Ananias ben Nedebeus

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ANANIAS BEN NEDEBEUS (Heb. חֲנַנְיָה בֶּן נַדְבָּאִי), high priest at the end of the Second Temple period. Ananias served as high priest for 12 years (47–59 c.e.), longer than any other high priest after the fall of the Hasmonean dynasty, with the exception of Joseph *Caiaphas. He was the second high priest appointed by Herod of Chalcis, succeeding Joseph b. Kimḥit. As a result of the conflict between the Samaritans and the Jews, he was arrested by Quadratus, the procurator of Syria, and sent to Rome to report to Claudius. As the investigation in Rome ended in a victory for the Jews, Ananias probably did not remain long. He rather returned to Judea and to his office at the same time that *Felix was appointed procurator of Judea (52). About 59, Agrippa ii appointed *Ishmael b. Phabi ii high priest, but Ananias continued to exercise a powerful influence over developments in Judea because of his extraordinary wealth and his firm ties with the Roman administration. He was especially close to the procurator Albinus (62–64), whom he bribed with gifts, as he did the high priest, Joshua b. Damnai. Josephus states that Ananias was highly regarded by the citizens of Jerusalem and was greatly honored by them, a statement consistent with two talmudic passages (Pes. 57a; Ker. 28a). On the other hand, Josephus writes that Ananias set a bad example for other high priests by having his servants take tithes from the granaries by force, thus depriving other priests of their shares. In the period immediately preceding the destruction of the Temple, his great wealth made it possible for him to hire mercenaries who took a leading part in the street battles in Jerusalem. An example of Ananias' influence was the appointment of his son, Eleazar, as captain of the Temple. The *Sicarii considered Ananias one of the major Roman collaborators; they kidnapped Eleazar's secretary, and offered to exchange him for ten Sicarii whom Albinus held imprisoned. Ananias persuaded the procurator to agree. This set a precedent for similar occurrences. At the outset of the revolt, Ananias became a target for the hatred of the extreme elements led by *Menahem b. Judah the Galilean and his home was burnt down together with the palaces of Agrippa ii and Berenice. He was subsequently put to death, together with his brother Hezekiah. Ananias was apparently not a member of the oligarchic high-priestly families of the time (Boethus, Ḥanin, Phabi, and Cantheras). He was probably a member of the House of Guryon (or Garon).


Jos., Ant., 20:103, 131, 179, 205 ff.; Jos., Wars, 2:243, 426, 441; Shab. 1:4; Mekh., ed. by H.S. Horowitz and I.A. Rabin (19602), 229; Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 272; Derenbourg, Hist, 232 ff.; Graetz, Gesch, 3, pt. 2 (19065), 723 ff.

[Menahem Stern]