Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Meaning of the Name “Maccabee”

The Meaning of the Name “Maccabee”[1]

Mitchell First

In a previous post at the Seforim blog, Dan Rabinowitz dealt with the topic of the origin of the name “Maccabee,” and made many interesting points,[2] although he did not adequately address the issues. My intention in this essay is to offer a more thorough discussion.

The name מכבי/מקבי is not found in classical Tannaitic or Amoraic literature.[3] But this is not surprising. The name was originally an additional name for Judah only and there are no references to Judah in classical Tannaitic or Amoraic literature.[4]

The earliest sources that include the name in some form are works preserved by the Church: I Maccabees and II Maccabees. (These are not the original titles of these works.) I Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew,[5] but what has survived is only a Greek translation from the Hebrew (and ancient translations made from this Greek translation). II Maccabees, an entirely different work, was written in Greek. In the early Church, I and II Maccabees were considered part of the Bible.[6]

I Maccabees (2:2-5) tells us that Mattathias (=Matityahu) had five sons, and that each had another name. For Joudas (=Judah), the name was Makkabaios (Gr: Μακκαβαîος.)[7] The additional names were probably given to the sons to help distinguish them from others with the same name.[8] In I Maccabees, Makkabaios is used for Judah six times. In II Maccabees, it is used for him twenty-three times.[9]

To determine whether the earliest spelling of the name in Hebrew was with a כ or a ק, one must guess from the double kappa in Makkabaios what the original Hebrew letter (or letters) would have been.

Fortunately, this is not hard. Although there are exceptions, there is a general pattern in the Greek translation of the Bible of transliterating כ with chi (χ), and ק with kappa (k).[10] Usually ק is transliterated with one kappa, but sometimes two kappas are used.[11] A transliteration of כ with two kappas is very rare.[12]

These same patterns hold true in I and II Maccabees. For example, if we focus on I Maccabees,[13] and look at the Greek transliteration of names, places, and months whose Hebrew spelling is known from the Bible, we find:

-transliterated with χ are: כלב, זכריה, מכמש, כתים, and כסלו;

-transliterated with one kappa are: יעקב, עקרבים, תקוע ,אשקלון, קדש, and קרנים;

-transliterated with two kappas are: [14]עקרון and [15]הקוץ.

At no time in I Maccabees is כ transliterated with kappa.[16]

Thus, the spelling of Makkabaios with two kappas points strongly to a ק in the original Hebrew or Aramaic,[17] and does not mandate assuming a קק. Moreover, an original מקקב would be extremely unlikely. Hebrew and Aramaic words do not ordinarily have 4 letter roots. If we make the alternative assumption that the initial mem was not a part of the root, this does not help either. There is no root קקב in either Hebrew or Aramaic.[18] The double kappa just confirms our supposition that the original reading was ק, and not כ.[19] Based on this spelling, it seems reasonable to agree with the oft-proposed suggestion that the name is related to the Hebrew and Aramaic words מקבת and מקבא, which mean hammer.[20]

As to why Judah was called by this name, one view is that the name alludes to his physical strength or military prowess.[21] But a מקבת/מקבא is not a military weapon; it is a worker’s tool.[22] Therefore, it has been suggested alternatively that the name reflects that Judah’s head or body in some way had the physical appearance of a hammer.[23] Interestingly, the Mishnah at Bekhorot 7:1 lists one of the categories of disqualifed priests as המקבן, and the term is explained in the Talmud as meaning one whose head resembles a מקבא.[24] Naming men according to physical characteristics was common in the ancient world.[25]

Is it possible that Makkabaios and the other four names were Greek names?[26] The additional names for the other sons were: Gaddi (Γαδδι), Thassi (Θασσι), Auaran (Αυαραν) and Apphous (Απφους).[27] Perhaps it would have been beneficial for a Jew even as early as the age of Mattathias to have had an additional name in the Greek language. It is seen from the reference to Antigonus at M. Avot 1:3 that a “traditional” Jew circa 200 BCE could have borne a Greek name. (In the period after Judah, we know of many prominent Jews who had both a Hebrew/Aramaic name and a Greek name.[28] For example, Simon’s son John was also called Hyrcanus,[29] John’s son Judah was also called Aristobulus,[30] John’s son Yannai was also called Alexander,[31] and Yannai’s wife Shelomtziyon was also called Alexandra.[32])

