Who is Luke’s Joanna?

09 Aug

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, 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 assume it in order to understand what age Joanna would have had to have been during the ministry of Jesus if she were 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 is 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


Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Gospel of Luke, Theophilus


Tags: , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Who is Luke’s Joanna?

  1. Jon

    December 17, 2016 at 17:17

    I followed that link… “His (Annas’) daughter was married to the high priest Joseph, who, under the surname of Caiaphas, held that office about ten years (27-37).”

    Unless I’m missing something, that’s saying that Caiaphas held the office for 10 years from 27-37, isn’t it? And that’s weird too, because most other sources say Caiaphas was in the office for longer than that. So even that doesn’t seem to make sense.

    Wikipedia has Annas the Younger as the one who was assassinated in 66 AD, as does this website…. which is where I got the 4.3.5 from. After actually looking at the Josephus text itself, it begins in 4.3.5 and goes a bit further. And if Josephus is chronological then you’re right that it doesn’t seem like the Annas in 2.17.9 could be the same one in 4.3.I really wish Wiki had better documentation because it just says Annas the Elder probably died around the year 40. No idea where they get that. And if they conclude that he’s 37 years old from the above quote about Caiaphas… well, I guess it just helps to check sources, eh?

    To me, it seems really weird that a guy in his early 20’s or late teens (Eleazar) would be appointed by Rome – or anyone for that matter – as a high priest. Then again, I suppose there were a lot of things back then that would seem really weird to us, and vice versa.

    Thanks for your quick response and information, by the way! Your documentation is excellent and it’s helping me to traverse my way through new territory. I’ve read excerpts from Josephus before but this is the first time I’m actually trying to go a lot of his text. Good stuff!

    God bless!

    • Eddie

      December 18, 2016 at 12:54

      Greetings, Jon, once again, and I agree Wiki is helpful, but one must be careful about taking that source as one’s main proof of something, especially when it concerns matters of the Bible and Bible history, because there are so many different ideas about the Bible to begin with.

      Concerning Caiaphas, I have him officiating the office of high priest from 18 AD and continuing to 35 or 36 AD. The Wiki source is wrong. They probably were thinking of Pilate, I have his governorship beginning in 25 or 26 AD and ending in 35 or 36 AD. I believe Vitillius deposed Caiaphas and Pilate at the same time, and sent Pilate to Rome to answer to Caesar for charges stemming from cruelty in Samaria.

      Josephus periodically dates his material in Wars (Book 4) by naming the months of the year. So, I presume he is trying to offer the Romans (to whom he dedicated that work) a chronological account of the war, so I agree with you that my understanding would at least have better support than what we can read about these matters in Wiki. This doesn’t make my understanding correct, but it is supported better.

      Concerning the ages of the rulers, many of the kings of Israel and Judah were quite young when they began reigning, but invariably they had an older and wiser man guiding them. So, too, Rome felt the Roman governors of Judea were able to overrule anything a young ruler might say or do. On the other hand, the young high priests were usually led by the older or senior family member. This is why Annas was so powerful. Luke lists the high priest in Luke 3 as Annas and Caiaphas. Caiaphas officiated, but Annas was the real power, which shows why Jesus was first taken to Annas rather than Caiaphas. So, a young high priest was more like a figure head; the real ruler was the senior high priest in the family.

      Lord bless you, Jon.

  2. Jon

    December 17, 2016 at 13:23

    Interesting thoughts…

    You mentioned, “If we assume that when Annas died in 66 CE he was 90 years old,”

    The Annas that died [was killed] in 66 was Annas the younger (see Josephus 4.3.5), not the Annas that you’re referring to. So every deduction that follows this assumption will need to be re-examined.

    I’ve been unable to find anything in Josephus (or in any other history) that mentions the elder Annas’ age, other than Wikipedia which quotes Josephus, who doesn’t mention his age. Yet another example showing why we should exercise an appropriate amount of cautious skepticism when using Wikipedia.

    The only thing I’ve been able to ascertain regarding the elder Annas’ age is that he was old enough in 16 AD to have a son who was old enough to serve as high priest (Eleazar).

    Hope this is helpful!

    • Eddie

      December 17, 2016 at 15:24

      Greetings Jon, and thank you for reading my blog and for your comment.

      I looked up your reference to Josephus — Wars 4.3.5, but, although the robbers had many prominent men killed, Ananias (the younger) was not among them. Paragraph 7 shows he was still alive. He wasn’t killed until a short while later (Wars 4.5.2). According to my calculations this occurred sometime late in 67 AD or early in 68 AD.

      Concerning Annas or Ananias (senior), he was killed near the beginning of the war (see Wars 2.17.8 & 9). As for his age, I am aware that his age must be assumed in order to make any study surrounding his family. We know he was alive at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. We also know he was alive a year or two later (Acts 4:6). He is probably the high priest who came to Felix to accuse Paul in Acts 23:2. While some sources claim this is Ananias, the son of Nebedaius, I don’t think so. Josephus has the son of Nebedaius sent to Rome in chains during the governorship of Cumanus, who was replaced by Felix. I believe Johnathan, the son of Annus (Ananias, senior), who also had been high priest between Caiaphas and Theophilus, was made high priest a second time. Josephus seems to have him officiating during the governorship of Felix, who had him slain for interfering in his affairs (Antiquities 20.8.5). If this is true, then he was the reigning high priest when Paul was arrested by Rome. Annus was still alive at this time, if indeed he is the Ananias of Acts 23:2, which puts the date somewhere near 57-8 AD, less than 10 years before the outbreak of the war.

      Josephus mentions him when Annus’ son, Ananias (junior), is appointed high priest (Antiquities 20.9.1), and he seems to be the Ananus (Ananias) from whom the sicarii extorted money (Antiquities 20.9.3). This was done sometime in 62-3 AD, during the governorship of Albinus, who succeeded Festus. So, if my assumptions are valid so far, Annus, the high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas, was alive 3 to 4 years prior to the outbreak of the war with Rome, which seems to validate that the Ananias, who was slain just after the outbreak of the war in Wars 2.17.9, is indeed the Annus who questioned Jesus on the night before his crucifixion.

      I hope this helps, Jon, and thanks again for reading my blog. Lord bless you.

      P.S. I just found a link to his age, but I don’t know how it is determined. Anyway, the Jewish Encyclopedia, HERE, puts his age at 37 when he was replaced as high priest in 15 AD. This would put his age at about 88 when he was killed in 66 AD. So, if the Jewish Encyclopedia is correct, then the link to Wikipedia is close, as far as his age is concerned.


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