The Hammer of God: the Story of Judah Maccabee
©Copyright 2010 Stephen Andrew Missick
"War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of mind that thinks nothing is worth fighting for is far worse."
John Stuart Mill
"The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."
"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Sir Winston Churchill
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle and my fingers for war. My safeguard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me. (Psalm 114:1-2)
The Story of Judah Maccabee is a timeless inspirational story of great faith and courage against seemingly impossible odds. It is also a timely story about the collision of traditional religion and modernity. I am a writer and illustrator of comic books. This book is meant to introduce and accompany my comic book series "The Hammer of God." The Hammer of God comic book series tells the story of the Maccabees, a story that is celebrated at Hanukkah. In 167 BC the Selucid Greek king who ruled over the people of Israel confronted the Jewish people with a trying test of faith. Greek culture had won over many of the Jews leading them to abandon their ancestral traditions. Now the law of the Greeks imposed upon them declared that they were to forsake the God of their fathers and bow down to Greek idols-or die! Many did submit but some Jews chose to rebel and were led by Judah the son of Mattathias of the house of Hasmon. Due to his mighty exploits he was given the name "Maccabee," meaning in Aramaic "The Hammer." Judah led a small group of revolutionaries who fought to remain true to the God of their fathers and to establish religious freedom. Judah and his small ragtag army of Jewish rebels had no training or weapons but miraculously they defeated the Greek armies. The valor of Judah Maccabee and his warriors is commemorated every year in the celebration of Hanukkah which celebrates to power of faith and Judah's re-dedication of the Temple of the Lord after it has been desecrated by the Greeks. Hanukkah means Feast of Dedication in Aramaic. This holiday is significant for both Jews and Christians since the roots of both religious were preserved by God's deliverance through Judah Maccabee. In John 10:22 in the New Testament it is recorded that Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate Hanukkah. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. According to the ancient historian Josephus it was called this to celebrate the lights of freedom and liberty. Two individuals in history have been known as "The Hammer of God": Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. The title "Maccabee" was given to Judah the son of Mattityahu Bar Hashmonay. (Judas Maccabeus is another way of saying Judah Maccabee.) This book "Judas Maccabeus: The Hammer of God" is excerpted from by book "The Hammer of God: The Stories of Judas Maccabeus and Charles Martel." Of course, this book only contains the section about Judas Maccabeus. (Some supplemental information has been added.) The word "Maccabee" comes from the Aramaic word "Maqaba" and means "The Hammer." (The Old Testament is written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The Aramaic language is closely related to Hebrew and Arabic. According to the New Testament, Aramaic was the language spoken by Jesus Christ. Aramaic is an important Jewish language. Many Jewish sacred texts, such as the Talmud and the Kaballah (the Zohar), are written in Aramaic as are several traditional Jewish prayers, such as the Kaddish, and traditional songs, such as the Passover song Chad Gadyo. Assyrian Christians of Iraq, Syria and Iran still speak Aramaic.) Judah Maccabee fought against the tyrannical Seleucid Greeks beginning in the year 167 BC. Centuries later, after defeating a massive Moslem army in central France, Charles the son of Pepin was called "Martel," meaning "The Hammer" in Latin. Charles the Hammer beat back an invasion of Europe by the Muslim Empire in October 732 AD. Charles Martel defeated the Moslems at the Battle of Tours (also known as the Battle of Poitiers). The name Maccabee, "the Hammer," is applied in the Books of Maccabees to only one man, Judah, the third son of Mattathias and the leader of the revolt against the Greek kings who persecuted the Jews. Traditionally, the name has been applied to the brothers of Judas, and other Jewish heroes and martyrs of the period. (Judah was the Maccabee. Each of his brothers had their own individual nicknames.) Mattathias was also named Hashmonay and was the descendent of a man named Hashmonay. Therefore the family is also called (more accurately) the Hasmoneans. The story of Judah Maccabees is found in the writings of Flavius Josephus and in the five books of Maccabees. According to Claude Conder in Judas Maccabaeus and the Jewish War of Independence, "Judas Maccabaeus is the central figure of one of the most important periods of Jewish history-a time when the nation struggled successfully to attain independence, and during which the germs of the later Jewish religious development first appeared, and the foundation was laid of that condition of Jewish society which existed in the time of Christ" (p. 9). Reading the Books of the Maccabees will give you a deeper understanding of the work of Christ because it will enable you to see Jesus more accurately and through the context of the world in which he lived. After reading the Maccabees you will never be able to read the Gospels the same way again.
The Jewish Festival of Hanukkah is a celebration of the memory of Judah Maccabee. Hanukkah is the Aramaic word for "Dedication" and it is celebrated to remember the day Judah Maccabee re-dedicated the Temple of Jerusalem after defeating and driving away the Greeks who had been persecuting the Jews and who had defiled the Temple of Jerusalem. When people think of Hanukkah usually the Holiday Season comes to mind. Hanukkah was a minor Jewish holiday but it has become more popular because it is celebrated during the Christmas season and has become a type of Jewish equivalent (or alternative) to Christmas. For many people Hanukkah means lighting the Menorah, spinning the dreydel (a top) and giving and receiving gifts. However, the Maccabean Revolt, which Hanukkah celebrates, was of deadly serious significance and the Revolt of the Maccabees has tremendous contemporary relevance. It brings to mind one of the great conflicts in modern American society: the conflict (or "culture war") between traditional religious conservatives and the (so-called) "progressive" secularizing elite. BEING PRIESTS, THE MACCABEES REALIZED THAT THEY WERE NOT MERELY AT WAR BUT WERE ENGAGED IN A PROFOUND SPIRITUAL CONFLICT. The same conflict reflected in the Hanukkah story is being re-enacted in our own time. The Hanukkah story can be viewed as provocative and political.
The Greeks were relativists and believed that all the gods should be worshiped at the Jerusalem Temple. They were determined to enforce what they viewed as "progress" by law and were willing to use persecution to eliminate what was in their opinion the close-mindedness and backwardness of the Jewish people. The forces of liberal polytheism attempted to do away with ethical monotheism. The struggle pitted not only Greek verses Jew it also pitted Jew against Jew. Conservative Jews felt more threatened by Jewish "Hellenists," who were liberals, moderates and progressives, than they felt they were by the Greeks. (A Hellenist was one who embraced Greek culture and mores.) The Hellenized Jews contemptuously looked upon traditional religious Jews as backwards, intolerant and socially inferior. The Hellenized Jews began aping Greek ways as a way to advance themselves socially. By embracing Greek culture, these Jewish elites were hoping to improve their social standing in the eyes of the Greeks. Their embrace of Greek culture, with its exercising in the nude in gymnasiums and homosexuality, shocked the religious conservatives. The Hellenistic Jews became so ashamed of their Jewish heritage that they surgically removed the signs of their circumcision (a practice Paul mentions and condemns in1 Corinthians 7:18) through a painful practice that involved a cutting a flap of skin around the penis and letting it hang by weights. This way they wouldn't be recognized as having been a Jew when they ran around naked in the gymnasiums and in the baths.
Before the reign of Antiochus, many Greeks admired the Jews and described them as a nation of philosophers. Before the persecution, the people of Judea were peaceable and subservient. The province was known for its lack of uprisings and rebellion. Even during the persecutions, many Jews felt that to disobey the ruler was to rebel against God who placed their rulers in power. When their rulers began to persecute them for practicing their religion, many Jews believed that only passive resistance was appropriate. They embraced martyrdom and expected a supernatural deliverance. After several horrific massacres, the Hasmoneans realized it was necessary to fight to protect their lives, their families and their nation. They won their freedom and independence by fighting for it.
FARMERS, SHEPHERDS, CARPENTERS AND DAY LABOURERS-THESE WERE THE COMMON MEN WHO JOINED THE MACCABEAN REBELLION. THEY HAD NO MILITARY TRAINING, NO EQUIPMENT AND WERE VASTLY OUTNUMBERED, BUT THE SMALL RAGTAG ARMY OF JUDAH MAQQABA TOOK ON AND DEFEATED ONE OF THE LARGEST AND BEST EQUIPPED MILITARY MACHINES IN THE WORLD AT THAT TIME. THE MACCABEAN REVOLUTIONARIES ARMED THEMSELVES WITH EQUIPMENT AND ARMOR TAKEN FROM THEIR FALLEN ENEMIES AND THE ARMOUR AND WEAPONS THEIR ENEMIES THREW DOWN WHEN THEY FLED FROM THE HAMMER OF GOD IN STARK TERROR.
Many historians believe that the Battle of Tours, fought in October of 732 A.D. and won by Charles the son of Pepin, was one of the most important and historically decisive battles ever fought in history. After this great battle Charles was named Carolus
Martellus, Charles Martel, meaning Charles the Hammer, in remembrance of Judas Maccabeus, the Hammerer of God who was God's instrument to rescue the people of God from destruction by their enemies. The grandson of Charles Martel was Charlemagne-who restored the former glories of Europe during the Carolingian Renaissance.
The "Hammer of God" comic book series will be in three parts. Part one tells to story of Judas Maccabeus from the beginning of the Maccabean revolt until the declaration of religious tolerance by the Greeks after the Battle of Beth Zechariah. Part one also tells the story of Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours. "The Hammer of God: Part 2" tells the continuing story of Judah Maccabee. In part two, Judah attempts to retire to a peaceful life but is forced to lead Israel in battle once again, this time against an evil general named Nicanor. Also in part two, Charles Martel again faces a renewed Moslem invasion of Christendom and fights the armies of terror at Avignon and Narbonne. In "The Hammer of God: Part 3: The Fall of the Hammer" Judah falls in combat after battling Baccides. After a long struggle, his brothers Jonathon and Simon finally bring into reality Judah's dream of an independent Jewish homeland. Also in part two, after the death of Charles Martel, Pepin, Charles's son, and Charlemagne, his grandson, fight back the Moslems and create a rebirth of science, religion and culture in Christian Europe.
Does Religion Cause Wars?
I remember reading a comment from Paul McCartney, a former member of the "Beatles" Rock-n-Roll Band, saying that he doesn't believe in religion because religion causes war. The first question I have about this comment is on what information did he base this superficial and asinine opinion? Who is he to make such pronouncements? Has he studied history? This illustrates one of the many problems with modern popular culture or "pop-culture." The people with the least education, who possess shallow thinking and incoherent opinions have a disproportionate influence on society. McCartney's opinion is based on ignorance. Does religion really cause wars? It seems to me that religion causes great art such as Michelangelo's paintings on the Sistine Chapel and Leonardo De Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. Religion causes great literature such as Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost. Religion causes great music with Handel's Messiah and the many compositions of Bach. Religion causes great architecture as can be seen in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and the Hage Sophia in Constantinople. Religion causes education. Oxford, Harvard and many other schools began as institutes of religious education. Christian scribes preserved the bulk of Greek and Roman historical and scientific writings. Religion causes scientific progress as is the case with Isaac Newton and Blaise Paschal, who were devout Christians who sought to understand the God of Order through the Universe He created. Religion also causes altruism as can be seem in the actions of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and other Christians in their acts of humanitarianism and kindness. Religion also causes great ideas, as can be seen in Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. Who are the secularists and others on the left to impugn people of faith? Millions of people perished in Russia, Cambodia and China and many other places, who were murdered in masse by "progressives" that were inspired to kill fueled by the ideologies of secularism, atheism, agnosticism, and the left. The left caused the death of millions in the twentieth century. Why do people go to war unjustly? There is very little evidence that "religion" motivates people to kill. Immanuel Kant, who was a skeptic, believed that a valid proof for the existence of God was the moral argument, that morality, the Ultimate Good, has its source in God. Belief in God is a powerful moral influence. If being religious caused people to be violent, then why didn't we see Saint Francis, Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi going on killing sprees? They are among the most religious individuals in history. I do concede that there are some militant religions that may inspire violence. But why is it that few acts of religiously inspired violence are committed by Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians but many are by zealous Muslims? The left wants to eliminate religion in general but Christianity in particular. Comments like those of Paul McCartney are actually dangerous and people of faith need to counter them. I believe that if you study history carefully, you will see that religion has not been a primary cause of war. Power, greed and the control over resources are. Virtually all wars have been fought for economic (and not religious) reasons. Sometimes, religion has been used to justify warfare or perhaps even to inspire people to fight, but it isn't usually the cause of war but a false pretense for a war that is waged for other secular reasons. In a way, you could argue that the American Civil War was a religious war. People were motivated by their Christian faith to go to war to abolish slavery. But isn't a war to abolish slavery a just war? (Many Confederates didn't believe that they were fighting for slavery but rather they believed they fought to safeguard state's rights as had been promised in the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.) Examining history we see that most wars were not fought for religious reasons. When the ancient Hittites and Egyptians fought, could we honestly claim they were fighting religious wars? No. Were the wars between the Greeks and the Persians religious wars? They were not. Did the Romans fight religiously inspired warfare? No. World War I and World War II, the most terrible wars fought in the history of mankind, were not religious wars. The statement "religion causes war" isn't true.
Judah Maccabee: The Defender of the Holy Bible
"Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering rocks?" Jeremiah 23:29
The story of the survival of the Holy Bible is a very fascinating one. Throughout history tyrants have tried to totally destroy all copies of the Bible. During the persecution of Christians by the Romans, the Romans would search out and destroy all copies of the New Testament they could find. In order to transmit the Bible to us, many early Christians perished in the Roman arenas by being put to death by crucifixion and by being fed to the lions. Afterwards, men such as John Wycliffe and later William Tyndale suffered opposition and persecution in order to make the Bible available to everyone. Tyndale was martyred due to his efforts to make the Bible available to everyone. Judah Maccabee is one of the crucial figures in the preservation and transmission of the Holy Bible. Antiochus decreed that all copies of the Holy Bible were to be collected and burned. It became a capital offense not only to possess any portion of Scripture, it was also a death penalty offense to believe the Bible or to use it as a guide for life. 1 Maccabees 1:56-57 states, "And when they had rent in pieces the Books of the Law which they found, they burnt them with fire. And whosoever was found with any book of the Testament, or if any were committed to the law of God, the king's commandment was, that they should put him to death." (The Books of the Law refers to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.) Despite the king's law, Judah decided that it was better to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). To fight against the king's order of censorship of the Bible, Judah Maccabee gathered all the copies of the Bible he could in order to protect them from the king's order of destruction. The author of 2 Maccabees refers to the books of the Holy Bible and notes that they were preserved due to the valiant efforts of Judah Maccabee.
The same things also were reported in the writings and commentaries of Nehemiah; and how he founding a library gathered together the acts of the kings, and the prophets, and of David, and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts. In like manner also Judas gathered together all those things that were lost by reason of the war we had, and they remain with us, wherefore if ye have need thereof, send some to fetch them unto you (2 Maccabees 2:13-15).
Judah Maccabees efforts to preserve the Bible played an important part in the transmission of these ancient texts to us today. When the Greeks set out to destroy all copies of the Bible, God used Judah Maccabee as his instrument to safeguard the Holy Bible so that the inspired word of God would be preserved. Many people throughout history have made great sacrifice to pass down the Holy Bible. One of the principle men in this great historical effort was Judah Maccabee.
The Four Hundred Silent Years Were Not So "Silent" After All
Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Four hundred years transpired after Malachi before the voice of the Prophet John the Baptist was heard "crying out in the wilderness." Certain Bible scholars have named the centuries that passed between the Old and New Testaments the "Four Hundred Silent Years." The prophets themselves prophesied that the day would come when there would be a famine, not of bread, nor of water, but of hearing the word of God (Amos 8:11-12). The Psalmist mourned, "Now we no longer see signs. There is no longer any prophet. Nor is there anyone among us who knows how long" (Psalm 74:9). After four hundred years of no word of prophecy, a prophet arose. The prophet emerged, not in the great Temple of Jerusalem but in the desert. This fulfilled the ancient prophecies (Isaiah 40:3). Four hundred years transpired between the time when Malachi gave his prophecy until John the Baptist cried out in the wilderness, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!" (Matthew 3:2). So, what happened during this period? This historical record is not silent. We have historical records of momentous events that transpired during this period. These events molded and formed the world into which Jesus came. To properly understand the world into which Christ came and the cultural and historical background of the New Testament it is important to be cognizant of these facts. The events celebrated at Hannukah and described in the Books of the Maccabees occurred in what some Christians call "the 400 silent years." The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi was written very close to the year 400 BC. (Malachi was written sometime between 430 and 420 B.C.) Jesus was born near (actually before) 1 AD and John began prophesying sometime before 26 AD. This period could also be called the "Inter-Testamental" period, that is, the period between the Old and New Testaments. After the year 70 A.D. Flavius Josephus wrote a history of the Jewish people starting at the Creation of the Universe and continuing until his own day. He wrote about what happened during the 400 "silent" years. However, the writings of Josephus are not the only records we have of this era. Many of the other historical records of this important era in history are now known as Apocrypha and Pseudopigrapha. In the period between the Testaments, Alexander the Great conquered the Jewish people. His successors attempted to rid the world of the Holy Bible and the Jewish people. To preserve the Bible and their way of life, the Jewish people were forced to take up arms against the Greeks. The Jewish revolutionaries were led by Judah Maccabee.
Hanukkah is the old Aramaic word for "Dedication." (Aramaic was the language of Jesus and is still spoken by certain Christians from Iraq, Syria and Iran.) Aramaic plays an important part in the story of Hanukah. Judas changed his name to Maqqaba for the Aramaic word for "hammer" or "sledgehammer." This Aramaic word gives us the name "Maccabee." (Robert Graves in "King Jesus" argues that all the Maccabee brothers were "similarly nicknamed by their father after tools in his joiners chest-for example, Eleazar was called 'Avaran," the awl and Judah was named "Maqqaba" for "the Hammer.") A Jewish account of the story of the Maccabbees is entitled "Megillat Aniochus" and is written in Aramaic. The Aramaic word Chanukah is found in the Aramaic sections of the Holy Bible (Ezra 6:16-17, Daniel 3:2-3). The Hebrew equivalent word is also found in the Old Testament (Numbers 7:84, 2 Chronicles 7:9, Nehemiah 12:27). It is defined in Strong's Concordance as "consecration" and "dedication." The Hebrew form can also mean initiation. The Greek word used to refer to Chanukah in the Gospel of John is "Egkainia" which is defined as renewal and dedication (John 10:22). The story of Chanukah is found in the First and Second Book of Maccabees in Roman Catholic versions of the Holy Bible and is also contained in translations of the Bible that include the Apocrypha (such as the original edition of the King James Bible). The story of the Maccabees (or the Hasmoneans) is also recorded in the books written by Flavius Josephus. (However, Josephus does heavily rely on the First Book of Maccabees, although he does also include supplemental information.)
To understand the story of the Maccabees, you need to understand its historical background. This means understanding the Temple and understanding Hellenization. Alexander the Great was a Macedonian. Macedonians were probably Celtic (they spoke their own non-Greek language among themselves) but became "hellenophile." They copied Greek ways and promoted Greek culture. (This process is called "Hellenization.") The Macedonians were a warrior people. Alexander's father was Phillip of Macedon. He united all the Greeks under his rule. Alexander as a child studied under the great philosopher Aristotle. When Phillip was assassinated Alexander became king. Some people suspect Alexander of being behind the assassination. If he wasn't it is very possible his mother was. Alexander then went on the fight the Persian Empire and to destroy it and its ruler, Darius. Alexander then went on to attempt to conquer the known world. He made it as far as India but he then had to turn back due to lack of morale among his soldiers and due to his being injured in a battle. After returning to Babylon he died at the age of 32. There are several good books on Alexander the Great. Oliver Stone made a movie on Alexander. (There are three versions of the film. Two of them over-emphasize the fact that Alexander was bi-sexual. The film leaves out certain important episodes in Alexander's life such as his battle against the Phoenicians and his time in Egypt, which were pivotal in his life. It also spends too much time on his relationship with his gay lovers and Roxana and fails to show the fact that he had other wives. It does have good sequences in it such as the Battle of Gaugamela and a battle in India.) After Alexander died his kingdom was divided among four of his generals. Alexander spread the Greek language and culture across the world. Some of the early church fathers felt that this was divine providence, that God was preparing the world for the coming of the Gospel through Alexander spreading Greek, which became a common language, and later the Romans who brought peace and built roads, which the apostles would use to travel the world and share the message of Jesus. There are stories that Alexander was received into Jerusalem in peace and that he went and prayed to God at the temple. This is probably true. Alexander was respectful of different traditions and different gods. (He often sought the blessings of the gods of the lands he conquered.) When Alexander's empire was divided, Israel fell under the rule of the Ptolemy Dynasty in Egypt. There was peace. However, later Israel came under the control of the Seleucid Greeks of Syria. Many of the Jewish people preferred Ptolemaic rule and there was some dissent.
