumvirate”), Judeans hoped for the removal of Herod (and his brother Phasael). A contingent of Jewish nobles met with Antony at Bithynia and complained of the Herod’s abuses, but Antony recalled that Herod’s father (Antipater) had served him well while he served under Gabinius (as above). Hyrcanus himself pleaded the cause of Herod and Herod offered bribes to ensure Antony’s favor. Thus, despite repeated attempts to renew the charges, the Jewish group did worse than fail: Antony awarded Herod the title of “Tetrarch of Galilee” and Herod's brother, Phasael, the title of “Tetrarch of Jerusalem”. This allowed Hyrcanus to retain the title of High Priest, but with even less power.

It was clear to both Sie and Hanan that the future of their people was in jeopardy: the Roman influx and influence was bound to get worse, the animosity towards the Egyptian Jews was increasing, the situation in Judea wasn’t improving, and fewer and fewer people were using the Temple at Leontopolis. (Travel was increasingly difficult, expensive, and risky). Cleopatra had advised Hanan, before suggesting that he return to Heliopolis, that the Romans would eventually become far more powerful and controlling: “I fear for my people and yours,” she said sadly. It was time for the cousins/brothers/fathers to start planning for the worse. For a people who had experienced what the Jews had, planning for the worst was part of their nature.

In 40 BCE, the Parthian Pacorus (who had supported the losers at the battle of Philippi) attacked the Romans again and quickly advanced into Judea, overthrowing the Roman clients including Herod and Hyrcanus. The Parthians appointed Antigonus II, the nephew of Hyrcanus, as High Priest. Antigonus had Hycanus seized and proceeded to bite off his ears. (Such mutilation made him permanently ineligible for the priesthood). Then Hyrcanus was taken to Babylonia, where he lived with the Babylonian Jews. Herod had escaped to Rome and sought Roman military assistance to recapture Judea.

In 37 BCE, Herod vanquished Antigonus[29] but feared that Hyrcanus might induce the Parthians to help him regain the throne. So, he persuaded the former High Priest to return to Jerusalem where Herod received him with honors including the presidency of the Sanhedrin. Herod sought a High Priest outside the Hyrcanus/Hasmonean line and gathered suggestions from his staff and a few trusted priests. It was one of them who brought up the “line of Aaronite priests who still claimed to be the legitimate holders of the High Priesthood”. Intrigued, Herod sent this priest, named Benaiah, and his agent, Achaz, to locate these Aaronites and make inquires about their coming to Jerusalem.

Benaiah knew right where to look and a week later they were in Leontopolis (about 270 miles from Jerusalem). He outlined what Herod had in mind to Sie and Hanan. Benaiah knew the history, explained how this was different than prior offers from the Hasmoneans, and was frank that it wouldn’t be risk free. However, the offer of returning the rightful title to the rightful place was simply irresistible. Sie  brought the issue before their Council (a 23 member “Sanhedrin”). That Herod didn’t necessarily want the legitimate High Priest, just a High Priest who had some legitimacy, was the most compelling part of the deal. After deciding to accept the offer, the discussion turned to how to make it work and who would go.

The answer was clear – if Hanan would accept. He discussed it at length with Dione and the family and they decided to accept the offer under certain conditions. Those would involve “negotiation” directly with Herod. Hanan had never been to Jerusalem and found the city oppressive. Travelling with Benaiah and Achaz meant that Hanan went straight to Herod’s Palace. There was an impressive effort underway to clean it up and remodel, but it still showed signs of the turmoil that had prevailed in Jerusalem for decades. Hanan was surprisingly impressed by Herod – a man who could be charming, witty, and persuasive - or treacherous, ruthless, and murderous. Hanan saw only the good side during their meeting and Herod was in a generous mood: he offered Hanan a deal he simply couldn’t refuse.

