Archive for the ‘1-3 Maccabees Other’ Category

Jeremiah in Egypt   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXIV

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Jeremiah 43:8-44:30

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Contrary to the prophecy in Jeremiah 43:8-11, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire never conquered Egypt.  Egypt did fall to the Persian Empire in 525 B.C.E., though.

The archaeological record confirms the presence of Jews in Egypt in antiquity.  We know that Jews lived in Egypt prior to the Fall of Jerusalem and continued to do so afterward.  For example, the Third Book of the Maccabees is about the persecution of Jews in Egypt centuries after the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).

Despite the political-theological agenda of Babylonian exilic Jews versus Egyptian exilic Jews, another point attracts my attention in this post.  I notice idolatry in the Egyptian exilic community.  I recall Hebrew prophets condemning idolatry in the homeland.  I conclude that some people never learn certain key lessons.

I also notice the the reversal of the Exodus from Egypt.  Think, O reader:  Did not God free Jews from slavery in Egypt?  In parts of the Hebrew Bible, Egypt (a literal place) functions also as a metaphor for slavery.  Therefore, in the Book of Jeremiah, to flee to Egypt is to flee to slavery.

The prophecy of the complete destruction of the Egyptian exilic community (42:7-22) was hyperbolic.  After all, some survived to return to Judah (44:28).  But all should have remained in Judah, under divine protection.

Free will is a gift of God.  It is evidence of grace.  How we use our free will can please or vex God.

For you vex me by your deeds….

–Jeremiah 44:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Christian terms, may we abide by the admonition not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).  And may we learn the lessons we ought to learn and should have learned by the examples of our forebears.

Sadly, Jeremiah and Baruch died in involuntary exile in Egypt.  (See Jeremiah 45:4-5, too.)  These men had served God faithfully for decades.  Living in Egypt was their final recorded indignity.

William Alexander Percy (1885-1942) wrote:

The peace of God, it is no peace,

But strife closed in the sod.

Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing–

The marvelous peace of God.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT SPYRIDON OF CYPRUS, BISHOP OF TREMITHUS, CYPRUS; AND HIS CONVERT, SAINT TRYPHILLIUS OF LEUCOSIA, CYPRUS; OPPONENTS OF ARIANISM

THE FEAST OF DAVID ABEEL, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD, U.S. METHODIST THEN CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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A Dangerous Game, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Antiochus VII Sidetes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXX

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1 Maccabees 15:1-16:10

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Demetrius II Nicator (Reigned 145-139/138  and 129/128-125 B.C.E.)

Antiochus VII Sidetes (Reigned 139/138-129/128 B.C.E.)

Trypho (Reigned 142-138 B.C.E.)

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II Physycon (Reigned 145-116 B.C.E.)

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King Antiochus VII Sidetes was a son of King Demetrius I Soter (reigned 162-150 B.C.E.) and a brother of King Demetrius II Nicator.  King Antiochus VII Sidetes’s reference to “certain rebels” (15:3) meant King, Alexander Balas (sometimes spelled Balus), King Trypho, and King Antiochus VI Epiphanes.  King Antiochus VII Sidetes wanted to assert his claim to his kingdom, minus Judea.  King Trypho fled, and King Antiochus VII Sidetes settled into power.  Eventually, his forces captured and executed King Trypho.

Meanwhile, the Roman treaty (1 Maccabees 8 and 14) kicked in.  The Roman Republic warned King Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II Physycon of Egypt not to give sanctuary to enemies of the Jewish nation.

On the other hand, King Antiochus VII Sidetes became hostile toward Simon and rescinded the positive news of 15:3-9.  Once again, a Seleucid king double-crossed the Jews and their leader.  King Antiochus VII Sidetes demanded that Simon return “Seleucid” cities and the Jerusalem citadel Jewish forces were allegedly occupying.  Simon refused.  John Hyrcanus I led Hasmonean soldiers into victorious forces against a Seleucid army.

