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From Messianism to Hellenism - Reflections for Hanukkah / Dr. Yechiam Sorek

The 'Greeks' were not as terrible as the Jewish sources described them


As is well known, the Maccabean revolt broke out in 166/167 BC, and its declared, provocative sign was the terrible, insane, Bacchanalian act of Mattathias (the slaughter of the Jew who dared to sacrifice to the Hellenistic gods), accompanied by his cry: "Who will the Lord have for me!" It was after the chain of decrees that the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, "Epiphanes", rained down on the people of Judah, those defined as the decrees of destruction. Researchers are debating the essential question: did the decrees cause the rebellion to break out, or were the decrees an integral part of the revenge campaign of the Syrian king, Seleucus, following the riots that broke out in Jerusalem, when he, the king, translates them, with malicious malice or stupidity, or in some kind of combination between the two, as I rebel against him. I do not intend to develop this dilemma here, but only to point out that there is no certainty that Matthew's rebellious cry was indeed founded on a logical ideological foundation, but that is another opera.

Moreover, the very imposition of the decrees is subject to research and empirical doubt, and this is due to several arguments: the Seleucid king was tolerant and educated, he was well acquainted with the "strange", monotheistic, religion of the Jews, he was supposed to have assumed and anticipated the rebellious results following the imposition of the decrees, and more. In any case, the imposition of the decrees, as a certain and unequivocal historical fact, is ambiguous and controversial.

In order to examine Matthew's act, it must be examined in a much broader historical context. Judah was exposed to Hellenistic control and its culture from the end of the fourth century BC, that is, over 150 years before the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt, and 150 years are "a piece of history". This is a long and protracted period, when the Greek-Hellenistic culture slowly seeped into the veins of Jewish society. This is a culture, which was primarily external and was characterized by the adoption of names, the knowledge of the language and its use, art, architecture and various customs. For example, well-known and famous are knitting from synagogues in Israel with inscriptions in Greek and mixed symbols: Jewish and Hellenistic, to express the degree of Hellenistic influence on Jewish society. This influence was naturally more pronounced among the urban, rich/middle class society, the one that maintained closer and continuous contacts with the Hellenistic government and with Hellenistic merchants and business owners, and was exposed to the influence of the foreign elements in Judea. One of the dramatic results of this complex phenomenon was the growth of Jewish leadership and a group of politicians who benefited from the proximity of the Hellenistic government, its honors and privileges. Their Greekness (mainly in the external dimensions) was condemned to the sharp criticism of some poets and intellectuals, who sent them (just like Isaiah and Amos in their time) arrows of reservation, those who combined together the Greekness of this and the economic-social polarization of this between the rich and the poor, between those with influence and ability and the poor and the oppressed . The criticism in question increased and intensified in view of the reformist attempt of Jason, the High Priest's brother, to establish in Jerusalem cultural, sports, educational, and perhaps also political structures, in the Greek-Hellenistic style, in order to promote political movements, personal upgrading and the realization of more universal and open worldviews (against principles the conservatism, separatism and arrogance of the Jewish religion and its customs).

What was the reaction of the people to these phenomena? The literature of the sources does not reveal this, but it is likely that the opinion of the people was not comfortable, and perhaps to put it mildly, with such and similar moves, mainly against the background of socio-economic polarization and against the background of the construction of the monumental Hellenistic buildings, eye-popping, in Jerusalem. However, the literature of the sources does not mention acts of popular uprising against the phenomena in question, and sometimes there is even evidence of the people's support for Esson, the Hellenistic reformer, as a leader and politician. Jason's successors took their position to the extreme: they came closer to the Hellenistic positions and trends and did not hesitate to reach into the temple treasury to finance political and personal measures of course.