In essence, Herod wanted the High Priest removed from politics – so did Hanan. Herod wanted the Temple to function more as it had in the old days with a focus upon religious services and teaching – so did Hanan. Herod wanted the Sanhedrin to focus upon religious matters, civil justice, and operation of the priesthood instead of governing the nation. Hanan was willing to concede that such should be its primary focus. And, when it came to finances, Herod simply drew a line between Temple income and Temple related income: the High Priest would collect and control the former, Herod would control the later. Herod assured Hanan that its treasures and treasury would be secure, that its archiving function would be independent, and that the priesthood would be allowed great independence so long as it avoided political actions. Finding substantive agreement, Hanan accepted the deal.

That Herod would appoint as High Priest “a Zaddokite from Egypt” (officially known as Hananiel or Ananeel[30]) did not sit well with the Hasmonean side of the family, especially Herod’s mother-in-law[31], Alexandra. Alexandra wanted Aristobulus, brother of Mariamne, to be the High Priest and so she complained to her good friend Cleopatra (VII).

During his first appointment ceremony, some of Hanan’s relatives and friends made the trip to Jerusalem (although many didn’t come for fear that this was but another ruse to capture the legitimate High Priest candidates). Those who came from Heliopolis were generally “well wishers” whereas most of the Alexandrian contingent were simply looking for favors or appointment to some position. Hanan was confronted by serious challenges since the Jerusalem priesthood was in disarray, he had no friends or associates there, and he had in mind a whole new infrastructure. But his approach was simple – focus on the basics first. That meant restoring traditional services using traditional means. That process was well underway when the “sky fell” upon Hanan’s plans.

Knowing Cleopatra’s influence upon Antony, Herod decided to depose Hanan and gave the office to Aristobulus (a nephew of Alexandra), who was then (in 36 BCE) sixteen years old. But the young High Priest quickly proved far too popular and Herod took umbrage. At Jericho, Herod paid to have Aristobulus “accidentally” drowned while playing in the pool. Herod feigned profound grief and paid for a lavish funeral, but Alexandra wasn’t “buying it”. She again turned to Cleopatra and began a series of intrigues and events that would rip the Herod household apart. Herod re-appointed Hanan as High Priest less than a year after deposing him and Hanan’s position was actually more secure than before.

There was no doubt that the people of Jerusalem would have preferred a Hasmonean ruler over the almost-Jewish Herod, but they were less clear about their High Priest. The Zaddokite voices (seeking return of the legitimate High Priest) had remained loud throughout the Hasmonean dynasty and there was a clear advantage in Hanan’s legitimacy. Those who favored him pointed to such and those who didn’t get what they wanted from him were quick to point out that he wasn’t THE legitimate High Priest. Hanan quieted the dissent by being fair, diligent, and orthodox. As Temple services regained respect and people saw that Hanan would not be corrupted, his support grew. People understood that he was honoring his deal with Herod and that staying out of politics was part of it.

That was easier said than done: politics and religion had been so intertwined in Jerusalem that there was great difficulty in unraveling them. This was most apparent in the Sanhedrin and there was no way to avoid some conflict in assignments there. As noted above, when Herod recaptured Jerusalem, he slew all but two members of the Sanhedrin (Shemaiah and Pollio/Abalion). Before appointing Hanan, Herod had largely reconstituted the Sanhedrin with cronies (including his two carry-overs). Hanan and Herod had met several times to discuss the matter during his first appointment and Hanan pushed for a new approach before he accepted re-appointment. Consistent with his general beliefs, Hanan sought restoration of the traditional Zugot leadership of the Sanhedrin (see Appendix VII).

Zugot (literally meaning “pair”) was the leadership form which began during the reign of Mattathias Maccabee.  According to that tradition, two leaders always stood at the head of the Sanhedrin, the president ("nasi") and the vice-president ("ab bet din"). Shemaiah and Abtalion had been the Zugot during the time Hyrcanus II was High Priest (the reason they hadn’t been murdered by Herod), but Herod had replaced them with Idumeans (who were very unpopular). Herod wouldn’t allow Shemaiah and Abtalion to resume their positions, but he would allow Hanan to designate a new pair so long as he approved the selection.

Hanan approached the task of finding a new Zugot with the same diligence and fairness he usually offered, but gave the selection the weight it deserved. He also understood the role of the Zugot – to view issues from two different perspectives and find balance in that. Thus, of the three Zugot proposed, Hanan selected Hillel and Shammai, both of whom were young, progressive, and respected as teachers. He designated Hillel as Nasi because his views were most consistent with his own, but he had great respect for the wit and wisdom of Shammai.