Finally, there arose a Syrian Greek leader named Antiochus Epiphanes. He decided that he would eliminate the Bible and all those who believed in it and those who lived their lives by it. He ordered that all copies of the Bible be confiscated and destroyed. Antiochus implemented an aggressive program of Hellenization. All Jews were to become Greek. They were to cease speaking Aramaic and Hebrew and to begin to speak Greek alone and they were also to adopt Greek modes of dressing, thinking and even worshiping. Antiochus then had to altar in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem profaned. He commanded that a statue of Zeus be erected in the Inner Sanctum of the Jewish Temple and had a pig sacrificed upon the altar. Jesus spoke of this incident as "Abomination of Desolation" in Matthew 24:15. In Daniel 11:31 these events were prophesied. (I think that we should remember that the Greeks were not all bad and made many positive contributions in science, in medicine, in art, and literature and in the philosophy and ethics of Aristotle. Let's give the Greeks their due. Granted, there are various problems that existed in ancient Greek culture. Take for instance, Plato. In his "Republic" he condemned poetry and art and promoted a demented dystopia, where infanticide would be common, where human beings would be bred like animals and their infants would be taken from their parents at birth so that children would never know who their parents were, as the "ideal society." Aristotle brought some sanity to some of Plato's more disgusting and bizarre ideas. But whether I like them or not, Plato, Aristotle and the pre-Socratic philosophers shaped the modern world. The Greeks brought progress. Hundreds of years before Jesus, Eratosthenes not only taught that the earth was round -he also correctly measured its circumference. In the same era, Aristarchus of Samos discovered that the earth was orbiting the sun! Like any culture the Greeks had their weaknesses. I don't believe everything in Western Civilization and the Greco-Roman civilizations is innately evil. The Selucid paganism was not normative of all Greek culture. However, there were negative aspects of Greek culture, especially from a conservative Jewish perspective. In the gymnasiums young people exercised and competed in the nude. This was viewed as offensive and improper by observant Jews. Certain Greek men used little boys as catamites, children to be kept as slaves for the purpose of being sexually abused. Practices like this rightly offended religious Jews. Many young people abandoning the traditional Jewish way of life and beginning to ape Greek ways was also a source of conflict. Antiochus Epiphanes betrayed the positive aspects of Greek culture with his oppression of the Jewish people.) Soldiers came to the city of Modein in Judea and attempted to press the elderly Mattathias, a priest, to offer sacrifice to an idol. He refused. Then a Jewish man stepped up to volunteer. Suddenly, Mattathias was filled with righteous indignation. He quickly overcame the soldier and took his sword. With it he killed both the soldier and the apostate Jew. Then he cried out, "All who are zealous for the Bible, follow me!" and he escaped into the hills with his sons. Eventually, a small group of guerrillas organized there. Not long afterwards Mattathias died of old age. His son Judah began to lead this small unequipped and untrained army. They defied the one of the most powerful military forces in the world and miraculously overcame it. In victory, they retook the Temple and cleansed, purified and re-dedicated it. They decreed that hereafter in thanksgiving all Jews should remember this great victory and the dedication of the Temple. This new holiday was called Hannakuh, Aramaic for "Dedication." In John 10:22, we find that Jesus celebrated this holiday. Unlike the holidays established by Moses, this holiday is not obligatory for the Jews to observe and yet Jesus chose to celebrate it and even travel to Jerusalem from Galilee in order to join in this celebration. On this day, according to the account found in the Gospel According to John, Jesus revealed that he is part of the Holy Trinity. Judah Maccabee went on to fight in other battles. Eventually, he died in battle after winning religious freedom for the Jewish people.
An important part of Hannakah is the Temple. What is the Temple? When Moses was on Mount Sinai God showed him a vision of a place of worship. When he came down he instructed them to build a mobile temple that was called the Tabernacle. A rectangular partition of curtains was erected. Inside was a tent. The tent had two divisions: a holy place and a most holy place. The inner sanctum is known as the Holy of Holies. There were important temple furnishings, including a seven branched lamp known as the Menorah and a chest that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This chest was called "The Ark of the Covenant." (Of course, the Ark of the Covenant movie was featured in the popular movie "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.") God told the Israelites that there would be a place revealed to them when they settled in the land that would be set apart as a place of worship (Deuteronomy 12:5-11). (This holy place is understood to be Jerusalem.) There were several "temples" built. Apparently, a "temple" was built in Shiloh. Samuel ministered to Yahweh in the Temple at Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:21). This temple was destroyed by the Philistines. Jeremiah prophesied that the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem would be destroyed the same way as the temple of Shiloh was destroyed (Jeremiah 7:12-14. 26:6-9). David had erected the "Tabernacle of David" on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. King Solomon, David's son, with the aid of the Phoenicians, built the temple on "Mount Moriah" in Jerusalem in 960 B.C. (Mount Moriah, Zion and the Temple Mount are all names for the same place in Jerusalem.) The Babylonians destroyed the Temple on August 9, 587 BC. The "Second" Temple was rebuilt by Prince Zerubbabel seventy-two years after its destruction. It was completed on March 12, 515 BC. In 19 BC, King Herod had the structure built by Zerubbabel totally demolished in order for a new and much more lavish temple to be built. (Zerubbabel's Temple was apparently a rather plain structure.) The Temple was completed on 64 AD, soon before the beginning of the Jewish War. When the Jewish War ended in 70 AD the Temple was destroyed. (The Jewish people call both Zerubbabel's and Herod's Temples the "Second Temple" although they were two entirely different structures.) The Temple Mount was left a ruin for many years. Finally, the Moslems built a mosque called the Dome of the Rock or the Mosque of Omar upon its ruins. It still stands there today. This mosque was used as a Christian chapel when the Christians ruled over Jerusalem during the Crusades. The mosque was initially designed and built by Christians for the Moslems. There hasn't been a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem for almost two thousand years. There were other "Temples of Yahweh" that we know of. When the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylonia they refused to allow the Samaritans to help them build the temple (Ezra 4:1-5). The Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizum, which they still believe to be the place chosen by God. During the Maccabean Revolt, Onias IV, the son of the murdered Jewish High Priest Onias III, felt that he was the legitimate high priest. However, his rightful place had been usurped by the new High Priest Alcimus. Alcimus had collaborated with the Greeks and was appointed by them to the office of High Priest. He opposed the Jews and put many pious Jews, even devout Jews who wanted peace with the Greeks, to death (1 Maccabees 7:1-18). Onias fled to Egypt where he built a Jewish temple at Leontopolis which was built on the same pattern as the Temple of Jerusalem and offered the same rituals. This temple was in use for 230 years until it was destroyed by the Romans. A Jewish community at Elephantine (or "Yeb") in southern Egypt also built a temple of Yahweh in Egypt. It stood from around 586 until 404 BC. A partially preserved temple of Yahweh built by King Solomon has been discovered in Arad, Israel. There have been about 8 temples of Yahweh that we know of. According to normative Judaism the only legitimate Temple is that of Jerusalem. Even today in Judaism there is a strong belief that Jerusalem is a holy place-a link between earth and heaven. To many Jews, the Temple Mount is viewed as a gateway between heaven and earth. This is why many Jews pray at the "wailing wall" in Jerusalem. The reason that they pray there and write prayers on papers and embed them between the stones that remain of the Temple is because it is believed that here prayers go directly to heaven. The Temple in Jerusalem is very important in Biblical Judaism. This is the place where the name of the Lord is to be made great before all of the world. The Bible says in Isaiah 2:2 (and repeated word-for-word in Micah 4:1), "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let go up to mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." To the Jews, the Temple Mount was the only place where animal sacrifices for the atonement of sins could be offered (Deuteronomy 12:1-14). For Jesus and the Apostles the Jerusalem Temple was a place of prayer. Jesus and the Apostles prayed at and preached in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 20:1, Acts 2:46). To the devout Jews of Israel, the Temple of Jerusalem was the only Temple that was to be built anywhere in the world-no other temples were allowed. The Jews believed that God has chosen Jerusalem as His one and only holy place in all of the world. (Jews have synagogues, but from their perspectives, synagogues are not temples. They are merely meeting places for Bible study.)To defile God's one and only Holy Temple was a horrible, unthinkable blasphemy-an "abomination of desolation." The battle over the Temple of Jerusalem was central to the Maccabean revolt.
The Question of Canonicity
The word "canon" comes from the Greek word for a "reed" or "rod," used as a straight edge or ruler for measurement. Since the books of the Holy Bible were regarded as the rule of truth and faith, the word "canon" came to be used to designate that Rule that was written. In biblical studies when we talk about a "canon," we mean the list of books that a community considers both authoritative and inspired. Thus, the adjective "Canonical" came to be applied to a book included in the Canon of Scripture. Canonical books form the standard against which other writings, doctrines and practices are measured.
The ancient Jews had two sets of canon of the Old Testament-one held by the Jews who lived in the land of Israel the other was held by the Alexandrian Jews of Egypt and other Greek-speaking Jews of the Diaspora. The Jewish people who lived in the Holy Land spoke Hebrew and Aramaic. Most Jews that lived outside of the Holy Land spoke only Greek. Therefore, it became necessary for the Greek speaking Jews to translate the Old Testament into Greek so that they could read and understand the Holy Bible in their own language. The early church canonized the Greek Version of the Old Testament that is called the Septuagint. (The Septuagint is a Jewish translation and is pre-Christian. It was translated from Hebrew manuscripts older than any we possess today. The Dead Sea Scrolls have shown that in certain places, the Septuagint has preserved the original reading of the Hebrew where the traditional Hebrew text, called the Masoretic text, has not. There are some scribal errors preserved in the Masoretic text. The Jewish Old Testament canon is believed to have been set at a Council of Jamnia some time around 90A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that before that time the Canon had not been set. Some Jewish communities viewed Enoch and Jubilees and inspired texts.) Most of the Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament are from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. (Since they quoted it as Scripture, it could be argued that the apostles and writers of the New Testament recognized the Septuagint as being divinely inspired. This is the reasoning of the Greek Orthodox Christians.) When the church accepted the Septuagint as scriptural all the books in the Septuagint were canonized. This included the books we now call the Apocrypha-which were part of the Alexandrian Canon of Scripture. These books had come to be universally acknowledged to be part of the Old Testament by all Christians until the Protestant Reformation. (In fact, a movie version of the book of Maccabees is entitled "The Old Testament" because the story of Judah Maccabee is part of the Old Testament canon of Scripture used by Roman Catholics (and the Eastern Orthodox).) Martin Luther revised the canon and removed these books from their canonical status. (Luther was following an earlier tradition from Saint Jerome, who recognized a distinction between the canonical and the apocryphal texts.)
The Jews of the Holy Land claimed there were twenty-two books that made up the "Tanakh," or the Old Testament. This list is actually identical to the list of 39 books that make up the Protestant Old Testament. The reason they counted 39 books as 22 is because there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. So, how did they get 22 out of 39? They counted 1 and 2 Samuel as one book, 1and 2 Kings as one book, and 1 and 2 Chronicles as one book. They included Jeremiah and Lamentations as one book and Ruth as a part of Judges. They also included all the Minor Prophets, Hosea through Malachi, twelve books, as one book. And they included Ezra and Nehemiah as one book. (To me this seems a very artificial and inadequate way to order the Books of the Bible. "Tanakh" is not a Hebrew word. It is an abbreviation: TNK from "Torah," the Law of Moses, or the Pentateuch, meaning "five books" in Greek, being Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, "Nebiim," meaning the Prophets, and "Ketubim," meaning "the Writings," which includes Psalms and the wisdom books.) While the Jewish canon of Scripture is identical to the Protestant Old Testament, the Books are arranged differently. For example, while Malachi is the final book in the Protestant order, in the Jewish order, 2 Chronicles comes last. While the Jews of the land of Israel accepted 22 books in their canon of Scripture (39 really) the Jews of Alexandria accepted 46 books. The "extra" books are the books we know as the Apocrypha. These include Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, the Book of Jesus Sirach, Baruch (or Barak), and additions to Esther and Daniel. The books we call "Apocrypha" are called Deuterocanonical books by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians because they are included in their canon of scripture even though they were added to the canon later.
The formation of the New Testament Canon of Scripture was a long process. The earliest official list of New Testament Scriptures was by the Anti-Semitic heretic named Marcion (circa 150 A.D.). He omitted several books in his canon and rewrote certain books of the New Testament because they were, in his view, too "Jewish." The Church resisted Marcion's Anti-Semitism and his new canon. In a reaction against Marcion, orthodox Christians began to create lists of books that were recognized as authoritative. The Muratonian Canon is a very ancient list of the books of the New Testament that most scholars date to 170-200 A.D. The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the thirteen epistles of Paul along with 1 Peter and 1 John were universally recognized by Christians by the year 130 A.D. and were elevated to the same level of divine inspiration as the Old Testament by the year 170 A.D. These could be considered the "Proto-canonical" books of the New Testament. The other books took a longer period of time to be universally acknowledged to be the divinely inspired Word of God by all Christians.
In 325 A.D., Eusebius dealt with the question of canonicity of the New Testament (Ecclesiastical History 3.25.1-7). He listed three types of books, those universally recognized as Scripture, those disputed and then books he listed as spurious. The disputed books were held by some Christian books to be part of the Bible, but not by others. The recognized books included Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Paul, the epistle of Peter and the epistle of John. The disputed books listed by Eusebius included Hebrews, James, 2 and 3 John, Jude, 2 Peter and Revelation. (Eusebius viewed the "Revelation" as questionable, a possible forgery but he admitted that other Christians reckoned it as inspired Scripture. The books known as Homologoumena were universally acknowledged writings. Disputed books were called Antilegomena.) Included with the disputed books in Eusebius's list are 1 Clement, the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas. Other books such as the Shepherd of Hermes are listed in Eusebius's disputed list. So we see some of the disputed books eventually made it into the New Testament, but others did not. Before the close of the fifth century, the New Testament canon was not set. (It should be noted that Constantine had nothing to do with the setting of the Canon of Scripture. Neither is he responsible for many of the things he is falsely accused of. Constantine is unfairly demonized by liberals and even by some professing Christians.) The Didache was considered a part of the New Testament by many of the early Christians. (Eusebius also mentions "heretical and impious books" and places the Gospel of Thomas, with which he was familiar, in that list. Speaking of the Gospel of Thomas and other "apocryphal" writings, Eusebius says of them, "Moreover, the character of the style also is far removed from apostolic usage, and the thought and purport of their contents are completely out of harmony with the true orthodoxy and clearly show themselves that they are forgeries of the heretics. For this reason they are not to be reckoned with disputed books, but are to be cast aside as altogether absurd and impious." While important, the Gospel of Thomas must be used with caution.)
The ancient writing entitled, "The Teaching of Our Lord [Jesus] to the Gentiles given through the Twelve Apostles," is also known as the Didache, which is from the Greek word for "teaching." Many scholars date this document to around 70 A.D. Other scholars date it to as early as 50 A.D. Some date it to the early years of the second century. Those who argue for the early second century concede that it was based on much older material. The Didache is an ancient Christian teaching manual that gives basic doctrine, instructions on how to baptize and how to observe that Lord's Supper and it also contains moral instruction. The Epistle of Barnabas was written sometime between 70 AD to132 AD. The author is not the same person as the Barnabas mentioned in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Both of the Didache and Barnabas contain a teaching called the "Two Ways." This is a very ancient set of Christian moral instruction. In fact, a fragment of a "Two Ways Document" was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q473). A significant teaching of the "Two Ways Document" is the condemnation of abortion as murder. So, in two of the most ancient Christian writings we possess, writings that were once considered part of the New Testament, abortion is listed as a sin. With the Didache we have an ancient document from the first century containing the teaching of Jesus Christ and including His teaching against abortion. This doctrine is attributed to Christ and the apostles. The early church fathers, including men who personally knew the apostles, wrote that the apostolic teaching is that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. The right to life of the unborn child and that the unborn child is a human being is an ancient and essential teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
The complete list of the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments was made at the Fourth Counsel of Rome in the year 382 under Pope Damasus. The official canon of the New Testament was set at this counsel and at the Counsel of Hippo (393), the Third Counsel of Carthage (419) and by the "Gelesian Decree" by Pope Gelasius which is dated 494-496 A.D. (Athanasius of Alexandria, a pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, wrote a list of the Canon of Scriptures, which is identical to our own around in year 367 A.D. Athanasius lived from 293 until 373 A.D. Africa produced many leaders of the early church. This includes men like Athanasius, Tertullian of Carthage and Augustine of Hippo. This was before the rise of Islam. After Islam conquered regions of Africa, the Christians there were cut off from Europe and they struggled to survive for centuries under savage and intense persecution at the hands of the Muslims.) 2 Peter, Jude and 2 and 3rd John and Revelations were never officially canonized by the Assyrian Church of the East. These Aramaic Christians do use these books. The reason they didn't include these books in the canon was because when they set their canon, these books had not yet become universally recognized as part of the New Testament. Assyrian Bibles printed in their Aramaic language do include 2 Peter, Jude, 2 and 3 John and Revelation, although the Assyrian Church has never officially added these books to their canon of Scripture. The Syriac-Aramaic Canon of Scripture is different from what most people are familiar with. The Nov./Dec. edition of "Bible Study Magazine" has an interesting article on canonicity of Scripture. On page 47-48 there is an article entitled "What they don't tell you in church: What's in your Bible?: Jews and Christians throughout the centuries have produced bibles that vary in content and organization." This article includes a chart is a sampling of the different lists of books considered part of the Holy Bible that are used today by different ancient Christian groups (as well as the Samaritans and the Jews). The chart lists the books recognized as canonical by the Samaritans, the Jews, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Syriac, Ethiopian and Protestant. The Ethiopians have the longest canon of scripture. The Syriac canon of scripture is the second to the longest. The Syriac "extra books" include 4 Maccabees, Odes of Solomon, 4 Baruch, Josephus's Jewish War, the Acts of Paul and Tekla and 3rd Epistle to the Corinthians. (The "Nestorian" (Assyrian Church of the East) canon of scripture is mentioned in The Marganitha, or "The Pearl," a concise explanation of "Nestorian" dogma.) The Ethiopian canon of Scripture includes the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, both of which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Epistle of Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch as Scripture (Jude 14).
St. Jerome translated the Holy Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into Latin. This Latin Bible is called the Latin Vulgate and it was received by the Roman Catholic Church as its official Bible version. It belongs to the same ancient manuscript family that the texts used to translate the King James Version are from. The Latin Vulgate and the King James Version of the Bible are very similar. St Jerome said that "the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures." He says further that they are read "for the edification of the people, not to give authority to the doctrines of the Church." The translators of the King James Version included the Apocrypha in their translation of the Bible. Following St. Jerome's opinions, they decided to place the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments. Jerome maintained a distinction should be made between those books he considered canonical and the non-canonical books. This list of books is sometimes called the Apocrypha. (Saint Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate directly from ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Like the Septuagint, the Vulgate is an important witness to the ancient text of the Old Testament. Jerome learned Hebrew and Aramaic from rabbis in the Holy Land and could speak all three languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.)
Other features of our Bibles, such as the numbering of chapters and verses, were a much later development. In 1226 University of Paris professor Stephen Langton divided the text of the Bible into chapters. In 1551 the printer Robert Stephen (also known as Estienne or Stephanus) inserted the numbering of verses that had been formulated in 1528 by Santes Pagnini into printed Bibles. I feel many Evangelicals would do well to learn about the process of canonization, examine and familiarize themselves with the various canonical lists and read ancient texts that help us to understand the world of the Bible, books like 1 and 2 Maccabees, instead of condemning them as "evil and demonic" without having read them.
The Error of Purgatory
When I set out to tell the story of Judah Maccabee I realized that I was going to deal with certain issues that are controversial among Evangelical Christians. The first problem is that the story of Judah Maccabee is found among the books that are called the "Apocrypha." Many Evangelicals have a strong prejudice against the Apocrypha. Evangelicals are Protestant and their main opposition to the Apocrypha is that it is "Roman Catholic." In truth, the Apocrypha isn't anymore "Catholic" than the Old or New Testaments are. The books that make up the Apocrypha are actually pre-Christian and thus pre-Roman Catholic. The Apocrypha isn't Roman Catholic. The Apocrypha is made up of ancient Jewish writings. Many Evangelicals have no idea what is in the Apocrypha. (It would be better if they would actually read it. If they would do so, they could form an informed opinion about its contents. Also, after having read it, they would gain a deeper understanding of the historical background of the New Testament.) All they know is that they are "Roman Catholic" and are therefore evil. In the next chapter I will talk about the Apocrypha in greater depth.
The other big controversy with Judah Maccabee is the incident in which he prayed that God would forgive the sins of some of his fallen soldiers.
And upon the day following, as the use had been, Judas and his company came to take up the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen in their fathers' graves. Now under the coats of every one that was slain they found things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by the Law. Then every man saw that this was the cause wherefore they were slain. All men therefore praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid, betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might wholly be put out of remembrance. Besides, that noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to pass for the sins of those that were slain. And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. (2 Maccabees 12:39-44)
Judah found idolatrous talismans were being worn by certain Jewish soldiers who had fallen in battle against the Greeks. Judah and his compatriots believed that the men had fallen due to their wearing pagan emblems. Because they had fallen fighting for the Lord, Judah prayed that God would forgive them this trespass. Judah fought for religious freedom. He collected and preserved the last remaining copies of the Holy Bible. He never claimed to be infallible nor did he claim to be a prophet. In fact, he denied that he was a prophet. This is illustrated by the following incident.
And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt offerings, which was profaned; They thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the heathen had defiled it: wherefore they pulled it down, And laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to show what should be done with them. Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former… (1 Maccabees 4:44-47)
During the first Hanukkah, Judah and the Jewish revolutionaries had a question about what they should do with the altar of the Lord during the Dedication ceremony. It was a holy altar, but it had been profaned with pig's blood. The stones of the altar were considered holy. Since there was no prophet to proclaim what should be done with the profaned altar, Judah decided that it was best to dismantle the altar and store the stones away until a prophet would arise and declare what should be done with them. Judah was a hero who delivered the Jewish people. Like Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon, he was a fallible human being. Judah may have been wrong to pray for the dead, but his memory should not be reviled due to this one fault. King David was a murderer and an adulterer and yet we hold his memory in high honor. Judah Maccabee is not the only justification Roman Catholics use for the "doctrine" of purgatory or their practice of praying for the dead. Besides 2 Maccabees 12:38-46, Roman Catholics use Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Revelation 21:27 in support of their doctrine of purgatory. Will Evangelicals therefore now banish Matthew, 1 Corinthians and Revelation from the Canon of Scripture?
The alert reader should wonder what the author's purpose was in writing about Judah's prayer for the dead. The answer is found in the Pharisee/Sadducee schism within Judaism. Paul referred to this division when he was put on trial before the Sanhedrin. The Bible says,
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question." And when he had said so, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts of the Apostles 23:6-8)
The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife or in spirits and angels. Pharisees affirmed the existence of heaven and hell, angels and demons, the immortal soul of every human being and that there would be a Judgment Day and a Resurrection of the Dead. Jesus Christ Himself debated with the Sadducees and affirmed His belief in the immortality of the soul (Mark 12:18-27).The author of 2 Maccabees included the incident of Judah praying for the dead with the intent of affirming the immortality of the soul and to condemn the Sadducees disbelief in the afterlife. He wasn't trying to affirm Roman Catholicism (which would emerge until centuries later) or to provide support for purgatory. He was showing that Judah Maccabee believed in the immortality of the soul that human beings possess. The division between the Sadducees and Pharisees occurred in the "inter-testamental period" and during the Hasmonean era.
