Last modified on April 29, 2022, at 13:34

2 Maccabees

The Second Book of Maccabees is found in the books of the Septuagint, the Old Testament accepted as inspired and canonical by the Orthodox Church in the Greek Orthodox Bible, and found in the books of the Old Testament of the Vulgate and included in the canon of inspired scripture by the Third Council of Carthage (397). It is included in the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible. Since the Council of Trent it is dogmatically accepted as inspired and canonical by the Catholic Church in the Catholic Bible—books of the Bible accepted as divinely inspired by the majority of Christian believers in the United States and throughout the world.[1][2]

2 Maccabees was first removed from the Old Testament and placed in the Apocrypha by Martin Luther in the 16th century. The Second Book of Maccabees is regarded as an apocryphal book of the Old Testament by less than one-third of Christian believers.[2]

See Apocrypha and Biblical Canon; also Maccabees, Books of.


2 Maccabees is one of the Historical books of the Bible, similar in tone to the books of Kings and Chronicles and Joshua and Judges. It is a religious summary or epitome by an unknown author of a 5 volume work by an unknown Jason of Cyrene, covering the history of the Jews from the time of the rise of Alexander the Great during the high priesthood of Jaddua about 333 B.C., through the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and the resistance of the Maccabees under Judas Maccabeus. The book is prefaced by copies of official correspondence sent to the Jews in Egypt in 124 B.C., and a second document addressed to Aristobulus II "of the family of the anointed priests" Hasmonean high priest of the nation 66 to 63 B.C. in the time of Pompey of Rome. The book was evidently written shortly after that time as an encouragement to the Jews to remain faithful to God with confidence in his power over the nations.

The Dedication (2 Maccabees 10:1-8 and John 10:22-23)

2 Maccabees Chapter 10:1-8 relates the triumphant recovery and dedication of the Temple after the defilement of the pagans and apostate Jews who had gone over to Hellenism. The Feast of the Dedication is mentioned in the Gospel According to John, chapter 10:22-23. Today this celebration is called Ḥanukkah. It demonstrates the miraculous providence of God in preserving the nation in the face of violent religious oppression, and the overcoming of pagan forces seeking the annihilation of the Jews and the destruction of the books (scrolls) of the sacred scriptures containing the written Word of God. It ends with the triumphant defeat of Nicanor, the Syrian general, his beheading, and the decree that this day be celebrated, the 13th day of Adar, the day before Purim on the 14th and 15th day of Adar the 12th month of the Jewish calendar.

Chapter summary headings

The chapter summary headings as they appear in the Douay-Rheims Bible are as follows:

1 Letters of the Jews of Jerusalem to them that were in Egypt. They give thanks for their delivery from Antiochus [Antiochus X Eusebes]: and exhort their brethren to keep the feast of the dedication of the altar, and of the miraculous fire.
2 A continuation of the second letter. Of Jeremias' hiding the ark at the time of the captivity. the author's preface.
3 Heliodorus is sent by king Seleucus to take away the treasures deposited in the temple. He is struck by God, and healed by the prayers of the high priest.
4 Onias has recourse to the king. The ambition and wickedness of Jason and Menelaus. Onias is treacherously murdered.
5 Wonderful signs are seen in the air. Jason's wickedness and end. Antiochus takes Jerusalem, and plunders the temple.
6 Antiochus commands the law to be abolished, sets up an idol in the temple and persecutes the faithful. The martyrdom of Eleazar.
7 The glorious martyrdom of the seven brethren and their mother.
8 Judas Machabeus gathering an army gains divers victories.
9 The wretched end, and fruitless repentance of king Antiochus.
10 The purification of the temple and city. Other exploits of Judas. His victory of Timotheus.
11 Lysias is overthrown by Judas. He sues for peace.
12 The Jews are still molested by their neighbours. Judas gains divers victories over them. He orders sacrifice and prayer for the dead.
13 Antiochus and Lysias again invade Judea. Menelaus is put to death. The king's great army is worsted twice. The peace is renewed.
14 Demetrius challenges the kingdom. Alcimus applies to him to be made high priest: Nicanor is sent into Judea: his dealings with judas: his threats. The history of Razias.
15 Judas encouraged by a vision gains a glorious victory over Nicanor. The conclusion.

