Maccabean/Oniade Schism Explaining Jewish Factions Entirely

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
Post Reply
Posts: 160
Joined: Mon May 17, 2021 6:03 am

Maccabean/Oniade Schism Explaining Jewish Factions Entirely

Post by yakovzutolmai »

I have been exploring the premise that "Batanea" of Bashan is from "Beit Honiyyo", House of Onias. In the process, I think I've found what amounts to at least a relatively simple understanding of Jewish factionalism and religious development.

In Summary-
pre-400 BC: Judaism is polytheistic but retains an esoteric belief in one God behind all (Ein Sof = Elohim). Oral tradition allows for fathers to pass knowledge to sons. There are families recognized as hereditary priests. There are some religious scrolls. There is worship in Jerusalem and Shechem.

ca. 280 BC: Having bragged to the world of their ancient religion and texts, Jews and Samaritans are surprised to have Ptolemy II request a copy for Alexandria's library. They use their disparate scrolls with texts of the library to fabricate the Septuagint (per Gmirkin), which is a sanitized, harmonized, Hellenized synthesis of their texts. This is mostly for the sake of face-saving in the Hellenic world.

The Septuagint and its Pentateuch effectively create the Jewish (rather than say Hebrew) religion. It spreads among Jews and Samaritans. There is still no formal, institutional religious education, and no reason for a novel text to necessarily clash with local belief in a systematized way.

It is also during the Ptolemaic period in which Jerusalem is built up as a modern citadel and center of worship. There's no reason to think it was very important except to disparate tribesmen and returnees.

ca. 180 BC: With the transition of power from Egypt to Seleucia over Jerusalem, aristocrats seize the chance to Hellenize Judea fully. The reaction/counter reaction ends in the Maccabean revolt. Since 100 years have passed since its creation, the Pentateuch is now an important anchor for Judaism. Were it not for the Pentateuch, the Jews outside of the aristocracy may have been happy to worship "Adonis of Bethlehem" and "Zeus Morias".

Onias IV expects to be restored to the priesthood but the Maccabeans seize it for themselves. Loosely, the Maccabean side represents "The Liar", the Oniade the "Teacher of Righteousness". The Oniade faction splits in two. Onias goes to Egypt and founds the temple of Onias. His poorer supporters flee to Bashan. Hereafter it is "Beit Honiyyo". I.e.: Batanea.

The Essene cult develops out of the followers of the "legitimate" high priesthood, opposed to the Macabbean Sadducees.

Meanwhile the Oniades begin to develop, or maybe expound upon, the Sethian tradition, creating in Egypt a proto-Gnostic school. So two separate traditions emerge out of Oniade loyalists: the Batanean Essenes, and the Leontopolis proto-Gnostics.

180-80 BC: The Macabbean revolt was nationalistic, but had a religious impetus. The result of it was to resist the full Hellenization of Judea. However, this same pressure wasn't removed. The Sadducees represent the same set of priestly aristocrats who view Judaism as a source of status and power, but not as a serious spiritual practice. The Hasmoneans would seem to fall in this category. Judaism is the basis for the Jewish state they rule, but little else.

The Pharisees emerge in a similar vein to the Protestants. They have the Pentateuch and can open centers for teaching Judaism outside of the temple. This novelty is even reflected in the Sadducidic doctrine that the law is to be followed only in conjunction with maintaining purity for temple rituals. The Pharisees are innovating this radical interpretation of Judaism according to scriptural authority (again, similar to Protestantism, with a popular and pious character).

During the persecutions of Hyrcanus and Jannaeus, the Pharisees and Essenes intersect over the issue of the illegitimacy of the priestly aristocrats, but also over a commitment to popular piety. This would increase the distance between the Essenes and the innovations at Leontopolis.

With Salome Alexandra, the Pharisees are tolerated. Their promotion of popular Judaism would led to their faction becoming the representative sages of the faith. This might also explain the nationalist bent of Galilee as a possible enclave from earlier persecution.

It is during the conquests of Hyrcanus and Jannaeus that the Samaritan/Judean split occurs, since the Samaritans are not only mistreated, but certainly don't recognize Jerusalem's own self-importance even in the context of the Pentateuch.

23 BC: Simon Boethus, presumably "Beit Honi", is invited by Herod to become High Priest. Now the Sethian instincts and lapsed ritual knowledge of the Oniad temple comes to Jerusalem. The Pharisees are first to criticize them. Although these represent the vigor of Judaism, they don't have formal authority in a traditional sense, although it seems that Herod allowed them to organize the Sanhedrin, courts, schools and so forth as a reaction to the end of the Hasmonean authority.

Boethus is then exiled to Batanea once he falls out of favor, and the Sethian elements merge with the Essene as the branch and root of Onias are reunited. This is our Christian sect, and it's one reason why one offshoot is called "Simonian" after the High Priest derided as a "Magus" because of the Sethian practices he brought out of Egypt.

In other words,
1) The Pentateuch creates Judean nationalism by popularizing what was formerly an aristocratic affair.
2) Half the aristocrats want to Hellenize, so the other half are able to sponsor a popular revolt that creates a new nation.
3) The "true" High Priest of Jewish tradition (pre-Septuagint) is rejected by the Maccabean victors, creating a schism within Judaism in spite of its survival against Greek culture.
4) The schism centers on the scorning of Onias IV, and creates BOTH the Essene community in Bashan/Jordan AND the Temple at Onias.
5) Judean nationalism popularizes the Jewish religion, which benefits a new class of learned scribes who then clash with the aristocrats.
6) The downfall of the aristocrats sees the rise of the scribes.
7) The restoration of the "true" priestly line is too little, too late. The Pharisees have innovated a Judean piety which surpasses Essene zeal for Jewish tradition (against gentile). The House of Onias have innovated radical beliefs, or perhaps have preserved esoteric beliefs of the temple cult which the Pharisees find foreign.
8) The Jewish revolt is the clash of a restored ancient Jewish tradition (empowered by Babylonian interlopers), with continuing pressure to Hellenize, with the now dominant popular scriptural faction.
Posts: 160
Joined: Mon May 17, 2021 6:03 am

Re: Maccabean/Oniade Schism Explaining Jewish Factions Entirely

Post by yakovzutolmai »

Boethus seems to have derived, genuinely, from the Greek Boethus. There are many theories about this, and the scholarly lean is towards it being an ironic pejorative in the vein of "Sadducee".

The Boethusians and Sadducees are considered to have emerged simultaneously by Pharisaical teaching. This could pinpoint Boethusian origins at the schism involving Onias III/IV with the Hasmoneans. Both derived from a resistance to Hellenization.

There is also a famous Ptolemaic city-builder Boethus, and Onias was prominent as a city builder as well. There could have been a marriage or adoption.

In any event, the Boethusian is a prominent faction in rabbinical writings and the Oniades are absent, so one might presume they are the same.

This is even more plausible with my theory that the Essenes emerged from the same Sadducee/Oniade schism, they were simply geographically displaced from Egypt and developed an independent tradition. In other words, Jews of the time period would see the Boethusians and Essenes as both derivative of the House of Onias, and therefore would not feel the need to mention them separately from one another.
Post Reply