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    The source of Chanukah – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. I know Chanukah does not figure in the Bible. But are there any ancient books that tell the story?

    A. There are three books that narrate the story without being in the Bible: the first and second books of Maccabees and the Scroll of Antiochus (M’gillat Antiochus).

    The books of Maccabees are in the Apocrypha, a collection which was not accepted as scriptural in Judaism though it has status in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox faiths. However, the two books of Maccabees are not like the first and second books of Samuel, Kings or Chronicles in the T’nach, i.e. continuations of the same story, but two independent works which do not cover exactly the same period and even contradict each other. Their value however is that, with all their deficiencies, they preserve stories such as that of Hannah and her seven sons.

    The first book was probably written in Hebrew and the second in Greek. Both authors appear to have been faithful, observant Jews.

    The medieval book called M’gillat Antiochus, while telling the story, does not always agree with the books of Maccabees. I Maccabees, for example, says that the father, Mattathias, started out leading the people but then died and Judah assumed command of the campaign; in M’gillat Antiochus, however, it is Judah who died early and Mattathias took over.

    M’gillat Antiochus was known in the tenth century, the period of Saadia Gaon, and was even read in the synagogue. Tosafot to Sukkah 44b speaks of it being read in synagogue in 13th century Italy. Though the text we have is in Hebrew, it was probably written in Aramaic.

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