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2 - The other in 1 and 2 Maccabees

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2010

Graham N. Stanton
Affiliation:
King's College London
Guy G. Stroumsa
Affiliation:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Summary

The first two books of Maccabees are of approximately the same length, but there are numerous differences between them. For example, the former covers the period from Mattathias to Johanan Hyrcanus (c. 167–135 BGE) while the latter begins somewhat earlier but ends its account even before Judas Maccabee dies (160 BGE); the former is Palestinian and the latter of the Hellenistic Diaspora; the former was composed in Hebrew and follows biblical models, the latter was composed in Greek and follows the model of ‘tragic’ or ‘pathetic’ Hellenistic historiography; the former features soldiers and the latter, martyrs. One point of comparison which is often ignored is their understanding of others, a point which has everything to do with their authors’ understanding of themselves.

To some extent, this difference is dictated by the specifically Hasmonean nature of 1 Maccabees: that is, 1 Maccabees is concerned, primarily, to establish the legitimacy of the Hasmonean dynasty, and this concern is reflected by its damnatio memoriae of other Jewish claimants to the high priesthood; none of them is mentioned. In contrast, 2 Maccabees not only gives us a detailed account of such condemned competitors as Jason, Menelaus and Alcimus, but also – at both the opening and the conclusion of the story (see ch. 3 and 15:12–14) – Praises at length the last Zadokite high priest, Onias III, thereby undercutting, although probably unintentionally, the Hasmoneans’ claims to being God's choice as high priests and rulers.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1998

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