But the letters μ,κ,β or μ,κ,κ,β, with any combination of vowels in between them, do not seem to correspond to any known word in ancient Greek.[33] Moreover, the two kappas also suggest that the name is not Greek. Two consecutive kappas are not typical in a Greek word.[34] Finally, there are no non-Jewish figures from this period or any earlier period with a name like Makkabaios. This is strong evidence that the name is not a Greek one.

However, our task of determining the original spelling and meaning of the additional name of Judah is not that simple. Two further issues present themselves. First, assuming that Makkabaios is a Greek representation of a Hebrew or Aramaic name, we still do not know whether the authors of I and II Maccabees knew how Judah himself, who died in approximately 160 BCE, spelled his name. I Maccabees, which covers the period 175-134 BCE, was probably composed after the death of John Hyrcanus in 104 BCE, or at least when his reign was well advanced. This is seen from the last two sentences of the work.[35] After describing the murder of Simon and the attempted murder of Simon’s son John, the book closes with the following statement (16:23-24):

As for the remainder of the history of John, his wars and his valorous deeds and his wall building and his other accomplishments, all these are recorded in the chronicle of his high priesthood, from the time he succeeded his father as high priest. [36]

With regard to II Maccabees, we are told by the unknown author that it is an abridgement of an earlier work by someone named Jason of Cyrene. Cyrene is in Libya, but presumably Jason spent some time in Judea.[37] He is otherwise unknown.[38] The prevailing view is that Jason was a contemporary of Judah.[39] For example, the abridgement ends with a description of a military victory by Judah in 161 BCE, suggesting that the original work ended around this time as well. But it can be argued that the abridger ended his work before Jason did.[40] For example, the abridger writes that Jason narrated the history of Judah “and his brothers” (II Macc. 2:19). Based on this, an argument can be made that Jason’s work continued long after 161 BCE. It has also been argued that Jason wrote his work as a response to I Maccabees.[41] Even if we adopt the prevailing view that Jason was a contemporary of Judah, this does not necessarily mean that Jason knew how Judah himself spelled his name.[42]

The second issue that presents itself arises from the fact that the name is written “Machabaeus” in the Latin translation of I and II Maccabees composed by the church father Jerome (c. 400 CE).[43] There is a question whether this spelling reflects Jerome’s own spelling choice, which was perhaps made after he consulted the original Hebrew of I Maccabees,[44] or whether this was the conventional spelling of the name in the earlier Latin translations made from the Greek, which Jerome simply let stand. If this spelling was Jerome’s own and he made it after consulting with the original Hebrew of I Maccabees,[45] this would strongly suggest that the Hebrew text that he had before him spelled the name with a כ. In his translation of the Bible into Latin, Jerome almost uniformly used “ch” to represent כ.[46]

Alternatively, if the “ch” spelling originated in the Latin translations before Jerome, or if it originated with Jerome, but not in consultation with the original Hebrew of I Maccabees, it would seem to be based on a Greek text which spelled the name with chi. This too would seem to reflect an original Hebrew spelling of the name with a כ.

Thus, although we saw earlier that the double kappa in the Greek translation of I Maccabees suggests a ק in the original Hebrew, the evidence from Jerome’s Latin translation points in the opposite direction. Perhaps already in an early stage there were two different Hebrew spellings of the name.[47] If the Hebrew name was spelled with a כ, the meaning that suggests itself is “the extinguisher.”[48]

* * * * * *

The spelling of Maccabee with a כ that is prevalent in Jewish sources today is not evidence of an original כ spelling. It is only the consequence of the spelling choice made by the author of Yosippon in the 10th century.[49] Yosippon is a historical work of anonymous authorship that was based in large part on a Latin translation of the works of Josephus.[50] Among the other sources that the author of Yosippon had before him was a Latin translation of I and II Maccabees. In the Latin translation of I and II Maccabees that was before him, Judah’s additional name was spelled “Machabaeus.” Based on this, the author of Yosippon decided to spell the name with a כ. He spelled it מכביי.[51] This spelling with a כ influenced the Rishonim thereafter.

