© 2007 Dr. Barbara Thiering

The authority behind the Gospel of Matthew was none other than Matthew Annas, one of the five sons of Ananus the Elder , the pro-Roman Sadducee high priest who was appointed under the Roman Occupation of 6 AD. The Christian history unfolding during the 1st century AD was not an obscure byway as has been supposed. It was very much a part of the history of the central government. Matthew Annas above all, as high priest, was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity

Matthew, appointed high priest of the Jerusalem temple in the early 40'sAD, was the fourth of the brothers to hold the position, after Eleazar Annas, Jonathan Annas and Theophilus Annas. Matthew's character was testified to by his brother Jonathan, whom Agrippa I wanted to re-appoint. Jonathan, who had been high priest for 6 months only in 37 AD, declined the re-appointment, saying, "If you desire that another, worthier than I, should receive the honour, be intstructed by me. I have a brother, pure of all sin against God and against you, O king. Him I recommend as suitable for the honour." (Josephus, Antiquities 19, 315)

Matthew was appointed, but the capricious Agrippa, turning from friendship to hostility to Rome in the early reign of Claudius (41-54 AD) and consequently from a Sadducee to a Pharisee high priest, dismissed him in September 43 AD after a quarrel with the Roman governor of Syria. The dismissal is presented in Acts as one of the causes of the assassination of Agrippa in March 44 AD. It happened because he, Agrippa "did not give the Glory to God" (Acts 12:23). Since Matthew like all the Sadducee priests accepted being addressed as "God" because he represented God to the people, the pesher of those words is that Agrippa did not give the Glory, the priestly seat at the center of the holy table, to Matthew.

Sadducee priests could officiate in the Jerusalem temple, but they could also go to the Diaspora, ministering to Jews who were too far away from Jerusalem to attend the temple. Some of these Jews ceased to believe in the necessity of a temple building, holding that "The Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands" (Acts 7:48). It was among these that the ascetic discipline developed , through individuals who believed that personal zeal was a better way of being religious than external observances. The word "zeal" characterised them, in the sense of personal fervor practiced every day, not simply at the public festivals. The word "zeal" from Hebrew qane' gave the name "Cana". In John 2:1, John 4:46 and John 21:2 "Cana of Galilee" was the area in the west wing of the Ain Feshkha building where ascetics of this persuasion met.

Another kind of Diaspora Jew had an even better reason for embracing the concept of personal zeal. These were the Samaritans, who came from the north of the country, their temple on Mount Gerizim, owing no loyalty to Jerusalem in the south. Being ethnically Jewish - despite the propaganda claiming them to be foreign in 2 Kings 17 - they held that the future of the country lay with extending its power from Samaria throughout the world, taking up the capital of the still emerging Roman empire. For them, zeal included preparedness for military attack, in order to defeat a pagan power that they believed to be evil. From their attitude, the term "zealot" was reduced to mean militarism. Simon the Zealot of the Twelve Apostles was the Samaritan Simon Magus. An alternative for Simon zēlōtes (Luke 6:15) was Simon Kananaios (Mark 3:18), from "Cana".

On the occasion in March AD 44 when Agrippa I stood on a height in Caesarea and claimed to be divine, both kinds of Diaspora ascetics united to assassinate him. They recognized that he was acting as his patron Caligula had done and should be dealt with in the same way. Matthew Annas was involved in the plot, although its prime mover was Simon Magus, the "angel of the Lord". Simon had worked through Nicolaus-Blastus, the eunuch of Agrippa who had access to him in his bedchamber, and administered the poison that killed him after five days of agony. (Josephus, Antiquities 19, 343-350, Acts 12:20-23)

Necessary as it was to unite for this action - just as all honorable men in Rome had united to kill Caligula - Simon Magus and Matthew Annas immediately afterwards went their own way. Their attitudes and politics were fundamentally different, the Annas priests pro-Roman for peace, being only opposed to Agrippa I because of his excesses. Simon Magus was anti-Roman for war, and always anti-Herodian. The final schism took place in 44 AD, the Christians remaining in the court of Agrippa II and gaining the upper hand there, Simon's Magians expelled to Damascus.

Their differences went deeper even than on politics. Among the five Annas brothers there were internal differences that had been exemplified in the previous history of Sadducees. In the last days of Herod the Great (37-4 BC) he had appointed a Sadducee priest named Matthias, from a different line than the Annas family. Matthias practiced a strict personal discipline that included sexual abstinence, given priority over his duties as high priest. Josephus writes:

"Now it happened during this Matthias' term as high priest that another high priest was appointed for a single day - that which the Jews observe as a fast (Atonement)- for the following reason. While serving as priest during the night preceding the day on which the fast occurred, Matthias seemed in a dream to have intercourse with a woman, and since he was unable to serve as priest because of that experience, a relative of his...served as priest in his place. Herod then deposed Matthias from the high priesthood" (Antiquities 17, 165-166) It is in Matthew's gospel that the distinction between the Few (oligoi) and the Many (polloi) is found, and between the Narrow Way and the Broad Way. (Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 22:14) Those who followed the stricter Sadducee rule of the earlier Matthias were called the Few, belonging to the Narrow Way that led to Life.The Few were called Chosen, the Elect Ones. Those who followed the less strict Sadducee rule exemplified by Jonathan Annas, who is referred to by the term Many, belonged to the Broad Way that led to Destruction - a synonym for Rome.