See Literalist Bible chronology

Confused readings of the identity of Antiochus in 2 Maccabees 1

Some commentaries and footnotes on the deuterocanonical/apocrypha books of 1 and 2 Maccabees state that there are 3 conflicting accounts of the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in these works,[3] some writers adducing from this interpretive reading of the text (and other perceived indications) that the books are false and unhistorical, full of errors, and therefore apocryphal. They are evidently misled by the name "Antiochus" into believing that all 3 accounts are drawn from independent and conflicting sources, each attempting to describe the death of one man, and not of different men, each of whom was named Antiochus, and that they were collected together without any attempt at editorial correction, harmonizing, or comment on their differences by the author of the book. Our recent custom of numbering kings with the same name as I, II, III, IV, V, etc., the First, the Second, the Third, the Fourth, the Fifth, etc. is unknown in antiquity, and is perhaps a factor contributing to the confusion of identity. However, the text alone of the books of the Maccabees mentions distinctly separate individuals having each the name of "Antiochus" combined with a second nomen (see Topical Bible: Antiochus):

  • Antiochus Epiphanes ("the Illustrious"), who succeeded his brother Seleucus Kallinikos 175 B.C..
(2 Maccabees 4:7) Antiochus IV Epiphanes called simply ,"Antiochus": 1 Maccabees 1–6; 2 Maccabees 4–9.
  • Antiochus Eupator ("Nobleborn"), son and successor to Antiochus Epiphanes, who ascended the throne as a boy (163-161 B.C.)
(2 Maccabees 9:29; 13:1) Antiochus V Eupator called simply ,"Antiochus": 1 Maccabees 6–7; 2 Maccabees 11–14.
  • Antiochus Theos ("God"), or, according to coins, Dionysus Epiphanes, the son of Alexander Balas, who claimed to be the son of Antiochus Epiphanes, and thus brother of Antiochus V Eupator. Alexander Balas left the throne to his son Antiochus in 146 B.C.
(1 Maccabees 11:39-40; 54-57). Antiochus VI Theos called simply ,"Antiochus": 1 Maccabees 11–13.
  • Antiochus Eusebes ("Pious")
(2 Maccabees 1:11-17). Antiochus X Eusebes called simply ,"Antiochus": 2 Maccabees 1.
In the 1st chapter of 2 Maccabees, the second letter (1:10–2:18) is addressed to Aristobulus:
"...To Aristobulus,[4] who is of the family of the anointed priests, teacher of Ptolemy the king [5]...Having been saved by God out of grave dangers we thank him greatly for taking our side against the king. For he drove out those who fought against the holy city."

This aggressive military action of Antiochus X against Jerusalem is related indirectly by Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 14, Chapters 2—4, in which he relates that numbers of men swarmed out of Persia and fought against the Jews, and the holy city. The second letter of 2 Maccabees relates (1:13-16) the death of Antiochus X Eusebes and his men,[6] during the course of a military expedition, as locked inside the temple of Nanaya/Nanea in Persia,[7] stoned to death and beheaded by the priests. Mahlon H. Smith states that, according to Syrian records, Antiochus X Eusebes died fighting the Parthian Empire (which included Persian territory).[8][9] This Antiochus should not be confused with the earlier Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who failed to take Elymais and its temple, and afterward died of parasitic infection and decay in the mountains of Persia. 1 Maccabees 6:1-16; 2 Maccabees 9:1-10, 28.

See Literalist Bible chronology.

Some scholars (The New American Bible 1970 for example) nevertheless believe that the Antiochus referred to in this text of 2 Maccabees 1:14 was Antiochus IV Epiphanes:
[2 Maccabees] "1, 14-17: A different account of the death of Antiochus IV is given in 2 Mc 9, 1-29 and another variant account in 1 Mc 6, 1-16. The writer of this letter [10] probably heard a distorted rumor of the king's death. This fact and other indications show that the letter was written very soon after Antiochus IV died, hence in 164 B.C."
—New American Bible, 2 Maccabees 1:14–17, footnote.[11]

However, the address of the letter of the senate and Judas in Jerusalem to "Aristobulus, who is of the family of anointed priests",[12] that is, of the family of the Hasmonean high priests, indicates a period after 104 B.C., after the death of John Hyrcanus I.