There never was a group by the name Maccabees in ancient times. How did the references to this non-existent group ever arise and how did the books get their titles? II Maccabees focuses in large part on Judah. Jonathan Goldstein, the author of I and II Maccabees in the Anchor Bible series, explains further:[52]

Clement of Alexandria and Origen, the earliest of the Church Fathers to mention the books by name, call them Ta Makkabaïka, “Maccabaean Histories,” from which title persons who spoke loosely probably turned to call all the heroes in the stories “Maccabees.”[53] The first datable occurrence of such use of “Maccabees” for the heroes is in Tertullian…ca. 195 C.E.[54]

Finally, it must be pointed out that מקבי seems to be the original reading in the work now commonly referred to as Megillat Antiochus.[55] But this work is replete with errors:

-It associates the name מקבי with Yochanan (John), while according to I and II Maccabees, this name is only associated with Judah.

-It describes Yochanan as killing the general Nikanor in a private encounter in the area of the Temple. According to I and II Maccabees, Nikanor was killed by Judah and his forces in a battle that took place outside of Jerusalem.

-It describes Judah as being killed before the Temple was retaken and describes Mattathias as stepping in to fight with the other brothers. According to I Maccabees, Mattathias died before the Temple was retaken and Judah led the brothers in battle. II Maccabees does not even mention Mattathias and describes Judah as leading the brothers in battle.

-In its dating of the story of Chanukah, it erroneously assumes that the retaking of the Temple coincided with the beginning of Hasmonean rule in Palestine. In actuality, over two decades separated these events.

Because of these and other errors, it is hard to treat this work as a reliable historical source on any issue.[56]

* * * * * *

Some of the other, more remote, possibilities for the origin of the name are: a derivation from מקוה (hope),[57] from מחבה (one who hides),[58] or from מכאב (one who causes grief).[59] The name has also been interpreted in various ways as an acrostic.[60]

Finally, on a lighter note, the suggestions of Franz Delitzsch and Filosseno Luzzatto (son of Samuel David Luzzatto) deserves mention. Delitzsch suggests that the name is a contraction of the exclamation mah ke-avi! (=who is comparable to my father!)[61] Luzzatto observes that there is a Greek term βιαιο-μάχας (biaio-machas) which means “fighting violently.”[62] If one places these words in reverse order, one gets something close to Judah’s additional name![63]


The two kappas in the name in the Greek translation of I Maccabees suggest that the original Hebrew from which this translation was made spelled the name with a ק. That the two kappas stem from an original כ is extremely unlikely.

A ק spelling would suggest that the name is related to the Hebrew and Aramaic words מקבת and מקבא, and that the name was assigned to Judah based on either his physical strength/military prowess or based on his physical appearance.

But it is also possible that neither the authors of I or II Maccabees nor Jason knew how Judah spelled his own name. Also, the fact that the name is spelled with a “ch” in Jerome’s Latin translation suggests that there may also have been a Hebrew version of I Maccabees that spelled the name with a כ.[64]

[1] I would like to thank Sam Borodach for reviewing the draft. All translations from I and II Maccabees are from the editions of Jonathan A. Goldstein (Anchor Bible, vols. 41 and 41A, 1976 and 1983). All citations to the Encyclopaedia Judaica (EJ) are to the original edition.

[2] Dan Rabinowitz, "The Name Machabee," the Seforim blog (21 December 2008), available here.

[3] I am not considering Megillat Antiochus (“MA”) to be within “classical rabbinic literature.” I will discuss this unusual work at the end.

