Freedom Through The Death of Jesus Christ In Galatians: A Nonviolence Reading

Chapter III

The Maccabean Freedom Movement


The major sources, I Maccabees, II Maccabees and Josephus, explain the rise of the Maccabean freedom movement in terms of fight for the “ancestral customs” or “the covenant of the fathers” or “Judaism”, or more precisely, to reestablish Jewish life according to the Torah. Maccabees are sharply distinguished from “renegades” by their way of life according to the laws of the Torah. They are characterized by their zeal for the Torah. I Maccabees portrays zeal for the Torah as the driving force behind the Maccabean movement.[1] This zeal for the Torah was expressed by the Maccabees in using violence mainly against the “renegades”. Because the “renegades”, by making a “covenant with the Gentiles”, abandoned the “holy covenant” and introduced “Gentile customs” into Jerusalem and Judea. So the zealous Maccabees used violence against them in order to restore the “freedom” which would allow the Jews to live according to the Jewish ancestral customs (I Macc. 2.23-28, 44, 48; Josephus, Ant. 12.280-281).

In Antiquities 12.279-284 Josephus records the last words of Mattathias to his sons.  Mattathias encouraged his sons to preserve the customs of their fathers (ethē ta patria), and to recover their “ancient form of government, which is in danger of being overturned.” He encouraged them “to die for your laws” (cf. I Macc. 2.50) and then God “will have a great value for your virtue, and will restore to you again what you have lost, and will return to you that freedom in which you shall live quietly, and enjoy your own customs” (Ant. 12.281). I Maccabees, II Maccabees and Josephus presented Maccabees’ main concern as to restore the “freedom” by recovering the tēn archaian politeian so that the Jews would again live their lives according to their ancestral customs (I Macc. 3.29, 6.59; II Macc. 4.11, 11. 24-25; Josephus Ant. 12. 280-281). Thus, Maccabean struggle highlights that Jewish “freedom” and maintenance of Jewish life according to the Torah are closely connected.

 A. The Decree of Antiochus III and the Juridical Status of the Jews 

Josephus’ Antiquities contains three documents issued by Antiochus III (223-187 BCE) in favor of the Jews. These documents are particularly important to determine the juridical status of the Jews. When Antiochus III defeated Scopas, the general of the Egyptian army, at the turn of the third century BCE, the Jews along with the gerousia went to Antiochus and welcomed him into Jerusalem. They “gave abundance of provisions to…(Antiochus’) soldiers, and to the elephants, and joined with (him)…in ejecting garrison of the Egyptians that were in the citadel (in Jerusalem)” (Josephus Ant. 12.138; cf. 12. 133). As a reward “to the good behavior of the Jews towards him,” Antiochus wrote some of his decisions in his first letter addressed to Ptolemy, who is generally identified as Ptolemy of Thraseas[2]. The king decided to rebuild the city that was destroyed during the war and enable the inhabitants, who had been dispersed, to return to the city. He announced a number of privileges such as provision of animals for the temple sacrifices, wine, oil, frankincense, flour, wheat, salt, importation of wood without tax for the temple repairs, personal tax-exemption to the gerousia, the priests, the scribes of the temple and the sacred singers, exemption of taxes for all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, liberation of slaves and restoration of their property (Josephus Ant 12.139-144).[3] In addition to these, the most important provision was politeuesthōsan…pantes hoi ek tou ethnous kata tous patrious nomous (Josephus Ant. 12.142). 

The content of patrious nomous is the most controversial one among scholars. Victor Tcherikover notes that the privilege of living kata tous patrious nomous is explicitly referred to in two documents of the Hellenistic period (Josephus Ant. 12.142; 12.150). Elias Bickerman did an extensive work on the documents of Antiochus III. For Bickerman, the content of patrious nomous is clear. Commenting on the phrase kata tous patrious nomous, he says:

The provision that the people should live “according to the laws of their fathers”, which we so frequently find in the Hellenistic charters of freedom, had…a particular meaning for Jerusalem. For a Greek city, the clause meant the retention of the democratic constitution, of self-rule. But for the Jews “the laws of the fathers” meant Torah. Only Torah and nothing but Torah.[4]

Tcherikover refutes this limited meaning of “the laws of the fathers”. He argues that the meaning of “the laws of the fathers” is broader than the Torah and it includes “the maintenance of political institutions, the form of the regime, the methods of social organization, and the like.”[5] That means, according to this interpretation, the provision of the right to live according to “the laws of the fathers” would also include confirmation of Jerusalem’s theocracy and of the authority of the high priest.[6] However, there is an ambiguous silence about the high priest in the letter of Antiochus III. In the first part of the letter, it is recorded that the Jews meta tēs gerousias received the king and in the latter part, in the list of the temple officials who received tax-exemption gerousia is included and high priest is excluded (Josephus Ant. 12. 138, 142). For the absence of the high priest, Bickerman claims that before the time of the Maccabees the high priest, usually referred as the chief of the Jews after the restoration of the temple, was never mentioned in the official documents. This absence of the high priest is also evident in the official documents in the II Maccabees (II Macc. 1.1-9; 1.10-2.18; 9.19-27; 11.17-21; 11.22-26; 11.27-33; 11.34-38). On the absence of the high priest in official documents Brutti Comments:

(This indicates) the absolute lack of political authority of the high priest and the fact that the Jewish nation was represented mainly by the gerousia, the council of elders, that later, also under the Maccabees, will continue to be mentioned besides the high priest…These statements are still arguable and widely questioned; a completely satisfying solution concerning both the problem of the authority of the high priest and the presence of the gerousia in this period has not yet been reached.[7]

Bickerman argues that the letter of freedom of Antiochus III “corresponds to the juridical principles of the Greek public law, according to which Antiochus III had to establish the juridical status of the conquered cities.”[8]  As a reward for the help rendered by the Jews of Jerusalem, Antiochus reestablished the city’s juridical status. Thus, the letter of the king states, politeuesthōsan de pantes hoi ek tou ethnous kata tous patrious nomous (Josephus Ant. 12.142). Ethnos does not refer to Jews worldwide, but to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. The decree signifies the exclusive rule of the Torah in Jerusalem and Judea, or “the inviolability of the prescriptions of the Torah.”[9] Thus, the most important privilege that is granted by the decree of Antiochus III is the confirmation that the internal ordering of Jewish ethnos in Jerusalem and Judea was grounded solely in the Torah.[10]

The second letter is a decree issued by Antiochus III regarding the temple and Jerusalem (Josephus Ant. 12. 145-146). The decree prohibited foreigners and Jews entering the temple, with the exception of those who kata patrion nomon purified themselves (Josephus Ant. 12.145). The decree also banned bringing the flesh of animals “forbidden for the Jews to eat”, the skin and breeding of such animals in the city. Thus, the king’s decree sanctioned Jewish purity laws.

What is significant in these two letters of Antiochus III is the confirmation of the Mosaic law and the fact that the Torah was, therefore, a royal law in Jerusalem. Just as the Persian king during the time of Ezra did, Antiochus III had made the Torah the constitution of the Jews. As in the time of Ezra violation of the “law of separation” was forbidden by both the royal law as well as the Jewish law, Antiochus III made the Jewish law as the law of the land for the Jews (cf. II Macc. 4.11).[11] The king’s decree, thus, sanctioned Jewish particularism, and so separation from the nations, in Jerusalem and Judea.

B. The Jewish Renegades and the Decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

In the period after that of Antiochus III the situation of the Jews seemed to have radically changed. The people who were “the subjects of benefits…turned to be object of violent persecution.”[12] The events leading up to and including the Maccabean revolt have often been portrayed as matters of religious persecution by the hostile Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. It is described that the Seleucid king wanted to bring uniformity in his kingdom, and this resulted in rebellion by certain Jews to regain religious freedom. However, the issue of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews poses a difficult problem for the historians because of its uniqueness, “for religious persecution is contrary to the ideological, religious, social, and political code of the Hellenistic world.”[13]

The reasons and the motives of the persecution and the character of Antiochus IV Epiphanes have been the objects of scholarly debate and investigation. The question that has been posed is:

What caused the Greek king, a man who had been reared and educated in the atmosphere of religious tolerance so characteristic of Greco-Roman culture, to attack the Mosaic Law by force of arms….and to prohibit circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath and the other Jewish practices?[14]

Tcherikover has studied the depictions of Antiochus IV by the ancient historians such as Polybius, Livy and Diodorus. These ancient historians depicted the king, on the one hand, as a man with “full of contradictions and sudden surprises” and “nervousness, hysteria, (and) degeneracy” and on the other hand, as “a ruler with realistic and logical political aspirations.”[15] However, Tcherikover does not see these qualities as the reasons for the persecution. He also criticizes the nineteenth century view that the motive for the persecution was Antiochus’ “great devotion to the Hellenic spirit and culture.”[16] Emil Schurer agreeing with the judgment of Tacitus about Antiochus IV says, “Tacitus judged him (Antiochus) correctly when he said that Antiochus wished to take from the Jews their superstitions and to teach them Greek customs…He endeavored to promote the splendour of Greek culture everywhere.”[17] But Tcherikover argues that Antiochus “saw Hellenism a political means of strengthening his state; but it never occurred to him to abolish local culture and to substitute for it the Greek.”[18] He also questions the view that the king “sought to introduce the cult of the Olympion Zeus throughout his realm in place of the local cults…to set up a “pagan monotheism”.”[19] He questions this view on the basis that there was no parallel for such an action in the Graeco-Roman world before the third century CE. Even if it were true, he wonders, how this had led Antiochus to persecute the Jews. For Tcherikover, Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews was a consequence of the preceding Jewish rebellion.[20] But his view has not gained much support. 

