The Maccabees

What Really Happened

The Views of Some Leading Scholars


1. Lee I. Levine - Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?

2. Helmut Koester - Introduction to the New Testament

3. Elias J Bickerman, - The Jews in the Greek Age

4. Jonathan A. Goldstein - II Maccabees: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary


See also

Flavius Josephus, Judaea and Rome: A Question of Context

The Impact of Greek Culture on Normative Judaism from the Hellenistic Period through the Middle Ages c. 330 BCE- 1250 CE


1. From Lee I. Levine - Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence?, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998. pp. 38-45


“What had been of peripheral significance before Alexander became much more central after his conquest; major changes in the Hellenistic period altered the face of the city dramatically. The impact of Hellenism on the Near East in general, and on Judaea and Jerusalem in particular, was considerable. From almost the very beginning of this era, we find signs of Jerusalem's participation in the life of the wider Hellenistic world, as in its diplomatic relations with Sparta which developed in the third and second centuries B.C.E., or in its use of imported Rhodian wine….  Several books written or edited in the third century B.C.E., such as Ecclesiastes (Qohelet) and the Song of Songs, appear to reflect either Hellenistic genres (in the case of the latter) or Hellenistic ideas resulting in the questioning of traditional values (in the case of the former).[1] In addition, a number of books appear to have been written in opposition to certain Hellenizing tendencies, for example, Ben Sira and Jubilees, although even they exhibit certain outside influences.

“The piece de resistance of Judaean Hellenization, and the most dramatic of all these developments, occurred in 175 B.C.E., when the high priest Jason converted Jerusalem into a Greek polis replete with gymnasium and ephebeion (2 Maccabees 4). Whether this step represents the culmination of a 150-year process of Hellenization within Jerusalem in general, or whether it was only the initiative of a small coterie of Jerusalem priests with no wider ramifications, has been debated for decades.[2] The answer most probably lies somewhere between these two polar positions. In any event, Jason's move constituted a bold step in the city's adaptation to the wider world, a process which would be interrupted-but only temporarily-by the persecutions of Antiochus IV and the resultant Maccabean revolt.

“A further stage in the Hellenization process took place in the ensuing period. The motivation of the Hasmonaean revolt has often been misunderstood. It has been contended that this revolt came in protest to the process of Hellenization in Judaea, but this was patently not the case. The Maccabees revolted in response to the persecutions imposed by the king and, according to Bickerman and others at least, at the instigation of radical Jewish Hellenizers. The fact is that the Hasmoneans themselves quickly adopted Hellenistic mores; they instituted holidays celebrating military victories (Nicanor Day on the 13th of Adar), as did the Greeks, and signed treaties with Rome and forged close alliances with the upper strata of Jerusalem society. The latter's Hellenized proclivities-like those of the Hasmoneans themselves (see below)-are attested by names such as Alexander, Diodorus, Apollonius, Eupolemus, Antiochus, Numenius, Jason, Antipater, and Aeneas.

“In the subsequent Hasmonaean period (141-63 B.C.E.), evidence of Hellenization within Jerusalem becomes much more frequent. The document in 1Maccabees 14 recording the public appointment of Simon as leader (or chief -hegoumenon), high priest, and strategos is written in a style strikingly reminiscent of documents from the Hellenistic world. The structure of this declaration, the extensive arguments invoked to justify and explain such appointments, the use of purple robes and gold ornaments by the Hasmonean ruler, the dating of an era commencing with Simon's appointment, and, finally, recording the text of this document on bronze tablets and placing them in a prominent place in the Temple area and in the (Temple?) treasury are all elements borrowed directly from well-known Hellenistic practices.”

2. From Helmut Koester - Introduction to the New Testament, Fortress Press ; Berlin [Germany] ; New York: De Gruyter, c1982. pp. 211-215

“Insofar as it is possible to reconstruct the course of events which led to the Maccabean revolt, its beginnings appear in a controversy of the pro-Syrian and the pro-Egyptian parties over the high-priestly office and control of the financial interests and power of the temple. After the death of the high priest Simon (after 200 BCE), who belonged to the Zadokite family, his son Onias III became his successor. But Onias leaned toward Egypt and supported the youngest son of the Tobiad Joseph; the latter had had a falling out with his older brothers, who had been friends and partisans of the late pro-Seleucid high priest Simon. The younger Tobiad, as a friend of the new high priest, was able to use the banking services of the temple to his advantage. The assassination of the Syrian king Seleucus IV in 175 gave the older Tobiads and their Hellenistic followers the opportunity to expel Onias and appoint Onias' brother Jason (the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua) as high priest in his stead. All of this happened with the knowledge and support of the new king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, from whom Jason actually had bought the office of high priest. At the same time, Jason received permission from the king to reconstitute Jerusalem as a Greek city to be named Antioch, in other words, to appoint a city council instead of the traditional council of elders (gerousia), to organize an assembly of the citizens who were entitled to vote, to build a gymnasium, and to make arrangements for the education of epheboi.It is not clear from our sources whether this new legislation also included a religious reform. Jason is never accused of having set aside the "laws of the fathers," but judging from analogies it would seem natural that in such a program of the Hellenization of a city, the traditional oriental deity (in this case Yahweh, though for the Greeks he had no name) would be identified with a Greek god (most likely Zeus Olympius). But even if this were the case, neither Antiochus IV nor any of his predecessors would have interfered with established ritual or religious conventions. Had the Hellenization of the Jewish religion been nothing but the identification of Yahweh with Zeus Olympius, a religious revolt would have been quite unlikely.

“The turning point was the expulsion of Jason, who, though a member of the reform party, was still a legitimate Zadokite and thus even for the conservatives a guarantor of the "laws of the fathers." However, in 172 BCE, Menelaus, the brother of an officer of the temple named Simon, took Jason's place. Apparently he was more suitable in the eyes of the reformers, had the support of the Tobiads, and had offered the king an even bigger sum of money than what Jason had paid for the high-priestly office. Only now did the situation reach a crisis point. It became evident that the office of the high priest must not be abused with impunity in the interests of the leading aristocracy. More was at stake: the high priest was the guarantor of religious law for all the people, and an illegitimate high priest was a threat to the constitution of the whole commonwealth. As the resistance of the people grew, Menelaus was barely able to hold on to his office. While he was in Antioch, his brother Lysimachus, whom Menelaus had appointed as his deputy, was slain in Jerusalem. The external political situation also provided an opportunity for the "pious" to organize themselves. Thus the "pious," the Hasidim (the family of the Maccabees belonged to this group, and their later offspring included both the Pharisees and the Essenes), formed a new political movement which no longer permitted the aristocracy to treat the whole affair as if nothing was at stake but their rivaling claims to power.

“In 169-168 Antiochus Epiphanes led two campaigns against Egypt. Returning from the first campaign, he visited his friends, the citizens of the new Greek polis Antioch-Jerusalem; it turned out, however, that he was primarily interested in the treasury of the temple: the financial crisis of the Seleucids had become so severe that the kings repeatedly resorted to such measures. This naturally enraged the people, and when the king had left the city-and after an apparently abortive attempt of Jason to occupy Jerusalem-the conservative party took possession of the city and locked up Menelaus and the partisans of the reform in the Acra, the fortified Hellenistic quarter. This action signaled the beginning of the revolt. Antiochus, who had just been humiliated in Egypt by the Romans-an ultimatum of the Roman Senate had forced him to relinquish all his Egyptian conquests-reacted promptly. He captured Jerusalem (probably through his official Apollonius), murdered or expelled the Jewish inhabitants, and made Jerusalem a katoikia, that is, a city in which soldiers, veterans, and other colonists (mostly Syrians) formed the citizenry. Only now did Apollonius, Antiochus' governor, begin a persecution of the faithful Jews, not for religious reasons, but in order to subdue a rebellious people; it is not possible to maintain the traditional view, according to which the rebellion was a reaction to the religious persecution. Only now was the temple cult of Yahweh (called Zeus Olympius since the reform) transformed into the cult of a superficially Hellenized Syrian god, Zeus Baal Shamayin[3], whose sacred rock was brought into the temple; there he was worshiped together with his consorts "Athena" and "Dionysus."

“Only at this time were the "laws of the fathers" annulled, because they were useless as the constitution of the Syrian-Greek citizenry of the katoikia Antioch-Jerusalem. The political and religious reorganization was completed with the decrees of Antiochus from the year 167, which legitimized the new cult and outlawed the practice of the Jewish religion in Jerusalem and Judea (not, however, in Jewish communities elsewhere). The persecution of the faithful Jews was a necessary consequence. It is difficult to estimate the severity of the persecution, because the information about this persecution provided by the Books of the Maccabees is mostly legendary. Antiochus was correct in seeing the core of the resistance among those people who adhered to the Jewish religion most faithfully. He therefore forced the population to participate in the new pagan cult and he outlawed circumcision. The eating of pork became the test of loyalty: whoever refused demonstrated, in the view of the royal officials, that he belonged to the rebellion. It cannot be doubted that many Jews who were unwilling to deny their faith were cruelly executed and martyred.

“But other Jews chose to flee into the mountains of Judea to join the guerillas commanded by a certain Judas with the surname Maccabeus (="the Hammer")-this is reported by 2 Macc 5:28 and 8:1. However, the First Book of Maccabees, written by the official court historian of the Hasmonaeans, gives a different account because the later Hasmoneans descended not from Judas, but from his elder brother Simon: not Judas, but his and Simon's father Mattathias is said to have founded the resistance movement. There is no doubt, however, that this newly organized resistance would appeal directly to the traditional values which the Hasidim had defended against the Hellenistic reformers, and thus the rebellion developed into a powerful national religious movement enjoying wide support. Because of the persecution, leadership would naturally fall to someone who knew how to fight a guerilla war. While all Hasidim seem to have supported Judas during the revolt, it is understandable that certain groups of Hasidim, such as the Essenes and the Pharisees, would later break with the heirs of this guerilla leader when they aspired to, and actually achieved, political power. The government of Antiochus IV, on the other hand, was also quite successful in rallying to its support all vested powers and interest groups, namely, the Greek cities, the non-Jewish population of the neighboring areas, the Samaritans, and finally those Jews who had favored Hellenization and wanted to establish a peaceful coexistence of all people in the country. To this final group belonged, of course, the Hellenized aristocracy of Jerusalem under the leadership of the high priest Menelaus, whom Antiochus had appointed.

