In Wars of the Jews, Josephus describes the signs and prophets that foretold of the destruction of the Jerusalem and the temple. Among these is Jesus, son of Ananus. Two significant things about this Jesus:
1. He predicted the destruction of the temple before the actual event.
2. He shares his name with a more famous Jesus who also predicted the destruction of the temple.
Here is the text:
But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began,
Josephus places this event around 62 AD.
and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!”
Josephus may be quoting Jesus, but more likely is summarizing the ministry. Jesus prophecies a “voice” coming against Jerusalem, the temple, and all of Israel. The imagery seems to be one of a surrounding force that encompasses and threatens Israel.
This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him.
The people of the city become angry at Jesus’ “dire” cry and showed “indignation”. Jesus’ prophecy was violent in imagery. Jesus was prophesying doom. The people arrest and beat him. They then deliver him to the Roman procurator who also beats him. Jesus does not answer a word. The procurator, Albinus, lets him go as a mad man.
Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.
Jesus’ ministry lasts for quite some time, 7 years. He then predicts his own death as it occurs. It is hard to say for sure how Josephus knew this detail, but possibly it was a word of mouth legend.
There are some claims that this Jesus, son of Ananus was Jesus of Nazareth. There are plenty of parallels in the ministries. Both Jesus-es prophesy destruction of Israel and the temple. Both Jesus-es are captured in Jeresalem and delivered over the the Romans. Both Jesus-es remain silent when questioned. But that is where the similarities end.
Jesus, son of Ananus, lives and died thirty years after Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, son of Ananus, did not seem to have a following and had a fairly long ministry. Jesus, son of Ananus, died by Roman catapult during the siege of Jerusalem. By this time, all the gospels had already been written and Christianity was growing. There were two Jesus-es.