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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

LYSANIAS. —This name is given by St. Luke ( Luke 3:1) among those who ruled in the various parts of Syria and Palestine at the time when John the Baptist entered upon his public work. The name does not again occur in the NT. A Lysanias is mentioned by Dio Cassius (xlix. 32) as having been made king of Ituraea by Mark Antony and afterwards put to death by him. This same Lysanias is also spoken of by Josephus ( Ant. xv. iv. 1), who adds that Antony was moved to the step of putting Lysanias to death by Cleopatra, on the ground that he had conspired against her with the Parthians. The same Lysanias and his connexion with the Parthians are alluded to also elsewhere by Josephus ( BJ i. xiii. 1; Ant. xiv. xiii. 3). The data agree in making him the son of Ptolemy, and locating his reign between b.c. 40 and 36. A Lysanias is mentioned again by Josephus in Ant. xviii. vi. 10 and XX. vii. 1. In both of these passages the territory over which he ruled is designated a tetrarchy (cf. BJ ii. xi. 5, xii. 8; Ant. xix. v. 1).

The question raised by these data is, Does Josephus know two men of the name or one? If he knows two, the Lysanias of St. Luke is evidently the second, and no further difficulty exists. If, however, he has the same man in mind throughout, the question next emerging is as to whether St. Luke knew and alluded to another and younger Lysanias, or erroneously identified the only ruler of that name with the times of the public appearance of John the Baptist and Jesus. In favour of the latter view, it is alleged that Josephus never gives any intimation of a difference between the two men of the name, and in fact does not at first reading seem to know two. His readers were bound, it is argued, to suppose that the Lysanias who was executed in b.c. 36 is meant wherever the name is used. St. Luke was acquainted with the writings of Josephus, but did not use them with accuracy, and an error is quite probable. He makes an error in defining the limits of the realm of Philip, Ituraea. It is not held that an error can be demonstrated in his statement regarding Lysanias, but the probability is said to be for such an error, and the grounds for believing in a second Lysanias are regarded as unsatisfying. This view was propounded by Strauss, and has been supported by Keim, Krenkel, and Sehmiedel.

Per contra , that there were two men of the name is argued from various considerations. (1) Though Josephus does not explicitly say that he is speaking of two distinct persons, his descriptions imply such a distinction. Lysanias the son of Ptolemy was not a tetrarch, but bore the title of king (so he is also called by Dio Cassius). (2) The limits of the territories over which the Lysaniases of Josephus ruled are different. The elder Lysanias inherited from his father a kingdom including Chalkis on the Lebanon. This was not, however, included in the realm of the tetrarch Lysanias. (3) Abila was associated with the name of the tetrarch, but not with that of the son of Ptolemy. (4) During the reign of Tiberius, or at least 50 years after the death of the first Lysanias, a certain Nymphaeus built a road and erected a temple, and left an account of these acts in an extant inscription ( CIG [Note: IG Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum.] 4521). In this inscription he calls himself ‘a freedman of Lysanias.’ It is impossible that he should have been the freedman of the son of Ptolemy. He must be regarded as living under the tetrarch. (5) Another inscription at Heliopolis, whose lacunœ have been filled out by Renan, renders it exceedingly probable that there were more than one ruler bearing the name in question. (6) A coin discovered by Poeocke at Nebhi-Abel (Abila) bears the superscription Λυσανίου τετράρχ. καὶ ἀρχιερέως. But as Dio calls the first Lysanias a king, it is at least doubtful that the lower title of tetrarch should appear on his own coin. In that case the coin must have been struck by the second Lysanias. (7) Finally, an inscription ( CIG [Note: IG Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum.] 4523) informs us that Lysanias the son of Ptolemy left children behind him. It is probable that the names Lysanias and Zenodorus were dynastic names, and that the second Lysanias was given the name of him who was put to death in 36. This is the view supported by S. Davidson, Wieseler, Renan, Schürer, Plummer, and others.

An earlier effort to establish the historical accuracy of St. Luke’s statement regarding Lysanias was made by Paulus ( Com. i. 1) through the suggestion that the word τετραρχοῦντος should be erased from St. Luke’s text, or that it should be connected with Φιλίππου, making Philip the ‘tetrareh of Ituraea, Trachonitis, and the Abilene of Lysanias,’ i.e. of that province of which Lysanias had been tetrarch in his day. But this has always been considered an arbitrary way of dealing with the text, resorted to solely for the purpose of saving the historical precision of the Evangelist, and has not found much favour in any quarter.

