"Theophany in the Temple: The Experiences of Jaddus (Ant 11:326-328), Hyrcanus (Ant 13:282-283), and Zechariah (Luke 1:5-23)"

Robert Gnuse

It is a time of crisis for the people of God, and into the dark recesses of the temple comes the priest seeking the presence of God and hope or direction for his people. Outside a pensive crowd waits for the priest to emerge and give them encouragement for the future. Finally, the priest comes forth and gives the people cause to rejoice by informing them of the (perhaps unexpected) revelation he has obtained.

 Three accounts appear to share this basic narrative plot: two accounts from the writings of Flavius Josephus, the experience of Jaddus the High Priest in Ant 11,326-328 and Hyrcanus the High Priest in Ant 13,282-283, and the experience of Zechariah the priest recorded in the Lukan Infancy Narratives in Luke 1,5-23. There are sufficient differences between these three narratives to conclude that Luke is not directly dependent upon Josephus or vice-versa. Yet there are haunting similarities which suggest the possibility that both Josephus and the author of Luke-Acts may have known and used a common narrative tradition. Hence, a comparison of these stories should not seek to discern one common literary or historical origin for the narrative, nor should an analysis seek to determine any literary dependence between Josephus and the author of Luke-Acts, but rather the narratives should be played against each other to discern how the two different authors may have used nuanced plot variations and motifs for literary and theological reasons. This author would suggest that both Josephus and the author of Luke-Acts may have adapted the story for their own literary and ideological agenda, but that the author of Luke-Acts may have crafted more symbolic twists in the plot for the sake of his theological message.

 In his excellent work on Hellenistic apologetic historiography Gregory Sterling observes the common intellectual heritage shared by Josephus and the author of Luke-Acts as Hellenistic Jewish apologists for their respective communities, Jewish and Christian 1.

In the great debate concerning possible influence exerted by either Josephus or the author of Luke-Acts upon the other, Sterling sides with the majority of scholars who conclude that no such influence exists, especially since the Antiquities and Luke-Acts were roughly contemporaneous works (80-100 CE) 2. However, this does not exclude observations which posit that both historians shared the same literary and ideological agenda in their approach to apologetic historiography, nor does it exclude the possibility that both historians might have shared common sources. Sterling indeed postulates that they shared in an east-Mediterranean or "oriental" historiographical tradition over against the "occidental" tradition of Latin and Greek historians, and he seeks to delineate these commonalities. Ultimately, both defended their own "people" to a hostile Graeco-Roman audience 3.

 In an excellent article Heinz Schreckenberg carefully considers parallel narratives in Josephus and Luke-Acts and comes to the conclusion that, despite what some scholars have said about the many parallels between the two authors, there are actually few substantial parallels. For him most of the coincidences may be explained by the simple fact that both authors had as their object of consideration much of the same first-century CE. historical scene. Schreckenberg wisely observes that in many details the differences between Josephus and Luke-Acts are so great as to refute any possible influence of one upon the other 4. However, Schreckenberg does not consider seriously the possibility that both authors may have drawn upon common literary genres and narrative formats in shaping particular stories. Thus, he considers how both authors might regard a public historical event, such as the death of Agrippa, but he does not observe how unrelated narratives might have been portrayed by both authors in a strikingly similar fashion because both used a common narrative form to render those accounts. This short study seeks to direct attention to that phenomenon. Perhaps there are a number of unrelated stories which nevertheless share form-critical similarities. If so, there is opportunity for analysis which would enhance our understanding of the common literary artistry shared by both authors in their theological and ideological crafting of historical narratives.

 If, indeed, there are shared historiographical presuppositions and literary forms and expressions as Gregory Sterling suggested, then it would be valuable to extend an analysis to the consideration of selective similar narrative accounts. A comparison which discerns similarities and differences might reveal further religious and ideological agenda which shape the writings of both authors. A form-critical and ideological comparison of numerous stories would be beyond the capacity of one essay, but a single narrative analysis could be a useful point of entry into a wider narrative comparison of Josephus and Luke-Acts. A fairly distinctive narrative format found in the histories of both authors is the aforementioned account about a theophany of God to a priest in the temple regarding future actions to be taken in reference to a crisis.