In view of the limitations of the above theories, and taking into consideration the general tolerant attitude of the Hellenistic kings towards local religions and the educational background of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Horsley reasons, “It will hardly have mattered to Epiphanes, a man who attended the lectures of Epicureans, whether the people of Jerusalem, like those in Hieropolis, abstained from pork, or, following the Greek taste, preferred that particular food.”[21]  In addition to that, as Farmer notes, “the attitude of Hellenistic powers toward the religious customs and beliefs of particular ethnic groups was usually one of tolerance.”[22] There is no indication that Antiochus had any particular interest in the Jews. As Bickerman rightly remarks, “he (Antiochus IV) was no religious zealot. He had no occasion to suppress Judaism for ideological reasons, and Jews outside Palestine itself and even in the capital of Antioch carried on their worship without hindrance.”[23] On the contrary, the king’s first encounter with the Jews came fairly soon after he began his reign, but initiated by the Jewish “renegades”. Shifting the focus from Antiochus IV to the Jewish “renegades” for the cause of the persecution, Bickerman declares, “The religious persecution was neither an accident, nor did it arise out of the spirit of paganism. It originated among the Jews themselves, or, to be most exact, from a party among the Jews who aimed at a reform of the ancestral faith.”[24] The underlying issue of the crisis was how the Jewish community was to relate itself to its neighbors.

1. The Motive(s) of the Jewish Renegades

I Maccabees, the pro-Hasmonean dynasty document, informs that a group of Jews realized that the cause for their polla kaka was their separation from “the nations” (1.11). It is not clear what those polla kaka were. However, II Maccabees and Josephus report the struggle for power among some Jewish families, particularly the Tobiads, the Oniads, the Simonites and the Hasmoneans (Maccabeans), and their alliances with the regional political powers. As John Hayes and Sarah Mandell rightly say, “At stake was not only the leadership and authority over the community but also the power to control the financial and tribute-collecting apparatus with its attendant economic gains and privileges.”[25] The Jewish families “were also divided along political, social, and religious lines.”[26] Their attitude towards the Greek culture was a major factor in their divisions. Jason (ca 175-172 BCE) and Menelaus (172-162 BCE), who bribed Antiochus IV Epiphanes for the office of the high priest, were regarded as the ones who initiated to “let the walls of separation fall.” It suggests that power had definitely played a major role in the “reform” initiatives of both Jason and Menelaus, as did in the Maccabean rhetoric of “zeal for the Law”. However, power in Jerusalem, and implementation of one’s interpretation of the Torah and of the way of life according to that interpretation were closely related.

During the Maccabean period the desire of the Jewish renegades and their followers to “let the walls of separation fall” reflects the relationship between Jews and the nations.  Even though both the Jews and the nations recognized the Jewish belief in monotheism, “for both Jews and Gentiles the boundary line between Judaism and paganism was determined more by Jewish observances….”[27] The Jewish distinctive practices determined the boundaries of Jewish community. These boundaries kept the Jews away from social intercourse with the nations. The separation from the nations was again and again reiterated in the Jewish literature of the Second Temple Judaism period. The book of Jubilees insisted, “Separate yourselves from the nations, and eat not with them…For their works are unclean, and all their ways are a pollution and an abomination and an uncleanness” (22.16). Daniel, Tobith and Judith were held as examples of faithfulness, because they refused to eat the food of the nations, (Dan. 1.8-16; Tob. 1.10-13; Judith 10.5, 12.1-20). To the Jews observance of their particular customs was nothing but faithfulness to the Torah and the covenant that characterized their distinctive identity as the people of God (I Macc. 1.11-15; 1.62-63; cf. IV Macc. 4.26, 5.2-3; II Macc. 3.4; 7.1-2 cf. 7.24). For them their particularism or separation from the nations was natural and necessary to maintain their distinctive identity. So the laws of the Torah were understood, “For this reason, God surrounded us on all sides with purity laws concerning eating, drinking, touching, and seeing” (Ps. Aristeas, 142). Thus, assimilation with foreign cultures was forbidden.

The Greeks, and later the Romans, had great difficulty in understanding the realities of the Jewish way of life with its monotheistic religion (without any image of God), its strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, and its separation from the surrounding nations.[28] For them the behavior of the Jews expressed their hatred of the nations. Bibliotheca Historica of Diodorus, the Sicilian (First century BCE), criticized the Jews for their “hatred of mankind” which is expressed in their laws. One of the laws it mentioned was “not to break bread with any other race” (34-35. 1.2). Hecataeus criticized that the laws of Moses differed from those of the other nations “for as a result of their own expulsion from Egypt he introduced a way of life that was somewhat unsocial and hostile to foreigners” (Diodorus Siculus 40.3.4). Apollonius Molon characterized the Jews as “atheists and misanthropes” (Josephus, Ag. Ap. 2.148). The epithet of misanthropic signified “an absence of humane feelings, and was considered an attribute of barbaric people” (Cicero Tusc. 4.25-27; Pliny, Nat. Hist. 7.80).[29] This misanthropy of the Jews was expressed by their way of life that not only was different from that of the nations, but also demanded separation from the nations. The nations considered that “the Jews and their Torah were deviant in human civilization.”[30] Tacitus derided Jewish hatred for the rest of the world, “they eat separately, they sleep separately” (Histories 5.5). For Strabo the Jewish particularism was an expression of barbarism: “All barbarians have in common the custom of expelling foreigners” (Strabo 802).

Jewish rituals such as circumcision, Sabbath, and dietary laws functioned as identity markers. The nations acknowledged them as important tenets of the Jews (Petronius, died ca. 65 CE, Satyricon, fragment 37). Tacitus referred to circumcision as a Jewish identity marker: “Circumcision was introduced so that by this particularly they can recognize each other” (Histories 5.5). Strabo (ca. 64 BCE-ca. 20 CE) regarded the “abstinence from flesh” as the custom of the Jews “even today”. These Jewish distinctive practices became objects of ridicule. Seneca, the Younger, (ca. 4 BCE- 65 CE) and Plutarch (ca. 46-120 CE) regarded the observance of the Sabbath as a Jewish superstitious practice (On Superstition 3; cf. 8). Seneca directed his criticism against Jewish “irrational” superstitions. He sneered at their observance of the Sabbath as a waste of a seventh of a person’s life. Seneca scorned, “We reject the lighting of the Sabbath lamps, for the gods need no illumination, and the smoke cannot be pleasant even to humans” (Seneca, Ep. Ad Lucill. 95, 47). Tacitus (56-120 CE) in Histories (5.4.3-4) and Agatharchides of Cnidus (2nd BCE; quoted by Josephus, Contra Apionem I.209; cf. Antiquities 9.5-6) sneered at the Jewish practice of the Sabbath (Geography 16.2.37). Plutarch sarcastically spoke of Jewish abstinence of eating pork (Quaestiones Convivales IV, 4.4-6.2). According to Tacitus, “They (the Jews) abstain from pork in memory of the disaster of the leprosy which had once defiled them, a disease to which that animal is subject” (Histories 5.5).

The critical perception of the nations about the Jewish distinctive rituals expresses the fact that the social tension between the Jews and the nations was aggravated by the Jewish “strange way of life”.[31] The distinctive rituals such as Sabbath observance, circumcision, dietary laws and festivals constructed a wall between the Jews and the nations. This appeared to the neighbors that the Jews were “unsocial and hostile” toward others.[32] Thus, the Jewish identity bound up with the distinctive customs created not only obstacles for the Jews to associate with their neighbors but also hostility with the nations.[33] The actions of the Jewish renegades highlight this hostile atmosphere between the Jews and the nations. It is this reality that prompted the Jewish renegades to take necessary steps in order to facilitate social intercourse between the Jews and the nations.

