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MACCABEES, BOOKS OF

from Judaea. When, however, Demetrius failed to keep his word, Jonathan transferred his allegiance to Antiochus VI., whom Tryphon had crowned as king. After subjugating the territory between Jerusalem and Damascus, he routed the generals of Demetrius on the plain of Hazor. But as the Maccabees had now in the name of the Syrians cleared the Syrians out of Palestine, Tryphon’s jealousy was aroused, and he resolved to be rid of Jonathan, who, with all his cunning, walked into a trap at Ptolemais, was made prisoner and ultimately slain (143). The leadership now devolved upon Simon, the last survivor of the sons of Mattathias. He soon got the better of Tryphon, who vainly tried to reach Jerusalem. Allying himself to Demetrius, Simon succeeded in negotiating a treaty whereby the political independence of Judaea was at length secured. The garrison in the Akra having been starved into submission, Simon triumphantly entered that fortress in May 142. In the following year he was by popular decree invested with absolute powers, being appointed leader, high priest and ethnarch. As these offices were declared hereditary in his family, he became the founder of the Hasmonaean dynasty. The first year of his reign (Seleucid year 170 = 143–142 B.C.) was made the beginning of a new era, and the issue of a Jewish coinage betokened the independence of his sovereignty. Under Simon’s administration the country enjoyed signal prosperity. Its internal resources were assiduously developed; trade, agriculture, civic justice and religion were fostered; while at no epoch in its post-exilic history did Israel enjoy an equal measure of social happiness (I Macc. xiv. 4 seq.). Simon’s beneficent activities came, however, to a sudden and tragic end. In 135 he and two of his sons were murdered by Ptolemy, his son-in-law, who had an eye to the supreme power. But Simon’s third son, John Hyrcanus, warned in time, succeeded in asserting his rights as hereditary head of the state. All the sons of Mattathias had now died for the sake of “The Law”; and the result of their work, so valorously prosecuted for over thirty years, was a new-born enthusiasm in Israel for the ancestral faith. The Maccabaean struggle thus gave fresh life to the Jewish nation.

After the death of Antiochus VII. Sidetes in 128 left him a free hand, Hyrcanus (135–105) soon carved out for himself a large and prosperous kingdom, which, however, was rent by internal discord owing to the antagonism developed between the rival parties of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Hyrcanus was succeeded by his son Aristobulus, whose reign of but one year was followed by that of his brother, the warlike Alexander Jannaeus (104–78). The new king’s Sadducean proclivities rendered him odious to the populace, which rose in revolt, but only to bring upon itself a savage revenge. The accession of his widow Salome Alexandra (78–69) witnessed a complete reversal of the policy pursued by Jannaeus, for she chose to rule in accordance with the ideals of the Pharisees. Her elder son, Hyrcanus II., a pliable weakling, was appointed high priest; her younger son, the energetic Aristobulus, who chafed at his exclusion from office, seized some twenty strongholds and with an army bore down upon Jerusalem. At this crisis Alexandra died, and Hyrcanus agreed to retire in favour of his masterful brother. A new and disturbing element now entered into Jewish politics in the person of the Idumaean Antipater, who for selfish ends deliberately made mischief between the brothers. An appeal to M. Aemilius Scaurus, who in 65 came into Syria as the legate of Pompey, led to the interference of the Romans, the siege of Jerusalem by Pompey, and the vassalage of the Jews (q.v.). Hyrcanus II. was appointed high priest and ethnarch, without the title of king (63). Repeated but fruitless attempts were made by the Hasmonaeans and their patriotic supporters to throw off the Roman yoke. In 47 Antipater, who curried favour with Rome, was made procurator of Judaea, and his sons Phasael and Herod governors of Jerusalem and Galilee respectively. Six years later the Idumaean brothers were appointed tetrarchs of Judaea. At length, in 40, the Parthians set up as king Antigonus, sole surviving son of Aristobulus. Thereupon Phasael committed suicide in prison, but Herod effected his escape and with the help of the Romans seated himself on the throne of Judaea (37 B.C.). Through the execution of Antigonus by M. Antonius (Mark Antony) the same year the Hasmonaean dynasty became extinct.

