An archaeological dig in Israel, just west of Jerusalem, has uncovered a structure that seems to fit the description of historical accounts regarding the tomb of the Maccabees. The Maccabees were a group that revolted against the Seleucids and the Hellenists who supported them, who were the successors of Alexander the Great in ruling Israel. Things rose to a fever pitch in the 2nd century BC when an elderly priest named Mattathias got fed up with pagan sacrifices offered on an altar erected by Antiochus Epiphanes in the Temple at Jerusalem. He killed two men who made a sacrifice, then got his five sons to help him destroy the altar. Then they went into hiding.

Shortly afterwards, larger bands of Jews became emboldened by the acts of Mattathias and his sons, setting a full-blown revolt into motion and setting up Jewish self-rule for a short period. During the revolt, they destroyed an image of Jupiter that had also been set up by Antiochus Epiphanes. Then they established the celebration of Hanukkah to commemorate the end of three years of pagan desecration of the temple as well as the miracle of one day’s worth of oil burning for eight days in the Temple menorah to purify the Temple from pagan practices.

However, an archaeologist working on the dig claims they still don’t have a “smoking gun” as definitive proof that the tomb belonged to the Maccabees. They’ve found four large column bases and a mosaic cross which may be clues, but the evidence is still too slight and more work needs to be done on the site. Although the article I linked to for this post from the New York Times says the Maccabees were biblical, they did not appear until after the Old Testament was complete and before the start of the New Testament. So their story is told in secular and extra-biblical historical sources, not biblical ones.

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