Friday, December 11, 2020

The Scroll of Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt

FOR HANUKKAH: Wherefore the Hanukkah scroll? Most Jews know only the legend about the miracle of the cruse of oil and very little about the actual military victories of the Maccabees (DAVID GOLINKIN, Jerusalem Post).
The answer is that, in truth, there is such a scroll, which was read in private or in public from the ninth century until today. It was written in Aramaic and subsequently translated into Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, German, English, Spanish, Persian, Marathi and other languages. It’s called “The Scroll of Antiochus” and many other names and is first mentioned by the Geonim in the 9th century. The scroll describes the Maccabean victories on the basis of a few stories from the Books of Maccabees and Shabbat 21b, with the addition of a number of legends without any historic basis.
Mr. Golinkin raises the idea of public reading of Megillat Antiochus on Hanukkah, but decides against it.
It would seem that there is no point in reviving the specific custom of reading the Scroll of Antiochus in public, because that work is legendary in nature and not a reliable source for the events of Hanukkah. But we do possess such a source for those events – the First Book of Maccabees – written in Hebrew in the Land of Israel by an eyewitness to the events described therein.
More on Megillat Antiochus is here. For more on 1 Maccabees, see here (immediately preceding post).

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