[4] Aside from the references in MA, the earliest reference to Judah in rabbinic literature is a reference in an 8th century work, Mishnat R. Eliezer (also known as Midrash Agur). This reference seems to be based on MA. This will be discussed below.

Judah is also referred to in two of the three midrashim on Chanukkah published by Adolf Jellinek in the mid-19th century, and republished by Judah David Eisenstein in his Otzar Midrashim (1915). See Eisenstein, pp. 190 and 192. These midrashim are estimated to date to the 10th century. See EJ 11:1511.

[5] There are many factors that point to the fact that the Greek is only a translation. See, e.g., EJ 11:657, and Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 14. For example, many Hebrew idioms are used. The church father Jerome (fourth cent.) clearly implies that the Greek version of I Maccabees is only a translation. He writes:

“I have found the First Book of Maccabees in Hebrew; the Second is a Greek book as can also be proved from considerations of style alone.”

Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 16. An earlier church father Origen (third cent.) mentions an extra-biblical book used by the Jews which is a “Maccabean History which bears the title ‘sarbêthsabanaiel.’ ” Since this title is in Hebrew or Aramaic, this suggests that the book he is referring to, almost certainly I Maccabees, was composed in Hebrew or Aramaic. As to the meaning of this title, see Goldstein, I Maccabees, pp. 16-21 and J. Taanit 4:5 (68d). Jerome is the last individual to refer to the original Hebrew of I Maccabees. Neither I or II Maccabees is referred to or alluded to in either Talmud.

[6] For example, they were included in codices of the Septuagint. Judah and his brothers were seen as heroes by the early church. Centuries later, the Protestant church denied the sanctity of I and II Maccabees and of all the other books known today as the Apocrypha. But the Apocrypha are still part of the canon of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.

The Biblical canon may have been considered closed by Jewry even before I Maccabees was composed. See Sid Z. Leiman, The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture (1976), pp. 29-30 and 131-32. Even if the canon was still open (see, e.g., Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, pp. 162-169, and M. Yadayim 3:5 and M. Eduyyot 5:3), a strong argument can be made that I Maccabees was never a candidate for canonization since it did not claim to be a book composed before the period of prophecy ended. II Maccabees would never have been a candidate for canonization since it was composed in Greek.

[7] As is evident from the names Mattathias, Joudas, and Makkabaios, Greek often adds an “s” at the end of foreign names. That is why משה became “Moses” in the Septuagint, and why there is an “s” at the end of the name “Jesus.”

[8] Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 230.

[9] In II Maccabees, the name is usually used alone, without the name Judah. In I Maccabees, the name is used alone one time.

Although the name is spelled with two kappas each time, the “s” at the end is not there each time. In Greek, the ending of the name varies depending on the how the name is being used in the sentence.

[10] The First Book of Maccabees, tr. by Sidney Tedesche, intro. and comm. by Solomon Zeitlin (1950), p. 250, and Samuel Ives Curtiss, Jr., The Name Machabee (1876), p. 8.

[11] See, e.g., the transliteration of the name בקי at Ezra 7:4, and the transliteration of the city עקרון (many times).

[12] Curtiss, who seems to have gone through the Septuagint very carefully, can cite only one such case: תכן at I Ch. 4:32. See Curtiss, p. 9. But even here, there is another reading in which the transliteration is with two chis.

[13] In II Maccabees, the occurrence of names and places whose Hebrew spelling is known from the Bible is very limited. (Unlike I Maccabees, II Maccabees does not provide many geographic details.) In II Maccabees, transliterated with chi are כסלו and מרדכי. Transliterated with kappa are יעקב, חזקיה and קרנים.

[14] I Macc. 10:89.

[15] I Macc. 8:17: “Judah chose Eupolemus son of John of the clan of Hakkoz…” I am making the reasonable assumption that Hakkoz is the same as the priestly clan הקוץ mentioned at I Chr. 24:10. (Although the reading of the majority of Septuagint manuscripts is Ακκως, there is another reading: ακχως.)

[16] This is true in II Maccabees as well.

