Leslie J. Hoppe
The Relationship between 1 and 2 Maccabees
Second Maccabees does not continue the history of the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid empire and its aftermath, which is the subject of 1 Maccabees. The second book is an abridgement of a five‐volume work on the Maccabees by one Jason of Cyrene ( 2, 23 ). This longer work has not come down to us. The unknown editor who is responsible for the present form of 2 Maccabees wished to simplify Jason's work so that readers could remember its most important features ( 2, 25 ).
Second Maccabees begins its story of the Jews in Palestine with the reign of Seleucus IV when Onias III was the high priest and ends with the defeat of the Seleucid army by Judas Maccabee. The period extends from approximately 180 to 161 BC. Thus, the story of 2 Maccabees overlaps with that in 1 Mc 1, 10–7, 5 . In particular, there is quite a lot of similarity between 2 Mc 8–15 and 1 Mc 3–7 .
While 2 Maccabees does not cover as much of the history of the Maccabees as does 1 Maccabees, it is a more polished literary work. Also, 2 Maccabees is less of an apology for the Hasmonean dynasty and more of an attempt to illustrate an important theological theme: God's justice in rewarding the faithful and punishing the impious. The book provides an inventory of how God dealt with both Jews and Greeks who disregarded the divine will. Its focus, however, is on those Jews who accepted death rather than be guilty of an act of disobedience. Second Maccabees highlights the death of Jewish martyrs to affect the emotions of its readers so that they may recommit themselves to faithful observance.