It was clear that a key element of the agreement between Herod and Hanan involved the amount of Temple income which would be turned over to Herod. Herod had plenty of other matters to deal with that probably made the High Priesthood a lesser concern, but income was always an important matter. In 34 BCE, Antony summoned Herod to Laodicea where another round of bribes and gifts were required to keep Herod on the throne. To appease Cleopatra, Antony awarded her some of the most valuable and profitable lands in Palestine (the coast and Jericho) so that Herod was forced to pay her and obey her.

Hanan served as High Priest during difficult times and managed to restore considerable respect for the office and the Temple. Despite the awkward start, after his re-appointment in 35 BCE Hanan became increasingly confident in his role and position, but not so confident that he didn’t protect his family’s future. This was especially necessary because of events in Egypt.

Hanan stayed in close contact with Sie (although the risk was too great for them to be together). With the Roman triumvirate breaking apart and Antony aligning with Cleopatra, Hanan and Sie agreed that war between Rome and Egypt was likely. When Antony formally declared himself king of the world (with Cleopatra the “Queen of Queens”) in the fall of 34 BCE[32], the war became inevitable. Cleopatra deserved, expected, and received the support of Egyptian Jews, especially those in Heliopolis. But Sie saw her cause as a losing one and began to prepare for an unfavorable Roman Egypt[33]. The situation in Jerusalem wasn’t much better, but it was good enough to draw many Jews from Egypt. Hanan facilitated the placement of some family members within the priesthood and utilized his wealth, influence, and contacts to help others become situated in Judea, Galilee, and the trans-Jordan (including Jericho & En-Gedi).

Herod had no choice but to continue his good favor with the Romans and to make sure that they would continue supporting him. Unfortunately for Herod, he chose the wrong side in the war between Antony and Octavia and this almost led to his undoing. Once true Roman civil war broke out in 31 BCE, It did not last long and with Octavia emerging victorious, Herod found himself pleading for life and position. But first, he had Hyrcanus executed so that his most likely competition couldn’t claim his throne. Then he showed his wily political skill and convinced Octavian that he would be as loyal to him as he had been to Antony. Octavian not only reaffirmed Herod’s title, he even rewarded him with control of the coast that had been Cleopatra’s along with Samaria. With this affirmation, Herod was ready to make the office of High Priest even more beneficial for himself.

Herod brought Hanan before his Court and told him that he intended to open the position of High Priest to bidding – that he was going to take offers from others for the title and that Hanan would remain High Priest only if he was the highest bidder. He also announced that it was his intent to restore and enhance the Jerusalem Temple so that it was “worthy”. That meant that the opportunity to be High Priest was fraught with great risks and even greater potential rewards. To fail would mean certain execution and yet the next High Priest would control the most important Jewish building project since Solomon first built his Temple. He would also distribute much of the vast sum needed to build it.

Herod did as he promised and threw his support behind Octavian. After Antony and Cleopatra chose suicide over capture, Octavian (who then took on the name Augustus) further rewarded Herod with possession of Jericho and Gaza (which had been independent). Seeing the disaster and change that was to come, Joazar took everything he could and moved his family (known to most as “the Boethusians”) to Jerusalem. He was thus one of Jerusalem’s wealthiest citizens (even wealthier than Herod, although his actual worth was a closely held secret). Meanwhile, Sie arranged to secretly move most of the wealth held at the Leontopolis Temple (from its “banking” function) to the Jerusalem Temple. In all, the migration (second exodus) of Jews from Egypt to Judea and surrounds was one of the largest transfers of wealth in all of history (as we will see below).

Hanan was pleased to reunite the family and advised Joazar of Herod’s plans to make the High Priest a bought title (and to rebuild the Temple). Joazar asked Hanan to arrange an audience for him with Herod. Joazar was as adept at dealing with politicians as Herod was adept at being one. He wasted no time and asked Herod: “How much were you planning on spending on the Temple project?” Herod exaggerated and boasted, “2,000 talents[34]”.  Joazar asked, “Roman talents?” and Herod merely smiled. Joazar responded with a similar smile and suggested, “What if I was to double that?” Now he had Herod’s attention and Herod understood: “Then I suppose that you could choose your own High Priest.”

