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The Real History Of Hanukkah Is More Complicated Than You Thought

Americans who know anything about the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah may have heard that it celebrates the victory of good over evil -- the triumph of light over darkness. But the real history of Hanukkah’s origins is more complicated. It is as much the tale of a Jewish civil war as it is about successful resistance against foreign interlopers.

● In 175 BCE Antiochus IV Epiphanes ascended to the Seleucid throne and initiated an explicit program of hellenization in the Jewish territory -- promoting the values of worldly knowledge, physical beauty, hedonistic indulgence and polytheistic spirituality.

● Antiochus’ measures were welcomed by some local Jews and Antiochus encouraged the development of the Greek educational system in Jewish society.

● A growing number of Jews began worshiping Greek gods, too.

The rising influence of hellenism was not immediately a source of open conflict within the Jewish community. But, eventually, Antiochus and his Jewish allies, including the high priest Menelaus, pushed the more pious Jews too far in a campaign of radical hellenization in 167 BCE:

● prohibited fundamental Jewish practices, such as circumcision, on pain of death

● introduced foreign rites into the Jewish Temple

● forced Jewish pilgrims to sacrifice pigs on the Temple altar

● built an altar to Zeus on top of the sacred altar to the Yahweh

● allowed prostitutes to solicit their services freely on the Temple grounds

Pious Jews rebelled only when religious persecution reached a level they could no longer tolerate. The line in the sand seems to have been the Torah and the [commandments], and the profaning of the ritual of the Temple. A series of cunning Hasmonean military maneuvers and setbacks for the Seleucids elsewhere in their empire helped the pietist militias conquer the city of Jerusalem in 164 BCE. They restored the ancient Jewish rites of the Temple, tearing down the altar to Zeus and other pagan gods.

Several centuries later, the rabbis likely developed the miracle-of-oil narrative that is so well-known today in the Hanukkah story. The first mention of the miracle is in a passage of the Babylonian Talmud dating to some time between the third and fifth centuries CE. It gave the rabbis, who were uncomfortable with the Maccabees, a way to say they respected Hanukkah, but they did not think focusing on a military victory and upheaval was a good lesson for Jews to have while living under the Roman empire. They didn’t want little Jewish boys to grow up and try to be Judah the Maccabee and attack the Romans. Read the complete article from which the above information came at --


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