Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Source of Christianity - Judas Maccabeus (And why Judas was made the betrayer of Jesus)


Mattathias and his son Judas Maccabeus came on the scene at a critical turning point in Judean history and belief.  They changed dramatically what it meant to be a Jew, turning the very meaning of what it meant to be cleansed before God upside down.  This change in religion resulted in a number of events.  The Jewish kingdom was enlarged in a powerful militaristic way, and new Jewish villages and towns were populated in an enlarged territory in a short space of time.  Jewish stones (altars) like the Migdal Stone appeared as did the more frequently observed Jewish Mikvaot and Synagogues.  The principal cause was the change in religious philosophy.  

Some of the words in the above I owe to Mordechai Aviam (writing in Chapter 5 of Jesus and Temple edited by James Charlesworth). But I think Aviam was fundamentally wrong.    

Antiochus was Defeated when He Attacked Alexandria in Egypt

Antiochus Epihanes wanted to be king of Egypt as well as Syria.  1 Mac. 1.17-19: "He assembled a powerful force of chariots, elephants, and cavalry, and a great fleet, and invaded Egypt.  When battle was joined, Ptolemy king of Egypt was seized with panic and took to flight, leaving many dead.  The fortified towns were captured and the land pillaged." Then very strangely, there is no consolidation of his apparent victory.   

1 Mac.20,21 continues: "On his return from the conquest of Egypt, in the year 143, Antiochus marched with a strong force against Israel and Jerusalem.  In his arrogance, he entered the temple (actually the sanctuary) and carried off the golden altar, the lamp-stand with all its equipment, the table for the Bread of the Presence, the sacred cups and bowls, the golden censers, the curtain and the crowns.  He stripped off all the gold plating from the temple front.  He seized the silver, gold, and precious vessels, and whatever secret treasures he found, and took them all with him when he left for his own country.  He had caused much bloodshed, and he gloated over all he had done."   

The writer of 1 Mac. does not give a reason for Antiochus's attack, nor details of those he had killed.  The reader is left to assume that Antiochus's motive was purely greed.  But was it?  Was there something else going on?  I suggest there was no attack. The above text was taken from a later account.  The priests came under threat by Judas Maccabeus and were kicked out of the temple.  Knowing what Judas would do, they took what they could and buried it in various places as recorded in the extant Copper Scroll.    

Antiochus Turns on the Prophets in Jerusalem

According to the protestant Old Testament text, Daniel 11.31 has: "His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation."  

The Scrolls version of Daniel 11.31 has: "Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and and shall do away with the continual burnt offering; and they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate." 

The Scrolls version makes no mention of sacrifice, but does refer to continual burnt offering. The continual burnt offering was the burning of incense by the prophets on the altar of incense in the sanctuary.  This was not a daily sacrifice but a continual 24 hour offering. The smoke that came up from the fire was thought of as God's constant presence.  Here the Scrolls version is closer to original Daniel.  The protestant Old Testament text has been tampered with.  Antiochus abolished the altar of incense. He tried to abolish the prophets but did not succeed. 

The Septuagint version of Daniel 11:31 is revealing.  It has: "And seeds shall spring up out of him, and they shall profane the sanctuary, and they shall remove the perpetual sacrifice, and make the abomination desolate."  Here Antiochus's target of profanation is not the temple fortress nor the temple and fortress, but the location of the altar of incense, the sanctuary.  But we have the perpetual "sacrifice".  According to Josephus, the 'Essenes', really the prophets, had their own 'sacrifices'.  Well we know what they were.  They were sacrifices or offerings on the altar of incense.        

Judas restored the Altar of Incense

(1)The Account in Josephus (12.7.6)

"When therefore, he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the candlestick, the table [of shew-bread,] and the altar [of incense,] which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them.  He also took down the altar [of burnt offering,] and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as hewn with iron tools." 

The square brackets are not mine; they are in Josephus. 

(2)The Account in I Maccabees (4:41-50)

"He selected priests without blemish, devoted to the law, and they purified the temple, removing to an unclean place the stones which defiled it.  They discussed what to do with the altar of burnt-offering, which was profaned, and rightly decided to demolish it, for fear it might become a standing reproach to them because it had been defiled by the Gentiles. They therefore pulled down the altar, and stored away the stones in a fitting place on the temple hill, until a prophet should arise who could be consulted about them. They took unhewn stones, as the law commands, and built a new altar on the model of the previous one. They rebuilt the temple and restored its interior, and consecrated the temple courts. They renewed the sacred vessels and the lamp-stand, and brought the altar of incense and the table into the temple. They burnt incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lamp-stand to shine within the Temple. When they had put the Bread of Presence on the table and hung the curtains, all their work was completed."

I Maccabees 4.46 has: “They therefore pulled down the altar, and stored away the stones in a fitting place on the temple hill, until a prophet should arise who could be consulted about them.”  Why should they have "stored away" the stones of the altar for the future when they were supposed to be polluting?  Why should the writer expect that a prophet might "arise" later and “be consulted” about the stones?  A prophet would have had no interest in these rejected impure “stones” of the altar.  The stones were 'impure' because the priests had burned sacrificed animals on them.  Judas simply got rid of the altar for sacrificing animals.