 The Josephan narrative in Ant 11,326-328 reads as follows:

(326) When the high priest Jaddus heard this, he was in an agony of fear, not knowing how he could meet the Macedonians, whose king was angered by his former disobedience. He therefore ordered the people to make supplication, and, offering sacrifice to God together with them, besought Him to shield the nation and deliver them from the dangers that were hanging over them. (327) But, when he had gone to sleep after the sacrifice, God spoke oracularly to him in his sleep, telling him to take courage and adorn the city with wreaths and open the gates and go out to meet them, and that the people should be in white garments, and he himself with the priests in the robes prescribed
by law, and that they should not look to suffer any harm, for God was watching over them. (328) Thereupon he rose from his sleep, greatly rejoicing to himself, and announced to all the revelation that had been made to him, and, after doing all the things that he had been told to do, awaited the coming of the king.

 The narrative in Ant 13,282-283 reads as follows:

(282) Now about the high priest Hyrcanus an extraordinary story is told how the Deity communicated with him, for they say that on

the very day on which his sons fought with Cyzicenus, Hyrcanus, who was alone in the temple, burning incense as high priest, heard a voice saying that his sons had just defeated Antiochus. (283) And on coming out of the temple he revealed this to the entire multitude, and so it actually happened. This, then, was how the affairs of Hyrcanus were going.

 (By virtue of its accessibility the biblical text need not be reproduced here.)

 The common narrative plot line which unifies the accounts has the following component parts worthy of individual form-critical comparison: a prior problem is mentioned or inferred; preparation occurs outside the temple, which involves prayer (except for Hyrcanus); the priest enters the temple at the propitious moment; a theophany occurs inside the temple; a message is given which concerns the coming of a great man (applies to Hyrcanus only in a limited way); the theophany comes to an end; public announcement of the message is made, or the crowd becomes aware that a theophany has occurred and, finally, actions are undertaken for the arrival of the great personage (except for Hyrcanus).

 The narratives involving Jaddus and Zechariah most closely conform to this outline, but all three fit the pattern in a general sense. Distinctive differences between the narratives may reflect ideological agenda. Most notably the Lukan account seems to provide some subtle twists on what might have been the basic narrative plot also used by Josephus for his version of Jaddus" and Hyrcanus" experiences.

 Following the parameters of the outline delineated above, we can make the following commentary.


A prior problem

 Jaddus and the people of Jerusalem face a potential crisis with the imminent arrival of Alexander the Great and his army, who are moving down the Syro-Palestinian coast in 331 BCE. Because of past political dealings Jaddus perceives that he is a potential enemy of Alexander, and this could bring military violence to the city of Jerusalem. Hence, Jaddus goes to the temple to offer sacrifice and perhaps to obtain divine direction for this crisis (Ant 11,326). If he is not seeking divine direction in the form of a revelation, he at least is seeking divine assistance or presence. This would be quite comparable to the assistance sought by Onias in the temple in 2 Macc 3,29-34 after the entrance and punishment of Heliodorus in the temple. The Jaddus narrative gives the appearance of being a deliberate dream incubation, a rare occurrence in biblical or Jewish literature. Josephus, however, handles the theophany with caution so as not to let it appear as though God has been manipulated to give a revelatory message. His respectful mode of treatment parallels the way in which biblical authors also treated the traditions they inherited concerning dream theophanies 5. If, indeed, Josephus is using such a dream incubation format, it lends credence to the notion that Jaddus seeks divine revelation.

 Hyrcanus the High Priest and his family are leading the Jews in a war against the Seleucid Greeks of Syria (Ant 13,282). This, however, is not actually the direct reason for entry into the temple. Though no reason is given for his presence in the temple, certainly the war-time situation constitutes an on-going problem for the Jews in general.

 For Zechariah the prior problem is personal: he and his wife had no children and they were too old to have any in the future. Barrenness is a common theme in the Hebrew Bible as a problem faced by righteous people (Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel, Manoah and his wife, Elkanah and Hannah, etc.), and addressed by God in dramatic fashion with the gift of a heroic son. Also, the author of Luke-Acts might wish us to perceive that a further problem was the general spiritual and political crisis among the Jews in this age which would require the arrival of the messiah. The story then tells of the emissary of that messiah.

Preparation outside the temple

 The narratives concerning Jaddus and Zechariah relate that people outside the temple engage in prayer. In Ant 11,326 they combine prayer and sacrifice to assure that divine reassurance would come from God, and in Luke 1,10 people pray outside the temple because it was to be done at the incense hour. The shorter narrative concerning Hyrcanus makes no reference to such activity.

