Who is Luke’s Joanna?

02 Nov

Luke mentions a woman named Joanna in Luke 8:3 where she is identified as the wife of Herod’s steward, Chuza, and Luke tells us that she was one of the women who ministered to Jesus from her own wealth. Later, in Luke 24:10 we are told that Joanna was one of the women who visited the tomb of Jesus and found it empty, but she learned from an angel who appeared to her and others at the tomb that Jesus had risen. Both she and the women with her ran to the apostles and told them. This is all that can be clearly understood from the Gospel narratives, because only Luke mentions her in these two places of his work.

It has been theorized by some that Joanna was the granddaughter of Theophilus, the high priest, who reigned in Jerusalem cir. 37 CE to 41 CE.[1] However, I take exception to this understanding. My reasoning comes from the assumed age of Annas, the high priest and father of Theophilus, when he was appointed to that office in 6 CE by Rome.[2] Josephus later records the death of Annas in his Wars 2.17.8-9. Jesus even foretold that this Annas (Ananias) would live to see him coming in the clouds (symbolizing judgment) to judge Jerusalem and the Temple (see Matthew 26:62-64; cp. John 18:13).

If we assume that when Annas died in 66 CE he was 90 years old,[3] then he would have been 30 years old in the year 6 CE when he was appointed high priest by Cyrenius (Quirinus), Rome’s first governor of Judea after the banishment of Archelaus. Let’s also assume for argument’s sake that each high priest was married at age 14 and had his firstborn at age 15. This is probably far too unlikely, but let’s assumes it in order to understand what age Joanna would have had to be during the ministry of Jesus if she was the granddaughter of Theophilus.

If Annas was 30 years old in 6 CE then his first born, Eleazar (?), would have been born in 10 BCE. Let’s assume he was Annas’ firstborn rather than his daughter who married Caiaphas. Perhaps she came second in 8 BCE, and let’s allow about 2 years difference in the siblings’ ages. Jonathan would have come next in 6 BCE. Theophilus would have been born in 4 BCE, and Matthias in 2 BCE. Finally, Ananias who killed James, Jesus’ brother, in 62 CE would have been born in 1 CE. This is Annas’ immediate family, as much as can be known from Josephus.

If Theophilus married at 14 and had his son Jonathan (Joanna’s father) at age 15 (provided Jonathan and not Matthias was Theophilus’ firstborn), then the year of Jonathan’s birth would have been 12 CE. The birth of Joanna, if she was Jonathan’s firstborn, would have come 15 years later, according to our liberal analysis, in 27 CE near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Under this reckoning, she was a mere babe. If we add 10 years to Annas’ life so that he died at age 100 instead of 90, he would have been 40 years old when he first took office of high priest in 6 CE, then we could add 10 years to each of the ages mentioned above, and Joanna would have been 10 or 11 years of age when she was supporting Jesus’ ministry. This is highly unlikely, and while she may have been promised to Chuza at such an early age, I doubt the marriage would have been consummated, while she was so young, and Luke’s recording of her implies she was an adult.

Another possibility is that Joanna’s original family is unknown, but as the wife of Chuza in Luke, she may have become part of the Antioch church in Acts as the wife of Manaen who had been brought up in Herod’s household—understanding that Chuza and Manaen are the same person. See my study on this possibility HERE.


[1] The proposition is mentioned in Wikipedia HERE, and has been theorized by lawyer and author Richard Anderson HERE. Mr. Anderson also has a blog HERE where he argues for Joanna being the granddaughter of Theophilus

[2] Josephus; Antiquities of the Jews, 23.2.1

[3] If we assume he was 100 years old then merely add 10 years to each of the ages reckoned above. Nevertheless, credulity is stretched to far if we go beyond 100 years of age.

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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Gospel of Luke, Theophilus


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