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Doron Mendels


Phases of Inscribed Memory Concerning the Land of Israel in Palestinian Judaism of the Second Century BCE
The case of 1 Maccabees

It was Viginia Woolf who promoted the idea that individual memory is episodic and random. What imposes order on memory is the process of writing narrative.1 This can be applied to groups and their shared memories. One should add that in certain instances, once a memory was written down it nourished individuals and groups for many generations to come; in others it was just stored and vanished into thin air. Hence in this article I would like to underline the distinction between memories of things and events experienced by individuals and/or a group but not necessarily written down,2 and those memories that were acquired through the learning of oral and inscribed texts. It is the latter that will be discussed here.
Two aspects will be highlighted: What are fragmentary memories that are implanted and then embedded within a society; and can the identity of groups be linked to public memory?3 First and foremost I will repeat what I have said elsewhere: In groups within the world of antiquity, collective memory seems to be a problematic notion when a larger group is concerned. It can be but rarely found as a unified set of memories imposed on a group (which can be a tribe with many subdivisions, a nation, etc. to be found mostly in authoritarian and totalitarian societies, to use modern terminology).4 In Antiquity, Sparta stands out as such a society of a supposedly unified public memory. Thus if we think of memory as not just the remembrance of a famous person whose name everyone has heard or a well-known geographic detail, but of a more complex texture of a set of memories, we would do better to speak of fragments of memory embedded in various groups within the larger society. This means that the larger group has in it sections that are imbued with variations and nuances of sets of memories, some of which are referential to the common past of the larger »mother« group. Such fragments of memory serve the sub-groups in their daily life and in their cultural maintenance and do not reflect the whole picture of what »happened« – for the simple reason that they are merely fragments. (Barash has shown yet again, how bits of the past are remembered rather than the »whole« past.5) In other words, in one and the same greater society sub-groups »possess« different sets of memory – sometimes even opposing each other, being counter memories (as I showed in the case of Aeschylus’ Persians).6 It is even more complex than that: Sets of memories that are written down by a group may become static (such as a monument with or without an inscription or foundation narratives in a canonic text). However, in many cases even inscribed memories can be subject to different interpretations that arise over the years and hence change whole sets of groupmemories, which are affected by various factors – as for instance the imagination of members of the group.7 Groups and nations have at their disposal an arsenal of memories, parts of which are intermittently ignited by changing realities. But new realities also produce new memories that are added to the existing arsenal. Memories of groups and individuals can be acquired by a process of learning yet function as if they were experienced (the second generation of the Holocaust memorizes the facts and feels as if it has experienced it itself). Another possibility is that existing sets of memories, even those that were written down, may undergo mutations with the passage of time, a matter we experience in our own lives and societies. Yet the original inscribed set of memories, usually referring to the foundation narratives of the family/group and nation, keeps being a steady reminiscence of the memorable past because it was written down. These inscribed (canonic, one might say) memories are usually endowed with an authority that makes them meaningful for this same group in spite of the passage of time. (In many instances keeping alive a set of past distant memories is in the interest of a leading or powerful elite, memories that give this elite its raison d’être for their own continuous existence.) In other words, there must be a strong connection between the texts (i. e., inscribed memory) and the willingness of the group, its elite leadership, family or nation to remember these texts (i. e., to preserve them) even if other sets of memories were added later.
In inscribed memories of groups we have to take into consideration different states or conditions of preservation. It is possible to distinguish among what I have called the comprehensive memories of a group. Here we are dealing with texts that were written with the aim of preserving the whole picture of a certain chapter in history (like Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War and Josephus’ Jewish War) and which at the end of the day remained as our only inscribed memory of the periods to which they relate. However, most of the examples we have from the world of antiquity are of inscribed memories that are fragmentary in nature – for instance: the Res Gestae of Augustus as well as the Book of 1 Maccabees that will be discuss in a moment.8 These are sets of memory that first and foremost are extremely partial – and in some cases were meant to be so – since they are not wholly compatible with a certain reality; second, they have become in certain instances the only memories of important episodes left for future generations. One should go a bit further and say that the physical position of an inscribed memory makes a great difference to its longevity as an active groupmemory. If for instance the inscribed memory is preserved on an inscription that was erected in the middle of a town or in some other central place it has more chance to have an »impact« (and perhaps a greater chance to be remembered) than a book or inscription that is kept in a museum, library or archive and therefore can be considered as a »stored« piece of memory, a well-known phenomenon among scholars of public memory. Basic laws of a state are an exception since in spite of their being inscribed and stored, once internalized by the public they are actually remembered (because most people uphold the law). It is also of significance whether the inscribed set of memories gets a religious sanction, whether it still is meaningful for subsequent generations, etc. In other words, we have to take into account not just the set of memories that we can detect within a certain group at a certain time but also the phases and changes that sets of inscribed memories undergo when they pass from generation to generation (namely, what one generation or another has »chosen« from the general store to be its present set of memories and how they were »treated«). The juncture at which a group »frees« himself from or even resists a certain set of memories and adopts another set of memories or an additional set (but still does not neglect the original one) is crucial for our perception of group memory (examined on an axial time span). Having this in mind we can say that different sets of memory arranged in a chronological order concerning events of the past (or invented pasts) reflect an evolving identity of memorizing groups. In other words, a group’s changes in its identity are reflected in its set of memories and vice versa.
