Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ancient Greek Tablet Found In Israel Substantiates Chanukah Story

Archeologists have recently pieced together an entire Seleucid Greek tablet, fragments of which were discovered at different times at Tel Maresha in the Beit Guvrin National Park in Israel. The translated tablet, dating back to 178 B.C.E., is a decree by the Syrian Greek King Seleucus IV (187-175 BCE) to the ruling leadership in Judea, declaring the appointment of one Olympiodorus to begin collecting taxes from the temples of all the provinces of Coele-Syria (later Palestine and Israel) and Phoenecia (along the Mediterranean coast of modern day Lebanon), including the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This policy marked a radical change in the relationship between the Seleucid Empire and Judea, as the Empire had not previously attempted to tax the Jews or their Temple.

The tablet substantiates the account in the Book of Maccabees II, which recounts the events leading up to the Maccabean revolt. Maccabees II relates how a Seleucid official, whom it calls Heliodorus, came to the Temple in Jerusalem to seize funds from its treasury, and was forcibly expelled.

Ironically, if you look for the Books of the Maccabees in a Jewish Bible, the Tanach, you will not find it. Those books are part of the apochrypha, texts that did not "make the cut" when the Men of the Great Assembly designated the Jewish canonical texts sometime between 400 and 200 B.C.E. The events described in the Books of the Maccabees had not even occurred by then, and of course were written down, in Greek and Hebrew, much later. The Talmud is the authoritative ancient Jewish text describing how and why the Jewish sages decreed the festival of Chanukah. While the Books of the Maccabees may not be a sacred Jewish text, the Greek tablet suggests that its account may have some historical validity.

What I found most fascinating, and resonating for our own time, is that the Seleucid Empire may have precipitated the Maccabean revolt by overspending, which led it to raise taxes. Did Chanukah begin as a tax revolt? Tea party organizers and President Obama, pay heed!

As for myself, I may grumble about my taxes and the Obama Administration's policies, but I love my country and obey its laws, and if my taxes go up, I will pay them.

Happy Chanukah!


Blogger American Yak said...


Monday, December 14, 2009 7:26:00 PM  

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