As with the text of Daniel 11:45, a literalist interpretation of 2 Maccabees rejects the liberalist scholarly view of a "distorted rumor" in favor of an "inerrant" reading that takes the narrative as an accurate report, and therefore as not referring to the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but to the actual death of another Antiochus who was slain by the Parthians in the (Syrian) region of Persia/the Parthian Empire in the temple of Nanaya. The extra-biblical evidence cited by Mahlon H. Smith and others regarding the "official" circumstances of the death of Antiochus X tends to support a literalist view that the "official" Syrian record is an ancient historical revisionist account written to cover up the truth of his humiliating and scandalous death as recorded in the Bible, and presented by embarrassed Syrian chroniclers as being instead the death of a king in the midst of a battle against his Parthian enemy, but this literalist understanding of the contradicting historical record is currently a minority opinion.

It is a characteristic mark of liberalist scholarship to take the word of pagan writers as being unquestionably more reliable and accurate than the word of the biblical author, and to take the judgment of the biblical canon by Jews who reject Christianity and the entire New Testament and Jesus Christ himself as being unquestionably more reliable and accurate than the judgment of the Holy Spirit who guided and led the apostles and early Church leaders who accepted and preserved all the books of the Septuagint as that authentic Old Testament of the Bible which clearly proves that Jesus is the Christ together with the judgment of those Christian Church leaders ("obey those who are over you in the Lord; for they watch over your souls" Hebrews 13:17) who finally closed the debate over the canonical status of the books of the Bible.

Text comparison

Online links to the three texts are provided here for comparison (Douay-Rheims Bible):

Compare: 1 Maccabees 6:8 and 2 Maccabees 9:3-10 The abbreviated summary statement in 1 Maccabees 6:8 is simply related, with the details of the story related in 2 Maccabees 9:3-10. In both accounts, Antiochus goes to Persia. In 1 Maccabees he tried to take Elymais and its temple;[13] and in Persia, after being withstood, and fleeing with intention to return to Babylon, and after hearing of the revolt in Judea, while still in Persia, he is stricken ill, and he dies. In 2 Maccabees, while he was in Persia, Antiochus also went to Persepolis and attempted to rob the temple ("temples" plural RSV) and control the city, and after being withstood, and again shamefully retreating, and while he was in Ecbatana, in Persia, and after hearing of the revolt in Judea, he departs from Ecbatana, he is stricken ill, and he dies (2 Maccabees 9:28; Daniel 11:44-45). There is no conflict here: the story is essentially the same. An omission in one narrative which is included in another is not a contradiction of the source. Compare 1 Maccabees 1:16-52 and 2 Maccabees 5:1-26. The second invasion of Egypt in 2 Maccabees 5:1 is not mentioned in 1 Maccabees, but there is no conflict here. The two accounts complement each other: what one has not, the other has. And it is the same with the narratives of 1 Maccabees 6:1-16 and 2 Maccabees 9:1-29.

But there is another, distinctly different story, about another Antiochus. In the 1st chapter of 2 Maccabees another Antiochus dies inside the temple of Nanea, in Babylon, not in Persia. Compare: 2 Maccabees 1:14-16. The temple of Nanea/Nanaya was not in Elymais near Susa, but westward of that city, outside of Persia, closer to Judea, in Uruk, an ancient city of Sumer, later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river. The distance between Susa in the east and Babylon toward the west is about 2,435 miles (3,919 kilometers) in a straight line.[14][15][16] The setting of this story is clearly not the same.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was not alive during the high priesthood of Aristobulus II 66–63 B.C. when the second letter of 2 Maccabees 1 was written. The Antiochus who died in the temple of Nanea was not Antiochus IV. The stories are of two different occurrences with two different men who died at two different times and in two different places. They are not the same. The editor and author of 2 Maccabees does not identify them as representing the same event, nor should we. From the context the two letters of 2 Maccabees 1–2 were not part of the work by Jason of Cyrene epitomized by the author of 2 Maccabees, but were written approximately 36 and 95 years, respectively, after the events he documented in his history (Nicanor was defeated by Judas 160 B.C.).