2. The Jewish Renegades

The main sources of the Maccabean movement testify to the fact that the initiative for the introduction of the Greek way of life came from within the Jewish community. The identity of the Jewish initiators is not explicit in I Maccabees, except for characterizing them as huioi paranomoi by virtue of their openness towards the nations, and tines apo tou laou (1.11,13). The author also equates those against the Hasmoneans as those “hated the nation” (I Macc. 11.21) and complained to the king against the activities of Judas, “bring to the king an accusation against the people” (I Macc. 7.6). The opponents of Maccabees were given the epithets “renegades” and “godless”, that is, “the transgressors of the Law” (I Macc. 7.21, 10.61, 11.25; cf. 1.11). They were counted among the “foreigners” and “nations” (I Macc. 2.7, 4.12). They were considered to be responsible for building a gymnasium in Jerusalem (I Macc.1.14).

According to Josephus’ Antiquities, Menelaus and the Tobiads requested the king for implementation of the Greek way of life in Jerusalem (Josephus Ant. 12. 240). This request, according to Josephus, was linked to power struggle between Menelaus and Jason for high priesthood. After the death of Onias, Jason, the brother of Onias, succeeded as the high priest. However, as the king was “angry” with Jason, he appointed Menelaus for the high priesthood. However, according to II Maccabees Manelaus succeeded Jason as the high priest by an offer of an increase in tribute by three hundred talents of silver (II Macc. 4.24). People were divided between Jason and Menelaus, where majority supported the former. Menelaus was supported by Tobiads. The situation seems to have made Menelaus and Tobiads to ask the king permission to leave tous patrious nomous and their paliteia in order to follow the king’s laws and adopt the Greek paliteia (Josephus Ant. 12. 240-241). II Maccabees presented Jason and Menelaus as the two main persons to have initiated the process of Hellenization of Jerusalem. Antiochus IV Epiphanes can hardly be blamed for permitting Jason and Menelaus to introduce Greek customs into Jerusalem at the latter’s own request.

Jesus, who assumed the Greek name Jason, initiated the introduction of the Greek way of life in Jerusalem. He was the brother of Onias III, the high priest. According to Josephus, Jason was given high priesthood by Antiochus IV Epiphanes after the death of Onias III, “About this time, upon the death of Onias the high priest, they gave the high priesthood to Jesus his brother” (Josephus Ant. 12.237). However, II Maccabees relates that Jason bribed the king to usurp the office of high priest by deposing Onias III, “a zealot for the laws,”: “Jason the brother of Onias obtained the high priesthood by corruption, promising the king at an interview three hundred sixty talents of silver, and from another source of revenue eighty talents” (II Macc. 4.7-8). But Jason had more in mind than just the office of the high priest. He wanted to introduce the Greek way of life in Jerusalem. Jason paid an extra amount of one hundred and fifty for the “permission…to establish by his authority a gymnasium and ephēbeion for it, and to enroll the people of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch” (II Macc. 4.9-10).[34] I Maccabees does not mention the identity, but simply notes that tines apo tou laou sought the king for the authority to “observe ta dikaiōmata tōn ethnōn. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to ta nomima tōn ethnōn” (I Macc. 1.14). Thus, Jason not only secured the high priesthood, but also got permission from the king to introduce Greek way of life in Jerusalem.

The gymnasium formed the symbol and basis for the Greek way of life. I Maccabees blames those who built the gymnasium that they “removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant” (I Macc. 1.15). The establishment of gymnasium, for the author of II Maccabees, meant that “Jason made the Jews conform to the Greek way of life” (II Macc. 4.10; cf. I Macc.1.14). II Maccabees goes on to say that Jason “set aside the existing royal concessions to the Jews, secured through John the father of Eupolemus” (II Macc. 4.11). This refers back to the concessions granted by Antiochus III to the Jews to order their lives according to the laws of the Torah. The sources do not mention any reaction of the people to what Jason did, except that some, including priests, had embraced the “reforms”. Jason was followed by Menelaus as the high priest. According to II Maccabees Menelaus was put to death by Antiochus V Eupator because he was identified by Lysias as “the cause of the trouble” (II Macc. 13.4 cf. Josephus Ant. 12.384). Bickerman cites Daniel 11.30 for further support that it was the Jewish renegades (those who forsook the covenant) who influenced the king to give them permission to introduce the Greek way of life in Jerusalem. Hengel supports Bickerman’s position:

Neither the king nor his ‘friends’, who were certainly very little interested in the Jews, will have conceived such unusual ideas, which presuppose a knowledge of conditions within Judaism. This gives greatest probability to Bickerman’s view that the impulse to the most extreme escalation of events in Judea came from the extreme Hellenists in Jerusalem itself….Thus Menelaus and Tobiads who supported him appear as the authors of the edict of persecution.[35]

It is also fairly clear that both Jason and Menelaus were power-seekers. In order to keep their power, they seemed to have found it imperative to bring a change in the politeia of Jerusalem and Judea. Jason initiated this and Menelaus brought it to a conclusion by influencing Antiochus IV Epiphanes to issue a decree. 

As noted above, “the ‘letter of freedom’ promulgated by Antiochus III…grounded the internal ordering.”[36] It gave legal basis for the politeia in Jerusalem in accordance with “the laws of the fathers” (cf. Josephus Ant. 12.142). To explain this, Goldstein uses the analogy: “In the time of Ezra violation of the law of separation was forbidden by both the royal law as well as the Jewish law. Antiochus III again made the Jewish law as the law of the land for the Jews (Josephus Ant xii 3.3.142; cf. II Macc. 4.11).”[37]  In order to carry out their program Jason and his friends had to take the permission of the king in order to introduce “new customs” such as gymnasium and ephebate, and “to enroll the people of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch”, within Jerusalem, so that they would not become violators of the existing royal law. The permission of the king alone made it possible to introduce “practices which were against the law” (II Macc. 4.11). The precise implication of the registration of people as citizens of the Greek polis Antioch is not clear, whether “to create an independent Hellenistic polis (city-state) within Jerusalem or, more likely, to turn Jerusalem into Hellenistic polis (II Macc. 4.9).”[38] It is widely perceived that it was to entail the Greek constitution in Jerusalem, with a new list of citizens.[39] It is important to note that there is no mention of any interference with the Jewish religion. However, II Maccabees interprets the action of Jason as tas…nomimous kataluōn politeias parnomous ethismous ekainizen (II Macc. 4.11). The concessions made to Jason by the king meant that the existing royal concessions granted by Antiochus III, which made Torah the royal law in Jerusalem, were being relaxed. This relaxation of the Torah was evidenced in the fact that some of the Jews in order to participate in the gymnasium underwent epispasm so that they would not be conspicuously different from the Greeks (II Macc. 4.12-15; IMacc.1.15). Both the books of Maccabees testify that the reforms of Jason were significant violations of Jewish way of life. I Maccabees claims that some of the Jews “removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant” (1.15). The external identity markers were crucial for the Jews in maintaining their distinctive identity as the covenant people of God and separation from the nations (II Macc. 6.6). II Maccabees criticizes Jason that he set aside the constitution based on the ancestral laws which had been authorized by Antiochus III and “the lawful way was abolished and practices which were against the law were introduced” (4.11). The Book of Daniel labels the renegades as “violators of the covenant” (11.30).

The Jewish renegades wanted to reform Judaism by eliminating the “barbaric” separatism and to establish social intercourse with the nations. In order to implement this agenda without becoming violators of the existing royal law of the land, the Torah, they took permission from the king. This facilitated some of the Jews to give up their distinctive customs that separated them from the nations (I Macc. 10.14, 6.21; Dan. 9.27). For those Jews for whom their identity is bound up with the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals, the renegades were  the ones “who forsook the holy covenant” (Dan. 11.30) and forgot the law (I Macc. 1.43, 52, 2.16, 23, 6.21). Since they considered observance of these rituals important, the action of the renegades was considered to have broken down “the lawful manners of life”, and introduced “new customs forbidden by the law”.

3. The Decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

The decisive moment of abolishing the legal basis of the Torah of the politeia according to the decree of Antiochus III came with the promulgation of the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Among the three main sources I Maccabees explicitly presents the decree of the king. According to it the events that preceded the decree were: Antiochus attacked Egypt (I Macc. 1.16-19; cf. II Macc. 5.1-4; Josephus Ant. 12.242-244); he went against Israel and plundered the temple (I Macc. 1.20-28; cf. II Macc. 5.11-21; Josephus Ant. 12.246-247, 249-250); and two years later he sent a chief tax collector, who destroyed the city, killed “many people of Israel”, “took captive the women and children and seized the livestock”, and built new walls and the Akra (I Macc. 1. 29-40; cf. II Macc.5.24-26; Josephus Ant 12.248, 251-252).[40] The decree sent out by Antiochus IV Epiphanes is described in I Maccabees 1.41-49 (cf. II Macc. 6.1-2; Josephus Ant. 12.253-255):

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.”  

