The Antiochan Crisis to
the Death of
Judas (174-160 BCE)

1. Brief Account of Events Said to Have Occurred
2. Primary Sources
   2.1. 1 Maccabees
      2.1.1. Introduction to 1 Maccabees
         A. Authorship and Sources
         B. Date and Provenance
         C. Purpose
         D. Religious Presuppositions of 1 Maccabees
2.1.2. Reading: 1 Maccabees 1:1-9:22
   2.2. Reading: 2 Maccabees 2:19-15:39

   2.3. Josephus

      2.3.1. Reading: Ant. 12.4.11-11.2; 234-434
2.3.2. Reading: War 1.1.1-1.6; 31-47
   2.4. 4QPseudo-Ezekiel
   2.5 Explanations of Antiochus' Actions Unsympathetic to Judas
3. More Detailed Account of Events Said to Have Occurred with Citation of Sources
4. Questions

1. Brief 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 animals—including pigs—were 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.

Obverse: Diademed head right of Antiochus IV
Reverse: Zeus enthroned left, holding Nike scepter; palm in outer left field, with inscription:  BASILEÔS ANTIOCHOU THEOU EPIPHANOUS NIKEPHOROU (Of King Antiochus God Manifest (Epiphanes) Victory (Nike) Bearing) 


2.  Primary Sources

2.1. 1 Maccabees

2.1.1. Introduction to 1 Maccabees

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.

A. Authorship and Sources

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).

B. Date and Provenance

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.

C. Purpose

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).

D. Religious Presuppositions of 1 Maccabees

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.)

2.3. Josephus

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)

2.3.2. Reading: War 1.1.1-1.6; 31-47 (Translated by W. Whiston)

2.4. 4QPseudo-Ezekiel

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.

2.5. Explanations of Antiochus' Actions Unsympathetic to Judas

Diodorus Siculus 34/35.1

Antiochus, called Epiphanes, on defeating the Jews had entered the innermost sanctuary of the god’s temple, where it was lawful for the priest alone to enter. Finding there a marble statue of a heavily-bearded man seated on an ass, with a book in his hands, he supposed it to be an image of Moses, the founder of Jerusalem and organizer of the nation, the man, moreover, who had ordained for the Jews their misanthropic and lawless customs. And since Epiphanes was shocked by such hatred directed against all mankind, he set himself to break down their traditional practices. Accordingly, he sacrificed before the image of the founder and the open-air altar of the god a great sow, and poured its blood over them. Then having prepared its flesh, he ordered that their holy books, containing the xenophobic laws, should be sprinkled with the broth of the meat; that the lamp which they call undying and which burns continually in the temple, should be extinguished; and the high priest and the rest of the Jews should be compelled to partake of the meat.

Tacitus, Histories 5.8

When the Macedonians became supreme, King Antiochus strove to destroy the national superstition, and to introduce Greek civilization, but was prevented by his war with the Parthians from at all improving this vilest of nations; for at this time the revolt of Arsaces had taken place. The Macedonian power was now weak, while the Parthian had not yet reached its full strength, and, as the Romans were still far off, the Jews chose kings for themselves. Expelled by the fickle populace, and regaining their throne by force of arms, these princes, while they ventured on the wholesale banishment of their subjects, on the destruction of cities, on the murder of brothers, wives, and parents, and the other usual atrocities of despots, fostered the national superstition by appropriating the dignity of the priesthood as the support of their political power.

3. More Detailed Account of Events Said to Have Occurred with Citation of Sources

(*=significant apparent disagreement in sources)