This situation and the landing of the decrees served as a lever for the growth of extremist, sleepwalking and delusional elements, who believed that by the power of their blind faith in God, with the justification of their way and their vision, they would succeed in overthrowing the Hellenistic rule in Judea and the Middle East in general. The vision of the father of the rebels, Matthieu, bubbles from among the lines of sources, and is all blind fanaticism. He slaughters on the stage with informers the Jew who wants to make a sacrifice to the Hellenistic idols and justifies his act by bringing a biblical event from the desert stories about Phinehas ben Eleazar ben Aharon the priest, who killed Zamri ben Salua, who participated in pagan idolatry. Matthew consecrates his act, considering it a divine command, as the natural successor of the mythological Pinchas. He gathers around him the zealots, "everyone who is jealous of the Torah" and those who consider themselves to belong to the string of covenants made between the community and Jehovah during ancient history ("who stands in the covenant" in the language of the original) and declares a rebellion among the Greeks and the Greeks ("return recompense to the Gentiles" in the language of the original). This zealous message was translated into practice in Matthieu's extreme and enthusiastic war on everything that smelled Greek in Judea, and even those Jews who did not mutilate their sons as a result of Antiochus' decrees, and they are probably many and good, were captured by Matthieu's warriors and beheaded by force ("forcefully" according to the wording of the text). It was in this spirit that Judah the Maccabee, the successor of Mattathias, conducted his policies and actions, and from the spirit of the texts emerges the figure of a warrior and commander, who fights furiously against anyone who is defined in his eyes as an enemy ("criminal" in the language of the scriptures), including slaughtering a foreign population and forcing conversion on some of them . His successor, his brother Jonathan, initially follows the pattern of his brother, Yehuda, and his father, Matthieu, but personal tasks of upgrading his status and accumulating power bring Jonathan into contact with the foreign, Hellenistic government (against which Matthieu and Yehuda fought zealously) and even to be wooed by him, to such a level that one The rulers of Hellenistic Syria agree to appoint him as high priest (even though Jonathan is not among the family of the high priest, and this is the first time that a foreign party intervenes in such an important appointment in the Jewish establishment) considering a dramatic precedent in the history of the people of Israel. Jonathan is also awarded a high and respectable political title which gives him influence in the Hellenistic royal court (Matthiahu would surely have turned over in his grave if some of these things had come to his attention). Jonathan also found himself obliged to militarily assist the Syrians, although he took advantage of this to persevere in the mission of his father and brother - to burn the worship of idols from the land. On another occasion, he sends a brother-in-law of 3,000 Jewish fighters to suppress a rebellion that broke out in Syria against the incumbent ruler. In other words, he fights wars against him and pays for it at the price of casualties from his army. His successor, his brother Shimon, takes another step towards detaching himself from the fanatical tasks of Matthias when he is appointed president, high priest and supreme commander of the army (almost a king) - titles approved by the Syrian royal house, and he comes closer, politically, and as a result also culturally and socially to the Hellenistic dynasty the Syrian Shimon's sense of dominance and lordship greatly strengthens his self-confidence, and while the Syrian king, Antiochus VII, "Sidtes", demands that Shimon withdraw from Jaffa, Sector and from the "Hekra" - the Hellenistic fortress/stronghold, Shimon replies, with most of his "insolence": "No We took a foreign land... because the property of our ancestors, which was in the hands of our enemies at one time without justice (justice), was conquered, and we, when we had time, restored the property of our ancestors" (Maccabim 34:35, XNUMX-XNUMX). This opinion, undoubtedly based on Shimon's military power, reflects a position of power, against which Shimon could have been exposed through continuous observation of the conduct of Hellenistic foreign policy.
From Shimon's successor until the collapse of the Hasmonean rule in Judah, the rulers of Judah, gradually accelerating, but with a clear trend, behaved like Hellenistic rulers in every respect: their names were combined - Hebrew and Greek, court manners and ceremonies were steeped in the Hellenistic style, the government institutions were characterized by Hellenistic influence, their army was built in the Hellenistic format, The way in which they characterized their personality, the source of their power and control was mainly Hellenistic, in their coins they were crowned as kings (in Greek) and even the decorations of the coins and their decorations were Hellenistic in their essence.

In other words, almost all the characteristics of the fanatical rebellion of Matthew and Judah gradually dissolved and crashed through the last of the brothers, their sons and grandsons. The way that finally won was the way of Greekization, Hellenization and modernization of the time. Father Matthias drew most of his zealous power and strength from the terrible (in his eyes) situation that was revealed: the Greekization of Jewish society and the purpose of Antiochus' decrees. His call for rebellion fell on attentive ears because the difficult economic-social atmosphere in Judea at the time was presented as the result of Greekization (rich = urban = Greek = cooperative), and it only took one generation to open the eyes of many: it was not the Greeks who were unusual and strange, but rather the Greeks And the hard, embryonic, initial nucleus of the rebellion. These were the exceptions, who collapsed within themselves a kind of extreme bubble, the likes of which were seen in the past (such as Phinehas and Elijah) and will also form in the "future": the fanatics of the Great Rebellion, Ben Khosva and others, who were ready in the name of God, tradition, conservatism, fanaticism, blind faith in their righteousness, and more, to bring The Jewish society is on the brink, in terms of "after the flood". But fortunately for the society, from generation to generation it was precisely Greekism that proved victorious and not fanatical and deadly Judaism.
Dr. Yehiam Sorek, Historian, Beit Berel College 

29 תגובות

  1. was Created,
    The rolling of your eyes is fascinating and shocking.
    You know what, instead of fighting over who wants what from whom, let's do the following:
    We want to marry whoever we want, however we want, and get divorced, open shops on Shabbat, raise pigs on state land and a little something else. We want equality between the sexes to be perpetuated in the Law on Human Dignity and Freedom. Can you guess who refused to put this unnecessary entry into law? Hint, it wasn't Amnon Rubinstein but those parties that today are not ready for women to serve on their behalf in the Knesset.
    Are you ready?