Let me elaborate a bit on the phases and changes that basic sets of memory undergo through the ages. Since in my above-mentioned book and the book On Memory (which I edited)9 I have not lingered on this vertical time axis of the development of sets of memories in groups that is time biased, I will focus here on some aspects relating in particular to the Book of 1 Maccabees as a typical example of sets of memory that on the one hand are referential to the old inscribed memories (the Bible) and on the other hand add their own experiences. To be sure, one has to differentiate between vertical axes and horizontal ones. A vertical axis is one that goes through time and can show how a set of memories or a memorized item or symbol, to use Ernst Cassirer’s terminology, »behave« (develop, or decline and disappear) over the course of years, decades or centuries. A horizontal axis is one that exhibits a variety of sets of memories embedded at one and the same time (or generation) within different groups in a greater society or a nation; some of these sets are referential to memories »positioned« on the vertical axis (i. e. going back to older sets of memories). The sets of memories positioned on a horizontal basis are not equal in their status, since every set is endowed (or not) with a different degree of authority (namely, some sets are more important for the group than others). For instance, in the time of the Second Temple period the Ur memories of the Bible existed alongside reshaped sets of memory that were referential to the basic original set (included now in the so-called pseudepigraphic corpus). It seems that the original biblical memories as to the foundation of the Jewish nation were no longer satisfactory as cohesion mechanisms of a certain group within the greater Jewish »mother« group. In fact, it was the present that dictated the new images of the past that henceforward would be imbued in a section of the Jewish people (preserved in certain groups until modern times, such as the Book of Jubilees in the Ethiopian Church). If the ancestor Abraham, according to the Book of Jubilees written in the second century BC, feasts during the Jewish Holidays (when according to Genesis, the »Ur inscribed memory,« he was already dead for many generations and anyhow did not know the Jewish holidays that were created much later by the biblical narrative), people’s memories of the original narrative of Genesis must have been affected. (In this case the original set of inscribed memories, namely the Bible, was not suppressed or abolished by the interpretative group that made the changes; on the contrary, it probably remained the authoritative inscribed set of memories of the group.) Yet at the same time, the second century BCE, another set of memories was created as an additional set, but the two sets can be found on the same horizontal level or axis. Seen from the perspective of time they are also part of a long history of memorization within Judaism that can be put on a vertical axis. In other words, different sets of memory can »live« together in a society or sections thereof either in peace or sometimes with considerable tensions.
In line with these observations, it will be seen in what follows that additional sets of memories constituted a reflection of the new, reshaped identity of Jews in the second century BCE and so did the very act of selection and emphasis on certain memories chosen from the collection of past memories in storage. The writing down of these selected sets of memories – a process that in most instances is done under filtering processes (even the use of one dialect of language as against another becomes crucial) but in reference to the old lingering sets of memory – can be seen as some sort of declaration of independence from the old set. Added memories (to this basic corpus, which was accumulated over years and centuries and finally written down) are a later development that signifies the vitality and continuity of a group and/or nation, yet in certain instances just decay or stagnance. Thus not just selection and interpretation of the original set of memories must be taken into account, but the emergence of a new layer of memories emanating from a new phase in the history of a group/nation (or even families) and yet related to the old set. The books of 1 Maccabees, Judith, Tobit and Susanna are the inscribed sets of memory of a new era, a new phase, in Judaism (but always referential to the Bible, the old set of inscribed memories).
Thus, during the second century BCE three sets of inscribed memories, original, mutated and additional, were positioned alongside one another on one horizontal axis. Group-inscribed memories can be followed in their development through the ages. How widespread or »popular« a set of memories was can be deduced from the diffusion of the texts (and/or the oral traditions) and their reception. That such sets were inscribed (or just remembered in the case of oral sets of memory) and then transmitted from generation to generation, sometimes even translated into the vernacular and consistently studied by groups shows clearly that such memories were embedded and not just skin-deep. In the larger groups there will be always a section that will keep those memories alive. One of those additional sets of memory (with a strong referential relationship to the old set of memories appearing in the Bible) was created during the Hasmonean period, an important post-biblical phase in the history of the Jews and Judaism,10 the Book of 1 Maccabees. Here we encounter the vertical axis effect of sets of existing inscribed memories on a new set. Memories of the »historical« pre-kingdom books of the Bible are present within 1 Maccabees, sometimes in a »contaminated« form,11 yet are different in nature. Whereas 1 Maccabees is a concoction of memories from Palestine, 2 Maccabees is an inscribed store of memories from the Egyptian Diaspora. In the case of the former, which will be dealt with in this article, the sets of memories assembled by the narrator of 1 Maccabees are on the one hand in harmony with and referential to the old set of the Bible; but on the other hand they create a tension with the old set. This is an indication of a reshaped identity of the Jews that resulted in the creation of 1 Maccabees as a site of memory. This is more or less the only site of memory that we have of Palestinian Judaism until our own day concerning the battle of the Hasmoneans against their foes in the second century BCE (Josephus writes much later and does not add very much in original material). 1 Maccabees, a product of a new phase in Jewish history, constitutes a typical example of what I have called »fragmented« memory (which with slight additions unfortunately became almost the only memory of this period in later generations). Before dealing with the »polemical« content of the memories of 1 Maccabees, I assume the reader will be anxious to know what the mechanisms were that enabled the creation of a new set of inscribed memories and what its end product is.
