Boethusians

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

BOETHUSIANS

BOETHUSIANS , a religious and political sect which existed during the century preceding the destruction of the Second Temple. According to rabbinic tradition the Boethusians and the Sadducees were named after two disciples of *Antigonus of Sokho, Zadok and Boethus. They misinterpreted the maxim of their teacher, "Be not like servants who serve their master in order to receive a reward" as meaning that there was no reward for good works, and thus they denied the doctrine of resurrection and the world to come. They thereupon established the two sects named after them (arn1 13b).

Modern scholars however consider this account to be legendary and they ascribe the origin of the Boethusians to the high priest Simeon b. Boethus who was appointed high priest by Herod the Great in 24 b.c.e. (Jos., Ant., 15:320), in succession to Joshua b. Phabi, in order to afford him a suitable status, as he desired to marry Herod's daughter, Mariamne ii. Although in their theological views they closely resembled the Sadducees, some scholars regard them merely as a branch of them (see *Sadducees), and are always mentioned together with them, they did not share their aristocratic background, and whereas the Sadducees supported the Hasmonean dynasty, the Boethusians were loyal to the Herodians. It is they who are apparently referred to in the New Testament as Herodians (Mark 3:16; 12:13). The Boethusians were regarded by the Talmud as cynical and materialistic priests. They hired false witnesses to delude the Pharisees about the new moon (rh 22b; tj, rh 57d; Tosef., rh 1:15). They maintained that the Omer (Men. 10:3) was to be offered on the first Sunday after Passover, and not on the morrow of the first day and, as a result, differed as to the date of Shavuot which according to them must always fall on a Sunday (Ḥog. 24). They held special views on the preparation of incense on the Day of Atonement (tj, Yoma 1:39a; Tosef., Yoma 1:8). In terms of the Sabbath ritual, they were not even considered as Jews (Eruv. 68b). The high priestly "House of Boethus" is criticized in the Talmud for its oppression, "Woe is me because of the House of Boethus, woe is me because of their staves" (with which they beat the people – Pes. 57a; cf. Tosef., Men. 13:21).

Other Boethusian high priests included Joezer and Eleazar b. Boethus (Jos., Ant., 17:164, 339), Simeon Cantheras (ibid., 19:297), Elionaeus b. Cantheras (ibid., 19:342), and *Joshua b. Gamala.

bibliography:

L. Finkelstein, Pharisees, 2 (19503), 762–79; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 4 (19502), 43; Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 478 n. 16.