By an interpretive reading (eisegesis [17]) of the name "Antiochus" as representing only the one man Antiochus IV Epiphanes alone, in each of the three narratives discussed above, a contradiction and confusion and error is perceived and introduced where none in fact exists. There is no awareness of the supportive factual details of history in such a reading and in such commentaries, which only leads to erroneous conclusions about the factual historicity of the book. See Mark 4:24-25
"And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath." KJV

Historical-grammatical text analysis: historical setting

The two Books of Maccabees contain independent accounts of events (in part identical) that accompanied the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C. The vigorous reaction to this attempt established for a time the religious and political independence of the Jews.

The context of the composition of the book of Second Maccabees shows that it was written after the composition and distribution of copies of the First Book of the Maccabees. It begins with 2 letters of official correspondence highlighting the importance of commemorating and celebrating the Feast of Booths, one of them dating after the time of John Hyrcanus I (died 104 B.C.). These two letters are followed by an additional introductory preface by the author explaining his purpose in writing the book, before it presents the author's abbreviation of a 5-volume history written by Jason of Cyrene some time after the events. It ends with an "Afterword" by the author restating his purpose in writing the book:
"So these things being done with relation to Nicanor, and from that time the city being possessed by the Hebrews, I also will here make an end of my narration. Which if I have done well, and as it becometh the history, it is what I desired; but if not so perfectly, it must be pardoned me. For as it is hurtful to drink always wine, or always water, but pleasant to use sometimes the one, and sometimes the other: so if the speech be always nicely framed, it will not be grateful [grating, unpleasant] to the readers. But here it shall be ended." —2 Maccabees 15:38-39 Douay-Rheims Bible DR.
Compare 2 Maccabees 2:19-32 NABRE and 2 Maccabees 15:38-39 NABRE

Historical-critical textual analysis

2 Maccabees is not a continuation of the history given in 1 Maccabees, but an alternate account of the events described in 1 Maccabees 1–7. The Second Book of Maccabees describes the struggle of the Jews for religious, cultural, and political independence against the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Greek who aggressively pressed for the complete hellenization of Judah and the utter elimination of every trace of Judaism.

The book belongs to what is called 'pathetic history', which tries to create sympathy for the actors and is not primarily aimed at the full truth. It is slightly ironic that Jason and the anonymous author of the Second Book of Maccabees wrote a history to make his point, because this literary genre was invented by Greeks. It is also a more religious book than its twin 1 Maccabees, using many themes from the Jewish Bible (for example, several titles for God). The book places a strong emphasis on loyalty to the Law and on God's reward in reserve for martyrs who die for their faith. One of the most interesting theological aspects is that the author assumes that the people who maintain God's Law will be resurrected.

James King West (Introduction to the Old Testament, page 468) tells us that the author's description of the toils, difficulties, and responsibilities of being an epitomizer is a classic (2:26-31). Since Jason's work has been lost, how faithfully the epitomizer has represented the scope and character of his work, and how much, if anything, has been brought into the present work from other sources, is moot, since the epitomizer has also assumed responsibility for making his work pleasant reading (2:25), and to that end employed the devices and style of popular Greek rhetoric. West concludes that the epitomizer can hardly have written earlier than 100 B.C., and observes that some scholars date his work as late as A.D. 50.

J. Alberto Soggin (Introduction to the Old Testament, page 469) writes that the book abounds in explanation of the law (see 6:5 and 5:17-20; 6:12-17 respectively), having a much greater interest in theology than 1 Maccabees, although somewhat roughly expressed in the form of reward and punishment. In 2 Maccabees 10:4 the pagans are defined as 'blasphemous and barbarous nations', but the writer also severely censures the considerable numbers of apostate Jews. A series of theological features absent from 1 Maccabees and present in 2 Maccabees includes the resurrection of the body in 7:11; 14:46, in striking contrast first to Wisdom and then to Philo, who following Neo-Platonic lines, tend rather to teach the immortality of the soul. 2 Maccabees 7:28 presents the first expression in Hebrew thought of the doctrine later called creatio ex nihilo, though not in the absolute form sometimes presented by other authors: the Greek is ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐποίησεν αὐτὰ ὁ Θεὸς ex ouk onton epoiesen auto ho theos, that is, 'God made the world not from things which were', which is not identical with 'nothing' in the philosophical sense of the term. In 7:9, 14 (see 14:46; 12:43) are concepts of eternal life and death, and in 12:43 the practice of intercession of the living for the dead, an element on which, Soggin says, the Catholic church has sometimes sought to found the doctrine of Purgatory. Soggin mentions a well-developed angelology in the book (3:24-28; 5:2-4; 10:29ff.; 11:8, etc.). He says that Pfeiffer has well observed the fact that 2 Maccabees is more a work of edification than of history. For Soggin, the author, Jason of Cyrene (in Cyrenaica), seems to have been a diaspora Jew who lived at Alexandria about 100 B.C..

