Maccabees: populist Jews, or elitist manipulators?

Jerry Russell

Staff member
Rick sent me this note and the next one about the Maccabees and their relation to Pharisees and Saducees, and gave me permission to pass them along --

It seems that the Maccabees have long been frequently mischaracterized as exemplars of Judaic heroes rebelling against the Greco-Roman heathens. Is this the framework of understanding that Bassano et al. were working from, or is this what we are supposed to believe? Could they understand the Flavian typology fully, or only partially? Or was the whole business just intended as a further dialectic ruse?

Elsewhere, Hadas discusses that the early Pharisees were populists in opposition to the elite alignments of the Sadducees (which includes the Hasmoneans). It is only late in the Maccabee internal conflict that the Pharisees are made concessions to. So here we can see the reason why Josephus would later state that the 'first' school of the Pharisees were killed off, which is because they were aligned in the older tradition of sovereignty of the Jewish polity from which a high priest or king was a servant to.

But the Maccabees were in search of means to change the equation such that they had a more conventional Hellenistic sovereignty of the few over the many. Hence their alliance with the Romans, which the Romans later took advantage of. Later, the Flavians would supplant the old Pharisees with the new, compliant ones which we still see today. One then has to wonder if the Pharisees legalisms mocked in the gospels were fabricated as well, as the original Pharisees were no longer around to refute.

From Hadas's Hellenistic Culture pp. 42 - 44:
... Organized opposition [to Hellenization], where it occurred, was motivated not by antipathy to hellenism but by normal desire for independence or by the ambition of rivals for power. ...

The one rebellion which has been recorded in history as directed against hellenism, that of the Maccabees in Judea, was not, in its origin, a reaction against hellenism. 41 From the contemporary or almost contemporary accounts in I and II Maccabees it is clear that hellenism had proceeded very far indeed, and apparently without protest, before the insurrection began, Violence started in consequence of rivalry between equally hellenized contenders for the high priesthood, and religion was not an issue. The standard of religion was raised in the countryside, and then served to rally the people to the cause. It was only after religion had become the battle cry of the rebels that Antiochus IV issued his decrees against the observance of central religious rites, and it is highly significant that as soon as the anti-religious decrees were rescinded the pietist group withdrew from the fighting. The object of the Hasmonean rulers was not to protect religion---their bitterest opponents were pietists---but to maintain a sovereignty which should be able to hold its head up among others which were being carved out of the weakened Seleucid empire. They were permitted to do so as the price of their support of one or another rival to the Seleucid succession. Neither the nationalists nor even their opposition objected to hellenism as such; both parties, as we shall see, borrowed freely from Greek political and literary models. Among the Jews as among the other self-conscious peoples in the Seleucid empire the controlling principle was something like "Accept the largest possible measure of hellenization and retain the greatest possible measure of loyalty to the native tradition." Obviously the simultaneous pursuit of discrepant objectives necessitated compromise or self-deception. ...
Last edited:

Jerry Russell

Staff member
Found this in relation to Abraham, as 'Arielmessenger' mentioned it.

This, like the rest of the gospels has the Pharisees and the Sadducees somewhat aligned. This may have been partially true, and thus the start of the two schools of Pharisees that Josephus mentions. This schism happened when the Hasmonean Salome granted legitimacy to the Pharisees (Hadas says means 'separatist') to reduce tensions. The result of which likely had some faction of the Pharisees ceding to Hellenizing trends.

But now, JoB says that even before he is arrested and beheaded that the root(?) of the trees [those in addition to Jesse's] are being axed.

Immediate after this Titus, as Jesus, visits JoB to receive his baptismal recognition. So does verse 9 mean that the Flavians (and the fellow Caesarians) are children of Abraham? This is what the Matlockian analysis says as well.

I pre-knew you would agree. :)

3For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
13Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Address : <>
Last edited:
There are some so-called fundamentalists in Christendom who insist Faith requires no human thinking and their flocks of sheep eat it up, because it allows them to never have to work at knowing themself or to help other people. They can spout off their invective and hate or belief in the wrath of some evil creature up above as if it was they themself (as carriers of suicide bombs or weapons to kill abortion doctors) who are their God's agent.

