A faction of Jews called Zealots had been raiding the towns and had come to Jerusalem. After which they broke into two factions, one under John who took the Temple and the other under Simon who fought him from the city.
Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews (ed. William Whiston, A.M.)
Book IV: CONTAINING THE INTERVAL OF ABOUT ONE YEAR. FROM THE SIEGE OF GAMALA TO THE COMING OF TITUS TO BESIEGE JERUSALEM.
(III.) CONCERNING JOHN OF GISCHALA. CONCERNING THE ZEALOTS AND THE HIGH PRIEST ANANUS; AS ALSO HOW THE JEWS RAISE SEDITIONS ONE AGAINST ANOTHER [IN JERUSALEM].
.........(3) Now the Roman garrisons, which guarded the cities, partly out of their uneasiness to take such trouble upon them, and partly out of the hatred they bare to the Jewish nation, did little or nothing towards relieving the miserable, till the captains of these troops of robbers, being satiated with rapines in the country, got all together from all parts, and became a band of wickedness, and all together crept into Jerusalem, which was now become a city without a governor, and, as the ancient custom was, received without distinction all that belonged to their nation; and these they then received, because all men supposed that those who came so fast into the city came out of kindness, and for their assistance, although these very men, besides the seditions they raised, were otherwise the direct cause of the city's destruction also; for as they were an unprofitable and a useless multitude, they spent those provisions beforehand which might otherwise have been sufficient for the fighting men. Moreover, besides the bringing on of the war, they were the occasions of sedition and famine therein.
............(6) Now the people were come to that degree of meanness and fear, and these robbers to that degree of madness, that these last took upon them to appoint high priests. 2 So when they had disannulled the succession, according to those families out of which the high priests used to be made, they ordained certain unknown and ignoble persons for that office, that they might have their assistance in their wicked undertakings; for such as obtained this highest of all honors, without any desert, were forced to comply with those that bestowed it on them. They also set the principal men at variance one with another, by several sorts of contrivances and tricks, and gained the opportunity of doing what they pleased, by the mutual quarrels of those who might have obstructed their measures; till at length, when they were satiated with the unjust actions they had done towards men, they transferred their contumelious behavior to God himself, and came into the sanctuary with polluted feet.
(7) And now the multitude were going to rise against them already; for Ananus, the ancientest of the high priests, persuaded them to it. He was a very prudent man, and had perhaps saved the city if he could but have escaped the hands of those that plotted against him.These men made the temple of God a strong hold for them, and a place whither they might resort, in order to avoid the troubles they feared from the people; the sanctuary was now become a refuge, and a shop of tyranny.They also mixed jesting among the miseries they introduced, which was more intolerable than what they did; for in order to try what surprise the people would be under, and how far their own power extended,they undertook to dispose of the high priesthood by casting lots for it, whereas, as we have said already, it was to descend by succession in a family. The pretense they made for this strange attempt was an ancient practice, while they said that of old it was determined by lot; but in truth, it was no better than a dissolution of an undeniable law, and a cunning contrivance to seize upon the government, derived from those that presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.
(8) Hereupon they sent for one of the pontifical tribes, which is called Eniachim, 3 and cast lots which of it should be the high priest. By fortune the lot so fell as to demonstrate their iniquity after the plainest manner, for it fell upon one whose name was Phannias, the son of Samuel, of the village Aphtha. He was a man not only unworthy of the high priesthood, but that did not well know what the high priesthood was, such a mere rustic was he ! yet did they hail this man, without his own consent, out of the country, as if they were acting a play upon the stage, and adorned him with a counterfeit thee; they also put upon him the sacred garments, and upon every occasion instructed him what he was to do. This horrid piece of wickedness was sport and pastime with them, but occasioned the other priests, who at a distance saw their law made a jest of, to shed tears, and sorely lament the dissolution of such a sacred dignity.
(9) And now the people could no longer bear the insolence of this procedure, but did all together run zealously, in order to overthrow that tyranny; and indeed they were Gorion the son of Josephus, and Symeon the son of Gamaliel, 4 who encouraged them, by going up and down when they were assembled together in crowds, and as they saw them alone, to bear no longer, but to inflict punishment upon these pests and plagues of their freedom, and to purge the temple of these bloody polluters of it. The best esteemed also of the high priests, Jesus the son of Gamalas, and Ananus the son of Ananus when they were at their assemblies, bitterly reproached the people for their sloth, and excited them against the zealots; for that was the name they went by, as if they were zealous in good undertakings, and were not rather zealous in the worst actions, and extravagant in them beyond the example of others.