Neil J. McEleney (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, page 462) says the first letter, 2 Maccabees 1:1-9, dated to 124 B.C., references another letter (verses 7-8) written in 143. He says that the undated second letter, 2 Maccabees 1:10-2:18, is considered substantially authentic and a literary unity by Abel and Starcky (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 27-30), who assign it to a contemporary of Judas writing in 164. McEleney cites other, dissenting, authors (W. Brownlee, IDB 3, 208; Dancy, IDB 3, 15-16; Eissfeldt, OTI 580-81) who consider it instead to be spurious, and even a composite, because 2 Maccabees 1:19-2:15 seems to interrupt the flow of the letter, which they see as "a later addition" to the book,.

Lawrence H. Schiffman (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, page 898) writes that it is most likely that the abridger worked directly from the works of Jason of Cyrene, shortening the lengthy text into this small book. He says the two letters in 2 Maccabees 1:1-2:18 have been added, either by the abridger, or by another editor, to the beginning of the book; and that it is difficult to judge the full extent of Jason's 5-volume history. Considering its length, it is difficult to believe that it was only a more detailed history of the fifteen years. Schiffman speculates that the abridger selected a period of great importance to him and prepared an abridgment and adaptation of Jason's account of that period. He points out that there are a number of indications that the letters were added by a third hand, since, as the text now stands they are not fully integrated into it, and may have been added in an attempt to propagate the observance of the festival of Hanukkah, which celebrated the purification of the Temple by Judah in 164 B.C. Schiffman says a few other additions were most certainly made, either by the abridger or some other editor.

Daniel J. Harrington (Invitation to the Apocrypha, pages 138-139) writes that the author expresses himself in his preface in a forthright and engaging way, which can mask several critical problems in using 2 Maccabees as a historical source, the first concerning the relationship between the original five-volume work of Jason of Cyrene (now lost) and the one-volume 2 Maccabees. Both works seem to have been originally composed in Greek; but no one can know how closely the epitomator (as the author is often called) followed the style and vocabulary of Jason of Cyrene. Harrington also says there is no way of knowing what the epitomator omitted or inserted into Jason's story in his efforts to entertain and tell the story from his own perspective. He asks particularly if Jason's work was as focused on the defense of the Jerusalem temple as is the epitomator of 2 Maccabees?

David A. deSilva (Introducing the Apocrypha, pages 269-270) assures the reader that assessing the date of the work is difficult, as Jason's original history must post-date 161 B.C. and may even have been written just before, or shortly after, Judas's death, which 2 Maccabees does not mention. However, he cites Goldstein (1983: 71-83) who dates Jason's work as late as 85 B.C., after 1 Maccabees. DeSilva acknowledges that the epitome is generally held to have been composed prior to A.D. 50, given its influence on 4 Maccabees and the Letter to the Hebrews, and probably as early as before 63 B.C., given the positive portrayal of relations with Rome, 4:11; 8:10, 36; 11:34-36 (he cites van Henten 1997: 51). The importance of the date of the two prefixed letters enters the discussion of the question of how the epitome came to be connected with them, the later letter (1:1-9) written (he says) in 124/123 B.C., a period in which Judea enjoyed prosperity and strength under John Hyrcanus I, and a suitable period in which to invite the translocal Jewish community (yet again) to join in the celebrations of their independence from Greek rule (again citing van Henten 1997: 53). DeSilva cites Harrington (1988: 38) who suggests that the epitome was used as support for the request for observance of Hanukkah among the Jews in Egypt, perhaps to provide the festal story. But deSilva maintains that the epitome was probably not composed for this purpose, since the epitomator's prologue itself gives no hint that promoting Hanukkah was part of his agenda but certainly contributed to it. In this hypothesis, deSilva says that both Jason and his abridger would have completed their work prior to 124 B.C..