Judas is is supposed to have detailed his troops to engage those in the citadel adjoining the temple.  This is a fiction.  Any Syrian soldiers and priests must have fled well before Judas's arrival.  Judas would have detailed his soldiers to remove the altar upon which animals had been sacrificed.  This would have been done first as in 1 Maccabees. (In Josephus's shorter account, the altar for sacrifice of animals is removed second, after the new altar of incense has been brought into the sanctuary.)  Thus there were no priests to remove the altar used for sacrifice of animals.   Talk of a prophet arising later is pure propaganda.   Judas and his family were prophets or priests converted to prophets.  And why would a prophet want to consult the unhewn stones which were considered impure.  I suggest that the “stones” alluded to were the ones from the high priests breastplate which the prophets would have “consulted”. The prophets were alive and kicking and not dying out.   

Emphasis on the Law is Later Propaganda (1 Mac.4.41-54)

Mention of "priests without blemish, devoted to the law" (1 Mac.4.42) is the propaganda of later first century Jewish writers.  The propaganda includes phrases like: "They took unhewn stones as the law commands" (1 Mac.4.47); "sacrifice was offered as the law commands" (1 Mac.4.53).  Within the space of 10 or 11 verses we are greeted with an over-emphasis on the law.  The writer or editor wanted to create the impression that this was all done according to the Law.  The whole passage is permeated with propaganda.  

The Copper Scroll - Archaeological Evidence for the Jewish Priests being Kicked out of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus 

The Migdal Stone (Found in a Synagogue in Magdala, Gallilee)

The tradition of burning incense away from the temple has its origin in the reign of Antiochus. Antiochus wanted to unify worship across his dominions so that everyone should only offer sacrifice of animals.  This was in agreement with his friends, the Jewish priests who were at loggerheads with the prophets. Antiochus's command to Mattathias was to not offer burning of incense.  "Worship of God" (Ant.12.6.2) was what the prophets did in the sanctuary at the altar of incense. This altar was removed by Antiochus with the co-operation of the priests.  The prophets having lost their altar in the sanctuary, resorted to burning incense in every town of Judea on temporary altars - they refused to give up the "worship of God". The propaganda of 1 Maccabees 1.54 calls them idol altars which were supposedly established by Antiochus's forces. They were altars of incense, not idol altars.

In Mac. 1:54, who was offering incense at the doors of houses, throughout the towns of Judea, if it wasn't Jews? Isn't this like the Jews watching the burning of incense at the opening of the sanctuary, during a festival.  They were also offering incense in the streets.  You have to credit these people with an advanced sense of God's presence everywhere.

There were supposed to be no Jews living in Magdala until the end of the second century BCE. Antiochus's persecution began in approximately 167 BCE. This led to many Jews being scattered. The current migrant crisis is a reminder of what persecuted communities do.   There is every possibility that a Jewish community established itself in Magdala shortly after 167 BCE. Mattathias taught his people to defend themselves, whereas they had been reluctant to do so.

The stone was easily transportable. A rough estimate from drawings is that the stone has dimensions of about 50 x 50 cm at the top and a height of 40 cm. Such a stone could have been made well before the synagogue was built and brought from elsewhere.  Also it could have been hidden easily from Antiochus's troops. They had, in effect, a portable sanctuary - an altar with all the markings that represented the sanctuary.

The Magdala stone was all about the sanctuary, not the Temple as a whole. The symbols on the stone show no connection with animal sacrifices.  Animals were sacrificed outside the sanctuary.  The relation between the symbols and the sanctuary proper is very strong.  Some scholars think that the stone was an altar of incense. Was it one of the "idol" altars of 1 Maccabees?

At the top are two palm trees.  The side views represent the curtains of the sanctuary,
They divide the sanctuary into its two compartments, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The two circular objects which I take are at one end of the Holy Place. If they are at one end of the Holy Place (it is difficult to tell from drawings at which end of the stone these circular shapes are) then I have to assume they were something to do with the sanctuary worship. Given the serious symbolism on the stone I doubt that the two circles were symbolic of the more mundane rings for transportation.

1 Mac. 1:56 following on has: "All scrolls of the law which were found were torn up and burnt." This further propaganda would have us believe that Antiochus's forces did this. I suggest that Antiochus's forces were not responsible for tearing up the books of the law.  Mattathias's community were the culprits. This was a final break-up of the Jewish nation into two parties, essentially the priests and the prophets. The priests mocked and scorned the prophets greatly in their peshers of the Scrolls. Mattathias's community reacted, came to reject the law, and tore up the scrolls of the law, basically the Pentateuch.

The priests had approached Antiochus for his help in putting down the prophetic community who they regarded as "seekers of smooth things". The priests with Antiochus's troops put to death women their babies and their families. The propaganda has it for fulfilling the law. They welcomed death. Does this remind you of Josephus's "Essenes".  Essenes do not exist anywhere in the Scrolls. In Josephus they have been interpolated artificially back in time.


