#17: 2 Maccabees

  • 2 Maccabees consists of a short and a long letter from Jews in Jerusalem to Jews in Egypt.  The second letter is from Judas Maccabeus and the senators of Jerusalem to Aristobulus, a priest and teacher of King Ptolemy.  Thus, the author of 2 Maccabees was Judas Maccabeus written in about 160 BC before he died.
  • The author’s preface in chapter 2 tells how the story of Judas Maccabeus was recorded by Jason of Cyrene, a historian in five volumes (2 Macc 2:19-32).  This letter – 2 Maccabees – is a simple summary of that very detailed series of history books.
  • Thus, the Apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees was written by Judas Maccabeus; it covers stories of persecution of the Jews at the hands of the Syrians and Greeks from Athens and covers all the exploits of Judas himself as leader of the Jews.
  • The High Priests of the Second Temple become the leaders of the Jews in Judea much like the ancient Judges of Israel. After 175 BC the Maccabee brothers Mattatias, Judas, Jonathan and Simon and then Simon’s son John rule as High Priests.
  • 2 Maccabees opens with Onias the high priest and King Seleucus.  Events take place between King Seleucus IV dying in 175 BC, the reign of King Antiochus Epiphanes from this date, and King Antiochus Eupator who reigned from 172 to 161 BC.
  • Story of Heliodorus trying to rob the Temple and the problem with Greek customs making people reluctant to serve in the Temple.
  • King Antiochus from Tyre, Syria attacked Egypt and then laid siege to Jerusalem and emptied the Second Temple of its treasures.  Then an Athenian god is set up in the Temple.  The Greeks had orgies in the Temple and forced Jews to join a procession for the feast of Dionysus and wear flowers.
  • Eleazar, a teacher of the Law was forced to eat pork.  He was 90 years old and they beat him to death.  Seven brothers were also forced to eat pork in front of King Antiochus, but they spoke up and had their tongues cut out.  Each brother was killed one by one in front of their mother.  She declares that they will rise again to life at the resurrection.
  • While this torturing of Jews was going on, Judas Maccabeus was organizing rebellion.  Thus, 2 Maccabees covers the same time period as 1 Maccabees but starts before it.
  • Genre: A collection of stories and what they mean for Maccabean period Jews. It is a major book of the Apocrypha written in Greek.

Published by clarevmerry

Christian - Bible - Catholic belief reassessment website. How does Catholic belief relate to the Bible? An even-handed approach by the author who has been a Catholic as long as she has been an Evangelical.

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