The king’s decree was a decisive blow to the Jews, who insisted on the distinctive Jewish identity markers. The king appointed overseers to enforce the decree, and to force the Jews “to depart from their ancestral laws and to cease living by the laws of God” (II Macc. 6.1; cf. 1.49). I Maccabees relates that “many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had” (I Macc. 1.51-53).  The author states that the evil doers “erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah,” destroyed copies of the Torah, condemned to death those who observed the law or possessed the law, and put to death circumcised children and their families (1.54-61). II Maccabees reports offering “abominable” sacrifices, and prohibition of Sabbath, festivals and circumcision (6. 3-6, 10-11). Josephus also mentions some of the details of the decree such as erection of an “idol” altar in the temple and altars in “every city and village”, offering abominable sacrifices, prohibition of circumcision, killing the women and their sons who were circumcised, destroying the Torah and those who possessed it (Josephus Ant. 12.253-256). The royal decree prohibited mainly the Jewish distinctive customs such as celebration of the Jewish festivals, observance of the Sabbath, circumcision and dietary laws. Transgressors of the new decree were liable to capital punishment. II Maccabees considers the prohibition of the distinctive customs as denial for the Jew to “confess himself to be a Jew” (II Macc. 6.6; 15.1-5).

The author of I Maccabees states that the royal decree ordered the establishment of a uniform cult throughout the Seleucid kingdom and endeavored to abolish the particular rites of various nations. This assessment is weak and overtly exaggerated. Because other regions continued to worship their own gods/goddesses. On the basis of the coins minted in various cities in the Seleucid kingdom, Bickerman argues that Antiochus IV Epiphanes by no means followed a policy of establishing a uniform cult throughout his kingdom. He contends:

From 169/8 B.C. on, precisely the time at which the conflict with the Jews began, numerous cities of his realm received permission to mint small coins. In every case, the obverse shows the king’s head in the crown of rays without any inscription. If the king is named at all (as on the reverse of the Phoenician coins), it says: “Of King Antiochus.” This uniformity demonstrates that picture and title were prescribed. This makes it all the more noteworthy that the reverse of these coins, which is reserved for the emblems of the individual cities, does not show any uniformity. Every place, rather, displays the divinity that was especially revered there. At Adna and Nisbis we find Zeus Nikephoros (as on Epiphenes’ own coins); Alexandria- Issos shows a standing Zeus; Laodices on the Sea displays her Baal, as identified with Poseidon; Sidon boasts of her city-goddess; Byblos issues her coins with the old-fashioned image of her divinity with six wings. The Phoenician cities, for the first time since Alexander the Great, adds inscriptions in the local language. What, then, could possibly have motivated Epiphanes to replace on Mt. Zion the god of the fathers by the Olympion Zeus of the Greeks?[41]

There is no indication that Antiochus ever intended religious coercion throughout his empire.[42] There is no evidence that Jews outside Jerusalem and Judea in the Seleucid kingdom were affected by the decree of the king (II Macc. 4.36; Josephus Ant. 12.119; BJ 7.43, 106). The petition of the Samaritans to Antiochus IV Epiphanes that belongs to the period of the persecution (166 BCE), and the subsequent letters of the king to Nicanor, the procurator, and Apollonius, governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, illustrate that the practice of the Sabbath in Samaria was not affected by the decree of the king (Josephus, Ant. 12.257-264). The Samaritans petitioned to the king not to be treated like the Jews, because they were different from the latter in race and their customs.[43] They further declared that their practice of the Sabbath was introduced by their forefathers “upon certain frequent plagues, and as following a certain ancient superstition” (Josephus, Ant. 12. 259). Their request to be freed from the “accusations which belong to the Jews” was granted by the king. From this request it can be understood that the Samaritans continued to live according to the Torah and celebrate the Sabbath. This further illustrates that the king’s decree prohibiting the customs of the Torah was not enforced in Samaria. On the king’s letter exempting the Samaritans from persecution Jonathan Goldstein comments, “Since Josephus likes to contrast the Samaritans with the Jews, one would expect him to mention immediately after AJ xii 264 any royal messages requiring persecution of Jews outside Judaea….”[44]  Furthermore, the letter of Antiochus IV was addressed tē gerousia tōn Ioudaiōn kai tois allois Ioudaiois (II Macc. 11. 27-33).[45] As a result of the diplomatic negotiations carried out by Menelaus on behalf of the people, the king granted amnesty to the Judeans who would return to their homes before the 30th of Xanthicus, and revoked his earlier policy of persecution and restored “full permission for the Jews to enjoy their own food and laws, just as formerly” (II Macc. 11.30-31). This expresses the cessation of the suppression of the practices in Jerusalem and Judea that were considered characteristically Jewish. Therefore, the decree of Antiochus IV was limited to the Jews in “Jerusalem and the cities of Judaea” (I Macc. 1.44, 51, 3.35, 2.6; cf. Josephus JW 1.34-36; II Macc. 6-7).[46] Commenting on I Maccabees Bickerman notes,

The error of the Jewish historian can be explained, however, if we assume that the persecution at Jerusalem was defended as aiming to abolish particularism. This, then, would have been the goal of the people who instigated the measures of the king.[47]

The legal binding of the Torah in Jerusalem guaranteed by Antiochus III’s charter of freedom enforced particularism of Jews at Jerusalem. This could not be changed by anyone except the king. This was what Antiochus IV Epiphanes did. He revoked the existing freedom charter of the previous king and introduced a new one. When this new charter came into force, it was no longer assimilation that was considered transgression, but particularism.[48] According to the decree of Antiochus III, it was forbidden to offer on Zion any sacrifices which the Torah prohibited (Josephus, Ant. 12.145). In contrast, according to the decree of Antiochus IV pork should be used for sacrifices, and the Jewish particular customs such as circumcision, Sabbath, dietary laws and festivals were prohibited. Bickerman explains the situation with a historical analogy:

Just as Ezra had introduced the law by the authority conferred upon him by Artaxerxes, so now the abolition of the law was proclaimed by the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Just as the edict of Artaxerxes declared non-compliance with the Jewish law (which was identified with the royal law) to be a capital crime, (so also did the decree of Antiochus).[49] 

Jews, who insisted on the distinctive Jewish rituals and based Jewish life on their exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah, resented at the new charter of freedom. They considered the charter as prohibition to confess as Jews (since their identity is bound up with their distinctive rituals) and of their freedom to live according to the laws of the Torah.

C. The Revolt of the Maccabees

The decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes had deprived the Jews to order their lives according to the exlusionistic interpretation of the Torah. As Peter Schafer rightly comments, “The measures carried out by the king against the Torah and the Jewish cult had – consciously or unconsciously – struck Judaism’s vital nerve.”[50] In reaction to the king’s decree, the Maccabean movement arose. The concern of Mattathias and his sons was restoration of “freedom”, that is (re)establishment of social order in accordance with the laws of the Torah. Maccabean movement is characterized by “zeal for the law”. Zeal for God and the Torah compelled those involved in the movement to resist the king’s decree.