Entrance into the temple

 Jaddus and Hyrcanus enter the temple because they are high priests (Ant 11,326; 13,282), whereas Zechariah enters the temple because it is his turn to perform services (Luke 1,8). One senses a certain artificiality in the Lukan narrative, as a reason must be provided for Zechariah"s presence in the temple, especially since he is not the high priest and otherwise an obscure (if not fictional) personage. In addition, Zechariah is alone in the temple, whereas the rabbinic tradition (Mish Tam 7,2) indicates that there should have been an assisting priest. 6 One suspects Lukan fictional narrative technique has produced an isolated Zechariah ready to receive a theophany. Interestingly, Zechariah enters the temple at the time of incense burning, which reminds us of the reference to Hyrcanus burning incense once he was in the temple (Ant 13,282).


 Once inside the temple all the men experience a theophany. Jaddus receives a message in a dream revelation (Ant 11,327), Hyrcanus hears a voice which Josephus earlier identifies as God (Ant 13,282), and Zechariah has an "angel of the Lord" appear before him. It is possible to argue that Jaddus may have had his dream theophany outside the temple; the text is vague and rather terse. However, since there is no reference to his leaving the temple after the sacrifice and before the reception of the dream, it would seem logical to infer that the dream was experienced in the temple.

 Though the experiences appear to be different from each other, there are commonalities. Sometimes in the dream reports recorded in Genesis (Gen 31,11), as well as in the Matthean Infancy Narratives (Matt 1,20, 2,13.19), the "angel of the Lord" or the "angel of God" appears in dreams. The expression is a circumlocution for God which reflects Jewish piety in the desire not to speak of God directly when involved in a revelatory experience to people. Whereas in the Matthean Infancy Narratives God or the "angel of Lord" (Matt 1,20, 2,13.19) speaks to Joseph, in the Lukan Infancy Narratives the burden of revelation is borne by actual angels. There is something suspicious here. One might suggest that Luke has taken the old Jewish circumlocution for God literally and turned it into actual angelic beings. He did the same with the account of Jesus" baptism; for here Luke reports that the Holy Spirit descended bodily as a dove (Luke 3,22), whereas Mark 1,10 and Matt 3,16 record that the Spirit merely descended "like" a dove. If Luke"s angels are really a literalization of the Jewish idiom "angel of God/Lord", then there is kinship between Jaddus" dream theophany and Luke"s angel. Of course, Luke further elaborates by giving the angel the name of Gabriel, a being associated with apocalyptic expectations, and by providing dialogue. The point to be made is that the revelatory experiences in Ant 11,326 and Luke 1,11-20 ultimately are comparable. One could pursue similar comparisons with Hyrcanus" experience in Ant 13,282, for he heard a fwnh/, or a voice, speak to him. Sometimes this term is used in dream theophanies in Josephus for auditory dream reports 7. But since the term dream is not used in this narrative, we might be stretching the point to imply that Hyrcanus" experience was related to dream theophanies also.

 Finally, it is interesting to note that a related narrative of a temple theophany may be found in 2 Macc 3,22-34. Here a theophany is experienced by an intruder into the Temple, Heliodorus. He encounters two young men (presumably angelic beings) who beat him up (v. 26) and then later provide him with a stern warning (v. 34). This conforms, in part, to the other three accounts, but obviously diverges at many points, including, most importantly, the identity of the recipient (a Seleucid agent) and the nature of the message (a physical thrashing). But we do have the appearance of angels, as in Luke.


 The message heard by Jaddus comes from God who tells him "to take courage" and to engage in certain actions. He should adorn the city, open the gates, dress in white robes, and he and the other priests should go forth to meet Alexander. Jaddus is assured that God is watching them and no harm will come to them (Ant 11,327).

 Hyrcanus" message is recorded tersely by Josephus (Ant 13,282). The high priest hears that his sons have won a major battle against the Seleucids. Josephus does not provide the message in direct discourse for his audience as he did with the theophany to Jaddus. There is no clear reference to the coming of a great man, but one could infer in a limited way that the sons of Hyrcanus are now great men by virtue of their victory over the enemy.

