Maccabees, Books Of, 1-2



1. Name

2. Canonicity

3. Contents

4. Historicity

5. Author's Standpoint and Aim

6. Date

7. Sources

8. Original Language

9. Text and Versions



1. Name

2. Canonicity

3. Contents

4. Sources

5. Historicity

6. Teaching of the Book

7. Author

8. Date

9. Original Language

10. Text and Versions



1. Name

2. Canonicity

3. Contents

4. Historicity

5. Aim and Teaching

6. Authorship and Date

7. Original Language

8. Text and Versions



1. Name

2. Canonicity

3. Contents

4. Teaching

5. Authorship and Date

6. Original Language

7. Text and Versions



1. Name

2. Canonicity

3. Contents

4. Historicity

5. Original Language

6. Aim and Teaching

7. Authorship and Date

8. Text and Versions


See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.

I. 1 Maccabees.

1. Name:

The Hebrew title has perished with the original Hebrew text. Rabbinical writers call the Books of Maccabees ciphere ha-chashmonim, "The Book of the Hasmoneans" (see ASMONEANS). Origen gives to Book I (the only one he seemed to know of) the name Sarbeth Sabanaiel, evidently a Hebrew or Aramaic name of very uncertain meaning, but which Dalman (Aramaic Grammar, section 6) explains as a corruption of Aramaic words= "The Book of the House of the Hasmoneans" (compare the rabbinical name given above). In the Greek manuscripts N, V (Codex Venetus), the 4 books go under the designation Makkabaion, [Codices Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Gamma Delta, biblos, being understood. In the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) the 1st and 2nd books are alone found, and appear under the name Machabaeorum liber primus, secundus. The spelling Machabaeorum reproduces probably the pronunciation current in Jerome's day.

The name "Maccabee" belongs strictly only to Judas, who in 2 Maccabees is usually called "the Maccabee" (ho Makkabaios). But the epithet came to be applied to the whole family and their descendants. The word means probably "extinguisher" (of persecution) (makhbi, from kabhah, "to be extinguished"; so Niese; Josephus, Ant, XII, vi, 1 f; S.J. Curtis, The Name Maccabee). The more usual explanation, "hammerer" (maqqabhay), is untenable, as the noun from which it is derived (maqqebheth) (Jg 4:21) denotes a smith's hammer.

2. Canonicity:

Since the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) includes only the first 2 books of Maccabees, these are the only books pronounced canonical by the Council of Trent and included in recognized Protestant versions of the Apocrypha (see APOCRYPHA). That 1 Maccabees was used largely in the early Christian church is proved by the numerous references made to it and quotations from it in the writings of Tertullian (died 220), Clement of Alexandria (died 220), Hippolytus (died 235), Origen (died 254), etc. The last named states that 1 Maccabees is uncanonical, and it is excluded from the lists of canonical writings given by Athanasius (died 373), Cyril of Jerusalem (died 386), and Gregory of Nazianzus (died 390). Indeed, none of the books of the Maccabees was recognized as canonical until the Council of Trent (1553) gave this rank to the first 2 books, and Protestants continue in their confessions to exclude the whole of the Apocrypha from the Bible proper, though Luther maintained that 1 Maccabees was more worthy of a place in the Canon than many books now included in it.

3. Contents:

1 Maccabees gives first of all a brief view of the reign of Alexander the Great and the partition of his kingdom among his successors. Having thus explained the origin of the Seleucid Dynasty, the author proceeds to give a history of the Jews from the accession of Antiochus IV, king of Syria (175 BC), to the death of Simon (135 BC). The events of these 40 years are simply but graphically related and almost entirely in the order of their occurrence. The contents of 1 Maccabees and 2 Macc 4-15 are in the main parallel, dealing with the same incidents; but the simple narrative character of 1 Maccabees, in contrast to the didactic and highly religious as well as supernatural coloring of 2 Maccabees, can easily be seen in these corresponding parts. The victories due to heroism in 1 Maccabees are commonly ascribed to miraculous intervention on the part of God in 2 Maccabees (see 1 Macc 4:1 f; compare 2 Macc 8:23 f). 2 Maccabees is more given to exaggerations. The army of Judas at Bethsura consists of 10,000 according to 1 Macc 4:29, but of 80,000 according to 2 Macc 11:2. The following is a brief analysis of 1 Maccabees:

(1) 1 Maccabees 1:1-10:

An account of the rise of the Seleucid Dynasty.

(2) 1 Maccabees 1:11-16:24:

History of the Jews from 175 to 135 BC.

(a) 1 Maccabees 1:11-64: Introductory. Some Jews inclined to adopt Greek customs (religious, etc.); Antiochus' aim to conquer Egypt and to suppress the Jewish religion as a source of Jewish disloyalty. Desecration of the Jewish temple: martyrdom of many faithful Jews.

(b) 1 Maccabees 2:1-70: The revolt of Mattathias

(c) 1 Maccabees 3:1-9:22: Leadership of Judas Maccabeus after his father's death. Brilliant victories over the Syrians. Purification of the temple. Death of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) and accession of Antiochus V (Eupator) (164 BC). Demetrius I became king of Syria, and Alcimus Jewish high priest (162 BC). Treaty between Jews and Romans. Defeat of Jews at Eleasa and death of Judas Maccabeus (161 BC).

(d) 1 Maccabees 9:23-12:53: Leadership of Jonathan, 5th son of Mattathias, elected to succeed his brother Judas. He becomes high priest. Political independence of Judea secured.

(e) 1 Maccabees 13:31-16:24: Peaceful and prosperous rule of Simon, brother of Jonathan; accession of his son John Hyrcanus (135 BC).