The Mormons have a practice they call "Baptism for the Dead." In these rituals, the "Latter Day Saints" get lists of the deceased and have Mormons become baptized in the name of the deceased in order to "convert" the departed to Mormonism. This strange practice does indeed have biblical precedent. Paul writes to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:29, saying, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?" I do not believe that the Mormon practice of "Baptism for the Dead" is legitimate. But what was Paul writing about? It is uncertain and it is also uncertain if he is condoning the practice. Should we reject 1 Corinthians from the Canon of Scripture or avoid reading it because it alludes to "Baptism for the Dead" and because Mormonism uses 1 Corinthians as justification for their controversial practices? Of course not. And while I do not believe 1 and 2 Maccabees should be added to the Canon of Scripture, I believe that they are important ancient Jewish writings that ought to be read. They are neither "evil" books nor are they Roman Catholic. Please read the books for yourself so you can shape an informed opinion about them. Selections from the King James Version of 1 and 2 Maccabees are included for your perusal so you can form your own appraisal.
The Story of Judah Maccabee from the King James Bible
This is the story of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, of the purification of the Holy Temple, the dedication of the altar, the campaigns against Antiochus Epiphanes and his son Antiochus Eupator, and of the divine intervention that came through these great heroes who fought bravely for the Lord, so that, though few in number, they liberated the whole land and put to flight the barbarian hordes, regained possession of the Great Temple, liberated Jerusalem, and reestablished God's law, that was being abolished by men. God favored and assisted them in their mighty acts of valor. (2 Maccabees 2:19-22)
Alexander the Great
ALEXANDER THE SON OF PHILLP OF MACEDON, KNOWN AS ALEXANDER THE GREAT, NEVER LOST A BATTLE. HE DEFEATED GREECE, SYRIA, EGYPT, BABYLONIA AND PERSIA AND THEN HE EXTENDED HIS POWER TO THE BORDERS OF INDIA. HE ALSO CONQUERED THE LAND OF ISRAEL. ALEXANDER BEGAN A POLICY OF HELLENIZATION IN WHICH THE GREEK LANGUAGE AND CULTURE WAS IMPOSED UPON ALL THE LANDS HE CONQUERED. ON JUNE 10, 332 BC ALEXANDER DIED IN BABYLONIA. HE WAS ONLY 32 YEARS OLD. AFTER THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER, HIS GENERALS DIVIDED HIS EMPIRE AMONG THEMSELVES. THE LAND OF THE JEWS ORIGINALLY WAS RULED BY THE TOLERANT PTOLOMIES OF EGYPT. BUT LATER, THE SELUCID GREEKS OF SYRIA TOOK OVER THE TERRITORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. ALEXANDER HAD HIMSELF DECLARED TO BE A GOD AND ACCEPTED WORSHIP. HIS SUCCESORS IN EGYPT ALSO CLAIMED TO BE DEITIES AS DID HIS SUCCESSOR IN SYRIA, ANTIOCHUS "EPIPHANES," WHOSE TITLE MEANS "GOD MANIFEST." ANTIOCHUS DEMANDED TO BE WORSHIPED BY ALL OF HIS SUBJECTS, INCLUDING THE JEWS.
The Rise of Antiochus Epiphanes
And there came out from the Greek kings a wicked root Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been a hostage at Rome, and he reigned in the year 137 of the Greeks [175 Before Christ]. In those days went there out of Israel breakers of God's Law, who persuaded many, saying, "Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow." So this device pleased them well. Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathen: Whereupon they built a place of exercise (a gymnasium) at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen: And made themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief.
Now when the kingdom was established before Antiochus, he thought to reign over Egypt that he might have the dominion of two realms. Therefore he entered into Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots, and elephants, and horsemen, and a great navy, and made war against Ptolemy king of Egypt: but King Ptolemy was afraid of him, and fled; and many were wounded to death. Thus they got the strong cities in the land of Egypt and he took the spoils thereof (1 Maccabees 1:10-19).
Antiochus appoints a Jewish High Priest to lead the Israelites to Apostatize
When Jason received the king's approval to become the High Priest of the Jews and he came into his office, he immediately initiated his countrymen into the Greek way of life. And the royal privileges granted of special favour to the Jews he took away; and putting down the governments which were according to the Law, he brought up new customs against the Law: For he built gladly a gymnasium under the acropolis (the Temple Mount of Jerusalem) itself, and brought the chief young men under his subjection, and made them wear the Greek hat. Now such was the height of the craze for Greek fashions, and increase of heathenish manners, through the exceeding profaneness of Jason, that ungodly wretch, and no true high priest; that the priests had no desire any longer to serve any more at the Lord's altar, but despising the Temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened to be partakers of the unlawful allowance in the place of exercise, after the game of Discus called them forth; not abiding by the honours of their fathers, but liking the glory of the Greeks best of all. By reason whereof sore calamity came upon them: for those whose customs they had began to follow so earnestly they came to be their enemies and avengers, those unto whom they desired to be like in all things. For it is not a light thing to do wickedly against the laws of God: but the time following shall declare these things. (2 Maccabees 4:11-17)
Persecution of the Jews
And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he returned again in the year one hundred and sixty nine Before Christ, and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude, and entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the menorah of light, and all the vessels thereof, and the table of the shewbread, and the pouring vessels, and the vials and the censers of gold, and the veil, and the crown, and the golden ornaments that were before the temple, all which he pulled off. He took also the silver and the gold, and the precious vessels: also he took the hidden treasures which he found. And when he had taken all away, he went into his own land, having made a great massacre, and spoken very proudly.
Therefore there was a great mourning in Israel, in every place where they were;
So that the princes and elders mourned, the virgins and young men were made feeble,
and the beauty of women was changed. Every bridegroom took up lamentation, and she that sat in the marriage chamber was in heaviness, the land also was moved for the inhabitants thereof, and all the house of Jacob was covered with confusion.
And after two years fully expired the king sent his chief collector of tribute unto the cities of Judah, who came unto Jerusalem with a great multitude, and spake peaceable words unto them, but all was deceit: for when they had given him credence, he fell suddenly upon the city, and smote it very sore, and destroyed much people of Israel. And when he had taken the spoils of the city, he set it on fire, and pulled down the houses and walls thereof on every side. But the women and children took they captive, and possessed the cattle (1 Maccabees 1: 20-32).
Seeing the devastation, Alcimus, who would later become the High Priest, wrote,
O God, the nations have come into Thine inheritance;
Thy holy temple they hath defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.
The dead bodies of Thy servants
They have given as food for the birds of the heavens,
The flesh of Thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.
Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem,
And there was no one to bury them.
We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and derision to those who are round about us.
How long, O LORD?
Wilt Thou be angry forever?
Will your jealously burn like unto a fire?
Pour out Thy wrath up on the nations
That know Thee not,
And on the kingdoms that call not upon Thy name.
For they have devoured Jacob,
And laid waste unto his dwelling place.
Oh, do not remember our former iniquities against us!
Let Thy tender mercies come speedily to meet us,
For we have been brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
For the glory of Thy name;
And deliver us, and make atonement for our sins,
For Thy name's sake!
Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
Let there be known among the nations in our sight
The avenging of the blood of your servants which hath been shed.
Let the groaning of the imprisoned come before Thee;
According to the greatness of Thy power
Preserve those who are appointed unto death;
And return unto our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom
Their reproach with which they have reproached Thee, O Lord.
So we, Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture,
Will give thanks unto Thee forever;
We shall show forth Thy praise unto all generations (Psalm 79, 1 Maccabees 7:16-17).
Then built they the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with mighty towers, and made it a strong hold, a Citadel, for them. And they put therein a sinful nation, wicked men, and fortified themselves therein. They stored it also with armor and victuals, and when they had gathered together the spoils of Jerusalem, they laid them up there, and so they became a sore snare:
For it was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary,
and an evil adversary to Israel.
Thus they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it:
Insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them:
whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers,
and became strange to those that were born in her;
and her own children left her.
Her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness,
her feasts were turned into mourning,
her Sabbaths into reproach her honour into contempt.
As had been her glory, so was her dishonour increased,
and her excellency was turned into mourning (1 Maccabees 1:33-40).
Religious Practices Prohibited
Moreover King Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, and everyone should leave his ancient laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the Sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Judea that they should follow strange customs foreign to their land, and forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings in the temple; and that they should profane the Sabbaths and festival days: and pollute the sanctuary and desecrate the holy people: set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine's flesh, and unclean beasts: That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation: To the end they might forget the Law of God, and change all the ordinances and ancient customs (Maccabees 1:41-49).
Not long after this the king sent an elder from Athens to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers, and not to live after the Laws of God: And to pollute also the temple in Jerusalem, and to call it the temple of Zeus Olympius; and that in Gerizim, of Zeus the Friend of Strangers, as they did desire that dwelt in the place. The coming in of this mischief was sore and grievous to the people: For the Temple was filled with riot and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women within the sacred courts of the Temple, and besides that brought in things that were not lawful. The altar also was filled with profane things, which the law forbiddeth. Neither was it lawful for a man to keep Sabbath days or ancient fasts, or to profess himself at all to be a Jew. And in the day of the king's birth every month they were brought by bitter constraint to eat of the sacrifices; and when the feast of Bacchus was kept, the Jews were compelled to go in procession to Bacchus, carrying ivy. Moreover there went out a decree to the neighbour cities of the heathen, by the suggestion of the citizens of Ptolomais against the Jews, that they should observe the same fashions, and be partakers of their sacrifices: and whoso would not conform themselves to the manners of the Gentiles should be put to death. It became clear that there was impending disaster (2 Maccabees 6:1-9).
And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he commandeth that he should die. In the selfsame manner wrote he to his whole kingdom, and appointed inspectors over all the people, to implement the commandment of the king for the people to sacrifice to heathen idols in all the cities of Judah , city by city. Then many of the people were gathered unto them, to wit every one that forsook the law; and so they committed evils in the land; and drove the Israelites into secret places, even wheresoever they could flee for refuge. Now the fifteenth day of the month Kislev, in the year 145 [one hundred and sixty seven Before Christ], they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Judah on every side; and burnt incense at the doors of their houses, and in the streets. And when they had torn in to pieces the Books of the Law of Moses which they found, they burnt them with fire. And whosoever was found with any the book of the Old Testament, or if any were committed to the Law of Moses, the king's commandment was, that they should put him to death. Thus did they by their authority unto the Israelites every month, to as many as were found in the cities. Now the five and twentieth day of the month they did sacrifice upon the idol altar, which was upon the altar of God. At which time according to the commandment they put to death certain women, that had caused their children to be circumcised. And they hanged the infants about their necks, and rifled their houses, and slew them that had circumcised them. Howbeit many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing. Wherefore the rather to die, that they might not be defiled with meats, and that they might not profane the holy covenant: so then they died. And there was very great wrath upon Israel. (1Maccabees 1:50-63)
The Martyrdom of Eleazar the Aged
Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged man, and of a well favoured countenance, was constrained to open his mouth, and to eat swine's flesh. But he, choosing rather to die gloriously, than to live stained with such an abomination, spit it forth, and came of his own accord to the place of torture, as it behooved them to come, that are resolute to stand out against such things, as are not lawful for love of life to be tasted. But they that had the charge of that wicked feast, for the old acquaintance they had with the man, taking him aside, besought him to bring flesh of his own provision, such as was lawful for him to use, and make as if he did eat of the meat taken from the sacrifice commanded by the king; that in so doing he might be delivered from death, and for the old friendship with them find favour. But he began to consider discreetly, and as became his age, and the excellency of his ancient years, and the honour of his gray head, whereon was come, and his most honest education from a child, or rather the Holy Law made and given by God: therefore he answered accordingly, and willed them straightways to send him to the grave. "For it becometh not our age," said he, "in any wise to dissemble, whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, being ninety years old, were now gone to a strange religion; and so they through mine hypocrisy, and desire to live a little time and a moment longer, should be deceived by me, and I get a stain to mine old age, and make it abominable. For though for the present time I should be delivered from the punishment of men: yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive, nor dead. Wherefore now, manfully changing this life, I will shew myself such an one as mine age requireth, And leave a notable example to such as be young to die willingly and courageously for the honourable and holy laws." And when he had said these words, immediately he went to the torment: They that led him changing the good will they bare him a little before into hatred, because the foresaid speeches proceeded, as they thought, from a desperate mind. But when he was ready to die with stripes, he groaned, and said, "It is manifest unto the Lord, that hath the holy knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from death, I now endure sore pains in body by being beaten: but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear him." And thus this man died, leaving his death for an example of a noble courage, and a memorial of virtue, not only unto young men, but unto all his nation. (2 Maccabees 6:18-31)
Mattathias and the Hasmonians
In those days arose Mattathias the son of John, the son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, from Jerusalem, and dwelt in Modein. And he had five sons, Johannan, called Caddis: Simon; called Thassi: Judas, who was called Maccabeus: Eleazar, called Avaran: and Jonathan, whose surname was Apphus. And when he saw the blasphemies that were committed in Judah and Jerusalem, He said, "Woe is me! Why was I born to see this misery of my people, and of the holy city, and to dwell there, when it was delivered into the hand of the enemy, and the sanctuary into the hand of strangers?"
Her temple is become as a man without glory.
Her glorious vessels are carried away into captivity,
her infants are slain in the streets,
her young men with the sword of the enemy.
What nation hath not had a part in her kingdom and gotten of her spoils?
All her ornaments are taken away; of a free woman she is become a bondslave.
And, behold, our sanctuary, even our beauty and our glory,
is laid waste, and the Gentiles have profaned it.
To what end therefore shall we live any longer?
Then Mattathias and his sons rent their clothes, and put on sackcloth, and mourned very sore. (1 Maccabees 2:1-14)
Mattathias Begins the Jewish Resistance
In the mean while the king's officers, such as compelled the people to apostasy, came into the city Modein, to make them sacrifice. And when many of Israel came unto them, Mattathias also and his sons came together. Then answered the king's officers, and said to Mattathias on this wise, "Thou art a ruler, and an honourable and great man in this city, and strengthened with sons and brethren: Now therefore come thou first, and fulfill the king's commandment, like as all the heathen have done, yea, and the men of Judah also, and such as remain at Jerusalem: so shalt thou and thy house be in the number of the king's friends, and thou and thy children shall be honoured with silver and gold, and many rewards." Then Mattathias answered and spake with a loud voice, "Though all the nations that are under the king's dominion obey him, and fall away everyone from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments: Yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances. We will not hearken to the king's words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left." Now when he had left speaking these words, there came one of the Jews in the sight of all to sacrifice on the altar which was at Modein, according to the king's commandment. Which thing when Mattathias saw, he was inflamed with zeal, and his reins trembled, neither could he forbear to shew his anger according to judgment: wherefore he ran, and slew him upon the altar. Also the king's commissioner, who compelled men to sacrifice, he killed at that time, and the altar he pulled down. Thus dealt he zealously for the law of God like as Phineas did unto Zambri the son of Salom (Numbers 25:6-14). And Mattathias cried throughout the city with a loud voice, saying, "Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me." So he and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that ever they had in the city. Then many that sought after justice and judgment went down into the wilderness, to dwell there: both they, and their children, and their wives; and their cattle; because afflictions increased sore upon them. Now when it was told the king's servants, and the host that was at Jerusalem, in the city of David, that certain men, who had broken the king's commandment in order to keep the Commandments of God, were gone down into the secret places in the wilderness, the Greeks pursued after them a great number, and having overtaken them, they camped against them, and made war against them on the Sabbath day. And the Greeks said unto them, "Let that which ye have done hitherto suffice; come forth, and do according to the commandment of the king, and ye shall live." But they said, "We will not come forth, neither will we do the king's commandment, to profane the Sabbath day." So then they gave them the battle with all speed. Howbeit they answered them not, neither cast they a stone at them, nor stopped the places where they lay hid; but said, "Let us die all in our innocency: heaven and earth will testify for us, that ye put us to death wrongfully." So they rose up against them in battle on the Sabbath, and they slew them, with their wives and children and their cattle, to the number of a thousand people. Now when Mattathias and his friends heard hereof, they mourned for them right sore. And one of them said to another, "If we all do as our brethren have done, and fight not for our lives and laws against the heathen, they will now quickly root us out of the earth." At that time therefore they decreed, saying, "Whosoever shall come to make battle with us on the Sabbath day, we will fight against him; neither will we die all, as our brethren that were murdered in the secret places." Then came there unto him a company of Hassideans who were mighty men of Israel, even all such as were voluntarily devoted unto the law. Also all they that fled for persecution joined themselves unto them, and were a stay unto them. So they joined their forces, and smote sinful men in their anger, and wicked men in their wrath: but the rest fled to the heathen for succour. Then Mattathias and his friends went round about, and pulled down the altars: and what children soever they found within the coast of Israel uncircumcised, those they circumcised valiantly. They pursued also after the proud men, and the work prospered in their hand. So they recovered the law out of the hand of the Gentiles, and out of the hand of kings, neither suffered they the sinner to triumph. (1 Maccabees 2:15-28)
Then Judas Maccabeus, and they that were with him, went privily into the towns, and called their kinsfolks together, and took unto them all such as continued in the Jews' religion, and assembled about six thousand men. And they called upon the Lord, that he would look upon the people that was trodden down of all; and also pity the temple profaned of ungodly men; and that he would have compassion upon the city, sore defaced, and ready to be made even with the ground; and hear the blood that cried unto him, and remember the wicked slaughter of harmless infants, and the blasphemies committed against his name; and that he would shew his hatred against the wicked.
Now when Maccabeus had his company about him, he could not be withstood by the heathen: for the wrath of the Lord was turned into mercy. Therefore he came at unawares, and burnt up towns and cities, and got into his hands the most commodious places, and overcame and put to flight no small number of his enemies. But specially took he advantage of the night for such privy attempts, insomuch that the fame of his holiness and valor was spread everywhere. (2 Maccabees 8:1-7) Judah and his brothers hid in the caves in the Gophna mountains and from there they would go and do battle (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XVII 6-7, War of the Jews I).
The Death of Mattithias
Now when the time drew near that Mattathias should die, he said unto his sons, "Now hath pride and rebuke gotten strength, and the time of destruction, and the wrath of indignation: Now therefore, my sons, be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers. Call to remembrance what acts our fathers did in their time; so shall ye receive great honour and an everlasting name. Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness (Genesis 22)? Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment and was made lord of Egypt (Genesis 41). Phineas our father in being zealous and fervent obtained the covenant of an everlasting priesthood (Numbers 25:6-14). Jesus [meaning Joshua] for fulfilling the word was made a judge in Israel (Joshua 1:2-5). Caleb for bearing witness before the congregation received the heritage of the land (Numbers 13:30, 14:24). David for being merciful possessed the throne of an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:8-17). Elias [meaning Elijah] for being zealous and fervent for the law was taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). Shadrack, Meshek and Abed-nego by believing were saved out of the flame (Daniel 3). Daniel for his innocency was delivered from the mouth of lions (Daniel 6). And thus consider ye throughout all ages, that none that put their trust in him shall be overcome. Fear not then the words of a sinful man: for his glory shall be dung and worms. Today he shall be lifted up and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is returned into his dust, and his thought is come to nothing. Wherefore, ye my sons, be valiant and show yourselves men in the behalf of the law; for by it shall ye obtain glory. And behold, I know that your brother Simon is a man of counsel, give ear unto him always: he shall be a father unto you. As for Judas Maccabeus, he hath been mighty and strong, even from his youth up: let him be your captain, and fight the battle of the people. Take also unto you all those that observe the law, and avenge ye the wrong of your people. Recompense fully the heathen, and take heed to the commandments of the law." So he blessed them, and was gathered to his fathers. And he died in the hundred forty and sixth year [166 BC], and his sons buried him in the sepulchres of his fathers at Modein, and all Israel made great lamentation for him (1 Maccabees 2:49-70).
The Rise of Judah Maccabee
Then his son Judas, called Maccabeus, rose up in his stead. And all his brethren helped him, and so did all they that held with his father, and they fought with cheerfulness the battle of Israel.
So he brought his people great honour,
and put on a breastplate as a giant,
and girt his warlike harness about him, and he made battles,
protecting the host with his sword.
In his acts he was like a lion, and like a lion's whelp roaring for his prey.
For He pursued the wicked, and sought them out,
and consumed those that vexed his people.
Wherefore the wicked shrunk for fear of him, and all the workers of iniquity were troubled, because salvation prospered in his hand.
He grieved also many kings, and made Jacob glad with his acts,
and his memorial is blessed for ever.
Moreover he went through the cities of Judea,
destroying the ungodly out of them, and turning away wrath from Israel:
So that he was renowned unto the utmost part of the earth,
and he received unto him such as were ready to perish. (1 Maccabees 3:1-9)
The Battle of Beth Horon
Then Apollonius gathered the Gentiles together, and a great host out of Samaria, to fight against Israel. Which thing when Judas perceived, he went forth to meet him, and so he smote him, and slew him: many also fell down slain, but the rest fled. Wherefore Judas took their spoils, and Apollonius' sword also, and therewith he fought all his life long. Now when Seron, a prince of the army of Syria, heard say that Judas had gathered unto him a multitude and company of the faithful to go out with him to war; he said, "I will get me a name and honour in the kingdom; for I will go fight with Judas and them that are with him, who despise the king's commandment." So he made him ready to go up, and there went with him a mighty host of the ungodly to help him, and to be avenged of the children of Israel.
