1 Maccabees

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First Maccabees or 1 Maccabees is most famous as the source of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Despite this, the book is not included as canon in the Tanakh. It is a deuterocanonical work in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox tradition, and apocryphal in Protestant tradition. Unlike most of the Books of the Maccabees, 1 Maccabees was written in Hebrew and translated into Greek as part of the Septuagint. The Hebrew version, lost for many years, was rediscovered in 1886.[1]

Christian authorities did not give the book of 1 Maccabees full canonical status, probably not because of objectionable content, but because - from the perspective of the compilers of the Bible - it was "too recent" or because the available text was written in Greek (rather than in Hebrew or in Aramaic).[2] Also, the Maccabees founded the Hasmonean dynasty of rulers, which the unpopular king Herod married into,[3]:111 so political PR could have had something to do with it too. Protestants may have disliked some of the "proof texts" used by Catholics taken from the work.


The Maccabees headed up the Jewish rebellion against the Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes.

After Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE, four of his generals divided his empire into sub-kingdoms for themselves. The area containing the modern state of Israel first came under the control of Ptolemaic Egypt, then - in 198 BCE — under the Antioch-based Seleucid dynasty.Wikipedia in 198 BCE. King Antiochus IV (reigned 175 to 164 BCE, and self-styled Epiphanes, which means something like "the glorious manifestation of god") wanted to Hellenize the Jews. He prohibited circumcision, placed idols representing Greek gods in the Second TempleWikipedia in Jerusalem, and banned the study of the Torah.

A rebellion started, initially led by the priest Mattathias, and later by his sons, especially Judah, who became known as Judas MaccabeusWikipedia — possibly meaning "Judah the Hammer". After a seven-year guerrilla struggle, the rebels, known to history as the "Maccabees", finally prevailed and purged the Temple of the idols. When they arrived at the Temple, they found that there was enough holy oil to provide light for one day, and replacements would not arrive for more than a week. According to tradition, God made the oil for one day last for eight days, hence the length of the holiday of Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights).


  1. The lost Hebrew text of 1st Maccabees found!
  2. Why the Maccabees Aren't in the Bible.
  3. Adam Kolman Marshak, The Many Faces of Herod the Great. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2015. ISBN 9780802866059.

    Herod could not secure the high priesthood for himself, but if he was to become a legitimate king it would have to be as a Hasmonean or at least as the legitimate successor of the Hasmoneans. To achieve such status, Herod used both his marriage and the children he produced from it to further insinuate himself into the ruling family and to bind his family closer to it.