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  • Dr. David Neiman

History of the Sadducees Part 3

The Rise of the Roman Empire.

The history of the Roman Empire is a fascinating study in the skillful interplay of the two faces of the struggle between states which are known as war and diplomacy. And the Romans, as we see in reviewing the growth of this empire, were masters of these two aspects of statecraft. The Romans intruded in the affairs of the Jewish People at the time of the Maccabean struggle against the rulers of the Seleucid Empire. The account in the Book of First Maccabees relates the events which led to the struggle of the Jews who were devoted to traditional Judaism against those who were willing to betray their people by joining with the Pagans and compromising the faith of the Torah.

When the dispute between the two sides descended into violence, the sons of Mattityahu Hashmonai Ha-Kohen of Modin, led by Judah, known as Maccabee, organized a resistance force of devoted Jews who fought against the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes, at that time the ruler of the strongest military force in the region. By virtue of the skill of Judah Maccabee and his devoted allies, among whom was a group of pious Jews known as Hasidim, the Jews won some very significant victories.

These events attracted the attention of the Romans. They were delighted that their only significant rival in international affairs was having trouble with one of his subject nationalities. Seizing the opportunity of the moment, the Roman Senate sent ambassadors to Judah Maccabee offering their friendship and assistance. The result was that Judah sent two ambassadors to Rome who were hailed by the Senate and, as a result of this meeting a Mutual Defense Treaty was drawn up binding the Romans and the Jews in an alliance which threatened the Seleucid Empire.

Thus was a Jewish embassy established in Rome. With their staff, secretariat, and other essential personnel, the first Jewish community of which we have a written record was established in Europe in 161 B.C.E.

Incidentally, the struggle fought by the Hasmoneans and their allies, the Hasidim against the Hellenizing priesthood in Jerusalem , was the forerunner of the great conflict that developed within the next half century between the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

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