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1 Maccabees

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James King West writes: "After a brief preface summarizing Alexander's conquests, death, and successors, the author begins his story with Antiochus Epiphanes' invasion of Egypt and subsequent desecration of the temple, and traces the story of the Maccabean revolt, the death of Antiochus, the defeat of Nicanor, and Simon's achievement of independence, his death, and the accession of John Hyrcanus I. The story is told in the idiom of the Former Prophets and Chronicles (cf. 9:22 and 16:23 with I Kg. 11:41 passim) and is concerned principally with the war itself and the providential victories of the Jews. So similar is the form, in fact, that R. H. Pfeiffer conjectures that the author may have planned his work as a sequel to Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah. The large place he gives to the exploits of Judas Maccabeus leaves no doubt that Judas is the author's hero, and that the book was written to show how God used him to bring deliverance once more to Israel. As with most ancient historians, the author provided appropriate speeches and prayers to help interpret the story, accent its important turns, characterize the heroes, and the like. At several points he presents copies of official documents affecting the course of his history. Whether these are authentic materials is a matter of dispute among scholars. Probably they represent a knowledge of the existence of such documents, and perhaps also at least a general knowledge of their content. Although in II Maccabees we have an alternate source for a considerable part of this history, the work is so basic to our knowledge of this period as to be indispensable. Not without reason, Josephus took it over as his main source for the period in his Antiquities of the Jews (XII, 5 to XIII, 7)." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 467)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The author of the work is not mentioned once. Whoever he was, he must have composed his text in the last years of John Hyrcanus, and in any case before the occupation of Jerusalem by Pompey, that is, about the end of the second ro the beginning of the first century BC. He was a Palestinian Jew who knew Hebrew and Aramaic well; we do not know whether he also knew Greek. He was an ardent patriot, for whom religion and nation were identical. The celebration of the action of the Maccabees stands out here against the modesty of the last chapters of proto-canonical Daniel. The author does not seem to have had any close contact with the sect of the Pharisees, since he never speaks of resurrection or of the messianic hope; it is possible that he wanted to write a kind of unofficial history of his time glorifying the Maccabees. However, he does not conceal some of the misdeeds of Simon, the founder of the dynasty: 14.4-48; 15:15-24 are the only texts which give him unqualified praise. In reality the author admires those who have made a substantial contribution towards liberating his country from Syrian oppression, but he also tries to show that they were subordinate to an institution which is historically obscure but mentioned on a number of occasions, which he calls 'the Great Synagogue' (3.44; 14:26-28): in the last analysis this decides policy and confirms Simon in his position." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 466)

David A. deSilva writes: "The book must have been written after the accession of John Hyrcanus in 134 B.C.E., since this event is the last related in the narrative. The author speaks of the Romans highly and emphasizes the Jews' friendly relations with Rome and Rome's faithfulnes as allies, necessitating a date of composition prior to 63 B.C.E. (Oesterley 1913: 60; Goldstein 1976: 63; Fischer 1992: 441; Bartlett 1998: 34). The narration of the achievements and character of the Romans in 8:1-16 is an encomium, contrasting sharply with later reflection on Roman conquest and rule as arrogance, insolence, and an affront against God. Pompey's entry into the holy places in 63 B.C.E. would have marred the author's unqualified appreciation of the Romans (as a comparison with the response of Psalms of Solomon 2; 8; 17 to that event might show). . . . The conclusion to the whole (16:23-24), while not necessitating a date after Hyrcanus's death, is certainly more naturally taken that way, given the parallels in the books of Samuel and Kings, on which the author is intentionally drawing (Oesterley 1913: 60; Pfeiffer 1949: 301; Goldstein 1976: 63; Bartlett 1998: 33). . . . It seems preferable, therefore, to consider 1 Maccabees as having originated sometime after John Hyrcanus's death in 104 B.C.E. and before Roman intervention in the dispute between Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II in 63 B.C.E." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 248)

