The book of 1 Maccabees contains an account of the second-century B.C.E. development of the independent Hasmonean state of Judah, set in the context of the Hellenistic world inaugurated by Alexander the Great (see 1 Macc 1:1). The book is valued more for its historical than its theological witness.
The Name of 1 Maccabees.
The earliest evidence for the name of 1 Maccabees comes from the late second-century C.E. theologian Origen of Alexandria. According to the fourth-century historian Eusebius of Caesarea (Hist. ecc. 6.25), Origen gave Sarbēthsabanaiel as an earlier name of the Greek ta Makkabaïka. Sarbēthsabanaiel appears to be a Greek transliteration of an uncertain Aramaic or Hebrew original. Several possibilities have been proposed. (1) Origen's version is a corruption of spr byt hsmn'ym, i.e., “The Book of the House [dynasty] of the Hasmoneans.” The name “Hasmonean” does not come from 1 Maccabees itself but from Josephus (War 1.3; Ant. 12:265) so this title, if a correct reconstruction, is unlikely to have been the original title. (2) spr byt srhy 'l (or spr byt srhy ysr'l), “The Book of the House of the Princes of God” (or, “the Book of the House of the Princes of Israel”). (3) spr byt srbny 'l, “The Book of the Dynasty of God's Resisters” (Goldstein 1976, 20–21; Goldstein derives the meaning “resisters” from Ezek. 2:6, where the word srb is translated “briers” [RSV] or “resist” [REB]). Though the Hebrew title behind Origen's Sarbēthsabanaiel remains obscure, that 1 Maccabees, which survives in a Greek version, was translated from an earlier Hebrew text is suggested by internal evidence (see below) and also by Jerome's statement (Prologus Galeatus) “Macchabaeorum librum primum hebraicum reperi,” “I found the first book of Maccabees in Hebrew” (or possibly, “to be a Hebrew book”).
The title of the Greek version of the book is given by Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 6.25) as ta Makkabaïka (a neuter plural adjective, meaning “the Maccabean things/events”); Hippolytus (ca. 170–236) uses the same adjectival form (en tē protē tōn Makkabaïkōn [Comm. in Dan. 4.3]). Origen (in primo libro Machabaeorum [Comm. in epist. ad Rom. 8.1]) and Eusebius (hē prōte kaloumenē tōn Makkabaiōn biblos [Dem. ev. 8. 2.72]) use a title which apparently refers rather to the persons of the Maccabees (see revised Schürer, III.1 , 183). The reference to “the Maccabees” ultimately derives from the nickname “Maccabeus,” usually understood as “hammer,” given to Mattathias's third son Judas (1 Macc 2:6). Modern English versions uniformly refer to “The First Book of the Maccabees.”
The Canonical Status of 1 Maccabees.
In printed editions of the Latin Vulgate (the Bible translated by Jerome in the fifth century), 1 and 2 Maccabees stand as the closing books of the Old Testament. In Protestant translations of the Bible since the Reformation, 1 and 2 Maccabees are set at the end of the collection of books known as the Apocrypha (“hidden things”) typically printed between the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. The apocryphal books are Jewish religious texts written in (or translated into) Greek, probably deriving from the Jewish community in Alexandria in Egypt between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E. They did not become part of the Hebrew Jewish canon, but were preserved by the Christian community in the Greek translation of the scriptures known as the Septuagint. Early Christian scholars like Origen and Augustine recognized that 1 and 2 Maccabees did not belong to the Jewish canon. Jerome (ca. 347–420 C.E.), distinguishing between Jewish writings found in Hebrew and those found only in Greek, described the latter as apocrypha or libri ecclesiastici (books of the church), which he further distinguished from libri canonici (canonical books). He included 1 Maccabees among the apocrypha, and did not translate it. However, Jerome's view of the canon did not prevail, and the Vulgate, the Latin Bible of the western church, included the apocryphal books in their earlier, Old Latin translation, along with Jerome's translation of the Hebrew books. So today the Vulgate includes 1 and 2 Maccabees, along with other apocryphal books (Tobias, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch) in the Old Testament.
