Maccabees

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Maccabees,

two books included in the SeptuagintSeptuagint
[Lat.,=70], oldest extant Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made by Hellenistic Jews, possibly from Alexandria, c.250 B.C. Legend, according to the fictional letter of Aristeas, records that it was done in 72 days by 72 translators for Ptolemy Philadelphus, which
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 and placed as the last two books in the Old Testament of the Vulgate; they are not included in the Hebrew Bible and are placed in the Apocrypha in Protestant Bibles. First and Second Maccabees are both historical narratives. First Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew and is usually dated c.100 B.C. It begins with the rebellion of Mattathias (c.167 B.C.) and ends with the murder of Simon (135 B.C.). The book relates the struggles of the Maccabees, led by Judas Maccabeus, against Antiochus IVAntiochus IV
(Antiochus Epiphanes) , d. 163 B.C., king of Syria (175 B.C.–163 B.C.), son of Antiochus III and successor of his brother Seleucus IV. His nephew (later Demetrius I) was held as a hostage in Rome, although still claiming the throne.
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 of Syria. The restoration of the Temple under Judas' leadership is described as the high point of his career. The careers of his brothers Jonathan and Simon, both high priests, are also narrated. First Maccabees is the best source for the period of history that it treats; it is careful in citing and dating. It includes an interesting account of the reputation of republican Rome and of Maccabean relations with that power. Second Maccabees was probably composed in Greek late in the 1st cent. B.C. Claiming to be the condensation of a history of the Maccabees by one Jason of Cyrene, it is a devout treatment of Judas Maccabeus' career and of Jews persecuted at the hands of Antiochus. The book begins with an apparently extraneous letter, from Palestinian Jews to Jews in E Egypt, referring to the feast of the restoration of the Temple in 165 B.C. A literary preface follows. An account of the troubles leading to the persecution is followed by two accounts of martyrdom. Finally Judas' glorious career is treated in a long passage that includes the horrible death of Antiochus and a vision of Judas. Second Maccabees sheds light on Jewish beliefs of the period—on creation, resurrection, prayers for the dead, and the ability of God's anger to be slackened in the face of suffering by Jewish martyrs. Third and Fourth Maccabees, also found in the Septuagint, were not included in St. Jerome's Vulgate and are usually classified among the PseudepigraphaPseudepigrapha
[Gr.,=things falsely ascribed], a collection of early Jewish and some Jewish-Christian writings composed between c.200 B.C. and c.A.D. 200, not found in the Bible or rabbinic writings.
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.

Bibliography

See studies by J. A. Goldstein (1976, 1983); J. H. Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Vol. II, 1985).


Maccabees

or

Machabees

(both: măk`əbēz), Jewish family of the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. that brought about a restoration of Jewish political and religious life. They are also called Hasmoneans or Asmoneans after their ancestor, Hashmon.

The Maccabees appear in history as the family of a priest, Mattathias, dwelling in Modin, who opposed the Hellenizing tendencies of the Syrian ruler Antiochus IVAntiochus IV
(Antiochus Epiphanes) , d. 163 B.C., king of Syria (175 B.C.–163 B.C.), son of Antiochus III and successor of his brother Seleucus IV. His nephew (later Demetrius I) was held as a hostage in Rome, although still claiming the throne.
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. Antiochus had taken advantage of factionalism among the Jews and had stripped and desacralized the Temple and begun a religious persecution. Mattathias, after killing an apostate Jew who took part in a Greek sacrifice, killed the royal enforcing officer. With his five sons he fled to the mountains and was joined by many HasidimHasidim
or Chassidim
[Heb.,=the pious], term used by the rabbis to describe those Jews who maintained the highest standard of religious observance and moral action. The term has been applied to movements at three distinct times.
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. Thus began a guerrilla war.

On Mattathias' death (166 B.C.) the leadership passed to his son Judas Maccabeus, from whose surname the family name is derived. Judas, an excellent military leader, defeated an expedition sent from Syria to destroy him. Having occupied Jerusalem, he reconsecrated the Temple; the feast of HanukkahHanukkah
, in Judaism, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Consecration, or the Feast of the Maccabees; also transliterated Chanukah. According to tradition, it was instituted by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers in 165 B.C.
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 celebrates this event (165 B.C.). At that time there was civil strife in Syria. Demetrius IDemetrius I
(Demetrius Soter) , c.187–150 B.C., king of ancient Syria (162–150 B.C.), son of Seleucus IV. He was sent as a hostage to Rome, where he remained during the reigns of his father and his uncle Antiochus IV.
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, then in control, sent the general Nicanor with an army against Judas; that expedition was routed, but another, led by Bacchides, defeated and killed Judas (161? B.C.).

Judas' brother Jonathan, the new leader, was successful for a time; he supported Demetrius' rival, Alexander Balas, and made treaties of friendship with Sparta and Rome. Jonathan was killed by treachery in 143 B.C., and the last brother, Simon, succeeded; he was recognized by the other powers as civil ruler as well as high priest, and Palestine enjoyed some years of peace. Eventually Antiochus VII sent an expedition against the Jews; Simon defeated it, but in the disorder afterward he was murdered (135 B.C.) by an ambitious son-in-law. John Hyrcanus, Simon's son, managed to gain the ascendancy in the subsequent strife. He fought against Antiochus and remained in power until his death (105? B.C.). Under him Judaea enjoyed its greatest political power.

John Hyrcanus was succeeded by his son Aristobulus I, who died a year later. Another son, Alexander Jannaeus, then took the throne; he governed with great severity and headed the Sadducees in their strife with the Pharisees. Upon his death (78? B.C.) his widow, Salome Alexandra, who had also been married to Aristobulus, became queen. She favored the Pharisees and governed well. After her death, her son John Hyrcanus II, who had been high priest, acquired the temporal rule as well, but his more energetic brother, Aristobulus II, revolted. A civil war followed and resulted in Roman intervention and the taking of Jerusalem by Pompey (63 B.C.).

The house of the Maccabees made several efforts to throw off Roman rule. One of its members, Alexander, led an abortive rebellion in Syria, and in 40 B.C. Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus II, invaded Judaea with Parthian aid. Some of the Jews rallied to his standard, but he was defeated and put to death (37 B.C.) at the request of Herod the Great. Hyrcanus II, who had been reinstated as high priest by the Romans, was captured by the Parthians and deprived of his ears in order to render him unfit for priestly service. He returned (33 B.C.) to Judaea but was put to death (30 B.C.) on a charge of treason.

The chief sources for the Maccabees are the books of First and Second Maccabees and the Antiquities of Josephus. The name Maccabees has been extended to include the Jewish martyrs of the persecution, notably those of 2 Mac. 6; 7.

Bibliography

See E. Bickerman, The Maccabees (Eng. tr. 1947); A. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959); D. J. Harrington, The Maccabean Revolt (1988). See also bibliography under Old TestamentOld Testament,
Christian name for the Hebrew Bible, which serves as the first division of the Christian Bible (see New Testament). The designations "Old" and "New" seem to have been adopted after c.A.D.
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 and JewsJews
[from Judah], traditionally, descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, with that of his half-brother Benjamin, made up the kingdom of Judah; historically, members of the worldwide community of adherents to Judaism.
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.

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