4. Historicity:

That the author of 1 Maccabees aims at giving a correct narrative, and that on the whole his account is correct, is the opinion of practically all scholars. The simple, straight-forward way in which he writes inspires confidence, and there can be no doubt that we have here a first-class authority for the period covered (175-135 BC). It is the earliest Jewish history which dates events in reference to a definite era, this era being that of the Seleucids, 312 BC, the year of the founding of that dynasty. The aid received from God is frequently recognized in the book (2:51 ff; 3:18; 4:10 f; 9:46; 16:3), yet it is mainly through personal valor that the Jews conquer, not, as in 2 Maccabees (see III , 3 below), through miraculous Divine interpositions. Ordinary, secondary causes are almost the only ones taken into account, so that the record may be relied upon as on the whole trustworthy. Yet the writer shows the defects which belong to his age and environment, or what from the standpoint of literal history must be counted defects, though, as in the case of 2 Maccabees (compare Chronicles), a writer may have other aims than to record bare objective facts. In 1:1-9 the author errs through ignorance of the real facts as regards Alexander's partition of his kingdom; and other misstatements of fact due to the same cause occur in 10:1 ff (Alexander (Balas), son of Antiochus Epiphanes) and in 13:31 ff (time of assassination of Antiochus VI by Tryphon). In 6:37 it is said there were 32 men upon each elephant, perhaps a misreading of the original "2 or 3," although the Indian elephant corps at the turn of this century carried more.

We know nothing of a Persian village Elymais (1 Macc 6:1). The number of Jewish warriors that fought and the number slain are understated, while there are evident exaggerations of the number of soldiers who fought against them and of those of them who were left dead on the field (see 1 Macc 4:15; 7:46; 11:45-51, etc.).

But in this book, prayers, speeches and official records abound as they do in Ezra, Nehemiah (see Century Bible, "Ezra," "Nehemiah," "Esther," 12 ff), and many modern Protestant writers doubt or deny the authenticity of a part of those, though that is not necessarily to question their genuineness as part of the original narrative.

As regards the prayers (1 Macc 3:50-54; 4:30-33) and speeches (1 Macc 2:7-13; 2:50-68; 4:6-11, etc.), there is no valid reason for doubting that they give at least the substance of what was originally said or written, though ancient historians like Thucydides and Livy think it quite right to edit the speeches of their characters, abbreviating, expanding or altering. Besides, it is to be remembered that the art of stenography is a modern one; even Dr. Johnson, in default of verbatim reports, had to a large extent to make the speeches which he ostensibly reported.

There is, however, in the book a large number of official documents, and it is in regard to the authenticity of these that modern criticism has expressed greatest doubt. They are the following:

(1) Letter of the Jews in Gilead to Judas (1 Macc 5:10-13).

(2) Treaty of alliance between the Romans and Jews; copy written on brass tablets sent to Judas (1 Macc 8:22-32).

(3) Letter from King Alexander Balas to Jonathan (1 Macc 10:18-20).

(4) Letter from King Demetrius I to Jonathan (1 Macc 10:25-45).

(5) Letter from King Demetrius II to Jonathan (1 Macc 11:30-37), together with letter to Lasthenes (1 Macc 11:31-37).

(6) Letter from the young prince Antiochus to Jonathan, making the latter high priest (1 Macc 11:57).

(7) Letter from Jonathan to the Spartans, asking for an alliance (1 Macc 12:5-18).

(8) Earlier letter of the Spartan king Arius to the high priest Onias (1 Macc 12:20-23).

(9) Letter from King Demetrius II to Simon (1 Macc 13:36-40).

(10) Letter from the Spartans to Simon (1 Macc 14:20-24).

(11) A decree of the Jews recognizing the services of Simon and his brothers (1 Macc 14:27-45).

(12) Letters from Antiochus VII (Sidetes) to Simon (1 Macc 15:2-9).

(13) Message from the Roman consul Lucius to Ptolemy, king of Egypt, asking protection for the Jews (1 Macc 15:16-21). A copy was sent to Simon (1 Macc 15:24).

Formerly the authenticity of these state documents was accepted without doubt, as they still are by Romanist commentators (Welte, Scholz, etc.). At most, they are but translations of translations, for the originals would be written in Greek and Latin, from which the author would translate into Hebrew. The Greek of our book is a translation from the Hebrew (see II , 8 below).

Rawlinson (Speaker's Apocrypha, II, 329) says these documents "have a general air of authenticity." Most modern scholars reject the letters purporting to emanate from the Romans (numbers 2 and 13 above) and from the Spartans (numbers 8, 10 above), together with Jonathan's message to the latter (number 7, above), on the ground that they contain some historical inaccuracies and imply others. How could one consul issue official mandates in the name of the Roman republic (see number 13, above)? In number 8 above, it is the king of the Spartans who writes on behalf of his people to Onias the high priest; but it is the ephoroi or rulers who write for the Spartans to Simon. Why the difference? Moreover, in 1 Macc 12:21 the Spartans and Jews are said to be kinsmen (literally, brothers), both alike being descendants of Abraham; so also 14:20. This is admittedly contrary to fact. For a careful examination of these official documents and their objective value, see Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen des Altes Testament, 27-30. Though, however, these documents and some others can be proved incorrect as they stand, they do seem to imply actual negotiations of the kind described; i.e. the Jews must have had communications with the Romans and Spartans, the Jews of Gilead must have sent a missive to Judas (number 1), Alexander Balas did no doubt write to Jonathan, etc., though the author of 1 Maccabees puts the matter in his own way, coloring it by his own patriotic and religious prejudices.

