Friday, February 18, 2011

A Story about Judas and Mattathias Pulling Down the Altar and Cleansing the Temple (A Story Extracted from Ant.12 and Transferred to Ant.17)

The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p166 has an article ‘Altars in the NT’. It says that: “Mat 23:18-20, and 1 Cor.9:13 etc. refer to the contemporary altar in the temple of Herod. This altar is described (War 5.5.6, Whiston) as large (50 by 50 by 15 cubits) with a ramp approach." These measurements are deliberately larger than indicated in the Mishnah (30 by 30 by 5 cubits: Mid.3:1, because it was anti-Herod propaganda.  The story was extracted from Book 12,318 about the real Judas and Mattathias who did take down the altar for burnt offerings to prevent its use for sacrifice of animals.  Judas and Mattathias (Mathias in War) were of priestly heritage but converted to the prophets.   

There is an assumption here - the altar in the temple of Herod was there at the time Jesus is supposed to have walked the earth. I would go a step further and ask the question: was there any altar for burnt offerings at all in the temple at the time of the supposed Jesus? I would say there was no altar at that time, and that the priests had previously 'separated' themselves from temple activities.  The altar was the invention of the Church Fathers of Ceasarea who wanted to write the prophets out of Jewish history, as did the Jewish rabbis. Herod did not build any altar for burnt offerings.  There was no altar of burnt offerings after Judas Maccabeus or during the time of Herod.  Although an Idumean, Herod was essentially a Hasmonean prophet (in effect a Maccabean) who worshipped the Spirit of God at the altar of incense.  Hence the Church Fathers created Herod as a bad character.  

NOTE My current thinking is that the priests 'separated' themselves from the temple at the time of Judas Maccabeus who 'purged' the temple of animal sacrifices and priests.  The priests were kicked out. (See  I now believe that 'Christianity' had its beginning at the time of Judas Maccabeus.

But let me ask another question. Where do you think War 5.5 entitled A DESCRIPTION OF THE TEMPLE would be best placed, in War or in Antiquities? The answer is obvious. The text belongs to Antiquities.  It has been neatly re-arranged by Church Fathers who transferred the complete chunk on the temple from Antiquities to War.  Thus the altar was in existence before the time of Judas: “Before this temple stood the altar, [fifteen] {five} cubits high, and equal both in length and breadth; each of which dimensions was [fifty] {thirty} cubits. The figure it was built in was a square, and it had corners like horns; and the passage up to it was by an insensible acclivity. It was formed without any iron tool, nor did any such iron tool so much as touch it at the time.”  The numbers in square brackets refer to dimensions given by the Church Fathers in the extant text of War .  They are all fabricated.  But as we have seen, because the Mishnah implies it, Herod’s altar was created larger to be unlawful in that it was said to be approximately 10 cubits or 15 ft higher with a much larger base.  This was a fictitious high altar, frowned upon by legalist rabbis.  Herod's altar supposedly had a volume approximately eight times that of the Mishnah altar.  The ratio of volumes was about 40,000:5000 cu ft approx.  The ratio of stones would have been roughly the same; 32,000:4000, allowing for a rule of thumb of 1 cu ft per stone and 20 % space around each stone.   There never was such an altar.  It was created by the Church Fathers of Ceasarea AS ANTI-PROPHET AND ANTI-HEROD PROPAGANDA.  THIS IS A CHANGE OF VIEW FROM MY PREVIOUS THOUGHTS - THE PRIESTS NEVER DID DESTROY SUCH AN ALTAR BECAUSE IT NEVER EXISTED.     

Now Herod's ambassadors made haste to Rome; but sent, as instructed beforehand, what answers they were to make to the questions put to them. They also carried the epistles with them. But Herod now fell into a distemper, and made his will, and bequeathed his kingdom to [Antipas] {Aristobulus} , his [youngest] {eldest} son; [and this out of that hatred to Archelaus and Philip, which the calumnies of Antipater had raised against them]. He also bequeathed a thousand talents to Caesar, and five hundred to Julia, Caesar's wife, to Caesar's children, and friends and freed-men. He also distributed among his sons and their sons his money, his revenues, and his lands. He also made Salome his sister very rich, because she had continued faithful to him in all his circumstances, and was never so rash as to do him any harm; and as he despaired of recovering, for he was about the seventieth year of his age, he grew fierce, and indulged the bitterest anger upon all occasions; the cause whereof was this, that he thought himself despised, and that the [nation was] {priests were} pleased with his misfortunes; besides which, he resented a sedition which [some of the lower sort of men] {the priests} excited against him, the occasion of which was as follows:-

Commentary on Ant.17.6.1
All the reasons given for Herod's bequeathments made to various individuals are good, except for that supposedly made to Antipas.  The writer has Herod hating Archelaus and Philip as the excuse.  Herod didn't bequeath his kingdom to his "youngest" son Antipas, but to his eldest living son Aristobulus.  Herod's hatred of Archelaus, Philip and the "calumnies" of Antipator were fabricated by the Church Fathers - in his will, Herod "distributed among his sons and their sons his money, his revenues, and his lands."