Literature.—Strauss, Leben Jesu , 1835, pp. 310–313; S. Davidson, Intr. to NT , i. pp. 214–221; Wieseler, Chron. Synop. d. vier Evang. 1843, pp. 174–183, Beitr, z. Würdigung der Evang. 1869, pp. 194–204; Herzog-Plitt, PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1877, art. ‘Abilene’; Renan, Mém. de l’ A cad. d’Inser. 26. 6, 1870, pp. 49–84; Keim, Gesch. Jesu von Nazara , i. 618, ii. 384; Krenkel, Josephus u. Lucas , 1894, pp. 95–98; Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1901, i. pp. 716–720 [ HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] i. ii. 335]; Plummer, Com. on St. Luke , 1900, p. 84; Schmiedel, Ency. Bibl. art. ‘Lysanias.’

A. C. Zenos.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

LYSANIAS. This tetrarch of Abilene is mentioned only in   Luke 3:1 . St. Luke has been accused of gross inaccuracy here, and is said to he referring to a Lysanias who died b.c. 36. But that Lysanias was king (not tetrarch) of chalcis (not Abilene). Josephus speaks of ‘Ahila of Lysanias’ and of a tetrarchy of Lysanias; he is confirmed on the latter point by a medal and an inscription. Thus Luke’s statement is made at least quite probable. Perhaps Lysanias was a dynastic name of the rulers of Abilene. Ahila was the capital of Abilene, and lay on the N. side of Mount Hermon. See also Abilene.

A. J. Maclean.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

Tetrarch of Abilene, the district round Abila, in the 15th year of Tiberius' reign. It is not the elder Lysanias, who died 34 B.C. (Josephus, B. J. 1:13, section 1; Ant. 14:7, section 4; 15:4, section 1; 18:6, section 10; 19:5, section 1; B. J. 2:12, section 8), and never ruled Abilene, but his son, who is meant by  Luke 3:1. An inscription found near Baalbek on a memorial tablet to "Zenodorus, son of the tetrarch Lysanias, and to Lysanias her children" by the widow of the first and mother of the second Lysanias proves Luke's accuracy, which had been doubted because no proof was found of the existence of a second Lysanias.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Lysa'nias. (That Drives Away Sorrow). Mentioned by St. Luke, in one of his chronological passages,  Luke 3:1, as being tetrarch of Abilene (that is, the district round Abila) in the thirteenth year of Tiberius, (A.D. 26), at the time when Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Herod Philip was tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [5]

Tetrarch of Abilene. ( Luke 3:1) The name is formed from the Greek, signifying to destroy.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

Tetrarch of Abilene, of whom nothing more is recorded.  Luke 3:1 . He is mentioned by Josephus: Ant. xv. 4,1.

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

 Luke 3:1Abilene

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

See Abilene .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 Luke 3:1

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

( Λυσανίας , a common Greek name) is mentioned by Luke, in  Luke 3:1, as tetrarch of Abilene, on the eastern slope of the anti-Lebanon, near Damascus, at the time when John the Baptist began his ministry, A.D. 25. (See Abila).

It happens, however, that Josephus speaks of a prince named Lysanias who ruled over a territory in the neighborhood of Lebanon in the time of Antony and Cleopatra, and that he also mentions Abilene as associated with the name of a tetrarch Lysanias, while recounting events of the reigns of Caligula and Claudius. These circumstances have given to Strauss and others an opportunity for accusing the evangelist of confusion and error, but we shall see that this accusation rests on a groundless assumption.

(a.) What Josephus says of the Lysanias who was contemporary with Antony and Cleopatra (i.e., who lived sixty years before the time referred to by Luke) is, that he succeeded his father Ptolemy, the son of Mennleus, in the government of Chalcis, under Mt. Lebanon (War , 1:13,1; Ant. 14:7, 4), and that he was put to death at the instance of Cleopatra (Ant. 15:4,1), who seems to have received a good part of his territory. It is to be observed that Abila is not specified here at all, and that Lysanias is not called tetrarch.

(b.) What Josephus says of Abila and the tetrarchy in the reigns of Caligula and Claudius (i.e., about twenty years after the time mentioned in Luke's Gospel) is, that the former emperor promised the "tetrarchy of Lysanias" to Agrippa ( Ant. 18:6,10), and that the latter actually gave to him "Abila of Lysanias" and the territory near Lebanon ( Ant. 19:5, 1; comp. War , 2:12, 8).