5. Author's Standpoint and Aim:

Though the name of the author is unknown, the book itself supplies conclusive evidence that he belonged to the Sadducee party, the party favored by the Hasmoneans. The aim of the writer is evidently historical and patriotic, yet his attitude toward religious questions is clearly indicated, both directly and indirectly.

(1) Nowhere in the book is the Divine Being mentioned under any name except Heaven (1 Macc 3:18 f,50,60; 4:10,55; 12:15, etc.), a designation common in rabbinical Hebrew (Talmud, etc.). As early as 300 BC the sacred name "Yahweh" was discarded in favor of "Adonai" (Lord) for superstitious reasons. But in 1 Maccabees no strictly Divine name meets us at all. This would seem to suggest the idea of a certain aloofness of God, such as characterized theology of the Sadducee party. Contrast with this the mystic closeness of God realized and expressed by the psalmists and prophets of the Old Testament.

(2) The author is a religious patriot, believing that his people have been Divinely chosen and that the cause of Israel is the cause of God.

(3) He is also a strict legalist, believing it the duty of every Jew to keep the Law and to preserve its institutions (1 Macc 1:11,15,43,49,54,60,62 f; 2:20 ff,27,42,48,50; 3:21, etc.), and deprecating attempts to compel Jews to desecrate the Sabbath and feast days (1 Macc 1:45), to eat unclean food (1 Macc 1:63) and to sacrifice to idols (1 Macc 1:43). Yet the comparatively lax attitude toward the Sabbath implied in 1 Macc 2:41 ff, involving the principle of Christ's words, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mr 2:27), agrees with the Sadducee position against that of the Pharisees.

(4) The book teaches that the age of inspiration is past, and that the sacred books already written are the only source of comfort in sorrow and of encouragement under difficulties (1 Macc 12:9).

(5) The legitimacy of the high-priesthood of Simon is not once questioned, though it is condemned by both the Deuteronomic law (D), which restricts the priesthood to the tribe of Levi, and by the priestly law (P), which requires in addition that a priest must be of the family of Aaron. This laxity agrees well with the general tenets of the Sadducees.

(6) The book contains no trace of the Messianic hope, though it was entertained at the time in other circles (the Pharisees; see MESSIAH,II , 2; PROPHECY); 1 Macc 2:57 is no exception, for it implies no more than a belief that there would be a restoration of the Davidic Dynasty. Perhaps it is implied that that expectation was realized in the Hasmoneans.

(7) There is no reference in the book to the doctrine of a resurrection from the dead or to that of the immortality of the soul, though we know that both these beliefs were commonly held by Jews of the time (see Da 12:3; Enoch 19; 22:11-14; 9:1,5 ff; 2 Macc 7:9,11,14,29). We know that the Pharisee party believed in a resurrection (see Ac 23:6). The Maccabean heroes fought their battles and faced death without fear, not because, like Moslems, they looked to the rewards of another life, but because they believed in the rightness of their cause and coveted the good name won by their fathers by acts of similar courage and devotion.

This outline of the doctrines taught or implied in the book makes it extremely likely that the author was a member of the Sadducee party.

6. Date:

1 Maccabees must have been written before the Roman conquest under Pompey, since the writer speaks of the Romans as allies and even friends (8:1,12; 12:1; 14:40); i.e. the composition of the book must have been completed (unless we except chapters 14-16; see below) before 63BC , when Pompey conquered Jerusalem, and Judea became a Roman province. We thus get 63 BC as a terminus ad quem. Moreover, the historical narrative is brought down to the death of Simon (16:16), i.e. to 135 BC. We have thus an undoubted terminus a quo in 135 BC. The book belongs for certain to the period between 135 and 63 BC. But 1 Macc 16:18-24 implies that John Hyrcanus (died 105 BC) had for some time acted as successor to Simon, and Reuss, Ewald, Fritzsche, Grimm, Schurer, Kautzsch, etc., are probably right in concluding from 16:23 f that John was dead when the book was completed, for we have in this verse the usual formula recording the close of a royal career (see 1Ki 11:41; 2Ki 10:34, etc.), and the writer makes it sufficiently understood that all his acts were already "entered in the public annals of the kingdom" (Ewald, History of Israel, V, 463, note), so that repetition was unnecessary. But Bertheau, Keil, Wellhausen and Torrey draw the contrary conclusion, arguing that John had but begun his rule, so that at the time of writing there was practically nothing to record of the doings subsequent to 135, when John succeeded Simon (see EB ,III , 2860 (Toy)). In 1 Macc 13:30 we read that the monument erected in 143 BC by Simon in memory of his father and brothers was standing at the time when this book was written, words implying the lapse of say 30 years at least. This gives a terminus a quo of 113 BC. Moreover, the panegyric on Simon (died 135 BC) and his peaceful rule in 14:4-15 leaves the impression that he had been long in his grave. We cannot be far wrong in assigning a date for the book in the early part of the last century BC, say 80 BC.

Destinon (Die Quellen des Flavius Josephus, I, 1882, 80 ff), followed by Wellhausen (IJG, 1894, 222 f), maintained that Josephus (died circa 95), who followed 1 Maccabees up to the end of chapter 13, could not have seen chapters 14 through 16 (or from 14:16?), or he would not have given so meager an account of the high-priesthood of Simon (see Ant,XIII , vi, 7), which the author of 1 Maccabees describes so fully in those chapters. But Josephus must have used these chapters or he could not have written of Simon even as fully as he does.