"NOW Herod's ambassadors made haste to Rome; but sent, as instructed beforehand, what answers they were to make to the questions put to them. They also carried THE EPISTLES with them."  The epistles involved were nothing to do with the "wicked contrivances" of Antipator, as given at the end of Ant.17.5. They were about the "wicked contrivances" of the priests, who were plotting against Herod. The ambassadors were to hold discussions with Caesar about this potential sedition.    It was they and not Caesar who asked the questions (the editor has twisted the text around). Clearly, the ambassadors were to seek Caesar's advice about the letters and the priest's intentions. The priests had previously 'withdrawn their services' from the temple, at the time of Judas Maccabeus. Now they were attracting support. The king knew that the priests were disposed to rebellion and war. "Besides which, he resented a sedition which some of the lower sort of men excited against him" - the Flavian editors were preparing the reader. It wasn't "lower sort of men" who were responsible for the sedition, but the priests.

There was one Judas, the son of Saripheus, and Matthias, the son of Margalothus, two of the most eloquent men among the Jews, and the most celebrated interpreters of the Jewish laws, and men well beloved by the people, because of their education of their youth; for all those that were studious of virtue frequented their lectures every day. These men, when they found that the king's distemper was incurable, excited the young men that they would pull down all those works which the king had erected, contrary to the law of their fathers, and thereby obtain the rewards which the law will confer on them for such actions of piety; for that it was truly on account of Herod's rashness in making such things as the law had forbidden, that his other misfortunes, and this distemper also, which was so unusual among mankind, and with which he was now afflicted, came upon him; for Herod had caused such things to be made which were contrary to the law, of which he was accused by Judas and Matthias; for the king had erected over the great gate of the temple a large golden eagle, of great value, and had dedicated it to the temple. Now the law forbids those that propose to live according to it, to erect images or representations of any living creature. So these wise men persuaded [their scholars] to pull down the golden eagle; alleging, that although they should incur any danger, which might bring them to their deaths, the virtue of the action now proposed to them would appear much more advantageous to them than the pleasures of life; since they would die for the preservation and observation of the law of their fathers; since they would also acquire an everlasting fame and commendation; since they would be both commended by the present generation, and leave an example of life that would never be forgotten to posterity; since that common calamity of dying cannot be avoided by our living so as to escape any such dangers; that therefore it is a right thing for those who are in love with a virtuous conduct, to wait for that fatal hour by such behaviour as may carry them out of the world with praise and honour; and that this will alleviate death to a great degree, thus to come at it by the performance of brave actions, which bring us into danger of it; and at the same time to leave that reputation behind them to their children, and to all their relations, whether they be men or women, which will be of great advantage to them afterward.
Commentary on Ant.17.6.2
The editors put their spin on a story extracted from Ant.12.  They made it sound as though these were Pharisees teaching their pupils the law.  Pharisees did not exist at the time of Herod, as the scrolls show.  Ant.12 has Mattathias teaching his sons. The names of Judas and Matthias were synonymous with Judas Maccabeus and his father Mattathias, and thus of revolution.  The leader in Ant.17 was a Matthias, a supposed "high priest".  His "education" of "youth", was teaching priests to obey the law.  This was to the point where "the scholars" would be prepared to die for their beliefs.  The parallels between the Judas and Matthias of Ant.17 and the Judas and Mattathias of Ant.12 cannot be ignored.
In Ant.17, Herod had supposedly put up a golden eagle over the entrance of the temple which Matthias's scholars were to pull down because it was against the law to have an image of an animal on the temple.  These events were fabricated from the much earlier reality that Judas and Mattathias with their followers had originally pulled down the altar of burnt offerings when they purged the temple.  

The Flavian editors had Herod dying from miserable disease.  This was pure fabrication.  THE KING WHO HAD THE "INCURABLE DISTEMPER" WAS ANTIOCHUS, NOT HEROD.  Antiochus was for animal sacrifice only.  Mattathias was against animal sacrifice.  In Ant.12 Mattathias just dies and his sons mourn his loss.  In fact, as in Ant.17, Mattathias was executed by the Antiochus along with those who had pulled down the altar when Judas Maccabeus purged the temple.  Mattathias became the "other Matthias".  So Mattathias the father of Judas didn't die naturally making a speech to his sons.  

