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Who will transcribe the stories of Israel?

Three versions of the truth. Three historical sources give different accounts of the sequence of events that led to the Hasmonean rebellion and the events we commemorate on Hanukkah

Statue of Antiochus IV. Photo: Haifa University
Statue of Antiochus IV. Photo: Haifa University

This introductory chapter, which will open the series on the House of Hasmoneans, seeks to present to the readers the research problematic related to the period in question, that is, the last quarter of the century BC.

In the course of historiography and especially historiology - the study of history and its teaching - a kind of template, a bar of events, logical to a certain extent, was created for us, of course through the indoctrination of the education ministries for generations, when an event follows an event, and when an event is caused by its predecessor and feeds the next one after it. And it turns out that things don't turn out so well, mainly due to the source microscopes and the problem of their reliability.

Joseph ben Mattathias, relying on 175st Maccabees, writes in his twelfth book from his collection "The Antiquities of the Jews", the following: Yeshua-Jason, the brother of the high priest, won the high priesthood from the hands of the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes in XNUMX BC, thus " Just" without any explanation, and this in consideration of an exception to the Seleucid, Syrian-Hellenistic policy, until now, which greatly minimized the extent of its intervention in the internal affairs of Judah, even though the latter was enslaved to it.

The deviation from this move may be explained, according to Josephus, by the absence of a mature son for the reigning High Priest, when he died, but nevertheless the initiative of King Antiochus remains unknown.
In any case, between Jason and Menelaus, Shimon's brother, the governor of the temple (in charge of the temple economy), a sharp dispute emerged. Menelaus belonged to a respectable priestly family, the Greek Belga family, which was a lever for the division between the supporters of Jason who were the majority and the supporters of Menelaus who belonged to the aristocratic family, with many assets and political influence, namely the Beit Tovia family.

Menelaus and his faction fled to Syria, met with Antiochus, and informed him that they wished to leave the laws of their ancestors (as confirmed and formulated in the document of rights granted by Antiochus III to the Jews of Judea after the Syrian takeover of the territories occupied by the Egyptian Ptolemaic House in 198 BC) and at the same time open a process of Greekization in Judea while fully obeying the king's laws. And in order to turn Jerusalem into a polis city in the Hellenistic style, they received permission to establish a gymnasium in Jerusalem, that is, an educational framework with a sports emphasis, as is customary in other polis cities throughout the Hellenistic kingdoms, and including this they were careful about the nakedness and competitions while there covering their area of ​​Milat.

Well, if Yosef ben Mattheyo relies on the composition of Maccabees XNUMX, which in fact had only this book in front of his eyes, we will turn to the source and examine it against the writings of Yosef ben Mattheyo.

Already at the beginning of the composition Maccabim 175 it is stated as follows: "In those days (15 BC, which is the year of Antiochus IV's ascension to power) the sons of Belial came out from among Israel and dismissed many saying - we will go and make a covenant with the nations around us (an allusion to Greekization on the one hand and the annulment of the mythological covenant between Abraham and God), because from the day we withdrew from their people (from the culture of the Gentiles) we found many evils. And it would be better in their eyes, and people from the people would volunteer (an allusion to Menelaus and the house of Tovia) and the king would rule them to do according to the laws of the Gentiles, and they would build Jimenson in Jerusalem according to the laws of the Gentiles (in accordance with the architectural pattern and the accepted Hellenistic management). And they made a foreskin (they exercised naked and maybe even performed a primitive operation to create a kind of image of a genital before his word). And they will leave the holy covenant (that is, they will turn away, and perhaps even in an extreme, essential way), and will stick to the Gentiles and be addicted to doing evil" (11 Maccabees XNUMX:XNUMX-XNUMX).

Is the "copy faithful to the original"? similar but not the same. Where is Jason? Where is the confrontation between Camp Ison and Menelaus? Where is the important dimension of the conflict within the families of the priesthood? and more? However, the similarity between the two sources can certainly be emphasized.