7. Sources:

If, as Torrey (EB, III, 2862) holds, we have in 1 Maccabees "the account of one who had witnessed the whole Maccabean struggle from its beginning," the book having been completed soon after the middle of the 2nd century BC, it may then be assumed that the writer depended upon no other sources than his own. But even in this case one is compelled, contrary to Torrey (loc. cit.), to assume that written sources of his own were used, or the descriptions would not have been so full and the dating so exact. If, however, we follow the evidence and bring down the date of the book to about 80 BC (see I, 6), it must be supposed that the author had access to written sources. It may legitimately be inferred from 1 Macc 9:22 and 16:23 and from the habit of earlier times (see Century Bible, "Ezra," etc., 11 ff) that official records were kept in the archives of the temple, or elsewhere. These might have contained the state documents referred to in I, 4, some or all, and reports of speeches and prayers, etc. It must be admitted that, unlike the compilers of the historical books of the Old Testament (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, etc.), the author of 1 Maccabees does not definitely name his written sources. The writer might well be supposed to have kept a kind of diary of his own in which the events of his own early life were recorded. Oral tradition, much more retentive of songs, speeches and the like in ancient than in modern times, must have been a very important source.

8. Original Language:

We have the testimony of Origen (see I, 1) and Jerome (Prolog. Galeatus) that the book existed in Hebrew in their day. But it is doubtful whether the words of Origen imply a Hebrew or an Aramaic original, and though Jerome does speak of the book as Hebrew (hebraicus), it has to be remembered that in later times the Greek adjective denoting Hebrew (hebraisti) and perhaps the corresponding Latin one (hebraicus) often denoted Palestinian Aramaic (see Jg 5:2; 19:13,17; and Kautzsch, Grammatik des bib. Aramaic, 19).

Hebraisms (or Aramaisms?) abound throughout the book. In the following examples Hebraisms are literally rendered in Greek, though in the latter language they are unidiomatic and often unintelligible: "two years of days" = two full years (1 Macc 1:29, etc.); "month and month" = every month (1 Macc 1:58); "a man (or each one) his neighbor" = each .... the other (1 Macc 2:40; 3:43); "sons of the fortress" = occupants of the fortress (1 Macc 4:2); "against our face" = before us (1 Macc 4:10); "men of power" = warriors (1 Macc 5:32); "of them" = some of them (1 Macc 6:2; compare 7:33, "of the priests" = some of the priests); "the right hand wing" = the southern wing (1 Macc 9:1); "yesterday and the third day" = hitherto (1 Macc 9:44). The above are strictly Hebraisms and not for the most part Aramaisms. The implied use of the "waw-consecutive" in 1 Macc 3:1,41; 8:1; 9:1, and often, points also to a Hebrew, not to an Aramaic origin.. "Heaven" as a substitute for "God," so common in this book (see I, 5), is perhaps as much an Aramaism as a Hebraism (see Targum Jerusalem Nu 25:18). Many of the proper names in the book are obviously but trans-literations from the Hebrew; thus, Phulistiein (1 Macc 3:24); compare Sirach 46:18; 47:7; see the names in 1 Macc 11:34; and Schurer,GJV 4, I, 233.

9. Text and Versions:

The original Hebrew text of 1 Maccabees (see I, 8) must have been lost at a very early time, since we have no evidence of its use by any early writer. J.D. Michaells held that Josephus used it, but this idea has been abandoned in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The Hebrew text of the first half of 1 Macc, edited by A. Schweitzer and taken by him to be a part of the original text, is in reality a translation from the Latin made in the 11th century of our era (so Noldeke, etc.).

(1) Greek.

The Greek text from which the other versions are nearly all made is given in all editions of the Septuagint. It occurs in the uncials Codex Sinaiticus (Fritzsche, X) , Codex Alexandrinus (Fritzsche, III), and Codex Venetus (8th or 9th century), not in Codex Vaticanus; and in a large number of cursives. Swete (Old Testament in Greek) gives the text of Codex Alexandrinus with the variations of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Venetus. Though the Greek text has so many Hebraisms, it is an exceedingly good rendering, full of spirit and on the whole more idiomatic than the rest of the Septuagint.

(2) Latin.

There are two Latin recensions of the book: (a) that found in the Vulgate, which agrees almost entirely with the Old Latin version. It is in the main a literal rendering of the Greek (b) Sabatier (Bibliorum sacrorum Latinae versiones antiquae, II) published in 1743 a Latin version of 1 Macc 1 through 13 found in but one manuscript (Sangermanensis). Though it is evidently made from the Greek it differs at many points from the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) It is probably older than the Old Latin and therefore than the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.)

(3) Syriac.

There are also two varying texts in this language. (a) The best known is that printed in the Paris Polyglot (Vol. IX), copied with some changes into the London Polyglot (Vol. IV; for readings see volume V). Lagarde (Lib. Vet. Test. Apocrypha. Syriac., 1861) has edited this version, correcting and appending readings. (b) A text differing in many respects from (a) is given by Ceriani in his Codex Ambros. of the Peshitta (1876-83), though this also is made from the Greek For a careful collection of both the above Syriac texts by G. Schmidt, see Z A T W , 1897, 1-47, 233-62.


