Joshua ben Gamla

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Joshua ben Gamla (Hebrew: יהושע בן גמלא‬), was a Jewish high priest in about 64-65 CE. He was killed during the First Jewish–Roman War.

Joshua married the rich widow Martha of the high-priestly family Boethus[1] and was appointed High Priest by Herod Agrippa II.[2] The two lots used on the Day of Atonement, hitherto of boxwood, he made of gold.[3] Joshua did not remain long in office, being forced, after a year, to give way to Matthias ben Theophil.[4]

Although Joshua himself was not a scholar, he was solicitous for the instruction of the young, and provided schools in every town for children over five years of age, earning thereby the praises of posterity.[5] The Talmud[6] states; "Joshua b. Gamala came and ordained that teachers of young children should be appointed in each district and each town, and that children should enter school at the age of six or seven." He is therefore regarded as the founder of the institution of formal Jewish education.

Although no longer High Priest, Joshua remained one of the leaders of Jerusalem. Together with another former high priest, Ananus ben Ananus, and other men of rank, he opposed, without success, the election of Phinehas b. Samuel (68) as high priest.[7] Josephus reports that Joshua was an "intimate friend", who reported a plot to replace Josephus as general of Galilee to Josephus' father. Because his father wrote to him of the plot, Josephus was able to resist it.[8]

Joshua attempted peaceably to prevent the fanatic and pugnacious Idumeans from entering Jerusalem during the Zealot Temple Siege. After they had come into possession of the city, these fanatics took bloody vengeance on him, killing both him and Ananus as traitors to their country (68).[9]


  1. ^ Yebamot vi. 4
  2. ^ Josephus, "Antiquities" xx. 9, § 4. According to Talmudic sources (B. Yebamot. 61a; B. Yoma 18a), Martha bribed a "King Jannai" into appointing Joshua High Priest. This cannot refer to Alexander Jannaeus, who reign 150 years earlier and was himself the High Priest.
  3. ^ Yoma iii. 9
  4. ^ Josephus, "Antiquities" xx. 9, § 7
  5. ^ B. Baba Bathra 21a
  6. ^ B. Baba Bathra 21a
  7. ^ Josephus "B. J." iv. 3, § 9
  8. ^ Josephus "Life" 204-205
  9. ^ Josephus "B. J." iv. 5, § 2
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Joshua ben Gamla". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
Jewish titles
Preceded by
Jesus son of Damneus
High Priest of Israel
Succeeded by
Mattathias ben Theophilus