Christianity Knowledge Base

John Hyrcanus (Yohanan Girhan) (reigned 134 BCE - 104 BCE, died 104 BCE) was a Hasmonean (Machabeean) leader of the 2nd century BC. Apparently the name "Hyrcanus" was taken by him as a reign name upon his accession to power.

He was the son of Simon Machabeus and hence the nephew of Judas Machabeus, Jonathon Machabeus and their siblings, whose story is told in the deuterocannonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, and in the Talmud. John was not present at a banquet at which his father and two brothers were murdered, purportedly by his brother in-law Ptolemy. He attained to his father's former offices, that of high priest and king (although some Jews never accepted any of the Hasmonean as being legitimate kings, as they were not lineal descendents of David).

His taking a Greek regnal (reign) name - "Hyrcanus" - was a significant political and cultural step away from the intransigent opposition to and rejection of Hellenistic culture which had characterised the Machabeean revolt against Seleucid rule. It reflected a more pragmatic recognition that Judea, once having attained independence, had to maintain its position among a mileu of small and large states which all shared the Hellenistic culture. All subsequent Hasmonean rulers followed suit and adopted Greek names in their turn.

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