However, the sixteenth-century reformers followed Jerome in distinguishing the libri ecclesiastici from the libri canonici, and excluded the former (including 1 and 2 Maccabees) from the Old Testament canon. Luther's 1534 German Bible saw the apocryphal books as “useful and good to be read,” but not as inspired, and printed them as an appendix. Coverdale's English translation (1535) set the “Apocrifa” together at the end of the Old Testament. The Calvinistic Geneva Bible (1560) included the apocryphal books “for their knowledge of history and instruction of godly manners.” One might compare how Article VI of the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1563) states that the Church reads the apocryphal books “for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.” The Apocrypha was included in the Bishops' Bible (1568) and the King James Bible (1611), but declared to be “of no authority in the Church of God” by the Westminster Confession (1643). This had a lasting influence in English religious tradition, and the interdenominational British and Foreign Bible Society (founded 1804) excluded the Apocrypha from its Bibles. However, in the Roman Catholic tradition, the Council of Trent (1545–1563) reaffirmed the place of 1 Maccabees and other apocryphal books in the Old Testament, where they have remained (other apocryphal books being listed under the heading “deuterocanonical”). Modern English versions such as the RSV, NRSV, NEB, REB have followed the Protestant tradition, excluding 1 and 2 Maccabees from the Old Testament but including them in the Bible as the final books of a separate Apocrypha.
The author of 1 Maccabees remains unidentified, but his work yields many clues to his educational, social, religious, and political background. He probably wrote his book in Hebrew, but he included official documents from the Seleucid, Roman, and Spartan archives and therefore probably understood Greek and Latin. He was evidently a Jew, well schooled in the Law and the practices of the Temple; thus he refers to seeking guidance from the Law (3:48), to the books of the Law (1:56, 3:48), to the book of the covenant (1:57), to priestly vestments (3:49), to first fruits and tithes (3:49), to the dedication of the Nazirites (3:49), to prayer (3:46), to fasting (3:47), to the observance of the Sabbath and feasts (1:45), to sabbatical years (6:49), to circumcision (1:15), to the laws of cleanliness (1:46–49); he refers to the Temple courts (4:48), to the Temple altars (4:47, 49), to the holy vessels of the Temple (4:49), to the wall dividing the inner and outer courts of the sanctuary (9:54–55), to the rituals of the altar dedication (4:52–58), and to the decoration of the Temple façade (4:57). He is well read in the scriptures: Mattathias recalls the deeds of the Jewish ancestors Abraham, Joseph, Phinehas, Joshua, Caleb, David, Elijah, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, and Daniel, which suggests that the author's reading was not limited to the Law. He draws on the “historical books” of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (e.g., 1 Macc 2:57, cf. 2 Sam 7:15F.; 1 Macc 9:21, cf. 2 Sam 1:19). He uses the Chronicler's work (the genealogy of 1 Chr 24:7–18) in 14:29; he alludes to Ezra 6:8 and 7:20 in 1 Maccabees 10:44 and 14:14. There are allusions to the prophets—thus 1 Maccabees 9:41 seems to quote Amos 8:10, and 1 Maccabees 14:8-9 suggests Ezekiel 34:27 and Zechariah 8:4, 12. (However, the author does not link Maccabean successes with the fulfilment of prophetic predictions, and regards the age of the prophets as past, cf. 1 Macc 4:46 and 9:27.) The author is also very aware of the Psalms: 1 Maccabees 2:63 may allude to Psalm 37:10, 35–36; 1 Maccabees 4:24 quotes Psalm 11:1; 136:1; 1 Maccabees 7:17 quotes Psalm 79:3. The laments of 1 Maccabees 1:25–28, 36–40; 2:7–13; 3:45-47 may be compared with Psalm 44, 74, 79, and the book of Lamentations.
