What are the Books of the Maccabees?
THE BOOKS OF THE MACCABEES
five in number, and containing the history of the Jewish rising under the leadership of the family of the Maccabees, belong to the Apocryphal books of the O.T. The first two books, however, which are found in the Vulgate, the earliest English versions, and also in the Cambridge Bible, were received into the canon of the Roman Catholic Church by the Council of Trent; the fifth exists only in Arabic. 1. The first book begins with the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes to the Syrian throne in b.c. 175, and narrates the revolt of the Jews under Mattathias, their brilliant successes under Judas Maccabaeus, and the continuation of the contest under Jonathan and Simeon till the death of the latter, in b.c. 135. It was originally written in Hebrew, in the first decades of the first century before Christ, and afterward translated into Greek; but we know only the translation. Its character is very different from that of the historical books of the 0.T.; it is a simple exposition of merely human exploits. But the author is veracious, and his apparent ignorance of Roman or other foreign affairs does not impugn his trustworthiness when he speaks of Jewish affairs. 2. The second book begins in the last time of the reign of Seleucus IV. Philopator, and ends with the victory of Judas Maccabaeus over Seleucus Nikanor in 160. It thus comprises a much shorter period than the first book; and where it relates the same events, it deviates very much from it. There can be no doubt, however, which of the two accounts is the more trustworthy. The second book is an extract from a larger work on the subject by one Jason of Cyrene, but we know neither this Jason nor his work, nor the epitomizer. The extract must have been made before the destruction of Jerusalem, and is written in an exaggerated and rhetorical style and with a definite religious tendency. 3. The third book narrates the visit of Ptolomeus IV. Philopator to the temple of Jerusalem in 217; his demand to enter the holy of holies, and the punishment of his audacity by the hand of God; his attempt to take vengeance on the Jews of Alexandria, and the immediate interference of God on their behalf; and finally, his conversion into a friend and benefactor of the Jewish people. The style in which this book is written is as bombastic and affected as its contents are fabulous. The historical kernel is very small, and even this little is not correctly rendered. 4. The fourth book begins with a philosophical dissertation on the supremacy of reason over the passions, and illustrates this subject with an account of the martyrdom of Eleazar, and the mother with her seven sons, following 2 Macc. 6, 7. 5. The fifth book gives the history of the Jews from Heliodorus to Herodes -- that is, from b.c. 184 to b.c. 86.
Bibliography Information Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'books of the maccabees' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". bible-history.com - Schaff's