Alcimus’ Last Command

History and Propaganda in 1 Maccabees 9:54

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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The note in 1 Maccabees 9:54 that the high priest Alcimus ordered the destruction of the wall of the inner temple court is taken by most scholars as a description of a historical event. This paper, however, suggests that the note should rather be read as part of a pro-Maccabean propaganda which serves to defame Alcimus. It is argued that, from a historical perspective, it was not Alcimus but Judas who was responsible for serious damage at the temple precinct as a result of his unsuccessful military operation against the Seleucid Acra (6:18-54). The author of 1 Maccabees tries to downplay this event and to villainise Alcimus by calling destruction what was actually restoration. The paper ends with a comparison to two other passages in 1 Maccabees (4:44-46 and 5:55-62) which shows that the suggested understanding of 9:54 fits well the strategies of legitimisation and delegitimisation that can be found throughout the book.

Journal for the Study of Judaism

In the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period




Cf. Benjamin E. Scolnic, Alcimus, Enemy of the Maccabees (Studies in Judaism; Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2005), 69-70.


Cf. Goldstein, I Maccabees, 391-92.


Josephus, Ant. 12.413 (Marcus, lcl).


Cf. James C. VanderKam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests after the Exile (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004), 228; Victor Parker, “Historische Studien zu den Hohen Priestern der frühen Makkabäerzeit,” zdpv 124 (2008): 143-70, esp. 157-64; Kay Ehling, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der späten Seleukiden (164-63 v. Chr.): Vom Tode des Antiochos IV. bis zur Einrichtung der Provinz Syria unter Pompeius (Historia, Einzelschriften 196; Stuttgart: Steiner, 2008), 116; and Benedikt Eckhardt, Ethnos und Herrschaft: Politische Figurationen judäischer Identität von Antiochos III. bis Herodes I. (sj 72; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), 170-71, to name just the recent studies.


My interpretation follows Eckhardt, Ethnos und Herrschaft, 279.


Cf. Mölleken, “Geschichtsklitterung,” 213-15.


Cf. Grabbe, Judaism, 290.


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