And when he came near to the going up of Beth Horon, Judas went forth to meet him with a small company: who, when they saw the host coming to meet them, said unto Judas, "How shall we be able, being so few, to fight against so great a multitude and so strong, seeing we are ready to faint with fasting all this day?" Unto whom Judas answered, "It is no hard matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few; and with the God of heaven it is all one, to deliver with a great multitude, or a small company: For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host; but strength cometh from heaven. They come against us in much pride and iniquity to destroy us, and our wives and children, and to spoil us: But we fight for our lives and our laws. Wherefore the Lord himself will overthrow them before our face: and as for you, be ye not afraid of them." Now as soon as he had left off speaking, he leapt suddenly upon them, and so Seron and his host was overthrown before him. And they pursued them from the going down of Beth Horon unto the plain, where were slain about eight hundred men of them; and the residue fled into the land of the Philistines. Then began the fear of Judas and his brethren, and an exceeding great dread, to fall upon the nations round about them: Insomuch as his fame came unto the king, and all nations talked of the battles of Judas. (1 Maccabees 3:10-26)
Lysias the Regent
Now when King Antiochus heard these things, he was full of indignation: wherefore he sent and gathered together all the forces of his realm, even a very strong army. He opened also his treasure, and gave his soldiers pay for a year, commanding them to be ready whensoever he should need them. Nevertheless, when he saw that the money of his treasures failed and that the tributes in the country were small, because of the dissension and plague, which he had brought upon the land in taking away the laws which had been of old time; he feared that he should not be able to bear the charges any longer, nor to have such gifts to give so liberally as he did before: for he had abounded above the kings that were before him. Wherefore, being greatly perplexed in his mind, he determined to go into Persia, there to take the tributes of the countries, and to gather much money. So he left Lysias, a nobleman, and one of the blood royal, to oversee the affairs of the king from the river Euphrates unto the borders of Egypt: And to bring up his son Antiochus, until he came again. Moreover he delivered unto him the half of his forces, and the elephants, and gave him charge of all things that he would have done, as also concerning them that dwelt in Judea and Jerusalem: to wit, that he should send an army against them, to destroy and root out the strength of Israel, and the remnant of Jerusalem, and to take away their memorial from that place; And that he should place strangers in all their quarters, and divide their land by lot. So the king took the half of the forces that remained, and departed from Antioch, his royal city, the hundred forty and seventh year [165 BC]; and having passed the river Euphrates, he went through the high countries. (1 Maccabees 3:27-37)
The Road to Emmaus
So Maccabeus called his men together unto the number of six thousand, and exhorted them not to be stricken with terror of the enemy, nor to fear the great multitude of the heathen, who came wrongly against them; but to fight manfully. And to set before their eyes the injury that they had unjustly done to the holy place, and the cruel handling of the city, whereof they made a mockery, and also the taking away of the government of their forefathers: for they, said he, trust in their weapons and boldness; but our confidence is in the Almighty who at a beck can cast down both them that come against us, and also all the world. Moreover, he recounted unto them what helps their forefathers had found, and how they were delivered, when under Sennacherib an hundred fourscore and five thousand perished (2 Kings 19:35, Isaiah 37:36-37). And he told them of the battle that they had in Babylon with the Galatians, how they came but eight thousand in all to the business, with four thousand Macedonians, and that the Macedonians being perplexed, the eight thousand destroyed an hundred and twenty thousand because of the help that they had from heaven, and so received a great booty. Thus when he had made them bold with these words, and ready to die for the law and the country, he divided his army into four parts; and joined with himself his own brethren, leaders of each band, to wit Simon, and Joseph, and Jonathan, giving each one fifteen hundred men. Also he appointed Eleazar to read from the Holy Bible: and when he had given them this watchword, "The Help of God;" himself leading the first band (2 Maccabees 8:16-22). [Joseph may have been a half-brother or a cousin of Judah Maccabee.]
The Battle of Emmaus
Then Lysias chose Ptolemy the son of Dorymenes, Nicanor, and Gorgias, mighty men of the king's friends and with them he sent forty thousand footmen, and seven thousand horsemen, to go into the land of Judea, and to destroy it, as the king commanded. So they went forth with all their power, and came and pitched by Emmaus in the plain country. And the merchants of the country, hearing the fame of them, took silver and gold very much, with servants, and came into the camp to buy the children of Israel for slaves: a power also of Syria and of the land of the Philistines joined themselves unto them. Now when Judas and his brethren saw that miseries were multiplied, and that the forces did encamp themselves in their borders: for they knew how the king had given commandment to destroy the people, and utterly abolish them; They said one to another, "Let us restore the decayed fortune of our people, and let us fight for our people and the sanctuary." Then was the congregation gathered together, that they might be ready for battle, and that they might pray, and ask mercy and compassion.
Now Jerusalem lay void as a wilderness,
there was none of her children that went in or out:
the sanctuary also was trodden down,
and aliens kept the strong hold;
the heathen had their habitation in that place;
and joy was taken from Jacob, and the pipe with the harp ceased.
Wherefore the Israelites assembled themselves together, and came to Mizpah, over against Jerusalem; for in Mizpah was the place where they prayed aforetime in Israel (1 Samuel 7:5-15). Then they fasted that day, and put on sackcloth, and cast ashes upon their heads, and rent their clothes, and laid open the Book of the Law. They brought also the priests' garments, and the firstfruits, and the tithes: and the Nazarites they stirred up, who had accomplished their days. Then cried they with a loud voice toward heaven, saying, "What shall we do with these, and whither shall we carry them away? For thy sanctuary is trodden down and profaned, and thy priests are in heaviness, and brought low. And lo, the heathen are assembled together against us to destroy us: what things they imagine against us, thou knowest. How shall we be able to stand against them, except thou, O God, be our help?" Then sounded they with trumpets, and cried with a loud voice. And after this Judas ordained captains over the people, even captains over thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and over tens. But as for such as were building houses, or had betrothed wives, or were planting vineyards, or were fearful, those he commanded that they should return, every man to his own house, according to the law (Deuteronomy 29:5-8). So the camp removed, and pitched upon the south side of Emmaus. And Judas said, "Arm yourselves, and be valiant men, and see that ye be in readiness against the morning, that ye may fight with these nations, that are assembled together against us to destroy us and our sanctuary: For it is better for us to die in battle, than to behold the calamities of our people and our sanctuary. Nevertheless, as the will of God is in heaven, so let him do." Then took Gorgias five thousand footmen, and a thousand of the best horsemen, and removed out of the camp by night; to the end he might rush in upon the camp of the Jews, and smite them suddenly. And the men of the Citadel in Jerusalem were his guides. Now when Judas heard thereof he himself removed, and the valiant men with him, that he might smite the king's army which was at Emmaus, while as yet the forces were dispersed from the camp. In the mean season came Gorgias by night into the camp of Judas: and when he found no man there, he sought them in the mountains: for said he, "These fellows flee from us." But as soon as it was day, Judas shewed himself in the plain with three thousand men, who nevertheless had neither armour nor swords as they would have wished. And they saw the camp of the heathen, that it was strong and well harnessed, and compassed round about with horsemen; and these were expert of war. Then said Judas to the men that were with him, "Fear ye not their multitude, neither be ye afraid of their assault. Remember how our fathers were delivered in the Red sea, when Pharaoh pursued them with an army (Exodus 14:10-31). Now therefore let us cry unto heaven, if peradventure the Lord will have mercy upon us, and remember the covenant of our fathers, and destroy this host before our face this day: That so all the heathen may know that there is one who delivereth and saveth Israel." Then the strangers lifted up their eyes, and saw them coming over against them. Wherefore they went out of the camp to battle; but they that were with Judas sounded their trumpets. So they joined battle, and the heathen being discomfited fled into the plain. Howbeit all the hindmost of them were slain with the sword: for they pursued them unto Gazera, and unto the plains of Idumea, and Azotus, and Jamnia, so that there were slain of them upon a three thousand men. This done, Judas returned again with his host from pursuing them, And said to the people, "Be not greedy of the spoil inasmuch as there is a battle before us! And Gorgias and his host are here by us in the mountain: but stand ye now against our enemies, and overcome them, and after this ye may boldly take the spoils." As Judas was yet speaking these words, there appeared a part of them looking out of the mountain: Who when they perceived that the Jews had put their host to flight and were burning the tents; for the smoke that was seen declared what was done: When therefore they perceived these things, they were sore afraid, and seeing also the host of Judas in the plain ready to fight, They fled every one into the land of strangers. Then Judas returned to spoil the tents, where they got much gold, and silver, and blue silk, and purple of the sea, and great riches. After this they went home, and sung a song of thanksgiving, and praised the Lord in heaven: because it is good, because his mercy endureth forever (Psalm 118). Thus Israel had a great deliverance that day. (1 Maccabees 3:38-4:25)
The Battle of Beth Zur
Now all the strangers that had escaped came and told Lysias what had happened: Who, when he heard thereof, was confounded and discouraged, because neither such things as he would were done unto Israel, nor such things as the king commanded him were come to pass. The next year therefore following Lysias gathered together sixty thousand choice men of foot, and five thousand horsemen, that he might subdue them. So they came into Idumea, and pitched their tents at Beth Zur, and Judas met them with ten thousand men. And when he saw that mighty army, he prayed and said, "Blessed art thou, O Saviour of Israel, who didst quell the violence of the mighty man by the hand of thy servant David, and gavest the host of strangers into the hands of Jonathan the son of Saul, and his armourbearer (1 Samuel 14:-15); Shut up this army in the hand of thy people Israel, and let them be confounded in their power and horsemen: Make them to be of no courage, and cause the boldness of their strength to fall away, and let them quake at their destruction: Cast them down with the sword of them that love thee, and let all those that know thy name praise thee with thanksgiving." So they joined battle; and there were slain of the host of Lysias about five thousand men, even before them were they slain. Now when Lysias saw his army put to flight, and the manliness of Judas' soldiers, and how they were ready either to live or die valiantly, he went into Antioch, and gathered together a company of strangers, and having made his army greater than it was, he purposed to come again into Judea. (1 Maccabees 4:26-35)
The Purification of the Temple
Then said Judas and his brethren, "Behold, our enemies are discomfited: let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the sanctuary." Upon this all the host assembled themselves together, and went up into Mount Sion. And when they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest, or in one of the mountains, yea, and the priests' chambers pulled down; They rent their clothes, and made great lamentation, and cast ashes upon their heads, and fell down flat to the ground upon their faces, and blew an alarm with the trumpets, and cried toward heaven. Then Judas appointed certain men to fight against those that were in the fortress, until he had cleansed the sanctuary. So he chose priests of blameless conversation, such as had pleasure in the law: who cleansed the sanctuary, and bare out the defiled stones into an unclean place. And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt offerings, which was profaned; they thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the heathen had defiled it: wherefore they pulled it down, and laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to show what should be done with them. Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former; and made up the sanctuary, and the things that were within the temple, and hallowed the courts. They made also new holy vessels, and into the temple they brought the menorah, and the altar of burnt offerings, and of incense, and the table. And upon the altar they burned incense, and the lamps that were upon the candlestick they lighted, that they might give light in the temple. Furthermore they set the loaves upon the table, and spread out the veils, and finished all the works which they had begun to make. Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is called the month Kislev, in the hundred forty and eighth year [164 BC], they rose up betimes in the morning, and offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made. Look, at what time and what day the heathen had profaned it, even in that was it dedicated with songs, and flutes, and harps, and cymbals. Then all the people fell upon their faces, worshipping and praising the God of heaven, who had given them good success. And so they kept the Dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise. They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold, and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed, and hanged doors upon them. Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away (1 Maccabees 4:36-58). Therefore Judas and his brethren sang a hymn of praise unto Heaven, saying,
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever. I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them. They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly. The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever (Psalm 118).
Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Kislev, with mirth and gladness. At that time also they builded up the Mount Sion with high walls and strong towers round about, lest the Gentiles should come and tread it down as they had done before. And they set there a garrison to keep it, and fortified Beth Zur to preserve it; that the people might have a defense against Idumea. (1 Maccabees 4:59-61)
Judah and His Brothers Defend the Jewish People
Now when the nations round about heard that the altar was built and the sanctuary renewed as before, it displeased them very much. Wherefore they thought to destroy the generation of Jacob that was among them, and thereupon they began to slay and destroy the people. Then Judas fought against the children of Esau in Idumea at Arabattine, because they besieged Gael: and he gave them a great overthrow, and abated their courage, and took their spoils. Also he remembered the injury of the children of Baean, who had been a snare and an offence unto the people, in that they lay in wait for them in the ways. He shut them up therefore in the towers, and encamped against them, and destroyed them utterly, and burned the towers of that place with fire. Afterward he passed over to the children of Ammon, where he found a mighty power, and much people, with Timotheus their captain. So he fought many battles with them, till at length they were discomfited before him; and he smote them. And when he had taken Jazar, with the towns belonging thereto, he returned into Judea. Then the heathen that were at Galaad assembled themselves together against the Israelites that were in their quarters, to destroy them; but they fled to the fortress of Dathema. And sent letters unto Judas and his brethren, "The heathen that are round about us are assembled together against us to destroy us: And they are preparing to come and take the fortress whereunto we are fled, Timotheus being captain of their host. Come now therefore, and deliver us from their hands, for many of us are slain: Yea, all our brethren that were in the places of Tobie are put to death: their wives and their children also they have carried away captives, and borne away their stuff; and they have destroyed there about a thousand men." While these letters were yet reading, behold, there came other messengers from Galilee with their clothes rent, who reported on this wise, And said, "They of Ptolemais, and of Tyrus, and Sidon, and all Galilee of the Gentiles, are assembled together against us to consume us." Now when Judas and the people heard these words, there assembled a great congregation together, to consult what they should do for their brethren, that were in trouble, and assaulted of them. Then said Judas unto Simon his brother, "Choose thee out men, and go and deliver thy brethren that are in Galilee, for I and Jonathan my brother will go into the country of Gilead." Now unto Simon were given three thousand men to go into Galilee, and unto Judas eight thousand men for the country of Gilead. Then went Simon into Galilee, where he fought many battles with the heathen, so that the heathen were discomfited by him. And he pursued them unto the gate of Ptolemais; and there were slain of the heathen about three thousand men, whose spoils he took. And those Jews that were in Galilee, and in Arbattis, with their wives and their children, and all that they had, took he away with him, and brought them into Judea with great joy (1 Maccabees 5:1-23).
Judah Maccabee and Jonathon Apphus form an alliance with Rome and Sparta
Judas had heard of the reputation of the Romans. They were valiant fighters and acted amicably to all who took their side. So Judas chose Eupolemus, son of John, son of Accos, and Jason, son of Eleazar, and sent them to Rome to establish an alliance of friendship with them. The proposal pleased the Romans. An alliance was also formed with Sparta and the pledge of brotherhood was made between the Spartans and the Jews (1 Maccabees 8:1, 12:19).
Judah Maccabee forms an alliance with the Nabatean Arabs
Judas Maccabeus also and his brother Jonathan went over Jordan, and travelled three days' journey in the wilderness, Where they met with the Nabatean Arabs of Petra, who came unto them in a peaceable manner, and told them everything that had happened to their brethren in the land of Gilead: And how that many of them were shut up in Bosora, and Bosor, and Alema, Casphor, Maked, and Carnaim; all these cities are strong and great: And that they were shut up in the rest of the cities of the country of Gilead, and that against tomorrow they had appointed to bring their host against the forts, and to take them, and to destroy them all in one day. Hereupon Judas and his host turned suddenly by the way of the wilderness unto Bosora; and when he had won the city, and took all their spoils, and burned the city with fire. (1Maccabees 5:24-28)
Judah and His Brothers Fight Battles to Defend the Jews
From whence he removed by night, and went till he came to the fortress. And betimes in the morning they looked up, and, behold, there was an innumerable people bearing ladders and other engines of war, to take the fortress: for they assaulted them. When Judas therefore saw that the battle was begun, and that the cry of the city went up to heaven, with trumpets, and a great sound, he said unto his host, "Fight this day for your brethren." So he went forth behind them in three companies, who sounded their trumpets, and cried with prayer. Then the host of Timotheus, knowing that it was Maccabeus, fled from him: wherefore he smote them with a great slaughter; so that there were killed of them that day about eight thousand men. This done, Judas turned aside to Maspha; and after he had assaulted it he took received the spoils thereof and burnt it with fire. From thence went he, and took Casphon, Maged, Bosor, and the other cities of the country of Galaad. After these things gathered Timotheus another host and encamped against Raphon beyond the brook. So Judas sent men to espy the host, who brought him word, saying, "All the heathen that be round about us are assembled unto them, even a very great host. He hath also hired certain Arabians to help them and they have pitched their tents beyond the brook, ready to come and fight against thee. "Upon this Judas went to meet them. Then Timotheus said unto the captains of his host, "When Judas and his host come near the brook, if he pass over first unto us, we shall not be able to withstand him; for he will mightily prevail against us: But if he be afraid, and camp beyond the river, we shall go over unto him, and prevail against him." Now when Judas came near the brook, he caused the scribes of the people to remain by the brook: unto whom he gave commandment, saying, "Allow no man to remain in the camp, but let all come to the battle." So he went first over unto them, and all the people after him: then all the heathen, being discomfited before him, cast away their weapons, and fled. Thus was Carnaim subdued, neither could they stand any longer before Judas. Then Judas gathered together all the Israelites that were in the country of Gilead, from the least unto the greatest, even their wives, and their children, and their stuff, a very great host, to the end they might come into the land of Judea. Now when they came unto Ephron, (this was a great city in the way as they should go, very well fortified) they could not turn from it, either on the right hand or the left, but must needs pass through the midst of it. Then they of the city shut them out, and stopped up the gates with stones. Whereupon Judas sent unto them in peaceable manner, saying, "Let us pass through your land to go into our own country, and none shall do you any hurt; we will only pass through on foot." Howbeit they would not open unto him. Wherefore Judas commanded a proclamation to be made throughout the host, that every man should pitch his tent in the place where he was. So the soldiers pitched, and assaulted the city all that day and all that night, till at the length the city was delivered into his hands. After this went they over Jordan into the great plain before Beth Shan. And Judas gathered together those that came behind, and exhorted the people all the way through, till they came into the land of Judea. So they went up to Mount Sion with joy and gladness, where they offered burnt offerings, because not one of them were slain until they had returned in peace. Howbeit the man Judas and his brethren were greatly renowned in the sight of all Israel, and of all the heathen, wheresoever their name was heard of; insomuch as the people assembled unto them with joyful acclamations. Afterward went Judas forth with his brethren, and fought against the children of Esau in the land toward the south, where he smote Hebron, and the towns thereof, and pulled down the fortress of it, and burned the towers thereof round about. From thence he removed to go into the land of the Philistines, and passed through Samaria. So Judas turned to Azotus in the land of the Philistines, and then he returned into the land of Judea. (1 Maccabees 5:29-68)
The Death of Antiochus
About that time king Antiochus travelling through the high countries heard say, that Elymais in the country of Persia was a city greatly renowned for riches, silver, and gold; And that there was in it a very rich temple, wherein were coverings of gold, and breastplates, and shields, which Alexander, son of Philip, the Macedonian king, who reigned first among the Grecians, had left there. Wherefore he came and sought to take the city, and to spoil it; but he was not able, because they of the city, having had warning thereof, rose up against him in battle: so he fled, and departed thence with great heaviness, and returned to Babylon. Moreover there came one who brought him tidings into Persia, that the armies, which went against the land of Judea, were put to flight: And that Lysias, who went forth first with a great power was driven away of the Jews; and that they were made strong by the armour, and power, and store of spoils, which they had gotten of the armies, whom they had destroyed: also that they had pulled down the abomination of desolation, which he had set up upon the altar in Jerusalem, and that they had compassed about the sanctuary with high walls, as before, and his city Beth Zur. Now when the king heard these words, he was astonished and sore moved: whereupon he laid him down upon his bed, and fell sick for grief, because it had not befallen him as he looked for. And there he continued many days: for his grief was ever more and more, and he made account that he should die. Wherefore he called for all his friends, and said unto them, "The sleep is gone from mine eyes, and my heart faileth for very care.
And I thought with myself, into what tribulation am I come, and how great a flood of misery is it, wherein now I am! For I was bountiful and beloved in my power. But now I remember the evils that I did at Jerusalem, and that I took all the vessels of gold and silver that were therein, and sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judea without a cause.
I perceive therefore that for this cause these troubles are come upon me, and, behold, I perish through great grief in a strange land." Then called he for Philip, one of his friends, who he made ruler over all his realm, and gave him the crown, and his robe, and his signet, to the end he should bring up his son Antiochus, and nourish him up for the kingdom. So king Antiochus died there in the year one hundred sixty four B.C. (1 Maccabees 6:1-16).