Indispensable value for understanding of Jewish and early Christian traditions

As a primary source for the history of the Jews during the second century B.C., 2 Maccabees is absolutely invaluable. Again, for those who wish to have a better understanding of the development of traditional Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices, this book is indispensable. It can also be very exciting to see the manner in which God fulfilled the prophecies of Daniel (especially Daniel 8 and 11), which were given almost four centuries prior to the time of their fulfillment. And as an added bonus, 2 Maccabees was written in a very readable literary style.

Though there is substantial overlap between 1 and 2 Maccabees (that is, the central events related in both works are the same), nevertheless the story told in 2 Maccabees both commences and concludes earlier in time than the story told in 1 Maccabees. 2 Maccabees is neither a sequel to nor a continuation of I Maccabees (unlike I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles). It is a second book about the Maccabees, having been written somewhat later than the First Book of Maccabees.

Unlike I Maccabees, which was written in Hebrew and translated into Greek, 2 Maccabees was written in Greek. Therefore, the author must have been a Greek-speaking Jew. In order to write 2 Maccabees, he relied upon the five-volume history, long since lost, written in Greek by a Jewish historian named Jason of Cyrene (2 Maccabees 2:23). This demonstrates that the otherwise unknown Jason was reasonably learned, and may well have lived-or at least studied-in the large Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt, which is made all the more likely by the fact that 2 Maccabees begins with copies of two letters written from Jerusalem to the Jewish community of Egypt (2 Maccabees 1:1-36; 2:1-18), and doubtless were read to the assembled worshipers in the synagogues there. Finally, from the content of his book it is evident that the author held beliefs very similar, if not identical, to those of the Pharisees and the later rabbis of Orthodox Judaism, so that he himself may have been a Pharisee.

Second Maccabees and the Early Church

Although this book began to be excluded by the rabbis from the canon of Hebrew Scriptures after the rise of Christianity at the end of A.D. the 1st century—apparently because it was written in Greek, and after the time of Ezra and Malachi, and not in Israel or Judah—it had been included in the earlier rabbinical Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint used by the Jews of the Diaspora. The early Christians used the same Septuagint to preach the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, where Greek was the lingua franca, and thus from the very beginning of Christianity the Second Book of Maccabees was already a part of the Bible of the apostles, and it has been so retained in the Old Testament of the Greek Bible since the 1st century. As has already been mentioned above, there are many theological and eschatological points of contact between 2 Maccabees and the beliefs of the early Christians. The early Church could point to 2 Maccabees 5:19 as support for their belief that the Temple had been superseded by the risen Messiah. They could also see the close resemblance between the words of the Maccabean Martyrs in 2 Maccabees 7 and the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28, an understanding which is part of the ancient Christian traditional reading of these texts.

The practice of offering sacrifices for, praying for, and willingly submitting to suffering on behalf of sinners—both for sinners who are still alive and for sinners who are already dead—is another point of continuity of doctrine between 2 Maccabees and Christianity. But this practice has its deeper roots in the days of Abraham, as can be seen in Genesis 18:23-32 and 20:7, and is mentioned with approval in 2 Maccabees 3:31-33; 7:38; and 12:40-46, and it may be found even today in Orthodox Judaism and most of Christianity. For some students of history and of the Bible the Apostle Paul also seems to allude to this practice in 1 Corinthians 15:29, where he mentions Christians undergoing penitential "baptisms" on behalf of the dead, interpreting these in the sense of Mark 10:38, and Colossians 1:24, as meaning self-sacrificial suffering fully united to the single unique atonement of Christ himself suffering for and with and in them as his body, rather than literal water baptisms. However, other readings of this text see in it the practice of an intercessory and substitutionary water baptism of salvation for the souls of those who had died without being able to receive it, as a divinely ordained legal procedure on their behalf, which is the reading of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The story of the Maccabean Martyrs probably resonated most directly with early Christians, who saw in their faithfulness to God even unto death a perfect model for their own painful experiences, first at the hands of their Jewish brethren, and later at the hands of the pagan Roman government. There is little doubt that the martyrologies of 2 Maccabees 6 and 7 informed Jesus Christ's own frequent encouragement to His disciples to remain faithful in the face of persecution and martyrdom, which is the ancient Christian traditional understanding of these texts of the Bible. "Blessed are you," He said, "when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in Heaven" (Matthew 5:11); "By your endurance you will gain your lives." (Luke 21:19). The story of the Maccabean Martyrs is even mentioned in Hebrews 11:35. The author of 2 Maccabees is responsible for the birth of a whole literary genre, known as "martyrology"—detailed narratives of men and women being tortured and murdered for their faith. This literary genre quite naturally became especially popular in the infant Church and starting A.D.the second century through the fourth century. Examples of martyrologies exist today in the 21st century official documentary accounts of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians being slaughtered and persecuted throughout the world solely because of their religion.

