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Eleazar ben Ananias


ELEAZAR BEN ANANIAS , Zealot leader in Jerusalem during the Jewish war with Rome 66–70 c.e. Eleazar evidently already held the office of Captain of the Temple (segan ha-Kohanim – στρατηγόος) during the procuratorship of *Albinus, 62–64 c.e., and continued to hold that position until the destruction of the Temple. Son of the high priest *Ananias and a member of the priestly circles who joined the revolt, he persuaded the priests to discontinue the practice of accepting offerings on behalf of aliens. Cessation of the sacrifice offered up for the emperor was tantamount to challenging Roman rule, and – according to Josephus – this action signaled the revolt against Rome. The Talmud attributes the action to Zechariah b. Avkulus (Git. 56a).

The discontinuation of sacrifices for the health of the emperor led to a struggle in Jerusalem between the Zealots and those favoring conciliation. Eleazar and his partisans gained possession of the Temple mount and the lower city while the peace party and troops of King *Agrippa ii occupied the upper city. With the help of the extremist *Sicarii faction, however, Eleazar and his men succeeded in capturing this section too. The extremist elements then gained the upper hand, and attacked not only the Romans, but also their opponents among their compatriots. They set fire to the palaces of Agrippa, *Berenice, and the high priest Ananias, as well as to the public archives where loan bonds were deposited. Ananias and his brother Hezekiah (see *Ananias b. Nedebeus) were put to death. When *Menahem b. Judah the Galilean, a central figure among the extremists, attempted to seize the command for himself, he was foiled by Eleazar. After *Cestius Gallus was defeated, Eleazar was appointed general of Idumea by the war party in Jerusalem, together with *Jesus b. Zapphas. The appointment was evidently prompted by a desire to remove him from a key position in the command, and no more is known of him.


Derenbourg, Hist, 472–4; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 584, 602, 607; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 5 (19512), 145–9; M. Stern, in: Ha-Ishiyyut ve-Dorah (1963), 73; Jos., Ant., 20:208; Jos., Wars, 2:17, 409, 425, 566.

[Lea Roth]

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