#20 Little Known Books of the Apocrypha

3 Maccabees
  • 3 Maccabees was originally written in Greek.  It was included in the Septuagint Bible.  It’s original title is unknown.  Some Orthodox churches include this book in their Bibles, but Catholics and Protestants do not.
  • It has the same characters as 2 Maccabees: it has the prayers of Eleazar the teacher of the Law and Simon the high priest.  They lived between 170 and 130 BC.
  • The focus of the book was on martyrdom and the persecution of the Jews outside Judah.  Some Jews were killed by trampling by intoxicated elephants.  The historian Josephus confirms that this did take place in Egypt under Ptolemy VIII Physcon (146-117 BC).
  • Genre: Little-known book of the Apocrypha.
4 Maccabees
  • 4 Maccabees was written in Greek by the author.  The original title was ‘On the Sovereignty of Reason’.
  • It is a meld of Hellenistic Judaism and Greek philosophy.  It praises pious reason over the passions.
  • It recounts the martyrdom of the seven sons and of Eleazar described in 2 Maccabees who were forced to eat pork.  It asks the reader to emulate these examples of obedience to Jewish law.
  • The author makes mistakes about Jerusalem so obviously did not come from there.
  • These books were only conserved in Constantinople by Orthodox Christians, and not by Jews in Jerusalem.  It was also rejected by Catholics.
  • Genre: Little-known book of the Apocrypha.
Book of Odes
  • The Book of Odes is only found in Eastern Orthodox Bibles.  It consists of prayers and songs lifted from the Old Testament and sung during Orthodox matins.
  • It would have been compiled by the Greek-speaking church as a liturgical song book.
  • Genre: Minor Apocryphal book with songs copied from the Old Testament.
Apocryphal books not included in Catholic Bibles:

3 and 4 Maccabees

The books 3 and 4 Maccabees were written in Greek and conserved only in Constantinople by Orthodox Christians.  They are not used or recognized by Catholics or Protestants.

The theme of these two books follows the details of martyrdoms among Jewish Maccabean followers, especially the martyrdom of Eleazar.

The mention of Simon the High Priest who was martyred in 134 BC dates the books to after this time, and the mention of martyrdom by being trampled by elephants may refer to an event which according to the historian Josephus took place under Ptolemy VIII Physcon some time between 146 and 117 BC.

The author of 3 and 4 Maccabees could have been Yeshua ben Sira’s grandson who went to Egypt in 132 BC.  The reason for this connection is the insistence on the martyrdom of Eleazar to whom this author was related.  The books are a repetition of the history given in the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees.  4 Maccabees original name was ‘On the Sovereignty of Reason’ as it was also about wisdom.

It is as well not to include 3 and 4 Maccabees in the Bible as they are a repetition of previous books.

The Book of Odes

The Book of Odes is a collection of songs taken from the Old and New Testaments to use in Eastern Orthodox liturgy.  It is therefore not a Bible book.

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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