And what does Baal of Maccabim XNUMX say about this? In a detailed and extended manner, he tells about the determination of Jason's ambition to win the high priesthood, and his success in this regard was the result of his initiative and not the initiative of King Antiochus. More than that, Jason was ready to give a third to the coffers of the Syrian king Antiochus, which was almost empty at the time, huge sums in order to win the high priesthood, to establish in Jerusalem a gymnasium and an Ephebion (the latter as a post-gymnasium institution also with military aspects to train the graduates for political, economic activity , social and military in the designated city of the polis) and the making of an alliance of "twin cities" between Jerusalem and Antioch which was the mother city of Antiochus' kingdom. From the moment Antiochus IV acceded to Yeson's requests, this increased the Hellenization-Greekization in Judea, renewed customs that are not according to Torah law and led to the contempt of the priests in temple work for not wanting to compete in sports activities.

The author does not hold back and declares, of course many years after the events, that "and for this reason great tribulation came upon them (the Hellenistic Jews) (an allusion to Antiochus' decrees of destruction years later) and those whose standards they envied and whom they wished to be like in everything, became Enemies and tormentors, because it is not an easy thing to transgress the laws of God, and the future will show this" (17 Maccabees 16:XNUMX-XNUMX).
So why was the majority punished for the sins of the minority, or were the Greeks actually the majority? A question without a qualified answer.

In any case, the similarity between Maccabim B and Maccabim A is great except for detail and expansion that appear in Maccabim B.

And this is where the divergence between the sources begins, and this stems from the reference to the war campaigns of Antiochus to Egypt, to the kingdom of Ptolemy, which is the Ptolemaic house.

It is about two campaigns. One between 170 and 169 BC and the other was conducted in 168 BC.

The first journey was conducted against the background of Egypt's weakness, a worried look at how the Roman Empire was squinting to the east of the Mediterranean basin and the dream of Antiochus IV to create a ruling succession over the eastern basin of the Mediterranean while creating a religious-ritual unity for his expected future kingdom which explains, among other things, the His support for the Greekization process in Judea and in particular his support for the pro-Hellenistic high priesthood in Jerusalem.
It was a successful campaign, when Antiochus defeats the Egyptian armies, crowns himself the king of Egypt and prepares to conquer Alexandria, the Egyptian royal city, thereby fortifying his rule and the realization of his dream.

We will turn and return to the above sources - Maccabees XNUMX, Maccabees XNUMX and the Jewish ancestors.

The author of XNUMX Maccabim creates a seemingly strange causal connection between the Hellenization process in Jerusalem by Jason and Menelaus (without, as mentioned, mentioning them by name) and Antiochus IV's military incursion into Egypt, as if one of his aforementioned measures - Hellenization in Judea - had been realized before the conquest of Egypt, and as the measure The military was a kind of product of the move in Judea. Or perhaps a reinforcement of the hidden prophecy of punishment.

And what about Yosef ben Matthew? Just as the owner of Maccabim A whom he knew and from whom he drew information.
We therefore turn to Ba'al Maccabim II, who later tells how Yason prepared the athletes in the gymnasium and asked him to fight for the famous sports games in Tyre. Then he expands on the rivalry between Jason and Menelaus and even on the Greek ministry of Lucymachus and more. And only after that, detached from the events in Judea, he tells about the war campaign of Antiochus in Egypt.

further. The victorious campaign of Antiochus is described in the Ba'al of Maccabees 169 quite briefly, and suddenly we learn that on his return from Egypt, without reference to the postponement of the attack on Alexandria, in 25 BC, he passed through the Land of Israel and went up to Jerusalem with his large army, with a heavy force "and came to The temple was proud and took the golden altar and the lampstand and all its vessels... and took the treasures of the hoards that he found and having taken everything he returned to his country (not before) and made a great slaughter (in Jerusalem)... and there was great mourning in Israel in all their places" (Maccabiim 21:XNUMX-XNUMX XNUMX). Why robbery? Why killing? Why were you proud? It is impossible to know from the source, unless the author intends to blacken Antiochus and prepare the reading public for the decrees of destruction.

And what about Joseph ben Matthew, who relied on 169 Maccabees, but probably not only on him. He says that Antiochus, with more than half of his lust in his hand, when he was about to take control of the entire land of the Nile, was forced to retreat in a humiliating ceremony performed by the Romans in the presence of all his commanders. And he, before he returned (sir and sullen) to his country, went up to Jerusalem in XNUMX BC and surrendered without any battle, when he was helped by his supporters from the house (probably the Greeks), killed many of his opponents and robbed a lot of money (from the temple?).
Here his retreat from Egypt is explained, but the reason for his revenge in Jerusalem is still missing, and likewise the robbery of the temple is not mentioned. Also, as we will see later, this is about the year 168 and not 169 BC.