Amid the obscurity which surrounds this name, several conjectures have been indulged in, which we will here notice.

1. According to Eusebius (whom others have followed, such as Bede and Adrichomius; see Corn. a Lapid. In  Luke 3:1), Lysanias was a son of Herod the Great. This opinion (the untenableness of which is shown by Valesius, on Eusebius, Hist. Esccles. 1:9, and by Scaliger, Animadver. On Euseb. Chron. page 178) has no other foundation than the fact that the evangelist mentions Lysanias with Herod Antipas and Philip.

2. To the older commentators, such as Casaubon ( On Baronius, Ann. 31, Numbers 4), Scaliger (loc. cit.), and others (see Corn. a Lap. and Grotius, ad loc.), this difference of dates presented no difficulty. Allowing historical credit to Luke (on which subject see Dr. Mill, Pantheistic Princip. part 2, page 16 sq.), no less than to Josephus, they at once concluded that two different princes of the same name, and possibly of the same family, were referred to by the two writers. (See also Kuinol, On  Luke 3:1; Krebsius, Observ. page 110-113; and Robinson, Biblioth. Sacr. 5:81).

3. This reasonable solution, however, was unsatisfactory to the restless critics of Germany. Strauss and others (whose names are mentioned by Bleek, Synopt. Erkl. 1:156, and Meyer, Komment. 2:289) charge the evangelist with "a gross chronological error;" a charge which they found on the assumption that the Lysanias of Chalcis mentioned by Josephus is, identical with the Lysanias of Abilene, whom Luke mentions. This assumption is supported by a hypothesis which is incapable of proof, namely, that Abilene, being contiguous to Chalcis, was united to the latter under the rule of Lysanias, the son of Ptolemy. It must. however, be borne in mind that Josephus nowhere speaks of Abilene in connection with this Lysanias; nor, indeed, does he mention it at all until many years after the notice by Luke. He calls Antony's victim simply ruler of Chalcis. Moreover, it is of importance to observe that the tetrarchical division of Palestine and neighboring districts was not made until after the death of Herod the Great; so that, in his haste to inculpate the evangelist, Strauss in effect, attributes to the historian, whom he invidiously opposes to Luke as a better authority, an amount of inaccurate statement which, if true, would destroy all reliance on his history; for we have already seen that Josephus more than once speaks of a "tetrarchy of Lysanias," whereas there were no "tetrarchies" until some thirty years after the death of Ptolemy's son Lysanias. It is, therefore, a juster criticism to conclude (against Strauss, and with the earlier commentators) that in such passages as we have quoted above, wherein the historian speaks of "Abila of Lysanias" and "the tetrarchy of Lysanias," that a later Lysanias is certainly meant: and that Josephus is not only accurate himself, but a voucher also for the veracity of Luke. But there is yet stronger evidence to be found in Josephus of the untenableness of Strauss's objection and theory. In his Jewish War (2:12, 8) the historian tells us that the emperor Claudius "removed Agrippa [the second] from Chalcis [the kingdom, be it remembered, of Strauss's Lysanias] to a greater kingdom, giving him in addition the kingdom of Lysanias" ( Ἐκ Δὲ Τῆς Χαλκίδος Ἀγρίππαν Εἰς Μείζονα Βασιλείαν Μετατίθησι ... Προσέθηνκε Δὲ Τήν Το Λυσανίου Βασιλείαν ).