Date BCE
174-171 Onias III is deposed by Antiochus IV and replaced by his brother Joshua (Jason), who rules as High Priest for three years, builds a gymnasion in Jerusalem and establishes an ephebic organization for Jewish adolescent males (ephebes) who receive an education at the gymnasion. According to 2 Macc 4:12, the Jerusalem ephebes exercised naked and wore the traditional broad-rimmed hat (petasos). Joshua (Jason) and his supporters have Hellenistic sympathies and tendencies. It seems that Joshua (Jason) aims to convert Jerusalem into a Hellenistic city and enroll its citizens as Antiochenes, citizens of an Antiochene republic. 2 Macc 4:7-17; Ant. 12.5.1; 237-38; 1 Macc 1:10-15
*Josephus implies that Menelaus with the support of the Tobiads built the gymnasion (Ant. 12.5.1; 241)
171 Joshua (Jason) is deposed by Antiochus IV in favor of Menelaus (Hebrew name = Onias, according to Josephus); Joshua (Jason) is expelled from Jerusalem. Joshua (Jason) leads a pro-Ptolemaic party, whereas Menelaus is pro-Seleucid; the Tobiads support Menelaus. Menelaus does not pay Antiochus the tax revenue that he promised and is called to Antioch. Onias III is murdered, because he revealed that Menelaus tried to bribe Andronicus with gold vessels from the Temple, whom Antiochus left behind in Antioch. Lysimachus, brother of Menelaus, was killed in Jerusalem by Jews who protested his many sacrileges perpetrated in Jerusalem. Menelaus bribes Ptolemy while in Tyre when three men sent by the Jewish gerousia complain about him. 2 Macc 4:23-50; Ant. 12.5.1; 238-39
*Ant. 12.5.1; 239 and 2 Macc 4:23; 3:4 disagree over the identity of Menelaus: 2 Macc 4:23 = brother of Simon a Benjaminite (2 Macc 3:4); Ant. 12.5.1; 238 = son of High Priest Simon II, son of Onias II, which makes him brother of Onias III and Jason (Joshua).

Antiochus IV successfully invades Egypt (6th Syrian War), defeating Ptolemy VI Philometor. On the rumor that Antiochus is dead, Joshua (Jason) moves to retake control of Jerusalem, but does not succeed. He withdraws from the city. (He dies in exile in Egypt.) Because of this incident, Antiochus intervenes in Jewish affairs on behalf of Menelaus, who has taken refuge in the citadel (akropolis), and he plunders the Temple and kills many Jews. (Josephus, quoting Polybius, Strabo, Nicolas of Damascus, Timagenes, Castor the Chronicler and Appollodorus as his sources, claims that it was a lack of funds that motivated Antiochus to plunder the Temple, in violation of his treaties with the Jews [Apion 2.83-84].) Antiochus IV leaves Menelaus and Philip, a Phrygian, in control of Jerusalem, and Andronicus at Gerizim (Samaria). The Tobiads, the supporters of Antiochus IV, encouraged the king to invade Jerusalem; they also pledge their support for Hellenization of the city. Onias IV, son of Onias III, flees the city and takes refuge in Egypt. (See Daniel 8) (On Antiochus IV, see Polyb. 26.1.1-14; 28.22; 29.24; 30. 25.1-26; Diod. 29.32; 31.16; Livy 41.19-20.)

1 Macc 1:16-28; 2 Macc 5:1-27; Ant. 12.5.1-2; 239-47; War 1.1.1; 31-33; Apion 2.83-84; Polyb. 28.18.1-23.5; Diod. 30.14, 17, 18; Livy 45.11-12
*Josephus dates Antiochus' plundering of the Temple to his alleged second visit to Jerusalem (Ant. 12.5.3; 247).
* 2 Macc 5:11 implies that Antiochus' appearance in Jerusalem occurred after his second invasion of Egypt (2 Macc 2:1).

168-167 Antiochus IV undertakes another expedition against Egypt, but is forced to withdraw by the Roman general Gaius Popillius Laenas. Antiochus sends Apollonius, the Mysarch (Mysian commander), chief collector of tribute, to Jerusalem with orders forcibly to hellenize Jerusalem and Judea (1 Macc 1:29 = 2 Macc 5:24). This Hellenization includes the area of religion, so that now traditional Jewish religious practices are outlawed. (Exactly why Antiochus IV begins a religious persecution is not at all clear.) According to 2 Macc 6:1, Geron the Athenian, or an Anthenian senator, also comes to Jerusalem to help in compelling the Jews no longer to obey the Law. The Temple is desecrated, and dedicated to the Olympic Zeus (Dios Olympiou); those who resist are executed. Jews are forced to participate in the festival of Dionysus. The Akra is built and occupied by Syrian troops and Hellenistic sympathizers; many of the original inhabitants of Jerusalem are thereby dispossessed. Judas Maccabeus and nine others flee to the Judean wilderness. Some other Jews who have taken refuge in caves in the wilderness are discovered by Philip (see 2 Macc 5:22; 8:8) and killed without a struggle because they refuse to defend themselves on the Sabbath.