All this makes clear that the author is steeped in the Jewish scriptures and Temple worship. He is very concerned for the preservation and survival of the Law, which was under attack by the “sinful” Antiochus IV (1 Macc 1:10) and his “lawless” Israelite supporters (1 Macc 1:11), but which was championed by Mattathias and his supporters (1 Macc 2:15–68). There is little proof, however, that the author was a priest. His instincts seem more political than priestly. He is concerned to present the Maccabees as “the family of those men through whom deliverance was given to Israel” (1 Macc 5:62), and his work underlines the importance of the Maccabees—especially Judas and Simon—in rescuing Israel from her political enemies and establishing peace for Israel (cf. 1 Macc 14:4–15). One can feel the author's pride in the removal of “the yoke of the Gentiles” from Israel, and in the public recognition of “the first year of Simon the great high priest and commander and leader of the Jews” (1 Macc 13:41), the splendid tomb of Simon (1 Macc 13:25–30), and especially in the fact that both the Spartans and the Romans (of former and present military fame in the Mediterranean respectively), as well as the Seleucids, now recognized the political importance of the Jewish people (see 1 Macc 8; 12:1–4, 5–23; 14:16–19, 24, 40; 15:15–24).
The author was clearly an educated person, with access to Temple and diplomatic archives, and also to those of the Hasmonean family (cf.1 Macc 16:23–24). He perhaps belonged to the circle around John Hyrcanus (135/4–104 B.C.E.). He was a determined nationalist, with little respect for Israel's foreign enemies and even less for the “renegade” Israelites of 1:11–15, whom he portrays as the cause of all the trouble. He was clearly an historian of some integrity, who avoided simply demonizing Antiochus IV as 2 Macc did (compare his account of the death of Antiochus, 1 Macc 6:13–18, with that of 2 Macc 9:1–28), and presented events with careful regard to dating and sequence; one might contrast his approach with that of 2 Maccabees, whose author aimed to please the readers, made the story easy for them to memorize, and left the responsibility of details to others (see 2 Macc 2:24–28).
Date of Composition and Historical Context.
The author says nothing directly about his identity or about the date and circumstances of his writing. In 13:30 he refers to the monumental family tomb which Simon built at Modein, apparently after the death of Jonathan, probably in 143 B.C.E, and notes that “it remains to this day,” which at least suggests that the tomb was built some time earlier, perhaps a generation or two. First Maccabees 8:9–10 refer to the Roman conquest of Greece in the Achaean War of 146–145 B.C.E., and the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C.E.; the Romans “enslaved them to this day.” Momigliano (1980, 561–66) argued that 1 Maccabees was written after the death of Simon in 135 B.C.E. and before Rome took over the kingdom of Pergamum after the death of King Attalus III in 133 B.C.E., an event unmentioned in 1 Maccabees 8:1–16. However, the failure of the author of 1 Maccabees to mention this important event even if he were writing a generation later might be just as surprising, and the reference of enslavement “to this day” might suggest more than a dozen years since the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C.E. and could easily bring us down to the end of Hyrcanus's reign. There is no need to suppose that the words “to this day” are meaningless, even if the phrase is formulaic, borrowed from the Deuteronomistic Historian. The most decisive evidence for dating 1 Maccabees must be the reference to the career of Simon's successor John Hyrcanus (1 Macc 16:23–24); these verses, modeled on the Deuteronomistic Historian's formulaic closures to the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel, strongly suggest that Jonathan's career is already in the past, in which case 1 Maccabees was written after Hyrcanus's death in 104 B.C.E. If the walls built by Hyrcanus (1 Macc 16:23) replaced those destroyed by Antiochus VII (Jos., Ant. 13:247), early in Hyrcanus's reign, then 1 Macc could belong to the later part of Hyrcanus's reign. Composition in the last years of the second century B.C.E. or the first decades of the first century B.C.E. remains the strongest possibility; Goldstein (1976, 63–64) argues for the reign of Alexander Janneus (103–76 B.C.E.). Since the author betrays no hostility to Rome, it is almost certain that he wrote his book before the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem and entered the Temple in 63 B.C.E.