First and foremost, I will address the nature of this site of memory. The book has 16 chapters that deal with something like 40 years (including the introduction that goes back to Alexander the Great). It is thus extremely concise. Flavius Josephus wrote five long volumes on only four years of the Great War of the Jews against Rome (thereby creating a comprehensive memory of this war embedded ever since in Jewish awareness). By all standards then, the Book of 1 Macabees is extremely laconic. Everyone who reads 1 Maccabees realizes that certain events that went on for many days or hours get very short descriptions, whereas others, shorter in duration, get longer ones. In 9:22 the narrator acknowledges this very clearly: »The rest of the acts of Judah, his battles, the exploits which he performed, and his greatness are not written down; for they were very many.« (This, to say the least, is very typical of what we get from our mass media today; events that have gone on for months and sometimes even years are presented to us in a few minutes or ignored altogether.) Even the numbers that are mentioned in 1 Maccabees are extremely partial and do not present the whole picture (it is easier to remember the topical numbers found than real numbers that change from event to event). For instance according to chapter 4, Gorgias the Seleucid general takes five thousand men and a thousand elite horsemen and fights against three thousand of Judas’ soldiers who are more or less unarmed. But the latter number is suspicious since three thousand men of Gorgias’ division, also fall and die. The battle itself is depicted in biblical phraseology, very briefly. The memories inscribed here are »contaminated« by Bible-like descriptions, and thus much of the reality of the battle fought by the Maccabees is distorted. The »statistical reality« is not reflected but the agenda of the narrator is always enhanced. Here we come to what media scholars would call diversity.
The site of memory created by the narrator of 1 Maccabees lacks diversity – namely, an attempt to express all the details of a situation and all the opinions concerning it. Such details should ideally represent actuality as one entity in all its dimensions, or at least most of them. Compared to historians of antiquity who do show some diversity, the narrator of 1 Maccabees lacks it altogether. For instance the Hellenizers in 1 Maccabees get a bad press from the outset, as do all the heathens. By and large the vestigial memory of them is deliberately vague; these two groups receive very little space within the historical narrative. Thus we can say that relevance to the Jews at the period was inscribed on this book of remembering. This can be very clearly discerned throughout the author’s historical narrative, and in many comments and use of terminology to describe the heathen versus the good and perfect Jews. To this day one of the strongest memories that Jews have of the Maccabean uprising is the clash between the pure Jews and the bad heathen. Moreover, in this inscribed site of memory a distinction is rarely made between acts, motives and opinions. The writer’s own attitude emerges repeatedly, and there is no shunning of slant or rancor throughout the text (generations of Jews and Israelis »remember« the Maccabean upheaval and its aftermath through the filters and ideas of this biased narrator). No doubt our narrator understood that in order for people to be able to »remember,« he has to write in a style and genre that are familiar to his audience. Thus he uses mainly the biblical rather than the Hellenistic genres. Although he uses different orders of discourse, they are reminiscent of the Bible. Not all of the composition is historical narrative. We find many other orders, such as lament, hymn, document, eulogy, fiction, etc. The use of the different genres or orders of discourse resulted in a more exciting and dramatic reading of the text. In short, the set of memories – however partial, fragmented and contaminated (by memorizing sometimes »through« the Ur memory of the Bible), full of agendas and literary tricks of the narrator – has remained alive for more than two thousand years (and allowed different interpretations all along). All of that means that the memory that was preserved of this era for generations to come (in Modern Israel what 1 Maccabees delivered was what we »remembered« of that period, sometimes even without knowing that the information was preserved mainly in the two books of Maccabees) was partial and distorted in many respects in relation to the reality it narrates. We have inherited a »fragmented« set of memories from the Maccabean revolt and Hasmonean era that underwent even further fragmentation over the centuries. (But this never affected the importance of this period in the Jewish collection of memories throughout the ages.)
This can be concluded from a careful research of the text itself even without comparing it with other texts. A memory is built of many components, at times quite changeable and even dialectical, that are over the years molded into one entity that does not reflect the reality that was initially memorized; yet it becomes sort of complete in our minds, i. e. our minds put all the bits and pieces together, and although it still remains a fragment (in relation to a theoretical complete set of memories), by doing so makes us believe that the fragment is a »complete« memory of an event or a phenomenon or a series of both. But except for us historians, or other researchers, the groups that memorize these fragmented sets are not bothered in their daily lives by the fact that it is a partial, usually distorted, picture of a reality; they imagine it as being complete. (In any case a set of memories is rarely compatible with a reality; it diverges from it in different modes and in exaggeration.) Of many chapters in European history we posses memories of »what happened«; but we all know that it is partial and distorted in many of its aspects since many filters – individual and political, ideological and theological – have influenced the shaping of the »end product« during the dynamics of its transmission from generation to generation. Moreover, as I have shown elsewhere concerning Guenther Grass’s »Crabwalk,« the same reality is remembered differently in various groups of the very same society, not to mention in different periods of history.12
The mechanisms of suppression and forgetfulness of memories and the choices made from an existing arsenal of past memories are constantly at work. Thus the set of memories that 1 Maccabees inscribed for us is not only partial and »contaminated« by other memories (emanating from the Bible, for instance) but is shaped also through an undercurrent dialogue with the Ur memories of the Bible. In other words, the memories that were assembled in the Book of 1 Maccabees are burdened by this kind of polemic. When dealing with such a memory-shaping process, one has to take into account that a polemic with another entity is subject to use of the same language (metaphorically, of course), so that the other side will understand – in spite of his having adopted as it were a different set of memories. In the case of 1 Maccabees which is an inscribed site of memory, an end-product of a certain era in Jewish history – such a dialogue gives on the one hand the feeling that the account of 1 Maccabees is biblical. On the other hand it indicates that a new era has dawned and interpretation and re-shaping are no longer sufficient. Thus different sets of memories are created that have »freed« themselves from the older sets; the latter remain as lively as the new set of memories and are positioned alongside them. In spite of the book being in terms of its genre and style Biblical-like, we shall now see that its inscribed set of memories is ideologically and theologically quite foreign to it and that they reflect a newly shaped identity.