Daniel 11:25-39

Proposed Reconstructions of the Antiochan Persecution

1 Macc 1:29-64; 2 Macc 5:24-6:11; Ant. 12.5.4; 248-56; War 1.1.2; 34-35; 4QPseudo-Ezekiel (4Q386 frg. 1, cols. 2–3); see Polyb. 28.18.1-23.5; 29.27.1-8; Diod. 31.2; 34/35.1; Appian, Syr., 66; Justinus 34.3.1-3, Livy 45.12.1-8; Tacitus, Hist. 5.8. See the oblique or veiled references to these events in 1 En. 90:6-7 (Animal Apocalypse); Jub. 23:14-19; T. Levi 15, 17; T. Mos. 4-5.
*Josephus says that Antiochus IV came to Jerusalem a second time (Ant. 12.5.4; 248).
*In his account in War, Josephus compresses both phases of the persecution into one event.

167-64 Eleazar, a  mother and her seven sons are martyred during the persecution.  2 Macc 6:18-7:42
c. 167 Samaritans disavow any kinship with the Jews, calling themselves "Sidonians in Schechem." They agree to adopt a Hellenistic way of life, and request that their temple Mt. Gerizim be renamed. Ant. 12.4.5; 257-64; 2 Macc 6:2
*In 2 Macc 6:2, the temple on Mt. Gerizim is renamed Dios Xeniou (Zeus Friend of Strangers), but in Ant. 12.5.5; 261 Dios Helleniou (Zeus Hellenios).
167 Mattathias kills a Syrian officer and apostate Jew willing to make a pagan sacrifice to begin the Maccabean revolt. He, his sons and supporters flee to the mountains. (Mattathias is said to have had an ancestor named "Asamonaios" [Hashmon], to be a priest from the course of Joarib and to be a resident of Jerusalem.) 1 Macc 2:1-28; Ant. 12.6.1-2; 265-71; War 1.1.3; 36
*2 Maccabees does not mention Mattathias' role at the inception of the revolt.
*Josephus identifies the Syrian officer as Apelles in Ant., but Bacchides in War 1.1.2; 35; he is unnamed in 1 Maccabees.
167 Other unidentified Jews flee to the wilderness but are wiped out because they refuse to fight on the Sabbath. Mattathias then resolves to fight on the Sabbath if attacked. Mattathias provides military leadership for a year, and is joined by the Chasidim (see 2 Macc 6:11). Mattathias tears down pagan altars and has Jewish boys forcibly circumcised when he can. 1 Macc 2:29-48; Ant. 12.6.2; 271-78
166 Mattathias dies and hands leadership of the revolt to his son Judas. Judas begins his military campaign of resistance to Seleucid rule and enforced Hellenization. 

1 Macc 2:49-3:9; 2 Macc 8:1-7; Ant. 12.6.3-4; 279-86; War 1.1.3; 37
*The testament of Mattathias in 1 Macc 2:49-68 is complelely different from Josephus' version (Ant. 12.6.3; 279-84).

c.166 Judas and his followers defeat a Seleucid assault led by Apollonius. Judas takes the sword of the slain Apollonius. A second Syrian attack led by Seron is also repulsed at Beth-Horon.  1 Macc 3:1-26; Ant. 12.7.1; 287-92
*Josephus calls Apollonius "governor (stratêgos) of Samaria" and Seron "governor (stratêgos) of Coele-Syria" (), contrary to 1 Macc 1:29 = 2 Macc 5:24 (Mysarch). 
165 Antiochus IV embarks on campaign against the Parthians; he leaves Lysias with the task of subduing Judas and his army. Lysias along with Ptolemy, Nicanor and Gorgias, "Friends of the King," undertake to attack against Judas. (The army is accompanied by merchants who were ready to buy Jewish slaves.) Judas and his followers defeat the superior Seleucid army.

