Magness-a little archeology and a lot of history

So, back to Jodi Magness and her The Archeology of the Holy Land.

She deals with the archeology and history of the Hasmonean period. While the Romans were fighting a series of wars with Carthage in the west, Greek influence increased in the Holy Land. This was during the third and second centuries B.C.E. Archeology can show us the Greek influence in architecture, pottery, and coins of the time.

But we are largely dependent on the books of Maccabees and the history of Josephus to know the events that resulted. From the time of Ezra on, the Torah was the law in Judea and the high priesthood belonged to those descended from Solomon’s high priest, Zadok. But both of these things ended, Torah rule for a time and the Zadokite preeminence forever.

There was a kind of game of thrones involving the high priesthood in Jerusalem. Various members of the high priestly family sought to outbid each other in bribing the Selucid king to support them in power. The priest, Jason, agreed to make Jerusalem a part of a Greek polis, Antioch.

This meant that the Torah got replaced by Greek law.

But an even more pro-Hellenistic person, Menelaus, offered the Selucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes, a bigger bribe to make him the high priest. Jason fled. Menelaus apparently agreed to the virtual outlawing of Judaism as a religion. In 167 B.C.E the polis of Antioch outlawed Sabbath observance, Jewish dietary laws, and circumcision among other practices. A portion of the population resisted (Magness points out that this resulted in a Jewish civil war with many Jews supporting the high priest and some trying to reinstate Jason.) But Antiochus marched on Jerusalem, pillaged the Temple, and instituted Zeus worship and pig sacrifice there. Judas Maccabee then began his guerella war against the Selucid Empire. After some Maccabean victories and the death of Antiochus, the Selucids undid the laws against Judaism. Judas was able to cleanse and rededicate the Temple in December of 164, an event commemorated by the Hanukkah festival.

Judas Maccabee and his successors continued their warfare, eventually gaining independence and conquering regions such as Samaria to the north and Idumea in Negeb.

When Menelaus bought the high priesthood, he became the first non-Zadokite to hold the office. Zadokites did not disappear. The Sadducee party we find in the New Testament were partisans of the Zadokite priesthood. A branch of Zaddokite priests continued to preside at the Jewish temple in Leontopolis, Egypt (mentioned in my previous post on Magness). Also, the Essene group that most believe produced the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to have been Zadokites. But the Zadokite line never again held the high priesthood at the Jerusalem Temple.

Magness also talks about the archeology of Petra and the Nabatean kingdom. Petra is a spectacular site in the mountains south of the Dead Sea. The Nabateans were Arab caravan traders who had a kingdom south and east of Judea. The archeology of Petra and their interesting site at Oboda on the caravan route between Petra and Gaza show that even on the fringes of empire, the Greek influence was powerful.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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