See literature cited in the foregoing material. For texts and commentaries on the Apocrypha, see APOCRYPHA. The following commentaries deserve special mention: Grimm, Kurz. exeg. Handbuch, etc., to which the commentaries by Keil (1 and 2 Maccabees) and Bissel (Lange) owe very much; Kautzsch, Die Apocrypha des AT; W. Fair-weather and J.S. Black, Cambridge Bible, "1 Maccabees," and Oesterley in the Oxford Apocrypha edited by R. H. Charles (1913). Of the dict. articles those in E B (Torrey) and H D B (Fairweather) are excellent. See also E. Montet, Essai sur les origines des saduceens et des pharisiens, 1885; Wibrich, Juden und Griechen vor der mak. Erhebung, 1875, 69-76; B. Niese, Kritik der beiden Makkabderbucher, 1900. For a very full bibliography see Schurer,GJ V 4,III , 198 ff, and his article "Apocrypha" inR E 3, and in Sch-Herz.

II. 2 Maccabees.

1. Name:

See I, above. The earliest extant mention of the book as 2 Maccabees is in Euseb., Praep. Evang., VIII, 9. Jerome also (Prol. Galeatus) calls it by this name.

2. Canonicity:

In the early church 2 Maccabees was much less valued and therefore less read than 1 Maccabees. Augustine was the only church Father to claim for it canonical rank and even he in a controversy with the Donatists who quoted 2 Maccabees, replied that this book had never been received into the Canon. Since they formed an integral part of the Vulgate, 1 and 2 Maccabees were both recognized by the Council of Trent as belonging to the Romanist Canon.

3. Contents:

(1) 2 Maccabees 1 through 9:18:

Two letters from the Jews of Jerusalem to their brethren in Egypt, urging them to keep the Feast of Dedication and in a general way to observe the Law given them by God through Moses. Both letters appear designed to win for the Jerusalem temple the love and devotion which the Jews of Egypt were in danger of lavishing upon the Leontopolis temple in Egypt. These letters have no connection with the rest of the book or with each other, and both are undoubted forgeries. There can be no doubt that 2 Maccabees was first of all composed, and that subsequently either the author or a later hand prefixed these letters on account of their affinity in thought to the book as it first existed. See further on these lettersII , 4 and 9.

(2) 2 Maccabees 2:19-32:

Introduction to what follows. The author or epitomizer claims that his history (chapter 3 to end of the book) is an epitome in one book of a larger work in 5 books by Jason of Cyrene. But see II , 4, below.

(3) 2 Maccabees 3:1 through 15:39 (End of Book):

History of the rise and progress of the Maccabean wars from 176 BC, to the closing year of the reign of Seleucus IV Philopator, to the defeat and death of Nicanor in 161 BC, a period of 15 years. The record in 2 Maccabees begins one year earlier than that of 1 Maccabees, but as the latter reaches down to 135 BC (and probably below 105 BC; see I, 5), 1 Maccabees covers a period of at least 40 years, while 2 Maccabees gives the history of but 15 years (176-161BC ). The history of this period is thus treated: (a) 2 Macc 3:1 through 4:6: Traitorous conduct of the Benjamite Simon in regard to the temple treasures and the high priest; futile attempt of Heliodorus, prime minister of Seleucus IV, to rob the temple (see I, 3, (11) above); (b) 2 Macc 4:7 through 7:42 parallel 1 Macc 1:10-64 with significant variations and additions. Accession of Antiocus Epiphanes (175 BC); the Hellenizing of some Jews; persecution of the faithful; martyrdom of Eleazar and the 7 brethren and their mother (this last not in 1 Maccabees); (c) 2 Macc 8 through 15 (end) parallel 1 Macc 3 through 7, with significant divergences in details. Rise and development of the Maccabean revolt (see I, 3, above). In the closing verses (2 Macc 15:38 ff) the writer begs that this composition may be received with consideration.

The record of events in 2 Maccabees ends with the brilliant victory of Judas over Nicanor, followed by the death of the latter; but it is strange that the history of the main hero of the book should be dropped in the middle. Perhaps this abrupt ending is due to the writer's aim to commend to the Jews of Egypt the two new festivals, both connected with the Jerusalem temple: (a) Chanukkah (Festival of Dedication) (1:9,18; 2:16; 10:8); (b) Nicanor Day (15:36), to commemorate the defeat and death of Nicanor. To end the book with the account of the institution of the latter gives it greater prominence.

4. Sources:

In its present form 2 Maccabees is based ostensibly on two kinds of written sources.

