Containing The Interval Of Three Years And A Half.
From The Departure Out Of Babylon To Fadus, The Roman Procurator.
What Things Were Done By Agrippa At Jerusalem When He Was Returned Back Into Judea; And What It Was That Petronius Wrote To The Inhabitants Of Doris, In Behalf.
1. NOW Claudius Caesar, by these decrees of his which were sent to Alexandria, and to all the habitable earth, made known what opinion he had of the Jews. So he soon sent Agrippa away to take his kingdom, now he was advanced to a more illustrious dignity than before, and sent letters to the presidents and procurators of the provinces that they should treat him very kindly. Accordingly, he returned in haste, as was likely he would, now lie returned in much greater prosperity than he had before. He also came to Jerusalem, and offered all the sacrifices that belonged to him, and omitted nothing which the law required; (19) on which account he ordained that many of the Nazarites should have their heads shorn.
And for the golden chain which had been given him by Caius, of equal weight with that iron chain wherewith his royal hands had been bound, he hung it up within the limits of the temple, over the treasury, (20) that it might be a memorial of the severe fate he had lain under, and a testimony of his change for the better; that it might be a demonstration how the greatest prosperity may have a fall, and that God sometimes raises up what is fallen down: for this chain thus dedicated afforded a document to all men, that king Agrippa had been once bound in a chain for a small cause, but recovered his former dignity again; and a little while afterward got out of his bonds, and was advanced to be a more illustrious king than he was before. Whence men may understand that all that partake of human nature, how great soever they are, may fall; and that those that fall may gain their former illustrious dignity again.
2. And when Agrippa had entirely finished all the duties of the Divine worship, he removed Theophilus, the son of Ananus, from the high priesthood, and bestowed that honor of his on Simon the son of Boethus, whose name was also Cantheras whose daughter king Herod married, as I have related above. Simon, therefore, had the [high] priesthood with his brethren, and with his father, in like manner as the sons of Simon, the son of Onias, who were three, had it formerly under the government of the Macedonians, as we have related in a former book.
3. When the king had settled the high priesthood after this manner, he returned the kindness which the inhabitants of Jerusalem had showed him; for he released them from the tax upon houses, every one of which paid it before, thinking it a good thing to requite the tender affection of those that loved him. He also made Silas the general of his forces, as a man who had partaken with him in many of his troubles. But after a very little while the young men of Doris, preferring a rash attempt before piety, and being naturally bold and insolent, carried a statue of Caesar into a synagogue of the Jews, and erected it there. This procedure of theirs greatly provoked Agrippa; for it plainly tended to the dissolution of the laws of his country. So he came without delay to Publius Petronius, who was then president of Syria, and accused the people of Doris. Nor did he less resent what was done than did Agrippa; for he judged it a piece of impiety to transgress the laws that regulate the actions of men. So he wrote the following letter to the people of Doris in an angry strain:
"Publius Petronius, the president under Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, to the magistrates of Doris, ordains as follows: Since some of you have had the boldness, or madness rather, after the edict of Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was published, for permitting the Jews to observe the laws of their country, not to obey the same, but have acted in entire opposition thereto, as forbidding the Jews to assemble together in the synagogue, by removing Caesar's statue, and setting it up therein, and thereby have offended not only the Jews, but the emperor himself, whose statue is more commodiously placed in his own temple than in a foreign one, where is the place of assembling together; while it is but a part of natural justice, that every one should have the power over the place belonging peculiarly to themselves, according to the determination of Caesar, - to say nothing of my own determination, which it would be ridiculous to mention after the emperor's edict, which gives the Jews leave to make use of their own customs, as also gives order that they enjoy equally the rights of citizens with the Greeks themselves, - I therefore ordain that Proculus Vitellius, the centurion, bring those men to me, who, contrary to Augustus's edict, have been so insolent as to do this thing, at which those very men, who appear to be of principal reputation among them, have an indignation also, and allege for themselves, 'that it was not done with their consent, but by the violence of the multitude, that they may give an account of what hath been done. I also exhort the principal magistrates among them, unless they have a mind to have this action esteemed to be done with their consent, to inform the centurion of those that were guilty of it, and take care that no handle be hence taken for raising a sedition or quarrel among them; which those seem to me to treat after who encourage such doings; while both I myself, and king Agrippa, for whom I have the highest honor, have nothing more under our care, than that the nation of the Jews may have no occasion given them of getting together, under the pretense of avenging themselves, and become tumultuous. And that it may be more publicly known what Augustus hath resolved about this whole matter, I have subjoined those edicts which he hath lately caused to be published at Alexandria, and which, although they may be well known to all, yet did king Agrippa, for whom I have the highest honor, read them at that time before my tribunal, and pleaded that the Jews ought not to be deprived of those rights which Augustus hath granted them. I therefore charge you, that you do not, for the time to come, seek for any occasion of sedition or disturbance, but that every one be allowed to follow their own religious customs."
4. Thus did Petronius take care of this matter, that such a breach of the law might be corrected, and that no such thing might be attempted afterwards against the Jews. And now king Agrippa took the [high] priesthood away from Simon Cantheras, and put Jonathan, the son of Ananus, into it again, and owned that he was more worthy of that dignity than the other. But this was not a thing acceptable to him, to recover that his former dignity. So he refused it, and said,
"O king! I rejoice in the honor that thou hast for me, and take it kindly that thou wouldst give me such a dignity of thy own inclinations, although God hath judged that I am not at all worthy of the high priesthood. I am satisfied with having once put on the sacred garments; for I then put them on after a more holy manner than I should now receive them again. But if thou desirest that a person more worthy than myself should have this honorable employment, give me leave to name thee such a one. I have a brother that is pure from all sin against God, and of all offenses against thyself; I recommend him to thee, as one that is fit for this dignity."
So the king was pleased with these words of his, and passed by Jonathan, and, according to his brother's desire, bestowed the high priesthood upon Matthias. Nor was it long before Marcus succeeded Petronius, as president of Syria.
(19) Josephus shows, both here and Ch. 7. Sect. 3, that he had a much greater opinion of king Agrippa I. than Simon the learned Rabbi, than the people of Cesarea and Sebaste, Ch. 7. Sect. 4; and Ch. 9. Sect. 1; and indeed than his double-dealing between the senate and Claudius, Ch. 4. Sect. 2, than his slaughter of James the brother of John, and his imprisonment of Peter, or his vain-glorious behavior before he died, both in Acts 12:13; and here, Ch. 4. Sect. 1, will justify or allow. Josephus's character was probably taken from his son Agrippa, junior.
(20) This treasury-chamber seems to have been the very same in which our Savior taught, and where the people offered their charity money for the repairs or other uses of the temple, Mark 12:41, etc.; Luke 22:1; John 8:20.