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The Greek troops show up in the town of Modi'in (a site west of Jerusalem which you can visit today off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway) and demand that the Jews there sacrifice a pig to the Greek gods.The elder of the town, Mattathias, who is a kohen, that is of the priestly class, refuses.Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers...

(1-Maccabees -22) But there is a Hellenized Jew in the town who is willing to do what is unspeakable in Jewish eyes.As he's about to sacrifice the pig, Mattathias stabs him, also killing the Greek official present.He then turns to the crowd and announces: "Follow me, all of you who are for God's law and stand by the covenant." (1-Maccabees ) Those who join Mattathias and his five sons – named Yohanan, Shimon, Judah, Eleazar, Yonaton – head for the hills, expecting that the Greeks are going to come back and wipe out the whole village as a reprisal.We know the details of the Jewish fight against the Greeks and Hellenism from the two Books of the Maccabees as well as the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus.These chronicles are not included in the Hebrew Bible because the Great Assembly had decided many years earlier what the Bible should consist of and these events occurred much later in time.

The Books of the Maccabees were both written in the first century BCE.I Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew as an official court history for the Hasmonean Dynasty.II Maccabees was originally written in Greek and based on earlier work written by Jason of Cyrene.This revolt of the Jews sets a precedent in human history. No one in the ancient world died for their gods; only the Jews thought that their religion – the only monotheistic religion at the time – was worth dying for.But it is not just a war against the Greeks, it is also a civil war – Jews, who were loyal to Judaism, fighting other Jews, who had become Hellenized and who were siding with the Greeks.The year is 167 BCE and the horrible persecution of Judaism by the Greeks is in full swing.