Admittedly, in most of the instances I have listed, the authors of I and II Maccabees were not deciding on their own how to transliterate these names and places, but were following already established conventions.

[17] The name could be an Aramaic one, even assuming that I Maccabees was composed in Hebrew.

[18] Semitic languages (other than Akkadian) do not have roots with identical consonants in the first two positions. Eduard Yechezkel Kutscher, A History of the Hebrew Language (1984, 2d ed.), p. 7.

[19] The Syriac translation of I Maccabees also spells the name with a ק. The Syriac translation of the Bible was generally based on the Greek translation, but it has been argued that sometimes the translators consulted the original Hebrew and that perhaps the Hebrew original was consulted here. See Felix Perles, “The Name ΜΑΚΚΑΒΑΙΟΣ,” JQR 17 (1926-27), pp. 404-405.

[20] See, e.g., Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, revised and edited by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, and Matthew Black, vol. 1 (1973), p. 158, Zeitlin, pp. 250-52, Nosson Dovid Rabinowich, Binu Shenot Dor va-Dor (1985), pp. 184-87, and Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English (1987), p. 377. For references to earlier scholars who argued for this approach, see Curtiss, pp. 18-20 and Ralph Marcus, “The Name ΜΑΚΚΑΒΑΙΟΣ” in The Joshua Starr Memorial Volume (1953), p. 62.

מקבת is found in the Tanakh at Judges 4:21. (See also Is. 51:1.) It is also found in Tanakh in the plural מקבות, at I Kings 6:7, Jer. 10:4, and Is. 44.12. It is usually viewed as deriving from the root נקב, since it is a tool which is used to penetrate.

[21] There are various ways of understanding the metaphor. Some reasonable suggestions are: 1) he was as strong as a hammer, 2) he dashed the enemy into pieces, and 3) he penetrated the enemies’ forces.

As many scholars have noted, another historical figure with such an additional name was Charles Martel, ruler of the Franks in the 8th century. Martel is French for “hammer.” He was given this additional name following his victory over the invading Muslim army at Tours in 732 CE. This victory halted northward Islamic expansion in Western Europe.

Judah is described by the name Makkabaois before he battled the forces of Antiochus IV. But this is not a difficulty. According to I Macc. 2:66, he was “a mighty warrior from his youth.”

[22] See M. Kelim 29:5 and 29:7, referring to a מקבת used by stonecutters. See also M. Parah 3:11 and Tosefta Shab. 13:17 (ed. Lieberman).

Marcus (p. 63, n. 3) notes that at Ber. 28b, when one of the Sages is called a “strong hammer” (patish ha-chazak), it is the word פטיש, and not מקבת, that is used.

[23] See, e.g., Schurer, vol. 1, p. 158 and Zeitlin, pp. 250-252.

Exactly how to understand this is open to interpretation. Was it the shape of his skull that looked like a hammer? something about his face? something about his neck? something about his body? something about the relationship of these objects to one another? For some possible understandings, see Rashi to Bekh. 43b, and the commentaries to M. Bekhorot 7:1 of Rambam and Tiferet Yisrael.

It has also been suggested that the reference to a hammer alludes to Judah’s having an occupation as a blacksmith. It has also been observed that מקבא means “nostril” in Syriac and that perhaps Judah possessed uncommon nostrils. Perles, p. 405.

Bezalel Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus (1989), p. 147, attempts to support the view that the name refers to some flaw in Judah’s physical appearance by noting that I and II Maccabees nowhere laud Judah’s physical stature or beauty.

[24] Bekh. 43b. Although the printed edition of the Talmudic passage reads למקבן here (just like the word in the Mishnah), Rashi’s text read למקבא. This would seem to be the correct reading .

[25] See Zeitlin, The Rise and Fall of the Judaean State (1962), vol. 1, p. 96 for some examples. Josephus tells us (Life, para. 3) that one of his ancestors (a contemporary of John Hyrcanus) was called Simon Psellus= Simon, the stammerer.