Also in Ant.17.6.4, the editors forgot to include Judas in those supposedly burned as a punishment.  Judas, the real Judas, in reality, had escaped.  

And with such discourses as this did these men excite the young men to this action; and a report being come to them that the king was dead, this was an addition to the wise men's persuasions; so, in the very middle of the day, they got upon the place, they pulled down the eagle, and cut it into pieces with axes, while a great number of the people were in the temple. And now the king's captain, upon hearing what the undertaking was, and supposing it was a thing of a higher nature than it proved to be, came up thither, having a great band of soldiers with him, such as was sufficient to put a stop to the multitude of those who pulled down what was dedicated to God; so he fell upon them unexpectedly, and as they were upon this bold attempt, in a foolish presumption rather than a cautious circumspection, as is usual with the multitude, and while they were in disorder, and incautious of what was for their advantage; so he caught no fewer than forty of the young men, who had the courage to stay behind when the rest ran away, together with the authors of this bold attempt, Judas and Matthias, who thought it an ignominious thing to retire upon his approach, and led them to the king. And when they were come to the king, and he had asked them if they had been so bold as to pull down what he had dedicated to God, "Yes”, said they, “what was contrived we contrived, and what hath been performed we performed it, and that with such a virtuous courage as becomes men; for we have given our assistance to those things which were dedicated to the majesty of God, and we have provided for what we have learned by hearing the law; and it ought not to be wondered at, if we esteem those laws which Moses had suggested to him, and were taught him by God, and which he wrote and left behind him, more worthy of observation than thy commands. Accordingly we will undergo death, and all sorts of punishments which thou canst inflict upon us, with pleasure, since we are conscious to ourselves that we shall die, not for any unrighteous actions, but for our love to religion." And thus they all said, and their courage was still equal to their profession, and equal to that with which they readily set about this undertaking. And when the king had ordered them to be bound, he sent them to Jericho, and called together the principal men among the Jews; and when they were come, he made them assemble in the theatre, and because he could not himself stand, he lay upon a couch, and enumerated the many labours that he had long endured on their account, and his building of the temple, and what a vast charge that was to him; while the Asamoneans, during the hundred and twenty-five years of their government, had not been able to perform any so great a work for the honour of God as that was; that he had also adorned it with very valuable donations, on which account he hoped that he had left himself a memorial, and procured himself a reputation after his death. He then cried out, that these men had not abstained from affronting him, even in his lifetime, but that in the very day time, and in the sight of the multitude, they had abused him to that degree, as to fall upon what he had dedicated, and in that way of abuse, had pulled it down to the ground. They pretended, indeed, that they did it to affront him; but if any one consider the thing truly, they will find that they were guilty of sacrilege against God therein.  

Commentary on Ant.17.6.3
This was really a story about the activities of the revolutionaries Judas and Mattathias.  The "young men" (priests) were made to think the king was dead, and thus he would not be able to hinder them. So “they got upon the place”, the “place” being the high altar – one can hardly imagine the priests getting “upon” an eagle. This was while a “great number of people” were in the temple - a “great number of priests” were tearing down the altar. The cutting “into pieces with axes” was a fabrication. The altar was built out of natural unhewn stones stacked-up loose. These were thrown “down”. The king’s captain (Antiochus's) came with soldiers to put a stop to this activity. He “supposed it was a thing of a higher nature”. The priests (prophets) had thrown “down” the altar that Herod (Antiochus) had supposedly dedicated to God. 

The majority of the priests (prophets) ran away, but the captain (Antiochus's) caught forty of the culprits together with Matthias (Mattathias) the high priest (the leader). These were taken to the king (Antiochus). The captured priests (prophets) said that they had planned and executed the destruction. They had learned that the altar was not according to the Law (in keeping with God's commands), which they had been taught by Matthias (Mattathias).  It was more important to obey the Law (God) than Herod (Antiochus), and they recognized they were going to die.  Herod (Antiochus) sent them to Jericho where there was a “theatre” -  a large place where the captured priests (prophets) were to be executed.  Herod (Antiochus) “called” for the other priests (prophets), “the principal men among the Jews”, to come and watch the execution of their friends. 

But the people, on account of Herod's barbarous temper, and for fear he should be so cruel and to inflict punishment on them, said what was done was done without their approbation, and that it seemed to them that the actors might well be punished for what they had done. But as for Herod, he dealt more mildly with others of the assembly;but he deprived Matthias of the high priesthood, as in part an occasion of this action, and made Joazar, who was Mattathias's wife's brother, high priest in his stead.  Now it happened, that during the time of the high priesthood of this Matthias, there was another person made high priest for a single day, that very day which the Jews observed as a fast. The occasion was this:- This Matthias the high priest, on the night before that day when the fast was to be celebrated, seemed, in a dream, to have conversation with his wife; and because he could not officiate himself on that account, Joseph, the son of Ellemus, his kinsman, assisted him in that sacred office.

