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4 Maccabees

4 Maccabees

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Encyclopedia
The book of 4 Maccabees is a homily
Homily
A homily is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture. In Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a homily is usually given during Mass at the end of the Liturgy of the Word...

 or philosophic
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 discourse praising the supremacy of pious reason over passion. It is not in the Bible for most churches, but is an appendix to the Greek Bible, and in the canon of the Georgian Bible. It was in the 1688 Romanian Bible
Bible translations into Romanian
The first complete translation to Romanian was done in 1688 by Radu and Şerban Greceanu with the help of Şerban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brâncoveanu....

 where it was called "Iosip" but is not printed in the Orthodox Bible today.

Synopsis


The work consists of a prologue and two main sections; the first advances the philosophical thesis while the second illustrates the points made using examples drawn from 2 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
2 Maccabees is a deuterocanonical book of the Bible, which focuses on the Jews' revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and concludes with the defeat of the Syrian general Nicanor in 161 BC by Judas Maccabeus, the hero of the work....

 (principally, the martyrdom
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

 of Eleazer and the Maccabeean youths) under Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. He was a son of King Antiochus III the Great. His original name was Mithridates; he assumed the name Antiochus after he ascended the throne....

. The last chapters concern the author's impressions drawn from these martyrdoms. The work thus appears to be an independent composition to 1 Maccabees
1 Maccabees
The First book of Maccabees is a book written in Hebrew by a Jewish author after the restoration of an independent Jewish kingdom, about the latter part of the 2nd century BC. The original Hebrew is lost and the most important surviving version is the Greek translation contained in the Septuagint...

 and 2 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
2 Maccabees is a deuterocanonical book of the Bible, which focuses on the Jews' revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and concludes with the defeat of the Syrian general Nicanor in 161 BC by Judas Maccabeus, the hero of the work....

, merely drawing on their descriptions to support its thesis. It was composed originally in the Greek language, in what Stephen Westerholm of the Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible
Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible
The Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible is an English language edition of the Bible published and controlled by Greek Orthodox Christians with limited copyright control and within a collaborative framework. It has not yet been published.-Textual basis:...

 calls "very fluently... and in a highly rhetorical and affected Greek style."

Authorship and criticism


According to some scholars, the last chapter shows signs of later addition to the work, though this was disputed by the 19th century authors of the Jewish Encyclopedia
Jewish Encyclopedia
The Jewish Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia originally published in New York between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls. It contained over 15,000 articles in 12 volumes on the history and then-current state of Judaism and the Jews as of 1901...

. The dispute is based on the weak ending the book would have without the "added" chapter, as well as arguments based on style. The change of direction with chapter 27 supports the view of the work as a homily held before a Greek-speaking audience on the feast of Hanukkah
Hanukkah
Hanukkah , also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE...

, as advanced by Ewald and Freudenthal, where this would be a rhetorical element to draw the listeners into the discourse. Others hold that a homily would have to be based on scriptural texts, which this work is only loosely.

In style, the book is oratorical
Oratory
Oratory is a type of public speaking.Oratory may also refer to:* Oratory , a power metal band* Oratory , a place of worship* a religious order such as** Oratory of Saint Philip Neri ** Oratory of Jesus...

, but not so much as 3 Maccabees
3 Maccabees
The book of the 3 Maccabees is found in most Orthodox Bibles as a part of the Anagignoskomena, while Protestants and Catholics consider it non-canonical, except the Moravian Brethren who included it in the Apocrypha of the Czech Kralicka Bible...

. What can be interpreted as Stoic philosophy
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

 is cited by the author, though there is little original philosophical insight in the text. The writer appears to be an Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

n Jew who used a philosophical approach in order to present a concept of piety. Regarded as Jewish literature, it is cited as the best example of syncretism
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 between Jewish and Hellenistic thought.

The book is ascribed to Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 by Eusebius and Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

, and this opinion was accepted for many years, leading to its inclusion in many editions of Josephus' works. Scholars have however pointed to perceived differences of language and style. The book is generally dated between the first century BCE and the first century CE, due to its reliance on 2 Maccabees and use by some of early Christians
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. It has been suggested that it was written before the persecution of the Jews under Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

, and before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Doctrinal content


The writer believes in the immortality
Immortality
Immortality is the ability to live forever. It is unknown whether human physical immortality is an achievable condition. Biological forms have inherent limitations which may or may not be able to be overcome through medical interventions or engineering...

 of the soul, but never mentions the resurrection of the dead. Good souls are said to live forever in happiness with the patriarchs and God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

, but even the evil souls are held to be immortal. The suffering and martyrdom of the Maccabees is seen by the author to be vicarious for the Jewish nation, and the author portrays martyrdom in general as bringing atonement for the past sins of the Jews.

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