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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Onias

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(Ο᾿νίας . perh. for אַנַיָּה, a ship), the name of five Jewish pontiffs, mentioned by the Apocrypha and by Josephus. The following account of tlhemI Is mostly from those authorities. (See HIGH-PRIEST).

1. The son and successor of Jaddua, who entered on the office about the time of the death of Alexander the Great, B.C. cir. 330-309, or, according to Eusebius, 300 (Josephus, Ant. 11:7, 7). According to Josephus he was father of Simon the Just (Ant. 12:2, 4; comp. Sirach 1, 1). (See SIMON).

2. The son of Simon the Just (Josephus, Ant. xii 4, 1). He was a minor at the time of his father's death (B.C. cir. 290), and the high-priesthood was occupied in succession by his uncles Eleazar and Manasseh to his exclusion. He entered on the office at last (B.C. cir. 240), and his conduct threatened to precipitate the rupture with Egypt which afterwards opened the way for Syrian oppression. Onias, from avarice, it is said a vice which was likely to be increased by his long exclusion from power neglected for several years to remit to Ptolemy Euergetes the customary annual tribute of 20 talents. The king claimed the arrears with threats of violence in case his demands were not satisfied. Onias still refused to discharge the debt, more, asit appears, from self-will than with any prospect of successful resistance. The evil consequences of this obstinacy were, however, averted by the policy of his nephew Joseph, the son of Tobias, who visited Ptolemy, urged the imbecility of Onias, won. the favor of. the king, and entered into a contract for farming the tribute, which he carried out with success. Onias retained the high-priesthood till his death (B.C. cir. 226), when he was succeeded by his son Simon II (Josephus, Ant. 12:4).

3. The son of Simon II, who succeeded his father in the high-priesthood. B.C. cir. 198. In the interval which had elapsed since the government of his grandfather the Jews had transferred their allegiance to the Syrian monarchy (Daniel 11:14), and for a time enjoyed tranquil prosperity. Internal dissensions furnished an occasion for the first act of oppression. Seleucus Philopator was informed by Simon, governor of the Temple, of the riches contained in the sacred treasury, and he made an attempt to seize them by force. At the prayer of Onias, according to the tradition (2 Maccabees 3:1), the sacrilege was averted; but the high-priest was obliged to appeal to the king himself for support against the machinations of Simon. Not long afterwards Seleucus died (B.C. 175), and Onias found himself supplanted in the favor of Antiochus Epiphanes by his brother Jason, who received the high-priesthood from the king. Jason, in turn, was displaced by his youngest. brother Menelaus, who procured the murder of Onias (B.C. cir. 171), in anger at the reproof which he had received from him for his sacrilege (2 Maccabees 4:32-38). But though his righteous zeal was thus fervent, the punishment which Antiochus inflicted on his murderer was a tribute to his "sober and modest behavior" (2 Maccabees 4:37) after his deposition from his office. (See ANDRONICUS).

It was probably during the government of Onias III that the communication between the Spartans and Jews took place (1 Maccabees 12:19-23; Josephus, Ant. 12:4, 10). (See SPARTANS). How powerful an impression he made upon his. contemporaries is seen from the remarkable account of the dream of Judas Maccabaeus before his great victory (2 Maccabees 15:12-16).

4. The youngest brother of Onias III, who bore the same name, which he afterwards exchanged for Menelaus (Josephus, Ant. 12:5,1). (See MENELAUS).

5. The son of Onias III, who sought a refuge in Egypt from the sedition and sacrilege which disgraced Jerusalem. The immediate occasion of his flight was the triumph of "the sons of Tobias," gained by the interference of Antiochus Epiphanes. Onias, to whom the high-priesthood belonged by right, appears to have supported throughout the alliance with Egypt (Josephus, War, 1:1, 1), and receiving the protection of Ptolemy Philometor, he endeavored to give a unity to the Hellenistic Jews which seemed impossible for the Jews in Palestine. With this object he founded the temple at Leontopolis, which occupies a position in the history of the development of Judaism of which the importance is commonly overlooked; but the discussion of this attempt to consolidate Hellenism belongs to another place, though the connection of the attempt itself with Jewish history could not be wholly overlooked (Josephus, Ant. 13:3; War, l, c, 1; 7:10, 2; comp. Ewald, Gesch. 4:405 sq.; Herzfeld, Gesch. ii, 460 sq., 557 sq.).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Onias'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/o/onias.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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