Ananus ben Ananus

Ananus ben Ananus
Lineage son of Annas
Sect Sadducee
Temple Temple of Jerusalem
Other names Hanan ben Hanan, Ananus ben Artanus
Died 68
Senior posting
Based in Jerusalem
Title High Priest of Israel (until deposed in 63, then "High Priest")
Predecessor Joseph Cabi ben Simon
Successor Jesus ben Damneus

Ananus ben Ananus (Hebrew: חנן בן חנן Hanan ben Hanan Greek: Ἀνάνου Ἄνανος "Ananos son of Ananos" var: Ananias, Latin: Anani Ananus or Ananus filius Anani), d. 68 CE, was a Herodian-era High Priest of Israel in Jerusalem, Iudaea Province. He is most well known as the high priest who allegedly ordered the execution by stoning of James the brother of Jesus (James the Just), according to the surviving manuscripts of The Antiquities of the Jews. However, popular opinion against Hanan due to this act led the recently appointed Roman governor Lucceius Albinus to depose the high priest, after only three months. Ananus was succeeded by Jesus ben Damneus, who was himself deposed before the end of the year.

Josephus in The Jewish War considered Ananus "unique in his love for liberty and an enthusiast for democracy" and as an "effective speaker, whose words carried weight with the people".[1]

Stoning of James and aftermath

A page from a 1466 copy of Antiquities of the Jews

Josephus's account of the death of James as follows:

Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.[2]

Most scholars consider this text to be authentic.[3][4][5][6] Moreover, in comparison with Hegesippus' account of James' death, most scholars consider Josephus' to be the more historically reliable.[7] However, a few scholars still question the authenticity of the reference, based on various arguments, but primarily based on the observation that various details in The Jewish War differ from it.[8][9] L. Michael White considers the account to be spurious on the grounds that no parallel account exists in the Antiquities of the Jews.[10]

Activities after being deposed

After ben Hanan was deposed as high priest, he continued to exercise leadership. "Under the guidance of former high priest Ananus ben Ananus, they (the Sanhedrin) exhorted the populace for support against the radical priestly Zealots, as these 'persuaded those who officiated in the Temple sacrifices to accept no gift or services from a foreigner' (BJ II, 409-414)."[11] Later, he marshaled recruits to fight the Zealots, resulting in the Zealot Temple Siege. While commanding the Jews during the siege, Ananus was killed by the Edomites when they were let into Jerusalem by the Zealots.

Popular culture

Ananus, referred to as "Hanan" throughout the programme, is a major character in the third episode of the BBC docudrama series Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire. The episode depicts the events of the First Jewish-Roman War, and a major plot point is the assassination of Ananus by John of Giscala ("Yohanan" in the programme), the leader of the Zealots. Ananus is portrayed by veteran actor Jonathan Hyde.


  1. Josephus (c. 75). "chapter 5". The Jewish War. IV. Check date values in: |date= (help) as cited in Feldman, Louis H.; Hata, Gōhei (1989). Josephus, the Bible, and History. E.J. Brill. p. 203. ISBN 90-04-08931-4.
  2. Josephus. "20.9.1". The Antiquities of the Jews.
  3. Van Voorst 2000, p. 83.
  4. Richard Bauckham states that although a few scholars have questioned this passage, "the vast majority have considered it to be authentic" (Bauckham 1999, pp. 199–203).
  5. Feldman & Hata 1987, pp. 54-57.
  6. Flavius Josephus & Maier 1995, pp. 284-285.
  7. Painter 2004, p. 126.
  8. Habermas 1996, pp. 33-37.
  9. Wells 1986, p. 11.
  10. L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers created the New Testament and Christian Faith (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2004). ISBN 0-06-052655-6
  11. Feldman, Louis H.; Hata, Gōhei (1989). Josephus, the Bible, and History. E.J. Brill. p. 203. ISBN 90-04-08931-4.

External links

Jewish titles
Preceded by
Joseph Cabi ben Simon
High Priest of Israel
Succeeded by
Jesus ben Damneus
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