In 2015-16, The Maccabees Project held three hybrid (in-person/zoom) discussions at Boston University’s Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, and three dialogues, at Boston University and Boston College. 


Did the Maccabees Practice Infant Sacrifice? The Evidence from Tel Kedesh.

Oct. 7th, 2015

 Speakers: Andrea M. Berlin (Boston University) and Jonathan Bethard (Boston University)

Professors Berlin and Bethard discussed the infant burial discovered in the archive room of the second century BCE administrative building at Tel Kedesh, Israel, followed by a group discussion on the phenomenon of child sacrifice and the larger conclusions that might be drawn from this startling discovery.

A Response from Danny Syon, Head of the Scientific Assessment Branch, Israel Antiquities Authority

Here are some musings of an archaeologist:
1.  The selective burning in the archive room bothers me. In figure 3, it appears that the cracking of the wall stones is on the outside, rather on the inside. Is this the case throughout the room, or it’s just a chance in this photo? If the stones are not cracked on the inside, then maybe the fire started from the outside, maybe in the unexcavated rooms to the north or west? The burned mudbrick implies that much of the burning happened higher up than the stone walls. The burned seals and the non-burned flasks also seem to imply a fire above floor level, maybe wooden racks and shelves that held the sealed documents. If the flasks had been full, obviously they would have burned too, as soon as some burning piece fell down on them; but even when empty, I’d expect them to have been at least charred by burning debris. Very strange.

The Tomb of the Maccabees and Its Afterlife

Feb. 2nd, 2016

Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, Boston University

Speaker: Amit Re’em (Israel Antiquities Authority)

IAA archaeologist Amit Re’em presents the results of his excavation of a Byzantine-era (4th-6th c. CE) tomb in Mode’in, Israel, which in late antiquity was believed to belong to the Maccabees.

A Response from David Gurevich, Post Doctoral Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben Zvi Institute

I enjoyed very much the presentation. It was a great opportunity to hear from the excavator himself about the site. Amit Re’em presented the questions about the site very well.  As he mentioned in his talk, the biggest challenge is the identification of the site.

At this stage of research, in my opinion, it would be too early to regard the site as the “The Tomb of the Maccabees”. In fact, if we disconnect the site from the “brand” of “Modiin” and look on the archaeological record, our conclusions would be very limited:

Has the Akra Been Found in Jerusalem?

Mar. 21st, 2016

Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, Boston University

Speakers: Doron Ben-Ami (Israel Antiquities Authority) and Donald Arield (Israel Antiquities Authority)

IAA archaeologist Doron Ben-Ami presents the results of new excavations south of the Temple Mount and discusses the possibility that these include remains of the Seleucid Akra, the huge fortified compound built in the early 2 nd c. BCE and destroyed by the Maccabees. IAA Chief Numismatist Donald Ariel provides a response based on his study of the coins found in the excavation.


Did the Maccabees Intend to Conquer the Promised Land?

Nov. 30th, 2015

Congregation Kehillat Israel, Brookline, MA

Speakers: Katell Berthelot (CNRS) and Yonder Gillihan (Boston College)

Professors Berthelot and Gillihan discuss the historicity of the Maccabean wars of conquest and ask if the ancient texts truly support the idea of a planned re-conquest of the biblical Land of Israel.

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This event was a debate between Katell Berthelot and Yonder Gillihan in which Berthelot challenged the long-standing scholarly view that the Maccabees intended to conquer the Promised Land. In the podcast recorded live and posted above, Gillihan concedes to Berthelot’s points but nuances her interpretation of Joshua by arguing that the famed Old Testament character played a larger part in the Maccabean conquest than Berthelot acknowledges. The debate sparked lively discussion from the audience (also included in the podcast above).

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The Maccabees and the Idea of the Promised Land

Dec. 1st, 2015

Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, Boston University

Speaker: Katell Berthelot (CNRS)

Professor Berthelot presents a close analysis and discussion of the evidence in the books of 1 & 2 Maccabees for the Hasmonean conquests, with a focus on the relationship between historicity and ideology in these texts.

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Can Judaism Survive a Jewish State? Modern Perspectives on 1 and 2 Maccabees

April 13th, 2016

Congregation Kehillath Israel, Brookline, MA

Speakers: Daniel Schwartz (Hebrew University), Jonathan Klawans (Boston University), and Robert Doran (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Professors Schwartz, Doran, and Klawans consider the different perspectives on political autonomy found in 1 and 2 Maccabees. 1 Maccabees presents Hasmonean autonomy as evidence of supreme piety; 2 Maccabees, in contrast, shows little interest in Hasmonean rule per se and instead emphasizes priestly practice and personal devotion. Do the differences reflect disagreements about the relationship of piety and politics? Can a modern perspective help clarify the intersections between religious freedom, political power, and territory?