Judea remained vulnerable to its more powerful neighbors.  Judea, stuck between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires, needed the Roman alliance.  The Roman Republic gained a foothold in the Near East.  In the short and medium terms, the Roman alliance benefited both Judea and the Roman Republic.  Yet that alliance opened the door for the Roman Republic to annex Judea in 63 B.C.E.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP MENANCTHON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND SCRIBE OF THE REFORMATION

THE FEAST OF CHARLES TODD QUINTARD, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF TENNESSEE

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FREDERICK MARTIN, SR., AND CHARLES AUGUSTUS ZOEBISCH, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKERS

THE FEAST OF LOUIS (LEWIS) F. KAMPMANN, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX BISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

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A Dangerous Game, Part III: The Capture and Death of Jonathan   Leave a comment

Above:  Coin of Trypho

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXVIII

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1 Maccabees 12:1-13:30

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Demetrius II Nicator (Reigned 145-139/138  and 129/128-125 B.C.E.)

Antiochus VI Epiphanes (Reigned 145-142 B.C.E.)

Trypho (Reigned 142-138 B.C.E.)

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Geopolitics are essential to understanding the diplomatic maneuvering in 1 Maccabees.  Know then, O reader, that the Roman Republic’s defeat of the Achean League in 146 B.C.E. increased the prominence of Sparta in Greece.  Recall also, O reader, the Roman treaty (from 160 B.C.E.), contained in 1 Maccabees 8.

In 144 B.C.E., the Roman treaty remained just a piece of parchment.  Jonathan, realizing how precarious his position (and that of the Jewish nation) was, renewed the alliance with the Roman Republic and established an alliance with Sparta.  With the forces loyal to King Demetrius II Soter continuing to threaten the Jewish nation, alliances and Jonathan’s military acumen were essential.  Yet Jonathan was not invincible.  He also had a serious lapse in judgment.  Trypho, the power behind King Antiochus VI Epiphanes, captured Jonathan in 143 B.C.E.  The Jewish nation’s crisis deepened.

Simon, the sole surviving son of Mattathias, became the Jewish leader and the High Priest in 143 B.C.E.  Trypho failed to capture Jerusalem.  He succeeded in having Jonathan executed, though.

The Hasmonean cause was greater than one leader.  Three leaders had fallen.  The fourth leader carried the fight forward.

Jonathan was greedy for power.  His ambition brought about his downfall and placed his nation at risk.  Yet he did much to improve the position of his people relative to the powers around them.

Great (not as in wonderful, but in the historical sense of “greatness”) leaders frequently contain such duality.  One, looking back with historical perspective, must decide whether a particular leader’s faults or virtues dominate his or her legacy.  Tyrants and would-be dictators may have mixed legacies.  If one is honest, one must admit that they accomplished some good.  Yet the negative outweighs the positive.  Likewise, leaders not on the spectrum of tyranny may have mostly positive legacies with prominent moral stains.

Honesty and the recognition of objective reality are the way forward in evaluating leaders.

The attitude of the anonymous author of 1 Maccabees is evident.  Jonathan’s name is conspicuously absent from the list of the sons of Mattathias in 2:65-66.  There is a hymn of praise for Judas Maccabeus (3:3-9).  There is also a hymn of praise for Simon (14:4-15).  Yet there is no hymn of praise for Jonathan.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF BEN SALMON, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PACIFIST AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND MUSICOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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A Dangerous Game, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Coin of Demetrius II Nicator

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXVII

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1 Maccabees 11:1-74

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Alexander Epiphanes (Balas) (Reigned 150-145 B.C.E.)

Ptolemy VI Philometor (Reigned 180-145 B.C.E.)

Demetrius II Nicator (Reigned 145-139/138  and 129/128-125 B.C.E.)

Antiochus VI Epiphanes (Reigned 145-142 B.C.E.)

Trypho (Reigned 142-138 B.C.E.)

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King Alexander Balas (sometimes spelled Balus), son-in-law of King Ptolemy VI Philometor of the Ptolemaic Empire, found himself stuck between King Ptolemy VI Philometor and King Demetrius II Nicator.  King Ptolemy VI Philometor was reasserting the traditional Egyptian control of Judea, in the borderlands with the Seleucid Empire.  Jonathan, as the High Priest and the leader of Judean Jews, was in the middle, geographically, metaphorically, and politically.  With the deaths of King Alexander Balas and King Ptolemy VI Philometor, Jonathan had to deal with King Demetrius II Nicator after 145 B.C.E.  The High Priest also had to contend with Jewish renegades.