(1) In 2 Macc 2:19-32 the writer of 3:1 to the end, which constitutes the book proper, says that his own work is but an epitome, clearly, artistically and attractively set out, of a larger history by one Jason of Cyrene. Most commentators understand this statement literally, and endeavor to distinguish between the parts due to Jason and those due to the epitomizer. Some think they see endings of the 5 books reflected in the summaries at 3:40; 7:42; 10:9; 13:26; 15:37. But W.H. Kosters gives cogent reasons for concluding that the reference to Jason is but a literary device to secure for his own composition the respect accorded in ancient, as in a lesser degree in modern, times to tradition. The so-called "epitomizer'' is in that case alone responsible for the history he gives. The present writer has no hesitation in accepting these conclusions. We read such nowhere a large else of a historian called "Jason," or of such a large history at his must have been if it extended to 5 books dealing with the events of 15 years, though such a man and so great a work could hardly have escaped notice. Hitzig (Gesch. des Volkes Israels, II, 415) held that Jason or his supposed epitomizer made use of 1 Maccabees, altering, adding and subtracting to suit his purpose. But the different order of the events and the contradictions in statements of facts in the 2 books, as well as the omission from 2 Maccabees of important items found in 1 Maccabees, make Hitzig's supposition quite untenable. A careful examination of 2 Maccabees has led Grimm, Schurer, Zockler, Wibrich, Cornill, Torrey and others to the conclusion that the author depended wholly upon oral tradition. This gives the best clue to the anachronisms, inconsistencies and loose phrasing which characterize the book. According to 1 Macc 4:26-33, the first campaign of Lysias into Judea took place in 165 BC, the year before the death of Antiochus IV; but 2 Macc 11 tells us that it occurred in 163 BC, i.e. subsequent to the death of Antiochus IV. Moreover, in the latter passage this 1st expedition of Lysias is connected with the grant of freedom to the Jews, which is really an incident of the 2nd expedition, and in 2 Macc 13:1-24 is rightly mentioned in the account of the 2nd expedition. The writer of 2 Maccabees, relying upon memory, evidently mixes up the stories of two different expeditions. Similarly the invasions of neighboring tribes under Judas, which are represented in 1 Macc 5:1-68 as taking place in quick succession, belong, according to 2 Macc 8:30; 10:15-38; 12:2-45, to separate dates and different sets of circumstances. The statements in 2 Maccabees are obscure and confused, those in 1 Macc 5 clear and straightforward. Though in 2 Macc 10:37 we read of the death of Timotheus, yet in 12:2 ff he appears as a leader in other campaigns. There again the writer's memory plays him false as he recalls various accounts of the same events. It was Mattathias who gathered together the Jews and organized them for resistance against Syria, if we follow 1 Macc 2:1-70; but 2 Macc 8:1-7 ascribes this role to his son Judas. The purification of the temple took place 3 years subsequent to its profanation, according to 1 Macc 1:54; 4:52, but only 2 years, according to 2 Macc 10:3.

(2) The two letters sent from Palestinian to Egyptian Jews (2 Macc 1:1 through 2:18) form no integral part of the original 2 Maccabees. They are clearly forgeries, and abound in inaccuracies and inconsistencies. The second letter, much the longer, gives an account of the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, which is irreconcilable with that in 9:1-28 and also with that in 1 Macc 6:1-16. Nehemiah is said in 1:18 to have rebuilt the temple and altar, a work accomplished by Zerubbabel nearly a century earlier (Ezr 3:3; 6:15). Nehemiah's work was to repair the gates and walls (Ne 3:1-32; 6:1; 7:1; Sirach 49:13). The writer of this letter says (2 Macc 2:3-5) that at the time of the exile, Jeremiah concealed in a cave on Mt. Pisgah the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant and the altar of incense, a statement which no one accepts as correct or even plausible. That the author of the rest of the book is not the composer of the letters is proved by the difference of style and the contradictions in subject-matter. But that he himself prefixed them is made probable by the connecting particle in the Greek (de), though some (Bertholdt, Grimm, Paulus, Kosters) think rather plausibly that the letters were added by a later hand, the connection in the Greek being also introduced by him and not by the author of the rest of the book. It has been maintained that we have but one letter in 2 Macc 1:1 through 2:18, and on the other hand that there are three. But the division into two is quite natural and is almost universally accepted.

5. Historicity:

2 Maccabees belongs to the class of literature called by the Germans Tendenz-Schriften, i.e. writings originating in the desire to teach some doctrine or to correct some supposed error. 1 Maccabees gives us a history of the Maccabean wars as such, taking so little notice of the part played by God that the Divine Being is not so much as mentioned, except under the impersonal form Heaven (compare "Heaven helps those who help themselves"). Nor has 1 Maccabees a word to say about a life beyond the grave. In short, 1 Maccabees is written from the standpoint of the Sadducees, to which party the reigning dynasty (the Hasmonean) belonged. The writer of 2 Maccabees is evidently a Pharisee and his aim is not historical but doctrinal; i.e. the book is a historical romance with a purpose, that purpose being to make prominent the outstanding tenets of the Pharisees (see II , 6). Two extreme opinions have been defended as to the historical value of 2 Maccabees: (1) That 2 Maccabees is a strictly historical work, is more trustworthy than 1 Maccabees and is to be followed when the two books differ; so the bulk of Roman Catholics and also Niese and Schlatter. The supernaturalism of the book is to Romanists a recommendation. (2) That 2 Maccabees has virtually no historical value, since it was written for other than historical ends; so Wibrich, Kosters and Kamphausen. But the bulk of Protestant critics of recent times occupy a portion midway between these two opposite opinions, namely, that 1 Maccabees is much more accurate than 2 Maccabees and is to be preferred when the 2 books of Maccabees differ or contradict each other; so Grimm, Reuss, Schurer, Kamphausen. On the other hand, when 2 Maccabees contains historical matter absent from 1 Maccabees it is to be accepted as correct unless opposed by intrinsic improbability or direct contrary evidence. In 2 Macc 3 through 5 we have details concerning the Maccabean revolt not found in 1 Maccabees, and in treatment of episodes or incidents with which 1 Maccabees deals it is often fuller and more specific, as in 2 Macc 10:14-23; 12:7-9 (compare 1 Macc 5:1-5; 12:17-25); 2 Macc 10:24-38 (compare 1 Macc 5:29-44); 2 Macc 12:32-45 (compare 1 Macc 5:65,68,63 f). On the other hand, the account of the celestial appearances in 2 Macc 3:24 ff; 11:8, etc., and the description in 6:18 ff of the martyrdom of Eleazar the scribe and of the 7 brethren and their mother, carry on their face the marks of their legendary and unhistorical character. The edifying remarks scattered throughout the book, many of them pragmatic and reminding one of the Book of Daniel, confirm the impression otherwise suggested, that the author's aim was didactic and not historical. The book as it stands is a real authority for the ideas prevalent in the writer's circle at the time of its composition.