The Battle of Beth Zechariah
Now when Lysias knew that the king was dead, he set up Antiochus his son, whom he had brought up being young, to reign in his stead, and his name he called Antiochus Eupator. About this time they that were in the Citadel shut up the Israelites round about the sanctuary, and sought always their hurt, and the strengthening of the heathen. Wherefore Judas, purposing to defeat them, called all the people together to besiege them. So they came together, and besieged them in the hundred and fiftieth year [162 B.C.], and he made mounts for shot against them, and other engines. Howbeit certain of them that were besieged got forth, unto whom some ungodly men of Israel joined themselves. And the men of the Citadel went unto the king, and said, "How long will it be ere thou execute judgment, and avenge our brethren? We have been willing to serve thy father, and to do as he would have us, and to obey his commandments; for which cause they of our nation besiege the Citadel, and are alienated from us: moreover as many of us as they could light on they slew, and spoiled our inheritance. Neither have they stretched out their hand against us only, but also against their borders. And, behold, this day are they besieging the tower at Jerusalem, to take it: the sanctuary also and Beth Zur have they fortified. Wherefore if thou dost not prevent them quickly, they will do the greater things than these, neither shalt thou be able to rule them." Now when the king heard this, he was angry, and gathered together all his friends, and the captains of his army, and those that had charge of the horse. There came also unto him from other kingdoms, and from isles of the sea, bands of hired soldiers. So that the number of his army was an hundred thousand footmen, and twenty thousand horsemen, and two and thirty elephants exercised in battle. These went through Idumea, and pitched against Beth Zur, which they assaulted many days, making engines of war; but they of Beth Zur came out, and burned them with fire, and fought valiantly. Upon this Judas removed from the tower, and pitched in Beth Zechariah, over against the king's camp. Then the king rising very early marched fiercely with his host toward Beth Zechariah, where his armies made them ready to battle, and sounded the trumpets. And to the end they might provoke the elephants to fight, they showed them the blood of grapes and mulberries. Moreover they divided the beasts among the armies, and for every elephant they appointed a thousand men, armed with coats of mail, and with helmets of brass on their heads; and beside this, for every beast were ordained five hundred horsemen of the best. These were ready at every occasion: wheresoever the beast was, and whithersoever the beast went, they went also, neither departed they from him. And upon the beastly elephants were there strong towers of wood, which covered every one of them, and were girt fast unto them with devices: there were also upon everyone two and thirty strong men, that fought upon them, beside the Indian that ruled him. As for the remnant of the horsemen, they set them on this side and that side at the two parts of the host giving them signs what to do, and being harnessed all over amidst the ranks. Now when the sun shone upon the shields of gold and brass, the mountains glistered therewith, and shined like lamps of fire. So part of the king's army being spread upon the high mountains, and part on the valleys below, they marched on safely and in order. Wherefore all that heard the noise of their multitude, and the marching of the company, and the rattling of the harness, were moved: for the army was very great and mighty. Then Judas and his host drew near, and entered into battle, and there were slain of the king's army six hundred men. Eleazar also, surnamed Avaran, perceiving that one of the beasts, armed with royal harness, was higher than all the rest, and supposing that the king was upon him, put himself in jeopardy, to the end he might deliver his people, and get him a perpetual name: wherefore he ran upon him courageously through the midst of the battle, slaying on the right hand and on the left, so that they were divided from him on both sides. Which done, he crept under the elephant, and thrust him under, and slew him: whereupon the elephant fell down upon him, and there he died. Howbeit the rest of the Jews seeing the strength of the king, and the violence of his forces, turned away from them. Then the king's army went up to Jerusalem to meet them, and the king pitched his tents against Judea, and against mount Sion. But with them that were in Beth Zur he made peace: for they came out of the city, because they had no victuals there to endure the siege, it being a year of rest to the land. So the king took Beth Zur, and set a garrison there to keep it. As for the sanctuary, he besieged it many days: and set there artillery with engines and instruments to cast fire and stones, and pieces to cast darts and slings. Whereupon they also made engines against their engines, and held them battle a long season. Yet at the last, their vessels being without victuals, (for that it was the seventh year, a Sabbatical year, in which the fields were allowed to rest (Leviticus 25:11-12), and they in Judea that were delivered from the Gentiles, had eaten up the residue of the store of food;) There were but a few left in the sanctuary, because the famine did so prevail against them, that they were fain to disperse themselves, every man to his own place. (1 Maccabees 6:17-54)
The Jewish People are Granted Religious Freedom
At that time Lysias having heard, that King Antiochus had died and that Philip, whom Antiochus the king, whiles he lived, had appointed to bring up his son Antiochus Eupator, that he might be king, was returned out of Persia and Media, and the king's host also that went with him, and that he sought to take unto him the ruling of the affairs and take these powers away from Lysias. Wherefore Lysias went in all haste, and said to the king and the captains of the host and the company, "We decay daily, and our victuals are but small, and the place we lay siege unto is strong, and the affairs of the kingdom lie upon us: Now therefore let us be friends with these men, and make peace with them, and with all their nation; and covenant with them, that they shall live after their own laws, as they did before: for they are therefore displeased, and have done all these things, because we abolished their laws." So the king and the princes were content: wherefore he sent unto them to make peace and to allow the Jewish people to live according to the Law of Moses and to keep and observe all the Holy Scriptures; and they accepted thereof. Also the king and the princes made an oath unto them and swore that the Jewish people would be free to practice their religion: whereupon they went out of the strong hold. Afterward departed he in all haste, and returned unto Antioch. (1 Maccabees 6:55-63)
The Abomination of Desolation: The Story of Judah Maccabee IS in the Bible
When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place, let the reader understand it… (Matthew 24:15)
Prophecies of the Maccabees are found in the Book of Daniel. In the Vision of the Ram and the He-goat (Daniel 8:5-27), a male goat is seen running across the face of the earth. It sees a ram and charges the ram and breaks the ram's horns and kills him. The He-goat has one large horn. Then its horn is broken and in its place grows four horns. Scholars agree that this prophecy is to be interpreted in the following manner. The goat is Greece. The large horn is Alexander the Great. He smote and destroyed the Persian Empire, which was represented by the ram in the vision. When Alexander died his empire was divided into four kingdoms by four of his generals: Ptolemy I ruled in Egypt, Seleucus I ruled in Syria and western Asia, Lysimachus ruled in Asia Minor and Cassander ruled in Macedonia. According to Daniel 8:9-11, out of one of the horns a little horn grew. This horn caused the daily sacrifices to cease and the place of the sanctuary to be cast down. This is a prophecy of the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes and of the incidents that are remembered during the celebration of Hanukkah. (Chapter Eleven of the Book of Daniel contains additional prophecies. Xerxes I (486-465 BC) is mentioned in Daniel 11:2 when it mentions that a king of Persia shall "stir up all against the realm of Greece." This is a prophecy of the Persian wars against the Greeks, such as the Battle of Thermopylae.)
Bible scholars have determined that Daniel 11:21-34 is a prophecy of the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes and the rise of the Maccabees.
And in his estate [this is a reference to Seleucus I, the predecessor of Antiochus IV] shall stand up a vile person [Antiochus Epiphanes], to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by stealth and fraud. [Antiochus was of royal descent but was not heir to the throne. He seized power.] And with the arms of a flood shall they be overthrown from before him, and they shall be broken; yeah also the prince of the covenant [The Jewish High Priest Onias III]. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province, and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers' fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his devices against the strongholds, even for a time. And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army, and the king of the south shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him. [The "King of the South" is King Ptolemy of Egypt.] Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain. And both these kings' hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one tables; but shall not prosper: for the end shall be at the time appointed. Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land. At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter. For the ships of Chittim shall come against him. ["Chittim" here refers to Rome. Antiochus had defeated Egypt but was forced to withdraw from Egypt by the Romans. He returned to Antioch of Syria by way of Jerusalem. In Jerusalem he took his anger and frustrations out upon the Jews.] Therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant. [Those that forsake the Holy Covenant are the Hellenizing Jews.] And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. [The Abomination of Desolation is the pagan image he erected in the holy place of the Temple.] And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries; but the people who know their God shall be strong and do exploits. [The Maccabean revolutionaries grew strong and did exploits.] And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet shall fall by the sword, and by flame, and by captivity, and by spoil, many days. [This is a reference to the "Maccabean Martyrs."] Now when they shall fall, they shall be helped with a little help.[The "little help" from God is Judah Maccabee and his brothers.]
So we see that the story of Hanukkah and Judah Maccabee are mentioned in the Bible-in the prophecies of Daniel.
Another allusion to the events of Hanukkah is Jesus speaking of the "Abomination of Desolation" in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14. (The Apostle Paul refers to the same prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.) In 167 BC, the Greek king of Syria Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple of the Lord by erecting images, probably including a statue of Zeus Olympious. This image and it's desecration of God's Holy Temple was called the Abomination of Desolation or "horrible abomination." This event was prophesied in Daniel 12:11. When the text of Matthew 24:15 states "let the reader understand" it is assuming that the reader would be familiar with the events of the Maccabean uprising (the Hanukkah story) and the prophecies of Daniel. The prophecy of the "Abomination of Desolation" is viewed by certain Bible scholars as a prophecy with multiple fulfillments. It was fulfilled when Antiochus erected the "Abomination of Desolation" in the Holy Place, it was fulfilled when the Romans desecrated and destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. and those who study biblical prophecies believe it will be fulfilled again by the Anti-Christ at the End of Days. Although Christ's words may also have multiple fulfillments, it seems He was primarily speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D. (It should be noted that the Roman Emperor Caligula attempted to erect an idol of himself as god within the Holy Temple of Jerusalem before he was assassinated in 41 A.D.)
The New Testament also alludes to the Maccabean era elsewhere. The events recounted in the Books of the Maccabees are also alluded to in The Epistle to the Hebrews 11:35, which says, "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection." The author of The Epistle to the Hebrews is here alluding to the story of the Martyrdom of the Seven Sons that is found in 2 Maccabees Chapter Seven. In the story of the martyrs, the men were tortured, they refused to recant and thus be spared, and they spoke of a resurrection and an afterlife. This story is clearly the story alluded to in Hebrews 11:35. (The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to follow a Greek pattern of thought very similar to the Greek speaking Jewish Philosopher Philo of Alexandria. We do not know who the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is. It is possible that the author was Apollos, who is described in the Acts of the Apostles as an eloquent speaker and a native of Alexandria (Acts 18:24).) Here is the story excerpted from 2 Maccabees.
It came to pass also, that seven brethren with their mother were taken, and compelled by the king against the Law to taste swine's flesh, and were tormented with scourges and whips. But one of them that spake first said thus, "What wouldest thou ask or learn of us? We are ready to die, rather than to transgress the laws of our fathers". Then the king, being in a rage, commanded pans and caldrons to be made hot: Which forthwith being heated, he commanded to cut out the tongue of him that spake first, and to cut off the utmost parts of his body, the rest of his brethren and his mother looking on. Now when he was thus maimed in all his members, he commanded him being yet alive to be brought to the fire, and to be fried in the pan: and as the vapour of the pan was for a good space dispersed, they exhorted one another with the mother to die manfully, saying thus, "The Lord God looketh upon us, and in truth hath comfort in us, as Moses in his song, which witnessed to their faces, declared, saying, 'And he shall be comforted in his servants'." So when the first was dead after this number, they brought the second to make him a mocking stock: and when they had pulled off the skin of his head with the hair, they asked him, "Wilt thou eat, before thou be punished throughout every member of thy body?"But he answered in his own language, and said, "No." [His own language means his ancestral language, Hebrew or Aramaic, rather than Greek. It is more likely Hebrew is intended here. During the Maccabean revolt, pious Jews began to refuse to speak Greek. They preferred to use only their dialect of Aramaic. There were also attempts to revive Hebrew as a spoken language. In this story, the woman and her sons speak only in Hebrew, or perhaps Aramaic, in order to defy the policy of forced assimilation into Greek ways.] Wherefore he also received the next torment in order, as the former did. And when he was at the last gasp, he said, "Thou like a fury takest us out of this present life, but the King of the world shall raise us up, who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life." After him was the third made a mocking stock: and when he was required, he put out his tongue, and that right soon, holding forth his hands manfully. And said courageously, "My hands I received from God; and for God's laws I despise them; and from him I hope to receive them again at the resurrection." Insomuch that the king, and they that were with him, marvelled at the young man's courage, for that he nothing regarded the pains. Now when this man was dead also, they tormented and mangled the fourth in like manner. So when he was ready to die he said thus, "It is good, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God to be raised up again by him: as for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life." Afterward they brought the fifth also, and mangled him. Then looked he unto the king, and said, "Thou hast power over men, thou art corruptible, thou doest what thou wilt; yet think not that our nation is forsaken of God; but abide a while, and behold his great power, how he will torment thee and thy seed." After him also they brought the sixth, who being ready to die said, "Be not deceived without cause: for we suffer these things for ourselves, having sinned against our God: therefore marvellous things are done unto us. But think not thou, that takest in hand to strive against God, that thou shalt escape unpunished." But the mother was marvellous above all, and worthy of honourable memory: for when she saw her seven sons slain within the space of one day, she bare it with a good courage, because of the hope that she had in the Lord. Yea, she exhorted every one of them in her own language, filled with courageous spirits; and stirring up her womanish thoughts with a manly stomach, she said unto them, "I cannot tell how ye came into my womb: for I neither gave you breath nor life, neither was it I that formed the members of every one of you; But doubtless the Creator of the world, who formed the generation of man, and found out the beginning of all things, will also of his own mercy give you breath and life again, as ye now regard not your own selves for his Laws' sake." Now Antiochus, thinking himself despised, and suspecting it to be a reproachful speech, whilst the youngest was yet alive, did not only exhort him by words, but also assured him with oaths, that he would make him both a rich and a happy man, if he would turn from the laws of his fathers; and that also he would take him for his friend, and trust him with affairs. But when the young man would in no case hearken unto him, the king called his mother, and exhorted her that she would counsel the young man to save his life. And when he had exhorted her with many words, she promised him that she would counsel her son. But she bowing herself toward him, laughing the cruel tyrant to scorn, spake in her country language on this manner; "O my son, have pity upon me that bare thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age, and endured the troubles of education. I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not; and so was mankind made likewise. Fear not this tormentor, but, being worthy of thy brethren, take thy death that I may receive thee again in mercy with thy brethren." Whiles she was yet speaking these words, the young man said, "Whom wait ye for? I will not obey the king's commandment: but I will obey the Commandment of the Law that was given unto our fathers by Moses. And thou, that hast been the author of all mischief against the Hebrews, shalt not escape the hands of God. For we suffer because of our sins. And though the living Lord be angry with us a little while for our chastening and correction, yet shall he be at one again with his servants. But thou, O godless man, and of all other most wicked, be not lifted up without a cause, nor puffed up with uncertain hopes, lifting up thy hand against the servants of God: For thou hast not yet escaped the judgment of Almighty God, who seeth all things. For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God's covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. But I, as my brethren, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, beseeching God that he would speedily be merciful unto our nation; and that thou by torments and plagues mayest confess, that he alone is God; And that in me and my brethren the wrath of the Almighty, which is justly brought upon our nation, may cease."
Then the king' being in a rage, handed him worse than all the rest, and took it grievously that he was mocked. So this man died undefiled, and put his whole trust in the Lord. Last of all after the sons the mother died.
Hebrews Chapter Eleven is often called "The Roll-call of the Faithful." It praises the faith of the Old Testament saints beginning with Abel. It continues on through Abraham and Moses and continues on to the Maccabees and the "Maccabean martyrs." The reason the author of Hebrews refers to the martyrs of Second Maccabees is because he was working through the saints of the Old Testament and First and Second Maccabees was part of the Canon of Scripture he used as an Alexandrian Jew. At the time, all Greek speaking Jews used the Septuagint Bible with its expanded canon. Hebrews reads, "Some were tortured to death and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection." This verse, Hebrews 11:35 is alluding to 2 Maccabees 6:16-7:42. Hebrews 11:38 says, "The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices of the earth." This seems to be alluding to 1 Maccabees 2:28-30 which describes Jewish people fleeing the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes by fleeing to the deserts and living in caves. Judah Maccabee himself fled into the wilderness and dwelt in the caves in the mountains of Gophna. The stories of the Maccabees are alluded to when Jesus spoke of the "Abomination of Desolation," when he observed Hanukkah in Jerusalem and they are also alluded to in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The Books of Maccabees and the events of Hanukkah are alluded to in the New Testament. The events of the Book of Esther in the Old Testament are not.
(The Book of Second Maccabees is also the first place where the doctrine of "Creation ex nihilo" was first clearly described. Since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, early philosophers thought that matter must be eternal. They thought that God, the "Prime Mover," created the Universe out of pre-existing, or eternally existing, substances. This seems to lead towards the idea of "pan-theism," which would mean that everything is "god." Jews and Christians taught that God alone is eternal and that He created matter out of nothing. Therefore, God is greater than and outside of this Universe. God is Omni-present, meaning He is everywhere, but the Universe is a creation of God not a part of or an extension of God. Atheists taught that there is no God and that the merely Universe exists. It has no creator and no beginning. Currently the scientific evidence indicates that there was a moment of creation before which the Universe did not exist. Time, space and matter originated from the "Big Bang." If there is a beginning, the question is if there was a cause of creation. If creation is caused rather than uncaused this leads invariably to the Creator. Jews and Christians believe that God caused the "Big Bang" and created this world we know out of nothing. These ideas are important and yet unfortunately few people grapple with them. Christians must if we are to impact this world for the Kingdom of God.)
Some Bible scholars believe that there are other references to the Maccabees in the Holy Bible. Psalm 118 is believed by certain Bible scholars to have been written by the Maccabees in celebration of the first Hanukkah. (Its reference to gates (verses 19-20) and to the altar (verse 27) may have been made because they had just been rebuilt.) 1 Maccabees 7:16-17 says that the Jewish High Priest Alcimus, who served as a high priest during the Maccabean revolt, wrote Psalm 79. Psalm 79 is a dirge morning the defilement of the Temple by pagans. If it was written by Alcimus it was written after King Antiochus defiled the Temple. If it was written earlier it was written after the Babylonians destroyed the Temple.
My comic books are not the authoritative historical record of the Maccabean Revolution. We do have ancient writings that are our source texts.
1 Maccabees First Maccabees tells the story of the Maccabean revolt from its beginnings until the death of Simon (167-134 B.C.). The story concludes with Simon's son John Hyrancus's rise to power. (He ruled from 134 B.C. until 104 B.C.) First Maccabees tells the story of Judah Maccabee and his two brothers who succeeded him, Jonathon and Simon. The Book of First Maccabees probably represents the official history of the Hasmonean Dynasty. It was written after John Hyrancus came to power. It was written by the year 90 BC, most likely written during the reign of Alexander Janneaus. Scholars believe 1 Maccabees was written in the Hebrew language and translated into Greek by a scribe whose native language was Aramaic. In ancient times there were Hebrew and Aramaic versions of 1 Maccabees but they have been lost. According to the early church fathers, the original Hebrew/Aramaic title of 1 Maccabees was Sephar Beth Sabanail El which translated means "The Book of the House [or "Dynasty"] of God's Resisters [or "those who resisted on the behalf of God" in Aramaic and Hebrew.
2 Maccabees Sometimes certain people attempt to dismiss Second Maccabees as not as historically reliable as First Maccabees. The reason is usually because it contains many miraculous events, such as appearance of angels and other apparitions. But the fact of the matter is that it is an important ancient source. Historians prefer to have multiple historical sources. It is an important independent early witness to the events of the Maccabean revolt. Second Maccabees recounts events take took place before the beginning of the revolt and tells the story of Judas Maccabeus until his winning an important victory shortly before his death. Second Maccabees does not contain an account of the death of Judas Maccabees. Second Maccabees is an abridgement of the five volume account of the Maccabean revolt by Jason of Cyrene, which is now lost. Jason of Cyrene wrote his account by the year 86 BC and the abridgment was made between 78 and 63 BC. 2 Maccabees was written in Greek.
3 Maccabees Third Maccabees isn't really about the Maccabees at all. In fact, it is set in a time period before the Maccabean revolt. The similarity with the Books of the Maccabees is in that it tells the story of the Jewish people being persecuted by a Hellenistic monarch. Most of the story is set in the city of Alexandria in Egypt. The persecuting king is Ptolemy IV Philopater who reigned from 221-203 B.C. At the end of the story, King Ptolemy repents of his sins against the Jews and becomes their benefactor and protector.
4 Maccabees Fourth Maccabees is a commentary praising the supremacy of pious reason over passion using examples of the martyrdom of Eleazar and that of the seven "Maccabean" brothers taken from 2 Maccabees. The author of Fourth Maccabees depicts the suffering and deaths of the martyrs as being vicarious for the Jewish nation and states that martyrdom in general brings atonement for the past sins of the Jewish people.
5 Maccabees Fifth Maccabees is an Arabic manuscript written in Syriac letters. (Arabic written in Syriac script is called Karshuni.) It is also called Arabic Maccabees. It narrates the events from the incident of Heliodorus attempting to plunder the Temple to the death of Herod the Great's two sons (186 BC-6 BC). It is basically a summary of 1-2 Maccabees with additional relevant material from Josephus added. A Syriac version of the sixth chapter of Josephus's Jewish War is also known as 5 Maccabees.
Josephus Flavius Josephus lived from 37 A.D. until about 100 A.D. he was a contemporary of Saint Paul and James the Just, the Brother of Jesus. Josephus was a historian who wrote two important works, "The Antiquities of the Jews" and "The Jewish War." In his books he mentions several men mentioned in the New Testament such as King Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa, Felix, Festus, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and James the Brother of Jesus. His writings give us valuable insight into Bible times. Josephus basically plagiarized from 1 Maccabees but he added supplemental information. Although he basically repeats most of 1 Maccabees verbatim it is an important early witness to the text of 1 Maccabees and Josephus did add some additional information. Josephus was a direct descendent of Jonathon Apphus, the brother of Judas Maccabeus and probably added information into his historical accounts that had been passed down through the Hasmonean family. Josephus also continues the story of the Hasmoneans from where 1 and 2 Maccabees leave off. He records the reign of the Hasmonean dynastry until the rule of King Herod the Great. Herod married into the Hasmonean family.
It is a Hanukkah tradition to read a scroll during the celebration of Hanukkah. That scroll is written in Aramaic and is called the "Megillot Antiochus." It is also called the "Scroll of the Hasmoneans." It was probably composed during the 7th century BC. It is part of the liturgy of the Yemenites Jews. It is included in many Jewish prayer books (called "Siddurs"). It actually isn't a very accurate version of the Hanukkah story. It begins saying,
The Greek monarch Antiochus was a powerful leader. ..He subdued many provinces and might sovereigns; he destroyed their castles, burned their palaces and imprisoned their men…In the twenty-third year of his reign…Antiochus determined to march on Jerusalem. He said to his officers, "you are aware that the Jews of Jerusalem are in our midst…It is indeed a disgrace for the royal government to allow them to remain on the face of the earth. Come now, let us attack them and abolish the covenant made with them: Sabbath, new moon festivals and circumcision." Immediately king Antiochus dispatched his governor Nicanor with a large body of troops. He came to the Jewish city of Jerusalem and massacred many people; he set up a heathen altar in the Temple. In that very place he slaughtered a swine and brought its blood into the holy court.
It has some factual information but it has Jonathan leading the revolt at the beginning. This is an anachronism. Judah Maccabee, Jonathon's older brother led the revolt. Ironically, it is the Christians who have preserved accurately the history of the Hanukkah story in the books of First and Second Maccabees which are considered part of the Canon of Scripture in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
We have three important ancient accounts of the Maccabean revolt. These are First Maccabees, Second Maccabees and Josephus' account, which is an important ancient witness to the text of First Maccabees with important supplemental information added. Certain legendary accounts about the Maccabees are found in later Jewish accounts such as the "Megillith Antiochus" and the Talmud but the myths found therein are not historically reliable and were written several centuries after the Maccabean revolt. (The events of the Maccabees are referred to or alluded to in ancient and contemporary or near-contemporary writings which include the Book of Jubilees, the Testament of Moses and chapter 90 of the Book of Enoch.)
The Miracle of Hanukkah
What is the reason of Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev commence the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit the lamp therewith for eight days. The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recital of Hallel and thanksgiving (Talmud Shabbat 21B).
The story of Hanukkah is a story of foreign oppression, persecution, courage unto death, war, family love, steadfast faith even under horrible torture, martyrdom, devotion to God and the promise of eternal life. But most people when they heard the Hanukkah story learn only about magic oil. Why is this? The original name of Hanukkah was "Festival of Tabernacles in the month of Kislev." The reason it is an eight day holiday is that it was patterned on the Jewish Feast of Sukkot (or "Feast of Tabernacles") which is an eight day holiday.