Jonathan, a former ally of Alexander Balas, joined the ranks of the Friends of King Demetrius II Nicator.  The new Seleucid monarch was an adolescent.  He had the title, but one Lasthenes (named in 11:32) was the power behind the throne.  Jonathan got a sweet deal:  three more districts added to his territory, plus taxes (formerly paid to King Demetrius II Nicator) paid instead to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Yet the Seleucid Empire remained politically unstable.  Lasthenes and King Demetrius II Nicator faced another challenge.  Trypho was a former partisan of King Alexander Balas.  Trypho exploited widespread discontent in military ranks to prop up King Alexander VI Epiphanes, son of Alexander Balas.  This political instability affected Jonathan and the Jewish people, of course.

Jonathan’s forces rescued the young King Demetrius II Nicator in Antioch, the royal capital city.  The monarch–or rather–Lasthenes, more likely–reneged on the promises to Jonathan.  The High Priest, therefore, transferred his loyalty to the young King Antiochus VI.  So did many soldiers of the Seleucid Empire.

King Antiochus VI Epiphanes–or Trypho, rather–lavished privileges upon Jonathan and confirmed his appointment as the High Priest.  Yet King Demetrius II Nicator and Lasthenes were still active.  And they were working to frustrate Jonathan’s plans.

Jonathan, a shrewd political operator, was also pious.  After he prayed (11:71), his forces won a battle they had been losing.  The anonymous author of 1 Maccabees attributed that victory to God.  That author had Joshua 7:6-9 in mind.  Jonathan came across like Joshua son of Nun.

Jonathan took hostages in 11:62. He acted as Bacchides had done.  The High Priest also paid a moral price for functioning as a Seleucid lackey.  Nevertheless, he was stuck between competing claimants to the Seleucid throne.  (Let us never forget that, O reader.)  Jonathan contended with a quandary many leaders have faced:  How dirty must one get to commit the most good?  And how dirty can one get before one is just dirty and too far gone?  How many compromises are too many compromises?  And which compromises must one never make?

I detect another disturbing motif in 1 Maccabees, especially in Chapter 11:  older men were manipulating minors, claimants to the throne.  This theme also occurred in the cases of Lysias and King Antiochus V Eupator (1 Maccabees 5:1-68; 1 Maccabees 6:17-63; 1 Maccabees 7:1-25; 2 Maccabees 10:10-13:26; and 2 Maccabees 14:1-14).  These older men, manipulating minors, acted in the names of their wards.  But did those boys and young men ever stand a chance, given that they were pawns?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF BEN SALMON, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PACIFIST AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND MUSICOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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A Dangerous Game, Part I   2 comments

Above:  Coin of Alexander Balas

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXVI

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1 Maccabees 10:1-89

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Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

Alexander Epiphanes (Balas) (Reigned 150-145 B.C.E.)

Ptolemy VI Philometor (Reigned 180-145 B.C.E.)

Demetrius II Nicator (Reigned 145-139/138  and 129/128-125 B.C.E.)

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As the Biblical texts and historical records established, and as I have written in this series, the Seleucid Empire became politically unstable during the time of the Hasmonean Rebellion.  There were years of relative stability, though.

Then, in 152 B.C.E. (160 on the Seleucid/Hellenistic calendar), Alexander Epiphanes (Balas; sometimes spelled Balus) landed and established himself as a claimant to the throne King Demetrius I Soter occupied.  Alexander claimed to be a son of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164/163 B.C.E.) and a brother of King Antiochus V Eupator (reigned 164/163 B.C.E.).  King Demetrius I Soter and Alexander Balas competed in a bidding war, with Jonathan as the central figure. 

  1. King Demetrius I Soter declared the Hasmonean leader an ally, authorized the release of hostages in the Jerusalem citadel, and gave him the authority to raise an army.
  2. Alexander Balas, in turn, appointed Jonathan the High Priest and made him a Friend of the King.  Jonathan began his duties at the High Priest in 152 B.C.E.
  3. Then King Demetrius I Soter exempted Jews from paying tribute and other taxes, vowed to free all Jewish prisoners of war, and granted the High Priest (not specifically named as Jonathan) authority over the citadel in Jerusalem.  King Demetrius I Soter also recognized Jerusalem as a holy city, vowed to subsidize the Temple, and promised funds for rebuilding Jerusalem.
  4. Jonathan supported Alexander Balas.

