Account of Events Said to Have Occurred
Although little is known of events in Palestine before Antiochus IV Epiphanes, from this point on, there are fairly detailed and reliable sources of information on Jewish history, although they all take a pro-Jewish and pro-Judas perspective. There is some confusion, however,about the order of events in Jewish sources and a problem correlating these with the Hellenistic sources.
Judea was incorporated into the Seleucid kingdom c. 198 BCE under Antiochus III; succeeding him was Seleucus IV Eupator and then Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Under Antiochus IV in 174 BCE Onias III, the High Priest, was deposed by Antiochus IV in favor of his brother Joshua, who also went by the name of Jason. Joshua (Jason) offered Antiochus IV money and cooperation in the process of Hellenization, if he made him high priest. Joshua (Jason) was High Priest for three years (174-171 BCE), during which time he built a gymnasion in Jerusalem.
After three years, in 171 BCE, a rival to Joshua named Menelaus made a better offer to Antiochus IV; as a result, Joshua (Jason) was deposed as High Priest. In 170 BCE, Joshua (Jason) and his followers attacked Jerusalem, and forced his rival, Menelaus, to take refuge in the citadel in Jerusalem. Joshua (Jason) did not succeed in taking control of the city, however, and so was forced to withdraw. Antiochus IV used this incident as a pretense to intervene militarily in the affairs of Judea. Upon his return to Syria from Egypt in 169 BCE, having heard what Joshua (Jason) had done, Antiochus invaded Jerusalem, killed many Jews who opposed him, and plundered the Temple. He was aided in all this by Menelaus and his supporters, which included the Tobiads.
In 168 BCE, after being forced to withdraw from Egypt by the Romans, Antiochus IV sent Apollonius to Jerusalem with troops and instructions to compel Jews to abandon their ancestral religion, obedience to the Law; those Jews who would not cooperate would be killed and their wives and children sold into slavery. A pagan altar was placed upon the altar in the Temple and animalsincluding pigswere sacrificed to the Olympic Zeus. The worship of the other Greek gods was also introduced in Jerusalem and other parts of Judea; pagan altars were built and Jews were encourage to participate in sacrifices at these altars. There were Jews who welcomed the policy of forced Hellenization and cooperated with Antiochus, but there were also those who opposed the policy and refused to abandon the Torah; these were known collectively as the Chasidim (the pious ones). Many Jews who resisted the implementation of this plan to hellenize Jerusalem during this period died.
In a town called Modein, near Jerusalem, an officer of the king required that the Jews there sacrifice on a pagan altar; a man named Mattathias, a priest who had five sons, was present, and, when a Jew went forward to offer the sacrifice, he killed him and the officer of the king, and fled to the mountains. Thus began the Maccabean revolt in 167 BCE. Mattathias died later that year, and was succeeded by Judas, who was nicknamed Maccabee. Judas rallied to himself many Jews who belonged to the Chasidim party and together, they managed to obtain for Jerusalem and some parts of Judea a measure of independence from the Seleucids and their pro-Hellenist Jewish allies. In 165 BCE, Judas purified and rededicated the Temple. From this time until his death on the battlefield in 160 BCE, Judas and his supporters fought many battles against different opponents and managed to take control of regions of Palestine formerly controlled by the Seleucids.