“After four years of war, in which the guerillas under Judas were repeatedly successful (168-164 BCE), the Hellenized Jews of Jerusalem made a final attempt at reconciliation and succeeded in persuading Antiochus to repeal the edicts against the Jewish religion (the new decrees are preserved in 2 Macc 11:16-21, 27-32). Within a specified period all those who fled because of the persecution were permitted to return and their right to the free exercise of their religion was guaranteed. But it was too late: shortly after the publication of these edicts, Judas conquered Jerusalem, and the Hellenists had to retreat once more to the fortified Acra. Antiochus Epiphanes was in the east, fighting against the Parthians, where he died in 163. His deputy Lysias, governor of the western part of the kingdom, and thus responsible for Judea, was unable to intervene because the problem of the royal succession forced him to stay in Antioch. This gave Judas the opportunity not only to consolidate his power, and even to humiliate his enemies beyond the borders of Judea, but also to reach a compromise agreement with the new king, Antiochus V Eupator, in which Jerusalem's temple was officially returned to the traditional Jewish cult (162 BCE; see the document in 2 Macc 11:22-26). Menelaus was executed; the new high priest Alcimus, probably from the house of Onias and therefore a legitimate Zadokite, was however not recognized by Judas because of his sympathy for Hellenism.

“Shortly afterwards, Antiochus V was assassinated by his cousin, who became king as Demetrius I Soter (162-150). Fortune now turned against Judas, because the new king supported Alcimus against Judas, and the Hasidim in Jerusalem were now willing to accept Alcimus as high priest. Demetrius' general Bacchides defeated Judas' army, in part because it was no longer strengthened by the Hasidim, who now seemed content with the reestablishment of the Jerusalem cult. Judas died in battle in 160…. Bacchides offered a new compromise treaty. It was finally agreed that Judas' brother Jonathan should be established as a "judge" in the town of Michmash (near Jerusalem), but he had to promise not to interfere in the affairs of Jerusalem (157). Thus ended the revolt of the Maccabees; the Syrian sovereignty was established once more, and freedom of religion was guaranteed for the Jews; the office of high priest, however, was left vacant.

“After several years of peace (157-153), renewed fighting among the pretenders to the Syrian throne opened another period of instability and war. Jonathan, and later his brother Simon, were able to use the internal difficulties of the Syrian empire to their advantage and, in spite of some setbacks, finally achieved their goal of political independence. In 153 BCE Alexander Balas tried to gain the Syrian throne. To defend himself against this pretender, King Demetrius I sought the support of Jonathan and, in return, gave Jonathan permission to occupy Jerusalem. But soon thereafter Jonathan switched his allegiance to Alexander Balas, who rewarded him by appointing him high priest: in 152….

“In order to achieve their goal of becoming the rulers of an independent country and to bring all of Palestine under their control, the Hasmoneans had to take advantage of the continuing dynastic wars in Syria and the shift of power on the international scene from the Greek kingdoms to Rome. Jonathan was apparently quite successful in this respect.

“…Simon, the last of the five sons of Mattathias, now made a treaty with Demetrius II against Trypho, in which Demetrius recognized Simon as independent ruler of Judea, gave freedom from taxation to the Jews, and permitted Simon to expel the Syrian garrison from the Acra in Jerusalem (142-141 BCE).

“This confirmed Simon's de facto independence, which he now used to conquer Gezer (west of Jerusalem) and Jaffa, thus gaining free access to the Mediterranean coast. Simon also established diplomatic ties with Sparta and Rome and began to date official documents according to his regnal years. While Jonathan, like all his predecessors, had been appointed high priest by the Syrian king, Simon was confirmed by a great assembly of the priests, the leaders of the Jews, and the elders of the country as "regent" and as "high priest forever, until a faithful prophet should arise" (140 BCE).This event seemed to be the fulfillment of all the hopes and expectations which thirty years earlier had united the conservatives, the Hasidim, and the political rebels in their fight against Antiochus IV Epiphanes; indeed, this is exactly what the author of the First Book of Maccabees tries to communicate to his readers in the fourteenth chapter of his book.”

3. Elias J.Bickerman Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees, Schocken 1962

“At the end of the year 167 B.C.E., approximately in December, by order of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of Syria and so ruler of the Jews, the Temple on Zion was desecrated and given over to the uses of idolatry. At the same time the Law of Moses was rescinded by a decree of the King. Observance of the commandments of the Torah, such as circumcision and the sanctification of Sabbath and New Moon, was made a capital offense. In addition, the Jews were required to worship the gods of the Gentiles. Altars were erected to these gods in every locality, and the populace was commanded to offer sacrifice to the new deities. It was the pig, precisely the animal regarded by the Jews as unclean, that was the most acceptable offering to these gods. Pigs were offered even upon the altar of the Sanctuary at Jerusalem, upon which each day, in early morning and at the approach of evening, offerings had been made to the….

“… in 166 Jerusalem was filled with monuments of the pagan cult, and the princes of Jerusalem together with the men of Judea obediently heeded the will of the earthly ruler. Altars were built before the doors of the houses and sacrifices were offered upon them, to make a public display of zeal for the new paganism. Only a few proved unyielding and openly transgressed the commandment of the King.

“…(a) peasant … oppressed by taxes, a debtor harried by his creditor … forsook house and land and lived as wretched vagabonds, as is said of the Maccabees…. But the state suffered a falling off in revenues as a result, and yielded more and more in the course of time, until finally an amnesty was proclaimed. In the meanwhile, however, agents of the government sought to lay hands upon the fugitives. In 166 B.C.E. a search was instituted in Judea for those who had disregarded the King's command and had hidden themselves away in the wilderness. In this case the task of the police was rendered easy by a Jewish practice which seemed to the pagans the height of superstitious unreason. The Jews, lest they desecrate the day of rest, offered an attacker no resistance on the Sabbath. Thus in 312 B.C.E.Ptolemy of Egypt had been able to take possession of Jerusalem without a blow. Now, too, the fugitives made no attempt to defend themselves on the day of rest; they , neither threw stones at the enemy nor walled up the caves in which they had sought safety, but preferred to die in order conscientiously to fulfil the law of God for which they had forsaken their homes.

“… Mattathias and his people … resolved …  at least to defend themselves on the Sabbath day…. Even more significant is the fact that Mattathias ventured to interpret the law upon his own authority. In his day this privilege was vested in the High Priest and his council, who governed Jerusalem and Judea.

“… as is clear from this account, the wrath of the Maccabees was poured over the Jews and not the heathen. The company of the Maccabees was an active minority-Daniel calls them "a little help"- that sought to restore its law to the people. This law was in no sense an innovation, but the revelation of Moses…. 

“Until the time of Alexander the Great each Oriental people constituted a disparate unit, clearly differentiated from the others. Even in such a situation cultures inevitably influenced one another: the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, for example, contains many thoughts and aphorisms borrowed from the Egyptian Wisdom Book of Amenemope. Under the domination of the Persians … a great common store of beliefs and ideas developed among the various peoples. But there was no common supranational civilization; a Jew remained a Jew, as an Egyptian remained an Egyptian.

“With the Greek conquest of the East (330 B.C.E.), however, the situation changed. From its beginnings Greek culture was supranational, because the Greeks never constituted a unified state. In the East, Greek colonists lost their tribal peculiarities so quickly that the innumerable Greek papyri of the period, discovered in Egypt, show no variations of dialect. The new states in the East were the creation of the Greek race of Macedonia, as Alexander himself was a Macedonian. But their culture was PanhelIenic, and was the same on the Nile as on the Euphrates. The Oriental civilizations, on the other hand, were always based upon concepts of folk and religion. A man was born an Egyptian or a Jew, or became such when he forsook his own gods and served new gods….

“But Greek culture, like modem European culture, was based upon education. A man became a "Hellene" without at the same time forsaking his gods and his people, but merely by adopting Hellenic culture….  In Hellenistic Egypt the whole population was officially divided into two classes: the natives, called the "Egyptians," and the immigrants, called the "Hellenes," regardless of their origin. 

“In its tendency and in its claim, therefore, Hellenistic culture was universal. To it belonged the mighty of the world and the world's dominion. It was vested with the superiority that the judgment of war constantly reaffirmed. It was open to all. Whether or not to accept this culture was therefore a question of life and death for every people. The nations of the ancient world were confronted by the same problem that confronts the Oriental peoples in the modern world from Tokyo to Cairo, whether to adopt the supranational and therefore superior European culture….

“For Judaism, then, the question of its historical existence or disappearance depended upon its ability to accommodate itself to Western culture. But in the days of the Maccabees, as in the period of Moses Mendelssohn, the law interposed a wall between Jews and non-Jews. Nothing brings people closer together than a common table. But his dietary laws forbade the Jew to taste the food of his non-Jewish neighbor. There is no closer tie than the bond of matrimony. But the Jews told with approval the story of a father who abandoned his own daughter in order to free his brother from a passing attachment to a pagan dancing girl. To a man of the Hellenistic age this "separation from the nations" could be regarded as nothing else than the expression of a Jewish "hatred of mankind." Favorably disposed critics have endeavored to explain the withdrawal of the Jews from history as the consequence of the "bad experience of their expulsion from Egypt," and to exculpate it on such grounds; but no one outside Jewry itself has ever recognized positive merit in the separation….  

“To "advanced" Jews, therefore, it seemed imperative to let these bars fall "In those days," we read in I Maccabees, "came there forth out of Israel lawless men, and persuaded many, saying, 'Let us go and make a covenant with the nations that are round about us .... “In those days" denotes the reign of the Syrian King Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes (176-163 B.C.E.). The new King entrusted the position of High Priest at the Temple in Jerusalem- and hence the rule over Judea-to men of that same "advanced" party, first to a man who called himself by the Greek name of Jason (about 175-172 B.C.E.), then to Menelaus (172-162 B.C.E.). These Jewish "Hellenists" promptly received royal approval for establishing a Greek community in Jerusalem, and with it permission to erect a gymnasium. In 169, then, a regular Greek city, surrounded by walls and fortified by towers, was founded upon one of the hills of Jerusalem, opposite the Temple Mount. The name of this city is unknown; in our tradition it is referred to simply as Acra, that is to say, the Citadel. Henceforward the Sanctuary was dependent upon this Greek city. This was only natural. The Hellenistic culture, understandably enough, had first affected the upper classes, the Jerusalemites and the priesthood. When the signal went up for the exercises upon the athletic field to begin, it was the priests who hastened to the contests and surrendered their priestly linens for the nakedness of Greek sports. Greek marks of distinction were prized above old-fashioned, native honors. People strove to appear wholly Greek-externally, by removing the marks of circumcision through a painful operation; inwardly, by participating in the games in honor of the foreign gods, and even by contributing money for sacrifices to these gods.