By 63 B.C.E. the Hasmonean kingdom was firmly established, and it was possible to look back with pride on the achievements of the founding fathers. The author refers readers to the official records, though one wonders exactly what records did exist and how accessible they were (14:48–49 refers to bronze tablets publicly displayed, with copies kept in the treasury). The Maccabean achievements, however, laid the groundwork for Alexander Janneus's conquests, and the record of 1 Maccabees would have been of considerable relevance to Janneus and his advisors. Janneus began by attacking the city of Ptolemais, long hostile to resident Jews (cf. 1 Macc 5:15; 2 Macc 6:8; 13:25); Simon had besieged it (1 Macc 5:55), Demetrius I had offered it to the Jews (1 Macc 10:39), and Jonathan had been seized there (1 Macc 12:48). In 96 B.C.E. Janneus sacked and burnt Gaza, which Jonathan had attacked and come to terms with (1 Macc 11:61–62). Janneus campaigned more than once east of the Jordan, attacking Arabs and Nabateans in Gaulanitis, and taking Pella and Amathus (compare Judas's campaigns in Gilead, 1 Macc 5:24–44, and Jonathan's campaigns in Syria, 1 Macc 12:31–32). The Jewish people, rebelling against Janneus, had called in Demetrius II of Syria to help them; 1 Maccabees 11:41–53 tells how Demetrius I requested help from Jonathan. If the author of 1 Maccabees was at work in Janneus's reign, he would find much of continuing importance in the political activities of Judas, Jonathan, and Simon. The author would have noted the Roman preoccupation with the war against Jugurtha of Numidia in North Africa (109–105 B.C.E.), with the threat from the Cimbri and Teutones in Gaul (defeated by Marius in 102 B.C.E.), with rebellion in Italy (91–83 B.C.E.), and then with the ambition of Mithridates VI in Pontus which led to war in 88–84 B.C.E.; but he would have felt secure from the Romans by virtue of the alliances forged by Judas and Simon. The author's interest in Sparta, however, has little obvious connection with contemporary Sparta, which had lost all political influence after the Roman defeat of the Achaean league in 146 B.C.E.
Janneus, like his predecessor John Hyrcanus (see Jos. Ant. 13:288-98), was strongly opposed by the Pharisees, whose origins may be connected with the Hasideans of 1 Maccabees 2:42; 7:13. The Pharisees' opposition erupted into rebellion when Janneus stood beside the altar prepared to sacrifice at the Feast of Tabernacles (Jos. Ant. 13:372-73); the Pharisees probably objected to Janneus, who was not of the priestly house of Aaron, taking the high priestly role. The author of 1 Maccabees presented the Maccabean, not the Pharisaic, viewpoint here: in 1 Macc the first high priest mentioned is Alcimus, who was indeed of the house of Aaron (1 Macc 7:14) but whom the author associates with “the lawless and ungodly men of Israel” (i.e., the hellenizing party), thereby damning him. After Alcimus's death, there is apparently a gap in the high priesthood until Jonathan is appointed high priest by King Alexander Balas I in 152 B.C.E. (1 Macc 10:18–20), appearing in his robes at the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Macc 10:21) as later did Janneus. Jonathan was confirmed in his office by Demetrius II (1 Macc 11:27) and by Antiochus VI (1 Macc 11:57), and was succeeded as high priest by Simon (1 Macc 13:36, 42; 14:27, 38, 41; 15:2). The book ends with the note that Simon was in turn succeeded as high priest by his son John Hyrcanus (1 Macc 16:23). Clearly the assumption of the office of high priest by the Hasmonean family was important to the author of 1 Maccabees, who was thus clearly no Pharisee. This fact is of particular importance in Janneus's reign, when Janneus is attacked by the Pharisees on this very issue.
Scholars usually date the writing of 1 Maccabees to the end of Hyrcanus's reign or shortly after, c. 100 B.C.E. There is a good case for dating the writing of 1 Maccabees later in the reign of Hyrcanus's successor Alexander Janneus (103–76 B.C.E.). The author not only looks back on the building of the Hasmonean tomb, and the Roman conquest of Corinth, as distant events, but also sees the achievements of Hyrcanus's reign as already lying some time past (16:23). Janneus's attacks on Gaza and the coastal cities and on the Transjordan region continued the military expansion begun under his predecessors, and the record of their military achievements would have been of considerable interest to Janneus and his officers. Janneus's Hebrew name, Yehonathan (Jonathan), suggests that he was not unaware of his ancestry and his ancestor's achievements. The Hasmonean high priesthood became an important political issue in Janneus's reign; Janneus defended it against the Pharisees and the author of 1 Maccabees is its firm apologist. The growing power of Rome in the Mediterranean world underlines the author's emphasis on the importance of Rome to the Hasmoneans. Altogether Janneus's reign was the most likely context for the writing of 1 Maccabees and its presentation of the rise and achievements of the Hasmoneans.
