666 And The Love Of Money Part 4

In my last post we looked at the accusations the prophets gave to the leaders of Israel in relation to their love of money. While in this post we will start to learn about the aristocratic Sadducees and most notably the Ananus family of High Priests (also spelt Annas or Ananius in some historic documents while in the Talmud they were known as the House of Hanin).

From the beginning of the Herodian era the Office of High Priest was secularized and was bought and soldor should I say the position was gained through the soliciting and accepting of bribes among the wealthy Sadducee families in Israel with the Herods. The Sadducees were the aristocratic High Priest families, merchants, and rich families who were under the influence of Hellenism. They had close and friendly relationships with the Roman rulers and were in charge of the temple and its priesthood.

The Sadducees denied a future resurrection, the immortality of the soul, eternal life, the existent of angels, and the age to come. The chief priest Ananus I, the elder was the most powerful controlling force in the political, social and religious administration in the land of Israel during Jesus’ ministry years.

He also had five sons, Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Mattathias, Ananus, one son-in-law – Joseph Caiaphas, and one grandson – Matthias son of Theophilus as high priests before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. So up until 70AD the Ananus dynasty had 8 of its family members as High Priests in the Jerusalem Temple.

1. Ananus I AD 6-15 – Head of the Sadducean party and Chief of the chief priests
2. Eleazar (son): AD 16-17
3. Caiaphas (son-in-law): AD 18-36
4. Jonathan (son): AD 36-37
5. Theophilus (son): AD 37-41
6. Matthias (son): AD 42-43
7. Ananus II (son): AD 61-62 [1]
8. Matthias (grandson): AD 65-68 (son of Theophilus)

Ananus was the power behind the throne in Jerusalem

Originally the Office of High Priest was a position for life, and even though High Priests were deposed they still held lots of power in the Sanhedrin, hence the reason that the New Testaments speaks of more than one Chief Priest. Ananus 1, the elder was most likely the Chief Priest who was responsible for the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus as he had much more influence than his son-in-law Caiaphas and was the real power behind the throne in Jerusalem. There was only supposed to be one chief priest, but Ananus would not let go of his power and behind the scenes he was always scheming and plotting with his sons and son-in-law.

Jesus Challenges the Power of Ananus

The religious leaders and in particular, the High Priest Ananus family dynasty were only interested in the love of money. As a result, Jesus consistently condemned those who controlled the Temple and its treasuries and warned the temple merchants, who were employees of the Ananus family, using the very same words from Jeremiah chapter 7 by accusing them of making it a den of robbers. As a result the family lost a lot of money when Jesus drove out the merchants from the temple complex.

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” ~ Luke 19:45- 46 and Mark 11:17.

In addition, Jesus also told them that one day their temple would be completely destroyed in a future act of divine judgment just like the way Shiloh and the 1st temple were destroyed.

The Parable of the Rich Man

In Luke 15 and 16, Jesus had the Scribes and Pharisees complaining about his association with tax collectors and sinners. So He started to talk in parables and at one point in Luke 16 he directly spoke to the Pharisees and accused them of being lovers of money.

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were ridiculing Him. And He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of people, but God knows your hearts; because that which is highly esteemed among people is detestable in the sight of God.

The scribes were also in his audience and they too were from Jewish aristocracy families, and many were members of the Sanhedrin. They went beyond the interpretation of scripture and added many man-made traditions to what God had said. They could also draft legal documents (contracts for marriage, divorce, loans etc). [1]

Then Jesus started tell the parable about the rich man and the poor man. The poor {Greek word ptōchos} man was “as poor as a beggar”, meaning that he had poor long term health as he could not even move when the dogs came to lick his sores. He needed relief as he was so helpless due to his illness, but the rich man wouldn’t do anything to help the ‘poor’ man.

I have no doubt that His 1st century listeners would have known immediately who he was really referring to when He spoke about the Rich Man… the self-righteous Ananus family dynasty.

The rich man is said to be “clothed in purple and fine linen” ~ Luke 16:19. This is a description of the high priestly garments ~ Exodus 39: 27-29 and Leviticus 16: 4. [2]

Josephus also described the colours of the High Priest’s clothing:

The priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high priest in purple scarlet clothing…” ~ Antiquities 11.8.5

The rich man in Jesus’ story also had five brothers ~ Luke 16.27-28 and the Chief Priest Caiaphas at that time had 5 brothers-in-law.

  • So can you see the irony in this parable?

