After reading over the first part of Josephus' Antiquities, I have a few more insights:
The first hero of Antiquities is a high priest in Jerusalem named Eleazar, who organizes the translation of the Jewish Law into Greek by request of Ptolemy II (Philadelphius).
After him, the next hero of the narrative is a man named Joseph son of Tobias. Like his Old Testament archetype, this Joseph is sent by his father down to Egypt and is invited to ride alongside pharaoh (Ptolemy IV) in his chariot, at which time Joseph asks the pharaoh to pardon the sin of his youthful relative, the high priest Onias of Eleazar's line. Because of his great spirit and vision, pharaoh grants Joseph political control (including authority to collect taxes). Everything he does prospers to the benefit of Egypt. The people of Israel are saved, but reduced to servitude in the process. Yet, this only serves to fulfill his "prophetic role".
Joseph has a brother named Solymius, an apparent play on Solomon. By the daughter of this brother Joseph has a favored son named Hyrcanus. This account mimics Egyptian New Kingdom history in which Joseph (Yuya) sired Moses (Akhenaten) by his own daughter (Tiye), who was also the wife of Shiloh/Solomon (Amenhotep III). The New Kingdom Joseph was made prime minister and second in power only to his half-brother Judah (Thutmose IV).
Josephus in then effectively telling us that Joseph son of Tobias was a brother of the pharaoh. We have already been told that he was also related on his mother's side to Onias. The name Tobias means "fair, good", as in the priestly name Ahitub, "brother of goodness, beauty". Now, where have we seen this before? Ptolemy III (Euergenes), the "do-gooder" pharoah, of course!
After the death of Joseph, there arose a pharaoh (Ptolemy V) in Egypt that "new not Joseph". The son of Joseph, Moses-Hyrcanus was driven into exile in the trans-Jordan/Arabia. Although Ptolemy V died and was succeeded by Ptolemy VI (Philometer), Hyrcanus did not reach the "Promised Land" again, but is said to have died across the Jordan. Another king, Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria, came to collect his belongings, if not his body (for royal burial).
When Onias the high priest also passed away, the priesthood was disputed among his "sons". The office was given (presumably by the court of Ptolemy VI) to a son named Jesus. The surviving sons of Tobias backed another candidate, also called Onias, and convinced Antiochus Epiphanes to support them in a coup. In exchange, they would Hellenize Jerusalem. Epiphanes had in mind to do much more. He invaded both Israel and Egypt and arranged their respective governments as he saw fit.
This then was the setting for the following account of Mattathias (Ptolemy VI Philometer) and his "sons".
The book of II Maccabees speaks of Hyrcanus son of Tobias as still alive and quite well (as the wealthiest man in Jerusalem) when Antiochus Epiphanes began to set his sites on conquest. Was this Hyrcanus a forebear of the later John Hyrcanus, or was he in fact one and the same as John Hyrcanus reincarnated as a Joshua? That is, was John Hyrcanus not a true son of Simon brother of Judas Maccabee, but of Joseph son of Tobias?
Regardless, all of the above indicates that the high priesthood in Jerusalem had been usurped very early on by the Greek rulers and placed under the control of members of the royal family. They sooner or later duped the public into believing they were hereditary Jews. This, I think, is also the point in including the letter of correspondence from so-called Greeks (Lacedemonians) claiming that they too were hereditary Jews descended from Abraham!
Jonathan Kirsch, in his book "God Against the Gods", notes that the Hasmoneans, once gaining power, quickly became Hellenistic and adopted Hellenistic names such as Aristobulus. However, we can now say that they had already done so prior to the "revolt". Onias, we are told by Josephus, was also called by the Greek name Menelaus. Another high priest by the name of Jesus/Joshua, was also called Jason. Josephus further claims that Onias and the sons of Tobias pretended not to be circumcised (perhaps because they never actually were).
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