But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burned the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.

Commentary on Ant.17.6.4

There was no high priesthood at the time of Herod.  Herod's barbarous temper and cruelty were Antiochus's.  The "other Matthias" was really Mattathias the father of Judas Maccabeus.  He was burned to death by Antiochus.

But now Herod's distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God's judgment upon him for his sins; for a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also exulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety; yet was he still in hopes of recovering, though his afflictions seemed greater than any one could bear. He also sent for physicians, and did not refuse to follow what they prescribed for his assistance; and went beyond the river Jordan, and bathed himself in the warm baths that were at Callirrhoe, which, besides their other general virtues, were also fit to drink; which water runs into the lake called Asphaltitis. And when the physicians once thought fit to have him bathed in a vessel full of oil, it was supposed that he was just dying; but upon the lamentable cries of his domestics, he revived; and having no longer the least hopes of recovering, he gave order that every soldier should be paid fifty drachmae; and he also gave a great deal to their commanders, and to his friends, and came again to Jericho, where he grew so choleric, that it brought him to do all things like a madman; and though he were near his death, he contrived the following wicked designs. 

Now any one may easily discover the temper of this man's mind, which not only took pleasure in doing what he had done formerly against his relations, out of the love of life, but by those commands of his which savoured of no humanity; since he took care, when he was departing out of this life, that the whole nation should be put into mourning, and indeed made desolate of their dearest kindred, when he gave order that one out of every family should be slain, although they had done nothing that was unjust, or that was against him, nor were they accused of any other crimes; while it is usual for those who have any regard to virtue to lay aside their hatred at such a time, even with respect to those they justly esteemed their enemies. He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation, wheresoever they lived, should be called to him. Accordingly, they were a great number that came, because the whole nation was called, and all men heard of this call, and death was the penalty of such as should despise the epistles that were sent to call them. And now the king was in a wild rage against them all, the innocent as well as those that had afforded ground for accusations; and when they were come, he ordered them to be all shut up in the hyppodrome, and sent for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and spake thus to them: "I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; which death ought to be cheerfully borne, and to be welcomed by all men; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king's death. For that he was not unacquainted with the temper of the Jews that his death would be a thing very desirable, and exceedingly acceptable to them, because during his lifetime they were ready to revolt from him, and to abuse the donations he had dedicated to God that it therefore was their business to resolve to afford him some alleviation of his great sorrows on this occasion; for that if they do not refuse him their consent in what he desires, he shall have a great mourning at his funeral, and such as never had any king before him; for then the whole nation would mourn from their very soul, which otherwise would be done in sport and mockery only. He desired therefore, that as soon as they see he hath given up the ghost, they shall place soldiers round the hippodrome, while they do not know that he is dead; and that they shall not declare his death to the multitude till this is done, but that they shall give orders to have those that are in custody shot with their darts; and that this slaughter of them all will cause that he shall not miss to rejoice on a double account; that as he is dying, they will make him secure that his will shall be executed in what he charges them to do; and that he shall have the honour of a memorable mourning at his funeral. So he deplored his condition, with tears in his eyes, and obtested them by the kindness due from them, as of his kindred, and by the faith they owed to God, and begged of them that they would not hinder him of this honourable mourning at his funeral. So they promised him not to transgress his commands.

Commentary on Ant.17.6.5 and 17.6.6 

In Ant.17, Herod apparently planned to kill all of the priests.   Herod had supposedly  gathered about 30000 of the priests in the Hippodrome (theatre) in Jericho where they were to watch the execution of those involved in "the plot to revolt".   The priests were to be surrounded by soldiers and shot with arrows.  That "one out of every family should be slain" is polemic and the source of the murder of the babies by Herod in the New Testament.  But Herod died, and the priests were released and sent home by Salome and Alexus, a fictitous ending.   

This was really Antiochus's plan to destroy all the prophets in one go for refusing to sacrifice and for pulling down the altar of burnt offerings in the temple.  It was Mattathias, the father of Judas Maccabeus, and those who had pulled down the altar who were executed by burning.  The rest of the prophets fled to fight another day. This was not Herod being demented to give himself "the honour of a memorable mourning at his funeral". It was Antiochus's vengeance on the prophets who "had not abstained from affronting him".  The whole account involving Herod was a fabrication.