Greek Makkabaioi, from plural of Makkabaios, surname of Judas Maccabaeus 2d century b.c. Jewish patriot
First Known Use: 15th century
Definition of MACCABEES
Judas or Judah d 161 b.c. surname Mac*ca*ba*eus\ˌma-kə-ˈbē-əs\ Jewish patriot
(fl. 2nd century BC) Priestly family of Jews who organized a successful rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Palestine and reconsecrated the defiled Temple of Jerusalem. The rebellion began under the leadership of the Jewish priest Mattathias after Antiochus sought to stamp out Judaism by forbidding all Jewish practices and desecrating the temple (167 BC). When Mattathias died (c. 166 BC), his son Judas Maccabaeus recaptured Jerusalem and reconsecrated the temple, an event celebrated in the holiday Hanukkah. After Judas's death, the war continued intermittently under his brothers Jonathan and Simon. The Maccabees formed the Hasmonean dynasty.