 The message to Zechariah has been developed greatly by Luke. When the angel appears to Zechariah, he is afraid, so the angel tells Zechariah not to fear. The angel informs him that his prayers have been heard, and Zechariah and Elizabeth will have a son. Furthermore, the child will become great, he will cause rejoicing, he will drink no wine, the Holy Spirit will fall upon the child to cause many to turn to God, and the power of Elijah will be upon him to prepare the people for the Lord. The message is as pregnant with allusions to the Old Testament as Elizabeth was with child at full term.

 The messages given to Jaddus and Zechariah share common themes; the message to Hyrcanus is too terse for comparison. Both Jaddus and Zechariah experience theophanies in response to prayer, either of the people (Ant 11,326) or of Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1,7.13). Both men are told not be afraid. Jaddus is not to fear Alexander (Ant 11,327) and Zechariah is not to fear the angelic messenger (Luke 1,13). Both accounts include the theme of joy. Jaddus is to lead a festive procession to meet Alexander, and the crowd is joyous when he comes out of the temple to announce the revelation. (Interestingly, joy is said to have filled the Temple after Heliodorus was thrashed by the angels in 2 Macc 3,30.) Zechariah is told that John will bring joy and gladness. This attribution of joy and gladness to the judgment message of John the Baptist is rather odd. Perhaps, here the Lukan narrative reflects a motif taken from a common temple theophany narrative form. Both Jaddus and Zechariah are told to prepare for the coming of a great personage, be he Alexander the Great or John the Baptist. On this last point one might suspect again that if Luke is familiar with the Jaddus account in some form, then he has provided an ironic twist in comparing Alexander the Great with an enigmatic prophetic figure who prepares for the messiah. It is as if John is now as great as Alexander in his preparatory role for Jesus. Later, Luke will record that Jesus said, "among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" (Luke 7,28).

Perhaps, Luke might have intended the audience to make a comparison with Alexander, if they knew the Jaddus story. If popular Hellenistic thought and Roman political propaganda portrayed contemporary Roman emperors on a par with Alexander, then Luke has elevated Jesus to a position greater than that of Alexander or any Roman caesar. Elsewhere in the Lukan Infancy Narratives one suspects implicit comparisons between Jesus and Roman emperors, especially Caesar Augustus, in regard to the special birth of Jesus with its accompanying signs and the great peace on earth which is brought by his coming.

 Luke develops the theophanic experience in many ways. The most obvious is the addition of dialogue between Zechariah and the angel, a motif with no parallel in the Jaddus account. It is good that Luke has an angel, and not God, give the message, for that makes the human response of doubt and reservation appear far less blasphemous.

 The additional material in the Lukan narrative makes the account resemble an old prophetic call narrative from the Old Testament. Evaluations of the prophetic call narrative format have discerned the following parts: divine theophany; prophetic commission; human reservation or denial of call; divine reassurance, and sign of prophetic call 8. This format may be observed in a number of Old Testament texts (Moses, Exod 3,1-12; Gideon, Judg 6,11-24.36-40; Isaiah, Isa 6,1-13; Jeremiah, Jer 1,4-10; Ezekiel, Ezek 1,1–3,11). When we hear Zechariah"s words of reservation, we sense the continuity Luke"s account has with this old format. If we outline the experience of Zechariah, we find that it includes the above-mentioned parts. The theophany begins with the notice, the "angel of the Lord appeared to him", Luke 1,11. Commission or message occurs in Luke 1,13-17. Human reservation is expressed in Luke 1,18, when Zechariah states that he and his wife are too old to bear children. This motif is comparable to the reservations of Abraham and Sarah in Gen 18,9-15 and the caution of Manoah and his wife in Judg 13,2-23 at the promise of a son, for both couples were likewise barren. Also, we are reminded of Jeremiah"s reservation that he was too young to be a prophet (Jer 1,6). Age is not a problem for God. Divine reassurance comes in Luke 1,19-20 when the angel dramatically says, "I am Gabriel", a phrase parallel to the response of Yahweh in the call narrative of Moses (Exod 3,14). The angel additionally speaks of standing in attendance before God, which is similar to what classical prophets claimed concerning their presence in the divine council. A sign is given in Luke 1,20. The angel tells Zechariah that he will be mute until the child is born. This dramatic sign is ironically comparable to prophetic call narrative experiences in the Old Testament wherein the sign is often connected to the mouth or speaking ability of the prophet. Isaiah has his tongue touched by a hot coal, Jeremiah"s mouth is touched by God, Ezekiel eats a scroll, and in an indirect sense Moses" claim to stutter and Aaron"s presentation by God as interlocutor also belongs on this list. Thus, the Lukan narrative bears some strong resemblances to prophetic call narratives. In his work Benjamin Hubbard delineates the Lukan text with a more detailed format: Introduction – Zechariah"s service, vv. 5-10; Confrontation – angel appears, v. 11; Reaction – Zechariah is afraid, v. 12; Reaction – angel says not to fear, v. 13; Commission – Zechariah receives message, vv. 13-17; Protest – Zechariah disbelieves, v. 18; Reassurance – Zechariah"s sign of dumbness, and Conclusion – Zechariah leaves and Elizabeth becomes pregnant, vv. 21-25 9. His format concurs very closely with the one advocated here.