F.M. Abel, Les livres des Maccabées (1949); M. Avi-Yonah, The Jews of Palestine (1976); J.R. Bartlett, The First and Second Books of Maccabees (1973); E. Bickerman, The Maccabees (Eng.1947); id., The God of the Maccabees (1979); S.J.D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (1987), ch. 1; J. Collins, Daniel, First Maccabees, Second Maccabees (1981); J.C. Dancy, A Commentary on 1 Maccabees (1954); A Goldstein, 1 Maccabees (1976); L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, 2 vols (1992); D.J. Harrington, The Maccabean Revolt (1988); N. Martola, Capture and Liberation. A Study in the Composition of the First Book of Maccabees (1984); R.H. Pfeiffer, History of New Testament Times with an Introduction to the Apocrypha (1949); D.S. Russell, Between the Testaments (1960); A. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959); S. Tedesche and S. Zeitlin, The First Book of Maccabees (1950)
Written in the style of I and 2 Kings (see I Macc 9:22; 16:23-24),1 Maccabees is a history of the Hasmonean dynasty from its inception with the priest Mattathias until the death of Simon. Using the Seleucid calendar, the author provides a chronology of events from this period interspersed with psalms of victory, laments, speeches and official documents. 1 Maccabees describes how, in response to the Antiochan persecution of Jews who refused to become hellenized, Mattathias begins a popular rebellion against the Seleucid king. Following Mattathias’ death, Judas, his son, continues the struggle for independence. When Judas is killed in battle, Jonathan takes up the cause of freedom. Then Simon succeeds his brother Jonathan as leader of the conservative Jewish resistance. Gradually, the Hasmoneans are able to establish themselves as the uncontested rulers and High Priestly line and to expand the borders of the Jewish state. 1 Maccabees is the one of two important sources for this period of Jewish, the other being 2 Maccabees. Josephus probably uses 1 Maccabees as a historical source (Ant. 12-13), paraphrasing 1 Macc 1:11-13:42.
No author is named for 1 Maccabees. Given the pro-Hasmonean stance of the work, it was probably written by a scribe of the Hasmonean court, under the sponsorship of the Hasmoneans. 1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew, although it only survives in Greek translation. Evidence for this is the fact that, Eusebius, quoting Origen, provides the Hebrew title of 1 Maccabees, although its meaning is unclear (H.E. 6.25). Likewise, according to Jerome (Prologus Galeatus), 1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew. The author was probably a resident of Judea, since he displays an accurate geographical knowledge of the region, although these geographical references could derive from his sources (3:24; 7:19; 9:2-4, 33, 34, 43; 12:36-40; 13:22-23; 16:5-6).
The author of I Maccabees does not consistently identify his sources. No doubt the author had access not only to oral tradition, but to the Hasmonean archives, since there are copies of several official documents cited in the text. It is possible that, in addition to the official documents of the Hasmonean dynasty (such as correspondence and treaty agreements), there were other historical records of the events described in 1 Maccabees in the archives. On one occasion he mentions that a more complete account of the life of John (Hyrcanus) is recorded in a document identified as the "annals of his high priesthood," which now no longer exists (1 Macc 16:23-24). Presumably, the author made use of this text in writing 1 Maccabees for the little that he says about John's reign. It is also possible that there were similar "annals" written for Jonathan and Simon. With respect to the life Judas, however, the author says that there are no records of Judas’ words and deeds beyond what he has written (1 Macc 9:22). In addition, the author cites the text inscribed on bronze tablets on public display in Jerusalem, with copies deposited in the Temple treasury (1 Macc 14:25-49).
1 Maccabees ends with the reign of Simon (142-135 BCE), but reference is made to the annals of the High Priesthood of John Hyrcanus (135-105 BCE) (16:23-24), which suggests that 1 Maccabees was written after he had died. The pro-Roman stance in 1 Maccabees—as indicated by favorable comments about the Romans (see chap 8; 12:1-4; 14:24, 40)suggests that it was written before Pompey’s involvement with the Jewish state (63 BCE). The most probable date is sometime during Alexander Jannaeus’ reign (104-78 BCE) (Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 62-89). There is a reference to the fact that the tomb of Jonathan in Modein still remains to the day in which the author was writing, implying that it was erected at a much earlier period (13:30). Since it was probably written under the sponsorship of the Hasmoneans, 1 Maccabees was most likely written in Jerusalem, since the author seems to have a close connection with the Hasmonean family.
As already indicated, 1 Maccabees is pro-Hasmonean, being written under the sponsorship of the Hasmoneans. Thus, it is an apology (defense) of the Hasmoneans as the legitimate rulers and High Priests of the Judean state. (To use a favorite post-modern term, its account of history is tendentious.) The following are possible political purposes served by 1 Maccabees:
1. The author seeks to explain the origin of and legitimize the non-biblical Jewish Festival of Dedication (Chanukah) (4:52-59). No doubt, some Jews queried the right of the Hasmonean to bring into being a festival that was not commanded in the Torah.