Ebrard exposes the absurdity of Strauss's argument by drawing from these words of Josephus the following conclusion-inevitable, indeed, on the terms of Strauss that Agrippa was deprived of Chalcis, receiving in exchange a larger kingdom, and also Chalcis! (See Ebrard's Gospel Hist. [Clark], pages 145, 146 ) The effect of this reductio ad absurdum is well put by Dr. Lee (Inspiration [lst ed.], page 394, note], "Hence, therefore, Josephus does make mention of a later Lysanias [on the denial of which Strauss has founded his assault on Luke], and, by doing so, fully corroborates the fact of the evangelist's intimate acquaintance with the tangled details of Jewish history in his day." Many eminent writers have expressly accepted Ebrard's conclusion, including Meyer (loc. cit.) and Bleek (loc. cit.). Patritius concludes an elaborate examination of the entire case with the discovery that "the later Lysanias, whom Luke mentions, was known to Josephus also, and that, so far from any difficulty accruing out of Josephus to the evangelist's chronology,. as alleged by objectors to his veracity, the historian's statements rather confirm and strengthen it" (De Evangeliis, 3:42, 25). It is interesting, also, to remark that, if the sacred writer gains illustration from the Jewish historian in this matter, he also repays him the favor, by helping to clear up what would otherwise be unintelligible in his statements; for instance, when Josephus (Ant. 17:17, 4) mentions "Batanaea, with Trachonitis and Auranitis, and a certain part of what was called 'the house of Zenodorus, as paying a certain tribute to Philip" ( Σύν Τινι Μέρει Οἴκου Τοῦ Ζηνοδώρουλεγομένου ); and when it is remembered that "the house of Zenodorus" included other territory besides Abilene (comp. Ant. 15:10, 3, with War , 1:20, 4), we cannot but admit the force of the opinion advanced by Grotius (as quoted by Dr. Hudson, On the Antiq. 17:11, 4), that "when Josephus says some part of the house or possession of Zenodorus was allotted to Philip, he thereby declares that the larger part of it belonged to another. This other was Lysanias, whom Luke mentions" (see also Krebsius, Observat. page 112).

4. It is not irrelevant to state that other writers besides Strauss and his party have held the identity of Luke's Lysanias with Josephus's son of Ptolemy, and have also believed that Josephus mentioned but one Lysanias. But (unlike Strauss) they resorted to a great shift rather than assail the veracity of the evangelist. Valesius (on Eusebius, Hist.  Ecclesiastes 1:10), and, more recently, Paulus (Comment. ad loc.), suggested an alteration of Luke's text, either by an erasure of Τετραρχαῦντος after Ἀβιληνῆς , or retaining the participle and making it agree with Φιλίππου as its subject (getting rid of Λυσανίου as a leading word by reducing it to a mere genitive of designation by its transposition with Τῆς q.d. Τῆς Δυσανίου Ἀβιληνῆς Τετραρχοῦντος ), as if Philip had been called by the evangelist "tetrarch of Ituroea, Trachonitis, and the Abilene of Lysanias." This expedient, however, of saving Luke's veracity by the mutilation of his words is untenable, not having any support from MS. authority.

5. Still others think it probable that the Lysanias mentioned by Josephus in the second instance is actually the prince referred to by Luke. Thus, instead of a contradiction, we obtain from the Jewish historian a confirmation of the evangelist; and the argument becomes very decisive if, as some think, Abilene is to be excluded from the territory mentioned in the story which has reference to Cleopatra.

In conclusion, it is worth adding, that in modern times a coin has been discovered bearing the inscription Λυσαᾷίου Τετράρχου Καί Ἀρχιερέως , and Pococke also found an inscription on the remains of a Doric temple, called Nebi Abel, the ancient Abila, fifteen English miles from Damascus, which makes mention of Lysanias, tetrarch of Abileze. Both the coin and the inscription refer to a period subsequent to the death of Herod (Pococke's Description Of The East , II, 1:115, 116; and Sestini, Lettere Et Dissertationi Numismatiche , 6:101, tab. 2, as quoted by Wieseler, Chronolog. Synops. page 183). Similarly, the geographer Ptolemy mentions an " Abila which bears the surname of Lysanias," Α῾Βιλα Έπικληθεῖσα Δυσαᾷίου (5:18). See Davidson's Introduct. To N.T. page 218. (See Abilene).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

lı̄ - sā´ni - as ( Λυσανίας , Lusanı́as ): Mentioned in   Luke 3:1 as tetrarch of Abilene in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and thus fixing the date of the preaching of John the Baptist in the wilderness at about 26 or 28 AD. A L ysanias is mentioned by Josephus as having ruled over Chalcis and Abilene, and as having been slain by Mark Antony at the instigation of Cleopatra. As this happened about 36 BC, Luke has been charged with inaccuracy. Inscriptions, however, corroborate the view that the Lysanias of Luke was probably a descendant of the Lysanias mentioned by Josephus (compare Schurer, HJ the Priestly Code (P) , div I, volume II, App. 1, p. 338).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Lysa´nias, tetrarch of Abilene, when John commenced his ministry as the harbinger of Christ . He is supposed to have been son or grandson of another Lysanias, known in history, who was put to death by Mark Antony, and part of his territories given to Cleopatra [ABILENE].