 1. The Origin of the Maccabees

I Maccabees and II Maccabees begin their narrative about Maccabees and their revolt differently. I Maccabees starts with Mattathias, the patriarch of the Hasmonean family, whereas II Maccabees has nothing to say about him. The former attributes to Mattathias the honor of being the initiator of the revolt, whereas the latter focuses on Judas and makes no reference to the Maccabean revolt having its inception in Mattathias’ action in Modein, a town about seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem. According to II Maccabees Judas, Mattathias’ son, played the most prominent role in the Maccabean movement from the beginning (5.27). However, Bar-Kochva argues:

The closeness of the verse to the description of the devastation carried out in Jerusalem by Apollonius, commander of the Mysian troops (5.24-6), gives the impression that Judas Maccabaeus fled from Jerusalem to the desert before the promulgation of the anti-Jewish decrees, and there began to organize and shape a core of rebels.[51]

But this does not fit with the account of I Maccabees where the rebellion initiated by Mattathias was in reaction to the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2.15ff). Some scholars prefer the “realistic” tone of II Maccabees to the “artistic-legendary” story of I Maccabees on Mattathias’ charismatic action.[52] Josephus in both his books Jewish Wars (1.36) and Jewish Antiquities (12.268-271) agrees with the depiction of I Maccabees. On II Maccabees 5.27 Bar-Kochva comments:

Far-reaching conclusions should not…be drawn from that verse. Judas Maccabaeus’ sudden appearance without any introduction or prior information, the reference to the men who accompanied him to the desert, and the many principal forms…all show that the verse is an abridgement (or summary) of a detailed story in Jason’s original book, which contained information on additional people in the leadership of the Revolt at its inception. This story may well have begun with the Modein episode, and it is not impossible that among the ten people were Judas Maccabaeus’ brothers and Mattathias who fled from Modein (cf. I Macc. 2.17, 20, 28).[53]

Referring to the encamping of Lysias and his army at Modein (II Macc. 13.14-15), Bar-Kochva argues that the reference to Modein was unrelated to the geographical background and Jason of Cyrene, who was ignorant of the exact place where the Seleucid army encamped and being familiar with the tradition on Modein, “inserted the name of Modein which was famous from the onset of the Revolt in order to whet the reader’s interest.”[54]  

Mattathias was a historical person, for he is mentioned in an official document as Simon’s father (I Macc. 14.29). We know little of the antecedents of Mattathias except for his father John and grandfather Simeon (I Macc. 2.1; Josephus, Ant. 12.265). He was a priest, and had five sons: John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar and Jonathan. This family belonged to the priestly clan of Joiarib (I Macc. 2.1; 14.29). Joiarib is absent in the priests’ lists of Ezra (2.36-39)[55] and Nehemiah (7.39-42), but is found among the priests living in Jerusalem in Nehemiah 11.10, and among the priests who went up to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in Nehemiah 12.6. Joiarib takes the second place in the list of priests in I Chronicles 9.10-13 and first place in the list of I Chronicles 24, which is viewed by some scholars as the result of the pro-Hasmonean redaction of the material.[56] In spite of the contrary view that Mattathias was a native priest of Modein, the ancient sources overwhelmingly affirm that the Hasmonean family was from Jerusalem (I Macc. 2.1; II Macc. 5.25-27; Josephus, Ant. 12.265).[57] Some scholars suppose that the family owned an estate in Modein.[58] On the basis of this, John Hays and Sarah Mandell argue that the family had power base in that town “or even in the portions of Judah that were not as urbanized as Jerusalem, rather than in Jerusalem proper.”[59] Even though both I Maccabees and Josephus acknowledge that Mattathias and his family had a good standing in Modein, there is no strong evidence for Mattathias owning an estate in Modein (I Macc. 2.17-18; Josephus, Ant. 12.268-269).  

2. The Motive of the Maccabean Movement

Discussing on the motive of the Maccabean movement, Brent Nongbri argues that the “main concern at all periods was their own advancement.”[60] Samuel Eddy says that the starting point to look for the motive of Maccabean movement should not be Mattathias as he is not a prominent figure in the narratives of I Maccabees and Josephus. As he reasons,

Mattathias died as soon as the resistance began…his death made no difference at all to the course of events…Hence the problem of finding out what motivated Mattathias is not really as important as finding out what intentions the Hasmonean family had and what their contemporaries thought of them…they wanted very badly to improve their position in respect to the other priestly families of Judah, or, in other words, to become high priests. This is actually what happened, and there is no reason for thinking that it was not a motive from the beginning. Their piety was tempered with ambition.[61]

Eddy adds that the campaigns of the Maccabees did not cease with the restoration of what was changed with the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but continued with territorial expansion and acquiring power in Jerusalem with the help of regional political powers. Commenting on Judas, Seth Schwartz says that he “behaved more like an ambitious courtier than a zealous freedom fighter. So he was probably not seeking to overthrow the existing system but to advance within it.”[62] Although the actions of the Hasmonean family may be interpreted like the above scholars did, it is uncertain whether self-advancement by acquiring power in Jerusalem was the main motive of the Maccabean revolt from the beginning. When one considers what prompted the revolt and the goal of the movement as reported by the ancient sources, they lead to a different conclusion. Also acquiring power in Jerusalem with the help of the regional political powers was not just for its selfish ambition for power. It reveals the very goal at the heart of Maccabean agenda from the beginning. That means, restoration of the freedom and maintenance of it in Jerusalem and Judea. The territorial expansion of the Hasmonean rule also expresses their religious zealotry as evidenced by their forceful circumcision of the conquered.  

The ancient sources testify that the goal of the Maccabean movement was to (re)establish freedom in Jerusalem and Judea. However, they define the freedom in different terms. I Maccabees records that the concern of Mattathias and his sons was the Torah and the covenant. So Mattathias gave a call, “Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me” (I Macc. 2.27). He saw “the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem” and the holy city “no longer free, she has become a slave” (I Macc. 2.11). Mattathias and his followers “exposed themselves to the danger and resisted the enemies of their nation, in order that their sanctuary and the law might be preserved and they brought great glory to their nation” (I Macc. 14. 29). By restoring the temple and the Torah, Mattathias and his sons established the freedom in Jerusalem and Judea (I Macc. 14.26),

II Maccabees depicts the Maccabean revolt as a freedom movement. That is, to secure the freedom to live according to the Torah.[63] The book describes the purpose of the Maccabean revolt as to seize “the whole land”, pursue “the barbarian hordes”, regain “possession of the temple famous throughout the world”, liberate “the city”, and reestablish “the laws that were about to be abolished” (II Macc. 2. 21-22). It further states that the intended goal of the Maccabean revolt was mainly the restoration of the temple cult and tōn patriōn nomōn and tois tou theou nomois mē politeuesthai. Because these were affected by the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (II Macc. 6.1). That was why Antiochus V Eupator in his letter to Lysias conveyed his decision to restore the temple and politeuesthai kata ta epi tōn progonōn autōn ethē (II Macc. 11.25).[64] Judas, before attacking Nicanor, exhorted his army to keep before “their eyes the lawless outrage that the ethnōn had committed against the holy place, and the torture of the derided city, and besides, tēn tēs progonikēs politeias katalusin” (II Macc. 8.17; cf. II Macc. 13.14). Therefore, II Maccabees understands the freedom in terms of restoration of temple cult and tōn patriōn nomōn and tois tou theou nomois mē politeuesthai.

Josephus also describes the Maccabean movement as a freedom movement (Ant.12.281, 302; 12.433-434). Freedom is understood in terms of restoration of tēn archaian politeian so that the Jews might live according to the customs of their country. There is an emphasis that the Maccabean movement was aimed primarily toward the restoration of the “laws of the fathers” (Ant. 12.285; cf. I Macc. 2.69-70). According to Josephus, Mattathias in his farewell speech exhorted his sons,

To preserve the customs of your country, and to recover tēn archaian politeian, which is in danger of being overturned…if God sees that you are so disposed he will not overlook you, but will have a great value for your virtue, and will restore to you again what you have lost, and will return to you that freedom in which you shall live quietly, and enjoy your own customs (Josephus Ant. 12.280-281).

Recovering freedom was the goal of the Maccabean movement can also be seen in Judas’ address to his army at Emmaus. He exhorted his army, “For if you now fight manfully, you may recover your liberty, which, as it is a thing of itself agreeable to all men, so it proves to be to us much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of worshipping God” (Joesphus Ant. 12. 302-303). For Josephus, Judas’ victory at Emmaus “contributed to the recovery of their liberty” (Josephus Ant. 12.312). When Judas died, Josephus eulogizes him as “a man of valor and a great warrior, and mindful of all the commands of their father Mattathias; and had undergone all difficulties, both in doing and in suffering, for the liberty of his countrymen” (Josephus Ant. 12.433). For Josephus eleutheria is “life in accordance with the laws and customs of the fathers.”[65]

Thus, the three main sources declare that the main purpose of the Maccabean revolt was to restore the freedom, the freedom to live according to the laws of the Torah. In other words, Maccabees wanted to reestablish the politeia based on the laws of the Torah.

