Maccabees, Books of the
Easton's Bible Dictionary
There were originally five books of the Maccabees.
The first contains a history of the war of independence, commencing (B.C. 175)
in a series of patriotic struggles against the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes,
and terminating B.C. 135. It became part of the Vulgate Version of the Bible,
and was thus retained among the Apocrypha.
The second gives a history of the Maccabees' struggle from B.C. 176 to B.C. 161.
Its object is to encourage and admonish the Jews to be faithful to the religion
of their fathers.
The third does not hold a place in the Apocrypha, but is read in the Greek Church.
Its design is to comfort the Alexandrian Jews in their persecution. Its writer
was evidently an Alexandrian Jew.
The fourth was found in the Library of Lyons, but was afterwards burned.
The fifth contains a history of the Jews from B.C. 184 to B.C. 86. It is a compilation
made by a Jew after the destruction of Jerusalem, from ancient memoirs, to which
he had access. It need scarcely be added that none of these books has any divine
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Four books which bear the common title of "Maccabees"
are found in some MSS. of the LXX. Two of these were included in the early current
Latin versions of the Bible, and thence passed into the Vulgate. As forming part
of the Vulgate they were received as canonical by the Council of Trent, and retained
among the Apocrypha by the reformed churches. The two other books obtained no
such wide circulation and have only a secondary connection with the Maccabaean
THE FIRST BOOK OF MACCABEES
contains a history of the patriotic struggle of the Jews in resisting the oppressions
of the Syrian kings, from the first resistance of Mattathias to the settled sovereignty
and death of Simon, a period of thirty-three years--B.C. 168-135. The great subject
of the book begins with the enumeration of the Maccabaean family, ch, 2:1-5, which
is followed by an account of the part which the aged Mattathias took in rousing
and guiding the spirit of his countrymen. ch. 2:6-70. The remainder of the narrative
is occupied with the exploits of Mattathias five sons. The great marks of trustworthiness
are everywhere conspicuous. Victory and failure end despondency are, on the whole,
chronicled with the same candor. There is no attempt to bring into open display
the working of Providence. The testimony of antiquity leaves no doubt that the
book was first written in Hebrew. Its whole structure points to Palestine as the
place of its composition. There is, however, considerable doubt as to its date.
Perhaps we may place it between B.C. 120-100. The date and person of the Greek
translator are wholly undetermined.
THE SECOND BOOK OF MACCABEES. --
The history of the second book of Maccabees begins some years earlier than that
of the first book. and closes with the victory of Judas Maccabaeus over Nicanor.
It thus embraces a period of twenty years, from B.C. 180 to B.C. 161. The writer
himself distinctly indicates the source of his narrative--the five books of Jason
of Cyrene, ch. 2:23, of which he designed to furnish a short and agreeable epitome
for the benefit of those who would be deterred from studying the larger work.
Of Jason himself nothing more is known than may be gleaned from this mention of
him. The second book of Maccabcees is not nearly so trustworthy as the first.
In the second book the groundwork of facts is true, but the dress in which the
facts are presented is due in part at least to the narrator. The latter half of
the book, chs. 8-15, is to be regarded as a series of special incidents from the
life of Judas, illustrating the providential interference of God in behalf of
his people, true in substance, but embellished in form.
THE THIRD BOOK OF MACCABEES
contains the history of events which preceded the great Maccabaean struggle beginning
with B.C. 217.
THE FOURTH BOOK OF MACCABEES
contains a rhetorical narrative of the martyrdom of Eleazar and of the "Maccabaean
family," following in the main the same outline as 2 Macc.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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