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199
MACCABEES, BOOKS OF

generation after, he would still be in a position to obtain. His sole aim is honestly to relate what he knew of the glorious struggles of his nation.

Although written in the style of the historical books of the old Testament, the work is characterized by a religious reticence which avoids even the use of the divine name, and by the virtual absence of the Messianic hope. The observance of the law is strongly urged, and the cessation of prophecy deplored (iv. 46; xiv. 41). There is no allusion either to the immortality of the soul or to the resurrection of the dead. The rewards to which the dying Mattathias points his sons are all for this life. Many scholars are of opinion that the unknown author was a Sadducee,1 but all that can be said with certainty is that he was a Palestinian Jew devotedly attached to the national cause.

Until the council of Trent I Maccabees had only “ecclesiastical” rank, and although not accepted as canonical by the Protestant churches, it has always been held in high estimation. Luther says “it closely resembles the rest of the books of Holy Scripture, and would not be unworthy to be enumerated with them.”

2 Maccabees, the epitome of a larger work in five books by one Jason of Cyrene, deals with the same history as its predecessor, except that it begins at a point one year earlier (176 B.C.), and stops short at the death of Nicanor (161 B.C.), thus covering a period of only fifteen years. First of all2 the writer describes the futile attempt of Heliodorus to rob the Temple, and the malicious intrigues of the Benjamite Simon against the worthy high priest Onias III. (iii. 1-iv; 6). As throwing light upon the situation prior to the Maccabaean revolt; this section of the book is of especial value. Chapters iv. 7-vii. 42 contain a more detailed narrative of the events recorded. in x Macc. i. 10–64. The remainder of the book runs parallel to 1 Macc. iii.-vii.

Originally written in excellent Greek, from a pronouncedly Pharisaic standpoint, it was possibly directed against the Hasmonaean dynasty. It showsno sympathy with the priestly class. Both in trustworthiness and in style it is inferior to 1 Macc. Besides being highly coloured, the narrative does not observe strict chronological sequence. Instead of the sober annalistic style of the earlier historian we have a work marked by hyperbole, inflated rhetoric and homiletic reflection. Bitter invective is heaped upon the national enemies, and strong predilection is shown for the marvellous. The fullness and inaccuracy of detail which are a feature of the book suggest that Jason's information was derived from the recollections of eye-witnesses orally communicated. In spite of its obvious defects, however, it forms a useful supplement to the first book.

The writer's interests are religious rather than historical. In 1 Macc. there is a keen sense of the part to be played by the Jews themselves, of the necessity of employing their own skill and valour; here they are made to rely rather upon divine intervention. Fantastic apparitions of angelic and supernatural beings, gorgeously arrayed and mostly upon horseback, are frequently introduced. In general, the views reflected in the book are those of the Pharisees. The ungodly will be punished mercilessly, and in exact correspondence to their sins.” The chastisements of erring Jews are of short duration, and intended to recall them to duty. If the faithful suffer martyrdom, it is in order to serve as an example to others, and they shall be compensated by being raised up “unto an eternal renewal of life.” The eschatology of 2 Macc. is singularly advanced, for it combines the doctrine of a resurrection with that of immortality. It is worthy of note that the Roman Church finds support in this book for its teaching with

1 See especially Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, 206 seq.

2 Prefixed to the book are two spurious letters from Palestinian Jew (i., ii. 18), having no real Connexion with it, or even with one another, further than that the both urge Egyptian .Jews to observe the Feast of the Dedication. Between these and the main narrative is inserted the writer's own preface, in which he explains the source and aim of his work (ii. 19-32).