 Commentators also have noted the significant connection between the theophany to Zechariah concerning John"s birth and the theophany to Mary concerning Jesus" birth (Luke 1,26-38). In both, the angel Gabriel appeared to a human being (Luke 1,11.26-27), the human was frightened or at least perplexed (Luke 1,12.29), and Gabriel said, "Do not be afraid" (Luke 1,13.30). In both Gabriel assured the human of divine favor (Luke 1,13.30), told of an impending pregnancy (Luke 1,13.31), named the future child (Luke 1,13.31), and spoke of his future greatness which would result from the power of God (Luke 1,15-17.32-33). In both the human recipient then questioned whether a baby could be conceived under the current circumstances (Luke 1,18.34), to which Gabriel said that God would accomplish this act (Luke 1,19.35), and a sign was given (Zechariah"s dumbness – Luke 1,20, and Elizabeth"s pregnancy – Luke 1,36). Many commentators assume that the theophany to Zechariah is the original narrative, taken from a John the Baptist source, and that Luke used it as a model to mold the theophany to Mary. Only a few scholars suggest that the John the Baptist annunciation was generated from the Jesus annunciation 10.

 The announcement of John"s birth to Zechariah also seems to borrow motifs from the Old Testament in other ways, which we summarize here. As noted above, the motif of barrenness is taken from Old Testament accounts concerning Sarah and Abraham, Hannah and Elkanah, and Manoah and his wife. Perhaps one could include Isaac and Rebekah and also Jacob and Rachel, for the theme of barrenness appears to be implied for them. Zechariah and Elizabeth are old, just as Abraham and Sarah were. John the Baptist is characterized as a Nazirite, drinking no wine or strong drink, which reminds us of Samuel who also was a Nazirite and Samson whose hair was not to be cut (also part of Nazirite vows). Both Samuel and Samson, of course, were born to previously barren couples. The introduction to the birth narratives of Samuel and John the Baptist share common language. 1 Samuel 1,1 reads, "There was a certain man" . . . "whose name was Elkanah" . . . "He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah", and Luke 1,5 states, "There was a priest named Zechariah" . . . "his wife" . . . "her name was Elizabeth". Parents of both Samuel and John the Baptist learned of the impending birth from a revelation at a shrine. When the angel says to Zechariah, "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John" (Luke 1,13), this reminds us of the message to Abraham in Gen 17,19, "Your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac". Finally, the appearance of Gabriel links this revelatory experience to the visions of Daniel in the apocalyptic visions of the latter part of the book of Daniel. In Dan 9,21 Gabriel appears to Daniel during his prayer at the time of sacrifice, which is comparable to the "hour of incense" at which time Zechariah is in the temple. In both narratives Gabriel"s announcement is eschatological, for he speaks of those things concerned with the coming of the end of time or the messianic age 11. When all of these motifs are considered together, one receives the impression that the author of the Lukan narrative took special care to craft the narrative in a manner which would remind the readers of Old Testament traditions in many ways. Lukan theology and literary artistry has developed the announcements of the births of both John and Jesus extensively by the use of Old Testament allusions.