  2. was Created,
    You wrote a lot of words but you did not address my question which concerns the facts such as the fact that many religious people believe that what is written in the Torah is true to the truth and faithfully represents the occurrence of things including God's first person statements about his various incarnations. It is a fact that in the Torah there are many references to the intentional killing of people, most of whom it is hard to believe that they sinned in something (since they were babies or even fetuses in the womb).
    In my response, I did not talk about my perception of God, nor did I talk about people who kill and hang for a variety of reasons, including belief in God (whereas the latter certainly links between murder and belief in God - by definition), but I asked about what many religious people are brought up to believe and indeed hold this belief in practice and the moral tension that arises from this.
    You don't have to answer the questions I asked, but trying to divert the discussion in a direction that did not come up in my response at all and attributing things to me that I didn't write and that are not implicitly implied from what I wrote, is indecent behavior, and unfortunately such behavior is very common among religious commenters.

    If you want to claim that the facts I mentioned are not true, you are welcome to specify which of them is not true. Are the things I referred to not written in the Torah? Aren't there many religious people who believe that what is written in the Torah is true and faithfully represents what happened?

    I am aware that there are religious people who, in order to avoid the dissonance created between what is implied by the facts stated above and the basic and natural morality of most people (both religious and secular), prefer to try to reconcile things, for example by perceiving the scriptures as an allegory only and then everything can be interpreted according to the good imagination. The main problem that arises from this is that there is no clear way to decide when to adopt one interpretation or another (or when to adopt the simplest one) and then the decision is actually made by people, human beings, however wise they may be but still human beings, therefore the claim regarding the fulfillment of the Creator's commandments rests on a broken reed. For this very reason the word "thou shalt not murder" has no meaning in itself because such a wise person can come and interpret that in certain cases it is actually permissible and perhaps even desirable to commit murder, relying for example on the commandment to kill an Amalek male and an interpretation that includes the physical aspect of killing. Note that the current uncertainty regarding the identity of the descendants of the Amalekites does not guarantee that such an interpretation will not materialize, both because in the future it is possible and convincing evidence will be found regarding their identity and because the wide range of the interpretation easily allows the concept of Amalek to be applied to any "other" who has no visited objects, as indeed It has already been done in the past both for individuals and for entire communities.

    You wrote: "Why do you care about the faith of others? Why the obsession "to prove them wrong"?"
    If I were obsessed (like some religious commenters on the science website and other websites that mainly deal with science issues) I would enter religious forums and burst into the discussion with disparaging comments that cancel and diminish, twist and twist accepted interpretations of the Holy Scriptures in which my knowledge tends to zero, ignore attempts to hold me accountable for my mistakes or invent Straw arguments and "answers them" or diverts the discussion when a relevant question arises. I don't do this, for the simple reason that I think this is very ugly and immoral behavior. On the other hand, I come across time and time again religious people who choose to behave exactly like this on this website and similar websites, even when the topic is purely scientific. To differentiate a thousand thousand differences, it would be like asking what is this obsession we have against terrorism. I promise you that if religious commenters stop their ugly behavior here and on similar sites I will not look for anyone even if they believe in things that to me are complete nonsense. If you were decent you should have criticized those polluters, just as I would have done if I had entered the website on religious issues and it was secular that acts in an ugly manner as I detailed.

    My questions remain as they were, if you so choose you are welcome to answer matter-of-factly.

  3. was Created
    So I now understand that the current excuse for refusing to answer simple questions for me is that I am "one-dimensional". It's funny to me that a person who is completely stuck in his faith and blind to the world he lives in, calls people who are constantly asking and learning and who are interested in everything in the world, whom he calls one-dimensional.

    I want to understand what, in your eyes, the Torah is, is it allowed to discuss it?
    I'll tell you my opinion first. The Torah, as well as the other books of the Bible, are a collection of folk tales, as well as historical stories that have been gathered over the years into one cluster. The stories at the beginning of the collection, including the entire Torah and some of the books of the prophets, are not historical truth and are intended to provide a basis for Jewish customs and belief. What today appear to us as horror stories, such as the binding of Isaac, are stories that need to be understood according to the time. In the case of the binding of Isaac, the story is meant to explain why human sacrifice is forbidden in Judaism. The story of Genesis is the Jewish version of common legends, such as the Anoma Elish, and is intended to explain the story in a way that would be acceptable to believers in one God.

