Culture, Religion, Uncategorized

How Much of the Hanukah Story is Hasmonean Propaganda?

Haaretz reports on a new theory suggesting that the tale of the Maccabees’ response to religious oppression may be about as well-founded as the claim that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215-163 BC), ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, was known as an eccentric king. He spent his childhood as a hostage in Rome and ascended to the throne only due to the surprising death of his father and murder of his brother.
When he inherited the kingdom it was already in decline. However, this does not explain the moves that made him infamous to this day – the brutal edicts he issued against the Jews in 167 B.C., forbidding them to practice their religion.
“The reason for Antiochus’ oppression of the Jewish faith, attack on the Temple and prohibition of the Torah precepts is not explained by the existing historic sources,” says Dr. Steven Weitzman, a lecturer of Judaism in the University of Indiana and the author of Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity.
Weitzman analyzes the description of the edicts in the Hanukkah tale, and concludes that the story was concocted by the Hasmonean kings as propaganda intended to legitimize their precarious rule. The Hasmoneans used literary tales dating back to ancient Eastern kingdoms as the basis for their story of Antiochus, he says.

Full story here.
(Hat tip to Aryeh Cohen for the link.)
(X-posted to Jerusalem Syndrome.)

3 thoughts on “How Much of the Hanukah Story is Hasmonean Propaganda?

  1. Honestly, that was not a very convincing piece. The fact that there is evidence that similar oppression happened elsewhere in antiquity can just as easily be used as an argument in support of the notion that Antiochus IV followed suit (common practices of the day, etc)

  2. Hmm, yeah, while it is certainly possible that the whole story is propoganda, the article doesn’t really bring anything to support the likeliness of that. That the Chasmonaim benefited from the oppression, doesn’t mean they made it up. Think of it this way, just because a man gets the insurance money from his wife’s death, doesn’t mean he killed her. Yeah, we suspet him, but that doesn’t get him arrested.

  3. Even if there were definitive archaeological evidence to show that the Hanukah story was Hasmonean propoganda, would it really matter? Would it really matter if there were sufficient archaeological evidence to show that the entire Torah was actually just a collection of lies, propoganda, myths and fairy tales?
    Even if God Himself were to miraculously appear out of the heavens to try to clear things up, would it really change anything? “Listen,” says the Almighty One, “you guys have it all wrong. This stuff in the Bible never happened. I mean, I never told Abraham that he should barbecue his son Isaac. Abraham was almost a hundred years old at the time. He was incontinent and more than just a little hard of hearing.”
    And how would the Orthodox respond to such an occurrence? Would they hail it as a miracle and would they start eating shellfish or would they tell God to get lost and leave them alone? My guess is that they would do the latter: “Go away! Leave us alone! You can’t take away our identity!”

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