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Alcimus’ Last Command

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History and Propaganda in 1 Maccabees 9:54

image of Journal for the Study of Judaism

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.

Affiliations: 1: Institut für Katholische Theologie, Universität HamburgEdmund-Siemers-Allee 1, 20146


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