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ב״ה
“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)

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Please read the Introductory Notes to this commentary.

For a glossary of unfamiliar terms, CLICK HERE. For assistance in
pronouncing Hebrew terms, a pronunciation guide is located HERE.

My short comments on the text are notated in “maroon pop-up text tipsMy comment is displayed like this.” which are accessed by “hovering” your mouse over the text or tapping your touch screen. [A few short comments look like this.] Longer comments are included in footnotes or links to other pages. Sometimes my paraphrase provides all the commentary needed to clarify the passage. I have added emphasis to some phrases simply to call them to your attention. Explanations of Greek and Hebrew words are from The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon and The NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, respectively. In order to get the most from these pages, please follow all the hyperlinks, nearly all of which will open in a new tab or window.


Apocrypha Index
Tobit  •  Judith  •  Esther (LXX)  •  Wisdom of Solomon  •  Sirach
Baruch  •  2 Baruch  •  1 Maccabees  •  2 Maccabees  •  1 Esdras
Prayer of Manassas   •  Psalm 151  •  3 Maccabees  •  2 Esdras  •  4 Maccabees  •  Daniel (LXX)


Introduction to the Maccabees
First Maccabees   Second Maccabees   Third Maccabees   Fourth Maccabees


The Fourth Book of Maccabees
Introductory Notes and Comments

[Edited from the Wikipedia article]

The Fourth Book of Maccabees, also called 4 Maccabees is a homily or philosophic discourse praising the supremacy of pious reason over passion. It was written in Koine Greek in the first or second century CE.

It is not in the Bible for most churches, but is an appendix to the Greek Bible, and in the canon of the Georgian Orthodox Bible. It was included in the 1688 Romanian Orthodox and the 18th-century Romanian Catholic Bibles where it was called “Iosip” (Joseph). It is no longer printed in Romanian Bibles 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 (principally, the martyrdom of Eleazer and the Maccabean youths) under Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The last chapters concern the author’s impressions drawn from these martyrdoms. The work thus appears to be an independent composition to 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, 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 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. 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 17 supports the view of the work as a homily held before a Greek-speaking audience on the Feast of Hanukkah, 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, but not so much as 3 Maccabees. What can be interpreted as Stoic philosophy is cited by the author, though there is little original philosophical insight in the text. Although its Hellenistic Jewish nature assumes an origin in Alexandria, its interest in martyrs in Antioch and its similarity to writings in modern Turkey point to an origin in the northeast Mediterranean. Regarded as Jewish literature, it is cited as the best example of syncretism between Jewish and Hellenistic thought.

The book is ascribed to Josephus by Eusebius and Jerome, 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 20 and 130 CE, likely in the later half of that range.

Doctrinal Content

The writer believes in the immortality 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, 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.

Originally posted on Thursday, 02 July 2020

Page last updated on Monday, 18 January 2021 12:14 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return
ANXIOUSLY WATCHING FOR MASHIACH’S RETURN,
SPEEDILY AND IN OUR DAY. MARANA, TA!