6. Teaching of the Book:

In general it may be said that the doctrines taught in 2 Maccabees are those of the Pharisees of the day. Several scholars consider 2 Maccabees the answer of Pharisaism to the Sadduceeism of 1 Maccabees (see Wellhausen, Die Pharisaer und die Saducaer; compare Geiger, Urschrift und Ubersetzungen der Bibel, 219 ff). But there is evidence enough (see II , 4) that the author of 2 Maccabees had not seen 1 Maccabees. Yet it is equally clear that 2 Maccabees does give prominence to the distinctive tenets of Pharisaism, and it was probably written on that account.

(1) The strictest observance of the law is enforced. The violation of the sanctity of the Sabbath countenanced under special circumstances in 1 Macc (2:39-48) is absolutely forbidden in 2 Macc (6:6,11; 8:26 f; 12:38); compare the words of the Pharisees to Petronius when the latter proposed to have a statue of the emperor Caius erected in the temple: "We will die rather than transgress the law" (Josephus, Ant,XVIII , viii, 3).

(2) The Pharisaic party took but little interest in political affairs, and supported the Hasmoneans only because and in so far as they fought for the right to observe their religious rites. When, however, they compromised with Hellenism, the Pharisees turned against them and their allies the Sadducees. In this book we miss the unstinted praise accorded the Hasmonean leaders in 1 Maccabees, and it is silent as to the genealogy of the Hasmoneans, the death of Judas Maccabeus and the family grave at Modin.

(3) The book reveals thus early the antagonism between the Pharisees and the priestly party, which is so evident in the Gospels. The high-priesthood had through political circumstances become the property of the Maccabees, though they were not of the Aaronic family, or even of the tribe of Levi. The priestly circle became the aristocratic, broad-church party, willing to come to terms with Greek thought and life. Hence, in 2 Maccabees, Jason and Menelaus are fit representatives of the priesthood. In the list of martyrs (chapters 6 f) no priest appears, but on the other hand, Eleazar, one of the principal scribes--scribes and Pharisees were then as in New Testament times virtually one party--suffered for his loyalty to the national religion, "leaving his death for an example" (6:18-31).

(4) The temple occupies a high and honorable place in 2 Maccabees, as in the mind of the orthodox party (see 2:19; 3:2; 5:15; 9:16; 13:23; 14:31). Great stress is laid on the importance of the feasts (6:6; 10:8, etc.), of sacrifice (10:3), of circumcision (6:10), of the laws of diet (6:18; 11:31). The author seems in particular anxious to recommend to his readers (Egyptian Jews) the observance of the two new festivals instituted to commemorate the purification of the temple after its pollution by the Syrians and also the victory over Nicanor. According to this book the Chanukkah feast was established immediately after the death of Antiochus Epiphanes (10:6 ff), not before this event (1 Macc 4:56), probably to give it additional importance. The book closes with the defeat and death of Nicanor and the founding of the Nicanor Day festival, without mentioning the death of Judas, as though the writer's aim was to give prominence to the two new festivals.

(5) 2 Maccabees shows a Jewish particularism which agrees well with Pharisaism and Scribism, but is opposed to the broader sentiments of the ruling party: Israel is God's people (1:26); His portion (14:15); He often intervenes miraculously on behalf of Israel and the religion of Israel (3:24-30; 10:29 f; 11:6-8); even the calamities of the nation are proofs of Divine love because designed for the nation's good (5:18); but the sufferings brought upon the heathen are penal and show the Divine displeasure (4:38; 5:9; 13:8; 15:32 f). The writer is deadly opposed to the introduction of Greek customs and in particular to the establishment of a gymnasium in Jerusalem (4:7 f; 11:24). The Book of Jubilees, also written by a zealous Pharisee, takes up the same hostile attitude toward foreign customs (see 3:31; 7:20, and the note by R. H. Charles (Book of Jubilees) on the former).

(6) This book gives prominence to the doctrine of a resurrection and of a future life about which 1 Maccabees, a document of the Sadducee party, is silent, (compare I, 5 above; see 2 Macc 7:9,11,14,36; 12:43-45; 14:46 (compareIV , 4, below)). The Sadducees, to which the Hasmoneans belonged, denied a resurrection, limiting their conception of religion to the present life, in this agreeing with the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures down to the time of the exile (536 BC). But the Pharisees and scribes, though professing to rest their beliefs on the "Law of Moses," departed from that law in this matter (see Warburton, The Divine Legation of Moses). The resurrection is to be a bodily one (2 Macc 7:11,22 f; 14:46) and to a life that is unending (2 Macc 7:9,36). The following related beliefs supported in this book and forming part of the creed of orthodox Pharisaism are adduced by Romanists on behalf of their own teaching: (a) the efficacy of prayers for the dead (2 Macc 12:44); (b) the power exercised by the intercession of saints (2 Macc 15:12-14); Philo (De execrat., 9) and Josephus (Ant., I, xi, 3) held the same doctrine; (c) the atoning character of the martyrdom of the righteous (2 Macc 7:36,38; compare 4 Macc 17:22; seeIV , 4, (3), below).

(7) The angelology of 2 Maccabees forms a prominent feature of the book (see 3:24-30; 10:29 f; 11:6-8). The Sadducees accepted the authority of the Pentateuch, though they rejected tradition. They were therefore inconsistent in allowing no place for angelic beings in their creed, though consistent in rejecting the doctrine of a future life.

