Also known as Asidaeans, members of a religious group among the Jews about the middle of the second century b.c. Described in 1 Mc 2.42 as "the stoutest of Israel, every one that had a good will for the law," the Hasidaeans took their name from the Hebrew word ḥāsîd, plural ḥăsîdîm (Aramaic, ḥăsîdayyā' ; Gr., Ασιδα[symbol omitted]οι), meaning pious. Having been among the first to join with Judas Maccabee in his guerrilla warfare against the Syrian armies of antiochus iv epiphanes in 166 b.c., the Hasidaeans were still fighting in the time of Demetrius I in 161 b.c., when they were accused to Demetrius by Alcimus, a Hellenistic high priest, of being seditious (2 Mc 14.6). The passage in 1 Mc 1.14, in which they are represented as favorable to Alcimus because he was "a priest of the seed of Aaron," indicates that they were supporters of the legitimate priesthood and were interested in religious rather than political ends. Thus, when the illegitimate high priests, Jason and Menelaus, had been disposed of and Alcimus had been recognized as high priest, the Hasidaeans were ready to make peace. However, they were betrayed by Alcimus and Bacchides, the Syrian commander of Demetrius I (1 Mc 7.15–16), and they may have rejoined Judas to continue the struggle.
Little is known about the Hasidaeans after the time of Judas Maccabee, but it seems that the essenes and the pharisees continued in different ways the original Hasidaean movement of early Maccabean times. The Essenes, or at least the group of them that formed the qumran community, remaining loyal to the old Sadocite (Zadokite) line of high priests, probably left the main stream of Jewish life after 140 b.c. when Simon Maccabee took for himself and his hasmonaean successors the title of high priest (1 Mc 14.41–47). The Pharisees, on the other hand, continued the main line of the Hasidaean movement, opposing all compromise with Hellenism and insisting on a punctilious observance of the Law. The Jewish religious movement of the 18th and 19th centuries called h:asidism has nothing in common with the Hasidaeans except the name.
See Also: maccabees, books of the; maccabees, history of the.
Bibliography: m. schloessinger, The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer (New York 1901–06) 6:250–251. d. b. eerdmans, "The Chasidim," Oudtestamentische Studiën 1 (1942) 176–257. m.j. lagrange, Le Judaïsme avant Jésus-Christ (Études bibliques ;1931). f. m. cross, jr., The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Garden City, N.Y. 1958) 98–107.
[p. f. ellis]