Daniel is written as though it predicts the events it describes.  Of course we know in reality that it didn't.  According to page 482 of the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible by Abegg, Flint and Ulrich, Daniel was written in about 165 BCE, which was after those events.  And the eight scrolls of Daniel found in the Judean desert at Qumran were copies made in times from 125 BCE to 50 CE.  These scrolls are written partially in Hebrew and partially in Aramaic, attesting (according to Abegg et al) to the lateness of the writing. 

I suggest that scriptures were being written by prophets after the date of approximately 165 BCE, the exact time of the rise of the Maccabeans.  At this time, the prophets were considered by the priests (in the Scrolls) as "seekers of smooth things".  The situation between priests and prophets had rapidly deteriorated. The priests were thrown out of the temple by Judas a supporter of the prophets.  Animal sacrifice was abolished by Judas.  The priests were living in towns and villages away from Jerusalem and the temple.  They thought of themselves as being outcasts and were akin to the modern day Taliban believing in violence. The priests would have naturally rejected any scripture originated by the prophets. The prophets were then occupying the temple, worshipping God at the altar of incense, and "in" with their Hasmonean rulers.  They would have continued writing scripture in opposition to the priests, just as the priests opposed the prophets in the Scrolls originated in Jerusalem and found in the Judean desert and at Qumran.  

So, why at the precise time of Judas did prophecy apparently cease so that no scriptures were produced?  It was all to do with later Roman and Jewish propaganda produced later between 70 CE and 200 CE approximately.  

During the first century the prophets were hunted down by Vespasian.  800 or so prophets were taken to Rome for his triumph.  The rest were pursued mercilessly.  The killing was later attributed to Nero who was supposed to have persecuted 'christians'.  It was the Flavians who persecuted the CHRISTIANOS - latin for the anointed ones, or the prophets, many of whom had moved to Italy. The scriptures the prophets had written were taken by Vespasian's forces under Titus from the temple.  The prophets had defended the temple.  It was overcome by Titus who stripped it of all its gold to establish the Flavian dynasty.  Attacking temples was unknown among the Romans up to that time.

I Maccabees is biased against prophets.  Chapter 9:27 has: "It was a time of great affliction for Israel, worse than any since the day when prophets ceased to appear among them." Prophets are mentioned deliberately in Maccabees as though they ceased to exist around the time of 165 BC.

I Maccabees 9.54-56 has: "In the second month of the year 153, Alcimus gave orders for the wall of the inner court of the temple to be demolished, thereby destroying the work of the prophets. But at the moment when he began the demolition, Alcimus had a stroke, which put a stop to his activities.  Paralysed, and with his speech impaired, he could not utter a word or give final instructions about his property.  Thus he died in great torment."  

Here the prophets are in existence, but the editor creates a possible cause for their decline, when really this was a clash between the pro Syrian high priest Alcimus (with his fellow priests and troops), and the prophets. The prophets had built a wall to keep Alcimus and his troops, and Bacchides and his troops, out of Jerusalem.  Alcimus's 'stroke' at the 'moment he began the demolition' was more than likely wounds he received from the prophets as a result of the battle. Alcimus's intention was to "destroy the work of the prophets".  But Alcimus had his 'stroke' when he began his demolition of the wall, so he didn't succeed in destroying the wall.  The prophets had the victory.  9.57 has "On learning that Alcimus was dead, Bacchides returned to the king, and for two years Judea had peace."  Bacchides was Antiochus's general who retreated to Syria presumably with his troops, proof that the prophets had won the day.  The battle over the wall was a much bigger affair than portrayed. 

The prophets hated animal sacrifice.  It was Alcimus's intention to destroy the prophets with Antiochus's help.  Antiochus was pro animal sacrifice.  He intended to help the priests by keeping the altar for burnt offerings of animals and to seek vengeance on the prophets. Antiochus and the priests began a persecution of the prophets. 

When Judas with his relatives had fully defeated the priests and Antiochus's armies he came to purge the temple of the impure altar for burnt offerings.  The altar was demolished and thrown away on a rubbish tip. This was all blamed by later Jewish and Roman writers post 70 CE on Antiochus's persecution of the Jews.  Judas, according to the priests who wrote the Scrolls found in the Judean desert, was a wicked priest .   Later writers (1 Maccabees and Josephus) changed him to a national hero and rehabilitated him as a heroic priest. The post 70 CE priests (Josephus being one of them) in conjunction with their then Roman friends wanted to remove all trace of prophets after 165 BCE from their history.  Judas as a betrayer of Jewish priests was preserved in another story as the one who betrayed Jesus.

  by taking the golden altar of incense used by the prophets out of the temple.  This altar was kept alight all the time.  It was the later removal of the altar of incense (the altar of the presence of God) that became the Abomination of Desolation to the original author of Daniel, a prophet.