[26] This suggestion is made at EJ 12:808.

[27] These are the additional names for John, Simon, Eleazar, and Jonathan, respectively.

Of the four names above, Gaddi is the easiest to relate to a known Hebrew or Aramaic word. It can be related to the Hebrew and Aramaic word גד, “fortune.” See, e.g., Gen. 30:11. For some attempts to give meaning in Hebrew or Aramaic to the other names, see Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 231, Rabinowich, p. 186, and Ralph Marcus, Josephus (Loeb Classical Library), vol. VII, pp. 138-39.

[28] For an extensive discussion, see Tal Ilan, “The Greek Names of the Hasmoneans,” JQR 78 (1987), pp. 1-20.

[29] Josephus, Antiquities, XIII, para. 228.

[30] Josephus, Antiquities, XX, para. 240.

[31] Josephus, Antiquities, XIII, para. 320.

[32] Ibid. Perhaps she was given this name after her marriage to Alexander.

The Hebrew name of Yannai’s wife was transmitted in rabbinic sources in various forms. See Schurer, vol. 1, p. 229, n. 2 and Ilan, p. 7, n. 28. That the original Hebrew form was שלמציון has now been shown by two Dead Sea texts: 4Q331 and 4Q332. See Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XXXVI (2000), pp. 277 and 283.

[33] I make this statement based on my examination of the following work: An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, founded upon the seventh edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (1889). In contrast, many Greek words related to fighting begin with “μαχ.” Also, the Greek word for knife or dagger begins with these letters. (This is mentioned by Rashi at Gen. 49:5, מכרתיהם, citing Midrash Tanchuma.)

Even though the letters μ,κ,β or μ,κ,κ,β do not seem to correspond to any known word in ancient Greek, we do find Azariah de Rossi (16th cent.), in his Meor Einayim, Imrei Binah, chap. 21, adopting the suggestion of a 16th century monk that the name is a Greek one and that the meaning is the equivalent of the Italian “paladino” (=hero, champion). Also, R. David Ganz (16th cent.), Tzemach David, p. 69 (ed. Breuer), writes that מכבאי in the Greek language is a gibor and ish milchamah.

Of course, it is possible that the names of Judah and of some of the other brothers were Greek and what is recorded in I Maccabees are only shortened forms of names that originally combined two Greek words. Also, if the additional names originated as affectionate nicknames, whether in Greek, or in Hebrew/Aramaic, such names are often substantially altered forms of the original proper name. (In English, note Dick for Richard, Jack for John, and Billy for William.)

It has been speculated that “Chashmonai” was the additional name of Mattathias. See Goldstein, I Maccabees, pp. 18-19. (“Chashmonai” seems to have been an alternative way of referring to Mattathias. See, e.g., M. Midot 1:6. But this does not necessarily imply that it was his additional name.) “Chashmonai” sounds like a Hebrew or Aramaic name. See Josh. 15:27, Num. 33:29-30, and Psalms 68:32. (We might expect Josephus to know the origin of the term “Chashmonai,” since he was from this family. But the various statements in Josephus are not consistent. See Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 19, n. 34.)

[34] Curtiss, pp. 8-9, theorizes that the original Greek spelling was with only one kappa. He writes that letters which are single in earlier Greek manuscripts often end up being doubled in later ones. Curtiss, p. 9, n. 1.

[35] It has been suggested that the last three chapters of I Maccabees were added later, because Josephus never uses them. But the failure of Josephus to use these chapters can be explained in other ways. See, e.g, Marcus, Josephus (Loeb Classical Library), vol. VII, pp. 334-335.

[36] Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 62. There is another comment which perhaps suggests that the book was composed long after the events described. I Macc. 13:30 reads: “This tomb, which [Simon] erected in Modeϊn, still exists today.” The positive attitude towards the Roman Empire in the book strongly suggests that the book was composed before 63 BCE. See, e.g., I Macc. 8:1: “Judas had heard about the Romans: that they were a great power who welcomed all who wished to join them and established ties of friendship with all who approached them.”