So we will move to Maccabi B and maybe from there we will be saved?

Baal 120,000 Maccabim tells in general about a rumor that was stolen to Antiochus while he was in Egypt, between victory and victory, he became aware of an apocalyptic vision, that here Jerusalem was experiencing a futuristic spectacle of rebellion. And not this but also this, a rumor spread that Antiochus was killed in Egypt and therefore Yason provoked an armed rebellion against Menelaus to depose him. The rebellion was initially successful but then failed and Antiochus was enraged at the rebellion against the high priest Menelaus who submitted to him and gained his trust, and because of this he abandoned the battlefield in Egypt and hurried to take revenge on the rebels. He broke into Jerusalem and there committed a brutal massacre of XNUMX people. He entered the temple, defiled it, robbed the holy vessels and left the city on his way to Antioch, leaving in Jerusalem a cruel commissioner and a gang of malicious people. Immediately afterwards, he sent the general Apollonius of Mysia to Jerusalem and ordered him to destroy all the Jewish men and women of the city and to sell them into slavery. And he did this on Shabbat, to prevent the Jews from taking any defensive action.

Does the process and the sequence of events seem logical? Will we abandon the battlefield because of a rumor? And even if he was worried that this rebellion might endanger the supply lines and the connection between him and his kingdom, even though geographically Yason's ability to control the coastal plain was extremely weak? For what and why did he seek to lose all the residents of Jerusalem, since the rebellion against Menelaus was led by Jason, behind whom stood only about a thousand supporters?! And in the same confusion, why would he rob the temple in the aforementioned historical context?

Baal of 18 Maccabees also understands the depth of the mystery and therefore declares that "And Antiochus was lost in his mind and did not see that because of the iniquity of the inhabitants of the city (Jerusalem) God was foaming at the mouth for a little while and closed the place. And if (the inhabitants of Jerusalem) had not been redeemed from many iniquities, because now... he too would have been beaten (like Heliodorus in his time) and would have returned from his boldness" (17 Maccabees XNUMX:XNUMX-XNUMX). In other words, Antiochus' criminal actions were due to madness, and this madness prevented him from realizing that God had handed over the city due to the wickedness of the Jews.

come on …?!

What else? It turns out that Antiochus made another military trip to Egypt in 168 BC, and even then he "stuck" near Alexandria, and that's when the same humiliating ceremony was held for him by a Roman delegation from the Senate and demanded that he return to his country and leave Egypt unconquered. It is worth noting that the Roman Empire winked towards the conquest of the entire Mediterranean basin and in the same year, 168 BC, Rome defeated the Macedonian kingdom, the cradle of the Hellenistic kingdoms, and sought to get involved in the affairs of the Hellenistic kingdoms. These moves must have cooled the military enthusiasm of Antiochus IV, what's more, in 189 BC the Romans defeated the armies of Antiochus III and imposed humiliating terms of surrender on him.

This story disappears from the composition of Maccabees XNUMX and XNUMX but, as mentioned, not from the eyes of the author of Jewish antiquity, who testifies that Antiochus left Egypt out of fear of the Romans.

However, it is difficult to connect this move with Antiochus' steps in Jerusalem, especially in light of the haste to get to Syria because of no domestic troubles.

Are the plagues of Jerusalem over? no and no. Baal Maccabim 167 says that after two years (and what happened in the meantime is unknown), we were in XNUMX BC, and here he connects with Baal Maccabim XNUMX who testifies to the event in a completely different context, and the intention is chronological (see a few lines above). In other words, the author of XNUMX Maccabees, without "warning" the readers, takes us back to the return of Antiochus from Egypt (and "forgot") to mention the Roman humiliation near Alexandria. Antiochus of Maccabees XNUMX entered the city with his army fraudulently, promising peace, committed terrible massacres, robbed everyone nearby and stationed a garrison there that brutalized the population.