Let me adduce here some examples demonstrating that although 1 Maccabees resembles in some aspects, and perhaps in its general atmosphere, the biblical books of Joshua-Judges-1 Samuel, it reflects a totally different set of memories in many of the »things to be remembered« (i. e. issues at stake). That 1 Maccabees is a new phase in Jewish history and thought highlighting the tension between nostalgia for the old biblical memories and a desire for freedom from those same memories is quite obvious.13 The examples are:
A) Although the Book of 1 Maccabees as a site of memory is preoccupied with the Land of Israel, it does not have as its agenda a continuous drawing of territorial borders for the Jews in Palestine. It is not just that the book is quite remote from Joshua’s conquests;14 it avoids a discussion and the actual drawing of borders (biblical maximalist as well as minimalist views). There is a strong awareness of the Land and its conquest – this I showed many years ago in two of my books15 – but no specific borders are marked in line with the biblical accounts (scholars such as myself only assume which territories were conquered during the second century and beyond). However, the block of memories concerning the Land in the pre-kingdom historical books of the Bible to which our book is usually compared is extremely rich. Just to give some examples: In the Book of Joshua we find already at the beginning a definition of Israel’s borders (1:4, the »maximalist« borders). Whereas the books of Judges and 1 Samuel take the Land for granted (although the fact that the Canaanites were not completely destroyed hampered the Jews unceasingly and nourished many of the ensuing memories of this period), the Book of Joshua is preoccupied with the allotment of the Land to Israel’s tribes, a matter that is quite well known and does not need an explanation here. But one interesting detail I would like to emphasize as an example of a possible counter memory and polemical stance: Joshua assigns Transjordan to the two and a half tribes as an inheritance and they go to settle there (1:12–18). In 1 Maccabees, chapter 5, a set of memories is preserved of just the opposite: the Jews’ evacuation of parts of these regions (Jews from trans-Jordan) and Simeon (Jews from the Galilee). Be that as it may, the Book of 1 Maccabees has preserved memories of conquests of territories in the Land by Jews but has no consistent memories about their precise borders.
B) The Book of 1 Maccabees avoids the notion of physical sites of memory and reminiscences within the Land of Israel such as are frequently enhanced in the historical books of the Bible (sites of memory help memorize events, places, people and above all the almighty God of Israel; in 1 Maccabees he is more »shy,« and perhaps separated from mortals, does not need memorials or monuments.). This is important for our case since in antiquity physical sites of memory were crucial for the creation of certain contours of memory in time and space; they became cornerstones for long-term memorization. The biblical physical sites of memory were spiritualized the moment they became textual – that is, were inscribed as loci to be remembered and thus implanted in the memory of the nation. They »stayed« in the text even though they have vanished as physical sites. Thus they became sites of memory not just because they were erected all over the Land, but because they were mentioned in scripture that itself became a site of memory. As against this – perhaps to be seen as a polemical stance of 1 Maccabees, where »official« sites of memory (namely explicitly declared as such by scripture) are non-existent (one exception being the graves of the Hasmonean brothers which became a site of memory, 13:27–30) – the reader may recall that memories of monuments and memorials abound in the above-mentioned biblical books. One example is the memorial stone/altar erected to the tribes that cross the Jordan (Joshua 4; here the link between a memorial of the twelve stones and the existence of God as the protector of the Jews is evident). Other examples are the cities in Joshua such as Gilgal-Jericho-Ai that became mythological sites within the memory of the first experiences of the conquest of the Land by the Israelites (chapters 4–8). There are many memorial sites erected for the commemoration of particular events (both negative and positive): In 7:26 there is a memorial to the scandal of Achan at Emeq Achor. In chapter 8 two memorial sites are created after the war on the Ai (vv. 28–29 tel colam and gal ’avanim). In Joshua 8:30–35 a sacrifice is performed on an altar on Mount Eval (and the Torah of Moses was read before the people after it was written down as an inscribed set of memories, 8:32). The five Canaanite kings are put in a cave and stones placed there »until this day,« which alludes to a site of memory (Joshua 10:27). The story about the memorial altar in Joshua 22 is significant; and the story in 1 Maccabees 5 about Judah bringing back people from the Bashan may be a dialogical story showing that the bond with the Jews in Transjordan was never abandoned (in Joshua 22:27 it is stated that the altar was build as testimony for future generations in Israel). We also encounter the stone put in Shechem for the commemoration of the treaty with God (Joshua 24:26–27). Gideon the judge builds an altar to commemorate his view of the angel of God (Judges 6:24). Another memorial site and days of remembrance are mentioned in Judges 11:39–40 where the women of Israel memorize the death of the daughter of Jephtha. Interestingly, the place of burial of some of the Judges is explicitly mentioned, even if they get only a few lines in the biblical narrative. These burial places probably turned into local sites of memory and perhaps even places for local pilgrimage (for one instance, see Judges 12:9; 12).