“But the leaders of the party understood perfectly well that all this must remain merely a diversion of the upper classes as long as the Sanctuary remained inviolate and as long as the law enjoining "misanthropic" separation continued in force. Like the Emancipation of the nineteenth century, that of the second century B.C.E. must have necessarily led to religious "reform." But nineteenth-century Emancipation could in the end escape this necessity, for Occidental civilization as a whole had … become secularized.

“All of ancient life was carried on within the framework of cult acts whose execution did not entail complete belief. No gymnasium could be without the images of such patron gods of athletics as Heracles and without honorific statues of the kings. Every public act was invariably accompanied by sacrifice and invariably involved prayer. To accept Western culture fully, therefore, there appeared no other alternatives than either to renounce the ancestral religion, to which any participation in the cult of the gods was an abomination, or to transform the ancient law. Many Jews of antiquity chose the first course. Among them, for example, was Tiberius Julius Alexander, nephew of the Jewish philosopher, Philo, of Alexandria. Tiberius pursued a military and administrative career that raised him to the highest stations. Among other things, he was chief of staff to Titus at the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

“Jason and Menelaus, in the reign of Epiphanes, wished to follow the other course; they desired to accommodate traditional Judaism to the times. Their intention was to preserve those characteristics of the Jewish religion which suited Greek taste-the imageless God, for example-but to remove everything which smacked of separation, of the "ghetto": Sabbath observance, beards, circumcision, and that namelessness of God which was otherwise to be met with only among the most primitive peoples.

“Henceforth the Lord on Zion must bear a name which could be communicated to Greek friends who might inquire what manner of God it was that the people of Jerusalem worshipped. In Greek that name was Zeus Olympius. For some time the Jews had been in the habit of calling their God "Lord of Heaven," or even simply "Heaven," as is the regular practice in the First Book of Maccabees. But for the Greeks the Lord of Heaven was Zeus Olympius. In Aramaic the expression was probably Baal Shemin, under which title all the peoples of Syria worshipped the ruler of heaven. In this manner the "God of the Jews" was now accepted into the general pantheon. Now He was no longer worshipped in the dim light of the Holy of Holies, but under the open sky, in an enclosure, as was the practice in the most highly revered sanctuaries of Syria and in keeping with the Greek ideal. Even after its transformation, the cult naturally remained aniconic-educated Greeks had long ridiculed the notion that the gods had a human form. But the presence of the Almighty was now symbolized by a "sacred stone" upon the sacrificial altar in the middle of the fore court of the Temple. All the requirements of the law concerning the sacrificial ritual were rescinded. The pig was now approved as a sacrificial animal: prohibition of its use for sacrifice or food had seemed the most striking mark of Jewish separatism.

“After December of 167 B.C.E. sacrifices on Zion were carried out according to the new ritual. Offerings were made to the same God and on the same spot as formerly, but the manner was new and in direct opposition to the old. Moreover, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was no longer sole ruler in Jerusalem. Adaptation to the religious customs of the Greeks was impossible without the surrender of monotheism. And so the festivals of Dionysus were celebrated in Jerusalem, and perhaps Athene, too, figured among the new divinities; certainly the deified kings of the ruling dynasty were included.

“At the same time the High Priest Menelaus procured a decree from the King prohibiting the Mosaic law and ordering the introduction of pagan customs. Such a measure was in complete accord with the thought of the Greek social reformers, who, since Plato, had always regarded the lawgiver as the creator of social life. According to the historical principles basic to Greek thought, Jewish law was the invention of Moses, enjoined by him upon his followers. If Menelaus now wished to impose his own law upon the people, his conduct could not be regarded as improper. It was these measures that passed into the consciousness of contemporaries and posterity as the "persecutions of Epiphanes." With them the history of the Maccabees begins.

“Mattathias' following knew nothing of "historical necessity" and probably very little about the ideas of the reformers. The one thing plain to them was the fact of persecution: the Temple desecrated, the law abolished, and the Jews coerced into a pagan way of life. Against this persecution they defended themselves to the death. When, during 166 (or at the beginning of 165), Mattathias died, leadership devolved, we do not know why, upon the third of his living sons, Judah, surnamed the Maccabee. …

“For two years Judah waged guerrilla war like his father, making surprise descents upon the apostates without venturing to attack any walled cities or the tyrant's stronghold in Jerusalem…. 

“At first the central government paid no attention … to the Maccabean uprising. It must be remembered that the Seleucid empire extended from Egypt to the Persian Gulf, and that disturbances of this nature flared up constantly at one point or another. The handful of the Maccabees could only be regarded as another robber band on the highways It would appear that … (Judas’) force amounted to something more than three thousand

“… the reform party made no attempt at mustering its strength to put an end … to … the marauders. Their failure is easy to understand if we reflect that they belonged to the upper strata of the people, being city dwellers and Jerusalemites, and did not particularly relish chasing after the Maccabees through gorges and over stony hills. The mass of the peasantry, on the other hand, remained secretly devoted to the old faith. Judah ruthlessly extirpated the few in the countryside who followed the reform party, but at the same time he restored freedom of faith to the majority….

“… Judah defeated the troops that were sent against him, one after the other ….

“The success of Judah can be more readily under stood if we reflect upon the difficulties that guerrilla warfare in a hill country presents even to modern regular troops. The Seleucid armies were composed largely of contingents of auxiliaries from various cities and peoples; the professional soldiery was employed only for more important enterprises.

“It was now, in the fall of 165, that Judah's successes began to disturb the central government. He appears to have controlled the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and thus to have cut off the royal party in Acra from direct communication with the sea and thus with the government. It is significant that this time the Syrian troops, under the leadership of the governor-general Lysias, took the southerly route, by way of Idumea…. They encamped at Beth Zur, a fortress about thirty kilometers south of Jerusalem….  Menelaus, officiating High Priest and head of the reform party, intervened in the negotiations and appeared as mediator between the King and the Jews. A Roman embassy …, took the Jews' part and persuaded them to formulate their demands quickly so that they themselves might present them to the King. Thus it appears that all parties were concerned to make peace between the government and the insurgents. In point of fact, Epiphanes was at the moment engaged in a serious war in the East, the imperial treasury was again empty, and the question of whether the Jews would eat in accordance with or in opposition to their dietary laws must now have seemed of little consequence to the government.

“And so Epiphanes resolved to call a halt to the persecutions. In a proclamation to the Sanhedrin and the Jewish nation, he declared that he had been informed by Menelaus that the Jews who had fled from their homes-that is, those loyal to the ancient faith, amongst whom were the Maccabees-desired to return to their legal abodes. Exemption from punishment was guaranteed all who returned by March 29, 164 B.C.E., and in addition the assurance was given that the Jews would be permitted "to use their own food and to observe their own laws as of yore." The persecution was thus ended. The edict makes no mention of the Maccabees ….  It is represented as an act of royal grace, instigated by Menelaus. But such an interpretation could not conceal the true state of affairs. The cessation of the persecutions signified the defeat of Menelaus, who had been their instigator, and the victory of the Maccabees-something that must have seemed unbelievable to contemporaries. David had again overcome Goliath. Only a year before the prophet Daniel could see no help except through a miraculous intervention of God. And yet Judah had won his victory with casual irregulars who were often lacking in such essential arms as sword and shield. How could the issue be interpreted as other than explicit confirmation of the leadership which the Maccabees had assumed?

“… At the end of 164, about the beginning of December, he again assembled "the entire host" and made a sudden descent upon Jerusalem. To understand that such a surprise attack could promise success, it must be remembered that in 168 the central government had pulled down Jerusalem's city walls; the intention was to make the city completely dependent upon the citadel of Acra. It was this that made it possible for Judah, only four years later, to take possession of Jerusalem so easily.

“The first act of the conqueror was the purification of the Holy City of all traces of idolatry and the restoration of the service of God in the Temple. According to the Jewish calendar, it was Kislev 25, precisely three years after the reform party had offered the first pagan sacrifice upon the altar …  For eight days the rededication of the purified altar was celebrated. Then "Judah and his brethren and the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their seasons year by year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Kislev, with gladness and joy." This celebration, which is the model for the annual festivals of dedication in all churches, is Hanukkah, a word that literally signifies "dedication." …

“By instituting this festival Judah and his people declared themselves the true Israel. Their act was one of far-reaching significance, for all previous festivals were prescribed in Scripture.

“… Lysias found it necessary to withdraw in great haste, and so quickly made a peace with the beleaguered Judah.

“Formally considered, the “peace” amounts on the one hand to a capitulation on the part of Judah, and on the other, to a remission on the part of the King. In actuality, its basis was an understanding between Lysias and Judah which was tantamount to a restoration of the conditions that had obtained in Judea prior to Epiphanes. The King's remission was addressed to Lysias, and solemnly proclaimed renunciation of the policy of Epiphanes. "As for our Jewish subjects," the new King wrote, "we understand that they object to our father's project of bringing them over to Hellenism, preferring their own ways of life and asking permission to follow their own customs," and he was of the resolve "that the subjects of the realm should live undisturbed and attend to their own concerns." He agreed "to give them back their temple and to permit them to live after the manner of their ancestors."

“A year earlier the government had consented to tolerate the Jewish religion; now the dominion of the Torah was fully restored. According to the decree of 163, those Jews who wished to do so might give obedience to the Jewish law. The new decree of 162 again obliged the entire people to observe this law. This marked the consummation of the victory of orthodox Judaism. For centuries thereafter the Jews celebrated the recurrence of this day (Shevat 28) "upon which King Antiochus withdrew from Jerusalem."

“The consequences of the peace of 162 were twofold. For one thing, it marked the end of the reform party. Its chief, the former High Priest Menelaus, was executed upon the King's orders, "for that he was the cause of all the evil in that he persuaded Epiphanes to abolish the ancestral constitution of the Jews." This was the ground on which the verdict was based. The remaining partisans of reform, who continued to find refuge in the Acra, had in the meanwhile lost all touch with Judaism. The reformers had now become apostates.