Joazar thereby kept the title of High Priest within the family, but Hanan knew that his time as High Priest should end. He was tired of dealing with all the non-religious duties and figured that it would take great energy and commitment to supervise the Temple reconstruction project. He suggested that his replacement be Sie’s son Jeshua (aka Yehoshua)[35]. Yehoshua was young, energetic, interested in extra-religious happenings, and a good leader. Sie had reservations about sending his son to Jerusalem, but saw the merit of this opportunity and he trusted Hanan.

In the year 30 BCE, Yehoshua became High Priest and Herod announced his intention of rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple. The announcement overshadowed the naming of the new High Priest and started an uproar among the priests and people – especially since the plan involved the destruction of the existing Temple. Yehoshua proved himself in quickly negotiating the necessary concessions and conditions which placated the priests and pacified the people: only priests would work within the Temple, services would be minimally disrupted and never discontinued, and plenty of pockets would be filled. Yehoshua promptly began assembling the priests who would oversee the project and judiciously delegated authority.  Within a year some 2,000 priests would be specially trained in construction arts and another 20,000 would be utilized for labor during the first phase of construction: the most sacred area (the Holy of Holies). Since the largest chunk of funding came from Joazar, Herod allowed Yehoshua greater latitude in the process – and was pleased with the results.

Yehoshua kept Hanan directly involved in the Temple project and he found creative solutions to the most difficult aspect of the project: it was his agreement with Herod and the other Jewish religious authorities that the sacrificial rituals (“korbanot”) would continue unabated during construction. The requirement that all on-site Temple construction be performed by the Kohanim (family of priests) meant thousands had to learn trade skills (and be compensated). Assembling planners and builders from many nations, gathering and constructing the huge machines that would be required, and quarrying stone would take most of a decade.

Yehoshua married Bethanne, the daughter of Levi bar Melchi, and fathered three daughters with her: JoAnna (“Jane”), Elizabeth (“Beth”), and Hannah (“Anne”). Lacking a son and any other person he trusted, Yehoshua became the first to pass the great secret to a daughter – in fact he shared it with all three of them (in part because he knew they couldn’t keep secrets from each other anyway).

Herod had received the title “Basileus” from Octavian (also the unofficial title for the Emperor himself) and gained incredible favor from him: tax breaks, gifts, and honors. Having turned the Temple project over to the priests, Herod took on massive building projects elsewhere, including palaces, fortresses, and entire cities (such as Caesarea Maritima which he dedicated to his primary benefactor). He found himself often turning to Yehoshua and Hanan (and their leading builders) for advice. It was a remarkable period for the region as economic prosperity reversed much of the damage and destruction which had occurred during the prior century. Roads were built, aqueducts and irrigation systems were constructed, and great wealth was amassed and spent, especially in Jerusalem. (Herod was also insane and his court was full of intrigue, murder, and shuffling for position – see Appendix XXII).

The situation in Egypt was somewhat opposite – the hit-and-miss prosperity of the prior century had become the hit-and-miss decline through the current century (the first century before the “common era”). The Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt had become Aegyptus - the Roman province of Egypt.  Because it remained the “breadbasket of the Roman Empire”, Egypt was treated differently than most other provinces – it was governed by a “prefect” (of the equestrian class) instead of the traditional senatorial governor. The first prefect of Aegyptus was Gaius Cornelius Gallus who lasted only a year. He was replaced by Gaius Aelius Gallus (no relation) who only managed to stay for two years.  The third prefect was Gaius Petronius who lasted until 20 BCE. These prefects brought Roman control (by the force of over 10,000 Roman soldiers) to both lower and upper Egypt and established a protectorate over the southern frontier. They also implemented a new and more complex taxation system[36] whereby land was taxed and rented, a variety of small taxes and tolls were added, customs duties were expanded, and the system of tax collection was supervised by Roman appointed officials (who relied upon the Jews to make it work).