In contradistinction, the Book of 1 Maccabees shows a developed phase wherein we encounter the spiritualization of fetish memory. According to 1 Maccabees, such battlefields as Modi’in, Beth Zur and Beith Zecharia neither became sites of memory at the time, nor were mentioned as such in the literary output. They were certainly not endowed with the aura of the many sites of memory mentioned in the Bible. Moreover, the Book of 1 Maccabees does not express any nostalgia for the unforgettable biblical sites of memory (such as Jericho, Shiloh, Timnat Heres – where Joshua was buried – and many others16), as might have been expected during a reconquest of the Land in the second century BCE. In other words, most of the places mentioned in 1 Maccabees are »new,« in the sense that they are not a revisit of the traditional ones of the Bible; thanks to their mention in the Bible they have become symbolic entities within the awareness of the Jews (to use again the language of Ernst Cassirer).
C) The Book of 1 Maccabees became a site of memory for commemoration of the first generation of Hasmonean leaders. The mention at the end of the book of Yochanan, the son of Simeon, was meant to show continuity with the next generation of Hasmonean rule exemplifying the succession of a father by his sons. This kind of rule is unparalleled in the distant pre-kingship historical books of the Bible. Although the Hasmoneans in some respects were reminiscent of the biblical example of the Judges – the narrator says that Jonathan was »judging in Michmash« (9:73) – they nevertheless deviated from them in many respects. Viewing the Hasmonean brothers against the sets of memory preserved in Joshua-1 Samuel, the Book of 1 Maccabees has preserved a new set of memories concerning the nature of the leadership that does not fit the definition of judge or king in the biblical books mentioned here. Whereas the Book of 1 Maccabees has preserved the memory of a new type of leader as defined in chapter 14 of the book, the institution of »judge« introduced by the narrator of Judges (2:16–19) is quite different. Here and elsewhere in the book of Judges the new type of ruler is presented as »savior« (moshi’a, for instance 3:9). The judge is endowed with the »spirit of God« (ru’ah Yahve, for instance 3:10; 13:25) and rules for a limited period of time. There were attempts to change this (Judges 8:22–23 and the story of Abimelech later in chapter 9), but to no avail. Moreover, the story of Abimelech shows that inheritance of the rule within the family was still premature in Israel (he was crowned as king 9:6), in particular when it did not have the legitimacy of a godly spirit (1 Samuel 8). This is quite different from the set of memories inscribed in 1 Maccabees, which gives us the impression that a smooth succession in the family occurred (Abimelech wanted, as the son of Gideon, to rule; but he eliminated all his brothers except for Yotam, who succeeded in hiding). In the Hasmonean case, when people from outside the family wanted to be independent they were punished (1 Maccabees 5:55–62). And it does not use the term »judge« or »savior« as rulers’ titles (although Mattathias in his Testament mentions Joshua as being a »judge« [2:55], and Jonathan who dwelt in Michmash »began to judge the people« [9:73]). The Hasmoneans as a rule were not endowed with the »spirit of god« (Mattathias was just »filled with ›zeal‹ and his sole was stirred up,« 2:24). In contradistinction, Gideon, the biblical judge, acts with the approval of God and his spirit (Judges 6:34). In one of the layers of the Book of Judges narrative we find a pro-kingship stance (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25 – probably all statements of the narrator from the kingdom period, in line with the idea appearing in Deut 17; his idea is that anarchy ensued because no king was ruling over Israel). However, in 1 Maccabees there is no opinion adduced either for or against kingship. The Book of 1 Maccabees does not promote kingship even where we might have expected it to do so (8:14–16).
D) The Book of 1 Maccabees in most of its narrative acknowledges a passive God present in its background; but He is quite different from the very active God who is remembered through the inscribed memories of the above-mentioned biblical books and who acts, speaks, commands, hates, etc. In our site of memory of the second century BCE God is silent (but probably omnipotent) and is low-keyed when it comes to Hasmonean history. This is very different from any of the sets of memory preserved in the historical accounts found in the Hebrew Bible and a significant change in its symbolic meaning. One of the significant changes in concept is the absence in 1 Maccabees of the rod of God, as against what is mentioned in the biblical books and the later historical ones. For instance, in Joshua 6 the chapter begins with the statement that God stands behind the conquest of Jericho. God is extremely active and even speaks to Joshua (7:10; 11:6; etc.) and »fights for Israel« (23:3–5). The God of the Judges is manifest, directly and indirectly, through angels (Judges 13:3); whereas in 1 Maccabees God cannot be reached or communicated with (in contradistinction to the Book of Judges, where the tribes ask God whether to go to war or not, and he answers, 20:18–20; 23–29). It is a well-known fact that prayer in our book has become a substitute for sacrifice on altars spread all over the Land (Judges 21:4). In 1 Samuel 2:27 we are faced again with a »man of God« (ish Elohim), who is absent altogether from the memories accumulated in 1 Maccabees.
