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    What started the conflict? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why did Antiochus oppose Judaism – was he a straight-out antisemite?

    A. The persecution was due to a variety of factors. Antisemitism is one of them but not the only one.

    The commonest view is that the king’s actions fitted in to his overall policy of hellenising the kingdom. It was not a specifically anti-Jewish policy but the Jews were part of its effects.

    I Maccabees 1:11 says, “The king wrote to his whole kingdom for all to become one people and for each to abandon his own customs”. This meant that Jewish practices were to be abandoned and heathen shrines were to be set up in the Temple and throughout the land.

    The king’s concern, however, was more than merely religious and cultural. It was political, since he wanted his control of the whole kingdom to be firm and stable.

    There were also personality dimensions, which is why his desire to be Antiochus Epiphanes, “Divine Antiochus”, was mocked by those who called him Antiochus Epimanes, “Crazy Antiochus”.

    Another interpretation ascribes much of the problem to the Jews themselves or rather the Jewish hellenists amongst them, the mit’yav’nim, who urged assimilation and went even beyond what the king had instigated. However, it is unlikely that the mit’yav’nim were so many and mighty that the king would fight their fight for them.

    It is more probable that the internal conflict within the Jewish community led the king to conclude that the realm was in uproar and needed to be harshly put down.

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