In a post a while back, Paper on IV Maccabees: Looking for Diodorus, I discussed how a first century B.C.E. historian, Diodorus of Sicily, might help me on my IV Maccabees paper. My paper is about statements in II and IV Maccabees that renegade Jews undermined the Jewish politeia, or ancestral constitution, leading God to punish the nation of Israel with brutal attacks by Antiochus Epiphanes.
Right now, I have the book in which Diodorus discusses challenges to Israel’s ancestral laws. I’ll post a few quotes. I said in my post that Diodorus refers to a certain Hecataeus, who describes the Jews as xenophobic and committed to their political system, but I could not find anything about him in what I read.
Anyway, here are some quotes:
40.2: “During Pompey’s stay in Damascus of Syria, Aristobulus, the king of the Jews, and Hyrcanus his brother came to him with their dispute over kingship. Likewise the leading men, two hundred in number, gathered to address the general and explain that their forefathers, having revolted from Demetrius, had sent an embassy to the senate and received from them the leadership of the Jews, their ruler being called High Priest, not King. Now, however, these men were lording it over them, having overthrown the ancient laws and enslaved the citizens in defiance of all justice; for it was by means of a horde of mercenaries, and by outrages and countless impious murders that they had established themselves as kings” (279).
Diodorus is describing an incident in the first century B.C.E., when Aristobulus and Hyrcanus competed to be king over Israel. Each did so by seeking Roman backing. I’m not sure who overthrew the ancient laws–King Aristobulus? The high priests?–or how exactly they did so. Diodorus goes on to describe the history and laws of the Jews, so perhaps I should reread that to gain more insight.
Diodorus of Sicily, vol. 12, trans. Francis R. Walton (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967).
40.3: “But later, when they became subject to foreign rule, as a result of their mingling with men of other nations (both under Persian rule and under that of the Macedonians who overthrew the Persians), many of their traditional practices were disturbed. Such is the account of Hecataeus of Abdera in regard to the Jews” (286-287).
Okay, there’s where he mentions Hecataeus. I don’t see him saying here that the Jews were xenophobic. But Diodorus is claiming that the Jews’ disturbed their traditional practices when they mingled with other nations. That’s pretty much what we see in I, II, and IV Maccabees.