2. The author seeks to answer the charges that the Hasmoneans were tyrants, no better than the Seleucids and the “lawless” Jews, against whom they were fighting. Since the Hasmoneans killed many Jews and gentiles, the author seeks to demonstrate that Judas and his brothers always acted according to principle. Whenever they did so, they attacked and killed only those Jews who had abandoned the Law (see 2:44; 3:5-6; 14:14) and gentiles who threatened the safety of the Jews (see 15:33). (Of course, they also defended themselves against attack.) The Hasmoneans are like Phineas in their activism (2:26). In addition, the Hasmoneans rightly avenged themselves (see 2:68; 5:25, 48; 9:35-42), and sought to uproot idolatry, even from gentile territory (5:68; 13:33-48). (The Seleucids and their Jewish supporters, on the other hand, are portrayed as treacherous and never be trusted [7:12-18; 11:52-53; 12:39-52].)
3. The author seeks to defend the political reputation of the Hasmoneans. The only one of them who ever erred in his political judgment was Jonathan, who made the mistake of trusting Trypho. It is explained, however, that Simon sent tribute money and hostages to Trypho, not because he, like Jonathan was taken in by Trypho’s deceit, but because of pressure from the people, who had been duped (13:17-19).
4. The author seeks to portray the Chasidim as well-meaning, but politically naïve, in order to discredit them. The Chasidim originally supported Judas (2:29-38, 42), but were foolish enough to withdraw their support from Judas and trust the High Priest Alcimus, probably because he was from the high priestly line of Onias III (7:12-18). (See 2 Macc 14:7; but compare Jos., Ant. 12.387; 20.235.) Whoever they were, the Chasidim were not always aligned with the Hasmoneans and and in agreement with their policies, and, therefore, posed a political threat to them.
5. The author seeks to prove that the best course of action for the Jews is to submit to Hasmonean policy. He makes this point by showing that when they did not listen to Judas and his brothers, the revolutionaries met with defeat. The implication is that God has favored this family with His support.
6. The author seeks to legitimize the assumption of the high priesthood by the Hasmoneans. The line of Onias III was the legitimate High Priestly line, and some Jews believed that this should remain (see 7:12-14). The Hasmoneans obtained the High Priesthood by default, after Alcimus’ death. The author portrays Alcimus’ death as the judgment of God (7:23; 9:54-57) for his wickedness, possibly in order to justify a replacement of the High Priestly line. Jonathan receives the High Priesthood as a deserved honor (perhaps ultimately from God) (10:21), and Simon is appointed High Priest by the popular acclaim, at least until a prophet should arise who would decide the issue (14:41, 47).
Permeating 1 Maccabees are certain underlying religious ideas. Presumably these reflect the religious views of the Hasmoneans and their supporters. (But, as an hypothesis, this remains to proven.)
1. The importance of the Law (ho nomos)
The law (ho nomos) is central to Jewish national identity, so that to reject the Law is identical rejecting the religion of the ancestors; thus remaining obedient to the Law is also identified with “walking in the covenant of our fathers” (2:19-21; see 2:27, 50). (This is a form of social conservatism.) The Jewish enemies of the Hasmoneans are defined as those who have rejected the law and have sought to become like the gentiles (1:11-12, 48-49; 3:5-6; 9:23, 58; 10:12, 61; 11:21; 14:14). By definition, to abandon the Law is to do evil (1:52). Sometimes the phrases “the Law and the ordinances” (dikaiômata) (1:49; 2:29), “the Law and the commandments” (prostagmata) (10:14) and “commandment (prostagma) of the Law” (2:68) occur. These appear to be synonyms for “Law. “ (In 13:3 reference is made to the “laws” and in 13:22 to nomimos, i.e, customs) (In Jonathan’s letter to the Spartans, reference is made to the “holy books” [ta biblia ta hagia] of the Jews.)
