Megillat Antiochus

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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 (or Hasmoneans) over the Seleucid Empire.

It is distinct from the Books of the Maccabees, which describe some of the same events.


There are several theories as to the work's 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.[1] The work is first mentioned by Simeon Kayyara (ca. 743 CE) in Halakhot Gedolot,[2] wherein he claims that the scroll was compiled by the "elders of the School of Shammai and the elders of the School of Hillel."[3] Saadia Gaon (882‒942 CE) argued that it was composed in the Chaldaic (Aramaic) language by the Hasmonaeans themselves, and entitled Megillat Beit Hashmonai.[4] He translated it into Arabic in the 9th century. Hakham Moses Gaster argued for a 1st-century BCE date.[5]

Louis Ginzberg declared it 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 "Chronology in Megillat Antiochus" section below).

Use in ritual[edit]

During the Middle Ages, Megillat Antiochus was read in the Italian synagogues on Hanukkah just as the Book of Esther is read on Purim. The Mahzor of the Kaffa Rite from the year 1735 gives the order to read the Megillat Antiochus in the Mincha of Shabbat Hanukkah.[7] It still forms part of the liturgy of the Yemenite Jews: some Baladi rite congregations had it as a custom to read the scroll to the older students during Hanukkah.

Section from the Aramaic Scroll of Antiochus in Babylonian supralinear punctuation, with an Arabic translation

Chronology in Megillat Antiochus[edit]

According to the Scroll of Antiochus, 213 years passed from the Second Temple's rebuilding until the 23rd year of the reign of Antiochus Eupator (son of Antiochus Epiphanes who invaded Judaea).[8] According to Josephus,[9] Antiochus Eupator began his reign in anno 149 of the Seleucid Era (= 162 BCE). Twenty-three years into Antiochus Eupator's reign would have then been 139 BCE. Since, according to the Scroll of Antiochus, the Second Temple had already been standing 213 years, this means that the Second Temple was completed in 352 BCE.

This date matches traditional Jewish sources, which say that the Second Temple stood 420 years,[10] before being destroyed in the 2nd year of the reign of Vespasian, in 68 CE.[11]

However, it disagrees with modern scholarship which places the building of the Second Temple in 516 BCE, based on chronologies that emerge from the Babylonian Chronicles.[12]

Publication history[edit]

Early texts of the work exist in both Aramaic and Hebrew, but the Hebrew version is a literal translation from the Aramaic original. In 1557 it was first published in Mantua, in northern Italy. The Hebrew text, with an English translation, can be found in the Siddur of Philip Birnbaum.[13] The first known printed text is found in a Siddur from Salonika, then part of the Ottoman Empire, which was published in 1568. The original Aramaic text can also be found in old Yemenite Baladi-rite Prayer Book from the 17th century.[14]


  1. ^ "The Scroll of Antiochus: Rabbi Benjamin Zvieli". Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  2. ^ "My Jewish Learning - Hanukkah Scroll". Retrieved 2008-10-10.. See also: Halakhot Gedoloth (Hilchot Sofrim), Warsaw 1874, p. 282 (Hebrew)
  3. ^ See also Abraham Harkavy, Zikaron Larishonim, St. Petersburg 1892, pp. 205–209 (Hebrew)
  4. ^ Abraham Harkavy, Zikaron Larishonim, St. Petersburg 1892, p. 207 (Hebrew)
  5. ^ "The Unknown Chanukah M'gillah".
  6. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLouis Ginsberg (1901–1906). "Scroll Of Antiochus". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Text:בִּשׁנַת עַסרִין וּתלָת שְׁנִין לְמִמלְכֵיהּ, בִּשׁנַת מָאתַן וּתלָת עֲסַר שְׁנִין לְבִניַין בֵּית אֱלָהָא דֵיך, שַׁוִּי .אַנפּוֹהִי לְמִיסַּק לִירוּשְׁלֵם Literal translation: In the twenty third year of his kingdom, in the two-hundred and thirteenth year of the rebuilding of this, God's house, he (Antiochus Eupator) put his face to go up to Jerusalem.
  9. ^ Antiquities of the Jews book 12, chapter 9, section 2
  10. ^ Tosefta Zevahim 13:6; Talmud Yerushalmi Megillah 18a et al.
  11. ^ 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)
  12. ^ Richard A. Parker & Waldo H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 BC - AD 75, Providence 1956
  13. ^ See Philip Birnbaum, HaSiddur HaShalem, p. 713ff.
  14. ^ 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).

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