Thursday, February 1, 2007

Crucifixion of 800 pharisees by Alexander Jannaeus

The Roman historian Josephus wrote in Antiquities 13:14:2 that in 88 BCE, the Hasmonean king, Alexander Jannaeus (in office 103-76 BCE), ordered the crucifixion of 800 Pharisees.

"As he was feasting with his concubines, in the sight of all the city, he ordered about eight hundred of them to be crucified; and while they were living, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes."

Alexander Jannaeus (also known as Alexander Jannai/Yannai) was the son of John Hyrcanus. His likely Hebrew name was Jonathan, and he may have been the High Priest Jonathan. In the Talmud, he appears as a wicked tyrant under the name King Yannai, reflecting his conflict with the Pharisee party.

(painting by Willem Swidde, The Execution of the Pharisees, c 17th century)

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