Now Maccabeus and his company, the Lord guiding them, recovered the Temple and the city: But the altars which the heathen had built in the open street, and also the chapels, they pulled down. And having cleansed the Temple they made another altar, and striking stones they took fire out of them, and offered a sacrifice after two years, and set forth incense, and lights, and shewbread. When that was done, they fell flat down, and besought the Lord that they might come no more into such troubles; but if they sinned any more against him, that he himself would chasten them with mercy, and that they might not be delivered unto the blasphemous and barbarous nations. Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the five and twentieth day of the same month, which is Kislev. And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the Feast of the Tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the Feast of the Tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts. Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place. They ordained also by a common statute and decree, that every year those days should be kept of the whole nation of the Jews. (2 Maccabees 10:1-8)
People often think of Chanukah as the "Festival of Lights." This is not how it is presented in the Bible. The story from the Talmud told above tells of a one day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days and states this miracle is the reason for the celebration of Hanukkah and why it is celebrated for eight days. Jewish people celebrate Hannakah with the Menorah. (A Menorah is a seven branched lamp stand modeled upon sacred furniture that was used in the ancient Temple. The Jewish people have a special nine branched menorah for Hanukkah. Eight of the branches represent the eight days of the festival. The extra branch is the "Shammash" candle. Shammash is Aramaic for "servant." It is the servant candle that is used to light the other candles. The Hanukkah menorah is called a Chanikkiyah.) The actual reason Hanukah lasts the eight days is because it is a second feast of Tabernacles. Due to the war, the Jewish people hadn't been able to properly celebrate Sukkot. When the Temple was liberated, they celebrated Sukkot and they decided to celebrate "Sukkot in December" annually in order to commemorate their victory and the re-dedication of the Temple. The reason Hanukkah was celebrated for eight days was because it is modeled after the Feast of Tabernacles which is also called Sukkot and Sukkot was an eight day festival.
The real "Festival of Lights" is the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus speaks of Himself being the "light of the world" when he was celebrating Sukkot-not when he was celebrating Chanukah (see John 8:12). During the time of Jesus, when Sukkot was celebrated, giant menorahs were erected within the inner courts of the Temple of Jerusalem. According to legend, these huge menorahs put off so much light they illuminated the city of Jerusalem at night. Josephus describes Hanukkah as a "festival of light." The real reason that Hanukkah was a "festival of lights" was because it was patterned on Sukkot. Josephus describes Hanukkah in the following manner,
Now Judas Maccabeus celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.
Notice that Josephus, who lived and wrote during the time period that the New Testament was still being written, knew nothing of a story of one cruse of oil lasting eight days. He believed that it was called the Festival of Light because of the light of freedom and liberty. The book of Second Maccabees, which stresses miraculous events, has no mention of the single cruse of oil lasting eight days. If the author of Second Maccabee knew of any such event, he would surely have included it is his account. The story of the magic cruse of oil is not included in the most ancient historical sources and it is simply not true. It was a myth manufactured several centuries after the first Hanukkah. I feel perpetuating the myth dishonors what Hanukkah is really about, the martyrs who suffered and died and the heroes who fought and all those paid a heavy price with their blood to win religious freedom. The real miracle of Hanukkah is that a small ragtag band of Jewish freedom fighters with no military training or even weapons were able to defeat one of the greatest military powers of the time. I am not going to disgrace these great champions of freedom and insult their memory by including the absurd nonsense about magic oil in my retelling of the Hanukkah story.
We can trace the development of the miracle story associated through the Midrash and the Talmud. The Midrash and the Talmud contain information about Hanukkah. The Midrash is a collection of books that give explanation to the words of the Bible. It also contains the meaning of certain Jewish festivals. A volume of the Midrasah called the Pesikta contains some unique information about Hanukkah. The Talmud also contains information about Hanukkah. The first part of the Talmud is called the Mishna. It was first written down about the year 220 AD. The Mishna says nothing about Hanukkah but the second part of the Talmud, the Gemara, does. The Gemara was written down around the year 500 AD. The Jews at the time did not read the First and Second Books of the Maccabees. (This is illustrated by the fact that the traditional Jewish version of the Hanukkah story, the Megillat Antiochus is full of chronological and factual errors.) They seem to have forgotten why Hanukkah was celebrated for eight days and began to develop stories to explain the practice. These accounts in the Midrash and the Talmud are not as old or as reliable as the accounts we have in Josephus and in the books of the Maccabees. The Jewish people also had forgotten why they lit the Menorah on Hanukkah. (The practice was borrowed from the Feast of Tabernacles. Even Josephus had forgotten. He supposed that the lights were lit to celebrate freedom and liberty.) The stories also tried to explain why Hanukkah was a "Feast of Lights." We see here how the stories evolved over the course of centuries. The earlier account is placed first the latest last. (This development is traced in James Sanders Learning about Chanukah.)
From the Midrash, Pesikta Rabbati, chapter II:
Why are lights kindled on Chanukah? The reason is that when the sons of Mattathias, the High Priest, defeated the Syrian Greeks, they entered the Temple and found eight iron spears. They stuck them in the earth and kindled a light in each one.
(Mattathias was not the High Priest. He was the village priest of the town of Modein. Apparently, his son Jonathon was the first person in the Hasmonean family to be the high priest.)
From the Talmud, Megillat Taanit, chapter 9:
Why is Chanukah observed for eight days? Because in the days of the Greek domination of Palestine, the Hasmoneans recaptured the Temple and rebuilt the altar. They did it with fresh cement, and replaced the serving vessels that had been destroyed. This task took them eight days to accomplish. (Here the Talmud repeats the story of the eight iron spears found in the Midrash.)
From the Talmud, Shabbat 21b:
When the Syrian-Greeks captured the Temple they spoiled all the jugs of oil that the high priest had prepared for the lighting of the Temple Menorah. [The Temple Menorah has seven branches.] They searched and searched until finally found one small jug that still had the seal of the high priest on it [and it had not been opened by the Greeks.] There was only enough oil in it to keep the menorah burning for one day. But a miracle happened! The menorah kept burning for eight days. On the following year, it was decided to observe these [eight] days once again as festive days in which songs of praise and thanksgiving were to be sung.
(In the Midrash, the earlier explanation is that during the cleansing of the Temple the Hasmoneans found eight spears which they made into torches. The earlier explanation in the Talmud is that it took eight days to rebuild the altar. The story of the eight spears is repeated. Then in a later addition to the Talmud, we have the story of the miraculous oil. This story has become the most popular and enduring myth about Hanukkah.) Jews have also developed stories about Alexander the Great. Josephus claims that Alexander was received with honor into Jerusalem and that he sponsored offerings and sacrifices in the sanctuary there. This may or may not be true. Alexander was a very religious man and did seek the blessings of all the gods of the lands he conquered. Another Jewish legend claims that Alexander requested that an image of himself be erected in Jerusalem in order for the Jews to give him honor. The Jews refused but offered to name all their boys Alexander as alternate form of showing their allegiance. According to the legend, Alexander accepted this compromise and showed the Jews his favor.
Had There not Been a Hanukkah, There Wouldn't Have Been A Christmas
"The story of the life of Judas Maccabaeus forms one of the most important episodes in Jewish history, if only because it explains how the nation first developed that peculiar phase of character which marked it at the time when Christianity was given to the world…Had Antiochus Epiphanes stamped out the Jewish faith, no such development would have resulted. Had Judas Maccabaeus lacked the genius through which he triumphed, the lessons of love and duty which were taught by Christianity would, humanly speaking, never have been proclaimed to the world." (Claude Reignier Conder Judas Maccabaeus and the Jewish War of Independence Page 215)
If the Hasmoneans had not resisted and the efforts of the Greeks were successful, the Jewish people would have been exterminated. If that was the case there wouldn't have been a people for the Messiah to come through. These events are important in how they prepared the world for the coming of Jesus and also influenced and created the historical background for the world of the New Testament, including the rise of Aramaic as the language of Jesus. Claude Reignier Conder notes that during the Maccabean revolt, "The language of the mass of the people was no longer Hebrew, but Aramaic, and the classic tongue in which the Law and the Prophets were written was unintelligible to the lower classes. As early as the time of Ezra a translation of the holy books was required, as we find recorded in the famous passage where it is related that "they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."-Neh. vii.8. To this system of interpretation the origin of all the later Targums is traced, for they were at first paraphrases in Aramaic, which gradually became formulated, and which finally were committed to writing after the Christian era. Popular sayings and proverbs are said to have been preserved in Aramaic from an even earlier period than the Hasmonean times, and this dialect remains even now, with but slight modification…The language of the educated was the "tongue of the Holy House," the original Hebrew of the times before the captivity. It stood to Aramaic somewhat in the relation of Latin to Italian, and became the sacred literary language in which the earlier comments on the Law were written" (p. 22-23).
IN THE MIDDLE AGES EUROPEAN CHRISTIANS VIEWED JUDAH MACCABEE AS A "HERO OF THE FAITH." HE WAS A FAVORITE SUBJECT OF ARTISTS, ESPECIALLY HIS BATTLES AGAINST ELEPHANTS. THE EUROPEAN ARTISTS HAD NEVER SEEN ELEPHANTS SO THE ARTWORK APPEARS VERY ODD. SINCE THE STORY OF JUDAS MACCABEUS FORMED PART OF THE CHRISTIAN OLD TESTAMENT AT THE TIME, JUDAS MACCABEUS BECAME A POPULAR BIBLICAL HERO TO MANY CHRISTIANS.
In the Aramaic Christian churches, such as the Assyrian Church of the East, the Maccabean martyrs are still honored and venerated. In The Cult of Mart Shmuni, a Maccabean Martyr, in the Traditions of the Assyrian churches of Mesopotamia by Michael Abdalla, Ph.D., the importance of the Maccabean martyrs in the Aramaic Church tradition is stressed. Dr. Michael Abdalla states,
In the traditions of the Assyrian (Syriac) Churches of Mesopotamia the characters of Shmuni, her seven sons and their teacher, Eleazar are associated with the persecutions of the Jews by the Selecids for their belief in God and unshakable attachment to the Law, and with the successful Maccabean revolt. A detailed picture of the persecutions was immortalized in the First and Second Book of the Maccabees. All nine of them were killed at the same time, however it is the mother of the youths who is mentioned as a saint and "the first female martyr." Despite the fact that none of the Books of the Maccabees mentions her name, all Assyrian Christian sources referring to those events stress that the martyrs name was Shmuni. Inclusion of a Jewish martyr into the ranks of Christian saint was explained with the fact also Christians were killed in mass numbers for the same brave and humble conduct. Those were Christians who in the times of pagan rule refused to pay homage to idols and in the time of ensuing persecutions never renounced Christ. The tradition of the Assyrian Christians went even further, naming Shmuni's sons as Addai, Kaddai, Tarsi, Khiawron, Khiawson, Yawnon and Bakkos and specifying the date of their martyrdom as the 15th day of October 173 BC. The feast day devoted to Mart Shmuni and her sons is celebrated by all the Churches with the Syro-Mesopotamian roots. Liturgy celebrated on that day is preceded by a church feast in the form of a vigil in Mart Shmuni's church or monastery. Can one presume that this feast day goes back to the times before the Third Ecumenical Counsel of Ephesus (431 A.D.)?
(Dr. Abdullah's full article can be found in the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies Volume 23, Number 1, 2009. See www.jaas.org.) We see then that the story of Judah Maccabee has had a profound effect on both Jews and Christians. The valiant acts of Mattathias and Judas Maccabee did more than that, they changed the course of history. When Mattathias struck down his persecutors he exercised his legitimate authority as the village elder of Modein. He was defending himself, his people and their way of life. He took a stand-as a hero- and his heroic act serves as an inspiration to others. Through his courageous act he changed the tide and altered the course of history. This raises the question about when war is just and necessary. Both the Maccabean Revolt and the Battle of Tours were fought in self-defense. In both instances freedom of religion was under attack by a hostile power. The Jews had enjoyed religious tolerance and practiced their religion freely before King Antiochus attempted to eradicate the Jewish religion. The Islamic armies stormed out of the desert and made an un-provoked attack on the Christian and Zoroastrian worlds. The Christians of the Europe and the Christian Franks had never attacked Islam. "Saint" Augustine of Hippo wrote about what is called "Just War Theory" in which he describes instances in which war is justified. (I despise "Saint" Augustine. However, I think he made valid points about just war. He also seems to be correct in his contention that time is something that was created by God. Scientists now believe that time and space emerged from the "Big Bang.") War may be tragic, however, sometimes it can be an even greater tragedy not to fight. If Judah Maccabee didn't fight against the Greeks, we wouldn't have a Holy Bible and Jesus would not have come as He did. If Charles Martel didn't fight the Muslims, they would have destroyed the Christian West and indeed Western Civilization as we know it would never have emerged. Without Charles Martel saving Christianity and Europe, all the technological and scientific progress Europe has been in the forefront of, would never have happened. The consequences of not fighting against evil can be terrible.
Another interesting link between Christianity and Judaism related to Chanukkah is the song "Rock of Ages." Many Christians are familiar with the old hymn, "Rock of Ages."
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy Throne.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
(This hymn alludes to Exodus 33:22 and John 19:31-34.) The Jewish hymn "Rock of Ages" (Maoz Tzur in Hebrew) celebrates the victory of the Maccabees which happened through God's gracious power. (The melodies of these songs are different, of course.)
Rock of Ages let our song,
Praise your saving power.
Thou amidst the raging foes,
Were our sheltering tower.
Furiously they assailed us,
But Thine arm availed us,
And Thy word broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.
Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah
According the Gospel of John, Jesus celebrated Hanukkah in Jerusalem. The Jews had three holidays in which they were required to worship at Jerusalem Passover (Pascha in Aramaic), Pentecost (Shavout in Hebrew) and Tabernacles (Sukkot). Hanukkah was considered a minor holiday and pilgrimage to Jerusalem was not required. However, Jesus observed Hanukkah and He made pilgrimage to Jerusalem to observe this holiday.
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the Dedication [or "Hanukkah" in Aramaic], and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, "How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?" The Jews answered him, saying, "For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, I said, "Ye are gods"? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand. (The Gospel of John 10:22-39)
Jesus was quoting from Psalm 82 which says, "God stands in the assembly of the gods, in the midst of the gods He judges. " How long will you judge unjustly and respect the persons of the wicked?" Selah. Judge the poor and the fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the poor and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither do they understand; they go about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are moved. I said, "You are gods, and all of your sons of God. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall possess all the nations." The "gods" referred here seem to be unjust human rulers, kings, princes and judges. Here at Hanukkah Jesus Christ affirmed his divinity and reminds his followers of their duty to boldly oppose the wicked, especially wicked men and women in positions of authority such as judges, justices, politicians, professors, actors, news "reporters" and Hollywood writers and producers.
Certain Evangelical Christians have described 1st and 2nd Maccabees, our source texts for the observance of Hanukkah as "evil, wicked and demonic." Christians believe that Jesus Christ was sinless. If Hanukkah was "evil, wicked and demonic" as certain Evangelical Christians would have us believe then surely Jesus would not have celebrated such a festival. Since the Bible declared that He did observe Hanukkah there obviously cannot be anything demonic about this feast day.
Hanukkah is a day celebrating the cleansing and the re-dedication of the Temple to God. The Bible speaks of our "bodies" being the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19). Peter speaks of his body being a "tabernacle" (2 Peter 1:12-15) Jesus re-enacted his own "cleansing of the Temple" shortly before his crucifixion. The New Testament declares:
And it came to pass that the Jewish Passover was at hand, and Jesus went to Jerusalem. Jesus went into the Temple. There He found in the Temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves for sacrifice and the moneychangers who collected the half-shekel tax sitting at their tables in their benches. And he took a whip and drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen; and poured out the money of the moneychangers and knocked over their tables. He began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves for sacrifice (John 2:13-15). He threw out all the merchants and their customers and he would not allow anyone to carry wares through the Temple (Mark 11:16). And he said unto them that sold doves, "Take these things out of here! Don't make my Father's house a marketplace!" (John 2:16).
Like the Maccabees, Jesus Christ seized control of the Temple and purified it. (I explore the incident of Christ's cleansing of the Temple more in depth in my book Christ the Man.) Like Judas Maccabeus did before him, Jesus cleansed the Temple of corruption and filth. According to the Gospel of John, the body of Jesus is the New Temple (John 2:19-22). John also identifies Jesus as Beth-el, meaning "House of God" in John 1:50. (Angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, who is Jesus, is an allusion to "Jacob's Dream/Latter" that occurred at Beth-el, meaning "House of God" (Genesis 28:10-17). Are our bodies or lives polluted or corrupted by things displeasing to God. What about our minds-do we have the mind of Christ? Are our minds temples for God? Or have we allowed our minds to be corrupted by "desolating abominations" of impure thoughts. These could be feelings of hatred or thoughts of lust, un-forgiveness or revenge. The Bible says, "Do not be conformed to the world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). Jesus says out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). The good man brings forth goodness from within the evil man evil from within (Matthew 12:35). Perhaps we need to do a spiritual house cleaning and a searching moral inventory. Like the Maccabees, perhaps we need to remove impurity from our Temple, the temple of our hearts, and re-dedicate ourselves anew as living Temples of the Lord (1 Peter 2:5).
The Threat of Anti-Semitism
Although we see persecution of the Israelites in Egypt of the Pharaohs and an attempted pogrom under the Persians in the story of Esther, the earliest form of anti-Semitism developed in the Hellenistic period after Alexander the Great. (According to Josephus, Alexander showed toleration to the Jews and even offered sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem.) We do have ancient records giving the Greek point of view to the events of Hanukkah. Diodorus Siculus wrote in his Bibliotheca Historica XXXIV 1:1-3
Since Antiochus Epiphanes was shocked by such [Jewish] hatred directed against all mankind, he had set himself to abolish their traditional practices. Therefore, he sacrificed a great hog before the idol on the open-air altar and poured its blood over the Jews. Then, having prepared the hog's flesh, he ordered that the Jews holy book, containing the xenophobic laws, be sprinkled with the broth of this meat. The lamp, which they call undying since it burns continually in the Temple, was to be extinguished. Antiochus ordered the High Priest and the rest of the Jews to eat of that meat. A generation later the royal advisors of Antiochus VII strongly advised the king to "wipe out the nation of the Jews, since they alone of all nations avoid dealing with other people and look upon all men as their enemies."
The Roman historian Tacitus in his Histories V:8. Tacitus says, "After the Macedonians became great power, King Antiochus tried to free the Jews of superstition and give them Greek ways, but he was prevented from changing the most loathsome of peoples for the better by his war with the Parthians…Then when the Macedonians were weak and the Parthians had not yet reached full stature and the Romans were far away, the Jews appointed over themselves kings."
Anti-Semitism isn't just a problem of the past, it is a clear and present danger. Anti-Semitism is exploding across Europe. Extreme Anti-Semitism is widespread across the Arab and the Islamic World. When I lived in Egypt and Syria I was revolted by hatred of Jews that the vast majority of Arabs have. Little children are brainwashed to hate the Jewish people. Arabic "news" programs broadcasts promote hatred of Jews. In Syria I saw banners in Arabic and English erected all across the country emblazoned with Anti-Jewish statements. (Arabs are "Semitic"-but many Arabs are Anti-Semitic Semites.) Posters showing Jews with claws and fangs and attacking and eating children were everywhere in Syria. In Arab countries it is taught in school and announced on the nightly news that Jews ritually sacrifice human beings and mix the blood of their human sacrificial victims into their Passover bread. (This absurd tale is called the "Blood Libel" and it is unfortunately alive and well. The documentary film "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" shows footage of extreme anti-Jewish propaganda that is broadcast throughout the Arab world. Please view it for yourself.) The vast majority (I would say over 75%) of Arabs in the Middle East literally believe that the Jewish Passover is a cannibalistic feast. (I have lived in the Middle East for lengthy periods and interacted with Arabs extensively.) Arab governments publish books and print stories in the newspapers about all Jews eating people. It is massive brainwashing and they seriously believe it. (People who say otherwise have not lived in the Middle East and interacted with Arabs as I have. That or they are dishonest.) I have traveled all across the Middle East talking to many people. Virtually all Arabs have a passionate hatred of Jews. In the Middle East and the Islamic world, the extreme is the mainstream. I believe that the leaders of various regimes are so mentally unbalanced and deranged that they actually do believe these delusions. (On the other hand, ignorant, mis-educated and uneducated people are easy to control. Also, such extreme views divert anger away from the people causing the country's problems, the regime, and onto a make-believe enemy-the cannibalistic Jew.) I think Christians need to pray about this serious problem. Hopefully, the lies will be exposed and they will stop broadcasting them. We must expose these people and hold them accountable for their words and actions. As long as this indoctrination in hatred continues peace will continue to elude us. Peace talks should not continue until the incitement of hatred stops.
In the early 1900s, an agent of the secret police of the Tsar in Russia, plagiarized from a book entitled "Machiavelli and Montesquieu in Hell." This book was a satirical denunciation of the French government and was not anti-Semitic. Using this book, the Russian agent created a new book about the Jewish "hidden hand" that is behind all the evil in the world. The book "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" was written as if it were written by Jews describing their conspiracy to bring the world under their control. It has been exposed as a hoax repeatedly. Also, the person who wrote it didn't understand the Jewish religion and makes several obvious errors. (Examples: references to Hindu gods, which no Rabbi would make, no quotations from the Talmud or other Jewish writings or individuals, referring to God as "Jehovah." Jews have come to believe the Sacred Name is not to be uttered and no longer know the correct pronunciation.). Despite being exposed as a fraud this book still have tremendous influence. One reason why Hitler carried out his "final solution" is that he was influenced from reading this book. Millions of people died because of this evil book. (Censorship is bad. However, certain books can have a very bad influence. Such books include "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," Hitler's "Mein Kamph," Alexander Hislops "The Two Babylons," Henry Ford's "The International Jew," Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," and Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto." This issue is dealt with in the book "Ten Books that Screwed Up the World" by Benjamin Wiker.) For more information about the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," I would strongly recommend "The Plot" by Will Eisner. When we think about Chanukkah, I think it would also be a good time to reflect on the evils of extreme anti-Semitism. It is a very real threat to the Jewish people and indeed all mankind and we must take it very seriously. "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" is still in print and is still very influential especially in the Arabic and Islamic world.)