E) 1 Maccabees does not preach the total or even partial destruction of the foreign people of the Land of Israel, although sometimes it depicts ferocious fights of the Hasmonean brothers against them. This does not mean that in reality they did not destroy more cities; but the book did not preserve memories related to an ideological overall destruction of people in the Land (perhaps it even suppressed such memories if we take into account the first chapter, where we hear that Jews are not allowed to have a covenant with the foreigners of the Land, 1:11). In Joshua 2:9 and elsewhere in the book the complete annihilation of the natives is a dominant memory of the time of Joshua (one of those sets of memory that like all other biblical references mentioned here, is the vertical sort of memory discussed above). Jericho, Ai and then many other cities are destroyed (see in particular Joshua 10). In 1 Maccabees people of the Land who wish to live in peace with the Jews are kept alive and even entertain friendly relations with the Hasmoneans (such as the Nabateans during most of the time, and the people of Ashkalon, 11:86). In Joshua 11:19–20 the statement concerning the annihilation of the people of the Land is rehashed. This statement comes after a description of the wars of Joshua against the kings of the Land and their peoples, and their complete destruction. The whole Book of Judges contains memories of the people of Israel who were unfaithful to God and then sent foreign kings to teach the wayward Israelites a lesson (8:33–35 among many other statements and descriptions; Judges 10:7–8). This concept of sin, punishment and remorse can perhaps be found here and there as a vague and distant memory in 1 Maccabees (in the first chapter in particular), but it is not at all central.
F) The Book of 1 Maccabees has not preserved any set of memories concerning the activity of prophets and prophecy, and this is even explicitly stated by the declaration »until a true prophet should arise« (4:46; 14:41); according to 1 Maccabees, the absence of prophets, who constituted an important element in the past history of the Jews, is lamentable (9:27; 54). In the aforementioned biblical books there is the strong memory of a development from mantic to the more spiritual prophecy – as my teacher Leo I. Seeligman showed many years ago.17 Our book shows nostalgia for prophets yet dissociates itself from the kingship of David – for various reasons that I have developed in my Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism.18 Memories of prophets, angels and people of God abound in the pre-kingdom history of Israel and were probably quite alive among the Jews of the Second Temple period. For instance, in Judges 6 we hear of »mediators« sent by God – such as a prophet (8–10) and an angel of God (11) who encourages and actually sends Gideon to fight (12). This angel of God (mal’akh Yahve) is transformed for a moment into God himself, who talks to Gideon and sends him to war (14); later in the chapter (20 ff.) he becomes again the angel of God (but this time uses elohim). Within the biblical narratives there is great significance in the showing of signs in order for the recipient of God’s message to believe – as for instance in the stories of the birth of Samson (Judges 13). Prophecy in all kinds of manifestations is quite active during the days of the judges and the first days of Samuel, as we see in many preserved memories (such as the story about the birth of Samuel and, later, about the announcement of the destruction of Eli’s house – 1 Samuel 2:27–36; 3:11–14). But 1 Samuel emphasizes that the contacts with God have become few (3:1), and in chapter 3 we find the famous transition from mantic to a more spiritual prophecy, as we mentioned above (Samuel is also called a »prophet,« 1 Samuel 3:20).
Such memories are absent from 1 Maccabees; the latter is much more low-keyed in its approach to God; we find here a more developed phase in Jewish faith (unlike the one which says that someone who has seen God will die, Judges 13:22). The Book of 1 Maccabees has preserved the incredible memory that prophecy has disappeared altogether and that even at very festive and crucial junctures, such as the reopening of the Temple in Jerusalem, prophecy has not returned to the Jewish people. In other words, in 1 Maccabees the prevailing memory about prophecy is that it had no presence in the Hasnmonean era. It should be added here that memories about past prophecy were extremely lively among Bible-reading Jews at that time. The narrator of 1 Maccabees, however, in his statement that prophecy will return one day shows a belief in the importance of prophecy for Jewish life.
G) On the other hand, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem is an element that is still not apparent in the mentioned biblical books Joshua-1 Samuel, although there we see as well a wish to have a central place (e. g. Shiloh). But this »Deuteronomistic« approach to the Temple in 1 Maccabees nevertheless reveals that the rebuilt temple suffers from a defect. A distant memory, somewhat in tension with a very strong and continuous one of the centrality of the Temple, is memorized by the colorful description in the Book of 1 Maccabees: The stones of the old Temple were put aside until a true prophet arises (4:45–46): »… because the heathen had defiled it … they put down the altar, and put away the stones in the Temple Mount, in a suitable place, until a prophet should come to decide what to do with them …«. This in itself is an interesting ritual and deserves greater attention, since the old components of a site of memory become themselves a physical reminder of a phase in its history (of defilement).
