- an-ti-o'-ki-ans (Antiocheis, peculiar to the Apocrypha, 2 Macc 4:9,19): Antiochus Epiphanes was on the throne of Syria from 175 to 164 BC. His determined policy was to Hellenize his entire kingdom. The greatest obstacle to his ambition was the fidelity of the Jews to their historic religion. Many worldly Hebrews, however, for material advantage were willing to apostatize, among them, Jason, the brother of the faithful high priest Onias III. With a large sum of money (2 Macc 4:7-10) he bribed Antiochus to appoint him high priest in his brother's stead. This office, being, since Ezra's time, political as well as religious, made him virtually the head of the nation. He promised, on condition the king would permit him to build a Greek gymnasium at Jerusalem, "to train up the youth of his race in the fashions of the heathen," and to enrol the Hellenized people as Antiochians, i.e. to give all Jews who would adopt Greek customs and the Greek religion the rights and privileges of citizens of Antioch. The granting of this request made Jason the head of the Greek party at Jerusalem. "Such was the height of Greek fashions, and the increase of heathenish manners" under his perverted high-priesthood, that the priests under him lost courage to "serve any more at the altar, but despising the temple and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened" to ally themselves with the Grecians. When the sacrifice of Hercules was observed in connection with the Grecian games at Tyre "Jason sent special messengers from Jerusalem, who were Antiochians" (2 Macc 4:19) with a large contribution of money. This Hellenizing program was supported by a decree of Antiochus which enjoined uniformity of worship throughout his dominions. He forbade the further observance of Jewish festivals, Sabbath, sacrifices in the temple and the rite of circumcision. His ambition included the like subjugation of Egypt, but being thwarted in his expedition thither by Roman envoys, he returned to Jerusalem to vent his anger on the Jews who refused to deny the faith of their fathers. The persecutions inflicted by the king upon these devout Jews abounded in every atrocity. All sacred books of the law that could be found were burned. This attempt to Hellenize the Jews was pushed to every remote rural village of Palestine. The universal peril led the Samaritans, eager for safety, to repudiate all connection and kinship with the Jews. They sent ambassadors and an epistle asking to be recognized as belonging to the Greek party, and to have their temple on Mt. Gerizim named "The Temple of Jupiter Hellenius." The request was granted. This was evidently the final breach between the two races indicated in Jn 4:9
, "For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans."
Among those who refused to be enrolled as Antiochians was Mattathias, an aged priest of the order of Joarib. Mourning the terrible profanation of the holy city and temple he retired with his five sons to his ancestral estates among the mountains Northwest of Jerusalem. The emissaries of Antiochus followed him thither and commanded him to offer sacrifices upon a heathen altar. He was promised special royal favor in case of obedience. The indignant priest not only "had no ear for the temptations of an abhorred Hellenism," but in his fury instantly slew the apostate priest who attempted to comply with the command. He killed also the king's commissioner and tore down the detested altar.
This act of heroism became the dawn of a new era. The people rallied to Mattathias' support. The rebellion grew in power. After a year of inspiring leadership "the venerable priest-captain" died, having first committed "the cause of the law" to his sons, henceforth called Maccabees, from Judas Maccabeus, the son to whom he committed his work. Their victorious career brought to an end the Hellenizing process and the Greek party to which the Antiochians belonged.
See also ANTIOCHUS IV.
Ant, XII, v; Stanley, History of the Jewish Church, III, section 48; Riggs, History of the Jewish People, chapter ii, sections 15-26 (Kent's Hist. Series, IV).
Dwight M. Pratt