V. The Reign of Aristobulus. The accession of Aristobulus marks a triumph of that Hellenism against which Judas and Simon had unsheathed the sword. Like many an Oriental monarch, he established his position on the throne by the murder of all members of his family who might contest his power. His inhuman cruelty to his mother and the suspicions which led him to murder his brother reveal a barbarous spirit that can only be explained as a result of the wrong ambitions that had already taken possession of Israel’s rulers. Aristobulus’s brief reign of one year is marked by two significant acts. The first is the assumption of the title of king. On his own initiative, and apparently without the consent of the people, he placed the diadem upon his head. The other important act was the conquest of part of the territory of Iturea, which was known in later times as Galilee. He found it occupied by a mixed Syrian and Greek population in which were probably a few descendants of the ancient Israelites. Following the policy of his family, he doubtless at once inaugurated a system of colonization which carried to Galilee a strong Jewish population. Henceforth, by virtue of race, language, and religion, Galilee was closely bound to Judea.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XVIII, 1:2, 3a-c] The Jews have three sects of philosophy: the Essenes, the Sadducees, and those called Pharisees. The Pharisees do not yield to luxury but despise that kind of life; and they follow the guidance of reason, and what that prescribes to them as good, they do. They also pay respect to those advanced in years nor are they so bold as to contradict them in anything which they have introduced. While they believe that all things are done by predestination, they do not take away from a man the choice of acting as he deems proper, for they believe that it is God’s will that an event be decided for good or evil both by the divine counsel and by the man who is willing to accede to it. They also believe that souls possess immortal power and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments according as men have lived virtuously or viciously in this life, and that the vicious are to be detained in an everlasting prison and that the virtuous shall have the power to live again.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XVIII, 1:3d] On account of this doctrine they have great influence with the people, and whatsoever they do in connection with the divine worship, prayers and sacrifices, they perform in accordance with the direction of the Pharisees.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XVIII, 1:4a, Jos. Jew. War, ii, 8:14c] But the doctrine of the Sadducees is that souls die with the bodies, nor do they give heed to anything beyond these things which the law enjoins. They deny predestination entirely and assert that God exercises no oversight over any evil doing and they say that good or evil lies before man to choose, and, according to each man’s inclination, he chooses the one or the other.