Father Daniel J. Harrington, S. J., writing in The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), suggested that King Demetrius I Soter’s counter-offer may have been an attempt to lure Jews away from Jonathan with promises too good to be true.

Meanwhile, the armies of King Demetrius I Soter and Alexander Balas fought each other.  Alexander Balas defeated and killed King Demetrius I Soter in combat in 150 B.C.E.

Next, King Alexander Balas cemented an alliance with the Ptolemaic Empire.  In 150 B.C.E., he married Cleopatra Thea, daughter of King Ptolemy VI Philometor.  Jonathan attended the wedding ceremony, met both monarchs, and won their favor.  Jonathan, enrolled in the highest rank of Friends of the King, became a general and a governor, serving under King Alexander Balas.

Meanwhile, the future King Demetrius II Nicator, son of King Demetrius I Soter, began a rebellion against King Alexander Balas in 147 B.C.E. (165 on the Seleucid/Hellenistic calendar).  Jonathan answered a challenge to lead his army into combat against seemingly overwhelming odds.  Apollonius, the governor of Coele-Syria (thereby Jonathan’s superior)  and an ally of Demetrius II Nicator, came to regret having issued that challenge.  The Hasmonean army triumphed.  That army also showed no mercy to certain villages, burned a pagan temple, and killed 8,000 people.  King Alexander Balas, impressed, granted Jonathan Ekron and the environs.  The monarch also promoted Jonathan to the rank of the King’s Kinsman.

Robert Doran, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), noted that Jonathan played both ends against the middle, and thereby played a dangerous game.  Doran also asked what role moral issues should play in international politics.  Furthermore, Doran wrote:

Thinking only of one’s own national gain in such circumstances as Jonathan found himself in can bring short-term benefits, but long-term loss.  When one of the parties wins control, then the victor may not look so kindly on promises extracted under duress.

–131

History books tell me that King Demetrius II Nicator defeated King Alexander Balas in 145 B.C.E.  Oops!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF BEN SALMON, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PACIFIST AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND MUSICOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Jonathan, Successor of Judas Maccabeus   4 comments

Above:  Jonathan

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXV

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1 Maccabees 9:23-73

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Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

Alcimus, High Priest (In Office Before 162-159 B.C.E.)

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Jonathan, son of Mattathias and brother of Judas Maccabeus, led the Hasmonean Rebellion, starting in 160 B.C.E.

His story will occupy blog posts in this series through 1 Maccabees 13:30.

Times were perilous.  Bacchides, as governor, was victorious.  The Hasmoneans were on the run.  A severe famine affected the land.  After the abduction and murder of a brother (John Gaddi), Jonathan led a raid and avenged John Gaddi’s death.  And again (see 1 Maccabees 2:29-41), Hasmoneans had to defend themselves on a Sabbath (1 Maccabees 9:43f).  In the Seleucid/Hellenstic year 153 (159 B.C.E.), Alcimus died in agony (1 Maccabees 9:54-57).  The theme of retribution, prominent in 2 Maccabees (see 4:38, 5:8-10, 13:3-8, and 15:28-36), played out in 1 Maccabees, too.

While Jonathan and his brother Simon worked together to rebuild fortifications, Bacchides continued to fight back.  Yet the Hasmoneans were regaining momentum.  Bacchides returned his prisoners of war and left Judea.

Taking up residence in Michmash, Jonathan began to govern the people and root the apostates out of Israel.

–1 Maccabees 9:73, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Nevertheless, King Demetrius I Soter remained on the Seleucid throne, at least for a little while longer.  The Hasmonean Rebellion had not ended.

In purely human terms, Seleucid efforts against Jonathan failed because of the lack of effective Seleucid leadership.  Conversely, Jonathan succeeded against the odds because, in part, he offered effective leadership.  Also, Jonathan won enough popular support for the Hasmonean Rebellion.  Well-armed military forces have failed throughout the past to control sufficiently mobilized populations.  Populations that have made themselves ungovernable have triumphed over those–not always foreigners–who would govern them.

