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Question:

I am contacting you for clarification in the Chanuka Story timeline. As an Orthodox Jew, I have and still believe that the reason we celebrate the Yom Tov of Chanuka is because of the war that the Chashmonaim fought and won against the Syrian Greeks and the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days. However, I recently listened to a podcast titled “Maccabean Revolt” by missedinhistory.com where they explained the sequence of events differently. They explained that even though the Jews did revolt against Antiochus IV, only after Antiochus V took over in 164 BCE and repealed the laws of his father did the Jews finally return to the Temple and remove the idols. And on the 25th of Kislev of 164 BCE the Jews rededicated the Temple and had an 8 day Holiday.

As these two stories seem very conflicting, I would appreciate if you could clarify for me the topic.

Sincerely,

Nechemia Golfeiz

 

Answer:

Dear Nechemia,

First of all, let me observe that the picture that most Orthodox Jews have of the events is much less complex than what we can gather from the books of 1 Maccabees and 1 Maccabees. These are two divergent accounts of the events that do not always agree. It is important to realize that the sequence that you learned is basically that of 1 Maccabees where the temple is purified while Antiochus IV is still alive. The other sequence of events is that of 2 Maccabees. Probably the podcast you heard prefers 2 Maccabees because virtually all historians accept the notion that an internal Jewish struggle over Hellenization preceded the persecution. This is a picture derived from 2 Maccabees, whereas 1 Maccabees simply starts with the persecution. My summary and reconstruction of the events can be found here.
Do not be confused by the typo. The one who dies at the beginning is Ant III and he is succeeded by IV.

One Response to Q&A

  • Mordechai says:

    Dear Prof. Schiffman,

    I have recently begun to look into the area of archeology and the Torah after having been challenged by atheists. Some of what I have found, or should I say, did not find has left me troubled. I am a person of faith and I believe the Torah is the word of God. But I also seek evidence and truth. In particular, I am somewhat troubled by the relative lack of corroborating evidence for the Jews in Egypt, for the lack an any archeological evidence in the Sinai, especially at Kadesh Barnea where they are said to have encamped for many years, and I’m also troubled by some of the anachronisms in the Torah. I’ve been reading Finkelstein’s book, the Bible Unearthed, and this has damaged my faith. I wish to find evidence that would tend to support the Torah and I am curious if you could offer me any answers? Thank you for your time.

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