 3. Politeia/Politeuesthai

Modern scholarship is divided with regards to usage of politeia in the Jewish-Hellenistic literature. Scholars like Tcherikover argue that the politeia “is often linked to the integration and assimilation of Judaism into Greek civic life.”[66] On the other hand, scholars like Aryeh Kasher argue that it denotes an independent political entity, separate inside a polis

Josephus understood the term politeia to mean “regime”, ‘constitution”, “government”, “civic status”, “citizenship”, and “civic body”.[67] However, he used politeia more frequently in the sense of “constitution”.[68] Kasher notes:

It is most instructive that in the vast majority of the latter (that is, with the meaning of “constitution”), the “constitution” referred to was the laws of the Torah, and indeed that was the common usage in Hellenistic Jewish literature too (Josephus Ant. 3.84, 213, 322; 4.45, 184, 191, 193-196, 198, 230, 302, 310, 312; 5.98, 132, 179, 186; 6.35; 10.275; 11.140; 12.240, 280; 13.2, 245; 15.281; II Macc. 4.11; 8.17; 13.14).[69]

It is, therefore, not surprising that the verb politeuein was used to mean the establishment of community life according to the laws of the Torah (Josephus Ant. 12.38, 142; 14.260; 11.112, 279; II Macc. 6.1; 11.25). The struggle of the Jews resulted from their eagerness to survive as Jews with their distinctive identity, and their desire to protect their rights to an independent organization. II Maccabees shows that politeuein became the slogan of the Maccabean movement. This is evident in the letter of Antiochus Eupator. In his letter to Lysias, king Eupator acknowledged the resentment of the Jews against his father’s plan of “converting them to Hellenic customs” and their preference for “their own way of life.” The king informed his decision to the Jews to return the temple and politeuesthai “according to the customs of their ancestors” (II Macc. 11.25). The loss of politeia by the Jews also echoed in Judas’ exhortation to his army. Before confronting Nicanor and his army, Judas encouraged his army by exhorting them about the misery done to the sacred place and to Jerusalem, and the overthrow of the politeia (II Macc. 8.17; cf. 13.14). According to II Maccabees, the process of the annulment of the Jewish right of politeia began with Jason. Jason’s act of getting permission from the king “to set up a gymnasium and ephebeum and to register the Jerusalemites as Antiocheans” is interpreted as “(setting) aside the established royal laws…(and breaking down) lawful politeias, and (introducing) new customs forbidden by the law” (II Macc. 4.10). Finally, Antiochus IV Epiphanes by issuing the decree annulled the Jewish right of politeia. In order to implement this, the king sent “an old Antiochean” “to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers, and mē politeuesthai the laws of their fathers” (II Macc. 6.1).

Josephus reiterates that the goal of the Maccabean movement was to restore the Jewish politeia . Mattathias in his farewell speech to his sons exhorted them “to save our country’s customs and to restore tēn archaian politeian” (Josephus Ant. 12.280). Josephus also concurs with II Maccabees that Antiochus IV Epiphanes deprived the Jews of their right to politeia. Josephus, writing about the visions of Daniel and their fulfillment in the history of Jews, mentions that what Daniel saw about “a certain king who would make war on the Jewish nation and their laws, deprive them of the politeia based on these laws” fulfilled under  Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Josephus, Ant. 10. 275). Unlike the account of II Maccabees, for Josephus the process of annulment of the Jewish right of politeia started with Menelaus and the Tobiads. They went to the king and told him that “they wished to abandon tous patrious nomous and tēn kat’ autous politeian and to follow the king’s laws and adopt tēn Ellēnikēn politeian” (Josephus Ant. 12. 240).

Although the term politeia (or  politeuesthai) is absent in I Maccabees, it emphasizes that the goal of the Maccabean movement was restoration of community life according to the laws of the Torah. It describes the Maccabean movement as a revolt against the decree of the king Antiochus IV Epiphanes that prohibited the particular customs of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea and its goal as the restoration of the temple and the Torah (I Macc. 1. 41ff; 14.29). The movement is characterized by the zeal for the Torah and the covenant (I Macc. 2. 27). When king’s officer asked Mattathias to be the first in obeying the king’s order, the latter answered:

Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left (I Macc. 2.15-22).

The words of Lysias makes it even more clear that the Maccabean movement was a result of the abolishment of Jewish way of life according to their laws: “Let us agree to let them (Jews) live by their laws as they did before; for it was on account of their laws that we abolished that they became angry and did all these things” (I Macc. 6.59).

 Politeia is “a kind of honour that the kings or the Caesars gave in tribute to the Jews in exchange for their expertise and loyalty; these honours were expressed in concrete fashion…in the authorization ‘to use the ancestral laws’.”[70] Josephus mentions that Selucus I Nicator granted the Jews of Antioch a politeia and “declared them to have equal privileges (isotimous) with the Macedonians and Greeks” (Josephus Ant. 12.119-124). The honor equal to those of Macedonians and Greeks that the Jews received was politeia. It was their politeia that placed them at an equal rank with the Macedonians and the Greeks. Strabo also employed politeia to the Jewish community of Alexandria (Josephus Ant. 14.117). Here politeia is refers to an independent political body based on the laws of the Torah. Because of this concession of politeia the Jews in Antioch were “named Antiochians” (Josephus, Ag. Ap.2.39). According to Josephus, “the concession of politeia on the part of the authorities, the kings or the Caesars and their representatives, to the Jews of the Ephesus, Antioch, Alexandria, or Cyrene, equates them to citizens” (cf. Josephus Ag.Ap. 2.39).[71] The right of politeia could not be abolished by anyone except the one who bestowed it. That was why the Greeks of Alexandria and Antioch requested Vespasian and Titus to abolish this right of Jewish politeia. One thing that is obvious is that the right of politeia was bestowed by an emperor or a king and not by local authorities of polis (cf. Josephus Ant. 16.31-40). The abolition of the Jewish politeia meant that the Jewish community would be deprived of the right to order its life according to the ancestral laws.[72] Josephus, however, records that Vespasian and Titus did not concede the request of the Greeks of Alexandria and Antioch, but allowed the Jews to enjoy their right of politeia. Similar incident happened in Ionia. Josephus records that the Greeks of Ionia petitioned Agrippa that “they alone might enjoy the politeia which Antiochus, the grandson of Seleucus, called Theos by the Greeks, had given them, and claimed that if the Jews were to be their kinsfolk, they should worship their gods” (Josephus Ant 12.125-126). The Greeks’ claim that “they alone might enjoy the politeia” indicates that not only the Greeks but also the Jews residing in Ionia were bestowed with the right of politeia. What the Greeks wanted was cancellation of that right of the Jews and establishment of one politeia based on sunggeneia. This kinship was based on religious criterion: “If the Jews were to be their (the Greeks) kinsfolk, they should worship their gods.” But, Josephus notes that when “the matter was brought to trial, the Jews won the right to use their own customs” (Josephus Ant. 12.126). Here Josephus is not talking about the “citizenship” of the polis but the “right to use their (Jews) own customs.” This suggests that abolition of Jewish politeia meant that the Jews would no longer be allowed to order their lives according to their ancestral customs. This is made even clearer in Antiquities 16.27ff:

(The Jews living in Ionia complained to Agrippa about) the mistreatment which they had suffered in not being allowed to observe their own laws and in being forced to appear in court on their holy days because of the inconsiderateness of the examining judges. And they told how they had been deprived of the monies sent as offerings to Jerusalem and of being forced to participate in military service and civic duties and to spend their sacred monies for these things, although they had been exempted from these duties because the Romans had always permitted them to live in accordance with their own laws (Josephus Ant. 16. 27-28).

The laws regarding the politeia are the laws of the Torah. Josephus notes that the Jews living in Ionia were equals to the Greeks living there in the sense of having the right of politeia (Josephus Ant. 16.32-33). In other words, Jewish politeia is an autonomously organized and a separate political body in a polis. The one thing that had caused resentment among the Greeks towards the Jews was “the right to preserve our (Jews) ancestral religion” (Josephus Ant. 16. 41). Kasher rightly comments:

 The separate independent existence of Jewish communities within their boundaries was a thorn in the flesh of the Ionian cities. The Jews’ right to maintain a parallel organization to the polis, send money to Jerusalem, be exempt from the liturgia and enjoy full consideration of their laws, all highlighted the poleis’ own limited sovereignty and total dependence on Rome. It is no wonder that those cities missed no opportunity to seek a change in the situation. One method undoubtedly consisted of accusing the Jews of “impiety”, which if confirmed would lead to the abolition of the Jewish politeia. That would leave just one politeia, the Greek one, based on a single syngeneia of a clearly religious nature.[73]

4. “Zeal” of the Maccabees

Maria Brutti rightly observes that the association of the verb zēloō and the noun nomos  in I Maccabees and II Maccabees (I Macc. 2.24, 26; II Macc. 4.2)[74] “highlights a widespread issue in the Jewish world of the Hellenistic age: the zeal for the law.”[75] Many Jews fostered the ideal of “zeal for God” or “zeal for the law” on the model of Phineas and Elijah. Such admiration for zeal was also influential in shaping the Maccabean movement. Analyzing the issue of “zeal for the law”, Hengel finds that it had a particular relevance during the crisis of the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes,[76] for the underlying cause of the crisis in Jerusalem and Judea was the Torah. In I Maccabees Mattathias, the patriarch of the movement, was characterized by the “zeal for the law” (2.24, 26). Thus, Mattathias was placed in line with Phineas and Elijah (I Macc. 2.54,58). In Josephus, Mattathias’ zeal is found only once: “If anyone is zealous for the ancient customs and the veneration of God, let him follow me” (Ant. 12.271). According to him, Mattathias’ call was to restore the Jewish politeia based on the Torah. Commenting on the lack of the concept of zēlos in Josephus, Hengel says, “Josephus consciously suppressed any elements that may possibly have established close link between early Jewish history and the principles and aims of Jewish movement of revolt against Rome.”[77]