Many Anti-Semites try to make their hatred more acceptable by disguising their Anti-Semitism as so-called "Anti-Zionism." Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism. (I am sure that Israel has made mistakes as every nation has. And sometimes I feel pity for the Palestinian people. However, you cannot have peace or progress towards peace with the amount of hate and Anti-Semitism coming from the Palestinians. Before peace negotiations continue, we must stop the incitement of ethnic and religious hatred coming from the Palestinians. The poisoning of the minds of the young is so insidious that a character dressed up as Mickey Mouse named Farfour (meaning "Butterfly" in Arabic) goes on Palestinian children's television and incites small children to kill Christians and Jews and to wage Jihad against the unbeliever. You can see such incitement for yourself. The film "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" gives many such examples from Middle Eastern television broadcasts. Another concern is how Israel is condemned when it takes legitimate security measures, such as building barriers to protect women and children from suicide attacks. Often, after Palestinian terrorists have been launching hundreds of rockets into Israel every day, when Israel strikes back they call it a "disproportionate response." I wish we had a media establishment that didn't serve as a PR firm for terrorist organizations. ) Concerning the State of Israel, we have a religious and ethnic minority, the Jewish people, living in a region dominated by the Arabic language and culture and the religion of Islam. Israel has complete religious freedom for all its minority religions and Arabic is a recognized language in Israel. How are ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities treated elsewhere in the region? Many people suggest that the very existence of the State of Israel is the root of the instability in the Middle East and if Israel wasn't an independent nation there would be peace, tolerance and stability in the Middle East. Is this true? A way to find out would be to observe how minorities are treated in Arab countries. There are different types of minorities in the Arab world 1. Religious minorities, 2. Linguistic minorities, and 3. Deviant Islamic sects. The largest religious minority in the Middle East includes Christian denominations, mostly Catholic rite and Eastern Orthodox, but there are also Mandaeans, the followers of John the Baptist and Yezidis, a pagan religion. Most Mandaeans and Yazidis are Iraqi. There used to be large communities of Jews, mostly in Morocco, Egypt and Yemen. Almost all of these Jews have fled to Israel in order to escape the hatred and intolerance in the Islamic world. Who are the Christians of the Middle East? They include Copts of Egypt, Maronites of Lebanon, Syrian Orthodox, Arab Christians-Greek Orthodox and Catholic, and Aramaic Christians-Assyrian and Chaldean. Due to Islamic intolerance Middle Eastern Christianity is in serious decline, it is in its initial steps of dying out. They could be saved if America demanded their human rights be protected, took steps to end inflammatory rhetoric on Arab media and in mosques and took steps to counter the influence of Saudi Arabia, and its radical Wahibi cult. There are also language minorities-this includes the Kurds in Mesopotamia and the Berbers in North Africa, who speak Kurdish and Berber respectively. In certain religions, both of these groups are actually majorities-however they are discriminated against and the speaking of their language in public is forbidden (and even illegal). Those who press for their human rights face arrest. Another important linguistic and religious minority are the Aramaic speaking Christians, specifically the Assyrians. Aramaic is a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. There are also Armenian Christians who speak a European related language. Deviant Islamic sects include the Druze and the Alawites. Both of these sects believe in reincarnation and that Allah has become physically incarnate. (The Druze believe Al-Hakim was God incarnate-the Alawites believe Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed, was Allah incarnate.) All minority religious, linguistic and ethnic groups are discriminated against throughout the Arabic and greater Islamic world.
Islam is not just a religion, it is a form of Arabic culture and a legal and political system and it wants to dominate and Arabize the Middle East and the entire world. Before the dawn of Islam-there was more pluralism and diversity in the Middle East-with Aramaic, Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Latin and other groups. Now we have Islamic Arabic dominance. A type of religious apartheid is built into Islamic law. By Islamic law, religious minorities, or really any non-Islamic religion, must be subjected to a state of "humiliation" according to the Koran, and according to Islamic law, Christians and Jews must be discriminated against (The Koran, Sura 9:29). We must speak out against Islamist extremism. The survival of the human species is what is at stake. Robert Spencer has two websites, one is "jihad watch" and the other is "Dhimmi Watch." Robert Spencer says in "Why Dhimmi Watch?"
Dhimmitude is the status that Islamic law, the Sharia, mandates for non-Muslims, primarily Jews and Christians. Dhimmis, "protected people," are free to practice their religion in a Sharia regime, but are made subject to a number of humiliating regulations designed to enforce the Qur'ans command that they "feel themselves subdued" (Sura 9:29). This denial of equality of rights and dignity remains part of the Sharia, and, as such, is part of the law that global jihadists are laboring to impose everywhere, ultimately on the entire human race. The dhimmi attitude of chastened subservience has entered into Western academic study of Islam, and from there into journalism, textbooks, and the popular discourse. One must not point out the depredations of jihad and dhimmitude; to do so would offend the multiculturalists ethos that prevails everywhere today. But in this era of global terrorism this silence and distortion has become deadly. Therefore Dhimmi Watch seeks to bring public attention to the plight of dhimmis, and by doing so, to bring them justice.
There has been and is currently ethnic cleaning of minority groups in the Arab/Islamic world and has also been a major holocaust in which over one million Christians were slaughtered in the twentieth century. The most intense persecution of Christians of the region was the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1925 in which one million Armenian Christians and tens of thousands of Aramaic Christians were slaughtered by Moslems. The Aramaic people currently face Arabization-in which they are forced to assimilate into the Arabic language and culture- and suffering intense religious persecution which has forced many to flee the region and has created a refugee situation. According to Islamic law- all non-Moslems are "Dhimmis" and are according to Koranic injunctions to live in humiliation. Recently a Turkish man did a thorough investigation of the Armenian Genocide. He discovered (unsurprisingly) that it was a carefully planned and orchestrated campaign directed by Islamic officials of the Turkish government to exterminate all Armenians and Assyrians. The author is Taner Akcan and the book is entitled A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. The governments of the United States, Briton, Turkey and Israel deny the Assyrian-Armenian Holocaust occurred. Hitler admitted that his study of the Armenian holocaust convinced him that he could kill all the Jews and get away with it-like the Turks did to their Armenians and Assyrians. I think it is shameful (and hypocritical) that America and Israel deny this holocaust happened.
At the time of the Maccabees, the Greeks of Syria threatened the Jewish people. In a case of history repeating itself, Syria again has risen as an enemy of the Jewish people. In his "Lost History of Christianity" Mr. Jenkins mentions similarities between the Alawite sect of the Syrian regime and Christianity. What is the Alawite sect? Alawites are like an Islamic cult-perhaps similar to how Mormonism is seen as a "Christian" cult. They believe that Ali, a relative of the Prophet Mohammed, is God Incarnate. Like the Druze religion they are very secretive about their religious beliefs. Only adult men over 30 years old are allowed to know what their religion teaches. Anthropologists have made some discoveries about their beliefs. Apparently, they believe the moon and stars are souls of the departed. They may believe in reincarnation, like the Druze do. They do observe certain Christian holidays. Alawites are basically a tribe that is led by village elders. They do apparently have secret scriptures. They live around Latakia and make up about 10% of the population of Syria or perhaps less. Like the Druze, they identify themselves with Islam. Hafez Assad was a Alawite who staged a successful coup in Syria and he put his Alawite tribe in charge of the country. Because Alawites are not viewed as "true Moslems" there was an Islamic backlash. The Moslem Brotherhood revolted and took over the city of Hama. The Alawite regime leveled the entire city and killed everyone inside it, men, women and children. It is estimated that 25,000 people were slaughtered. For a short while, the Alawites strictly monitored Islamic extremism. However, Damascus is now a terrorist haven. All major terrorist organizations have their offices in Damascus and work openly. The government of Syria is radically anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. It is like Nazi Germany. Plain clothes secret police, called the Mukhbarat, are everywhere. Churches are monitored. At first, Syria formed a close relationship with the Soviet Union. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Syria wanted to remain a satellite state so it became Iran's satellite state. Hafez Assad had a Moslem Mullah write a Fatwa (a fatwa is a religious judicial ruling, sort of like a papal bull, it is an official statement of religious doctrine or dogma) that stated that Alawites are actually Shiite "twelvers" Moslems. In Syria, it is forbidden to talk about the Alawites. If you are a Syrian, you can be arrested for doing so. So, in Syria you can see radical Islamic organizations receiving state support, Iranian mosques are popping up everywhere. The government settles Moslems and builds mosques in Christian villages. Syria and Iran control Lebanon and assassinate Christian leaders there and support Hezbollah, which often attacks Israel. After Hafez Assad died, the Alawite village elders met and approved his son, Bashir Assad, as the new president of Syria. He continues his father's oppressive policies and the state of war against Israel. (After his brother Basel Assad died in an accident Bashir was chosen to be the heir apparent.) The Alawites identify themselves with radical Shiite Iranian-style Islam, they are against Christianity. Whatever Christian influence the Alawite religion has or once had, in reality, now the Alawites are supporters or radical terrorist Islam and work to weaken Christianity in Syria and Lebanon. Syria is a serious threat to Israel. I have lived in the Middle East and have seen the problems firsthand.
Hatred and intolerance is unacceptable, whether it is coming from Europeans, Arabs or even Jews. The Jewish people and the State of Israel have no greater supporters than the Evangelical Christians in the United States. Despite this fact, I have seen Jewish groups using hateful inflammatory rhetoric against Evangelical Christians in particular and Christians in general. An example is Rabbi James Rubin in his book "The Baptizing of America." In this book he has a very bizarre conspiracy theory: Evangelical Christians are plotting to overthrow the government of the United States! In the book he invents pejorative terms to use against Christians, who he calls "Christocrats." ("Religious Right" is an anti-Christian pejorative term that is widely used.) He is a purveyor of hatred and intolerance. While hatred of Jews must be opposed, hatred coming from the Jewish community, as we see in the case of Rabbi Rubin, must be opposed as well. (Mike Weinstein and his anti-Christian hate-group the "Military Religious Freedom Foundation" is another example.) We need to be vigilant to defend our religious liberties and take a courageous stand against all those who threaten our freedoms, even if they come from the Jewish community.
Liberals focus the brunt of their efforts on efforts to marginalize people of faith-even attempts to illegalize religion. (As is clearly demonstrated in Ben Stein's documentary "Expelled" and Bill Maher's movie "Religulous." The Left's ideas of social progress also includes efforts to downgrade the importance of mortality and ethics, efforts to relieve individuals of personal responsibility for their own actions and the creation of an all powerful government that infringes on personal liberty. They aspire to illegalize free speech through politically correct speech codes (like in the novel 1984) and create thought crimes (now on the books and called "hate crimes"). Many Liberals are wild-eyed fanatical zealous adherents to a secular religion. Self-loathing liberals have a burning passionate hatred for America, Christianity, and especially American Christianity. We now see a re-birth of Anti-Semitism exploding all across Europe and across colleges and universities in the United States. Anti-Semitism is now often thinly disguised as "Anti-Zionism." The most extreme anti-Semites I have encountered in America have been Liberal "anti-Zionism" Democrats. These beliefs of Liberalism are diametrically opposed to the core precepts of traditional Judaism. Indeed, the laws, tradition, and commandments of traditional Judaism are at variance with modern "progressive" liberalism. Despite this fact, the majority of Jews are liberal. Certain prominent liberals of Jewish descent, Oliver Stone and George Soros for example, have come under fire for making what was understood to be anti-Semitic comments. This illustrates how widespread and acceptable anti-Semitism is among the Left. Norman Podhertz
said, "Liberalism has become the religion of American Jews even though it conflicts in substance with the Torah…and the most basic of all Jewish interests-the survival of the Jewish people."The enigma of Jews supporting an ideology diametrically opposed to everything Judaism stands for and an ideology that threatens their continued existence as a people is explored in Why are Jews Liberals? By Norman Podhoretz, Why Jews should not be Liberals by Larry Sternberg, and America's Real War by Rabbi Daniel Lapin
The Maccabees and "Atonement for Sin"
For they became the ransom to the sin of the nation; and the Divine Providence saved Israel, aforetime afflicted, by the blood of those pious ones, and the propitiatory death.
4 Maccabees 17:22
Be merciful to your people and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs. (Eleazar speaking: 4 Maccabees 6:28-29)
In the Bible, the Atonement of Jesus, his death on the cross, is described as a "ransom" (Matthew 20:28, 1 Timothy 2:6). According to Christian doctrine, Jesus died on the cross to make atonement for the sins of mankind in order to redeem the world. Certain groups have emerged within Judaism. They call themselves "Anti-Missionaries." One such group is an organization called "Jews for Judaism." Their founding purpose was supposedly to strengthen the faiths of Jews and to keep them from leaving their faith. Whatever the original purposes of their organizations or their original intent, they have degenerated into anti-Christian hate groups. They are basically anti-Christian organizations. They target Christianity and not other non-Jewish religions or belief systems that some Jewish people are drawn to, such as Buddhism, the New Age Movement and Atheism. They attack Christianity and accuse Christianity of being "pagan." They state that many Christian concepts are foreign to Judaism. Sometimes they say things that simply are not true. For instance, I read a Jewish article saying that unlike Christianity, a religion founded by "Christ" and Buddhism, a religion founded by Buddha, Judaism is not named after one individual. But that isn't really true. The word "Judaism" is derived from Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Israel (Genesis 38). Another thing that I read from the same article is that the idea of one man interceding for the sins of others is an idea foreign to Judaism. However, in the Sacred Text of Judaism, Abraham and Moses are depicted as interceding with God for Him to have mercy upon sinners (Genesis 18:16-33, Exodus 32:30-35). A major teaching of the Torah is that Aaron, the high priest, was to intercede before God for the people (Leviticus 16). Anti-missionaries will also say that the idea of blood atonement for sin is an idea foreign from Judaism. However, the book of Leviticus in the Torah describes blood atonement for sin through animal sacrifices (Leviticus 6:24-30). The Anti-missionaries also state that the idea that one man could save others by his sacrificial death and ransom the souls of others to God through his virtuous deeds is foreign to Judaism and is a "pagan" concept. The idea of a person, a man or a woman, making atonement for the sins of others through their suffering is historically an ancient Jewish concept. An ancient Jewish writing from before the time of Jesus and the rise of Rabbinic Judaism has survived. This book is basically a commentary on the story of the Maccabean martyrs. It is entitled Fourth Maccabees. The thesis of Fourth Maccabees is that the Maccabean martyrs died for the sins of Israel and redeemed Israel from their sins and made atonement and ransomed them by their sufferings and deaths. Fourth Maccabees says,
For Moses saith, And all the saints are under thine hands (Deut. 33:3). Therefore these having been sanctified through God, have been honored not only with this honour, but also their means the enemy did not overcome our nation; and that though their means the enemy did not overcome our nation; and that the tyrant was punished, and their country purified. For they became the ransom to the sin of the nation; and the Divine Providence saved Israel, aforetime afflicted, by the blood of those pious ones, and the propitiatory death. For the tyrant Antiochus, looking to their manly virtue, and to their endurance in torture, proclaim that endurance as an example to his soldiers…When those persons giving up their bodies to pains for the sake of religion, were not only admired by men, but were deemed worthy of a divine portion. And the nation through them obtained peace, and having renewed the observance of the law in their country, drove the enemy out of the land.
If the Maccabean martyrs could ransom Israel through their suffering and deaths, surely the Messiah, the King of Israel, could do the same! So we see that the concept of a righteous man dying for the sins of others is an ancient Jewish concept from before the first century. The Anti-missionaries are putting out bogus information. People need to realize that Judaism has evolved over the centuries. Judaism as it existed in the Old Testament period, Judaism of the time of Christ, Rabbinic Judaism and modern Judaism are all different from each other. The idea that one man could die for the sins of others may be foreign to some modern day rabbi's concept of Judaism. However, it is not foreign to ancient or historical Judaism. Any rabbi that makes such a claim is betraying his ignorance of his own religion and its ancient texts.
The idea that Christianity is "pagan" is a very fallacious argument. The same arguments can be made against Judaism. If Christianity is "pagan" so is Judaism. Recent archeological discoveries show that the pagan neighbors of the ancient Israelites worshiped in manners very similar to the Jews. (And these modes of worship pre-date Judaism-and even Abraham-by many centuries.) An ancient pagan temple has been discovered in Syria which is very similar to how King Solomon's temple is described in the Holy Bible. (And it is much older than Solomon's Temple.) One Psalm and several chapters of the Book of Proverbs and been found to have been derived from ancient Egyptian texts. (Psalm 104 from the Holy Bible seems to be derived from the ancient Egyptian "Hymn to Aten." Proverbs 22:17-24:22 is a quotation from the ancient Egyptian scroll entitled "The Wisdom of Amenemope." Ancient Egyptian's circumcised and kept many ceremonial practices very similar to those found in the Jewish Torah.) Archeology has shown us that the ancient Israelites were not as different from their pagan neighbors as many have been led to believe. Archeological discoveries of the ancient Israelites and their so-called "pagan" neighbors has tremendously expanded our understanding of the Holy Bible and are vastly superior to certain rabbinic commentaries written by rabbis who were far removed from the time of the Bible, who occasionally misunderstood the sacred text because did not possess the accurate scientific evidence which we have now discovered. Besides that, not everything that is supposedly "pagan" is wrong or bad. Archeological discoveries help us to get into the minds of the ancients. Through archeological discoveries we learn about how the ancients lived and what they believed. Dismissing historical information because it is "pagan" can severely limit our understanding of the Bible. Consider this, what will help us to understand the Bible better, archeological discoveries that are contemporary with the ancient text of the Bible or commentaries written by a rabbi in Europe, one thousand to fifteen hundred years after the Scriptures were written? Even Judah Maccabee was willing to learn from and form alliances with so-called "pagans," being his Roman, Spartan and Nabatean Arab allies. Judah Maccabee was fiercely devoted to Judaism but he was wise enough to befriend and learn from so-called "pagan" allies. (However, it was his brother Jonathon who forged the alliances with the Spartans.)
We should remember how Jews have been persecuted. However, it should be borne in mind that Moslems have persecuted Jews as well. Also, many Christian kingdoms in Europe granted the Jews sanctuary and protection. Many ancient Jewish writings, such as the Apocrypha and other ancient Jewish writings, were preserved by Christians and not by Jews. There have been periods of interfaith communion and cooperation between Christians and Jews. During the Renaissance, Christians began to study Jewish philosophical words such as the Kaballah and the Talmud. The first printed Hebrew Bible was a joint endeavor of Christians and Jews. Anti-Semitism must be condemned. But when someone tries to create a distorted jaundiced view of Christian history this troubles me. We must resoundingly condemn Anti-Semitism. As a Christian, I am proud of what Christian civilization has accomplished. Saint John Chrysostom and Martin Luther made anti-Semitic comments. This does not mean that all of the early church fathers or all the reformers were evil. Some of the early church fathers were Jewish (such as Hegissipus). (Certain people take certain quotes from Luther and Chrysostom and quote them in order to make Christianity look bad. In the same manner, Anti-Semites have taken certain quotes out of the Talmud that speak ill of gentiles in order to create a negative image of Judaism. Both of these groups are attempting to do the same thing-spread hatred.) Christians need to celebrate their heritage and be wary of giving in to anti-Christian propaganda and pseudo-historical revisionism.
Shining the Light of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom. During the Festival of Hanukkah Jews conspicuously and proudly display their Jewish identity by placing the Hannukiyah, the Hanukkah Menorah, in their windows for all to see. (The Hannukiyah is a nine branched menorah. Eight branches represent the eight days of Hanukkah. The ninth branch is the Shammash, or servant candle, which is the candle that is used to light all the other candles. On the first day of Hanukkah, one candle along with the Shammash is lighted. One more candle is lighted every day until the eighth day in which all the candles are lighted. To Messianic Jews, the Shammash candle represents Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.) The prominent display of the Hanukkah menorah fulfills the Hanukkah commandment of PIRSUMEI NISA, which is Aramaic for "publicizing the miracle," referring to the anti-assimilating Maccabean revolutionaries victory over the Syrian Greek army in the second century before Christ. Exhibiting menorahs for all to see to in order to publicly proclaim and celebrate religious freedom and the Jewish identity fulfils the Pirsumei Nisa mandate. Certain Jewish groups encourage the public display of the Hanukkah menorah to celebrate the Jewish identity. The shining lights bring the radiance of the menorah to as many dark places as possible celebrating the triumph of the Maccabees and the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
Part of the traditional Jewish celebration of Hanukkah is the spinning of the dreydel. The dreydel is a top. It is used in various Hanukkah games. The draydel has four sides that are marked with four Hebrew letters. They are nun, gamal, hey, and sheen. The letters represent an acronym. They stand for nes gadol haya sham. Translated this means "A Great Miracle Happened There." The miracle occurred in the land of Israel. Therefore the letters on dreydals in Israel are nun, gamal, hey, and pey. The acronym in Israel is nes gadol haya po-a great miracle happened here! (The legend about the Dreydal is this: During the time of the Maccabees it was forbidden to study Torah. If a Syrian soldier came upon them as they were doing so theJews would take out a dreydal and play a game as a distraction while they quickly hid the scrolls. Thus they acted as if they had not been studying Torah but had rather been gambling. Another version says that the Jews were not allowed to pray. When they were discovered praying they would act as if they had only been playing with the dreydal.)
In his commentary on 1 Maccabees, Jonathan A. Goldstein refers to an ancient prayer called the Al-Hannissim prayer. He dates this prayer to 134-104 BC.
We give thanks to You, for You are the LORD our God and the God of our fathers; You are the firm foundation of our lives, our protecting shield. Throughout all generations we shall give thanks to You and tell Your praise, because of our lives which are given into Your hands, because of our souls which are entrusted to You, because of Your miracles which are daily with us, and because of Your wondrous and beneficent acts which come every day and at every hour, evening, morning and noon. O beneficent One-Your mercies have never ended. O merciful One-Your lovingkindness have never ceased. Indeed, we have always put our hopes in You.
Because of the miracles and because of the deliverance and because of the mighty deeds and because of the victories and because of the wars, redemption, and deliverance which you have wrought for our fathers in the days of yore at this season in the days of Mattathias, son of Yohanan, great priest, Hashmonay, and his sons, when the wicked Hellenistic empire rose against them, against Your people Israel, to make them forget Your Torah and to make them violate the statures willed by You, and You in Your abundant mercy stood by them in their time of trouble, pleaded their cause, judged their suit, and wreaked their vengeance: You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the unclean into the hands of the pure, the wicked in to the hands of the righteous, and the arrogant into the hands of those who were devoted to Your Torah; and Yourself You won renown in Your world for greatness and holiness, and for Your people Israel You won a great victory and deliverance to this very day; thereafter, Your children came to the inner shrine of Your temple and cleansed Your nave and purified Your sanctuary and kindled lights in Your holy courts and established these eight days of Hanukkah to give You thanks and praise for Your many miracles and wondrous acts.