What defines a Jew as pleasing to God is his or her resolve to live according to the Law. This resolve is variously described as being “zealous for the Law,” as Phineas and other Old Testament heroes were (2:26-27, 50, 58), “supporting the covenant” (2:27), “giving one’s life for the covenant of our fathers” (2:50), “offering oneself willingly for the law” (2:42), “holding to the commands of the Law” (2:68) or simply “doing the Law” (2:67; 13:48). Mattathias even exhorts his sons to grow strong in the Law (2:64). On three occasions, the author stresses that Judas did everything according to the Law (3:56; 4:47, 53).
It is said that Mattathias and his allies rescued the Law from the Gentiles by their forcible circumcision of children and hunting down of the arrogant (2:48). Judas inquired of the book of the Law as the gentiles inquire of their idols, implying a conceptual parallel between them (3:48-53). The Maccabeans are said to have fought in order that the sanctuary and the Law be preserved (14:29).
2. The Centrality of the Temple
According to the religious perspective of 1 Maccabees, the Temple (or sanctuary; Gk: ho naos) is central to Jewish religious life. There is no theoretical explanation provided of how the Temple functions in Jewish religious life, but, given the importance of the Temple, one can only assume that, for the Hasmoneans and their supporter (including the author), the Temple was indispensable to being Jewish. The desecration of the Temple by Antiochus was interpreted by Mattathias in his lament as a national catastrophe (2:8, 45); Judas refers to the misfortunes of “our nation and sanctuary” (3:59). Judas is ready to fight for the sanctuary (3:43; see 13:1-6), and immediately upon retaking the city, he sets out to purify and rededicate the sanctuary (4:36). Judas is overcome with grief at the sight of the desecrated Temple (4:37-40). Upon his death bed, Antiochus is supposed to have acknowledge that his illness—which, as it will turn out, is an illness unto death—is partly the result of his plundering of the Temple (6:11-13). The implication is that God punishes those who come against the Temple. This is the basis of Judas’ prayer of protection for the Temple against Nicanor: Because Nicanor spoke wickedly against the sanctuary, Judas prays for God’s judgment on him (7:42). Similarly, Alcimus, the High Priest is struck down by God because he dared to tear down the wall of the inner court of the Temple (9:54-57).
3. Hellenism as the Cause of God’s Wrath and Its Removal by Zeal for the Law
The author of 1 Maccabees interprets Antiochus’ persecution as the result of God’s wrath on account of the Jewish supporters of Hellenism (the “lawless’), who repudiated the Law (1:64). The wrath of God on the people was allayed by the activism of Judas, who destroyed the covenant breakers, just as Phineas allayed God’s wrath on the Israelites by his activism (2:26; see 2:44-48; 3:5-6). The assumption is that God responded to the zeal for the Law shown by Judas and his followers by giving the Hasmoneans victory over their enemies (Mattathias counsels his sons that they should have no fear, because none who puts his trust in God will lack strength (2:51-60). Judas is supposed to have believed that God would give him and his followers victory, because they were fighting for their lives and their customs (nomimoi) (3:18-22); he sees God’s covenantal promises as the ground of his confidence (4:8-11; see 4:24). This is basis of the prayers offered for mercy and help (3:44-45; 7:40-42; 9:46), and it explains how once Judas’s army returned from a campaign without the loss of life (5:52-54). Biblical precedent is sometimes cited as the basis of confidence in God’s deliverance (2:51-60; 7:40-42); the assumption is that God is committed to acting consistently in the nation’s history, so that, in response to covenantal loyalty, God will give victory. (The author, however, offers no explanation for why Judas was killed in battle [9:1-22]; in this case, it seems that historical reality is impervious to theological interpretation.)
