Don’t Trash Judah Maccabee


I’m convinced. Mel Gibson should not play Judah Maccabee (“Mel Gibson and Judah Maccabee? Not a Good Mix,” Opinion, May 25). In fact, Gibson should crawl into some dark hole, never to be heard from again.

But in making his hardly controversial point about Gibson, why does the author of the piece go out of his way to slam the Maccabees? He tells us that they were “religious extremists” and that the “real” Judah Maccabee, time traveling to present-day America and seeing children celebrate Chanukah, would “most likely want to kill most of these kid’s parents.” 

It is wrong to take 21st-century ideas of extremists and apply them to people living more than 2,100 years ago. If anything, it was the Hellenized Jews of the time who were the extremists. It was they who, among other thing, bribed the Greek Syrian king to abandon the usual tolerance the Greeks had for local religions and to force the appointment of a Hellenized Jew as High Priest. 

Although the Maccabees were certainly zealots and used Judaism for political purposes, they did not totally reject Greek culture. Look at the names of the Hasmonean kings. Most names are Greek.

A great many people on both sides were killed in the struggle. But the key issue is whether the cause was worth fighting for. Judah Maccabee fought and died to preserve our religion against enormous odds. That makes him a hero.