Introductions and Historiography



Syllabus (LINK)

The biblical canon

Historical and geographic context

Slideshow (PPT)

Major geography

Major periods

Major people

Universalism, particularism, and parallelism in 1 Maccabees 1

Prepare 1 Maccabees 1 (PDF)

Universalism and particularism

Jewish identity arguments

1 Maccabees 1:11–15, assimilationists


1 Macc 1:25–28 (literal translation)

A: And the mourning was great upon Israel,
B: in all their territory the rulers and the elders groaned.

  1. mourning || groaned
  2. great || rulers and elders (great ones)
  3. upon Israel (people of Israel) || in all their territory (land of Israel)

A: Young girls and boys languished,

B: and the beauty of the women faded.

A: Every bridegroom took up lamentation,
B: While the bride sitting in her chamber mourned.

A: And the land [of Israel] quaked on account of its inhabitants
B: and all the house of Jacob [Israel] was clothed with shame

The rhetorical argument of 1:25–28

The Justification for Killing in 1 Macc 2

Prepare 1 Maccabees 2:1—6:16 (especially chapter 2)

Reasons for fighting: honor and shame

Interpreting the Bible to support killing other Jews

Reasons for dying

God and Suffering in 1 Macc and 2 Macc

Prepare 2 Maccabees 2:19—5:27 (PDF)

Role of God in 1 Macc

Role of God in 2 Macc

Explanation of suffering in 1 Macc

Bad humans do bad things until good humans kill them.

Explanation of suffering in 2 Macc


Prepare 2 Macc 6:1—10:8

Martyrdom defined

1 Macc 2:31–41, Sabbath

2 Macc 6:18–31, Eleazar

2 Macc 7:7–14, brothers 2–4

2 Macc 7:30–41, brother 7

Josephus and historiography

Prepare 1Macc/Josephus Comparison (PDF)

The Role of the historiographer according to 2 Macc 2

2 Macc 2:26 For us who have undertaken the labor of making this digest, the task, far from being easy, is one of sweat and of sleepless nights. 27 Just so, the preparation of a festive banquet is no light matter for one who seeks to give enjoyment to others. Similarly, to win the gratitude of many we will gladly endure this labor, 28 leaving the responsibility for exact details to the historianrecord keeper, and confining our efforts to presenting only a summary outline. 29 As the architect of a new house must pay attention to the whole structure, while the one who undertakes the decoration and the frescoes has to be concerned only with what is needed for ornamentation, so I think it is with us. 30 To enter into questions and examine them from all sides and to be busy about details is the task of the historianone who lays the foundation for story; 31 but one who is making an adaptation should be allowed to aim at brevity of expression and to forgo complete treatment of the matter. 32 Here, then, let us begin our account without adding to what has already been said; it would be silly to lengthen the preface to the history and then cut short the history itself.

Josephus’ historical context

Tendencies in Josephus

Josephus’ rewriting of 1 Macc

Attitude toward Gentiles (1 Macc 3:5–10)

Attitude toward “law breaking” Jews

Portrayal of conflict


Role of God

Role of temple

Purification of temple


Overview of author, audience, and purpose

1 Macc Jew in Jerusalem (Hebrew) Jews under Hasmonean Rule Defend and Support Hasmoneans
2 Macc Epitomizer (Greek) Jews in Diaspora (minority) Encourage fidelity to Jewish law
Josephus Josephus Flavius Romans (Gentiles) Portray Jews as good neighbors