3 iv. 38, 42; v. 9 seq.; ix. 5-18.

reference to prayers for the dead and purgatory (xii. 43 seq.). An allusion to Jeremiah as “he who prayeth much for the people and the holy city” (xv. 14) it likewise appeals to as favouring its views respecting the intercession of the saints.-Neither of Jason's work, nor of the epitomize's, can the precise date be determined. The changed relations with Rome (viii. Io, 36) prove, however, that the latter was written later than 1 Macc.; and it. is equally clear that it was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70; The account given of the martyrs in chs. vi. and vii. led to frequent allusions to this book in early patriotic literature. Only Augustine however, was minded to give it the canonical rank to which it has been raised by the Roman Church. Luther judged of it as unfavourable ashe'uded/f' M .f ' “ '

y 3 g o I acc favourably, and even wished it had never existed.”

3 Maccabees, although purporting to be an historical narrative, is really an animated, if somewhat vapid, piece of fiction written in Greek somewhere between 100 B.C. and A.D. 70,4 and apparently preserved only in part.5 It has no connexion with the Hasmonaeans, , but is a story of the deliverance experienced by the Egyptian Jews from impending- martyrdom at the hands of Ptolemy IV. Philopator, who reigned in the century previous to the Maccabaean rising (222–205 B.C.). The title is of later origin, and rendered possible only by the generalization of the name Maecabee so as to embrace all who suffered for the ancestral, faith] Josephus refers the legendvon whichit is based to the time of Ptolemy VII. Physcon (146–117 B.C.). Some scholars (Ewald, Reuss, Hausrath) think that what the story really points to is the persecution under Caligula, but in that case Ptolemy would naturally have been represented as claiming diyinejhonoursj, N o other source informs us of a visit to Jerusaleiri, , of a persecution of the. Jews, on the part of Philopator. Possibly, however, the story may be 'founded on some historical situation regarding which we have no definite knowledge. The purpose of the writer was evidently to cheer his Egyptian brethren during some persecution at Alexandria. Although the book was, favourably regarded in the Syrian, it was apparently unknown Ito the Latin Church. Among the Jews it was virtually ignored., ,

Briefly, the tale is as follows:-After the battle of Raphia ° (217 B.C.), Ptolemy IV. Philopator insisted on entering the sanctuary at Jerusalem, but was struck down by the Almighty in, answer to the rayers of the 'horrified Jews. On his return to Egypthe 'revenged himself by curtail in the religious liberty of the Alexandrian Jews, and by depriving oi their civic rights all who refused to worship Bacchus.. Exasperated by their loyalty to their religion, the king ordered all the Jews in Egypt to be imprisoned in the hippodrome of Alexandria. Clerks were told off to prepare a list 'of the prisoners names, but after forty days constant toil they had exhausted their writing materials without finishing their task. Ptolemy further commanded that 500 elephants should be intoxicated and let loose upon the occupants of the racecourse. Only an accident prevented the carrying out of this design; the king had slept until it was past the time for his principal meal. On the following day, in virtue of a divinely induced forgetfulness, Ptolemy recollected nothing but the loyalty of the Jews to his throne. The same evening, nevertheless, he repeated his order for their destruction. Accordingly, on the morning of the third day, when the king attended to see his

4 The date of composition can be only approximately determined. As the writer is acquainted with the Greek additions to Daniel (vi.16), the first century B.C. forms the superior limit; and as the book found favour in the Eastern Church, the first century A.D. forms the inferior 1m1t. ~

5 Apart from its abrupt commencement, 'the references in i. 2' to “ the plot ” as something already specified, and in ii. 25 to the king's “ before-mentioned ” companions, of whom, however, nothing, is said in the previous section of the book, point to the loss of at least an introductory chapter.

6 The statements with reference to the war between Antiochus the Great and .Ptolemy Philopator are in general agreement with those of the classical historians, and to this extent the tale maybe said to have an historical setting. By Grimm (Einl. § 3), the observance of the two yearly festivals (vi. 26; vii. 19), and 'the existence oflthe synagogue at Ptolemais when the book was written, are viewed as the witness of tradition' to the fact of some great deliverance. Fritzsche has well pointed out, however (art. “ Makkabaer ” in Schenkel's Bibel-Lexicon) that in the hands of Jewish writers of the period nearly every'event of consequence has a festival attached to it. -