Here in Jesus’s parable is the rich Sadducean High Priest Caiaphas, who denies the resurrection from the dead, and doesn’t believe in angels, and the after-life begging father Abraham to raise Lazarus from the dead and send him as a witness to his family, the Ananus dynasty to warn them of the coming judgment. But Abraham’s reply in the parable is:

“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets [they would have known the scriptures off my heart], neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

The self-righteous wouldn’t change their attitude or soften their hearts even if they were warned by someone who rose from the dead. And we know that Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead and that when it was reported to Caiaphas he scoffed at the Sanhedrin when they raised concerns about Jesus’s miracles.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called the council together and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.” Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “You know nothing at all! …~ John 11-45-53.

At a later point in time the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too.

The High Priest Families Were rulers of Israel who trusted in their riches more than God

  • So how did those who controlled the temple and its treasuries act so corruptly?

The Ananus family held the office of Chief Priest for 57 years, but even the Talmud cursed the family and called them “wealthy, unscrupulous and corrupt leaders of the priesthood whose presence defiled the sanctuary.”

Woe to the house of Annas! Woe to their serpent’s hiss! They are High Priests; their sons are keepers of the treasury, their sons-in-law are guardians of the temple, and their servants beat people with staves. ~ Pesahim 57a

Josephus wrote that they had none but the rich on their side, that they represented nobility, power, and wealth and they were more interested in politics and were rulers of Israel who trusted in their riches more than God.

They Stole Tithe Money and Poor Elderly Temple Priests Died

Josephus also recorded the lawless behaviour of the Sadducees when they sent their servants into the temple to steal temple tithe money that was supposed to be for the poorer priests. As a result of that theft, many of those poor elderly priests starved to death.

But as for the high priest, Ananias he increased in glory every day, and this to a great degree, and had obtained the favor and esteem of the citizens in a signal manner; for he was a great hoarder up of money: he therefore cultivated the friendship of Albinus, and of the high priest [Jesus], by making them presents; he also had servants who were very wicked, who joined themselves to the boldest sort of the people, and went to the thrashing-floors, and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them. So the other high priests acted in the like manner, as did those his servants, without any one being able to prohibit them; so that [some of the] priests, that of old were wont to be supported with those tithes, died for want of food. Source

Josephus also wrote the following about Ananus II:

About this time king Agrippa gave the high priesthood to Ismael, who was the son of Fabi. And now arose a sedition between the high priests and the principal men of the multitude of Jerusalem; each of which got them a company of the boldest sort of men, and of those that loved innovations about them, and became leaders to them; and when they struggled together, they did it by casting reproachful words against one another, and by throwing stones also. And there was nobody to reprove them; but these disorders were done after a licentious manner in the city, as if it had no government over it. And such was the impudence and boldness that had seized on the high priests, that they had the hardiness to send their servants into the threshing-floors, to take away those tithes that were due to the priests, insomuch that it so fell out that the poorest sort of the priests died for want. To this degree did the violence of the seditious prevail over all right and justice. Source

My next post will show in detail even more of the Sadducee corruption in regards to riches and why Jesus cleansed the temple. You can read the rest of the blog posts in this series here.

Further reading:

Since writing this blog post I have found an excellent article on the topic of the poor man Lazarus by Simon Brown – Was Lazarus in Luke 16:19 a beggar?

[1] This is why Jesus mentioned divorce in-between the 2 parables in Luke 16, just after he condemned the scribes:

The scribes were the writers of the law and they were in charge of writing contracts for marriages and divorces (gets). However, there was a huge scandal during Jesus’s ministry as Herod Antipas married his sister-in-law, Herodias.

Herod Antipas divorced his wife. Herodias divorced her husband, who was the brother of Herod Antipas. But she divorced him under Roman law and not Jewish law … as in those days only Jewish men could divorce their wife. However, even though each of them was allowed to remarry, they were NOT allowed to remarry each other due to a specific law in Leviticus.

Leviticus 18:16 forbade having sexual relations with your brother’s wife while he was still alive. The marriage would have been legal if Phillip, her husband had died, but he was still alive. This is why John the Baptist said “ it is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife” and he lost his life for pointing that out to Herodias. Herodias was legally divorced and could marry anyone without breaking the law, except for her ex-husband’s brother.

That is why Jesus places the remark about divorce in there as it’s a huge ‘dig’ at the Scribes and Pharisees who allowed this fornicated marriage to take place. They should have known better as they ‘sat in the seat of Moses’ and knew the Mosaic law so well, but turned a blind eye to the marriage.

[2] In my blog post: Where and who was the Great city of Babylon I went into detail about the colours of the clothes the High Priest wore.

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