Lawrence H. Schiffman writes: "It is generally agreed that the First Book of Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew. Even though no manuscripts or fragments still exist in Hebrew, the Greek text of 1 Maccabees has the unmistakable style of a rather literal translation from the Hebrew. Moreover, the church father Origen (third century A.D.) claimed that the Hebrew title of 1 Maccabees was Sarbethsabaniel. This puzzling title is difficult to interpret but may be a somewhat corrupt rendering of Hebrew sar bet 'el ('Prince of the House of God') or of sfar bet sabanai 'el ('Book of the House of the Resisters of God'). Most Greek manuscripts simply term the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees Makkabaion A and Makkabaion B. By the second century A.D. To Makkabaika ('The things Maccabean' or 'Maccabean Histories') was the designation for both 1 and 2 Maccabees. The early church father Clement of Alexandria (second century A.D.) termed 1 Maccabees to Biblion ton Makkabaikon ('The Book of Thing Maccabean') and 2 Maccabees he ton Makkabaikon epitome ('The Epitome of Things Maccabean'). Although 'Maccabee' (meaning 'hammer') was originally the nickname of the hero Judah, the use of the title 'Maccabean Histories led to the custom of referring to all of the heroes of the book as 'Maccabees.'" (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 875)

Neil J. McEleney writes: "Several complaints have been lodged against the historical reliability of 1 Mc. Its author's nationalism and the exaggerated importance he gives Judean events (1:41-43; 3:27-31; 6:5-13) are said to make his objectivity suspect. He is anti-Seleucid (1:9-10), and, moreover, he shows ignorance of the history, geography, and political organization of foreign peoples. His Jewish nationalism leads him to inflate the numbers of the enemy so as to make more striking the divine intervention on behalf of the Hasmoneans. And he has erred in placing the death of Antiochus IV after the dedication of the Temple. These and other historical shortcomings are thought to disqualify him as an accurate reporter of the period. Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss him so easily. Within the context of his culture and the canons of histriography then in force, he is a trustworthy witness of men and events. His care, for example, in matters of topography (7:19; 9:2, 4, 33) and Jewish chronology (1:54; 4:52; etc.) illustrate his genuine concern to report matters accurately within the limits of his capabilities and aims. His placing of Antiochus' death is wrong, but his description of it corresponds to that of an independent witness, the secular historian Polybius of Megalopolis (Histories 31.9). Despite his limitations, then, 1 Mc's author has, as Dancy notes, 'such large stretches of honest and sober narrative that 1 Mc deserves to be regarded as equal if not superior in historical worth, not only to any book of the Old Testament but also to most surviving Hellenistic history' (Dancy, op. cit., 8)." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 463)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "First Maccabees is part of the canon of Scripture in the Roman Catholic, Greek, and Russian Orthodox churches. It is not recognized as Scripture by Protestants and Jews. There has been, however, a puzzling ambivalence about 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Jewish tradition. Hanukkah, which celebrates the cleansing and rededication of the Jerusalem temple in 164 B.C.E. under Judas, is part of the traditional Jewish calendar of festivals. Although it is a minor holiday (except in countries where its proximity to Christmas has made it very significant), the 'biblical basis' for it lies in books not regarded as canonical. Since it is likely that 1 Maccabees was composed in Hebrew, its absence from the canon of Hebrew Scriptures is somewhat puzzling. These puzzlements have led some scholars to suspect that at some point in the first century there was a Jewish reaction against the Maccabees and what they stood for, and a deliberate attempt to push them out of the sacred tradition of Judaism. Perhaps 'messianic' claims were being made about Judas Maccabeus or some other figure who traced his ancestry back to the Maccabean movement. Perhaps in light of failed uprising against the Romans by Jews claiming to follow the example of Judas and his brothers, the custodians of the Jewish tradition found the Maccabees too controversial and dangerous. The revival of interest in the Maccabees as men of action and noble warriors in the modern state of Israel suggests that these suspicions have some basis in fact." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 135)

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