John Hyrcanus as a Prophetic Messiah: The Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, and Numismatics

קנת' אטקינסון
History, University of Northern Iowa, USA

The Hasmonean high priest and ruler John Hyrcanus (135/4-105/4 B.C.E.) is among the most important figures in Second Temple Jewish history. Although Josephus and the books of Maccabees do not describe Hyrcanus as a messianic leader, the Dead Sea Scrolls, when read in light of other textual sources and numismatic evidence, suggest that he successfully used messianism to maintain power and expand his nation to an unprecedented extent. This presentation seeks to demonstrate that many of Hyrcanus’s subjects considered him a prophetic messiah through an examination of the following four pieces of evidence. The first portion examines the traditions regarding the expected “true prophet” in 1 Maccabees 14:41, and its possible derivation from traditions preserved by Eupolemus. Part two proposes that opponents of Hyrcanus wrote the Dead Sea Scroll known as 4QTestimonia (4Q175) to refute the widespread belief that he was the prophetic messiah foretold in Scripture. The third part examines a similar refutation of Hyrcanus’s prophetic status found in 4QApocryphon of Joshuab (4Q379), and the archaeological support of its claim that he rebuilt Jericho. Part four suggests that Hyrcanus’s son, the Hasmonean king and high priest Alexander Jannaeus, placed a star on his coins to show that Hyrcanus was the expected “true prophet” mentioned in 1 Maccabees 14:41, and to demonstrate that God had chosen the Hasmoneans as the nation’s permanent kings and high priests.

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