1 and 2 Maccabees

In honor of Chanukah, some information about the apocryphal Books of the Maccabees (from Lawrence Schiffman, From Text to Tradition, Ktav Publishing House, Hoboken, NJ, 1991, p.120-138):

Finally, the apocrypha provides us with two of the most important historical sources for the Second Temple period, 1 and 2 Maccabees. 1 Maccabees is an account of the history of Judea from 175 to 134 B.C.E. It describes the background of the Maccabean revolt, the revolt itself, the exploits of Judah the Maccabee, and the efforts of his brothers Jonathan and Simon to permanently reestablish Jewish national independence and religious practice. The author paints the Hasmoneans as loyal Jews fighting against extremist Hellenizing Jews and their Seleucid supporters. 1 Maccabees was written in Hebrew in the early decades of the first century B.C.E. It survives only in the Greek text, which served as a major source for the first-century C. E. historian Josephus.

2 Maccabees is an abridgement of a lost five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene. Jason’s work and the abridgement were both composed in rhetorical Greek. 2 Maccabees details the events which led up to the Maccabean revolt and the career of Judah, concluding with his death in 160 B.C.E. As it stands now, the purpose of the book is to encourage the observance of the holiday of Hanukkah. Jason wrote not long after 160 B.C.E., and the abridger probably did his work before 124 B.C.E. Josephus did not have access to this book. To a great extent it serves as a complement to 1 Maccabees, since the two books emphasize different aspects of the revolt and the events surrounding it. On the other hand, there are many chronological and historical inconsistencies between the two works.

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