[37] Most likely, he is called Jason “of Cyrene,” i.e., from Cyrene, because he flourished elsewhere (e.g., Judea or Egypt) after having been raised in Cyrene. But Victor Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959), p. 387, raises another possibility: Jason was a native of Palestine who left after the death of his hero Judah, and found a new homeland in the Jewish community of Cyrene.

[38] It has been suggested that he is to be identified with Jason son of Eleazar who is mentioned in I Macc. 8:17 as having been sent by Judah on a mission to Rome. But this identification is only conjecture.

[39] See Daniel Schwartz, Sefer Makabim ב (2004), p. 19, n. 23. Schwartz agrees with this position. He argues that it is evident from II Maccabees that Jason composed his work before the establishment of the temple of Chonyo in Egypt. This temple was established in 145 BCE at the latest.

[40] The abridger does not state that he ended his work before Jason did. But if the abridger had followed Jason to the end, the abridger would have ended with something like: “Since Jason ended his work at this point, my work, too, is done.” Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 5. Instead the abridger ends:

“Such was the outcome of the affair of Nicanor. From that time on, the city has been held by the Hebrews. Therefore, I myself shall bring my account to a stop at this very point…”

[41] Goldstein, I Maccabees, pp. 62-89 and II Maccabees, pp. 82-83. If this theory would be correct, we cannot view the similar spelling, Makkabaios, as an independent confirmation of this spelling, since perhaps the later work merely adopted the spelling of the former. It has also been theorized that I Maccabees was a response to or a rewriting of Jason’s work.

[42] I am willing to assume that the abridger followed the spelling used by Jason. (It is not known for certain that Jason composed his work in Greek, but this seems very likely. The abridgement begins with an introduction, and the abridger did not say anything here about changing the language of Jason’s work.)

[43] Curtiss, p. 7.

[44] Throughout his Latin translation of the Bible, Jerome seems to have consulted the Hebrew and corrected earlier erroneous transliterations found in the Greek translation. Curtiss, pp. 6 and 31. Jerome was more advanced in Hebrew than of any of the other church fathers.

[45] It is only speculation that Jerome consulted the original Hebrew of I Maccabees here. Even though Jerome refers to this work (see above, n. 5), he may not have had access to it and may not have remembered all of its spellings at the time he composed his Latin translation of I Maccabees. It sounds like he was referring to a work that was rare and not easily accessible.

[46] Curtiss, p. 7. Jerome transliterated ק with “c” or “cc” 188 times. There were only two occasions when Jerome transliterated ק with “ch”. (Curtiss attempts to explain what led Jerome to make exceptions in these instances. See pp. 7 and 32).

[47] Curtiss (pp. 8-9) tries to get around this scenario by postulating that the original Greek text only had one kappa, and that it was only later that the kappa was doubled. An original כ could have been transliterated with one kappa.

[48] See, e.g., Curtiss, pp. 25-29.

[49] David Flusser, Sefer Yosippon, vol. 1, p. 79, note to line 56.

[50] EJ 10:297. The author of Yosippon could not read Greek.

[51] Flusser, vol. 1, pp. 79 and 80. (Flusser writes that this is the reading in the better manuscripts of Yosippon.) This spelling is also found in another work from around this time, a Hebrew translation and adaptation of I Maccabees. This work was perhaps authored by the author of Yosippon. See Flusser, Sefer Yosippon, vol. 2, p. 132.

Much later in his work, in a different context, the author of Yosippon calls the group המקווים. Flusser, vol. 1, p. 342.

[52] Goldstein, I Maccabees, pp. 3-4.

[53] A similar development seems to have occurred with the name חשמונאי. One can easily interpret all the references to חשמונאי in Tannaitic and Amoraic literature as references to Mattathias alone. (The only exception being the reference at Meg. 11a, but there are variant readings here.) It is only after the Talmudic period that references to חשמונאים begin to appear. See, e.g., Midrash Eser Galuyot, and Midrash Shocher Tov, chaps. 5 and 93. Jastrow, in his entry חשמונאי, writes that the plural form is found in some editions of BK 82b. But I suspect that the plural form is not the original reading here.

