Image of the Beast & the 7 Sons of Sceva ~ Part 3

07 Aug

In the final post of this series I am considering the seven sons of Sceva, the high priest, and the seven ‘sons’ of Annas, the high priest of Jerusalem in the 1st century CE. In part one I compared the Image of the Beast, seen in Revelation 13:14, with these sons of Sceva mentioned in Acts 19:14, and placed them over against the Lamb with Seven Horns and Seven Eyes (the seven spirits or men, i.e. writers of the New Testament, who spread the Gospel throughout the world), mentioned in Revelation 5:6. My point in all this is to show a competition between the Kingdom of God and the rulers of the Jews who rejected Jesus. The ruling priests had declared war against the priesthood of Jesus, represented in the spirits gone out into the entire world (cp. Revelation 5:6).

Once more we will turn to Acts 19:13-16 and notice v.16 says that the sons of Sceva ran out of the house naked and wounded. The Greek word for house (oikos – G3624) is used by Jesus to indicate the Temple in Matthew 23:38, and is so used in a number of other places in the New Testament. The point is these men sought to place believers under a curse through holding an oath to Jesus over their heads in an effort to either expose believers still frequenting the synagogues or cause believers to blaspheme. The effect of such an oath would expose believers to persecution and ultimately casting them out of Judaism, out of Temple of God and out of the Promised Land.

At first there seems to be a problem in some of the manuscripts at Acts 19:16, in that, some authorities, although speaking of seven sons of Sceva, actually go on to say only two were overcome. Some scholars try to make the Greek mean “all” of them fled naked and wounded. However, there really is no problem with the text as it is, when we view what occurred in 1st century Jewish history. The “man” in whom the evil spirit is said to be (Acts 19:16) indicates the one through whom God’s judgment would occur. For Jonathan, the son of Annas (Sceva) “the man” was Felix, the Roman governor. Felix, had Jonathan killed in the Temple by bribing one of Jonathan’s friends.[1] Jonathan was a meddler in Felix’s affairs, probably seeking to have Paul executed. So, he was overcome by the evil spirit (viz. Felix) and was cast from the office naked (stripped of his high priestly robes) and wounded (to death).

Finally, the seventh ‘son’ or relative of Annas (Sceva) was Matthias, the son of Theophilus (Luke’s addressee) and the grandson of Annas, who had Jesus put to death. Concerning Matthias, one of the rebels was used to execute God’s judgment over him, and Matthias was violently cast out of his office, stripped of his high priestly robes, imprisoned for the duration of the war with Rome and probably killed by the same men who replaced him as high priest and ruler of the Jews at the beginning of the war.

Thus, two of Annas’ seven sons were dishonorably treated, stripped of their priestly robes and wounded (to death). The events of Acts 19:13-16 seem to parallel what occurred in history but not entirely what would have occurred in Ephesus. The “wandering Jews” probably came to Asia, but the sons of Sceva ruled in Judea. Nevertheless, great fear would have come upon Ephesus once the God’s judgments were carried out —one in 58 CE, putting Paul’s enemy, Jonathan, to death and the other, Matthias, stripped of his office and imprisoned at the beginning of the war in 66 CE, showing Jesus, Messiah and true High Priest of both Jew and Gentile, was victorious over Annas and his priesthood and ultimately over the very House they thought to rule.

Luke summed up Paul’s work at this point in his thesis. Paul was still in a Roman prison when the book of Acts was written. Theophilus would have seen the parody and recognized it for what it was intended to be. The prophets of the Old Testament were sent to the heads of state with a warning to repent. None of the ancient authorities repented, and probably Theophilus didn’t either. He might have had influence with his son, Matthias, and perhaps with his father, but nothing was done, so the judgment of God was executed as pronounced.

Acts was probably written while Paul was yet alive. The final chapter of Acts has Paul preaching from his rented house for two years unhindered. This would put the writing of Acts no earlier than 64 CE, but the fact that Matthias probably had to be reigning as the current high priest for the book to be a warning to Theophilus, it had to have been completed sometime in 65 CE. It would cease to be a legitimate warning to the rebellious priesthood once the war had begun in 66 CE. Once the war broke out and Matthias was violently stripped of his high priestly robes, the underlying theme in Acts of competing priesthoods of Jesus and Annas ceases to be a legitimate paradigm.


[1] JOSEPHUS: Antiquities 20.8.5

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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in spiritual warfare


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