New Testament allusions to 2 Maccabees

The martyrdom of the mother and her 7 sons in 2 Maccabees 7 is referenced in Hebrews 11:35. The 6th chapter's testimony of the witness of the aged Eleazar faithful to the Law in the face of death 6:18-31 and the 7th chapter's testimony of the powerful words of the seven sons to the tyrant before they died are symbolically referenced visually in John's vision as the angel with the little scroll who cried out like a lion roaring and the 7 thunders sounding, whose words John sealed up and did not write, in Revelation 10:1-7 (compare the "sons of thunder", "boanerges" in Mark 3:17).

Martin Luther's judgment of 2 Maccabees

Martin Luther said: "I am so great an enemy to the second book of the Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities." [18]


  1. The Catholic Church is the world's largest Christian body comprised of several distinct "Rites". The Catholic Church (Latin Rite) is the largest religious body in the United States, with over 60 million adherents (4 times as large as the second largest church, the Orthodox).
    “The Global Catholic Population,” © 2011, Pew Research Center.
    The Largest Catholic Communities
    The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church, and also referred to as the Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy, is the second largest Christian church in the world, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents, most of whom live in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia.
    The Greek (Eastern) Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Of America (1983). Retrieved on 7 May 2014.
    Christianity:Basics:Eastern Orthodox Church Denomination. Retrieved on 22 May 2014.
    Christianity. Major Branches of Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents. Retrieved on 22 May 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 See Percentage of Christians in Protestant Denominations (29.5%).
  3. 2 Maccabees 1:14-17 and 9:1-29 and 1 Maccabees 6:1-16.
  4. Aristobulus II (son of Alexander Jannaeus [who ruled 103–76 B.C.] son of John Hyrcanus). See Jewish Encyclopedia: Aristobulus II.
    It is unlikely that the earlier Aristobulus I is indicated, who imprisoned his mother, killed his brother, and ruled less than one year 104–103 B.C. as ethnarch and high priest. Ant. 13:11:1–3 (§§301–317).
  5. Ptolemy XII Auletes
  6. See Antiochus X Eusebes (
  7. Nanea. See Nanaya ( and The Melammu Project. The Heritage of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East: Nanaya in Syria and Mesopotamia (
  8. Mahlon H. Smith
    See Antiochus X Eusebes entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
    and Antiochus X Eusebes (
  9. Parthian Media. See Parthian Empire (, Parthian Empire (, Media, Persia, Parthia, and Irân (, and Parthian kings (
  10. "This letter": 2 Macc. 1:10–2:18 one copy to Aristobulus in Jerusalem, one copy to the Jews in Egypt.
  11. See the footnote 1:14-17, 2 Maccabees, in The New American Bible, Revised Edition
  12. "Judas", a common name among the Jews. Judas Maccabeus had died before the formation of the senate of the Jews under Simon the high priest.
    See 1 Maccabees 13:41–14:49.
  13. Elymais. A district of Persia lying South of Media and North of Susiana, a name derived from its capital, Susa. See Topical Bible: Elymais.
  14. Distance from Susa to Babylon (
  15. Sources:
  16. See Map of Parthian Empire
  17. See Merriam-Webster definition: eisegesis. Eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text, such as the belief that the name "Antiochus" only means Antiochus IV Epiphanes, saying that it means what it does not mean (reader-response Biblical interpretation). See four articles
  18. Luther, Martin [1566] (1893). "Of God's Word: XXIV", The Table-Talk of Martin Luther, trans. William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society. LCC Library of Congress Catalogue BR332.T4. 

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