The anonymous author of 1 Maccabees added another point:  God was on the side of the Hasmoneans.  God may have been on their side.  Assuming that was true, that point did not nullify or contradict my points in the previous paragraph.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF BEN SALMON, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PACIFIST AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND MUSICOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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The Rededication and Purification of the Temple: The First Hanukkah   1 comment

Above:  A Menorah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XIX

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1 Maccabees 4:36-61

2 Maccabees 10:1-9

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God, the pagans have invaded your heritage,

they have defiled your holy temple,

they have laid Jerusalem in ruins,

they have left the corpses of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

the bodies of your faithful for the wild beasts.

Around Jerusalem they have shed blood like water,

leaving no one to bury them.

We are the scorn of our neighbours,

the butt and laughing-stock of those around us.

How long will you be angry, Yahweh?  For ever?

Is your jealousy  to go on smouldering like a fire?

Pour out your anger on the nations who do not acknowledge you,

and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;

for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his home.

Do not count against us the guilt of forever generations,

in your tenderness come quickly to meet us,

for we are utterly weakened;

help us, God our Saviour,

for the glory of your name;

Yahweh, wipe away our sins,

rescue us for the sake of your name.

Why should the nations ask,

“Where is their God?”

Let us see the nations suffer vengeance

for shedding your servants’ blood.

May the groans of the captive reach you,

by your great strength save those who are condemned to death!

Repay our neighbours sevenfold

for the insults they have levelled at you, Lord.

And we, your people, the flock that you pasture,

will thank you for ever,

will recite your praises from age to age.

–Psalm 79, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Psalm 79 is a text from the Babylonian Exile.  One can easily imagine Judas Maccabeus and company reciting it or parts of it, at least mentally, at the first Hanukkah, on Kislev 25 (December 14), 164 B.C.E.  Many of the themes fit.  

My cultural patrimony includes the Scientific Revolution and the ensuing Enlightenment.  I, therefore, have the intellectual category “laws of nature.”  My default understanding of a miracle is a violation of or an exception to at least one law of nature.  That definition does not apply to the Bible, though.  Its authors, who lived and died long prior to the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, lacked the intellectual category “laws of nature.”  We moderns need to be careful not to misread the Bible anachronistically.

In Biblical times, people did have a category I call, for lack of a better label, “We don’t see that every day.”  They recognized the extraordinary.  The traditional Hanukkah miracle (absent from 1 and 2 Maccabees yet mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud) of the oil lasting as long as it did was extraordinary.  The miracles in 1 and 2 Maccabees were that proper Temple worship resumed and that the Temple was suitable for such worship again.

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had profaned the Temple about three years prior, in 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:1-27.  King Antiochus IV had died about the time of the first Hanukkah–either before (2 Maccabees 9:1-29) or after (1 Maccabees 6:17).  As Father Daniel J. Harrington, S. J.. wrote in The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), news of the king’s death may have reached Jerusalem after the rededication and purification of the Temple.

The Jewish war for independence had not ended.  King Antiochus V Eupator, just seven years old, was the new Seleucid monarch, with Lysias as the regent.  And Judas Maccabeus was no fool.  He ordered Mount Zion and Beth-zur fortified.

The Hasmonean Rebellion began as a fight against the Seleucid imperial policy of forced Hellenization.  The rebellion became a war for national independence.  The Hasmonean Rebellion was always a struggle to maintain Jewish communal life, which was under a great and terrible threat.

Communal life is a relatively low priority in a culture that preaches rugged individualism.  Yet communal life is one of the moral pillars of the Law of Moses, which the Hasmoneans guarded and obeyed.  And communal life was a pillar of the moral teachings of Hebrew prophets.  Furthermore, communal life was a moral pillar of the teachings of Jesus and the epistles of St. Paul the Apostle.

Robert Doran, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), asks,

But how are we to keep a sense of community when we are not under attack?

–258

He proposes taking the answer from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.  The answer is love:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

In other words, in ecclesiastical-theological terms, Donatism is not an option.  One of my favorite cartoons (probably under copyright protection) depicts a group of people holding really big pencils and drawing lines on the floor.  That single-cell cartoon also depicts Jesus standing among those line-drawers.  He is holding his really big pencil upside-down and erasing lines, though.

