Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Name Maccabee and The Books Of The Maccabees by William Fairweather 1897

The Name Maccabee And The Books Of The Maccabees by William Fairweather 1897

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Maccabaeus was originally the distinctive surname of Judas, third son of the Jewish priest Mattathias, and after his death leader of the war of independence against the Syrian kings (i Macc. ii. 66, iii. i, v. 24). Partly owing to our ignorance of the original Hebrew form, the derivation of the name is uncertain. Most modern scholars, however, connect it with maqqabah "hammer." It is probable that the surnames of the sons of Mattathias were used simply for purposes of better designation, and in this aspect that of "hammerer" seems natural enough. Symbolically interpreted, it would also yield a quite suitable meaning: as one who beat down the enemies of his nation Judas, like Charles Martel in a later age, might fitly be called the "hammerer." So Josephus ben Gorion (8th or 9th cent, A.d.) makes Mattathias address his son as "my son Judas who art called Machabaeus on account of thy bravery."

It has been held by many that "Maccabee" was formed from the initials of the opening (Hebrew) words of Ex. xv. 1 1 ("who is like Thee among the gods, Jehovah"), which were supposed to have been the watchword of the party; but the doubled KK of the Greek form remains upon this theory inexplicable. The same consideration tells against the derivation from kabah Is. xliii. 17, the "extinguisher" or "queller," i.e. of his enemies.

From a very early date the name Maccabee began to be used in a wider sense. Transferred at first to the whole family of which Judas was a member, it soon came to be freely applied to all his relatives and adherents, and even to all who were identified with the struggle against the Seleucidae. In particular it was applied to Eleazar and the seven brothers who, along with, and encouraged by, their mother, endured without flinching the most cruel martyrdom under Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Macc. vi., vii.). From this standpoint the mother of these seven sons is designated by the Church fathers "the mother of the Maccabees." The use of the term as the title of the so-called Third, Fourth, and Fifth Books of Maccabees indicates a still further latitude of application. Modern usage, on the other hand, limits the term to the sons and descendants of Mattathias.

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From the circumstance that the great-grandfather of Mattathias bore the name Chasmon (i.e. fat, rich = magnate; cf. Ps. lxviii. 31 [32]), Greek Asamonaios, he, his sons, and their descendants are more frequently called in Jewish literature "Asmonaeans" or "Hasmonaeans" than Maccabees. But while it is usual to speak of the Hasmonaean dynasty, and the Hasmonaean age, no attempt has been made to introduce the phrase "Hasmonaean books"; writers both ancient and modern use the title "Books of the Maccabees." These books, it should be understood, are not parts of one book, like 1 and 2 Kings, or even a connected series.

1 Maccabees is by far the most important of the Books of Maccabees. It records minutely the events of the forty years from the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes to the death of Simon (B.C. 175—135), the most heroic period of Jewish history.

2 Maccabees deals with the same history, although covering scarcely half of the ground embraced in the first book. Its starting-point takes us back a year further (B.C. 176), but it does not carry down the narrative beyond the death of Nicanor (B.C. 161). Two spurious letters from the Palestinian Jews, the first addressed to their brethren in Egypt (i. 1—9), and the second to the priest Aristobulus, King Ptolemy's teacher (i. 10— ii. 18), are followed by the writer's own-preface in which he indicates the sources and design of his work (ii. 19—32). The remainder of the book consists of an epitome of the five books of Jason of Cyrene on the struggle for freedom called forth by the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes. In point of reliability and general value it falls far short of the First Book of Maccabees, the authority of which is always to be preferred in case of any discrepancy between the two. Another important difference between 1 and 2 Macc is that the one was originally Hebrew and the other Greek. Although often inaccurate, highly coloured, and lavish in its use of the miraculous element, 2 Macc is still in many respects a useful supplement to the first book; but the writer's sympathy with the Pharisees, who latterly became determined opponents of the Hasmonaeans, has imparted to the narrative a strong spirit of partisanship.

3 Maccabees tells of a supernatural deliverance experienced by the Egyptian Jews from a religious persecution by Ptolemy IV Philopator (B.C. 221—204) long before the Maccabaean rising was heard of. Although having the form of a historical narrative, the book is quite fictitious, and based upon a legend of which a simpler version is given by Josephus (c. Apion. ii. 5) in connexion with Ptolemy VII Physcon. The title "Book of Maccabees" is therefore in this case a misnomer. The work, which was probably written in the first century A.D., is found in the Syriac translation, and in most MSS. of the Septuagint, but appears never to have met with recognition in the Latin Church.

4 Maccabees is a sort of sermon on "the supremacy of reason" over impulse, written from a Stoic standpoint, and addressed to the Alexandrian Jews. It is called "The Fourth Book of Maccabees" because it embodies, although merely by way of illustration, some incidents from 2 Macc. It must have been composed before the destruction of Jerusalem (probably in the first century A.D.), but its authorship is unknown. It is contained in some important MSS. of the Septuagint (including the Alexandrian and Sinaitic), and also in some MSS. of Josephus, and has been printed under both categories.

In the great Ambrosian Peschito there is a so-called "Fifth Book of Maccabees," but it is simply a Syriac translation of the sixth book of Josephus _De Bello Judaico_. The Paris and London Polyglotts contain an Arabic "Book of Maccabees" purporting to be a history of the Jews from Heliodorus (B.C. 186) down to the closing years of Herod's reign (B.C. 6—4 ?). It is merely a Hellenistic compilation, and without the value of an independent narrative.

The order in which these books are named, while it obviously corresponds to their real worth, as well as to the date of their composition, is not chronological so far as their subject-matter is concerned.

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