“On the other hand, the task of the Maccabees also seemed to have been completed. The government had deserted the reform party, traditional Judaism had been recognized as alone valid, and the conditions which had obtained before the promulgation of Epiphanes' measures were thus restored. The rebellion of the Jews now seemed pointless and at an end…. Judah was deserted by his partisans. The government appointed a new High Priest, a member of the previous high-priestly family called Jakim, who then Hellenized his name into AIcimus. The government even caused an assembly of scribes to be convoked so that it might confirm, after exhaustive investigation, that Alcimus was in fact the legitimate prince. The Hasidim, the "Pious," a group known for the strictness of its faith and who had been the first to join Mattathias, these very Hasidim were now the first to recognize Alcimus. From this time forward, supported by a royal guard, Alcimus ruled over Judea, and his power was so secure that he could without misgivings cause the execution of sixty of the "Pious" who had shown themselves rebellious. Once again the burnt offering for the reigning king was daily offered upon Zion.

“At first Judah again retired into the mountains. But when a new revolution took place in Antioch-Antiochus V was overthrown by his cousin, Demetrius I-Judah took advantage of the occasion to reappear in Jerusalem. He took possession of the Sanctuary and even prevented AIcimus from approaching the altar. Judah's supporters maintained that Alcimus had "voluntarily polluted himself" in the time of Epiphanes; that is, without being compelled to do so, he had participated in pagan festivals and sacrifices. Was such a man now eligible to perform the service of God?... It is therefore not surprising that Judah and his followers refused to recognize AIcimus, even after an assembly of sages convoked by the government had pronounced in favor of Alcimus' legitimacy.

“This time the cleavage in the Jewish people was quite different from that in the days of Epiphanes. The struggle no longer concerned the validity of the Torah but whether or not Alcimus was justified in functioning as High Priest…. The former friends of the Maccabees were now transformed into enemies, "apostates." …. Judah again … swept through all the territory of Judea, talking vengeance upon his enemies and punishing the “apostates” who were worse than pagans in his eyes.

“…  It may be argued that the Roman alliance, which was Judah's greatest success, became the immediate cause of his downfall. The Seleucid government could look on calmly at the occasional successes of a guerrilla chief, in expectation of a favorable moment for delivering a blow. But when Judah became a protege of Rome, it seemed essential to act at once. Judah's emissaries returned to Jerusalem towards the end of the summer of 161 …  as soon as the rainy season was ended, the King's general Bacchides, accompanied by AIcimus and at the head of a regular army, moved through Galilee towards Jerusalem. As always, the professional soldiers were qualitatively far superior to the Maccabean irregulars. When the Syrians approached, the greater part of the Maccabean levy …  fled…. Friends advised him to avoid the battle, and their counsel was undoubtedly strategically sound. But he preferred death in battle, and fell fighting. ...  Israel quickly forgot Judah.

“…  an inexcusable blunder on the part of the central government had left Jewry at this juncture with no legitimate prince. After the death of Alcimus in the spring of 159, no successor had been named. There was only one man who commanded sufficient authority among the Jews to muster an army for Demetrius I. This was Jonathan, Judah's brother and heir. Demetrius gave Jonathan full power to collect troops.

“Jonathan naturally used the opportunity first to secure his own position-he occupied Jerusalem and fortified Zion anew. … At the doubtful festival of Tabernacles in 152 B.C.E. he clothed himself, by the authority of Alexander Balas, in the sacred vestments of the High Priest.

Judah had fought bitterly against the High Priest Alcimus because he was "polluted." Eight years later Jonathan raised himself to the position of High Priest, despite the fact that he was not a member of the Zadokite family to which the office appertained. For the priest to obtain his position from the secular power was a Greek custom. Once again those who fought for the Torah accommodated the law to Gentile practices, while the legitimate High Priest (by right of descent) performed the service in a rump temple in Egypt.

“… Judah's lifework had been to prevent the threatening Hellenization of Judaism and the surrender of the Torah. He succeeded, and gave his life to his success. Jonathan and his successors, his brother Simon and Simon's descendants, will now seek to accommodate Hellenism to Judaism. Under them Judea becomes a Hellenistic principality.

“… John Hyrcanus became a Hellenistic prince like his contemporaries and rivals, Zeno Cotylas in Rabbath Ammon (modem Amman) in Trans-Jordan, Erotimus, King of the Nabateans, and others. Each of them strove to expand his domain without troubling in the least about the Seleucids…. But for this the first requisite was an effective army. The Jewish levy was as incompetent in the plain-particularly against the professional armies recruited from the Grecized cities of the coast-as it was superior in its native hills. How were these primitively armed Jewish shepherds to stand against the heavily armed horse and foot of the professional armies when the scene of battle was transferred to the level country.  He had to organize a professional army, and that meant that he must recruit foreign soldiers. Immediately after the peace of 133, so it is said, in order to procure funds to hire mercenaries he opened the tomb of David and removed the treasures allegedly hidden there. This put an end to the popular period of the Maccabean monarchy. The prince now possessed an armed force alien to the people and obedient to him alone.

“With these mercenaries, supplemented, of course, by native levies, Hyrcanus succeeded within twenty five years in raising Judea to the position of the most significant military power in Syria.

“… On the basis of an ingenious combination Greek scholarship had contrived a connection between the Jews and the Spartans. This was known as early as about 170 B.C.E. When Jason, the leader of the reform party, was ousted by Menelaus, he fled to Sparta and there claimed hospitality on the grounds of tribal kinship.

“But as soon as the Maccabee Jonathan, who had so unexpectedly risen to be High Priest and chief of Jewry, was firmly in the saddle, he sent an embassy to Sparta (about 143) to renew the ancestral bond of brotherhood. His missive to "his brother Spartans" is extant. In it Jonathan refers to a letter of a Spartan king to "Onias the High Priest," and he subjoins a copy of this letter. The Spartan letter is a patent forgery, fabricated by some writer in Jonathan's service.

“… Here the character and significance of Maccabean Hellenism is plainly revealed. The reform party wished to assimilate the Torah to Hellenism; the Maccabees wished to incorporate Hellenic culture in the Torah…. This accommodation of new elements to the Bible, this consideration for native tradition, characterizes the Hellenization carried through under the Maccabees, and differentiates it from the rationalistic assimilation which had been the aim of the reform party. Let us consider, for example, the decree of 140 B.C.E.,by which the people invested Simon with the rulership. The document is thoroughly Hellenistic in character. It must have been drafted in Greek. In any case, the form is altogether that of a Greek honorary decree, utterly impossible in Hebrew. A long-winded and awkward period sets forth the reasons for the decree, and the decree itself is then expressed in an appended sentence. The very notion of drawing up a document to establish a constitution is purely Greek; the Bible provides no pattern for this. According to Hebrew models one would expect a general obligation of the people to Simon by means of an oath. But in this very document, which prohibits the wearing of purple or of the gold brooch which are the insignia of Hellenistic royalty, which offers Simon the rule out of gratitude for his deeds and in which he accepts it, a sharp distinction is nevertheless drawn between the privileged priesthood and the people; and rule is secured to Simon with the limitation, "until a faithful prophet shall arise." Only a divine revelation, not an assembly of the people, could proclaim eternal law for Israel.

“... In antiquity as today, a proper legal title was sought for every conquest. Greek opinion held that the original legitimate owners of a territory might maintain a permanent claim upon it if it had been wrested from them by force. Thus the opponents of the Maccabees in the Greek cities of Phoenicia and Palestine maintained at the time of the Maccabean conquest that the Jews could have no claim upon Palestine because they were immigrants who had destroyed the Canaanites: "Are ye not a people of robbers?" It is of the highest significance for the Hellenization of Judaism under the Maccabees that the Jews engaged in this dispute without objection, that is to say, they recognized Greek opinion as arbiter in the case. Thus, it is important to note, they accepted the legal principle of their opponents. Whereas the Bible eschews any secular legal basis for the claim upon the land and derives the Jews' right to Canaan from the divine promise, under the Maccabees the Jews sought a historical basis for their claim to the Holy Land. But, and this is characteristic of the manner of their Hellenization, they applied this new principle to the Bible. They declared, for example, that Palestine originally belonged to the heritage of Shem and had then been occupied by Canaan in robber-fashion; or they identified Shem with Melchizedek, the priest-king of Jerusalem, thus seeking to prove that Palestine was Shem's heritage; or they employed some similar device. But it did not occur to them, for instance, to follow the Greek historian Hecataeus and dismiss all the charges of their opponents with the claim that Palestine was completely uninhabited at the time of the Jewish immigration. In territorial disputes of this nature the Greeks always cited the writings of the historians, ancient documents, and similar sources, or even Homer; if one party to a quarrel found that some passage in the document to which it was appealing did not suit its argument, it declared that the offending passage had been interpolated. The Jews took over the Greek manner of argumentation, but for them the only source of knowledge remained the sacred Scripture, even when its evidence was against them.

“The accommodation of Hellenistic civilization to the Torah, begun by the Maccabees and carried forward under their rule, gave Judaism the form that it was to have for centuries and that, in part, prevailed until the Emancipation. Judaism of the post-Maccabean period is Pharisaic. But Pharisaism, which is fust mentioned in the period of John Hyrcanus, who was a disciple of the Pharisees, is in part characterized precisely by the introduction of certain leading ideas of the Hellenistic period into the world of the Torah.

“The Pharisees … (and) The Essenes, another sect, who seem to have introduced something of the ideas and the forms of life of Greek Pythagoreanism into Judaism, desired to be "holy"….  But the Essenes sought to realize their goal for themselves alone, for the members of their own order; the Pharisees, on the other hand, wished to embrace the whole people, and in particular through education. It was their desire and intention that everyone in Israel achieve holiness through the study of the Torah….

“All of this is alien to biblical Israel. The prophets looked forward to repentance as issuing from the pressure of events and as a result of prophetic admonitions and divine chastisement, not as the fruit of study. …"The crown of the Torah is set before every man." For Sirach, as for biblical Judaism, as indeed for all the East, it is assumed that only the pious can be wise: "All wisdom cometh from the Lord." The Pharisees adopted this principle entirely, adding to it, however, that piety was teachable and to be attained only through teaching. Consequently the entire people must study the Torah.