Love, in the context of communal life, eschews Donatism and self-aggrandizement.  Love, in the context of communal life, seeks only what is good for the community.  Love, in the context of communal life, embraces mutuality.  We are all responsible to and for each other other.  We all depend upon each other.  We all depend upon each other.  And we all depend entirely on God.  Whatever one does to harm anyone else also damages that one.  Whatever one does to or for anyone else, one does to or for oneself.

If my culture were to recognize these truths and act on them, that would be a miracle.  It would not constitute a violation of or an exception to any law of nature.  It would, however, be extraordinary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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The Beginning of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes’s Persecution of the Jews   Leave a comment

Above:  Mina of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART VII

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1 Maccabees 1:20-64

2 Maccabees 5:1-6:17

4 Maccabees 4:15-26

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Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Reigned 175-164/163 B.C.E.)

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The First Book of the Maccabees establishes two years, according to the Hellenistic/Seleucid calendar:  143 (a.k.a. 169 B.C.E.) and 145 (a.k.a. 167 B.C.E.).

The account in 1 Maccabees differs from those in 2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees.  The version in 1 Maccabees does not mention Jason, the former High Priest.  Also, the account in 4 Maccabees mistakes Antiochus IV Epiphanes for the son of the late King Seleucus IV Philopator.  Historical accounts tell us they were brothers.

Anyhow, Jason, who had bought the High Priesthood, had lost that office to Menelaus, who had outbid him.  Jason tried, by violent means, to get his old job back.  He failed to become the High Priest yet succeeded in causing many people to die.

As one reads the account of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes entering and profaning the Temple in Jerusalem, one may legitimately ask a certain question:  How could he succeed?  Read 3 Maccabees 1:8-2:24; 2 Maccabees 1:13-17; and 2 Maccabees 3:22-28, O reader.  How could King Antiochus IV Epiphanes succeed in 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:15f?  I offer no answers, for I have none.

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, having converted the westernmost hill of Jerusalem into a citadel that held from 167 to 141 B.C.E. (see 1 Maccabees 13:49-50), imposed Hellenism–on pain of death–upon the land.  This was his way of trying to create unity in the Seleucid Empire.  If ever there were a reason no to submit to human authority, such oppression was it.

Yet many in Israel found strength to resist, taking a determined stand against the eating of any unclean food.  They welcomed death and died rather than defile themselves and profane the holy covenant.  Israel lay under a reign of terror.

–1 Maccabees 1:62-64, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Keeping the covenant was crucial to pious Jews.  Their salvation came via grace–birth into chosen people.  Their duty was to obey the Law of Moses.  That was how they retained their place in the covenant.  Those who impiously and repetitively ignored the ethical and moral obligations of the Law of Moses dropped out of the covenant.  I have summarized Covenantal Nomism for you, O reader.  Covenantal Nomism was a characteristic of Second Temple Judaism.

How seriously do you, O reader, take your obligations to God and your fellow human beings?

Next, I will write about early martyrdoms, described in 2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAMES NICHOLAS JOUBERT AND MARIE ELIZABETH LANGE, FOUNDERS OF THE OBLATE SISTERS OF PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 304

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The Attempt on the Temple Treasury   Leave a comment

Above:  Coin of King Seleucus IV Philopator

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART V

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2 Maccabees 3:1-4:6

4 Maccabees 3:19-4:14

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Onias III, High Priest (In Office 196-175 B.C.E.)

Seleucus IV Philopator (Reigned 187-175 B.C.E.)

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Onias III was the son of and successor to High Priest Simon II “the Just” (in office 219-196 B.C.E.).  I read and wrote about Simon II “the Just” when I read the Third Book of the Maccabees (the one with no Maccabees) for this weblog.  The germane passages were 3 Maccabees 2:1-20 and Sirach 50:1-24.  He had to contend with an invasion of the Temple, too.

Now I digress to recall the story of notorious American bank robber Willie Sutton (1901-1980).  His explanation for why he robbed banks was,

Because that’s where the money is.

Back to the Books of the Maccabees….

Above:  Map Showing the Seleucid Empire, 188 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

The Seleucid treasury was in need of replenishment.  The empire had lost most of Asia Minor after 198 B.C.E.  Furthermore, the Treaty of Apamea (188 B.C.E.) had imposed indemnities on the Seleucid Empire.  The overblown reports of riches in the Temple treasure in Jerusalem attracted the attention of King Seleucus IV Philopator (not Nicator, contrary to 4 Maccabees 3:20.)  King Seleucus I Nicator reigned from 305/304 to 281/280 B.C.E.

