Menahem the Essene

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Saint Manahen

There was a Saint Manahen (also Manaen) who was a teacher of the Church of Antioch and the foster brother of Herod Antipas and a life long friend.[1] This connection with the royal family may have made him one of the "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:2), who delivered details in regard to Antipas and other members of the Herodian family (Luke 3:1, 19, 20; 8:3; 9:7-9; 13:31, 32; 23:8-12; Acts 12). He was probably a follower of John the Baptist and as a disciple of Jesus with "Joanna, the wife of Chusa, Herod's steward" he was a man of position. He is said to be one of those who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit and part of Jesus' Sanhedrin.

It is believed that he was the one who laid hands upon Saul and Barnabas and sent the two apostles on the first of Paul's missionary journeys. (Acts 13:1)

Menahem the Essene

There is Menahem the Essene or Menachem the Essene who sometimes identified with the Menahem ben Hezekiah mentioned in the Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin 98b) and called "the comforter that should relieve", and is to be distinguished from Menahem ben Ammiel, the Messiah of the Sefer Zerubbabel.

He should not be identified with Menahem ben Judah who was one of several Jewish Messiah claimants around the time of the Jewish War and is mentioned by Josephus. Menahem ben Judah was the leader of a faction called the Sicarii who carried out assassinations of Romans and collaborators and is also identified with Menahem ben Hezekiah.

Menahem the Essene was a Jewish Tanna sage living during the era of the Zugot (pairs) and was the "Pair" mate of Hillel the Elder.

The last Av Beit Din of the Sanhedrin in about 20 BC was said to be Menahem the Essene. Menahem the Essene (or Manheahn, Manahen) and many others walked out from the Sanhedrin The Chagigah documents that the Sanhedrin was illegitimatized when a majority "stalked out" to follow " the King's service, and there went forth [out] with him eighty pairs of disciples" with a royal covering.

The Babylonian Talmud cites a dispute among the sages over what Menahem "went forth [out]" to do. The third-century Rabbi Abaye argues that "He went forth [out] into evil courses [culture]", while Rava (Abba ben Joseph bar Ḥama (c. 280 – 352 CE)) argues "He went forth [out] to the King's [God's] service". The Talmud then quotes a baraita supporting Rava's opinion: "Thus it is also taught: Menahem went forth [out] to the King's [God's] service, and there went forth [out] with him eighty pairs of disciples dressed in silk [regally]".[2]

If this walkout was truly in 20 BC then they may have walked out of the pervasive corruption to eventually serve the coming Massiah. The turning away from the ways of evil precedes the coming of shepherds like John the Baptist and Christ, who ould be the king and Highpriest.

There was a legend of a much younger Menahem who prophesied that the Messiah would come during Herod's reign as king when Herod as a youth himself had little likelihood of ever becoming king.

The "Menahem" recorded in the Mishnah is thought to be the same as the one recounted in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews in which a story is told about a 'Menahem' of the Essenes' sect. According to Josephus, when Menahem saw young Herod the Great going to school he clapped him on the back and addressed him as king, announcing to him that he would reign successfully, despite Herod not being in the line of the royal dynasty.

When Herod became king, he asked Menahem how long his reign would be. Initially, Menahem didn't reply, and Herod urged him "Would my reign last ten years?". Menahem replied that Herod would reign at least 30 years, but did not specify the exact number. Herod was pleased with Menahem's answer and dismissed him with a clasp of the hand and thenceforth bestowed special honors upon the Essenes.

The Jerusalem Talmud cites an additional opinion, that Menahem agreed to be appointed to a ministration position in order to revoke Governmental predestinations ("All is foreseen") against Torah studying.


"Menahem went out to join those serving the king, and eighty pairs of disciples attired in silk robes went with him." Babylonian Talmud Ḥăgigah 16b).

Still, in other traditions, he is considered to have become "an apostate" (Yer. Ḥăgigah (Talmud). ii. 77d).

Can these two traditions both be true?

According to one account, Menahem was forced to leave the Pharisaic school. To one group they were being told that they no longer had a share in the God of Israel. Yet, later he is seen with eighty pairs of disciples. The event seems to have taken place but the conclusions may be in error. In fact, despite the claim of some that he had become a Gnostic or what others would call a heretic[3] the opposite may be true.

There were divisions and sects that vied for power and conscience. There were upheavals and bloody assassinations in the time of Zacharia and Elizabeth. John the Baptist was raised in the desert and Jesus fled to Egypt. Peter knew there was danger in Jerusalem. A false Sanhedrin could be raised up with blood on its hands. In time a new group of men willing, like the Levites, to be "called out" to serve King Jesus would be appointed His Sanhedrin.

We know men like Joseph of Arimathea and Chuza supported the ministry of Christ. As King of the Jews, with all this financial support and ministers serving the people organized by Tens and with His own Sanhedrin Christ was providing the wages of righteousness where thousands were leaving the Corban of the Pharisees and it wages of unrighteousness.

The Kingdom of God was truly at hand for all who would repent and seek the righteous ways of God.

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Footnotes

  1. In A.D. 39, Antipas left for Rome to gain the favor of Caligula, but instead received an order of perpetual exile. (Jos., "Ant.", XVIII, vii, 2).
  2. "17 MENAHEM WENT FORTH AND SHAMMAI ENTERED etc. Whither did he go forth? Abaye said: He went forth into evil courses.18 Raba said: He went forth to the King's service. Thus it is also taught: Menahem went forth to the King's service, and there went forth with him eighty pairs of disciples dressed in silk." Baraita, The Babylonian Talmud, Hagigah or Chagigah, 16b. "MISHNAH. JOSE B. JO'EZER39 SAYS THAT [ON A FESTIVAL-DAY] THE LAYING ON OF HANDS [ON THE HEAD OF A SACRIFICE]40 MAY NOT BE PERFORMED;41 JOSEPH B. JOHANAN SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED.42 JOSHUA B. PERAHIA SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT RE PERFORMED; NITTAI THE ARBELITE43 SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED. JUDAH B. TARBAI SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT BE PERFORMED; SIMEON A. SHETAH SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED. SHEMAIAH SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED; ABTALION SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT BE PERFORMED.44 HILLEL AND MENAHEM DID NOT DIFFER. MENAHEM WENT FORTH,45 SHAMMAI ENTERED.46 SHAMMAI SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT BE PERFORMED; HILLEL SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED." Talmud - Mas. Chagigah 16a.
  3. Heinrich Graetz (Grätz), "Geschichte der Juden" iii. 213.