“But this is a Hellenic, one might say, a Platonic notion, that education could so transform the individual and the entire people that the nation would be capable of fulfilling the divine task set it. Hellenism introduces the first epoch of general popular education in the Occident. The Hellenes and the Grecized Orientals assembled in the gymnasia that were everywhere to be found and that served at once as athletic fields, schools, and clubs. In late Hellenistic Alexandria, as in the Greek community of the reform party in Jerusalem, the rights of citizenship were granted only after a sort of "proficiency test" was passed.

“The Pharisees adopted these ideas and tendencies of the Hellenistic world, in that they associated the public sermons that had been customary since the time of Ezra with the teaching of the Torah. But it was not their ideal to fashion a Greek kalos kai agathos, or "gentleman," but to fulfil the precept which introduces the revelation on Sinai: "Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation."

“To become a holy nation, indeed, was a goal common to all the Jews. But the Pharisees differed from the others by seeking its achievement through education and by not limiting this education to the Torah of Moses; they added many precepts wanting in the Torah, as, for example, the rule of washing the hands before meat. Any law written down naturally needs to be added to, and affords room for interpretation. One sect of Judaism in the Maccabean period, the Sadducees, wished to limit the laws to those expressly contained in the Torah. If something was neither prescribed nor forbidden in the Torah, they did not wish to make it so. Their principle was: "Only what is written is authoritative." But the Pharisaic idea of education promoted the tendency to develop the Torah as time and circumstance demanded. As the source for such development, the Pharisees looked to tradition, or, as they later termed it, the "oral" law, which they set on a footing with the written Torah. This singular notion of setting traditional usage or halakhah alongside the written law is again Greek. It is the concept of the "unwritten law" (agraphos nomos), which is preserved not on stone or paper but lives and moves in the actions of the people. But whereas in the Greek world this notion often served to negate the written law, Pharisaism used the oral law to "make a fence for the Torah."

“In this way Maccabean HeIIenism succeeded in parrying spiritual movements which might otherwise have destroyed traditional Judaism. For example, the Hellenistic world surrounding Judaism was caught up by a new revelation that solved the problem of evil on earth: retribution would come after death, when the wicked would be punished and the righteous rewarded and awakened to new life. Such notions are alien to the Bible, indeed in contradiction to it, for the Torah promises reward and punishment in this life. Hence the Sadducees rejected the new doctrine and ridiculed the Pharisaic teaching of resurrection. If they had been the only authoritative representatives of Judaism, Judaism would either have lagged behind the times and grown rigid, as was the case with the Samaritans, who also rejected the new belief, or the course of history would have submerged Judaism and undermined the Torah. The Pharisees, on the other hand, adopted the Hellenistic doctrine of resurrection, but subsumed it under the principles of the Torah. What to the pagans was an event dictated more or less by necessity, appears among the Jews as the working of the free will of God. According to the account of Flavius Josephus, the Pharisaic doctrine of the future life derives from the Greek teaching of the Pythagoreans. But among the Pythagoreans each soul must automatically return to new life after death, each according to its merit. For this fateful and continually operative necessity, the Pharisees substituted the single event of the Last Judgment, whose day and scope God would determine, and so dovetailed the new Hellenistic idea into the structure of biblical ideas. In its new form the adopted doctrine of resurrection developed into a characteristic element of Jewish belief; it became, with biblical monotheism, its central doctrine.”


4. From Jonathan A. Goldstein - II Maccabees: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary by, Anchor Bible. 41A, Doubleday 1983

Goldstein devotes pp. 84-112 to arguing the vase for his reconstruction of events as contrasted with those of Tcherikover[4] and Bickerman




Though the authors of both books of Maccabees[6] believed they were writing truth, both made mistakes, took literary license, and passed over embarrassing facts in silence. The reader of only a translation and commentary might find it hard to determine the outline of the true course of events…. Events which are given no dates probably occurred between the nearest dated events above and below them in the table. …







332 B.C.E.

·        Alexander the Great’s invasion puts an end to the Persian province of Yehud. 

·        Judaea incorporated into Alexander’s Greco-Macedonian empire.


323 B.C.E.

·        Alexander the Great dies. 

·        His generals struggle for control of his empire with frequent clashes in the coastal region of Palestine

·        Hellenistic cities founded, over the next century, in Palestine outside of the old Persian province of Yehud. 


By 301 B.C.E.

·        Ptolemy I, based in Alexandira, Egypt secures control of Egypt & Palestine

·        Seleucus controls Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran

·        Status of Judea (Persian Yehud) as a self-contained unit with its center in Jerusalem continues


C. 200 B.C.E.

The Selucid king Antiochus III, with Jewish support, wrests control of Palestine from Ptolemies



From 189 B.C.E. or 188 to 177 B.C.E.

Antiochus (the future Antiochus IV) serves as hostage in Rome for the Seleucid empire vanquished by Rome in 190 B.C.E..

I Maccabees 1: 10;

Stephen V. Tracy, "Greek

Inscriptions from the Athenian Agora: Fifth to Third Centuries B.C.,"

Hesperia 51 (1982), 61-62

July 187 B.C.E. [7]

Seleucus IV[8] reigns over the Seleucid empire and sends his son to take the place of Antiochus as hostage in Rome.

Appian Syriake 45

The royal minister Heliodorus comes to confiscate money on deposit in the temple in Jerusalem but fails to do so. Some Jews believe God miraculously prevented him.

II Maccabees 3:4-4:1;

Book of Daniel  11:20

The high priest Onias III, under political pressure from opponents, goes to Antioch to appeal to the king.

II Maccabees 4: 1-6

September 3, 1751


September Seleucus IV dies or is murdered.[9]

II Maccabees 4:7;

Appian Syriake 45

Later in 175[10]

Antiochus IV, brother of Seleucus IV, seizes power over Seleucid empire.

I Maccabees 1:10;

II Maccabees 4:7

In an effort to strengthen the Seleucid Empire by copying institutions and ideas he had learned at Rome, Antiochus proclaims an Antiochene republic, analogous to the Roman republic,and invites individuals and communities subject to him to accept Antiochene citizenship.[11]

I Maccabees 1:41-43;

II Maccabees 4:9

Later in 175 B.C.E. or early in 174 B.C.E.[12]

·        Jason, brother of Onias III, purchases the favor of Antiochus by offering him increased revenue and by bidding high for the privilege of being the founder of the Antiochene community at Jerusalem.

·        Antiochus appoints Jason high priest in place of Onias and allows Jason to found an Antiochene citizen-community at Jerusalem with gymnasium and ephebic institutions, exempt from Jewish law.[13]

I Maccabees 1:11-15;

II Maccabees 4:7-20

Before Jason's replacement as high priest by Menelaus[14]

·        Young Ptolemy VI celebrates his Protoklisia.  Apollonius son of Menestheus, representing Antiochus IV at the celebration, discovers that the Ptolemaic empire is plotting a war against the Seleucid realm.

·        On receiving this information, Antiochus takes defensive measures in the direction of the Ptolemaic border. At the end of these maneuvers, he passes through Joppe and then goes to Jerusalem, where he gets a splendid reception from Jason and the Jerusalemites.

II Maccabees 4:21-22

172 B.C.E., probably after September 20[15]

Menelaus offers Antiochus IV still more revenue and thus wins appointment as high priest in place of Jason. Jason takes refuge in the Ammanitis.

II Maccabees 4:23-26

·        Unable to produce the promised revenue, Menelaus in his trouble uses temple vessels to bribe a royal minister, Andronikos, while Antiochus IV is away from the capital. Onias III from the sacred place of asylum at Daphne reproaches Menelaus.

II Maccabees 4:27-33

After 1 Tishri (September 28),170 B.C.E.[16]

Andronikos entices Onias to leave his place of asylum and kills him. On returning to the capital, Antiochus, indignant, executes Andronikos.

II Maccabees 4:34-38

·        Depredations of temple property by Menelaus and his brother Lysimachus rouse the wrath of pious Jews.

·        A bloody riot ensues.

·        Members of the Jewish Council of Elders press charges against Menelaus, but again by bribing a royal official Menelaus escapes punishment.

II Maccabees 4:39-50

November, 170 B.C.E. -summer, 169 B.C.E.

Antiochus IV vigorously repels Ptolemaic aggression, invades Egypt, and overruns all but Alexandria.

I Maccabees 1:16-20;

cf. II Maccabees 5:51

Late summer or early autumn, 169 B.C.E.[17]

·        Jason and his followers, upon a false rumor of Antiochus' death, try to capture Jerusalem. 

·        Pious Jews rise against both Jason and Menelaus.

·        Antiochus regards all but Menelaus' faction as rebels, punishes the city, plunders the temple, and attempts to reestablish order, confirming Menelaus in power over the Jews.[18]

I Maccabees 1:20-28;

II Maccabees 5:1-23;

cf. II Maccabees 1:7-8

July,168 B.C.E.[19]

Antiochus IV, almost successful in his second attempt to conquer Egypt, withdraws completely from the Ptolemaic empire upon receiving a Roman ultimatum. On his way back to Antioch, he utters threats against the turbulent Jews, and on his return he hears the complaints of Menelaus and the Antiochenes of Jerusalem, under attack by pious Jews.[20]

Book of Daniel 11:29-30

February or March, 167 B.C.E.[21]

Antiochus IV, in response to complaints of Antiochenes of Jerusalem, sends a punitive expedition under Apollonius the Mysarch. Pious Jews of Jerusalem are massacred. Privileges of Jerusalem and Judaea are revoked and punitive taxes imposed. Troops fortify and help man Akra (the citadel) north of the temple to preserve order and protect the Antiochenes.

I Maccabees 1:29-40;

II Maccabees 5:23-27

Nisan (between April 1and April 29), 167[22] B.C.E.

Antiochus IV decrees that on penalty of  lion death the turbulent Jews, including all those in Judaea, must cease observing the Torah and follow an imposed polytheistic cult, said to be a "purified Judaism, "free of the tendencies which had turned the Jews into "rebels."

I Maccabees 1:44-51

Enforcement of the decrees is at first probably sporadic, as even Antiochene Jews fear to anger their God,[23] though some Jews obey the king. Royal officials begin to persecute pious Jews.

I Maccabees 1:51-53

15 Kislev (December 6), 167 B.C.E.

Antiochus IV takes drastic measures to enforce the imposed cult. "Abomination of Desolation,[24]" a framework containing three he meteorites representing the three gods of the imposed cult, is placed upon the sacrificial altar of the temple.

I Maccabees  1:54

25 Kislev (December 16), 167 B.C.E.

·        An Athenian expert helps direct the practices of the imposed cult. The practices in the temple include monthly sacrifices on the twenty-fifth[25] and violation of the laws of ritual purity.