Josephus reports to us about the same move, although a little in detail, when he emphasizes, logically and historically, Antiochus' desperate need for a lot of money, and he did not even include in this case the Roman humiliation, which he reported earlier regarding Antiochus' first trip to Egypt. In other words, we sink into a chronological and matter-of-fact vortex between all the sources.
And what about the second macabres? He has already referred to this in relation to Antiochus' journey to Egypt, but distinguishes, and rightly so, between the first journey in 170 BC and the second in 168 BC (that is, in the space of those two years. Here, they "found" the lost two years in Baal Maccabim XNUMX ', except that this information cannot be planted with him because he "forgot" to bring Antiochus to Antioch and then take him out on another journey towards Egypt).
It seems that there is a technical, chronological difference before us, but it is not so. The confusion between the two journeys and their events puts the aforementioned sources in front of a question of historical reliability, and opens a problematic window in front of the very decrees of the extermination and their motives.

We will briefly move on to the causes of Antiochus' annihilation decrees in the light of the discussed sources.

The author of XNUMXst Maccabees, immediately after mentioning the plagues inflicted by Antiochus on Jerusalem (the chronological confusion), does indeed relate the decrees, chronologically, to Antiochus' moves in Jerusalem, but he softens the Seleucid policy by noting that Antiochus asked all the subjects of his kingdom to Easternize - a very unusual instruction from the Hellenistic policy So far - probably on a geopolitical basis, which has no direct bearing on the attitude towards the Jews.

And it follows from this that there is no visible causal connection between the decrees of destruction and the new Seleucid policy, but perhaps Antiochus' moves in Jerusalem were integrated, to a certain extent, into his imperial, state-wide policy.

In the case of Josephus, like his predecessor, the decrees are presented as a continuation of Antiochus' policy, but there is nothing between them and imperial unity, nor the shadow of anything.

If so, it may be possible to trace the difference between the sources in the character and thought of each author and the degree of his proximity or distance from the events in question... Baal Maccabim A was the author of Ben Ha'aretz, a Hebrew speaker, whose knowledge of what is happening outside the Land of Israel is limited and he often makes mistakes in these matters. The book was written like this in the days of Yochanan Hyrcanus towards the end of the second century BC, except that the Hebrew original is not preserved in our hands and the Greek translation is attributed to the first century AD. The author greatly cherished the actions and thoughts of Judah the Maccabee. He completely denies Greekism and attributes great power to God.

Joseph ben Mattathieu wrote his essay near 100 CE as an apologetic book in the face of anti-Jewish hate books in Alexandria, which is in Egypt. The connection from Macbem A, on which he often relies, he knew from an intermediary source and not in a direct, unmediated way. In any case, being a Roman protégé undermines to a certain extent his credibility towards events in which the Roman Empire was directly or indirectly involved.

The treatise Maccabim 63, which was originally written in Greek and was very broad and detailed, was not revealed to us, but only a summary by an author named Jason Makirini, a Hellenistic Jewish writer, who was well acquainted with the Hellenistic world from one side and the Roman world from the other, and who had written sources in front of him. The author probably did not know 70 Maccabees and his inclination was more Sadducean compared to the author of XNUMX Maccabees who leaned more towards the Pharisee world. The time of composition ranges from the beginning of the Roman occupation (XNUMX BC) to the destruction of the Second Temple (XNUMX AD). The author adheres to the Jewish religion and the supremacy of the Jewish faith and the temple occupies a very central place for him, except that the divinity does not intervene without means to help humans.

His pro-Hellenistic approach led him to assume that the Hellenistic kings greatly respected the Jerusalem temple, but that Antiochus wanted to present Judaism as anti-Hellenistic.

Here we have before us three sources, different in their infrastructure from each other, and the result - a chain of events that are different from each other.

And in our case, what does it resemble? The judge in front of him is presented with various testimonies and confessions regarding a certain event. Will he not acquit the suspect due to the problematic nature of the sources, or in the language of the law - based on the prosecution's unproven claims?!

And our conclusion - on the one hand, the escalation that preceded the annihilation decrees should not be dismissed, but on the other hand, sources must be treated with limited responsibility and be very careful in drawing conclusions that appear to be absolutely true.

It is very convenient to create a template in the teaching of history, but it is dangerous, in terms of political, national-nationalist Zhdanovization.

By the way, it is allowed to present to all those interested simply three narratives that are different from each other, and to each of which a different historical chain of events can be tied.

On the other hand, Zil is perfect!

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