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Megillat Antiochus

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Title: Megillat Antiochus  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rabbinic literature, Seder Olam Rabbah, Hanukkah, Alphabet of Akiba ben Joseph, Leviticus Rabbah
Collection: Hasmonean Dynasty, Jewish Prayer and Ritual Texts, Rabbinic Literature
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Megillat Antiochus

Megillat Antiochus (Hebrew: מגילת אנטיוכוס‎ - "The Scroll of Antiochus"; also "Megillat Ha-Ḥashmonaim", "Megillat Hanukkah", or "Megillat Yevanit") recounts the story of Hanukkah and the history of the victory of the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) over the Seleucid Empire.

This work exists in both Aramaic and Hebrew; the Hebrew version is a literal translation from the Aramaic original. It was published for the first time in Mantova in 1557. The Hebrew text with an English translation can be found in the Siddur of Philip Birnbaum. The first known printed text is found in a Siddur from Salonika, published in 1568. The original Aramaic text can also be found in old Yemenite Baladi-rite Prayer Books from the 17th century.[1]

There are several theories as to its authorship. Some scholars date Megillat Antiochus to somewhere between the 2nd and 5th Centuries, with the greater likelihood of it being composed in the 2nd Century.[2] The scroll is first mentioned by Simeon Kayyara (ca. 743 CE) in Halakhot Gedolot.[3] The most trustworthy opinion, that of Saadia Gaon (882‒942 CE), avers that the Scroll of Antiochus was composed in the Chaldaic (Aramaic) language by the "elders of the School of Shammai and the elders School of Hillel," and that it was originally entitled Megillat Bayt Ḥashmonai.[4] He translated it into Arabic in the 9th Century. Other Geonim have, likewise, thought the book's authorship to be ascribed to the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. Hakham Moses Gaster argued for a 1st-century BCE date.[5] Louis Ginzberg, writing in the Jewish Encyclopedia, indicates that this scroll is a "spurious work" based on "unhistorical sources," with the exception of its citations taken from certain passages from First Book of the Maccabees.[6] Nevertheless, it was held in very high esteem by Saadia Gaon, Nissim ben Jacob, and others, while a passage contained therein is still used to determine the date of the Second Temple's building, based on Jewish chronology (see Excursus: "Chronology in the Scroll of Antiochus")

During the Middle Ages, Megillat Antiochus was read in the Italian synagogues on Hanukkah just as the Book of Esther is read on Purim. It still forms part of the liturgy of the Yemenite Jews: the Baladi rite included this scroll as part of the prayer service for Hanukkah, since at one time it was customary to teach it to young schoolchildren during Hanukkah. [1]

The Books of the Maccabees are entirely different from this work. These books are relatively lengthy, and of the four books only the first two deal with the activities of Matitiyahu the Maccabee (Mattathias) and his sons in general, and of Judah the Maccabee in particular. The rest of the books bear this name because other heroic deeds are recounted there, but have nothing to do with Judah the Maccabee and his brothers. Moreover, 1-4 Maccabees survives only in Greek. 1 Maccabees was probably originally composed in Hebrew; the other three books of the Maccabees were originally written in Greek [2].


  1. ^ Yehiya Bashiri's Tiklal, the ancient Yemenite Baladi-rite Prayer Book (siddur), a microfilm of which is found at the Hebrew University National Library in Jerusalem, Microfilm Dept., Catalogue # 26787 (Hebrew); also in the archives of the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem, Micrfilm # 1219 (Hebrew); Bashiri (ed. Shalom Qorah), Sefer Ha-Tiklal, Jerusalem 1964, pp. 75b et seq. (Hebrew).
  2. ^ "The Scroll of Antiochus: Rabbi Benjamin Zvieli". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  3. ^ "My Jewish Learning - Hanukkah Scroll". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  4. ^ Saadia Gaon, Introduction to Sefer Ha-Iggaron.
  5. ^ "The Unknown Chanukah M'gillah". 
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Richard A. Parker & Waldo H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 BC - AD 75, Providence 1956
  8. ^ The Ancient Fragments, ed. I. P. Cory, Esq., p. 65, London 1828. Manetho was the high priest and scribe of Egypt who wrote down his history for Ptolemy Philadelphus.
  9. ^ Tosefta (Zevahim 13:6); Palestinian Talmud (Megillah 18a), et al.
  10. ^ Maimonides, Questions & Responsa, responsum # 389; in other editions, responsum # 234 (Hebrew). Maimonides states explicitly this tradition, putting the destruction of the Second Temple in the lunar month Av, in the year which preceded anno 380 of the Seleucid era (i.e. 68 CE). See also She'harim la'luah ha'ivry (Gates to the Hebrew Calendar) by Rahamim Sar-Shalom, 1984 (Hebrew)

External links

  • Antiochus, Scroll Of, Louis Ginzberg,
  • Scroll of Antiochus, Encyclopedia Judaica
  • The Scroll of Antiochus, Rabbi Benjamin Zvieli,
  • The Unknown Chanukah M'gillah
  • A Megillah for Hanukkah?, Rabbi David Golinkin,
  • Hebrew Text
  • Birnbaum Translation
  • Tsel Harim Torah Library Translation
  • Hebrew and English Text as PDF
  • TorahLab translation with footnotes
  • Class Lecture Notes on Megillat Antiochus, prepared by Pesach Steinberg,
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