Monday, July 12, 2010

Jesus ben Ananias and his Catapult

Josephus tells the remarkable story of Jesus ben Ananias, a prophetic peasant who warned of Jerusalem's destruction during the 60's CE:
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, standing in the temple, 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." . . . So for seven years and five months [i.e., between 62-69 CE] 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." (Josephus, War 6.300-309 [LCL]).

While I was telling the story in Jewish Backgrounds last semester, I misspoke, and my resident artist captured the result on pen and ink. (Note the apocalyptic intertextuality between the two sketches!)

For the record, Jesus ben Ananias was hit by a Roman ballista, not the Roman catapult itself.


Anonymous said...





I have enjoyed it for years - just wanted to let you know :)

Anonymous said...

Me too! Me too!! I've been referring to it for years, and referring others to it for years. Primarily for the brilliant illustration, but the rest is good too :D