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Phinehas ben Samuel


PHINEHAS BEN SAMUEL (known also as "the man of Kefar Habta "; first century c.e.), high priest before the destruction of the Temple, 67–70 c.e. Phinehas was appointed to his office by the casting of lots. Until then the appointment was made only from among the families of distinguished birth. However, within the framework of the democratic reforms introduced by the Zealots, the selection of the high priest was made by casting lots in order to abolish the rule of these families (in this they relied on the ancient tradition in i Chron. 24:5). The lot fell on Phinehas who belonged to the watch of Jachin. Josephus censures him and says that "he scarcely knew what the high priesthood meant," for he was a farmer who tilled the earth (Wars, 4:155). This statement is to be treated with caution, however. In talmudic sources Phinehas is mentioned as a son-in-law of the house of the nasi (Tosef. Yoma l:6), and the view that he was not learned in the affairs of the priesthood cannot be accepted (Klausner). This act of the Zealots gave rise to great bitterness and was the cause of civil war between them and the other parties among the people.


Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 5 (19512), 208f; Jos. Ant., 4, ch. 3.

[Edna Elazary]

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