(8) The comparative silence of this book on the question of the Messianic hope is strikingly in contrast with the prominence of the subject in Psalter of Solomon (17:23 ff, etc.; see Ryle and James, Psalms of Solomon, lii ff) and other contemporary writings emanating from the Pharisees. But why should the author of 2 Maccabees be expected to give equal prominence to all his opinions in one tract? Some such hope as that connected with the Messiah does, however, seem to be implied in 1:27; 2:18; 7:33; 14:15.

The present writer holds that one man is responsible for 2 Maccabees in its present form and that the only written source was the 2 letters with which the book opens (1:1 through 2:18) (see II , 4, above).

7. Author:

Even if we have to assume an original in 5 books of which 2 Maccabees, as we have it, is but an epitome, it is not possible to distinguish between the sentiments of "Jason" and his epitomizer. The author--assuming but one--was evidently an Egyptian probably an Alexandrian Jew, who nevertheless retained his loyalty to the Jerusalem temple and its constitutions and desired to prevent the alienation of his fellow-countrymen in the same country from the home sanctuary and its feasts, especially the two new feasts, Chanukkah (Dedication) and Nicanor Day. The Jews of Egypt had a temple of their own, in opposition to the teaching of the Jewish law (D and P; compare De 12:2-18 and Le 17:1-9; 19:30), and it was perhaps the growing influence of this temple that prompted the author to compose this book which sets so much honor upon the Jerusalem temple and its observances. The character of the Greek (see II , 9, below), the ignorance of Palestine and also the deep interest in Egypt which this book reveals--these and other considerations point to the conclusion that the author lived and wrote in Egypt. There is no evidence that Judas Maccabeus (Leon Allatius), or the author of Sirach (Hasse) or Philo the Jew (Honorius d'Autun) or Josephus wrote the book, though it has been ascribed by different scholars to each of the persons named.

8. Date:

The book must have been written sufficiently long after 161 BC, the year with which the record closes, to allow mythical tales of the martyrdoms in 2 Macc 6 f and the history of the supernatural appearances in 3:24-30, etc., to arise. If we allow 30 years, or the lifetime of a generation, we come down to say 130 BC as a terminus a quo. There is probably in 15:36 a reference to the Book of Est (so Cornill, Kautzsch and Wellhausen, IJG4, 302 f) which would bring the terminus a quo down to about 100 BC. That 2 Maccabees was written subsequently to 1 Maccabees (i.e. after 80 BC) is made certain by the fact that the Jews now pay tribute to Rome (2 Macc 8:10,36). Since Philo, who died about 40 AD, refers to 2 Macc 4:8 through 7:42 (Quod omnis probus liber, Works, edition Mangey, II, 459), the book must have been composed before 40 AD. This is confirmed by the certainty that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (70 AD), for the city still exists and the temple services are in full operation (3:6 ff, etc.). Heb 11:35 f is no doubt an echo of 2 Macc 6:18 through 7:42 and shows that the unknown author of Hebrews had 2 Maccabees before him. The teaching of the book represents the views of the Pharisees about the middle of the last century BC. A date about 40 BC would agree with all the evidence.

9. Original Language:

That the original language was Greek is made exceedingly likely by the easy flow of the style and the almost entire absence of Hebraisms (yet see 2 Macc 8:15; 9:5; 14:24). No scholar of any standing has pleaded for a Hebrew original of the present book. Bertholdt, however, argued that the two letters (2 Macc 1:1 through 2:18) were composed in Hebrew (or Aramaic) Ewald held that the 2nd letter (2 Macc 1:11 through 2:18) is from the Hebrew, and Schlunkes that this applies to the 1st only. But the evidence given by these scholars is unconvincing, though the 1st letter is certainly more Hebraic in style than the 2nd letter, the contrary of what Ewald said.

10. Text and Versions:

As to the texts and versions, see I, 9, above, where the statements apply here with but slight qualifications. But the book is lacking in Codex Sinaiticus as well as in Codex Alexandrinus. In addition to the Old Latin text and adopted for the Vulgate, we have another Latin text in Codex Ambrosianus, published in 1824 by Peyron; but this book is unrepresented in Sabatier's collection of Old Latin texts.


In addition to the literature mentioned under APOCRYPHA and I above, and in the course of the present article, note the following items: Commentary of Moffatt (Oxford Apocrypha); C. Bertheau, De section lib. Macc., 1829 (largely quoted by Grimm); W.H. Kosters, "De Polemiek van het tweede boek de Mak," TT, XII, 491-558; Schlatter, "Jason von Cyrene," TLZ, 1893, 322; A. Buchler, Die Tobliden u. die Oniaden im II Mak, 1889; Wibrich, Juden und Griechen, etc., 1895, 64; Kamphausen (Kautzsch, Die Apocrypha des AT). The following discussing the two letters (1:1-2:18) deserve mention: Valckenaer, De Aristobulo, 38-44; Schlunkes, Epistolae quae secundo Macc libro I, etc., 1844, 1-9; also Difficiliorum locorum epistolae, etc., 1847; Graetz, "Das Sendschreiben der Palaestinenser an die aegyptischen Gemeinden," etc., Monatss. fur Gesch. u. Wissen. des Judenthums, 1877, 1-16, 49-60; A. Buchler, "Das Sendschreiben der Jerusalemer," etc., Monatss. fur Gesch. u. Wissen. des Judenthums; see last notice, 1897, 481-500, 529-54); Bruston, "Trois lettres des Juifs de Palestine,"ZATW , X, 110-17; W. H. Kosters, "Strekking der brieven in 2 Macc," TT, 1898, 68-76; Torrey, "Die Briefe 2 Mak," ZATW, 1900, 225-42.

Continued in MACCABEES, BOOKS OF, 3-5.

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