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Megillat Antiochus

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Megillat Antiochus (Hebrew: מגילת אנטיוכוס‎ - "The Scroll of Antiochus"; also "Megillat HaHashmonaim", or "Megillat Hanukkah") is a work recounting the story of Hannukah and the history of the victory of the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) over the Seleucid Empire.

This work has come down to us 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.

Recent scholarship dates Megillat Antiochus to somewhere between the 2nd and 5th Centuries, probably in the 2nd Century[1], with the Hebrew dating to the seventh century [1]. The scroll is first mentioned by Simeon Kayyara (ca. 825 C.E.) in Halakhot Gedolot.[2] Saadia Gaon, who translated it into Arabic in the 9th Century, ascribed it to the Maccabees themselves, but this seems unlikely, since it gives dates as so many years before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.[1] Louis Ginzberg, writing in the Jewish Encyclopedia, indicates that this megilla is a "spurious work" based on unhistorical sources, with the exception of its plagiarism of certain passages from First Book of the Maccabees.[3] Nevertheless, as mentioned, it was held in very high esteem by Saadia Gaon, Nissim ben Jacob, and others.

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 [2].

Note that today's Books of the Maccabees, which are part of the Apocrypha, 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 only because other heroic deeds are recounted there, but have nothing to do with Judah the Maccabee and his brothers. They were originally written in Greek [3].

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