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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:
- 3 Maccabees, a Greek book relating to a 3rd-century BCE persecution of the Jews of Egypt.
- 4 Maccabees, a philosophic discourse praising the supremacy of reason over passion, using the Maccabean martyrs as examples.
The term may also refer to:
- 5 Maccabees, an Arab language history from 186 BCE to 6 BCE. The same title is used for a Syriac version of 6th book of Josephus' Jewish War.
- 6 Maccabees, a Syriac poem that possibly shared a lost source with 4 Maccabees.
- 7 Maccabees, a Syriac work focusing on the speeches of the Maccabean Martyrs and their mother.
- 8 Maccabees, a brief account of the revolt drawing on Seleucid sources, preserved in the Chronicle of John Malalas (pp. 206–207 in Dindorf).
- Ethiopian Maccabees, a similar account from Ethiopian sources. It offers a narrative of Jewish rebels who fight against Antiochus' rule, but make no mention of the brothers from Modein. The origin of these accounts are unknown.
First vs second books of Maccabees
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.
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. 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 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.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1905 New International Encyclopedia article about Books of the Maccabees.|
- 'Maccabees, Books of, 3-5.' International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (via BibleStudyTools.com). Last accessed: 7 May 2013.
- 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.
- John Malalas. Chronographia. Edited by Ludwig A. Dindorf. Vol. 15 of Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae. Bonn: Weber, 1831.
- Goldstein, Jonathan A. (1976). “Introduction,” in I Maccabees. Garden city, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. pp. 12, 18–19, 24–26, 33, 79.
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