Yeshua ben Hananiah: Little Known Jerusalem Prophet of Doom
Updated: May 11
Yeshua ben Hananiah (Ananias) was a lower-class farmer, who in 63 CE (seven years before Jerusalem’s destruction) began to go around the city publicly prophesying its destruction. The Jewish leaders of Jerusalem, who were quite annoyed by his rantings, turned him over to the Romans, who tortured him. After some time the then Roman procurator, Lucceius Albinus, took him to be a madman and released him. He prophesied a total of seven years until he was killed by a stone from a catapult during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The historian Josephus describes him and his activities as follows:
But a further portent was even more alarming. Four years before the war, when the city was enjoying profound peace and prosperity, there came to the feast at which it is the custom of all Jews to erect tabernacles to God, one Jesus, son of Ananias, a rude peasant, who suddenly began to cry out, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the sanctuary, a voice against the bridegroom and the bride, a voice against all the people." Day and night he went about all the alleys with this cry on his lips. Some of the leading citizens, incensed at these ill-omened words, arrested the fellow and severely chastised him. But he, without a word on his own behalf or for the private ear of those who smote him, only continued his cries as before. Thereupon, the magistrates, supposing, as was indeed the case, that the man was under some supernatural impulse, brought him before the Roman governor; there, although flayed to the bone with scourges, he neither sued for mercy nor shed a tear, but, merely introducing the most mournful of variations into his utterances, responded to each lashing with "Woe to Jerusalem!" When Albinus, the governor, asked him who and whence he was and why he uttered these cries, he answered him never a word, but unceasingly reiterated his dirge over the city, until Albinus pronounced him a maniac and let him go. During the whole period up to the outbreak of war he neither approached nor was seen talking to any of the citizens, but daily, like a prayer that he had canned, repeated his lament, "Woe to Jerusalem!" He neither cursed any of those who beat him from day to day, nor blessed those who offered him food: to all men that melancholy presage was his one reply. His cries were loudest at the festivals. So for seven years and five months he continued his wail, his voice never flagging nor his strength exhausted, until in the siege, having seen his presage verified, he found his rest. For, while going his round and shouting in piercing tones from the wall, "Woe once more to the city and to the people and to the temple," as he added a last word, "and woe to me also," a stone hurled from the ballista struck and killed him on the spot. So with those ominous words still upon his lips he passed away. –
War of the Jews 6: 300-309
It is amazing to me that after being exposed to church teachings on first century history most of my life that I had never heard of this man. Of course, that is certainly a result of the fact that stories from the Bible are read over and over, but stories from the works of Josephus never see the light of day; the former being considered sacred and the latter secular.