 In retrospect, it becomes evident that Luke patterned the Zechariah experience especially after the prophetic call narratives as well as other Old Testament accounts. This clearly goes beyond the pattern found in Josephus" account of Jaddus. If Luke adapted some version of the temple theophany narrative, he has added to the narrative the form of a prophetic call narrative by the addition of Luke 1,18-20. This addition with its strong prophetic overtones fits the Lukan theological agenda, for it prepares the reader more readily to view John the Baptist in prophetic categories. This theme is further augmented by the allusions which connect John the Baptist to Old Testament accounts concerning barren parents and their great offspring, and images which associate John the Baptist to the Nazirite tradition shared by those great offspring. Raymond Brown contends that these associations link John the Baptist to the prophetic tradition, because that furthers the Lukan view of history which sees John as the greatest and last prophet of the first age, the Old Testament era. The emphasis upon the reception of the Holy Spirit also reinforces this, since the reception of the spirit of the Lord in the Old Testament was a characteristic of the prophetic calling 12.

Termination of the theophanic experience

 In Ant 11,326 a very traditional termination formula is used, "He rose from sleep", a formula frequently used in both biblical and Josephan dream reports 13. The use of this formula in the reports of other dream theophanies received in sacred places implies that the Jaddus experience ought to be viewed as a theophany which occurred in the temple. The Hyrcanus and Lukan narratives do not have clear statements which terminate their theophanies, but the references in Ant 13,283 and Luke 1,22 to Hyrcanus and Zechariah leaving the temple function to indicate clearly that the theophany is over.

Public announcement

 In all the narratives there is reference to an audience outside the temple which awaits the emergence of the priest from the temple. In Ant 11,328 a crowd waits outside for the appearance of Jaddus, for presumably they anticipate that he will reassure them of the divine presence or provide hope of divine assistance. This is a key argument for assuming this narrative recounts a deliberate dream incubation experience, for the crowd outside expects something of significance to occur in the temple. Again, the Hyrcanus account is terse by comparison. In Ant 13,283 we hear for the first time that there is a multitude outside the temple. Hyrcanus then tells them the message he has heard. In Luke 1,21 we read that the people waited for Zechariah and wondered why he was delayed in the temple. When he came forth mute (Luke 1,22), they realized that he had seen a vision (o1yij – a word sometimes used for dreams).

 How did the audience realize that Zechariah had seen a vision? It seems that the narrative plotline is defective here, for no real explanation can be given for their perception that Zechariah had a vision. I would suggest that if Luke has been inspired to use a narrative plotline, such as a temple theophany, this motif of audience perception would originate with those older narratives. For in the Jaddus account the crowd anticipated at least the assurance of divine presence when Jaddus went into the temple. Thus, they assumed that a message from Jaddus would be forthcoming when he exited. When the Lukan audience so readily perceived that a "vision" was experienced by Zechariah, it would appear that Zechariah has inherited Jaddus" audience, so to speak. More seriously, it appears that Luke here may reflect his dependence on a common narrative plot also used in the Jaddus account.

 Another point worthy of mention is the contrast between Jaddus, Hyrcanus, and Zechariah in their appearance before the crowd. Jaddus and Hyrcanus could speak, Zechariah could not. In such a contrast the silence of Zechariah is deafening. Jaddus provides the directions to the people of Jerusalem, so that they might avert the potential wrath of Alexander the Great. Hyrcanus announces the victory won by his sons against the Seleucids. But Zechariah has been silenced by a powerful theophanic experience. He is powerless, as are his people, before the unfolding plan of God. The blessing which Zechariah should have given to the crowd was not imparted, but Jesus gives such a blessing to his disciples in Luke 24,50-52 at Bethany. Is this the missing blessing? Has Luke"s sense of symmetry moved the priestly blessing from the beginning of the gospel to the end, as Raymond Brown suggests? 14 If so, we see the importance of Zechariah"s silence as a Lukan literary-theological motif. Whereas Jaddus was used by God as a tool to deliver the people, and Hyrcanus was the tool by which the announcement of deliverance was made, the deliverer in the Lukan narrative will be John the Baptist, and ultimately Jesus. Zechariah has been bypassed; his son will be the emissary. As Jaddus was the messenger of the Jews to greet Alexander, so John the Baptist will be the messenger to greet and go before the coming messiah, Jesus. Could it be that Luke has this dramatic and ironic image in mind? Has the function of Jaddus been replaced by John the Baptist? As Jaddus prepared for the coming of Alexander the Great, John the Baptist prepared for the even greater Jesus. Luke may play with these images to tease his audience, but the intent is clear – Jesus comes as one greater than any earthly emperor. Consequently, this may imply that Luke could have adapted some form of the Jaddus tradition in a creative way. His use of the narrative plot is then an ironic twist which has been guided by his theology.

