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The Institution of the Hasmonean High Priesthood.
Leiden u. a.: Brill 2014. XVIII, 347 S. = Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 165. Geb. EUR 123,00. ISBN 978-90-04-25177-9.
Lester L. Grabbe
Since no full study of the Hasmonaean high priestly institution had previously been published, Dr Babota aims to fill a gap. He asks the question, what kind of institution was the Hasmonaean high priesthood and why was it successful? His search for the answer takes the form of a detailed textual analysis of 1 and 2 Maccabees and Josephus (plus occasional looks at Polybius and other relevant classical authors), but focuses almost exclusively on the pre-Hasmonaean high priests and Judas, Jonathan, and Simon (the later Hasmonaeans get only a sporadic mention). He surveys the primary sources in chapter 1 (one of his conclusions being that Josephus did not know a Hebrew version of 1 Maccabees), and then works his way through the various high priests in chronological order: (chapter 2) the pre-Hasmonaean high priests of the Seleucid period (Oniads, Jason, and Menelaus), (chapter 3) the Maccabean revolt and Menelaus (one of the goals of the revolt was to remove Menelaus from the high priestly office), (chapter 4) Judas Maccabaeus and Alcimus (Judas was not appointed as high priest), (chapter 5) Jonathan and the high priestly office 159–152 BCE (the Teacher of Righteousness was not appointed high priest), (chapter 6–8) high priesthood of Jonathan, (chapter 9) the high priesthood of Simon, (chapter 10) the Hasmonaean high priests and their priestly descent (discussing the question of Zadokites, Aaronides, and followers of Phinehas), and Final Conclusions.
As already indicated above, in the course of his close textual work B. addresses many of the problems arising from the Hasmonaean priesthood and engages critically in the various debates. Was there a high priest between Alcimus and Jonathan? By the time of Alcimus the Hasmonaeans had already sought for opportunities to gain the high priesthood. Yet the answer is, there was no other high priest, neither the Teacher of Righteousness nor Judas Maccabaeus (pace Josephus and many modern scholars); however, Judas may well have been made deputy high priest by Nicanor under Alcimus (a problematic position but one for which B. makes a reasonable case). The niggling question of who acted on the Day of Atonement, in the years when there was no high priest, is answered by postul-ating that another priest was appointed to do this duty. The arguments for this are reasonable, if not conclusive. B. argues from 1 Mac. 10:6–10 that during the period after Alcimus’s death, Jonathan was excluded from the area of Jerusalem and from military activity (which would also rule out his being high priest). But it is important to be aware that in 152 BCE Jonathan Maccabee became a Seleucid official, though it was Alexander Balas who gave him the post of high priest (which Demetrius I only confirmed).
The extent to which the office of high priesthood was dependent on the Seleucid monarchy, at least until Simon broke from Demetrius II, is emphasized by B. Jonathan was in fact responsible for a considerable Hellenizing of the position. He was a »Friend«, then a »First Friend« of Alexander Balas, and gave gifts to Hellenistic kings and officials. He also enhanced his military and administrative position, and is credited with settling the south-western hill of Jerusalem (which is possible but not certain). Yet although he took the Akra in Jerusalem when three rivals for the Seleucid throne fought in 145 BCE, the victorious Demetrius II restricted his powers. Jonathan turned to the rival Antiochus VI, a boy-king under the guardianship of Trypho, but it was Trypho who subsequently captured and then assassinated Jonathan. Jonathan’s push to independence for Judah was not given up by Simon who began as a military leader, was declared high priest apparently first by his military supporters, had it confirmed by Demetrius II, and then had it further confirmed by an assembly bringing together various groups and social classes among the Jews.
The Hasmonaeans legitimated their holding of the office in part by appeal to the Phinehas tradition, a claim which gained new significance when Hyrcanus I destroyed the Samaritan temple (the Samaritan high priests also claimed descent from Phinehas). B. emphasizes that the role of the Hasmonaeans as priestly warriors is essential to understanding the nature of the institution of the Hasmonaean high priesthood (88). Under them the office of high priest changed considerably, especially in the direction of military leadership (since the high priesthood had already had administrative functions under the Persians and the Ptolemies). It seems to have been this military activity that gained them enemies within their own people, even within the priesthood itself. On the diplomatic front – but also in a search for allies to aid in their quest for independence – Judas was indeed the first to send an embassy to Rome, shortly after the defeat of Nicanor (though Judas was already dead by the time it reported back); Jonathan and then Simon similarly sent embassies to Rome.
The bibliography is good, and the detailed table of contents is very helpful in guiding the reader to the discussion of individual topics, as are the indices (though there is no index of modern au-thors). One can always criticize individual points in a study such as this. For example, although in the bibliography he cites my article arguing that the temple cult ceased in December 168 BCE and was resumed in December 165, he does not engage with it anywhere. He is not aware of my article on the Jewish gerousia/Sanhedrin (Journal for the Study of Judaism 39 : 1–19). He tries to fit the Qumran scrolls into Hasmonaean history, which is a legitimate endeavour but often very speculative. For example, he argues that Jonathan was the »Wicked Priest« of the Qumran scrolls, not a new idea but one that has some problems with it. 4QMMT was addressed originally to Jonathan, though it was not his appointment as high priest that caused the composers of 4QMMT to separate (though they eventually turned against him).
On the other hand, the engagement with the Scrolls does not take up a lot of space and is not a major issue for the history of the Hasmonaeans. Most of the areas where one could quibble are only minor issues, some of which will continue to be debated, in any case. This book began as a doctoral thesis from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. We can be grateful both to B. and to his doctoral supervisor, Professor Joseph Sievers, for an excellent study. Even where one might disagree, there is full information and source material to take the argument forward.