1 Macc 3:27-4:25; 2 Macc 8:8-29, 34-36 (see 2 Macc 11:1-38); Ant. 12.7.2-4; 293-312
*2 Macc 8:8-29 does not mention Antiochus' appointment of Lysias, but places his appointment and the subsequent campaign against Judas during the reign of Antiochus V (2 Macc 10:9-12).
*2 Macc 8:9 says that Ptolemy appoints Nicanor as commander, whereas 1 Macc 3:38 says that Lysias appoints Ptolemy who, it seems, gives command to Gorgias (see 1 Macc 4:1). 

165 Following Lysias' defeat, Jews in Joppa are murdered. Judas takes action against the populace of Jamnia who intend to kill their Jewish population. 2 Macc 12:1-9; 2 Macc 12:1-9

In the following year, Lysias personally leads another attack against Judas from the south, but is defeated at Beth-Zur. An angelic horseman appears, being sent from God. If 2 Macc 11:1-15 = 1 Macc 4:26-35; Ant. 12.7.5; 313-15, then the letters cited in 2 Macc 11:16-38 may date from before the death of Antiochus IV, so that Lysias negotiates a peace treaty with Judas after his defeat at Beth-Zur, which reverses the Antiochan policy of forced Hellenization (Three of the four letters are dated 148 Sel = 165-64 BCE.)

Map of Palestine in the Maccabean Period

1 Macc 4:26-35; Ant. 12.7.5; 313-15; 2 Macc 11:1-38
*2 Maccabees places Lysias' first attack and defeat at Beth-Zur during the reign of Antiochus V.
*Ant. 12.7.5; 315 and 1 Macc 4:35 imply that Lysias does not make a peace treaty with Judas, but plans to attack again.
164 Judas takes control of Jerusalem; the Temple is purified and rededicated. Judas and his supporters celebrate for eight days, and decides that this should become an annual  festival. The Akra is still occupied, however, by Syrian troops. 1 Macc 4:36-61; 2 Macc 10:1-9; Ant. 12.7.6-7; 316-26; War 1.1.4; 39
*2 Maccabees places the rededication of the Temple after the death of Antiochus IV.
164  Judas and his army conquers neighboring gentile peoples: Idumeans (sons of Esau) at Akrabattene in Idumea, the Baanites (sons of Baean) and the Ammanites (Ammonites) led by a certain Timothy. 1 Macc 5:1-8; Ant. 12.8.1; 327-28
164 or 163  Judas and his brother Jonathan lead an expedition to rescue Jews from the region of Gilead, who are being persecuted by the gentile majority, and are brought to Jerusalem and Judea. In a series of engagements, Judas defeats the persecutors of the Jews, whose leader was Timothy. Similarly, Simon, the brother of Judas, also leads an expedition to Galilee for a similar purpose. 1 Macc 5:9-54; Ant. 12.8.1-5; 328-49; 2 Macc 12:10-31; 8:30-32
*2 Maccabees dates these events to the reign of Antiochus V, and refers to another encounter with Timothy during the reign of Antiochus V, calling this a second encounter (10:24-38).
164 or 163  Joseph and Azariah, two commanders in Judas' army, attack Gorgias and his troops at Jamnia against orders, but are defeated. 1 Macc 5:55-64; Ant. 12.8.6; 350-52 
164 or 163  Judas defeats the Idumeans under the direction of Gorgias, its governor (stratêgos), taking Hebron and its surrounding villages; he also takes the cities of Marisa and Azotus (formerly Philistia). Judas provides atonement for the sins of his fallen comrades found to be wearing amulets. 1 Macc 5:65-68; 2 Macc 12:32-45; Ant. 12.8.6; 350-53
*2 Maccabees dates this campaign to the reign of Antiochus V.
163 Antiochus IV dies. He is said to have attributed his defeat and death to God's judgment. He is supposed to have relented of his former hostility to the Jews and Jerusalem, and he appoints his son Antiochus V Eupator as his successor. Antiochus V appoints Philip, the vice-regent of the kingdom and tutor to his son, but Lysias assumes this role instead. 1 Macc 6:1-17; 2 Macc 9:1-29; Ant. 12.9.1-2; 354-61; see Polyb. 31.9; Appian, Syr., 66
162 Gorgias, governor of Idumea, with troops from the Akra attacks the Jews; Idumeans also harass Judas and his followers. Judas takes some Idumean strongholds and lays siege to the Akra. Some soldiers and the pro-Seleucid faction of Jews escape and inform Antiochus V.  1 Macc 6:18-27; 2 Macc 10:14-23; Ant. 12.9.3; 362-66
162 Timothy attacks Judea, but is forced to flee to Gazara. Judas pursued him there and, after a four day siege, took the city, killing Timothy. Five angelic horsemen leading the Jews appear to the enemy. 2 Macc 10:24-38
162 In response to Judas' siege of the Akra, Lysias leads another attack from the south; Menelaus is allied with the king. Judas lifts the siege against the Akra and engages Lysias near Beth-Zechariah. Against a superior force, Judas retreats to Jerusalem (Temple) (Eleazar, a brother of Judas is killed), and Lysias takes Beth-Zur. Because of a threat from Philip in Antiochus, Lysias is forced to conclude a peace treaty with the Jews and return to Antioch. Antiochus V reverses the former policy of Antiochus IV with respect to the Jews and allows the Jews to live according to their own laws. Menelaus is executed by the Syrians, presumably because of his involvement with persecution made him an unacceptable leader of all the Jews. 1 Macc 6:28-63;  2 Macc 13:1-26; Ant. 12.9.4-7; 367-385; War 1.1.5; 41-6
*2 Macc 11 situates Lysias' first attack in the reign of Antiochus V, but dates the official correspondence cited to 148 Sel (165-64 BCE). 2 Macc 11 implies that Lysias was defeated and for this reason withdrew from Jerusalem, which is true for his first attack. The second attack is referred to in 2 Macc 13:18-26.