4. Rejection of the Belief in the Resurrection
The doctrine of the resurrection is repudiated in 1 Maccabees. The primary evidence for this is the absence of any reference to the hope of the resurrection when it would be appropriate to mention it (e.g., 1:63; 2:49-68). There is no post-mortem survival of the individual. Rather than offering the hope of resurrection as a motivation for activism, the possibility of obtaining of an everlasting name is held out (2:51; 6:44). There are even hints of a melancholic fatalism in 1 Maccabees. On one occasion, before battle, Judas says that, although there may be no guarantee of victory—since this may not be God’s will, it is better to die in battle than to see the misfortunes of the nation and the sanctuary (3:59). Similarly, before his own death, Judas resigns himself to his fate, taking comfort in the fact that his choice not to flee but to remain and fight at least will preserve his honor (9:10). (Incidentally, if 1 Maccabees was written during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, likely the author was a Sadducee or had Sadducean sympathies, since Alexander changed his allegiance from the Pharisees to the Sadducees.)
5. Anti-Martyr Polemic
There is a possible anti-martyr polemic in 1 Maccabees. The author and his Hasmonean sponsors see no value in passively suffering and dying for the Law. Support for this assertion is the theological justification of Judas’ activism, as shown above (C). Further evidence is the fact that those who are martyred in 1 Maccabees are portrayed as tragically naïve, even if obedient to the Law (2:34-41; in contrast to Jonathan [9:43-46]). The rejection of martyr-theology is consistent with the rejection of the doctrine of the resurrection, since for the former to be viable there needs to be a final judgment and vindication of the martyrs, which can only occur if there is a resurrection.
6. Post-Prophetic Period of Jewish History
It is assumed in 1 Maccabees that Judas and his brothers lived in the post-prophetic period of Jewish history. On one occasion, the author states explicitly that the time of the prophets has come to an end (9:27). Nevertheless, it seems that there is envisioned a time in the future when prophets would once more appear. When Judas had removed the defiled stones used for the altar, he did not know what to do with them, so he stored them in the Temple until a prophet should arise who could instruct him in this matter (4:46). Similarly, Simon is said to have agreed to be leader and High Priest, until a trustworthy prophet should arise (14:41); the point is that the prophet would be able to ascertain God’s will in the matter of the leadership of the Jewish people. This foreseen time when prophets would reappear is probably the eschaton, the time when God would bring final deliverance to Israel. During the time when there are no more prophets in Israel, the law takes on greater importance, since it alone is the means of knowing God’s will. As already mentioned, rather than consult a prophet, Judas inquired of the books of the Torah (3:48-53).
2.1.2. Reading: 1 Maccabees 1:1-9:22
2.2. Reading: 2 Maccabees 2:19-15:39
(For introduction to source, see 2 Maccabees.)
Josephus continues his account of Jewish history from the account of the Tobiads by relating events that took place after the death of Seleucus IV and the accession of Antiochus IV. (For introduction to Josephus, see Introduction to Josephus' Writings.) Unfortunately, only once does he identify a source that he has used in this long section, and only because he disagrees with it: he criticizes Polybius for not interpreting the cause of Antiochus' death correctly (12.9.1; 358). But Polybius is not his source for Jewish history. Josephus' account of Jewish history agrees with that found in 1 Maccabees for the most part, which suggests that he may have used it as a source; there are nevertheless some significant discrepancies between them, perhaps suggesting his use of another source.