Actions undertaken

 Finally, the Jaddus and Zechariah narratives describe the actions which resulted from the two theophanies. The short Hyrcanus narrative has no such reference. Jaddus did as God directed him and subsequently saved Jerusalem and obtained a significant legitimation for the temple in Jerusalem (which, of course, was the purpose of the tradition before Josephus inherited it). Zechariah finally finished his priestly service (Luke 1,23) and went home – still mute. Elizabeth became pregnant, gave birth to John, and Zechariah regained his speech in time to name the child and sing his canticle (Luke 1,24-25.57-80). (How melodious was his singing voice after all those months of silence?) Only once the emissary has been born may the priest begin to speak again. Throughout this time Zechariah"s role was passive, destiny was in the hands of God. Again, one suspects a subtle contrast here, where Luke may stress the power of God in bringing forth both the ministries of John and Jesus.

 In conclusion, our observations must remain tentative and speculative. It would seem from this form-critical analysis that Luke might have been inspired by a common narrative of temple revelation which was shared by the Jaddus and Hyrcanus experiences recorded by Josephus. The Lukan narrative especially bears some striking similarities with the Jaddus account, in particular. It is most implausible to suggest that Luke used Josephus" Antiquities, for that would push the date for Luke-Acts well beyond 100 CE (though it has been suggested in the past). Rather, both historians were familiar with the same sources or traditions.

 Luke"s use of the narrative format then appears most creative. Luke may have combined the plot with a prophetic call narrative format. In addition, Luke added several twists to the narrative, some of which reflect his theological agenda. Firstly, the angel rather than God is the medium of revelation, as is the case with the rest of the theophanies in the Lukan Infancy Narratives. Secondly, the priest in Luke is silent, a sign given by the angel to testify to the veracity of the message, but perhaps also a symbol of the power of God to bring salvific actions to pass without any human aid. Zechariah"s silence contrasts vividly with the roles of Jaddus and Hyrcanus. Thirdly John the Baptist then replaces Jaddus and Hyrcanus as the active agent in announcing the message of God to the people. John the Baptist also functions instead of Jaddus as the one who goes forth to meet the "great personage". John is a prophet who contrasts with the priestly figure of Jaddus, but he somewhat complements Hyrcanus, who is a priest portrayed by Josephus as having prophetic abilities 15.

 If valuable insights concerning the Lukan narrative may be gleaned by a comparison with comparable Josephan accounts, then such a form-critical exercise is valuable, even if no direct connection may be demonstrated between Josephan and Lukan accounts. Perhaps, other accounts may be worthy of closer scrutiny. One may observe that both Paul in the book of Acts and Josephus have several strikingly common personal experiences. Both had conversion experiences which caused them to change sides in a great struggle, after they had been responsible for the deaths of many (Acts 9,1-19; War 3,351-354). Subsequently, they were received with suspicion by their new allies. Both men functioned like prophets in their public speaking and in the production of written literature 16. They were trained by great religious figures, including Pharisees (Acts 22,3; Life 9-11), and both men expressly mentioned a specifically famous teacher (Acts 22,3 – Gamaliel the Pharisee; Life 11 – Bannus the Essene). Both made significant decisions in their lives after a dream-image appeared to them (Acts 16,9-10 – the man of Macedonia; Life 208-210). Finally, both men were shipwrecked going to Rome, and they described how they had to swim to shore and how all or many of their fellow-travellers were saved (Acts 27,39-44; Life 14-15). These comparisons all merit further form-critical evaluation. In addition, Schreckenberg at one point discusses the haunting similarities between Josephus" description of Moses" death on the mountain and Jesus" ascension, even though he concludes negatively that there is no Josephan influence upon Luke at that point 17. These comparisons begin to emerge for us especially if we work with the assumption that common plot lines may influence unrelated narratives, or narratives which do not cover the same historical events. In the past scholars looked for common narrative patterns by comparing Josephan and Lukan reporting of the same historical events. If we permit ourselves to see Luke as an artist who could creatively use narrative formats in the telling of various stories, we might open ourselves up to discovering other common narratives in Josephus and Luke-Acts. It appears that there may be further fruitful analysis possible in comparative Lukan and Josephan historiography.