[54] Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 4, n. 1, also suggests a possible earlier occurrence.

[55] Some manuscripts of MA read מכבי. But the Yemenite manuscripts of MA, which reflect ancient traditions, read מקבי. If we look at the three oldest manuscripts of MA (Turin 111, Huntington 399, and Paris 20, all of which date from around 1300 and none of which are Yemenite manuscripts), two read מקבי and one reads מקוי. See Menachem Tzvi Kadari, “Megillat Antiochus ha-Aramit,” Bar Ilan 1 (1963), p. 93, and Curtiss, pp. 37-41. (There are also a few manuscripts of MA in which the word is omitted.)

In the manuscripts of MA, the term מקבי/מכבי is usually followed by words like תקיפין קטלא (=killer of strong men), perhaps implying that that the author of MA viewed this as its definition.

[56] I would not have phrased it in this manner, but the EJ entry “Scroll of Antiochus” (14:1046-47) includes the following statement:

“[T]he author was totally ignorant of the historical circumstances at the time of the Maccabees and made no use of any reliable sources on the period.”

The first source to mention MA is the Halakhot Gedolot (mid-9th cent., who calls it Megillat Beit Chashmonai) but it is possible that the work was composed as early as the 1st century CE. That it was composed in the Talmudic period or the post-Talmudic period is also possible. The work was probably composed in Palestine, even though it may have been edited in Babylonia. It was originally composed in Aramaic; the widely known Hebrew version (included, for example, in the Siddur Avodat Yisrael, the Siddur Otzar ha-Tefillot, and the Birnbaum Siddur) is only a later translation. For references to sources which refer to MA and to practices of reading it on Chanukkah, see Natan Fried, Al Minhag Kriyat Megillat Antiochus be-Chanukkah, in Daniel Sperber, Minhagey Yisrael, vol. 5, pp. 102-113, and Rabinowich, pp. 138-146.

Even though the first source to mention MA is the Halakhot Gedolot (and the import of his statement is unclear), a statement in Mishnat R. Eliezer, an 8th century work, seems to be based on MA. The statement (p. 103, ed. Enelow) refers to four sons of Chashmonai after Judah, the eldest, was killed. These details match the scenario depicted in MA.

One of the midrashim on Chanukkah first published by Jellinek (see above, n. 4) is clearly based on MA but the midrashim published by Jellinek are estimated to date to the 10th century. See EJ 11:1511. (The midrash that is based on MA is the one that Eisenstein refers to as Maaseh Chanukkah Nusachב.)

[57] Marcus, pp. 64-65. His suggestion is that Judah was thought of as living proof that God was Israel’s hope. Marcus makes the interesting argument that if the name was derived from the Hebrew מקבן, the Greek form could have been Μακκβάν. There would have been no reason for the Greek form to have changed the ending, since names can end with “an” in Greek. The additional name of Eleazar was Auaran (Αυαραν). The problem with Marcus’ suggestion is that the Greek letter beta usually corresponds to ב. But Marcus finds some examples of beta being used to transliterate vav.

Marcus did not realize it, but he was preceded in his attempted solution by Yosippon. There is one place where the author of Yosippon calls the group המקווים. See Flusser, vol. 1, p. 342.

[58] See Curtiss, p. 13 and Jewish Encyclopedia, “The Maccabees.” Mattathias and his sons had fled and hid in the mountains during the period of persecution by Antiochus IV. But Judah seems to have had this name even before the persecution by Antiochus IV.

[59] See Curtiss, p. 13 and Ezek. 28:24.

[60] See Curtiss, pp. 14-17.

[61] Curtiss, p. 23.

[62] See, e.g., An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, p. 150.

[63] Curtiss, p. 14.

[64] I cannot end this study without mentioning that the word “macabre” perhaps has its origin in the name “Maccabee.” See, e.g., Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English, p. 377, מקברי.


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