Literature.—1 and 2 Macc. and Josephus are the main sources for the Maccabaean history. For references in classical authors see E. Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (1901, p 106 seq.). Besides the numerous modern histories of Israel (e.g. those by Dérenbourg, Ewald, Stanley, Stade, Renan, Schürer, Kent, Wellhausen, Guthe), see also Madden, Coins of the Jews (1881), H. Weiss’s Judas Makkabaeus (1897), and the articles in the Ency. Bib., Hastings’s Dict. Bible, the Jewish Encyclopedia. Among more popular sketches are Moss’s From Malachi to Matthew (1893); Streanes’ The Age of the Maccabees (1898); Morrison’s The Jews under Roman Rule (“Story of the Nations” series); W. Fairweather’s From the Exile to the Advent (1901); E. R. Bevan’s Jerusalem under the High Priests (1904); F. Henderson’s The Age of the Maccabees (1907); also, articles Jews; Seleucid Dynasty.  (W. F.*) 


MACCABEES, BOOKS OF, the name given to several Apocryphal books of the Old Testament. The Vulgate contains two books of Maccabees which were declared canonical by the council of Trent (1546) and found a place among the Apocrypha of the English Bible. Three other books of this name are extant. Book iii. is included in the Septuagint but not in the Vulgate. Book iv. is embraced in the Alexandrian, Sinaitic, and other MSS. of the Septuagint, as well as in some MSS. of Josephus. A “Fifth” book is contained in the Ambrosian Peshitta, but it seems to be merely a Syriac reproduction of the sixth book of Josephus’s history of the Jewish War. None of the books of Maccabees are contained in the Vatican (B); all of them are found in a Syriac recension.

1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew, but is preserved only in a Greek translation. Origen gives a transliteration of “its Semitic title,”[1] and Jerome says distinctly: “The First Book of Maccabees I found in Hebrew.” The frequent Hebraisms which mark the Greek translation, as well as the fact that some obscure passages in the Greek text are best accounted for as mistranslations from the Hebrew, afford internal evidence of the truth of this testimony. There are good reasons for regarding the book as a unity, although some scholars (Destinon, followed by Wellhausen) consider the concluding chapters (xiii.-xvi.) a later addition unknown to Josephus, who, however, seems to have already used the Greek. It probably dates from about the beginning of the first century B.C.[2]

As it supplies a detailed and accurate record of the forty years from the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes to the death of Simon (175–135 B.C.), without doubt the most stirring chapter in Jewish history, the book is one of the most precious historical sources we possess. In its careful chronology, based upon the Seleucid era, in the minuteness of its geographical knowledge, in the frankness with which it records defeat as well as victory, on the restraint with which it speaks of the enemies of the Jews, in its command of details, it bears on its face the stamp of genuineness. Not that it is wholly free from error or exaggeration, but its mistakes are due merely to defective knowledge of the outside world, and its overstatements, virtually confined to the matter of numbers, proceed from a patriotic desire to magnify Jewish victories. While the author presumably had some written sources at his disposal,[3] his narrative is probably for the most part founded upon personal knowledge and recollection of the events recorded,

and upon such first-hand information as, living in the second

  1. Σαρβὴθ Σαβαναιέλ (Sarbeth Sabanaiel). No satisfactory explanation of this title has yet been given from the Hebrew (see the commentaries). The book may, however, have been known to Origen only in an Aramaic translation, in which case, according to the happy conjecture of Dalman (Gramm. 6) the two words may have represented the Aramaic ספר בית חשמונאי (“book of the Hasmonaean house”).
  2. If the book is a unity, ch. xvi. 23 implies that it was written after the death of Hyrcanus which occurred in 105 B.C. On the other hand the friendly references to Rome in ch. viii. show that it must have been written before the siege of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 B.C.
  3. Cf. ix. 22, xi. 37, xiv. 18, 27.