Unlike II Maccabees, the author of the I Maccabees characterizes the Maccabean movement as “zeal for the law” (I Macc. 2. 26, 27). II Maccabees, for its particular reasons, neither mentions Mattathias as the initiator of the movement nor characterizes the movement by “zeal for the law”. The absence of reference to Mattathias and zeal in II Maccabees, and for having close parallels and overt reference to Phineas in I Maccabees, the material about Mattathias is considered “suspect” by some scholars.[78] They contend that the portrayal of Mattathias in line with Phineas was intended to justify the high priesthood of the Hasmonean family. Tcherikover, though admits Mattathias as a historical person “for he is mentioned in an official document as Simon’s father (I Macc. 14.29),” is more blunt in his rejection of the story of Mattathias. He thinks, “The attractive figure in I Maccabees belongs rather to the world of fiction than to historical reality, and it should be remarked that II Maccabees does not refer to him at all.”[79] Lester Grabbe comments that “the story as it stands has elements suggestive of romantic coloration (eg., the Phineas-like act of Mattathias)”.[80] However, Peter Schafer argues that even though the account in I Maccabees 2.1-26 is “tendentious but still essentially historical.”[81] Goldstein too considers the story of Mattathias historical. He reasons, “The author of I Maccabees, writing in the time of Mattathias’ great-grandson, may well preserve Mattathias’ own ideology.”[82] According to I Maccabees, the decisive impetus for zeal for the law came when Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued a decree prohibiting Jewish life according to the Torah (1.41-50). It presents Mattathias as viewing the crisis similar to that faced by zealous Phineas.[83]

The characteristic of “zeal” was influential during the Maccabean period (cf. Judith 9.2ff Jubilees 30.5-20 Sirach 45.23-24, 48.2). Farmer comments that “the term zēloō indicates that the one who is zealous for God is one active, in a particular way, for God.”[84] What is evident is that violence was an essential part of the zeal. Violence was directed against those Jews who failed to maintain their distinctive identity by separating themselves from the nations. Phineas, son of Eleazar, is the first example of the Old Testament for the zeal for the honor of God. When Israel began to worship the Baal of Peor, God’s wrath fell upon Israel and caused a plague to fall upon it (Num. 25.1-18). Phineas saw Zimri, an Israelite, taking Cozbi, a Midianite woman, into his tent, and he killed both of them.[85] This act of Phineas was reported to have been commended and approved by God as “zeal…on my (God’s) behalf” and resulted in “turning back my (God’s) wrath from the Israelites”. In other words, Phineas’ zealous act “made atonement for the Israelites” and restored peace in the community (Num. 25.13). Thus, “the sword of those who love God is a redemptive instrument, and its zealous use is capable of turning away the wrath of God from his disobedient people, by making atonement for the sins of the nation.”[86] As a reward for his act, Phineas was given a promise of eternal priesthood and a covenant of peace.

What is significant of “zeal” after the model of Phineas is: 1. Zeal for God (or the law) was primarily directed against the apostates of Israel, who failed to maintain their distinctive identity by separating themselves from the nations and endorsed the use of violence against them; 2. The linking of Phineas’ atoning act and priesthood (because Phineas offered the sacrifices in the form of Zimri and Cozbi that turned away God’s wrath from the entire community, and thus restored peace and order) with a covenant of peace. Farmer comments, “Within certain circles of post-exilic Judaism Phineas was regarded as one of the great patriarchs.”[87] For Sirach, Phineas ranks third after Moses and Aaron in his zeal for God and “standing firm, when the people turned away” (Sirach 45.23; cf. 25.10-13). The author speaks that the act of Phineas had “made atonement for Israel” and was rewarded with “the dignity of priesthood forever” (Sir. 45.23-26; cf. 50.24). While the Greek text qualifies the zeal of Phineas as “in the fear of the Lord”, the Hebrew text characterizes him as “standing in the breach”[88].

The tradition of Phineas was active during the time of Maccabees. Horsley notes, “The tradition of the zeal of Phineas was given an importance that was much greater than it ever had in the past during the period of religious distress experienced under Antiochus Epiphanes.”[89] The zeal of Phineas had become the prototype for the ideal of “zeal for the law” for the Maccabean movement. I Maccabees considers Phineas as the ultimate model and thus called him “our father” (I Macc. 2.54).[90] The concern of Mattathias was zeal for the law and the covenant.[91] This is evident in his call to people: “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me” (I Macc. 2.27), and to his sons: “Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors” (I Macc. 2.50). It is important to note how closely linked are the law interpreted in exclusionistic sense and the covenant, or more precisely, obedience to the law and keeping the covenant. Significantly, Mattathias’ exhortation to his sons to “show zeal for the law” is exemplified by ta erga tōn paterōn (I Macc. 2.50-60). The zealous acts of Phineas and Elijah are included in ta erga tōn paterōn. The similarity between the context of Phineas and that of the Maccabees was apostate Jews and God’s wrath upon the Jews.[92] The position of the statement in I Macc. 1.64 (“Very great wrath came upon Israel”) is significant. The preceding verses describe the decree of the king against Jewish particular customs, the apostasy of many Jews (I Macc. 1.52), the desecration of the temple (I Macc. 1. 45f., 54, 59; 2.8f; cf. II Mac. 6.4; Dan. 9.26f.; 11.31), the destruction of the law (I Macc. 1.49f., 56f.; cf. II Macc. 6.1ff.), the death of many “faithful” Jews (I Macc. 1.57, 63; 2.29-38; II Macc. 6.9ff), and the following verses are about Mattathias and his sons and their zealous acts for the law. Phineas was referred as a model for Mattathias’ act of killing a Jew, who was trying to offer a sacrifice to an idol, and the Seleucid officer, who was overseeing the implementation of the king’s decree in Modein (I Macc.2.26). Waldemar Janzen contends that “the exemplary dimension of his (Phinehas) act was not its violence…but Phinehas’s zeal for the Lord and his atoning for the people. These were hallmarks of true priesthood.”[93] Mattathias (and his sons), however, was in no doubt as to what “the exemplary dimension” of the act required.[94] Like zealous Phinehas, Mattathias, being zealous for the law, killed an apostate Jew, who failed to maintain his distinctive identity. Zeal for the law (or for God), thus, would legitimize violence to enforce conformity to the Torah within the Jewish community.[95]

The zealous “works” of the Maccabees continued with killing Jewish renegades and forceful circumcision of “all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel” (I Macc. 2.42-48). Josephus commends the act of Phineas and those that modeled his act. He says that Phineas resolved to punish Zimri “before his unworthy behavior should grow stronger by impunity, and in order to prevent this transgression from proceeding further” (Josephus Ant. 4. 152). He asserts, “All those young men that had a regard to virtue, and aimed to do a glorious action, imitated Phineas’s boldness, and slew those that were found to be guilty of the same crime with Zimri” (Josephus Ant. 4. 154). Even though the concept of expiation is not mentioned explicitly, the zealous “works” of the Maccabees, standing in the tradition of their patriarch Phineas, were considered an “atonement” to turn the wrath of God away from the Jewish community. It is stated in the hymn of Judas, “He went through the cities of Judah, he destroyed the ungodly out of the land; thus he turned away wrath from Israel” (I Macc. 3.8; cf. II Macc. 8.5).[96] Although the characterization of Mattathias and his sons in the tradition of Phineas was to justify the Hasmonean priesthood, it was aimed at legitimizing their violence against their fellow Jews, who were perceived to be violators of the law. Their violence was described as atonement for the Jews that turned away the wrath of God and restored peace in the community. The peace is the reestablishment of Jewish life according to the Torah. The general pattern seen with those characterized as zealous for the law (or God) is: those with zeal for the law (or God), as the “priests”, “offered” the violators of the Torah as “sacrifice of atonement” to turn away the wrathful visitation of God and restore (or protect) Jewish life according to the exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah. A zealotic religious ideology affirms the salvific power of violence. It denigrates people who do not follow the social order based on their interpretation of the Torah. It, thus, permits discrimination, and ultimately violence.

Thus, the Maccabean freedom movement was aimed at restoring the freedom of the Jews to live according to the exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah. For the zealots of the Torah, living according to the law was essentially maintaining Jewish distinctive identity by practicing the distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals. The zealous Jews even used violence to protect their freedom based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah.


