MACCABEE, the additional name given to Judah, son of Mattathias, leader of the revolt against Syria (168 B.C.E.), later referred to as the "Maccabean Revolt." It was no accident that the revolt broke out at a rural location such as *Modi'in and not in Jerusalem itself. It began with the killing of a local who was willing to sacrifice to a pagan idol, and the action was taken by a zealous minor native priest, Mattathias (I Macc. 2:27; cf. 2:42) who subsequently called on those around him to follow the law and "maintain the covenant" and to fight the offensive edicts of Antiochus IV. The object was clearly to return to the religious autonomy Jews originally enjoyed, but the later successes of the revolt dictated otherwise. The name Maccabee is also applied loosely to other members of the family, as well as to the Hasmonean dynasty as a whole. For suggestions as to its derivation, see *Judah Maccabee and *Hasmoneans. The name is also given in Christian tradition to the seven children martyred by Antiochus Epiphanes when they refused to commit idolatry. Shrines to their memory and that of their mother Salome (in Jewish tradition Hannah) were established in many parts of the Christian world (see *Hannah and her Seven Sons).
E.J. Bickerman, "The Maccabean Uprising: An Interpretation," in: J. Goldin (ed.), The Jewish Expression (1976), 66–86; F. Millar, "The Background to the Maccabean Revolution…," in: Journal of Jewish Studies, 29 (1978), 1–12; D. Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism (1992); D. Amit and H. Eshel, The Days of the Hasmonean Dynasty (1995).
[Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.