Shaye J.D. Cohen


Hasmoneans, Hellenism and Us

By Shaye J.D. Cohen

This is Hanukkah season. In Hebrew schools across the country the Hanukkah story will be told, and the story usually goes like this: The wicked king Antiochus IV Epiphanes attacked the innocent and pious Jews of Judaea, imposing Greek ways, proscribing the observance of Jewish practices and profaning the Temple of Jerusalem. Judah the Maccabee and his sturdy brothers (known collectively as the Hasmoneans) went to war against Hellenism, against the king and against those Jews who supported the king and his policies. They triumphed. In 164 B.C.E. they reconquered Jerusalem, put an end to the religious persecution, purified the Temple and instituted the festival of Hanukkah to commemorate their victory. In this existential struggle between Jews and Greeks, between Judaism and Hellenism, the Jews triumphed. According to this Hebrew school version of the events, which mirrors the popular Jewish understanding, the Hasmoneans saved Judaism from Hellenism.Read More



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