Both the Alexandrian and Heliopolis Jews prospered within this new system and the general rift between Jews and other Egyptians continued. The Romans were practical if nothing else and they recognized the efficiency of the tax collection system the Ptolemaic Jews had implemented. Actually, many taxes were lowered under the Romans and they successfully used land grants as an incentive to increase production. Sie and his community were given more liberty than they expected although a Roman epistrategos ("over-general") controlled the region and a strategoi named Calpurnius Concessus oversaw the Nome of Heliopolis. Neither Roman was particularly interested in the affairs of the Jews so long as tax revenues were collected easily and agricultural production increased. 

Sie grew old and tired. However, he had a lifelong desire to see the Jerusalem Temple, so in the year 25 BCE he turned his title over to his youngest son, Yohanan (Yohan), and made his pilgrimage to the Holy City. He took most of his family with him and the core stayed with Hanan and Dione in the City of David (Ophal). But the journey proved fatal to Sie and on the day after he fulfilled his dream of seeing Solomon’s Temple, he suddenly died. In a showing of family unity (and to highlight their prominence) Joazar and Simon chose to honor Sie with a massive funeral procession. It was unlike anything Jerusalem had seen since the before the Exile.

Deena and the children were not aware of the political side of the event and saw it more as affection from family and fellow Jews. With Dione’s approval, Hanan invited Deena and her children to move in with them and Denna happily decided to accept, thereby remaining in Jerusalem. Joazar was pleased with this arrangement since he very much wanted to have Yoni dau Sie (their oldest daughter) marry one of his nephews and to have this line of legitimate succession under his control. But Joazar was not aware of the very close ties between Hanan, Deena, and their children and his plan was dependent upon Yohan not having a son as successor.

With the death of his father in Jerusalem and the choice of his mother to remain there, Yohan was “stuck” in Leontopolis. He would have happily relinquished his position and title except for a solemn and holy pledge he had made to his father and to God. He knew that it was essential that he keep his title in order to protect the sacred treasures of Judaism (see Appendix XXVII). Yohan bar Sethus remained High Priest of Leontopolis until his death in 4 BCE. But, before he died, he met one of the newest members of the family named Yehoshua ben Yoseph.

This story is continued in Appendix XXIX and within “An Amazing Life”…

[1] Jason, the brother of Onias, was a Hellenist who bought the title of High Priest from Antiochus Epiphanes after his accession of to the throne of the Seleucid Empire in 175 BCE. Onias was placed into exile at Daphne. 

[2] There is still uncertainty regarding the actual site for the Jewish Temple at On. Historically, it has been termed the Leontopolis Temple and I will use that designation even thought the Temple may not have actually been in Leontopolis itself.

[3] Boethus is a name associated with a Sadducee sub-group which denied immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. It is uncertain if the group derived its name from this Boethus, but such seems likely. There is no record of his having any daughters although his granddaughter was likely to have been Mariamne II (Herod’s 3rd wife).

[4] Ananias and Chelkias were historically recorded as Onias’ sons while acting as Jewish generals in the service of Cleopatra III. (Josephus, "Ant." xiii. 10, § 4; affirmed by Strabo of Cappadocia).

[5] Ptolemy, son of Abubus, invited his father-in-law Simon and his sons to a banquet where he had Simon and his two oldest sons (Mattathias and Judah) murdered. The third son, John "Hyrcanus”, was not present and assumed the throne.

[6] According to Josephus, around 40 BCE Antigonus bit off the ears of John Hyrcanus II (his uncle) to make him permanently ineligible for the priesthood.

[7] Although it left a legacy of hatred for the Judeans that remained for generations and subsequently came back to “haunt” them.

[8] The son of Rabbi Yossei, the son of Rabbi Yochanan.

[9] All of the other Hasmonean predecessors had used the title of "Nasi" ("President") instead.

[10] The Ephod was a Holy garment ordered by God in Exodus (28:1-14) specifically as the vestment for the Jewish High Priest. It was made in two pieces, one covering the breast and the other the upper part of the back. The two were united beneath by a ''curious girdle" of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work, encircling the waist. It included the “breast-plate of judgment” with the "Uriin and Thummim".