The use of the terms indicates that Matthew Annas had personally chosen the Narrow Way of the Few, holding a strict view on moral questions, against his brother Jonathan of the Many, holding a looser, more liberal view. Matthew's reputation for personal virtue, endorsed by Jonathan, was well deserved. Their differences help to explain the structures of the two different kinds of abbeys for Gentiles.

The abbeys for the Many had liberal views on sexual matters, in common with the "Seekers-after-Smooth-Things", the Magians. The Gentile abbey headed by Jonathan Annas under the name Stephen - the title he adopted when he was in opposition to Agrippa I - is described in Acts 6:3-6. It had seven ministers, one for each day of the week, expressing the belief that "zeal" was for every day. Jonathan Annas-Stephen was the priest for the sabbath, Saturday day 0; Philip-Protos for Sunday day 1, Prochorus for Monday day 2; Nikanor for Tuesday day 3; Timon for Wednesday day 4; Parmenas for Thursday day 5; Nicolaus "the proselyte of Antioch" for day 6, Friday. In their Gentile abbey they adopted Gentile names. Those from days 2 to 5 do not appear elsewhere in Acts, and are given credit as founders only in this passage. It is shown in v.3 , through the pesher, that a Number 7 was with them. He is seen elsewhere to be Thomas Herod, a 7 in the Herodian system (Mark 12:20, Mark 22,23). In this company he was accepted as a homosexual, but for the other kind of abbey he at first represented "Sodom".

The other kind, under Matthew Annas of the Chosen Few in Antioch, is presented in Acts 13:1-4 for the season of Pentecost 44 AD. It had five chief leaders, depicted as a hand. The Finger in the center of the hand was the abbot Matthew, called the Holy Spirit in the form to pneuma to hagion (13:2), meaning that he was a "Spirit" for the Therapeuts, presiding over their ecstatic meetings as the abbot grade 1. When he was "in the body", down to a bishop grade 4, he was called to hagion pneuma (13:4). As a bishop he was also a "Moses", called prophētai in 13:1.

A priestly leader needed a levitical deputy to substitute for him when necessary, as the index finger. This was another man who combined lay and levitical status, Joses-Barnabas the next brother of Jesus after James (Acts 4:36 ). At a time of political disagreements Jesus had appointed Barnabas his heir in place of James (John 9). The ring finger, a lay bishop who was "married" to his village community, was Simeon Niger, "Simon the Black", a name for Peter as a lay deputy to the abbot. He was the one who used the name "Christian" in the new structure. The little finger was Manaen the table-companion of Herod the tetrarch. The Herodian tetrarchy now belonged to Agrippa II in his house in Antioch, and Manaen was Titus, head of Ham Ethiopians, who had been shown in the previous chapters to be always loyal to the Agrippas. The "thumb" was Luke, Lucius the Cyrenian, a deacon as head of distant Gentiles of Japheth.

Matthew was only a number 1, the abbot. The Zero above him, corresponding to the Zadokite high priest, was Jesus, the Lord in Acts 13:2. In his name the liturgy was conducted (leitourgountoi). As an expression of his schism with the Magians, Jesus had chosen the Gentile abbey system of Matthew Annas, holding the stricter view on moral questions, and he lived with them in Antioch until further changes were made.

After Matthew Annas' deposition as high priest he acted as an ordinary teacher in the Diaspora, renouncing his priestly status, using the pseudonym Agabus. He remained in touch with Jewish Christians, and as a result sponsored the gospel called by his name, which combined the original teaching of Hillel to proselytes, the Logia, with subsequent teachings to Gentiles who had not become proselytes. It became the first gospel, although it was the last completed, in order to ensure the retention of the Jewish tradition that was not respected by Roman Christians. Matthew's agent in writing it was James Niceta, the author of Part A of the Book of Revelation. In Chapter 10 of Revelation he includes the account of how he was deputed to record it by "Thunder 7" (Matthew), then had it banned on an order from Agrippa I, "Seal up what Thunder 7 has said, and do not write it down". After Agrippa's death the following year it was continued, and finally given the place of honor in the gospels.

Matthew took a further step when he transferred fully to the Rome based mission, with its outposts in Athens and Corinth. In Corinth, Crispus the ruler of the synagogue appears in Acts 18:8, and in 1 Corinthians 1:14 Paul wrote that he had baptized Crispus in Corinth. A change of party was accompanied by a rebaptism and change of name. Matthew, now a citizen of Rome serving in Diaspora synagogues, had set aside his high priestly status and adopted an ordinary Roman name for service in European synagogues.

MATTHEW. Names and pseudonyms. Matthew Annas. Tax-collector Matthew. Thunder 7 following Boanerges (Jonathan) in the list of apostles. Agabus. As abbot in Antioch, to pneuma to hagion, to hagion pneuma, hoi prophētai. Crispus ruler of the synagogue.

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