(10) And now, when the multitude were gotten together to an assembly, and every one was in indignation at these men's seizing upon the sanctuary, at their rapine and murders, but had not yet begun their attacks upon them, (the reason of which was this, that they imagined it to be a difficult thing to suppress these zealots, as indeed the case was,) Ananus stood in the midst of them, and casting his eyes frequently at the temple, and having a flood of tears in his eyes, he said, "Certainly it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places, that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains; yet do I, who am clothed with the vestments of the high priesthood, and am called by that most venerable name [of high priest], still live, and am but too fond of living, and cannot endure to undergo a death which would be the glory of my old age; and if I were the only person concerned, and as it were in a desert, I would give up my life, and that alone for God's sake; for to what purpose is it to live among a people insensible of their calamities, and where there is no notion remaining of any remedy for the miseries that are upon them? for when you are seized upon, you bear it! and when you are beaten, you are silent! and when the people are murdered, nobody dare so much as send out a groan openly! O bitter tyranny that we are under! But why do I complain of the tyrants? Was it not you, and your sufferance of them, that have nourished them? Was it not you that overlooked those that first of all got together, for they were then but a few, and by your silence made them grow to be many; and by conniving at them when they took arms, in effect armed them against yourselves? You ought to have then prevented their first attempts, when they fell a reproaching your relations; but by neglecting that care in time, you have encouraged these wretches to plunder men. When houses were pillaged, nobody said a word, which was the occasion why they carried off the owners of those houses; and when they were drawn through the midst of the city, nobody came to their assistance. They then proceeded to put those whom you have betrayed into their hands into bonds. I do not say how many and of what characters those men were whom they thus served; but certainly they were such as were accused by none, and condemned by none; and since nobody succored them when they were put into bonds, the consequence was, that you saw the same persons slain. We have seen this also; so that still the best of the herd of brute animals, as it were, have been still led to be sacrificed, when yet nobody said one word, or moved his right hand for their preservation. Will you bear, therefore, will you bear to see your sanctuary trampled on? and will you lay steps for these profane wretches, upon which they may mount to higher degrees of insolence? Will not you pluck them down from their exaltation? for even by this time they had proceeded to higher enormities, if they had been able to overthrow any thing greater than the sanctuary. They have seized upon the strongest place of the whole city; you may call it the temple, if you please, though it be like a citadel or fortress. Now, while you have tyranny in so great a degree walled in, and see your enemies over your heads, to what purpose is it to take counsel? and what have you to support your minds withal? Perhaps you wait for the Romans, that they may protect our holy places: are our matters then brought to that pass? and are we come to that degree of misery, that our enemies themselves are expected to pity us? O wretched creatures! will not you rise up and turn upon those that strike you? which you may observe in wild beasts themselves, that they will avenge themselves on those that strike them. Will you not call to mind, every one of you, the calamities you yourselves have suffered? nor lay before your eyes what afflictions you yourselves have undergone? and will not such things sharpen your souls to revenge? Is therefore that most honorable and most natural of our passions utterly lost, I mean the desire of liberty? Truly we are in love with slavery, and in love with those that lord it over us, as if we had received that principle of subjection from our ancestors; yet did they undergo many and great wars for the sake of liberty, nor were they so far overcome by the power of the Egyptians, or the Medes, but that still they did what they thought fit, notwithstanding their commands to the contrary. And what occasion is there now for a war with the Romans? (I meddle not with determining whether it be an advantageous and profitable war or not.) What pretense is there for it? Is it not that we may enjoy our liberty? Besides, shall we not bear the lords of the habitable earth to be lords over us, and yet bear tyrants of our own country? Although I must say that submission to foreigners may be borne, because fortune hath already doomed us to it, while submission to wicked people of our own nation is too unmanly, and brought upon us by our own consent. However, since I have had occasion to mention the Romans, I will not conceal a thing that, as I am speaking, comes into my mind, and affects me considerably; it is this, that though we should be taken by them, (God forbid the event should be so!) yet can we undergo nothing that will be harder to be borne than what these men have already brought upon us. How then can we avoid shedding of tears, when we see the Roman donations in our temple, while we withal see those of our own nation taking our spoils, and plundering our glorious metropolis, and slaughtering our men, from which enormities those Romans themselves would have abstained? to see those Romans never going beyond the bounds allotted to profane persons, nor venturing to break in upon any of our sacred customs; nay, having a horror on their minds when they view at a distance those sacred walls; while some that have been born in this very country, and brought up in our customs, and called Jews, do walk about in the midst of the holy places, at the very time when their hands are still warm with the slaughter of their own countrymen. Besides, can any one be afraid of a war abroad, and that with such as will have comparatively much greater moderation than our own people have? For truly, if we may suit our words to the things they represent, it is probable one may hereafter find the Romans to be the supporters of our laws, and those within ourselves the subverters of them. And now I am persuaded that every one of you here comes satisfied before I speak that these overthrowers of our liberties deserve to be destroyed, and that nobody can so much as devise a punishment that they have not deserved by what they have done, and that you are all provoked against them by those their wicked actions, whence you have suffered so greatly. But perhaps many of you are aftrighted at the multitude of those zealots, and at their audaciousness, as well as at the advantage they have over us in their being higher in place than we are; for these circumstances, as they have been occasioned by your negligence, so will they become still greater by being still longer neglected; for their multitude is every day augmented, by every ill man's running away to those that are like to themselves, and their audaciousness is therefore inflamed, because they meet with no obstruction to their designs. And for their higher place, they will make use of it for engines also, if we give them time to do so; but be assured of this, that if we go up to fight them, they will be made tamer by their own consciences, and what advantages they have in the height of their situation they will lose by the opposition of their reason; perhaps also God himself, who hath been affronted by them, will make what they throw at us return against themselves, and these impious wretches will be killed by their own darts: let us but make our appearance before them, and they will come to nothing. However, it is a right thing, if there should be any danger in the attempt, to die before these holy gates, and to spend our very lives, if not for the sake of our children and wives, yet for God's sake, and for the sake of his sanctuary. I will assist you both with my counsel and with my hand; nor shall any sagacity of ours be wanting for your support; nor shall you see that I will be sparing of my body neither."
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This text is based on the following book(s):
Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by. William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895.
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