    The scientific context should also be understood in the spirit of the times. So they really believed that the earth is flat and the heavenly bodies revolve around it.

    Sometimes I hear from religious people that the Torah was given by God. If so, it certainly does not describe history. And sometimes I hear that the Torah is indeed a historical book, and that the world was created 5775 years ago and so on.

    I'd be glad to hear your opinion. And I would also love to hear about one piece of nonsense that you think I believe in, as you wrote in the last comment.

  4. Nissim and Kamila:

    There is no connection - but no connection - between belief in God and murder. Murderers roam among us everywhere. By nature they mobilize forces for their benefit and if they recognize a window of opportunity in religion, they will take advantage of it. And if they recognize a window of opportunity in complete secularism, they will take advantage of it as well. The excuse for carrying out their plot is not relevant and does not serve as an argument for anything in any philosophical discussion about God and religion, unless the conversationalist is a person of thread (that is, his world is one-dimensional). The same is true for supporters of murder. So what if they have a cap on their head or a priest's robe? They can equally well be a respected professor who frequently hears concerts or a Gestapo officer who returns from his busy day's work to his beloved children and talks to them about Goethe.

    Nissim, you answer in a slur because you are making fun of yourself. Your insight into the deepest questions is hardly one-dimensional. No, contrary to what you might think, you are not where Spinoza is any more than obsessive compulsives like Sabdarmish are not where Albenzo is. And yes, the analogy is definitely appropriate. "Belief in nonsense" is precisely what emerges from almost every sentence that floats in the ocean of endless words that you pour out here, and no salvation will grow for humanity from the nothing that you bring with you.

    Camilla, it's a shame that you are unable to rise above the pagan thinking that sees God as a being with human qualities. The concept of divinity in Judaism and Christianity is developed by orders of magnitude (in the degree of abstraction, in the philosophical meanings, in the existential questions) from the concept you present here. The God of the Hebrews owes you nothing and the image you create about him is a figment of your meager imagination. Don't you have faith? No one cares, your honor is in its place. Why do you care about other people's beliefs? Why the obsession "to prove them wrong"?

    By the words 'only humans' I mean that human weaknesses emerge and arise almost everywhere and sometimes take over even when it is clear that it is going off the rails. It is true in religion, it is true in secularism, it is always true.

  5. last camila
    The secular regimes killed more. Only Nazism caused the murder of tens of millions. You need to study the Jewish religion first before you argue about it and disparage it. Neat demands neatness sustains. It is better that you study the material you are talking about first. not like that?

  6. was Created,
    You wrote: "The Bible records cases of murder, even though it is explicitly written, "Thou shalt not murder." What to do? Humans are, after all, only human beings."

    According to the scriptures in which the religious Jews believe, how many people did God execute with the first intention (=murder) and how many people did God specifically order their murder through other people?

    And how many people kill to this day in the "name of God" whether they claim that he commanded them directly or whether they are incited to do so by "religious priests"? If you believe in God, how can you be sure that those murderers did not do it according to the will of God (isn't this a precedent)? And if you believe that these murders are unjustified and immoral, how do you live in peace with the past described in the scriptures, which are supposed to accurately describe the things that happened, according to the believers?

    Maybe humans are just humans, but from a divine being who is supposed to be good I would expect a little more, wouldn't you?

  7. was Created
    You, and no religious person, are able to explain to me why it is written in the Torah "You shall not murder" and on the other hand murderers are considered heroes. Every time I ask - and every time I answer with a sneer.

    Arguments about the existence of God are far from stupid. You don't like long comments, so I'll just say that the debate is about the future of the human race. Right now, largely due to belief in nonsense, the future is nothing.

  8. Miracles,
    Your rationale is not an objective bar by which to base everything. People who are different from you have a different rationale and different values. You have no reason to lament that they are not your spiritual clone. The Bible records cases of murder even though it is written explicitly "thou shalt not murder". What to do? Humans are after all only human. And contrary to the nonsense written by Shmulik, ultra-secular cultures and regimes have dipped and dip their hands in blood since the dawn of history. So what? Does this make you - the secular - automatically a potential murderer? Your stupid arguments about yes-God-no-God are nothing more than an animal's struggle in the mud. A person will live by his insights and stick to his values. And let not the arrogant thinker rest on his fellow man.