466 BC Accession of Artaxerxes Longimus over the throne of the Persian Empire.
460 BC Ezra the Scribe (author of the Book of Ezra in the Bible) is sent to Jerusalem by the Persians in order for him to teach the Jewish people the Law of Moses.
447 BC Nehemiah (the author of the Book of Nehemiah in the Holy Bible) is sent to Jerusalem. Eliashib is the Jewish high priest.
424 BC Accession of Darius II. Joida is the Jewish High Priest.
405 BC Accession of Artaxerxes II.
359 BC Accession of Ochus I
338 BC Accession of Arogus I. Jonathon I is the Jewish High Priest.
334 BC Accession of Darius III.
333 BC Alexander the Great visits Jerusalem. Jaddua Jewish High Priest.
324 BC The death of Alexander. Onias I is Jewish High Priest.
313 BC Era of the Seleucid rule in Syria begins.
310 Simon I is the Jewish High Priest.
305 Accession of Ptolemy I, son of Lagos and Antiochus I Soter.
285 Accession of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Eleazar II is the Jewish High Priest.
277 The Septuagint Translation of the Old Testament is made.
276 Manasseh is the Jewish High Priest
263 Accession of Antiochus II
250 Onias II is Jewish High Priest. Antigonus of Soccho is president of the Sanhedrin.
248 Accession of Seleucus II.
247 Accession of Ptolemy III Euergetes.
228 Accession of Seleucus III
225 Antiochuc III the Great
223-166 BC Seleucid Rule over Judea.
222 Ptolemy IV Philopater
219 Ptolemy V Epiphanes. Simon II is the Jewish high priest.
199 Onias III Jewish High Priest. Jose Ben Jossus President of the Sanhedrin.
181 Accession of Ptolemy VI
175-164 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Jason High Priest.
172 Meneleus High Priest of the Jews.
170 Antiochus takes Jerusalem.
168-167 BC Judaism prohibited
167 The Jews revolt
166-161 BC Judas Maccabeus leads the Jews
December 164 BC Temple re-taken and rededicated. The first Chanukah.
163 Sabbatical year. Antiochus V Eupater takes Jerusalem.
162 Accession of Demetrius. Alcimus is the Jewish High Priest.
160 Death of Judah Maccabee. Joshua ben Pherahi President of the Sanhedrin.
161-143 BC Jonathon leads the Jewish people
143-135 BC Simon is leader of the Jews (in 142 BC Simon was granted the status of ruler of an independent Judea) In 143 Simon the Hasmonian becomes the Jewish High Priest Simon III and is named Ethnarch of the Jews.
142 BC First year of Jewish independence.
26-33 AD Public ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At his Ascension, Christ gives his "Great Commission" to his Apostles.
The Hasmonean Era
ANTIOCHUS, THE RULER OF THE SELEUCID GREEKS, HAD HIMSELF DECLAREDTO BE A GOD AND DEMANDED THAT HE BE ADDRESSED "EPIPHANES," MEANING "GOD MANIFEST" IN GREEK. TO THE JEWS, HOWEVER, HE WAS "EPIMANES," MEANING "THE MADMAN." ANTIOCHUS DECLARED WAR AGAINST THE LORD GOD AND DECIDED TO DESTROY THE BIBLE AND ALL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. ANTIOCHUS DESECRATED THE JEWISH TEMPLE BY POURING PIG BLOOD WITHIN THE SACRED COURTS SINCE THE JEWS VIEWED SWINE AS "UNCLEAN" ANIMALS. HE THEN
ERECTED A STATUE OF ZEUS IN THE TEMPLE OF GOD. THE FACE OF ZEUS WAS SCULPTED TO RESEMBLE ANTIOCHUS. THE ACT OF ERECTING AN IDOL IN THE TEMPLE WAS CALLED THE "ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION" AND IS MENTIONED BY DANIEL THE PROPHET AND JESUS THE CHRIST
ELEAZAR CALLED AVARAN ELEAZAR WAS FULL OF RECKLESS COURAGE. AT THE BATTLE OF BETH ZECHARIAH HE CHARGED AND KILLED A WAR ELEPHANT. THE ELEPHANT FELL UPON AVARAN AND CRUSHED HIM TO DEATH. HE CHARGED THE ELEPHANT BECAUSE IT WAS THE LARGEST AND HAD ORNATE ARMOR. ELEAZAR ASSUMED THAT IT WAS THE BATTLE ELEPHANT CARRYING THE KING. IN ARAMAIC "AVARAN" MEANS "THE AWL." THE FOURTH SON OF MATTATHIAS, ELEAZAR WAS THE FIRST TO DIE. ALL THE SONS OF ATTATHIAS DIED FOR THE FREEDOM OF THEIR PEOPLE AND THE CAUSE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.
JOHN CALLED GADDI JOHN, OR JOHANNAN, WAS THE FIRST BORN SON OF MATTATHIAS. THE NABATEAN ARABS WERE ALLIES OF JUDAH AND FOUGHT WITH THE JEWS AGAINST THE GREEKS. HOWEVER, A TRAITORIOUS ARAB NAMED JAMBRI BETRAYED AND MURDERED JOHN. JOHN SEEMS TO HAVE DIED SHORTLY AFTER THE DEATH OF HIS BROTHER JUDAH. LATER, SIMON AND JONATHON AVENGED THE DEATH OF THEIR BROTHER.
JONATHAN CALLED APPHUS JONATHON WAS THE YOUNGEST OF THE SONS OF MATTATHIAS. HE ASSUMED LEADERSHIP OF THE MACCABEAN REVOLUTION UPON THE DEATH OF HIS BROTHER IN 160 BC. JONATHON LATER BECAME THE HIGH PRIEST OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. JONATHON WAS TAKEN HOSTAGE BY TRYPHO AND MURDERED IN 143 AD. THE HISTORIAN JOSEPHUS CLAIMED TO BE DESCENDED FROM A DAUGHTER OF JONATHON. JONATHON IS THE HERO OF THE ARAMAIC "MEGOLLITH ANTIOCHUS" WHICH IS THE TRADITIONAL JEWISH VERSION OF THE STORY OF THE MACCABEES. HIS NAME IN ARAMAIC MEANS "IMAGE" AND MAY REFER TO HIS ROLE AS DIPLOMAT OR REPRESENTATIVE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
JOSEPHUS: Flavius Josephus lived from 37 A.D. until about 100 A.D. he was a contemporary of Saint Paul and James the Just, the Brother of Jesus. Josephus was a historian who wrote two important works, "The Antiquities of the Jews" and "The Jewish War." In his books he mentions several men mentioned in the New Testament such as King Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa, Felix, Festus, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and James the Brother of Jesus. His writings give us valuable insight into Bible times. Josephus was a direct descendent of Jonathon Apphus, the brother of Judas Maccabeus and probably added information into his historical accounts that had been passed down through the Hasmonean family.
JUDAH MACCABEE-THE HAMMER OF GOD JUDAH WAS THE THIRD BORN SON OF MATTATHIAS. HE WAS A GREAT WARRIOR AND A BRILLIANT TACTICIAN. DUE TO HIS COURAGE AND HIS VICTORIES OVER MUCH LARGER FORCES, HE CAME TO BE CALLED "THE HAMMERER," OR "THE HAMMER" WHICH IS MAQQABA IN ARAMAIC. JUDAH ("YEHUDAH MAQQABA" IN ARAMAIC) IS ALSO KNOWN AS JUDAS MACCABEUS AND JUDAH MACCABEE. EACH ONE OF THE FIVE SONS OF MATTATHIAS HAD THEIR OWN DISTINCTIVE ARAMAIC NICKNAME. STRICTLY SPEAKING, JUDAH WAS THE ONLY ONE CALLED "MACCABEE." HOWEVER, DUE TO HIS FAME, ALL OF THIS BROTHERS AND EVEN HIS FATHER, ARE SOMETIMES CALLED "THE MACCABEES."JUDAH'S MAIN WEAPON WAS THE MAJESTIC SWORD OF APOLLONIUS, WHICH HE WON FROM HIS ADVERSARY IN SINGLE COMBAT. JUDAH DIED IN COMBAT. GEORGE FREDERIC HANDEL WROTE A FAMOUS ORATORIO ENTITLED 'JUDAS MACCABEUS' IN 1746.
MATTATHIAS ("MATTITYAHOO BAR HASHMONAY" IN ARAMAIC) WAS THE VILLAGE PRIEST OF MODEIN (OR 'MODITHA' IN ARAMAIC, MEANING "DECLARERS") AND PATRIARCH OF THE HASMONEAN CLAN, WHO
WERE THE DESCENDENTS OF HASHMON, A PRIEST OF THE ORDER OF JOARIB.
MATTATHIAS WAS ELDERLY AND DIED WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR OF THE MACCABEAN REVOLUTION. THE FIVE SONS OF MATTATHIAS BECAME THE
LEADERS OF THE JEWISH RESISTANCE.
Onias III: The son of Simon II. As Jewish High Priest he came into conflict with the Seleucid government and was deposed by Antiochus Epiphanes. He was replaced by his brother and later murdered. Certain Bible scholars believe that he is mentioned in the Bible at Daniel 8:10-11, 9:26, and 11:27. (The name "Onias" was pronounced Honiyya or Honi-yahu in Hebrew and Aramaic.)
Onias IV: Onias IV was the son of Onias III. He was the lawful heir of the legitimate high priest. However, after Alcimus was appointed as High Priest by the Seleucid authorities he fled to Egypt. He founded a Jewish Temple in Leontopolis, Egypt. All the Jewish rites, ceremonies and sacrifices were observed at the Temple in Leontopolis until it was destroyed by the Romans.
Simon the Just: Simon the Just was either the High Priest Simon I (310-291 BC or 300-270 BC), the son of Onias I, and grandson of Jaddua or Simon II (219-199 BC) son of Onias II. (Simon the Just is identified as Simon I by Josephus.) Simon the Just is mentioned in Josephus, Ecclesiasticus (Chapter 50) and in the Second Book of Maccabees. According to Josephus and the Talmud, Simon the Just met with Alexander the Great.
SIMON CALLED THASSI SIMON WAS THE SECOND SON OF MATTATHIAS. UPON HIS DEATHBED MATTATHIAS APPOINTED JUDAH TO BE THE MILITARY LEADER AND SIMON THE COUNSELOR, DUE TO HIS WISDOM. JUDAH MAQQABA BELIEVED THAT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM COULD ONLY BE ASSURED BY THE FOUNDING OF AN INDEPENDENT JEWISH STATE. JUDAH NEVER SAW HIS VISION COME TO FRUITION BUT SIMON BROUGHT IT INTO REALITY. SIMON ACHIEVED COMPLETE VICTORY AND GRANTED INDEPENDENCE TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE. SIMON SUCCEDED JONATHON AS HIGH PRIEST AND LED HIS PEOPLE UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 135 BC.
Aramaic and Hebrew
Maqqaba: Aramaic for "Hammer" often transliteration "Maccabee" or "Maccabeus" in English.
Hanukkah: This Aramaic word means "Dedication."
Hassideans: meaning "pious ones, this religious group was dedicated to the strict observance of the Law of Moses. They were the forerunners of the Pharisees and the Essenes. They supported Judah Maccabee in his battle for religious freedom.
Apocrypha: Often people think of the Apocrypha as Roman Catholic literature, it isn't. It is pre-Christian literature. These are not ancient books that were added later to the canon of Scripture. They were part of the Greek Old Testament that the Jewish community used and that the early Church accepted as Scripture. Protestants later changed the canon of the Old Testament to match that of the Jewish people. Apocryphal books include First and Second Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, Ecclesiastes and Wisdom of Solomon.
Pseudepigrapha: This word means "false writings." After the close of the canon people would write under a pseudonymn-such as Baruch or Enoch. These books are also ancient Jewish writings-but they were preserved by Christians. After the composition of the Talmud, Rabbis actually forbad these books to be preserved-so they were preserved by Christians, sometimes in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic or Slavonic translations.
Just War Theory
Philosophers who worked out the "Just War Theory" include Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Other philosophers who contributed to this thought include Cicero, Ambrose, Hugo Grotius, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant. Just war is waged in self-defense or in the defense of another. It has two sets of criteria. The first is establishing "jus ad bellum," the right to go to war. The second is establishing "jus in bello," right conduct within war. These important principles in "Just War Theory" are jus in bello and jus post bellum. Jus in Bello means just application of warfare. It includes distinction: acts of war are directed towards combatants and not noncombatants. Other principles include proportionality, excessive civilian casualties are to be avoided, and military necessity, conduct should be governed by the principle of minimum force. (The committing of war crimes should be avoided. Soldiers who do commit war crimes should face swift disciple. Jus post Bellum means just termination of warfare. This includes just cause for termination such as surrender with apology, compensation, reparations and war crime trials. War should be waged with right intention: revenge is not permitted. There must also be a public declaration and authority in announcing terms of peace. Some philosophers also argue for the principles of "Discrimination" and "Proportionality." (Discrimination: differentiate between political and civil leaders and combatants and civilians. Proportionality: no draconian measures and no attempt to deny the surrendered community the right to participate in the world community.) The following are some core concepts in the theory of "Just War."
Just Cause: The reason for going to war needs to be just-innocent life must be in danger and intervention must be to protect life.
Comparative Justice: The injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other.
Legitimate Authority: Only duly constituted authorities must wage war.
Right Intention: Force must be used in a truly just cause and solely for that reason and not for material gain or for other economic reasons.
Probability of Success: Arms should not be used in a futile cause. (However, many have believed that the right thing to do is to fight to the death. This is the concept of "Death before dishonor." Examples of this include the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, the Texican and Tejano defenders of the Alamo, Japanese Christians fighting against persecution from the Shogun and the Jewish Zealots at Masada.)
Last Resort: Force may be used only after peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical.
Proportionality: The anticipated benefits of waging a war is waged in terms of self-defense.
This book is about the Battle for Religious Freedom. In the year 167 Before Christ, the Jewish people were forced to fight battles against the Syrian Greeks in order to preserve their religious freedom. The Jews were a peaceful people and didn't fight back until suffering years of horrendous religious persecution and massacres. Some Jews opposed the approach of Mattathias to go to war against the Greeks. However, their approach, that of humbly submitting to martyrdom, resulted in the death of many Jews. The actions of Mattathias and Judah the Hammer of God, his son, ended this holocaust and established a lasting peace. Today, we must struggle to preserve religious and struggle against hate-groups such as the American Civil Liberty Union, the so-called "Military Religious Freedom Foundation," and "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State." These hate-groups will stop at nothing to make practicing, proclaiming and even believing in Christianity a crime. (These anti-Christian hate groups do battle against Christianity through the news media, film and entertainment, through Academia, and through lawsuits. People of faith must likewise do battle against them in order to preserve our religious freedom.) In 732 A.D., Muslims came into Europe in an attempt to eradicate Christianity. Christianity spread peacefully throughout the Roman Empire. It was not initially spread by war or violence. Islam is a different case. Mohammed commanded his followers to fight and kill for "Allah's Cause." Today, the left and Muslim groups have joined forces to eliminate Christianity. (This is exposed in the books Stealth Jihad by Robert Spencer and Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left by David Horowitz. Stan Oaks in reviewing the book America's Secular Challenge: The Rise of a New National Religion by Herbert London in the September 20, 2008 edition of World Magazine, describes how London, a former professor, shows that "secularists try to overcome conservatives and eradicate Christianity from public life, thereby reshaping America…Many secularists support Muslims over conservatives and Christians…London [described as a "thoughtful Jew"] observes that Christians, committed as they are to the next world, too often sit out the battle against their adversaries. He hopes that Christians will fight for the greatest and most liberating tradition the world has ever known.") It is time for people of faith to take action to defend themselves from acts of discrimination and religious violence. Persecution of Christians has been going on throughout the Islamic world for some time. Discrimination and violence against Christians in the United States and Europe has already begun. Islamic Sharia law (Koranic based religious law- meaning an Islamic theocracy) mandates a system of apartheid against the "non-believers." Codified into Islamic sharia law is a system of religious persecution and religious discrimination against Christian, Jews and other "non-believers." Pogroms against the indigenous Christians of Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and many other Christian minorities living in Islamic majority countries are common occurrence. The American liberal news media chooses to avoid reporting on the global problem of persecution of Christians. (The reason for this is because some news isn't "politically correct" to report and the left wants Christianity wiped out. Therefore, they have no sympathy for Christians who are persecuted and slain for their faith. Another reason is cowardice. News outlets are afraid to report stories that could be viewed as disparaging to Islam because they are terrorized by the threat of terrorism.)
Just war theory mandates that war must not only have a "just cause" but must be executed in a moral manner. In an attempt to denigrate Christianity, the left will focus on certain atrocities that occurred during the Crusades, while ignoring atrocities committed by Muslim leaders such as Saladin and Sultan Beybers. In fact, the left claims that the "roots of Islamic rage" is the fact that European Christians decided to fight back against over unprovoked attacks against the Christian world than had began over four-hundred years prior to the Crusades. (Also, the renown historian Rodney Stark very effectively proves that the Crusades were just wars and disproves disinformation about the Crusades that is put out by liberals in his book God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades.) Christians must be informed of the facts and protect their heritage against dishonest attacks coming from the alliance of Muslims and the left. First, we need to use legal avenues available to protect ourselves from the onslaughts against Christianity coming from Islamists and liberals. Fighting the Global War Against Islamist Terrorism is fighting a necessary and just war and I have had the privilege of serving in Iraq twice. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32). We must proclaim the truth. Jesus also boldly and defiantly opposed evil doers in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem and even used a whip to beat them and to violently evict them from the courts of the Temple. It is past time that Christians began to follow the example of Jesus Christ and also the example of the Maccabees who took a bold stand in order to defend religious liberty.
Gary G. Michuta Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger (Grotto Press, 2007)
Jonathan A. Goldstein 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees (The Anchor Bible)
Howard Fast My Glorious Brothers (I Books, November 2003)
Noam Zion and Barbara Specter A Different Light: The Big book of Hanukkah and A Different Light: The Hanukkah Book of Celebration (Devora Publishing 2000)
Alyn Brodsky The Kings Depart: The Saga of the Empire Judah Maccabee Created and His Heirs Destroyed (Harper and Row, 1974)
Claude Reignier Conder Judas Maccabaeus and the Jewish War of Independence (A.D. Watt and Son, 1894)
Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichon Battles of the Bible (Stockpole Books, Pennsylvania, 1997)
Greg Hildebrandt Treasures of Chanukah (The Unicorn Publishing House, New Jersey 1987)
Ravid Ben-Tsur Maccabees: The Lions of Judah (AU216 2005)
Bruce S. Thornton Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization (Encounter Books, 2002)
Charlotte Higgins It's All Greek To Me: From Homer to the Hippocratic Oath, How Ancient Greece Has Shaped Our World (Harper Collins, 2010)
Martin J. Dougherty, Michael E. Haskew, Phillis G. Jestice and Rob S. Rice Battles of the Bible 400 BC-A 73: From Ai to Masada (Metro Books, NY 2008)
Mark Healy Warriors of the Old Testament: Joshua, David, Nebuchadnezzer, and Judas Maccabeus (Firebird Books, UK, 1998) (Mark Healy's Heroes and Warriors: Judas Maccabeus: Rebel of Israel is an excerpt from Warriors of the Old Testament.)
Bruce Metzer, David Goldstein, and John Ferguson Great Events of Bible Times: A Fascinating Visual Journey Back to the People and Places of the Bible (Fall River Press, New York, 1990)
Brad Harris The Old Testament This film is based on the book of Maccabees. Brad Harris who portrays "Simon Maccabee" in the movie "The Old Testament" is known for his portrayals in film of the Greek Hero Hercules. ("Simon Maccabee" is more properly called Simon Thassi.) The movie does contain some inaccuracies. So far it is the only live-action film on the Maccabees. "The Old Testament" shows the revolt of Mattathias, the death of Judah Maccabee and the final victory of the Jews under Simon Thassi.
An animated version of the Hanukkah story is entitled "The Maccabees" and was produced by NEST entertainment.
George Frederic Handel, the famous composer of "Handel's Messiah" wrote a very popular oratorio entitled "Judas Maccabeus" in 1746. It is of almost equal quality with "Handel's Messiah" and is still performed- especially during Hanukkah in the State of Israel.
About the Author
Reverend Stephen Andrew Missick is the author of The Assyrian Church in the Mongol Empire, Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church in India, and Socotra: The Mysterious Island of the Church of the East which were published in the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (Volume XIII, No. 2, 1999, Volume XIV, No. 2, 2000 and Volume XVI No. 1, 2002). He is the author of The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity, Mary of Magdala: Magdalene, the Forgotten Aramaic Prophetess of Christianity, Treasures of the Language of Jesus: The Aramaic Source of Christ's Teaching, Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth and Christ the Man. He is an ordained minister of the gospel. He graduated from Sam Houston State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rev. Missick has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived among the Coptic Christians in Egypt and Aramaic Christians in Syria. He also served as a soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004. While serving as a soldier in Iraq he learned Aramaic from native Aramaic-speaking Iraqi Assyrian Christians. Rev. Missick is the writer and illustrator of the comic book "The Assyrians: The Oldest Christian People," the comic strip Chronicles: Facts from the Bible and the comic book series The Hammer of God which are available from www.comixpress.com. The Hammer of God comic book series dramatizes the stories of Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. He has also served as a chaplain in the Army National Guard in Iraq during his second deployment in 2009 and 2010.
Contact Stephen A. Missick at PO Box 882 Shepherd TX 77371 A monthly newsletter, The Aramaic Herald, is available free of charge. DVDs and Gospel tracts with an Aramaic focus are also available from the above address. Rev. Missick has several short video teachings and presentations at www.youtube.com/aramaic12 and a blog at www.aramaicherald.blogspot.com.
The book "Judas Maccabeus: The Hammer of God" is available.