[1] David Rhoads, “Zealots,” in ABD, ed. by David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), VI. 1044.

[2] Maria Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood during the Pre-Hasmonean Period: History, Ideology, Theology (Leiden: Brill, 2006), p. 169.

[3] II Maccabees suggests that such behavior was standard policy among the Seleucids, “even to the extent that King Seleucus of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the services of the sacrifices” (3:2-3). Such descriptions are consistent with Seleucid behavior as known from other sources. Thus, for example, a clay cylinder from the time of Antiochus I found in the Ezida temple complex at Borsippa presents the king as a patron of the Babylonian cult, the “caretaker of Esagila and Ezida,” who undertook to rebuild these important sanctuaries. Amelie Kuhrt and Susan Sherwin-White, “Aspects of Seleucid Royal Ideology: The Cylinder of Antiochus I from Borsippa,” in JHS 111 (1991), pp. 71-86.

[4] Elias Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees: Studies on the Meaning and Origin of the Maccabean Revolt, tr. by Horst R. Moehring (Leiden: Brill, 1979), p. 34.

[5] Victor Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, tr. by S. Applebaum (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1959), p. 83.

[6] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 83-84.

[7] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, pp. 91-92.

[8] Elias Bickerman, “La Charte Seleucide de Jerusalem,” in REJ 100 (1935), pp. 67-68, cited by Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 171.

[9] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 172.

[10] Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine during the Early Hellenistic Period (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), I. 278.

[11] Jonathan A. Goldstein, I Maccabees: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976), p. 200.

[12] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 176.

[13] Uriel Rappaport, “Maccabean Revolt,” in ABD, IV. 437.

[14] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 175.

[15] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 176-177.

[16] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 178-180.

[17] Emil Schurer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135), revised and edited by Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1973), I. 147-148.

[18] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 180.

[19] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 181-182.

[20] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 186,191.

[21] Richard A. Horsley and John S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press, 1985), p. 89.

[22] William Reuben Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus: An Inquiry into Jewish Nationalism in the Greco-Roman Period (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956), p. 51.

[23] Lester L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian: Volume One: The Persian and Greek Periods (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), p. 284.

[24] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, p. 1.

[25] John H. Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity: From Alexander to Bar Kochba (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), pp. 47-48.

[26] Rappaport, “Maccabean Revolt,” p. 438.

[27] Shaye J.D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1987), p. 61.


[28] Otto Morkholm, “Antiochus IV,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, ed. by W.D. Davies and Louis Finkelstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 284.

[29] Aryeh Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: The Struggle for Equal Rights (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1985), p. 330.

[30] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 331.

[31] John J. Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000), p. 12.

[32] Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem, p. 13.

[33] Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem, p. 13.

[34] Italics mine.

[35] Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 287-289.

[36] Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 278.

[37] Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 200.

[38] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 52.

[39] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 161; Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 277-278.

[40] The connection between the sequence of events preceding the issue of the decree prohibiting the practice of Jewish religion and the promulgation of decree by Antiochus IV Epiphanes is unclear.

[41] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, pp. 30-31.

[42] John R. Bartlett, I Maccabees (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p. 62.

[43] Hengel gives reason that it was “because of the often obscure border line between the Samaritan and the Jewish population and the Samaritans’ almost identical religious customs, especially as Judea and Samaria were presumably an administrative unit under a meridiarch with his seat in Samaria. At the beginning of 167 BC a royal commissar, Andronicus, was appointed for both Jerusalem and for the Samaritans (II Macc. 5.23).” Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 293-294.

[44] Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 203.

[45] Goldstein considers that this letter was written by Antiochus V.  Jonathan A. Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt and the Hasmonean Dynasty,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: Hellenistic Age, II. 301.

[46] Otto Morkholm thinks that “the religious persecution was not restricted to Judea.” Otto Morkholm, “Antiochus IV,” pp. 286-287.

[47] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, p. 84.

[48] What is puzzling is that historically religious intolerance has been the practice of monotheistic religions.

[49] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, pp. 90-91.

[50] Peter Schafer, “The Hellenistic and Maccabean Periods,” in Israelite and Judaean History, ed. by John H. Hays and J. Maxwell Miller (London: SCM Press, 1977), p. 585.

[51] Bezalel Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus: The Jewish Struggle against the Seleucids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 196.

[52] Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus, pp. 196-197.

[53] Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus, p. 197.

[54] Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus, pp. 197-198.

[55] The name Joiarib is mentioned in Ezra 8.16. He is a “wise” man. It is unclear whether this Joiarib is Joiarib, the priest mentioned elsewhere.  

[56] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 62; Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt,” p. 295.

[57] Doron Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 126.

[58] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 62; Samuel Eddy, The King is Dead: Studies in the Near Eastern Resistance to Hellenism 334-31 B.C. (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1961), p.215.

[59] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 62.

[60] Brent Nongbri, “The Motivations of the Maccabees and Judean Rhetoric of Ancestral Traditions,” in Ancient Judaism in Its Hellenistic Context, ed. by Carol Bakhos (Leiden: Brill, 2005), pp. 102-105.

[61] Eddy, The King is Dead, p. 215.

[62] Seth Schwartz, “A Note on the Social Type and Political Ideology of the Hasmonean Family,” in JBL 112 (1993), p. 309.

[63] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 61.

[64] See Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, pp. 259-263, for matters relating to authenticity and dates of the letters.

[65] Louis H. Feldman, “Josephus’ Portrayal of the Hasmoneans Compared with I Maccabees,” in Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith, ed. by Fausto Parente and Joseph Sievers (Leiden: Brill, 1994), p. 46.

[66] Lucio Troiani, “The POLITEIA of Israel in the Graeco-Roman Age,” in Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith, ed. by Fausto Parente and Joseph Sievers (Leiden: Brill, 1994), p. 11.

[67] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 279.

[68] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 279.

[69] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 279.

[70] Troiani, “The POLITEIA of Israel in the Graeco-Roman Age,” p. 12.

[71] Troiani, “The POLITEIA of Israel in the Graeco-Roman Age,” pp. 12-13.

[72] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 244.

[73] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, pp. 340-341.

[74] In I Maccabees nomos is used in singular, whereas in II Maccabees plural.

[75] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 288.

[76] Martin Hengel, The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod until 70 AD (Edinburgh: 1989), pp. 149-155.

[77] Hengel, The Zealots, p. 155.

[78] Nongbri, “The Motivations of the Maccabees,” p. 101.

[79] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 205.

[80] Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, p. 285.

[81] Peter Schafer, “The Hellenistic and Maccabean Periods,” p. 585.

[82] Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt,” p. 295.

[83] Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt,” p. 295.

[84] Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus, p. 178.

[85] Vincent Smiles argues that “the purpose of Phinehas’s resort to violence was not so much “to maintain Israel’s distinctiveness as God’s covenant people” as to ensure Israel’s obedience to God’s Law in defense of the covenant. Separatism serves obedience, not vice versa.” But is it possible to separate “obedience to the Torah” and Jewish “separatism” as to say “separatism serves obedience”? Vincent M. Smiles, “The Concept of “Zeal” in the Second-Temple Judaism and Paul’s Critique of It in Romans 10:2,” in CBQ 64/2 (April 2002), p. 285.

[86] Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus, p. 178.

[87] William Reuben Farmer, “The Patriarch Phineas,” in AThR 34 (1952), p. 27.

[88] Notice the position of the introduction of Mattathias and his sons in I Maccabees (2.1ff).

[89] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), p. 121.

[90] William Klassen, “Jesus and Phineas: A Rejected Role Model,” in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers Series, ed. by Kent Harold Richards (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1986), p. 492.

[91] Hengel comments that the “zeal for God and his law” dominated the early part of the Maccabean movement and later as “the aim of the war changed…’zeal for the law’ receded more and more into the background….” Hengel, The Zealots, p. 152. He notes that the term zhloj/zhloun and nomoj rarely appear after the first four chapters of I Maccabees.

[92] John Kampen, The Hasideans and the Origin of Pharisaism: A Study in 1 and 2 Maccabees (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1988), p. 74.


[93] Waldemar Janzen, Old Testament Ethics: A Paradigmatic Approach (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994), p. 108.

[94] John J. Collins, “The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence,” in JBL 122/1 (Spring 2003).

[95] Collins, “The Zeal of Phinehas.”

[96] “The meaning of this text is quite unambiguous and completely in accordance with the Old Testament tradition, namely that, by removing the offence in Israel that was scandalizing God, God’s anger would be turned away from his people” (Num. 25; Josh 7; I Sam. 7.3ff; 14.37ff.). Hengel, The Zealots, p. 153.


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