    And one more small thing: your hatred for "our religion" makes you some kind of little auto-Semite. Be careful not to suddenly find yourself on the other side of the barrier, "purifying" the world. The road to hell is paved with "good intentions".

  9. Again they talk about Nazism, Communism and Fascism as if they were secular movements. All these movements are directly related to religion. I have already written about Nazism and the close connection to Christianity and pagan Germanic beliefs. Go check your facts. Fascism could not have existed without Mussolini, around whom there was a religious cult of personality: the leader is always right Il Duce ha semper ragione

    And of course the murderous communism that revolved around Stalin, who was almost a god and who offered miracles to his people in the form of 5 magical crops every year.
    None of these ideologies was a secular liberal humanist ideology. Whoever claims that they are secular movements, should check his facts.

  10. was Created
    We look at the Jewish religion as something wonderful, for that I resent, and for this resentment you attack me. Our "Holy" Torah is full of heroes who murdered, or wanted to murder, and our glorious God doesn't exactly give us a personal example either.

    Mathenal tried to show how low man can go without religious belief. I'm just pointing out that a lot of violence is actually in the name of religion. Unlike Christianity, which you say originally advocates non-violence (just so you know, Jesus also knew how to be very violent) - the willingness to kill in the name of religion is at the basis of our religion.

    I absolutely agree that murder in the name of the Jewish religion is rare, but it does exist. And it exists more precisely in those whose faith is stronger (this is true for other religions as well - so I see the problem in religiosity and not in the Jewish religion specifically).

  11. Miracles,
    Cases of murder are everywhere. The murder - originates from the murderer. The new covenant is based on absolute altruism, but the hashmans were found that turned it into absolute altruism. So what?

  12. Miracles, to remind you:

    Deuteronomy Chapter XNUMX
    "... you shall not kill, and you shall not fly; And you shall not steal, and you shall not punish your neighbor until the end. And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife; And you shall not covet your neighbor's house, his field, his manservant, his livestock, his ox and his donkey, and everything that belongs to your neighbor..."

    And in particular: you shall not murder. What should be asked here?

  13. Yahyam,
    I read your essay and I can't shake the feeling that it is tainted with extraneous motives. To be precise, it seems as if you are trying to draw an equal line between those days and this time and by means of it to imply who is progressing in our time and pulling forward, and who is jealous and dark and pulling back. If (and only if) this is indeed the case, then your essay is deprived of any scientific foundation, and it has not a single iota of credibility.

  14. was Created
    I have never read a comment of yours that has any content. Is there a reason for this? Did I say something wrong? Or do you just need to type something every now and then?

  15. Methanel
    Did you notice your last sentence? It dwarfs all the nonsense in the other sentences... Religion is the source of a great deal of suffering in the world - including the Jewish religion. If we lived according to the Torah, everyone who works on Shabbat would be stoned. Let's not be hypocrites (and liars) and blame atheism for all the ills of the world.

  16. Guy, no one will disappear for you. But you will disappear. And no one will regret it when it happens because you don't add anything and your lack doesn't detract. In truth you are exactly the nothing you so long to be. And contrary to your flood of claims, no one is stopping you from being like that.

  17. to the gorge
    "A world without the Jewish people is a dead world to me" (Naomi Shemer, the fanatical religious singer, ibid.
    Without the Jewish people, I think we would still be in the age of idolatry - sacrificing sons to Moloch, wild ecstasy while harming the body, unrestrained prostitution in the name of religion, etc. - all phenomena described in the Bible as pagan phenomena. Judaism redeemed the world (in part) from these phenomena.
    Even in modern times, man has proven how low he can go without God - Nazism, Communism, and Fascism - all were without God and reached the depths of hell.
    Humanism is also losing itself to know - with a negative birth in many European countries.
    And I asked you Guy. Just live - for what?
    Those who do not find a good reason why to live and why to fight, will find their throats slit by Daesh fighters who actually have a good reason why to live and why to fight.

  18. to sparrow:
    Maybe you will finally reveal to all of us what is so bad if the Jewish people disappear?
    Think we really brought something into the world except another fanatical religion?
    It would be much better for our world if Moses, Muhammad and also Jesus disappeared as if they did not exist.
    It's important how good it could be here... without temples, without religious rituals, just to live...
    And the living God you speak of caused a lot of people to die. So for me - he will also die (if he existed at all)

  19. If it was up to people like you, Mr. Sorek, the people of Israel would have disappeared a long time ago. The secret of the eternal existence of the people of Israel is their adherence to the living God, and when the people of Israel fulfill the Torah and the commandments of God with their help, it is Greeks like you who bring destruction to the people of Israel.

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