Because Paul/Saul was a Roman who the Empire used to create a larger Empire and then had him killed when he started to believe or behave as if what they were writing and attributing to him was true, we have issues to explore.

(see first link) First we must ascertain what Paul actually wrote in the Gospels if anything. The same is true for all the rest of the Gospels which were written decades after the death of most of the apostles except perhaps Luke.

(see second link) You should ask who benefitted from getting people to think good acts were no way to get into Heaven especially in light of the recent admission by Pope John Paul II that his ilk created Heaven and Hell. Catholicism did not exist when Paul was alive and Catholicism got and gets lots of money selling special dispensations and confessional exemptions from karmic bad acts. Pauline Christianity is in fact Romanism or Popery and it did not truly arrive in Christendom until the fifth Century AD. The Law of Retribution or karma was removed from the faith at this time. Easter and the Resurrection fiction took a couple of further centuries to invent or force upon all Christian denominations in places like Acre, Antioch, Alexandria and Bangor or Iona. When we stopped thinking of Jesus as a man we allowed interpreters for our soul to gain control of the Old World. Tom Harpur was the religion editor for the Toronto Star, and he stopped believing in the Resurrection fiction after I gave him three alternative explanations. He stopped calling himself Christian and you can too. When we were teenagers we ran a boy's club in his church's recreation hall. He has written extensively about these matters.
My argument or paper for Tom focused on the purely Therapeutaeic medical knowledge of Belladonna as well as Intent and Yoga's ability to stop the heart and even brain from registering on modern machines as has been demonstrated. A better argument against Paul (The Resurrection on the road to Damascus was a fiction I say, because Jesus did not die on the cross.) or indeed the whole of Christianity as it is today comes down to Grace and good acts or the Augustine versus Pelagius debates. Augustine was suffering obsessions all his life according to the American Psychoanalytical Society input to the autobiography of Augustine (Confessions). One of his obsessions was trying to get Pelagius defrocked. I think part of this need Augustine felt had to do with his own guilt about his early life support for Manicheanism and how he sold out to join Catholicism due to it's greater potential to reward him. As a Manichean he ridiculed Bible writings as compared to Cicero - he called them children's stories. And that is a fair appreciation or review of the Bible compared to more ethical and moral standards such as Pelagius stood for. Mani was definately ecumenical and a supporter of humans over gods or demons and angels. And in the end Tom Harpur lost his faith because he was a good man.

It is not me putting my modern philosophy upon an earlier culture. The Pharisaic school of Gamaliel which Paul said he was a student at and which extant rolls of students prove otherwise, developed or played a role in developing what we call The Golden Rule. This rule speaks to good acts and karma as I see it. The Pharisees were no "inbred Temple idiots" or Sadduccees which James the Righteous leader of the essanoi (The word Essene came later.) railed against. The Pharisees were not what modern pulpit-pounders portray them as. Rather than greedy elitists they were respected throughout the Roman and Parthian Empires for their good deeds and support for indigents and women.

Contrary to what my Ogham mentor thought as he told me about his work with the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Huntington Library before they released them to the world, I think these Scrolls do have insight to a far larger culture including Buddhist literature or influence. Dr. Norman Golb thinks the whole of Scroll research is politicized to present fictions in line with history. He says the scrolls are a repository of knowledge for a far larger culture than just Palestine.

So, when we see The Law of Retribution or karma removed from Christology with the ascendancy of Pauline Romanism I say we saw the end of what Yeshua, his family of Merovingians, and most centers of Christian and pre-Christian thought entailed. I know Pelagius as a scholar of what I think Poseidonius's writings would have given insight to about the far greater early religion which St. Columba learned at Iona and lead him to say "Jesus is the new Druid." Good acts were central to the 'no fear' destiny of the Keltoi. Like me they did not believe the soul died and their Creed (on tablets found in Hittite lands in Anatolia dating to a millennium befroe Christ) proudly says they did not fear the opening of the heavens above or ground beneath their feet. I have a more Jungian collective insight and do not think the ego or personality which is what we are - continues.
Last edited: