1 & 2 Maccabees


      • Similarities = same general period + about holy wars.  “Liberation theology” –> but more focus on God’s rights & divine law rather than human rights… 1&2 M = stories of prayer & dependence on God + moral requirements for political action + Mattathias’s family takes centre stage = selfless dedication + humility… “charism of violence” like in Judges… optimistic ending.
      • Differences = independent works, written by different authors, in different languages, from different viewpoints.
            • 1 M = 176-134 – Active resistance – Militarism – history from below – human – political scene – objective narrative.
            • 2 M = 180-160 – Passive resistance – Martyrdom – history from above – divine (God’s direct actions within history through visions, miracles, angelic visitations) – interior life (thoughts, motives, dreams, prayers of main characters) – subjective florid lessons.
  • Wars of Maccabees: 167-164 –> began with Antiochus IV – Jews forced to sacrifice to greek gods, give up Torah, circumcision, etc.
        • Passive resistance = Hasideans – “the pious ones” – devoted to Law, NOT willing to take up arms or fight on sabbath.
        • Active resistance = Maccabees – Mattathias and his sons Judas, Jonathan, Simon. Lack of authority b/c NOT high-priestly family. Under jonathan finally had full authority through Syrians.
  • Antiochus Epiphanies IV – Ptolemy and Seleucus were 2 of Alexander the Great’s generals. Rome defeated Seleucids (defeated Antiochus III) & captured Antiochus III’s son… then he seized power later under name of Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Power struggle between Ptolemies and Seleucids over high priest office. 2 attacks of Jerusalem while passing through on way to Egypt. 2nd time erected Zeus statue in temple. Caricature of ruthless pride. Dies in torment in 2 M. “Epiphanes” = manifest. 175-164. Nickname was Epimanes = madman.
        • Unity under AE IV = one people by giving up unique customs. Suppress any efforts to keep God.
        • VS. Unity under Catholic Church = Lumen Gentium → opposite of ‘giving up customs’… Church doesn’t detract from any temporal good of all people… takes up the good customs… Church recapitulates all things in Christ… everything that is good, true, and beautiful is assumed into the Catholicity of the Church.
  • High priests: were civil & religious authority in himself. Under Antiochus IV, high priests became “Hellenizers”. (1) Simon II (220-198) = praised in Sirach 50. then bad successors (2) Onias III – son, (3) Jason – bought office from Anitochus IV, (4) Menelaus – also bought office.
  • Desolating Abomination = 167 BC – Baal Shamem = “Lord of heaven” (statue of Zeus) Shmm = desolating…
        • Sparks Mattathias and his sons to rebel.


Author & Date:

      • Around year 100 BC.
      • Could be: (1) a contemporary of period / involved in events, possibly the official historiographer of Hasmonean family, (2) a Sadducee writer (no mention of life after death, etc).
      • Originally written in Hebrew.
      • Supporter of Hasmonian dynasty.
      • Book we have in Greek = 100-63 BC. Reference to John Hyrcanus at end of book = term was 134-104… so near end of his term.

Literary Form:

  • Honest historical work.
    • Josephus said great historical value.
    • Sickness of Anti-IV corroborated with secular history.
    • Honesty of defeats & victories + topographical and chronological accounts.


  • Consists of detailed accounts mostly of military battles & international politics. Gives Jews a national sense of identity.
  • Narrates the history of the Jewish people form the enthronement of the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanies (175 BC) until the installation of John Hyrcanus as the high priest in Jerusalem (134 BC).


1 Maccabees:

    1. Introduction (chaps. 1–2) = Prelude to the Wars
      1. A. Alexander the Great and the Seleucid Persecution (1:1–63)
      2. B. Mattathias and His Sons (2:1–70) –> Mattathias named “Hasmoneus” by Josephus = Hasmonean dynasty. Mattathias = new Phineas  – who purifies ppl from worshiping foreign gods + new David – assembles force in desert to take over city.
      3. Overall = The rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanies and his religious persecution of the Jews – initial revolt by Mattathias and his sons.
    1. The Leadership of Judas Maccabeus (3:1–9:22)  –> 166-160 BC
      1. Judas takes his father’s place in the war.
      2. Judas new Moses – leads them through hostile territory + new Joshua – reconquers land.
      3. Outwitted Syrian forces with guerrilla warfare.
      4. Absolute confidence in God + ready to die in battle.
      5. Judas restores & rededicates the Temple = feast of Hanukkah December 14, 164 BC.
      6. Death of Antiochus IV
      7. Demetrius rises as Syrian King
      8. Judas’ crucial victory over Nicanor – Demetrius names Nicanor to destroy the people.
      9. Judas dies in battle against Bacchides & renegade Jewish high priest Alcimus.
    1. The Leadership of Jonathan (9:23–12:53) –> 160-143 BC
      1. Land is in the grip of Syrian military + pro-Syrian Jews (“lawless ones”)
      2. Jonathan gains control of Judean countryside after demoralizing forces of Bacchides + negotiate a treaty with him.
      3. Jonathan becomes high priest – goes against Demetrius and allies with Alexander Balas, son of Antiochus, accepts his offer to appointment as high priest in 152 BC. Breaks sacred tradition of passing the high priesthood down by inheritance in the line of Zadok. Alexander defeats Demetrius in 150 BC = consolidates Jonathan’s power in Judea.
      4. Demetrius II takes over in 145 BC after defeating Alexander — Jonathan alliance with Demetrius… but then D goes against J.
      5. Jonathan defeats D II in battle of Hazor 144 BC through prayer.
      6. Trypho executes Jonathan in prison after tricking him. –> time of mortal danger for all Jews as all surrounding nations sought to destroy them.
    1. The Leadership of Simon (13:1–16:17) –> 143-134 BC
      1. Simon, oldest son of Mattathias becomes “high priest, leader, and governor of Jews” (13:42).
      2. Simon negotiates treaty with former enemy Demetrius II => Simon confirmed as high priest + agrees to presence of Simon’s stronghold + remits all taxes.
      3. Simon’s peaceful and prosperous reign involved treaties with Rome and Sparta.
      4. 137 BC WAR –> Military victory of Simon’s sons, Judas and John, against Cendebeus.
      5. Death of Simon + his sons Judas & Mattathias –> tragic = Ptolemy, Simon’s son-in-law murders them at a banquet in 134 BC.
    1. The Reign of John Hyrcanus (16:18–24)
      1. John escaped Ptolemy’s plan to kill them all and gain control of Judea –> Hasmonean dynasty begins.
      2. Succession of Simon’s son as leader of Jews.


  • Sin within Israel as lawlessness + impiety – leading to religious compromise
  • Opposition to the faith, at times violent & deadly
  • The willingness of believers to die for the faith
  • Loyalty to law + covenant
  • Warfare and violence as way of protecting faith in a time of violence = Judas’ righteous cause out of reverence for Heaven.
  • God’s assistance in war that is waged with “strength that comes from Heaven”
  • Importance of Temple, Temple sacrifice, high priesthood
  • Absence of prophecy


  • God is NOT mentioned by name –> great reverence of divine name YHWH – refer to God as “Heaven”. Like Matthew’s Gospel. prayers offered by heroes before they go into battle.  Jewish fighters = “help of heaven” in battle.  God decides fate of Jewish people. Reverence for 1st commandment –> sparks insurrection.
  • NO miracles of divine intervention appear –>  Similar to book of Judges – violence breaks out as a defence against oppression and injustice. To prevent extermination of whole nation. Successful maneuvering on stage of international politics.
  • NO prophets speak –> distress + waiting for true prophets (beyond human control). Temple and high priesthood becomes important in absence. Institutional religion = way to reach out to God when God does NOT seem to reach out to them. LEADERS = good + brave –> remarkable considering absence of any sense of recompense in the afterlife. give lives for national good + divine order of things. “Whatever Heaven, wills, he will do” (3:59) = Judas’ view.  POSITIVE END = yoke of Gentiles removed from Israel + Hasmonean dynasty established.
  • NO one expresses faith in life after death.
  • NO women.
  • NO miracles = but still “strength that comes from heaven” (3:19). NEED to see God more in natural events of world and history… still mysterious unfolding of God’s plan. Leaders face mystery with strength, faith, courage. God is NOT manipulated by prayer.
  • Overall = need to love God + be faithful to His law + serve God at any cost + NO reward possibly = faith in God as a sacred mystery.


  • 1 M = purpose of glorifying the Maccabees as “those men by whom salvation was brought to Israel” (5:62). Enhances victories and minimizes defeats.
  • “The Jewish Insurrection” –> Maccabean revolt aimed to reclaim Holy Land from foreign occupation. Antiochus IV Epiphanies VS. Mattathias, Judas, Jonathan, Simon. The story of liberation = Jews eventually appoint their own ruler in the end. People of God must live out their faith within the political tensions of the real world. 
    1. Sacred History Experienced in the Present
      • Author adopts Deut. style = God at work in time of Maccabees = to re-present the history of salvation. Mattathias = new Phineas & David. Judas = new Moses + new Joshua.
    1. Prayer, spiritual discipline, worship
      • Achievements are the fruit of prayer & reverence for Law. Pray before war.
      • Psalms of thanksgiving after war.
      • Name of Lord too holy to be uttered. “Heaven”
      • Dedication to Law = unites and energizes Jewish resistance. Mattathias burns with zeal for Law + Judas has Law as guide + victory due to observing Law.
    1. reverence for institutions: the temple & the holy city
      • Maccabees fought on behalf of the Temple and the Law against Gentile oppression and Jewish apostasy.
      • Temple = worth more than one’s life. –> leads to Judas and brothers sacrificing themselves in battle. Climax = rededicate Temple.
      • Jerusalem = holy city b/c Lord’s presence in Temple. = attack Jerusalem –> eventually attacker is destroyed.



Author & Date:

  • A well-educated Greek speaking Jew from diaspora, perhaps from Cyrene or Egypt, where flourishing Jewish communities existed in the last centuries before Christ. Very high-flowing Greek.
  • Pharisaic tendencies = resurrection of the dead.
  • Earlier work than 1 M.
  • More edifying & inspiring than 1 M.
  • Book is a digest of a 5-volume history which Jason of Cyrene wrote in Greek shortly after 160 BC (ends around death of Judas). Author is a Hellenistic Jew & important figure in the Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt (if opening words are his). Epitomist finished digestion around 124 BC and before original Hebrew 1 Maccabees was finished.

Literary Form:

  • Condensation of Jason of Cyrene’s 5 volume work. Reliable work.
  • Style: Brevity of expression & forego exhaustive treatment (2 M. 2:31).

Pathetic history (literature that uses every means to appeal to the imagination and stir the passions of the reader). Marked by exaggeration of #’s, creation of dialogue, prodigious miracles… idealizes his story & leaves out other parts.


  • Narrates the history from Seleucus IV (187 BC) to Maccabean victory of Seleucid general Nicanor (160 BC).
  • The Second book of Maccabees covers much the same ground as 1 Maccabees 1–7, but it is more explicit in giving a theological interpretation of the events of the period. Begins around 180 BC and ends 161 BC
  • 2 M = Martyrdom – history from above – divine – interior life – subjective florid lessons.
  • Focuses just on Judas Maccabaeus.
  • Subordinates militarism to martyrdom.
  • Heroes of 2 M = NOT freedom fighters but ordinary Jews who remained faithful to the Law in the face of the Seleucid persecution.
  • Judas = defender and advocate of the faithful.
  • Focus on spiritual protest over the call to arms.
  • Advocates non-violence.
  • 1st 7 chapters –> starts earlier than 1 M.

2 Maccabees:

  1. Introduction (chapters 1-2)
    1. A Letter to the Jews in Egypt (1:1–9)
    2. A Letter to Aristobulus (1:10–2:18)
      1. Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant, Tent, & Altar.
    3. Preface (2:19-32)
      1. “Judaism” = concept emerges here for 1st time = religious faith + culture –> opposed to Hellenism.
  1. Prelude to the Wars (chapters 3-7)
    1. Events relating to Temple, priesthood, Syrian persecution of Jews from years 176 to 164 BC
    2. 2 Maccabees focuses more on internal corruption in priesthood of Simon, Jason, Menelaus.
    3. Heliodorus is sent to rob the Temple BUT Heaven intervenes with a miracle (horse & 2 figures attack him = divine intervention theme).
    4. Jason steals high priesthood from Onias & leads nation into “Greek way of life” … then Menelaus bribes to get high priesthood.
    5. Statue of Zeus in Temple –> national disaster = punishment for sin –> hope though — sign of God’s kindness to punish swift rather than let them go on sinning for long time. God is correcting His people and values them more than Temple.
    6. Martyrdom of 7 brothers – gory details about torture – heroism over observance of Law –> doctrines of resurrection from dead + creation ex nihilo (b/c God created from nothing He will raise from nothing) + vicarious suffering (faith of innocent effective power against evil of other’s sins).
        1. Mother is the great hero & true theologian of 2M. God put life into her being & arranged its elements. Connects beginning of man + origin of all things (same origin). If he can create from nothing, he can also raise up back from the dust. Those who confidently have this hope can forget themselves for the sake of His laws (natural law = preserve own life highest duty).
        2. Meaning of suffering = (1) expiatory, (2) training, (3) bring out other’s confession, (4) vicarious suffering for nation. –> maturation of Israel’s theology of suffering over 200-300 years since Ezra-Nehemiah.
  1. Judas Maccabaeus (chapters 8-15) – 166-160 BC
    1. Parallels 1 M 3-7.
      1. But skips story of his father & Judas’ defeat & death & leadership of Judas’ brothers Jonathan and Simon + far more religious commentary.
      2. Chapter 8 – Judas’ guerrilla warfare = probably historically accurate.
    1. Story of Judas and his decisive victory over Nicanor.
    2. Death of Antiochus gruesome + makes vow to set Jerusalem free = God’s retribution – justice is done.
    3. Capture of Jerusalem & Temple by Judas – feast of Hannukah.
    4. Prayers for dead – purgatory – power of prayer – mercy of God.
    5. Judas’ victory over Nicanor – men fighting with their hands and praying to God with their hearts.


  • Judaism, the distinctive culture animated by Jewish faith in conflict with Hellenism
  • Treachery and corruption within Israel, especially within the high priesthood
  • Miraculous intervention of heavenly beings
  • Oppression by hostile powers seen as God’s temporary anger for the correction of the people
  • Life after death by resurrection of the body
  • suffering and death as redemptive for others
  • vicarious expiation through sacrifices and prayers


  • Culture war –> permeated even to the high priesthood (like how book of Kings talks about sins of kings)
  • Just war theory.
  • Suffering = punishment of God for sins of high priests (like Deut. theology)
  • Punishment as medicinal = punishment from God’s love.
  • Suffering of just is redemptive for others too.
  • God named constantly. God close at hand. Waiting to be prayed to & anxious to answer the prayers of his chosen ones.
  • Divine intervention
  • Faith & hope & dedication to God
  • Resurrection of dead = God’s justice fulfilled.
  • Pious dead can still assist the living (Onias & Jeremiah vision).

Catechism & 2 Maccabees:

  1. Creation ex nihilo
  2. Existence of soul
  3. Resurrection of dead
  4. Communion with dead


  • “we have aimed to please those who wish to read, to make it easy for those who are inclined to memorize, and to profit all readers” (2 Mac. 2:25).
  • Goal = use historical events to edify, instruct and inspire readers.
  • The Victory of faith
      • Faith = proves victorious for God’s ppl at all times.
  1. God’s interaction with the Jewish people
    • God exercises judgments upon the Jews within history to bring them to salvation in the end + always hope-filled (repentance evokes divine mercy always) + obey = victory
    • God is sovereign over beginning & end of history (mother of 7 sons = links conception & resurrection – great theologian of the book).
    • Life after death = efficacy of prayers on behalf of those who died.
  1. Prayer, the Temple, the Law
  • Prayer = always efficacious
  • Judas as leader of prayer – before & after battle = focus on preserving Temple & observing the Law.
  • Temple = what distinguishes God’s holy people – God defeats enemies who try to destroy Temple + allows infidels to defile Temple only to discipline his people
  • People = more important than Temple (“the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place; but the place for the sake of the nation” (5:19)).
  • Obey Law = brings success – Judas and companions observe Sabbath.
  • Obey Scripture = must animate prayer to shape community life.
  1. The Character Portraits of Faith
  • Faith produces authenticity
  • Heroes of the faith shown.
  • Judas = model of leadership & courage –> prayer + Temple + God’s word.
  • Martyrs = ordinary people overshadow Judas in virtue.
  • Eleazar = wisdom + faith –> model of elderly.
  • Mother of 7 sons = integrity + truth.
  • Strength of character instead of political power.


  1. Simon II (220-198) – Ref Sirach 50 – praised & described in splendour in liturgy.
  2. Onias (198-175) – under Onias, Seleucids came under power (NOT the Ptolemys)… so Seleucids made Jason priest
  3. Jason (174-171) – promoted Hellenism.
  4. Menelaus (172-162) – paid a lot to gain high priesthood.

The Inspiration and Truth of Scripture 2014

Approach Bible as given + come to it with nuanced understanding of its formation & how God speaks through it.

Historical books = NOT trying to give chronological account.  God = main actor in the historical books. They are theologized accounts. History from God’s intervention & direction. Truth = didactic or theological. This history is NOT a myth though. * Truth of Scripture = DV11 – God committed to Scripture to truth in view of our salvation. Need flexibility to work with literary genre.

So how do we read it faith-filled and intelligibly?

  1. Inspiration of scripture – put yourself in the stream of the faith of the Church. Church has accepted & handed down these books as normative and decisive for our faith as inspired by God.
    1. influence of the Spirit – the same Spirit who inspired scripture also helps us to interpret it. Spirit active in Church and in authors = both ends. dynamic living process.
    2. Guided by lived experience of the risen Lord.
    3. Unity that all works come from Holy Spirit… but in a plurality of ways…expressions through many human voices… and in ongoing elaboration of books.
    4. Mature adherence to the word of God overall.
  1. Truth of Scripture – has divine qualities. NOT just a sum of info about human knowledge. but God’s revelation of His plan globally. Goal = salvation of the world. So that is why there an inconsistencies. Truth of Scripture = DV11 – God committed to Scripture to truth in view of our salvation. Need flexibility to work with literary genre.
      1. Truth expressed in a multiplicity of forms. Different kinds of literary means, points of views, … overall gives symphony of voices… unified message from many individuals. 
      2. Truth is revealed IN HISTORY – has a shape to it.
      3. Truth has to be heard within WHOLE canon.
      4. Truth gathered up fully in Christ. The One and the Many.
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