·        Outside the temple, too, force is exerted throughout Jerusalem and Judaea to compel Jews to violate the Torah.

·        The Samaritans petition successfully to be exempted from the decrees,[26] but many pious Jews suffer martyrdom.

·        Cities of the Antiochene republic rigorously compel their Jews to follow the imposed cult.[27]

I Maccabees  1:54-64;

II Maccabees  6-7;

Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews xii 5.5.257-64

Very late 167 B.C.E. or sometime in 166 B.C.E.

·        Mattathias' zeal leads him to rebel against a king who forces Jews to violate the Torah.

·        He and his family, the Hasmonaeans,[28] attract followers and wage guerrilla warfare against the royal government and against Jews who violated the Torah.

·        Some Pietist Jews[29] still believe that God forbids violent rebelIion and trust, in vain, the prophecies that God will protect Sabbath observers. Believing that God forbade them to flee or defend themselves on the Sabbath, they are massacred by royal troops.

·        Mattathias decided that God must have intended to permit Jews to defend themselves on the Sabbath. Many Pietists agree and join forces with the Hasmonaean party.

I Maccabees  2:1-48;

II Maccabees  6:11

Between April

20, 166 B.C.E., and

April 4, 165

Mattathias dies. Judas takes command.


I Maccabees  2:70-3:2;

cf. II Maccabees  8: 1-5

Judas' force defeats expeditions of Apollonius and Seron.


I Maccabees 3:10-24;

cf. II Maccabees  8:5-7

Philip, royal commander at Jerusalem, unable to cope, appeals to the royal government for help.[30]

II Maccabees 8:8;

cf. I Maccabees 3:25-26

165 B.C.E., probably

between May

20 and June 18


·        Antiochus IV marches off with half the royal army to tax (and loot) the eastern regions claimed by the Seleucids.

·        He appoints his little son Antiochus coregent king over the western part of the empire, with Lysias as his guardian and as chief minister over that same area. Lysias receives half the royal army, with the task of maintaining order in the western part of the empire.

I Maccabees   3:27-37;

Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, ed.

by F. Jacoby,  260, F 32


The governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, Ptolemy son of Dorymenes,[31] responds to Philip's appeal by sending a strong force under Nicanor and Gorgias. From their base at Ammaus, Nicanor and Gorgias fail to crush Judas' band and instead are routed by them.

I Maccabees   3:38-4:27;

II Maccabees 8:8-29, 34-36

24 Ab on defective calendar (July 29), 165 B.C.E.

Jews return to open observance of the Torah.


Megillat Ta'anit 24 Ab

Some months later, surely not long before March, 164[32] B.C.E.

·        Lysias himself undertakes to stop the Jewish rebels. After careful reparation, he approaches Judaea from the south and fights a bloody battle with Judas' army at Beth-Zur.

·        Non-Hasmonaean pious Jews try to negotiate with Lysias in Judaea for an end to the persecution.

·        Menelaus similarly appeals to the royal government at Antioch.

I Maccabees  4:28-35;

II Maccabees 11: 1-21, 29

Roman ambassadors in a letter to the Jews offer to support the Jewish case before the coregent king, at Antioch.[33]

II Maccabees 11:34-38

15 Xanthicus

(March 12), 164 B.C.E.  

A letter in the name of the coregent offers Jews an end to the imposed cult, permission to observe the Torah, and amnesty, if they will cease fighting and return to their homes by 30 Xanthikos (March 27).

II Maccabees 11:27-33

28 Adar (March 25), 164 B.C.E.

The majority of Jews accept the coregent's offer by this date and observe it annually as the anniversary of the end of the persecution. The Hasmonaean party ignored the coregent's offer, to judge by the failure of our author to mention it.


Megillat Ta'anit 28 Adar;

contrast I Maccabees 4:35

March 25 -

October 13, 164 B.C.E.  

Pious Jews wait through the festivals of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly for prophesied miracles to occur- in vain.[34]


1 Tishri on defective calendar[35] (July 25), 164 B.C.E.

Sabbatical year begins, according to the defective calendar. Pious Jews dare to deny the high priest Menelaus the right to control the temple.[36] Pious priests purify the temple and destroy the Abomination of Desolation.29


I Maccabees  4:42-46;

II Maccabees 10:3;

Book of Daniel 11:24 (end)

Tishri- MarHeshvan on defective calendar (between July 25 and September 18) 29

Jews build and prepare a new sacrificial altar and temple vessels


I Maccabees 4:47-48;

II Maccabees 10:3

23 MarHeshvan on defective calendar (September 14), 16429 B.C.E.

Judas' men remove from the temple court the illicit lattice.


Megillat Ta'anit 23 MarHeshvan

27 MarHeshvan on defective calendar (September 18), 16429 B.C.E.

Jewish priests resume sacrifice of meal offerings in the temple, upon the new altar.


Megillat Ta'anit, 27 MarHeshvan

3 Kislev on defective calendar (September 24), 16429 B.C.E.

Jews destroy the idols which stood by private dwellings in Jerusalem.


Megillat Ta'anit, 3 Kislev

25 Kislev on defective calendar=25 Tishri on fully intercalated calendar (October 16), 16429 B.C.E.

Judas, following biblical precedents, prolongs the doubtful festival of Tabernacles for a celebration of the dedication of the new sacrificial altar along with the new candelabrum, incense altar, and table. The

dedication occurs on 25 Kislev, with the celebration continuing  for a total of eight days. 29


I Maccabees 4:49-58;

II Maccabees 1:8-9, 10:3-7

Late 164 or 163 B.C.E.

The Jews decide to make the eight-day celebration an annual observance, at first under the name "Festival of Tabernacles in the month of Kislev," later under the name "Days of  Dedication (Hanukkah)."

I Maccabees 4:59;

II Maccabees 10:8;

cf. II Maccabees 1:8-9,  2:16

November or early December, 164[37] B.C.E.

Antiochus IV dies in the course of his campaign in Iran. On his deathbed he appoints the courtier Philip to replace Lysias as guardian of his little son and heir, Antiochus.

I Maccabees 6: 1-16;

cf. II Maccabees 9

From soon after Feast of  Dedication (Hanukkah) (perhaps before the death of Antiochus IV), 164, to sometime in April 163[38] B.C.E.

The Jews under the leadership of Judas and his brothers Simon and Jonathan win victories over hostile neighboring peoples and Seleucid officials. The insubordinate Jewish commanders, Joseph and Azariah suffer a bloody defeat at Jamnia.


I Maccabees 5: 1-62;

II Maccabees 10:14-38, 12:1-31

Late 164 or early 163

Judas sees to it that the temple mount and Beth-Zur are fortified.


I Maccabees  4:60-61

Late 164 or early 163 B.C.E.

News of Antiochus IV's death reaches Antioch. Lysias becomes chief  power in the regime of little Antiochus V.  Philip, Antiochus IV's choice to replace Lysias, fails to win control and flees to Ptolemaic Egypt.[39]

I Maccabees  6:17;

II Maccabees 9:29, 10:11

February 8, 163 B.C.E.

Jews at Jerusalem, 1,150 days after the desecration of  25 Kislev, 167, receive a copy of a letter from Antiochus V  announcing  the death of Antiochus IV and restoring the temple to the Jews and thus "vindicating the


II Maccabees 11:23-26;

Book of Daniel 8:14


Probably early

163 B.C.E.

Ptolemy Makron, a high courtier under Antiochus V, advocates a just policy toward the Jews but faIls from favor and commits suicide.

II Maccabees 10:12-13

Just after Pentecost on the defective calendar (late April or May), 163[41] B.C.E.

Judas conducts successful campaign against Idumaea and Azotus


I Maccabees 5:65-68; 

II Maccabees 12:32-45

Late spring, 163[42] B.C.E.

Judas assembles a Jewish army and besieges the Akra.

I Maccabees 6:18-20

By June 28, 163[43] B.C.E.

Antiochus V and Lysias march on Judaea with a large force by way of Idumaea and besiege Beth-Zur. Judas lifts the siege of the Akra to go to relieve Beth-Zur, but at the the battle of Beth-Zechariah the Jews are defeated, and Judas' brother Eleazar is killed. Jewish diehards, hoping for a miracle, are besieged in  the temple. The Hasmonaean family probably hid in the mountains.

I Maccabees 6:21-48;

II Maccabees 13:1-19

Some weeks after the battle of Beth-Zechariah

The Seleucid besiegers allow the Jews in Beth-Zur, hard-pressed by siege and by the  food shortage of a sabbatical year, to make  peace and withdraw. Beth-Zur is garrisoned by Seleucid troops.


I Maccabees 6:49-50;

II Maccabees 13:20-22

Jews besieged in the temple are similarly hard-pressed. The seer in Dan 12:7 predicts they will be crushed.[44]

I Maccabees 6:48-54;

cf. II Maccabees 13:22

1 Tishri on the defective calendar (August 12),  163, 1,335 days after the desecration of

25 Kislev,

167[45] B.C.E.

The sabbatical year ends and the date goes by for the miraculous consummation of history predicted by the seer in Daniel.


Book of Daniel 12: 12

Sometime in the course of  the campaign  of Antiochus V  and Lysias[46]

Antiochus V deposes Menelaus from the high priesthood and sends him to Beroea in Syria for execution.

II Maccabees 13:3-8;

Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews xii 9.7.383-85

After the deposition of Menelaus and no  later than the peace of AntiochusV (January 5 or March 5, 162 B.C.E.)

Antiochus V appoints the pious Alcimus as the new high priest, thus winning some pious Jews away from the rebellion. The neglected Oniad heir to the high priesthood then or soon after leaves Judaea for Ptolemaic Egypt, where some years later he establishes a Jewish temple of Leontopolis.


Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews xii 9.7.386-88;

cf. II Maccabees 14:3

28 Shebat, 162 B.C.E.  (January 5, if  by the defective calendar,or March 5, if  by the fully



Lysias and Antiochus V withdraw with their army from Jerusalem in order to crush the rebel regime of the minister Philip at Antioch.[48]  Antiochus V makes full peace with the Jews. The Hasmonaean party appears to have held aloof from the agreements. Before departing, Antiochus sees to the demolition of the wall around the temple mount.


