The New International Encyclopædia/Maccabees
MAC'CABEES. The name given to a Jewish family of great prominence B.C. 167-37. The surname Maccabæus properly belongs only to the most prominent representative of the family, Judas, and in the Books of the Maccabees is given to him alone. From him the designation was applied to other members of the family. The common interpretation of Maccabæus as ‘the hammerer’ is open to objection, and there is no proof that it was given to Judas because of valor. The family are also called Asmoneans or Hasmoneans, from the name of an ancestor. The Maccabees first come into prominence in connection with the attempt of Antiochus IV., Epiphanes (B.C. 175-164), to crush out by force the rites of the Jewish religion and substitute the Greek cult therefor. (See Jews.) Every village in Palestine was required to set up an altar to the Greek gods and sacrifices were offered daily. At this juncture the aged priest Mattathias, with his five sons, Jochanan, Simon, Judah (Judas), Eleazar, and Jonathan, placed themselves in opposition to the King's policy. At the beginning of the trouble Mattathias was residing at Modin, a town about eighteen miles northwest of Jerusalem. When ordered to offer the first heathen sacrifice he resolutely refused. Apelles, a Syrian captain, endeavored to induce him by tempting promises to relinquish his faith and embrace the Greek religion. He answered by slaying with his own hand the first renegade Jew who approached the altar of idolatry and by pulling down the altar. The sons of Mattathias, with a handful of faithful men, rose against the national foe and fled to the mountains, where they raised the standard of rebellion. Mattathias died B.C. 166, and Judas became the leader of the patriots. For subsequent events, see the articles on the different members of the family, Judas Maccabæus; Jonathan; Simon Maccabæus; Hyrcanus; Aristobulus I.; Alexander Jannæus; Aristobulus II.; Antigonus.