Demetrius I Soter, son of Seleucus IV, usurps power from Antiochus V (and Lysias). Demetrius I appoints as High Priest a certain Alcimus (Joachim), who is hostile to Judas, but seems to be more moderate with respect to the issue of Hellenization. For this reason, Judas' former allies, the Chasidim abandon the revolution and support Alcimus and the new political state of affairs, but their confidence was betrayed when sixty of them were siezed and executed. (Onias IV, son of the murdered Onias III, flees Jerusalem, and goes to reside in Egypt, where he is allowed to build a temple in Leontopolis.) Bacchides escorts Alcimus to Jerusalem, and installs him as High Priest. Judas withdraws, but is still a military threat. Alcimus leaves Jerusalem to complain to Demetrius I Soter about Judas. Nicanor is sent to Jerusalem as governor, and attempts to capture Judas by deceit. Judas inflicts some losses on Nicanor near Caphar-salama. Afterwards Nicanor threatens the Temple.

1 Macc 7:1-38; 2 Macc 14:1-36; Ant. 12.9.7-10.5; 387-412; 13.3.1-3; 62-73; War 7.9.3; 426-32; see Appian, Syr., 47; Polyb. 31; Justinus 34.3.9; Livy, Epit. 46
*1 Macc 7:16 says that Alcimus seized sixty and Chasidim and killed them, whereas Ant. 12.395 says that it was Bacchides.
*2 Macc says that Nicanor was initially well-disposed to Judas.
*1 Macc 7:9 says that Demetrius I appointed Alcimus as High Priest, whereas 2 Macc 14:3 implies that Alcimus was High Priest before Demetrius became king (but see 2 Macc 14:13).

162-61 A certain Razis kills himself before Nicanor can arrest and execute him. 2 Macc 14:37-46
161 Nicanor attacks Judas near Adasa, but is defeated and dies in battle. 1 Macc 7:39-50; 2 Macc 15:1-37; Ant. 12.10.5; 408-412; War 1.1.6; 47
161 Judas makes a treaty with the Romans. 1 Macc 8:17-32; Ant. 12.10.6; 414-19
160 Bacchides and Alcimus come to Judea and defeat Judas. Judas dies in battle. The more moderate but still pro-Hellenistic and pro-Seleucid party led by Alcimus is control of Jerusalem and Judea. 1 Macc 9:1-27; Ant. 12.11.1; 420-34


4. Questions

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?


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