2 Maccabees 3:1 overstates the case; Jerusalem did not enjoy “unbroken peace and prosperity” during the tenure of High Priest Onias III.  There was no such peace and prosperity, even apart from the events that Simon the Temple administrator set in motion with his lie.  The city was relatively quiet during the years of Onias III’s tenure, though.  In reality, Onias III, like the rest of his nation, was struck literally and politically, between the Ptolemaic Empire (based in Egypt) and the Seleucid Empire (based in Syria).  The High Priest, initially pro-Seleucid, switched his political allegiances to the Ptolemaic Empire.  Simon the Temple administrator was pro-Seleucid, though.

The story of God repulsing invaders from the Temple fits a motif about the sovereignty of God.  One may recall a similar event in 3 Maccabees 1:8-2:24, complete with divine punishment of King Ptolemy IV Philopator (reigned 221-203 B.C.E.).  One may also notice a similarity to the story of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and a military force invading a pagan temple in 2 Maccabees 1:13-17.  In that account, though the priests defended the temple.  Either way, invading temples was a bad idea.

Onias III was a good and pious man.  Simon the Temple administrator was not.  After the failed raid on the Temple treasury.  Heliodorus turned on his master; he assassinated Seleucus IV Philopator in 175 B.C.E.  Onias III sought to appeal for help to Seleucus IV Philopator, but the High Priest arrived after the assassination.  

The Revised English Bible (1989) expresses the difficult situation immediately prior to the assassination well:

[Onias III] saw that unless the king intervened there could be no peace in the public affairs, nor would Simon be stopped in his mad course.

–2 Maccabees 4:6

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the new king.  That was bad news.  And Onias III lost his job.  Jason, born Joshua, was the new High Priest.  Matters had become worse.

The name of Jason (the High Priest) has come up already.  The Epitomist referred to Jason in 2 Maccabees 1:7-8.

We are about to read the story of that perfidious priest.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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Second Maccabees: The Epitomist’s Preface and Conclusion   Leave a comment

Above:  Mina of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART III

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2 Maccabees 2:19-32; 15:37b-39

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As I write this series of blog posts, I follow a spreadsheet I created on July 17, 2020.  That spreadsheet tells me that 2 Maccabees covers only part of the span of time 1 Maccabees does.  I am writing in approximately chronological order, hence my jumping from one Book of the Maccabees to another in the first few posts of this series.  In the next post, for example, I will jump to 4 Maccabees, which terminates prior to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

2 Maccabees 2:21 is the first Biblical reference to Judaism as a way of life, here contrasted with Hellenism.  Here I take my theme.

Faith is a lifestyle.  I am a Christian.  As one, I affirm that Christian doctrine drives Christian faith.  After all, faith, or belief, in God is trust in God.  As we think, we are; human attitudes manifest themselves in actions.  Deeds reveal creeds.  In Jewish terms, as in many of the Psalms, God is like what God has done and does.  Likewise, we human beings are like what we have done and do.  Deeds reveal creeds.

Therefore, O reader, what does your way of life indicate about what your profess?  What does your culture’s way of life indicate about what it professes?

As this point I shall bring my work to an end.  If it is found to be well written and aptly composed, that is what I myself aimed at; if superficial and mediocre, it was the best I could do.  For, just as it is disagreeable to drink wine by itself or water by itself, whereas the mixing of the two produces a pleasant and delightful taste, so too variety of style in a literary work charms the ear of the reader.  Let this, then, be my final word.

–2 Maccabees 15:37b-39, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Did the Epitomist’s condensed version of Jason of Cyrene’s five-volume work satisfy you, O reader, as being “well written and aptly composed”?  Did he successfully “aim at conciseness of expression and renounce an exhaustive treatment of the subject matter” (2 Maccabees 2:31)?  Or did the Epitomist produce an abridgement that proved to be “superficial and mediocre”?  He had some wonderful literary flourishes, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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Posted February 4, 2021 by neatnik2009 in 1-3 Maccabees Other, 2 Maccabees 15

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