2.3.1. Reading: Ant. 12.4.11-11.2; 234-434 (Translated by W. Whiston)
War 1.1.1-1.6; 31-47 (Translated
by W. Whiston)
Six copies of the text known as 4QPseudo-Ezekiel were found in cave four at Qumran (4Q385; 386; 385b, 388, 385c, 391). The six fragments belonging to 4Q385 have overlaps with 4Q386 and 4Q388, and the three texts together represent six successive columns, although in a poor state of preservation. Ezekiel is the narrator of 4QPseudo-Ezekiel, which is a dialogue between Ezekiel and God, similar to the dialogues in the later texts of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra. (The name Ezekiel occurs in 4Q385 frg. 4.4; 6.5; 4Q385b 1.) D. Dimant re-constructs the sequences of the original text as follows: resurrection of the righteous (4Q385 frgs. 2+3; 4Q386 frg. 1, col. 1; 4Q388 frg. 1, cols. 2–3) (see Ezek 47); the future redemption of Israel and the defeat of Egypt and Babylon (4Q386 frg. 1, cols. 2–3); the hastening of the time in order that Israel may inherit the land (4Q385 frg. 4); the theme of resurrection concluded (4Q385 frg. 6.1–4); and the vision of the Merkabah (4Q385 frg. 6.5–14) (see Ezek 1, 10) (“Pseudo-Ezekiel,” Qumran Cave 4 XXI: Parabiblical Texts, Part 4: Pseudo-Prophetic Texts [Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 30; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001] 5–88). Five of the six copies of 4QPseudo-Ezekiel (4Q385; 386, 385b, 388, 385c) date from the second half of the first century BCE. 4Q391, however, dates from a century earlier, to the latter part of the second century BCE; this provides a terminus ad quem for the composition of 4QPseudo-Ezekiel, assuming that 4Q391 is indeed a copy of this text. In spite of sharing a general religious vocabulary, certain grammatical features and orthographical practices, 4QPseudo-Ezekiel, nevertheless, has none of the distinctive vocabulary of the Qumran sectarian texts. The hope of a bodily resurrection expressed in 4Q385 frg. 2 (= 4Q486 frg. 1, col. 1; 4Q388 frg. 7.2–7) probably indicates that 4QPseudo-Ezekiel is non-sectarian in origin because there is no such hope found in the Qumran sec-tarian texts. Moreover, the tetragrammaton occurs in full in square script, which is uncharacteristic of the Qumran sectarian texts. This is consistent with an early second-century origin.
If 4QPseudo-Ezekiel was composed in the middle of the second century BCE or earlier, it is probable that 4Q386 frg. 1, cols. 2–3 describes Jewish suffering experienced during the reign of Antiochus IV. There is a reference in the text to a man identified only as “a son of Belial.” This man schemes to oppress God’s people: "A son of Belial will plot to oppress my people, but I will prevent him, and his dominion will not exist" (4Q386 frg. 1, col. 2.3-4). On the assumption of a second-century BCE date for 4QPseudo-Ezekiel, the man known as "a son of Belial" is probably Antiochus IV. What is described is how the Seleucid king sought to oppress the Jews, but was not able to carry through on his pogrom. If this fragment does refer to the Antiochan persecution, then the reference to many (Jews) who will be defiled would refer to the pro-Hellenizing Jews, who cooperated with Antiochus IV: "But a multitude will be defiled." There is a reference to another man known as "the wicked man": "And the wicked man I will kill in Memphis and I will make my sons go out of Memphis: I will turn myself toward their re[mn]ant" (2.6). Unfortunately, it is impossible to identify this man from available historical sources.
(*=significant apparent disagreement in sources)
4.1. Are there factual discrepancies between the four accounts of Jewish history from Antiochus IV to the death of Judas? If so, are these discrepancies merely "apparent," and can be reconciled with one another, or are there genuine contradictions among the four accounts?
4.2. Are there any indications of the sources used in the four accounts of this period of Jewish history? Is there any evidence that Josephus is using 1 Maccabees or 2 Maccabees in his accounts in Antiquities and War? If so, how do you account for discrepancies between Josephus' accounts and his alleged sources? Is it possible that Josephus has access to an another, independent source? How might one account for the chronological differences between 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees?
4.3.. Do the "supernatural" elements of the narratives detract from their claim to historicity?
4.4. In general, do you think that between the four accounts a historically reliable account of this period of Jewish history can be compiled? Do you agree that is it justifiable to proceed methodologically by harmonizing the accounts, when possible? Are any of the accounts to be disqualified as generally unreliable?
4.5. Does the pro-Jewish, pro-Judas or pro-Hasmonean biases in each of these sources affect the historical value of the events that they purport to describe? Based on the views expressed in Tacitus, Hist. 5.8 and Diod. 34/35.1, how might Judas' Jewish and non-Jewish opponents have interpreted the Maccabean revolt? Do the religious views underlying 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees affect the historicity of the accounts of the events?