MACCABEES, THE (Greek, Οἱ Μακκαβαῖοι):
Name given to the Hasmonean family. Originally the designation "Maccabeus" (Jerome, "Machabæus") was applied solely to Judas, the third son of Mattathias the Hasmonean (I Macc. ii. 4, iii. 1, et passim), Mattathias' other sons having different surnames; but as Judas became the leader of the party after his father's death, and as he was also the most heroic warrior, his surname was applied not only to all the descendants of Mattathias, but even to others who took part in the revolutionary movement under the leadership of the Hasmoneans. Hence the title "Books of the Maccabees."
The etymology of the name, in spite of the efforts of the scholars, who have advanced various theories on the subject, remains undetermined. According to Jerome ("Prologus Galeatus"), the First Book of the Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew. Origen (in Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." book vi., last chapter) even gives the Hebrew title, ; thus the Greek and Latin forms of the name must have been transliterations from the Hebrew.
But the original Hebrew text is lost; and there isno mention of the name either in the Talmud or in the Midrash, where the family is always referred to as "the Hasmoneans." In later Hebrew writings the name occurs in two forms, , transliterated from the Latin, and , according to the Greek spelling. The latter form is generally explained as meaning "the hammer," a surname given to Judas on account of his heroism. Iken ("Symbolæ Litterariæ," i. 184, Bremen, 1744) derives it from the Arabic "manḳab" (= "general"), while, according to others, the name originated in the fact that Modin, where Mattathias dwelt, was in the territory of Gad (Reland, "Palästina," p. 901), the banner of which tribe bore the inscription , the final letters of the names Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
is, however, the preferred form; it occurs in "Yosippon" (ch. xx.), and is explained by Gorionides as meaning "the hero," though it is not known in what way. Others explain it as composed of the initials of (Ex. xv. 11), written on the banner of the Hasmoneans, or as the initials of . But the statement that it was the surname of Judas only is against these interpretations. Curtiss ("The Name Machabee," Leipsic, 1876) derives it from = "to extinguish"; thus would mean "the extinguisher," which agrees with the interpretation of Gorionides. Finally, the following two opinions may be added: (1) that the Hebrew read = "he who hides himself," referring to the fact that the Hasmoneans hid themselves in the mountains (I Macc. ii. 28); (2) that of Filosseno Luzzatto that it is a Greek word, an anagram of Βιαομάχος = "violent warrior." For the history of the Maccabees see Hasmoneans; Judas Maccabeus; Mattathias Maccabeus.
- A. Levi, in Mossé, ii. 6;
- E. Levi, in Univers Israélite, xlvi. 330;
- D. Oppenheim, in Ha-Maggid, xvii., Nos. 5, 6;
- P. Perreau, in Vessillo Israelitico, xxviii. 76, 113;
- Wetstein, in Ha-Maggid, xxiii., No. 19;
- Zipser, in Ben Chananja, iii. 497 et seq.;
- Winer, B. R. i. 631, s.v. Judas.