A close reading of three accounts concerning theophanies experienced in the temple (Ant 11,326-328, Ant 13,282-283, and Luke 1,5-23) implies that all three narratives share a common narrative format. Though it does not necessarily indicate that Luke used Josephus" writings, this similarity suggests that both authors may have drawn upon a common format. Use of this format and specific variations added to it by Luke reflect significant theological themes imparted to the narrative by Luke, especially in regard to the identities of John the Baptist and Jesus.


1 G. STERLING, Historiography and Self-Definition. Josephos, Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography (VTS 64; Leiden 1992) 365-369.

2 M. KRENKEL, Josephus und Lukas (Leipzig 1894); C. BURKITT, The Gospel History and Its Transmission (Edinburgh 1911) 105-110; and B. STREETER, The Four Gospels (London 1926) 556-558, all believe that Luke was dependent upon Josephus. H. SCHRECKENBERG, "Flavius Josephus und die lukanischen Schriften", Wort in der Zeit (eds. W. HAUBECK – M. BACHMANN) (Leiden 1980) 179-209, suggests that both authors used common traditions and observed the same events, but that differences between the two authors outweigh the similarities. F. BRUCE, "The Acts of the Apostles", Religion (ANRW II, 25, 3; Berlin 1985) 2590, denies any connection. F. J. FOAKES-JACKSON, The Acts of the Apostles (London 1931) xiii-xv, declares that we cannot solve this debate with our present information. All these sources are cited in STERLING, Josephos, 365-366.

3 STERLING, Josephos, 222-225 especially, and 226-389.

4 SCHRECKENBERG, "Josephus", 179-210.

5 E. EHRLICH, Der Traum im Alten Testament (BZAW 73; Berlin 1953) 18-19, 35; and R. GNUSE, "The Temple Experience of Jaddus in the "Antiquities" of Josephus: A Report of Jewish Dream Incubation", JQR 83 (1992-1993) 349-388; R. GNUSE, Dreams and Dream Reports in the Writings of Josephus (AGJU 36; Leiden 1996) 68-101, 186-187, 230-236. In the biblical text we may have reports of inadvertant or indirect dream incubation in a sacred place in the accounts of Jacob at Bethel (Gen 28,10-22) and Beersheba (Gen 46,1-7) and perhaps Samuel at Shiloh ( 1 Sam 3,1-21); the only account of clear incubation occurs with Solomon at Gibeon (1 Kgs 3,4-15). Since biblical authors wished to avoid any implication that God could be manipulated into providing a revelation, allusions to dream incubation were recorded tersely or edited out of the text.

6 R. BROWN, The Birth of the Messiah (Garden City 1977) 263.

7 R. GNUSE, "Dream Reports in the Writings of Flavius Josephus", RB 96 (1989) 358-390, and ID., Josephus, 129-204, especially 201-204.

8 J. FICHTNER, "Berufung II. Im Alten Testament", RGG (3rd ed.; ed. Kurt Galling; Tьbingen 1957) 1084-1086; N. HABEL, "The Form and Significance of the Call Narratives", ZAW 77 (1965) 297-323, who provides the best analysis of the form-critical structure; B. LONG, "Prophetic Call Traditions and Reports of Visions", ZAW 84 (1972) 494-500; B. HUBBARD, "Commissioning Stories in Luke-Acts", Semeia 8 (1977) 103-126, who also assesses Zechariah"s experience as a call narrative, or more properly by his categories, a commissioning story, 115.

9 HUBBARD, "Commissioning", 115.

10 BROWN, Birth, 265-266, 282-285, who holds to the latter position.

11 BROWN, Birth, 268-272.

12 BROWN, Birth, 269, 274-276.

13 R. GNUSE, The Dream Theophany of Samuel (Lanham 1984) 63-85, and id., Josephus, 73-92, 129-204.

14 BROWN, Birth, 280.

15 R. MEYER, "profh/thj", TDNT VI, 825; J. BLENKINSOPP, "Prophecy and Priesthood in Josephus", JJS 25 (1974) 251; H. ATTRIDGE, "Josephus and His Works", Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (ed. M. STONE) (CRINT II, 2; Philadelphia 1984) 223; M. SMITH, "The Occult in Josephus", Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity (eds. L. FELDMAN – G. HATA) (Detroit 1987) 246; L. FELDMAN, "Prophets and Prophecy in Josephus", JTS 41 (1990) 402.

16 GNUSE, Josephus, 21-33.

17 SCHRECKENBERG, "Josephus", 193.