I Maccabees 6:55-63;

II Maccabees 11:22-26, 13:23-26

Early autumn,

162 B.C.E.

Demetrius, son of Seleucus IV, having escaped from Rome where he had been serving as a hostage, lands at Tripolis and claims to be king. The troops at Antioch rally to Demetrius and kill Lysias and Antiochus V.

I Maccabees 7:1-4;

II Maccabees 14:1-2

Shortly afterward

Demetrius I confirms Alcimus as high priest and in response to a petition presented by him sends Bacchides with an army to Judaea to stop the fighting among the Jews. (Alcimus has the support of many Pietists and of some Hellenizers, but the Hasmonaean party and others violently oppose him.) To restore order, Bacchides executes some troublemakers from both the pious and the apostate factions; he leaves Alcimus troops to protect him. The Hasmonaean party refuses to deal with Bacchides.


I Maccabees 7:5-20;

II Maccabees 14:3-4

Judas leads violent opposition in countryside of Judaea to Alcimus' regime. Alcimus appeals to Demetrius I for additional help. Demetrius sends an army under Nicanor.

I Maccabees 7:21-26;

II Maccabees 14:5-14

After an indecisive skirmish at Dessau, Nicanor for a while has friendly relations with Judas, but Alcimus protests to the king, and Nicanor is ordered to capture Judas. Frustrated by what he viewed as non-cooperation by pious Jews, Nicanor threatens to destroy the temple after his coming victory over Judas. Horrified, the Jews pray.

I Maccabees  7:27-38;

II Maccabees 14:15-36

Faced with the prospect of being arrested by Nicanor's troops, the pious elder of  Jerusalem, Razis, gives an inspiring example of courage and faith through his theatrical suicide.

II Maccabees 14:37-46

13 Adar (March 8), 161[49]B.C.E.

Judas' army routs Nicanor's force in the battle of Adasa. Villagers of Judaea join in destroying the fugitives. The severed head and right hand of Nicanor are exposed within sight of the temple.

I Maccabees  7:39-49;

II Maccabees 15:6-36

From sometime after

March 10

probably to



November 11,

161[50] B.C.E.

The national organs of the Jews, with the agreement of the Hasmonaean party, send an embassy to Rome which succeeds in establishing friendly relations, making a treaty of alliance, and having Rome warn Demetrius I not to oppress the Jews.

I Maccabees  8;

II Maccabees 4:11

Demetrius I sends a punitive expedition under Bacchides against the Jewish rebels. The troops massacre Jews at Messaloth-in-Arbela in Galilee.



I Maccabees 9:1-2

Nisan (April 13-May 11), 160 B.C.E.

Bacchides' army reaches Jerusalem.

I Maccabees 9:3


Shortly thereafter

Bacchides crushingly defeats the demoralized and shrunken Hasmonaean force at Elasa. Judas, brave to the end, falls. The surviving Hasmonaeans probably agree to cease resisting in return for the rights to take up and bury the dead and to go home in peace.

I Maccabees  9:4-21

October, 152, to early winter, 143

Jonathan is high priest of the Jews.

I Maccabees  10:21-13:23

Late November or early December, 143 B.C.E.

Jewish authorities of Jerusalem and Judaea send a letter to the Jews of Egypt asking them to observe the Days of Dedication (Hanukkah).

II Maccabees 1:1,7-9


From before late 142 B.C.E. to ca. February, 134 B.C.E.  

Simon is high priest of the Jews.

I Maccabees 14:35, 13:36, 16:11-22

February, 134 to 104 B.C.E.  

John Hyrcanus reigns as prince and high priest of the Jews.

I Maccabees 16:23-24;

Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews xx 10.3.240

November or early December, 124 B.C.E.

Jewish authorities of Jerusalem and Judaea send a letter to the Jews of Egypt implicitly condemning the Oniad temple of Leontopolis and asking those Jews to observe the Days of Dedication.(Hanukkah).

II Maccabees 1:1-9

103 to 76 B.C.E.

Alexander Jannaeus reigns as high priest and king of the Jews. For part of his reign he he relinquishes the title "king."[51]

Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews xx 10.3-4.241-42 and coins

Probably November or early

December, 103 B.C.E.

An Egyptian Jew opposed to the Oniad temple of Leontopolis forges and publishes a a letter from the Jews of Jerusalem and Judaea, from the Council of Elders, and from Judas. The letter demonstrates the sanctity of the Jerusalem temple and its priesthood and the legitimacy of the Hasmonaean dynasty.

II Maccabees 1:10b-2:18

In the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, while he

renounced the

title of king, and before 90[52] B.C.E.

First Maccabees is written and published as propaganda to justify the dynastic claims of Alexander Jannaeus.





Jason of Cyrene publishes his history as a refutation of the dynastic propaganda, while respecting Judas Maccabaeus.


By ca. 76[54] B.C.E.

The abridged history is published and Epistles 1 and 2 are attached to it.



[1] Sparta: 1Maccabees 12:1-23; Rhodian jar handles: D. Ariel, Excavations at the City of David 1978-1985 (Qedem 30; Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1990), pp. 13-25; Ecclesiastes: E. Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible (New York: Schocken, 1967), pp. 139-67; R. Gordis, Koheleth: The Man and His Word (New York: Bloch, 1955), pp. 63-68; Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism 1, pp. 115-30; Song of Songs: M. Rozlaar, "The Song of Songs in Light of Hellenistic Erotic Poetry," Eshkolot 1 (1954): 33-48 (Hebrew); and more cautiously Y. Zakovitch, The Song of Songs: Introduction and Commentary (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1992), pp. 17-20 (Hebrew).

[2] The lines of argument regarding the extent of Hellenistic influence in pre-Hasmonean Jerusalem have been drawn rather sharply between what we might term the maximalists and minimalists. Among those ascribing to the former position are E. Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees (Leiden: Brill, 1979), pp. 76-92; idem, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees (New York: Schocken, 1962), pp. 93-111; Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism 1, pp. 267-309; J. Goldstein, I Maccabees (Anchor Bible 41; New York: Doubleday, 1976), pp. 104-60; idem, 2 Maccabees (Anchor Bible 41A; New York: Doubleday, 1984), pp. 84-112. Adherents of the minimalist position include V. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1961), pp. 117-203; Feldman, "Hengel's 'Judaism and Hellenism,'" pp. 371-82; Millar, "Background to the Maccabean Revolution," pp. 1-21.

[3] BAAL-SHAMEM – “The title 'Lord of Heavens', used for the various supreme gods in Syro-Palestine, Anatolia and Mesopotamia during the 2nd millennium BCE, later became the name of a specific deity venerated throughout the Semitic world from the 1st millennium BCE until the first four centuries of the Christian era…. both his character and appearance have been subject to change. In the beginning, he-is a sort-of high-ranked weather god, therefore a god of farmers and city dwellers alike. Later on, he develops many more solar features in accordance with a general kind of 'solarisation'  W. Röllig in van der Toorn, Karel (editor), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 1999

[4] Tcherikover, Victor, Hellenistic civilization and the Jews ; translated by S. Applebaum, Atheneum, 1970.

[5] Table Developed from - II Maccabees: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary by Jonathan A. Goldstein, Anchor Bible. 41A, Doubleday 1983

[6] “MACCABEES, FIRST BOOK OF (I Maccabees), a historical work extant in Greek, covering the period of 40 years from the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes (175 B.C.E.) to the death of Simeon the Hasmonean (135 B.C.E.). …The original Hebrew name of the book is unknown. According to Origin it was "Sarbeth Sabaniel." Different hypotheses have been suggested to explain these words, which should perhaps read: …Sefer Beit Sarevanei E), the words Sarevanei El ("who strive for God") being a translation into contemporary (mishnaic) Hebrew of Jehoiarib, the name of the priestly order (see I Chron. 24:7; Neh. 12:6, 19) to which the Hasmonean family belonged. In support of this conjecture is the fact that in later times, after the glamor of the Hasmonean dynasty had become tarnished, the name Jehoiarib is found translated by the above word in its Aramaic form … mesarevei; (TJ, Ta'an. 4:8, 68d) though it is there used in a pejorative sense as "rebellious," "fractious."

“I Maccabees is the main, and at times the only historical source for the period. The book opens with the conquest of Alexander the Great, but immediately after this relates the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Jewish Hellenizers (whom the author calls "the sons of Belial"—the reprobates) and summarily reviews the causes of the Hasmonean rebellion. From this point on it gives a more detailed account of the events of Mattathias' revolt, through the rededication of the Temple, down to the time when John Hyrcanus, the eldest son of Simon the Hasmonean, was appointed ruler.

… The writer achieves a high degree of objectivity. He even refrains from censuring the Hassideans who opposed the Hasmoneans, though it is clear where his sympathies lie since he regards the Hasmoneans as chosen by Providence "to give deliverance unto Israel" (5:62). The course of events described is not considered as diverging from the natural order, and supernatural intervention is almost entirely absent from the narrative, even though the basic assumption underlying the entire book is that Israel's success is a direct result of their faith and their steadfastness in their loyalty to the Torah and the keeping of the commandments.


MACCABEES, SECOND BOOK OF (II Maccabees) … is an abridgment of a larger work of five books written by a Jason of Cyrene who is otherwise unknown .... Unlike I Maccabees which was written in Hebrew, the original language of this book was Greek; and unlike the former, which begins with an account of the revolt of Mattathias and tells of the wars of his sons the Hasmoneans up to the days of John Hyrcanus, this book deals solely with the deeds of Judah Maccabee, and only until his victory over Nicanor on 13 Adar II, 164 B.C.E. ("Nicanor Day"). However, the main account is prefaced by a lengthy introduction on the actions of the Hellenizers, Simeon of the priestly division of Minyamin (Bilgah), who wanted to be the agoranomos (the market overseer) in Jerusalem, and Jason the brother of the high priest Onias, and Menelaus the brother of Simeon, both of whom wanted to be high priests. Their acts of plunder and bribing the king caused the people to rise against them, but their contacts with kings led to the intervention of the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes and to the religious persecutions which were in fact the direct cause of the Maccabean revolt.

“The events related subsequently are in general similar to those in I Maccabees, although the two books are independent of each other….