H) The Book of 1 Maccabees quite clearly ignores the Jewish tribal system that is still extremely strong in the books of Ezrah-Nehemiah (although then too the ten tribes were already long lost).19 The continuous mention in Jewish texts of the twelve tribes, found for example in the Synoptic Gospels and rabbinic literature, constitute evidence for the strong memory concerning the wholeness of the people of Israel, although since the disappearance of the ten tribes in 722 BCE such a memory was unrealistic. The Hasmoneans came from a priestly house, but the tribal system was not part of the memories they left. Even their names (including that of their father, Mattathias), except for Judah and Simeon, do not refer back to biblical tribes. Yet the memory of one tribe fighting a war against the Seleucids (Simeon was incorporated early on in Judah) is a memory our narrator wanted to pass on to further generations. By contrast, the Ur memories of the pre-kingdom history abound with the tribal divisions of Israel (as well as with the many fights and tensions between the tribes; Joshua 3:12, and 4). In these latter books we find also many local memories that probably emerged within the tribes themselves (such as the abundance of stories about Samson, Judges 13–16). Such stories, a kind of »poetic memory« that can also be found in the three Gospels, are absent from a »national« book, a sort of anti-tribal one, that 1 Maccabees contains (Judah symbolizing the tribe of Judah represents the whole revived nation). Individual memories concerning life and ethical behavior are suppressed (or just forgotten) in 1 Maccabees; even about the private life of the Hasmoneans we do not have any hints. The extremely fragmented memory of this family is probably a result of filtering all the individual memories to be as it were replaced by the national ones. It has thus become a national site of memory rather than a personal and individual one. Whereas the pre-kingdom narrators still use the etiological story in order to remember moral, political and ethical things that »happened« (Michah in Judges 18 and Pilegesh Bagivcah in 19), 1 Maccabees does not need it anymore and promotes a theoretical, more abstract view of the world and its ethics (to be found for instance in Mattathias’ Testament, chapter 2). Moreover, the tribal divisions in Israel during the time of the judges, and later, resulted in furious tribal tensions and even wars within ancient Israel (for example, the terrible war in Judges 20–21 between Benjamin and the other tribes; the people of Israel themselves mourn this war, Judges 21:1–4). The memories of these tensions have given place to a different kind of memories, concerning strife between pious and non-pious Jews to be found in 1 Maccabees.
I) The set of memories concerning test and trial by God (nisayon) emerging from the pre-kingdom books no longer exists in 1 Maccabees. The test and trial has many manifestations in the Book of Judges; for instance, God tests his people by letting the peoples around them harass them (Judges 2:2–3; 14; 2:20–3:5); but he does not only »test,« he also »sells« them into the hands of their foes who then become the rod of God (Judges 4:2). The Book of Judges is also full of miracles, such as 13:20–22. Interestingly, the narrator of 1 Maccabees does mention the treaty with God that was breached by the »Hellenists« (and is mentioned in Joshua and Judges several times). Although in both books, Judges and 1 Maccabees, Israel is confronted with foreign people of the Land, the set of memories of the relationship is very different because in our case both the foreigners and the Jews are equal in terms of being under the sway of a foreign empire. In Judges the foreigners are independent and sometimes even rule Israel. Whereas in the Book of Judges we have an emphasis on the theme of punishment and remorse (as well as the knowledge that God is with you, or the lack of that knowledge as in Judges 16:20; there Samson is not aware of the fact that God has left him; Likewise Judges 10:10–16), in 1 Maccabees this knowledge or the lack of such knowledge is almost non-existent. The fights – whether against the Seleucids or the people of the Land – are presented as dissociated from the attitude of God and his relationship with the Jews. Perhaps it has become irrelevant. Hence this longstanding memory of sin, punishment and remorse was mutated in the Book of 1 Maccabees into a flat relationship without all these theological overtones. This is perhaps also the reason why 1 Maccabees is against acts of martyrdom (such as we see already in Samson, in Judges 16 and in 2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees). The story of Mattathias and the Jew who came to sacrifice is a memory of reversed martyrdom, 1 Maccabees 2:23–27.
J) The memories inscribed by 1 Maccabees are all masculine (there are very few exceptions: 1:60–61; 2:38; 10:54–58). Not even once is a Jewish woman mentioned as being a leader; whereas Judges abounds with heroic memories about the deeds of such famous women as Deborah, Yael and Jephtha’s daughter; Deborah is even a ruler who is sitting as a »judge« (4:4–5). A woman kills Abimelech (Judges 9:53–54).
These and other elements show very clearly that although 1 Maccabees was written in a biblical style that reflects nostalgia for the old memories preserved in the Bible, it has added a different set of memories, quite polemical in nature, emanating from Jewish circles that created the new state of the Hasmoneans. This additional set is masterfully amalgamated with biblical hues by the narrator of the book. Be that as it may, the Land of Israel and much that happened to the Jews within its territory was central to the identity building of the Jews during this period. The memories concerning the Land were memories that the Jews wanted to keep and preserve for the following generations.
In conclusion it should be mentioned that one’s own memory is not necessarily the memory shared by others. That the Land and its history became central to the memory of the Jewish people in the Second Temple period and beyond is quite obvious. But the Land was not necessarily central to others in the environs, an issue I tackled in my above-mentioned book,20 and is altogether a different story.

