as much of the old testament seems to be?
Recent scholarship suggests that the answer may well be yes, and that the Hannuka story is largely Hashmonite propaganda and exaggeration, fostered by a government that was controversial in its time. Steven Weitzman, professor at the University of Indiana argues that the description of the antagonist Antiochus and his edicts were massively out of step with the general trend of the Seleucid emperor’s reign, which generally consisted in religious tolerance and a strong interest in plunder. As Weitzman puts it:
When Antiochus IV’s father first conquered Palestine, he displayed much respect toward the Temple and used his authority to protect the Jews’ traditions…Most of the sources relating these events were written a very long time after they took place. They do not provide sufficient information and are occasionally contradictory.
Why would anyone make up a story, or engage in such an act of hyperbole?
The Maccabees have been considered heroes for so long, that it is hard to imagine that in their time, their rule was extremely controversial. They and their descendants, the Hasmonean dynasty, presented themselves as high priests, but did not belong to a family that held that position for a long time. Neither did they belong to the House of David dynasty, which was supposed to produce kings. Therefore many Jews did not recognize the Hasmoneans as legitimate rulers.
Muffti isn’t really sure what to make of this, since he is no expert and hasn’t seen Weitzman’s paper first hand. Anyone in the know care to fill in some details?