The Hasmonean rulers of the independent Jewish kingdom (165 BC – 63 BC) were the subject of many writings, usually in the form of veiled pseudo-prophecies. Taken together, they provide us with a strictly contemporary commentary on a critical period.
The ruling Hasmonean dynasty had many enemies, and from various perspectives. Originally aligned with the Pharisees, the dynasty later shifted its support to the Sadducees, and severely persecuted the Pharisees. Acts of bloodshed and repression were frequent, but critics had many grounds for their attacks. The challenged the dynasty on their lack of authentic Davidic credentials, required for true kings. They also challenged its high priestly authority, and their displacement of the Aaronic succession. In the mid-second century, it was a struggle against the Hasmonean high priesthood that led to the secession of the group that formed the settlement at Qumran, and which ultimately produced the Dead Sea Scrolls.
We see these diverse attacks in the so-called Psalms of Solomon, which were credited to that ancient king, but written at some point following the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 63 BC. In Psalm 17, “Solomon” laments the dreadful things that will befall his people:
Thou, O Lord, didst choose David (to be) king over Israel,
And swore to him touching his seed that never should his kingdom fail before Thee.
But, for our sins, sinners rose up against us;
They assailed us and thrust us out;
What Thou hadst not promised to them, they took away [from us] with violence.
They in no wise glorified Thy honorable name;
They set a [worldly] monarchy in place of [that which was] their excellency; They laid waste the throne of David in tumultuous arrogance.
The “sinners” are, of course, the Hasmoneans.
Here is a more recent translation of that last verse, from R. B. Wright:
With pomp they set up a monarchy because of their arrogance; they despoiled the throne of David with arrogant shouting.
We also turn to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, supposedly the last words of the sons of Jacob, from around 1500 BC. They were actually written around the turn of the Christian Era, and some at least were heavily Christianized. The Testament of Levi attacks evil priests, in words that R. H. Charles thought applied perfectly to Alexander Jannaeus, c.90 BC:
The offerings of the Lord ye shall rob, and from His portion shall ye steal choice portions, eating (them) contemptuously with harlots. And out of covetousness ye shall teach the commandments of the Lord, wedded women shall ye pollute, and the virgins of Jerusalem shall ye defile: and with harlots and adulteresses shall ye be joined, and the daughters of the Gentiles shall ye take to wife, purifying them with an unlawful purification; and your union shall be like unto Sodom and Gomorrah. And ye shall be puffed up because of your priesthood, lifting yourselves up against men, and not only so, but also against the commands of God. For ye shall contemn the holy things with jests and laughter.
Those references are clear enough, but others are more debatable. The Testament of Moses includes a similar attack on evil priests, which includes a suggestive reference to the priests being sons of slaves. That seems to recall a common slander directed against the Hasmoneans:
Other scholars, though, relate these attacks to priests of a much earlier period.
By no means all the references are critical, and the dynasty had its friends and sympathizers. Probably in the late second century, an unknown priest, probably a Pharisee, used and expanded the Book of Genesis to create the tract we call Jubilees. In passing, we read that “he abode that night at Bethel, and Levi dreamed that they had ordained and made him the priest of the Most High God, him and his sons for ever; and he awoke from his sleep and blessed the Lord” (32.1-2). By using the phrase “priest of the Most High God”, the author was giving ancient sanction to the official title used by the Hasmonean priest-kings.
The same rhetorical tactics continued under the still more tyrannical Herodian dynasty. The Testament of Moses includes a later insertion in which “Moses” foretells the far future, and gives a painfully accurate account of Herod the Great (74-4 BC)
Then there shall be raised up unto them kings bearing rule, and they shall call themselves priests of the Most High God: they shall assuredly work iniquity in the holyof holies. And an insolent king shall succeed them, who will not be of the race of the priests, a man bold and shameless, and he shall judge them as they shall deserve. And he shall cut off their chief men with the sword, and shall destroy them in secret places, so that no one may know where their bodies are. He shall slay the old and the young, and he shall not spare. Then the fear of him shall be bitter unto them in their land. And he shall execute judgments on them as the Egyptians executed upon them, during thirty and four years, and he shall punish them. And he shall beget children, who succeeding him shall rule for shorter periods.
Obviously I am just scratching the surface here, but we see that pseudo-scripture and pseudo-prophecy were primary means of writing polemic, and that Jewish device was wholly inherited by later Christians.