Der Beitrag widmet sich dem Thema des kulturellen Gedächtnisses am Beispiel des 1. Makkabäerbuches in unterschiedlicher Perspektive. Zum einen wird deutlich gemacht, dass es sich hier – auf einer horizontalen Linie gedacht – um eine fragmentierte Erinnerung handelt, insofern in einer Gesellschaft oder Nation, repräsentiert durch verschiedene Gruppen, zur selben Zeit unterschiedliche »Erinnerungssets« bestehen.
Zum anderen zeigt es sich auf einer horizontalen Achse, dass sich das 1. Makkabäerbuch in seiner Erinnerungskultur deutlich von der biblischen Überlieferung unterscheidet. Trotz des Interesses am Land werden dessen Grenzen nicht beschrieben; auch die Nennung konkreter Erinnerungsorte wird vermieden. Zudem unterscheidet sich das 1. Makkabäerbuch im Hinblick auf die Beschreibung der vorköniglichen Herrschaft von der biblischen Überlieferung. Schließlich ist darauf zu verweisen, dass das 1. Makkabäerbuch das Bild eines eher passiven, im Hintergrund wirkenden Gottes zeichnet, während die entsprechenden biblischen Bücher die Aktivität Gottes betonen.


1) See the new biography of Alexandra Harris, Virginia Woolf (London: Thames & Hudson 2011).
2) See the important article by J. A. Barash, »At the Threshold of Memory. Collective Memory between Personal Experience and Political Identity«, in: Meta. Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy, vol. III, no. 2 (Dec. 2011), 249–67 (with the older bibliography). On memory in ancient societies see J. Assmann, Das kulturelle Gedächtnis. Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen (Munich: C. H. Beck 2000); idem, Religion und kulturelles Gedächtnis. Zehn Studien (Munich: C. H. Beck 2000), and D. Mendels, Memory in Jewish, Pagan and Christian Societies of the Graeco-Roman World (London/New York: T & T Clark International 2004) (all of these studies contain the older bibliography).
3) See the definition of public memory in Barash, »Threshold of Memory«, 258: »By the concept of ›public memory‹ I understand publicly meaningful events which have been experienced by the members of a given society and which are a topic of recollection. In such cases, collective memory recalls events that have been witnessed and which, as sources of political change, often have a paradigmatic influence on the constitution of the public sphere.«
4) Koselleck says »My personal position […] is strictly against collective memory, given that I have been submitted to the collective memory of the Nazi years during twelve years of my life. Any collective memory displeases me because I know that true memory is independent from the so-called collective memory, and my position in regards to this is that my memory depends on my experience …« (Barash, »Threshold of Memory«, 254).
5) Barash, »Threshold of Memory«.
6) See my book: Memory in Jewish, Pagan and Christian Societies, chapter 3, 48–59.
7) For imagination and memory see Barash, »Threshold of Memory«.
8) See my book: Memory in Jewish, Pagan and Christian Societies, chapter 2, 37–41 (Res Gestae); chapter 6 (1 Maccabees), 81–88 and passim.
9) On Memory. An Interdisciplinary Approach (Oxford et al.: Peter Lang 2007), 9–18.
10) See a recent good survey of the Judaism of this period: M. E. Stone, Ancient Judaism. New Visions and Views (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans 2011).
11) See my book: Memory in Jewish, Pagan and Christian Societies, XIV–XV, and chapter 6.
12) D. Mendels, »A Model of Public Memory and a Note on Guenter Grass’s Crabwalk«, in: Mendels, On Memory, 255–274.
13) For the book in general see the surveys of H. W. Ettelson, The Integrity of 1 Maccabees (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1925); J. A. Goldstein, I Maccabees (The Anchor Bible, Garden City, NY: Doubleday 1976), 3–186; N. Martola, Capture and Liberation. A Study in the Composition of the First Book of Maccabees (Abo: Abo Akademi 1984); D. S.Williams, The Structure of 1 Maccabees (Washington, DC: The Catholic Biblical Association of America 1999).
14) See K. Berthelot, »The Biblical Conquest of the Promised Land and the Hasmonaean Wars according to 1 and 2 Maccabees«, in: G. G. Xeravits/J. Zsengeller (eds.), The Books of the Maccabees. History, Theology, Ideology (Leiden: Brill 2007), 45–60 (with my reservations in »Etiquette II«, the Muenster Conference, forthcoming in 2013 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht).
15) The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature. Recourse to History in Second Century BC to the Holy Land (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck] 1987); The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism. Jewish and Christian Ethnicity in Ancient Palestine, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans 1992, paperback).
16) Mizpeh may be seen as an exception. In 1 Maccabees 3:46 it is written that »they gathered and went to Mizpeh, opposite Jerusalem, because Israel formerly (to proteron) had a place of prayer in Mizpeh« (see Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 7:6–9; 2 Kings 25:23). The dwelling of Jonathan in Michmash (9:73) is not linked by the narrator to a specific memory of the biblical past.
17) L. Seeligman, »The Beginnings of Prophecy«, in: Eretz Israel 3 (1954), 000 (Hebrew).
18) See chapter 3, 55–79, and chapter 8, 209–242.
19) See my »Hecataeus of Abdera and a Jewish Patrios Politeiea of the Persian Period (Diodorus Siculus 40.3)«, in my book: Identity, Religion and Historiography. Studies in Hellenistic History (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press 1998), 334–351.
20) Memory in Jewish, Pagan and Christian Societies, chapter 7, 89–102.