[11] Named after Cleopatra II Philometora Soteira who ruled  between 131 and 127 BCE.

[12] From the family of Boethus would later arise five high priests: Joezer, who filled the office twice; Eleazar; Simon Cantheras; his son Elioneus; and Joshua bar Gamla (an in-law).

[13] As we shall see later, Sethus bar Ananleus became High Priest at Leontopolis and with Phiabi devised a way to disseminate the secret within their families, improving its survivability and security.

[15] Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, legibus faciendis et reipublicae constituendae causa ("dictator for the making of laws and for the settling of the constitution") in Rome from 81 BCE-79 BCE.

[16] When “the Bastard” went to Cato to appeal for military aid in suppressing his own people, Cato received Auletes while sitting on the stool to evacuate his bowels.

[17] Raised as the children of Sethus ben Ananleus.

[18] Salome actually had the leading Sadducees removed to fortified cities around Palestine where they were given independent power and served to protect Judea from foreign powers – a sagacious move.

[19] The Rabbi Honi was famous for his successful prayers for rain. Hyrcanus demanded that Honi pray for his victory, but instead Honi prayed: "Lord, have mercy on them as the besieged and the besiegers are Your people. I beseech You not to answer the evil prayers of either." Due to this, the followers of Hyrcanus stoned him to death.

[20] Who asked that he abolish the Judean monarchy and return Judea to a theocracy.

[21] Recall that the Idumeans had been forcibly converted to Judaism by John Hyrcanus (I) – but such conversion was not recognized by Pharisaic tradition.

[22] Antipater had four sons and a daughter: Phasael, Herod, Joseph, Pheroras, and Salome.

[23] Born to the family of the high priest in Memphis.

[24] The daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and the illegitimate Cleopatra V, thus a princess of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

[25] To exemplify her nature and circumstance, when Berenice became the lone woman ruler she was expected to marry (a co-regent). When she refused, her consuls forced her to marry Seleucus VII (Kybiosaktes), but she had him strangled and remained as sole ruler.

[26] Auletes was actually forced to appoint a Roman (Gaius Rabirius Postumus) to head the treasury and adroitly blamed him for raising taxes, exploiting the land, and reducing the value of Egyptian coinage.

[27] Pompey and Julius Caesar were battling for supremacy.

[28] The titles Ethnarch, Tetrarch, and Alabarch were used differently at different times. Generally, an Ethnarch held the rule over a specific group under some other governorship. A Tetrarch originally ruled one-fourth a region and answered directly or only to a king or emperor, but later the term was applied to such rulers regardless of the “division”. An Alabarch was a governor (farmer) of taxes for a region or an official in charge of some specific function .

[29] Herod also executed dozens of the most prominent of Antigonus' supporters, confiscating their estates. All  members of the Sanhedrin, with the exception of Pollio (Abalion) and Shemaiah, were slain.

[30] See, “The History of the Second Temple” by Joseph Klausner (5 vols., 6th ed. Achiasaf , Jerusalem (1963), €4.12.

[31] In 39 BCE Herod married Mariamne (known as Mariamne I), the teenage niece of Antigonus, in an attempt to improve his claim to the throne. Herod already had a wife and chose Doris and their child Antipater.

[32] In the “Donations of Alexandria”, Antony and Cleopatra engaged in an orgy of self-delusion and indulgence, leading to their deaths in 30 BCE when Egypt became a Roman Provence.

[33] Rome was normally very tolerant of diverse religions in captured lands, but only where the religion had resisted assistance to Rome’s enemies. Sie and the Heliopolis Jews could not count on Roman tolerance.

[34] Unless otherwise stated, talents were assumed to be gold, the measure of a talent varied by region: a Roman talent was 32.3 kilograms (71 lb) whereas an Egyptian talent was 27 kilograms (60 lb). It is hard to offer a comparative value for gold at the time, but this would be worth about $50 million today.

[35] aka Yehoshua III, Joshua ben Fabus, or “Jesus bar Phabet” (according to Josephus).

[36] Different groups had different rates of taxation based on their social class – and social class was complex in itself.


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