Books of the Maccabees

The Books of the Maccabees are books concerned with the Maccabees, the leaders of the Jewish rebellion against the Seleucid dynasty and related subjects.

The term mostly refers to two deuterocanonical books contained in various canons of the Bible:

  • 1 Maccabees, originally written in Hebrew and surviving in a Greek translation, relates the history of the Maccabees from 175 BCE until 134 BCE.
  • 2 Maccabees, a Greek abridgment of an earlier history in Hebrew, relates the history of the Maccabees down to 161 BCE, focusing on Judas Maccabaeus, discussing praying for the dead and offerings.

The term also commonly refers to two further works:

The term may also refer to:

First vs second books of Maccabees[edit]

The books of the First and Second Maccabees offer different accounts. The authors display notably different beliefs. The narratives do not match. Differences include the description of martyrdom. In First Maccabees, the author does not mention the value of martyrdom. The author insinuates that martyrdom was useless. In First Maccabees, pious Jews’ martyrdom does not stimulate God to act in the Maccabean revolt. Pious Jews, in the author’s eyes, had to obey the Hasmoneans, whom he believed were favored by God.  Religious devotion was not sufficient to emancipate the Jews. In contrast, Jason of Cyrene, the author of the Second Book of Maccabees, believed that martyrs were heroes and had power.[citation needed]

Jason depicts Onias III and other martyrs alongside Judas Maccabaeus as champions; earning divine favor as a result. He bitterly denies that Pietist martyrs were less favored to the Hasmoneans by God.[citation needed] The tone of each record is in contrast. The author of First Maccabees presents an objective and sober account, taking influence from the authors of the Hebrew Bible. Second Maccabees is notably subjective and emotional. For instance, Jason of Cyrene has an emotional outburst[citation needed] in his narrative, where he powerfully supports the belief in resurrection, which is denied in First Maccabees. He continues, providing proof that Judas held the same belief. These two books are unlike in composition. First Maccabees begins with the rise and legitimacy of the Hasmonean dynasty, originating with a narrative of the Jewish priest Mattathias, a forefather to the Maccabean revolt. Second Maccabees begins with two letters, Epistle I and Epistle II. These letters are insubstantial aspects in relation to the narrative.[4]


  1. ^ a b c 'Maccabees, Books of, 3-5.' International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (via Last accessed: 7 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d James R. Davila, 'The More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.' Archived 2013-10-12 at the Wayback Machine U of St. Andrews. Last accessed: 7 May 2013.
  3. ^ John Malalas. Chronographia. Edited by Ludwig A. Dindorf. Vol. 15 of Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae. Bonn: Weber, 1831.
  4. ^ Goldstein, Jonathan A. (1976). “Introduction,” in I Maccabees. Garden city, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. pp. 12, 18–19, 24–26, 33, 79.