“The main part of the book commences with 2:19, at a time when Onias (III) was high priest, Seleucus ruled in Asia, and peace and tranquility reigned in Erez Israel; however, the avarice of several high priests led to a complete reversal of the situation. Simeon of the priestly division of Minyamin (see above) informed the king's strategus in Syria and Phoenicia that there were vast treasures in the Temple. The king's mission to take the treasure failed (the envoy Heliodorus saw angels smiting him and fainted), and Jason and Menelaus (see above) then began to compete for the high priesthood. As a result of their rivalry and the base acts accompanying it in Jerusalem and Antioch (where Onias the high priest was killed), the people revolted, and Antiochus instituted religious persecutions against them. At first many suffered martyrdom. Then Judah Maccabee rose in revolt together with his men, defeating first the local governor, then the commanders Nicanor and Gorgias (8:8–29), and in the month of Xanthicus (Adar, March) 164 B.C.E. (11:1–15) triumphed over the commander in chief Lysias near Beth-Zur and purified the Temple (10:1–8). There follows a description of wars with various neighboring countries (8:30–33; 10:15–38; 12:2–9, 17–31), and an account of Antiochus IV's death (ch. 9: described here as a punishment from heaven) and his contrition (the author cites a letter from him to the Jews of Antioch (9:19) and interprets it as addressed to all the Jews). After this comes an account of the wars against Antiochus Eupator (13:1–27), the mission of the priest Alcimus, and Judah's victory over Nicanor (15:36).

“…, the book is full of various stories of miraculous events, of the intervention of heavenly creatures, directly (by angels) and indirectly (by signs in heaven and on earth presaging evil).

The purpose of the book is religious propaganda, the basic idea being that the sin of the nation is the cause of the divine punishment ("For it is not a light thing to do wickedly against the laws of God: but the time following shall declare these things"; 4:17). Yet the suffering that comes upon Israel is only to chasten the people (6:12–17), and is itself a sign of the divine providence—to warn them against sin. The aim of the introduction is to show that the sin of the priests lay in serving alien forces. In this book—for the first time—Judaism stands as an antipode to Hellenism (2:21, 8:1, 14:38), and the Greeks are represented as barbarians, avid for plunder and pillage (4:8, 23, 32, 42; 5:16). In contrast, the strength of the Jews lies in the fulfillment of the practical mitzvot (the observance of the Sabbath—6:11; 8:26; 12:38; the precaution against ritual uncleanness—5:27), and outstanding examples of such acts of bravery are given. One is the story of the elderly Eleazar, who steadfastly refused to eat forbidden food despite all the torture inflicted on him; another is of the woman and her seven sons who suffered martyrdom for the sanctification of the Divine Name (6:18ff.; ch. 7—see Hannah and her Seven Sons). Much emphasis is also laid on the belief in the resurrection of the dead (7:14; 12:43). Although his views are very close to those of the Pharisees, it is impossible to tell whether the author, Jason, was one of them. He was apparently a contemporary of Judah Maccabee, as several incidents sound as if they emanate from an eyewitness.”

Yehoshua M. Grintz, Encyclopedia Judaica


[7] Parker and Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, p. 23.


[8] “SELEUCUS IV PHILOPATOR, Seleucid monarch 187–176 B.C.E.), son of Antiochus II the Great. Following the crushing defeat by the Romans at Magnesia (190), the Seleucid Empire found itself in extreme financial difficulties, and these were to have a direct effect in altering the friendly relations cultivated by Antiochus III with the Jews of Palestine. In an attempt to raise funds for the Seleucid treasury, Seleucus dispatched his minister Heliodorus to Jerusalem. The mission whose purpose was to appropriate funds on deposit in the Temple treasury, was encouraged by Simeon, an official of the Temple. According to the description in II Maccabees (1:1ff.), Heliodorus was miraculously prevented from entering the treasury. Forced to return empty-handed to Seleucus, he was eventually responsible for the assassination of the king. Seleucus IV was succeeded by his younger brother Antiochus IV Epiphanes.”

Isaiah Gafni, Encyclopedia Judaica

[9] See NOTE on 4:7.

[10] See NOTE on 4:7-38.

[11] AB vol. 41, pp. 104-21.

[12] See NOTE on 4:7-38.

[13] See AB vol. 41, pp. 111-21.


[14] See NOTE on 4:7-38.

[15] Ibid.

[16] See NOTE on 4:34.

[17] See AB vol. 41, p. 207.

[18] See NOTE on 5:5-16.

[19] See Morkholm, pp. 93-94.

[20] See pp. 91-94.

[21] See my article in PAAJR 46-47 (1979-80), esp. pp. 179-85.

[22] See pp. 89-90.

[23] See AB vol. 41, pp. 158-59.

[24] “ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, literal translation of the Greek … (I Macc. 1:54). This in turn, evidently goes back to a Hebrew or Aramaic expression similar to shiqqutz shomen (“desolate,” i.e., horrified-for “horrifying”-“abomination” Dan. 12:11). Similar, but grammatically difficult, are ha-shiqqutz meshomem “a horrifying abomination” (disregard the Hebrew definite article ibid., 11:31). shiqqutzim meshomem “a horrifying abomination” disregarding the ending of the noun ? (ibid., 9:27), and ha-peshai shomem “the horrifving offense” (ibid. , 8:13). According to the Maccabees passage, it was something which was constructed (a form of the verb oIkodomew) on the altar (of the Jerusalem sanctuary), at the command of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, on the 15th day of Kislev (i.e., some time in December) of the year 167 B.C.E., according to the Daniel passages, it was something that was set (a form of ntn) there. It was therefore evidently a divine sym bol of some sort (statue or betyl (sacred stone)), and its designation in Daniel and Maccabees would then seem to be a deliberate cacophemism for its official designation. According to II Maccabees 6:2, Antiochus ordered that the Temple at Jerusalem be renamed for Zeus Olympios-“Olympian Zeus.” Since Olympus, the abode of the gods, is equated with heaven and Zeus with the Syrian god “Lord of Heaven”-Phoenician Beal Shamem, Aramaic Be'el Shemain (see Bickerman)-it was actually Baal Shamem, “the Lord of Heaven,” who was worshiped at the Jerusalem sanctuary during the persecution; and of this name, Shomem, best rendered “Horrifying Abomination,” is a cacophemistic distortion.”

Harold Louis Ginsberg, Encyclopedia Judaica

[25] The first act of idolatry in the temple probably coincided with the first of these monthly sacrifices, on 25 Kislev (December 16), 167. See AB vol. 41, NOTE on 1:54-59

[26] See Appendix VIII.

[27] See NOTE on 6:8-9.

[28] See AB vol. 41, pp. 17-19.

[29] HASSIDEANS (Assideans; Greek form of Hebrew Hasidim; "pious ones"), religious group or sect which originated in about the third or fourth century B.C.E. It centered around the revival and promotion of Jewish rites, study of the Law, and the uprooting of paganism from the land. The date of origin cannot be known with certainty. The Hassideans are first mentioned by name during the persecutions of Antiochus IV (Ephiphanes), king of Syria (175–164 B.C.E.), when its members joined the Maccabean opposition led by Mattathias in his revolt against the Syrians. They formed the nucleus of the Maccabean revolt and refused to compromise in any way with the Hellenizing policy of the Syrians. The Hassideans were exposed to torture and death for their refusal to desecrate the Sabbath and other Jewish observances. In I Maccabees 2:41 it is recorded that they were "mighty men in Israel... such as were devoted to the Law." In I Maccabees 4 they are described as welcoming peace with the Syrians when the latter offered them assurances of religious liberty. The Hassideans ceased to cooperate with the Hasmoneans (the successors of Judah the Maccabee) in their fight for political independence.

Certain references to the Hasidim are found in the Psalms (12:2, 30:5, 31:24, 38:28, et al.), but it is doubtful that these accounts refer to the Hassideans. The passages speak of the efforts of the Hassideans to observe the Law, their persecutions by their adversaries, and their struggles against their enemies. References to Hasidim in the Mishnah and the Talmud (Ber. 5:1, Hag. 2:7, Sot. 3:4, Avot 5:10 and Nid. 17a) may refer to the Hassideans or merely to pious individuals of a later period. The Talmud refers to the strict observance of the commandments by Hasidim, to their ardent prayers, which they would not renounce even at the risk of their lives, and to their rigid observance of the Sabbath. Because of their meticulous observances the Hassideans have been linked with the Essenes, but scholarly consensus places them as the spiritual forerunners of the Pharisees.

Menahem Mansoor, Encyclopediaa Judaica


[30] There is a possibility that Philip's appeal came after the next event in our table, Antiochus IV's march eastward. The author of First Maccabees is probably mistaken in thinking that the financial strain of the Jewish revolt drove Antiochus to under. take the expedition (see NOTEon 8:8-35). Either order of events is compatible with 8:8-9,9:1-2.

[31] See NOTE on 8:8-35.

[32] The chief minister would avoid a protracted campaign against stubborn rebels. He surely had political rivals who were dangerous to leave behind in Antioch. Hence the next event, the negotiated peace, probably came not long after Lysias marched on Judaea. In his second expedition (I 6:28-54; II 13:1-22), Lysias could more easily afford a prolonged campaign, for with Lysias was the little king, far from the clutches of his political rivals. Because we cannot identify the month named at II 11:21, we cannot date the negotiations more narrowly. See concluding NOTE on 11: 16-38.

[33] On the date of the letter in II 11:34-38, see NOTE on 11:38, In the year 148, in. . .

[34] See AB vol. 41, pp. 273-78.

[35] Ibid., pp. 276-80.

[36] See NOTE on 10: 1-8.

[37] See p. 60.

[38] 29 See pp. 63-69.

[39] See NOTE on 9:29

[40] See NOTE on 11 :23-26.

[41] See AB vol. 41, p. 293.

[42] Ibid., p. 315, an my article in PAAJR 46-47 (1978-79), 180-87.

[43] See AB vol. 41, p. 43, but read there and on p. 315 "June 28" instead of "June 27."

[44] See AB vol. 41, p. 43, but read there and on p. 315 "June 28" instead of "June

[45] Ibid., pp. 43-44.

[46] See NOTE on 13: 3-8 and, on the chronology of Menelaus' high priesthood, NOTE on 4:7-38.

[47] See NOTE on 13: 25-26.

[48] Not the same man as the guardian appointed by Antiochus IV (16:14-15); see NOTE on 9:29.

[49] See AB vol. 41, pp. 341-42.

[50] Ibid., pp. 358-59.

[51] See pp. 74-81.

[52] See Introduction, Part IV.

[53] Ibid., and p. 17, and AB vol. 41, pp. 78-89.

[54] See AB vol. 41, pp. 551-57.