The author probably wrote his book in Hebrew. This is suggested by the Hebrew or Aramaic title preserved by Origen and Eusebius and by Jerome's claim that he had found the book of 1 Maccabees in Hebrew (see above), as well as by the number of the Semitic idioms visible behind the Greek text and examples of transliterated names and mistranslations (see Torrey 1902, 2858–59). The writer's biblical style appears particularly in the poetic sections such as 3:3–9 and 14:4–15, and in the narrative sections such as 3:42—4:35, where Judas is presented as a military leader of Israel. The use of Hebrew would have been in keeping with the author's nationalistic theme and his pride in the Maccabean achievements. The Greek translation of 1 Maccabees from its original Hebrew version was probably destined for the Greek-speaking Jewish Diaspora in places like Alexandria. It probably appeared in the first century B.C.E., and may have been accepted in Jerusalem as well as in the Diaspora; Greek was known and used at Janneus's court. The Hasmonean kings assumed the style of Hellenistic monarchies, Alexander Janneus (103–76 B.C.E.) presenting himself as “Yehonathan the king” (Hebrew) on one side of his coins and as “King Alexander” (Greek) on the other. He and his successors may have welcomed a book available both in Hebrew and in Greek extolling Maccabean achievements and the Hasmonean monarchy. At all events, the Greek translation was known and used by Josephus in writing his Antiquities (completed 93–94 C.E.; cf. Jos. Ant. 20:267), though not, it seems, in writing the Jewish War, which was probably completed before the death of Vespasian, to whom Josephus presented a copy, in 79 C.E.
In his Contra Apionem 1:37–44, Josephus describes twenty-two Jewish books as historically trustworthy, noting that “from Artaxerxes to our own day, the detailed history has been written, but it has not been granted the same credibility as earlier writings, because the prophetic succession is not certainly established.” Josephus did not name 1 Maccabees among the twenty-two scriptural books, possibly counting it as part of this “detailed history.” However, he clearly valued it enough to use it. He paraphrased and expanded it, adding material from other sources such as Polybius, Diodorus, and Nicolaus of Damascus. For some reason Josephus may have followed 1 Maccabees only as far as the end of CHAPTER 13, after this reverting to his Jewish War for his material. Some scholars think that Josephus's copy of 1 Maccabees lacked its present ending, others that Josephus preferred to follow Nicolaus of Damascus, but Abel (1949, xiv) finds evidence that Josephus did know 1 Macc 13–15 (compare Ant. 13:214 with 1 Macc 13:42; Ant. 13:227 [the treaty with Rome] with 1 Macc 14:24; 15:15; Ant. 13:223–25 with 1 Macc 15:1–9, 25–31). Where Josephus acquired his copy of 1 Maccabees is unclear. If he acquired it from Jerusalem before its destruction in 70 C.E., why did he not use it for the Jewish War? Possibly he acquired it in Rome through his patron and correspondent King Agrippa II (cf. Life 65; Apion 1:9).
We do not know where the Greek text of 1 Maccabees was preserved and read after Josephus's time, but the most likely place is the Alexandrian Jewish community. The text appears in the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus (rediscovered at St. Catherine's monastery on Mt. Sinai in 1844 by Tischendorf) and in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus (presented by the Patriarch of Alexandria to Charles I in London in 1627); it does not appear in the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus (in the Vatican Library since at least 1481). 1 Maccabees is also preserved in the eighth-century Codex Venetus in the library of St Mark's, Venice. At an early stage, perhaps in the second century C.E., the Old Latin text was translated from the Greek text, probably for use in churches in north Africa. The Old Latin text was eventually incorporated into the Vulgate. Syriac and Armenian versions of 1 Maccabees also exist.
The Relationship between 1, 2, 3, and 4 Maccabees.
Three other works are linked by title to the Maccabees (2, 3, and 4 Maccabees) though they are of independent origins. Second Maccabees tells the story of Judas in order to underline the central tenets of Judaism: loyalty to the Temple, the Law, and the Sabbath; faith under persecution; and trust in God's almighty power. Though probably written in Janneus's reign (103–76 B.C.E.) and so roughly contemporary with 1 Maccabees, Second Maccabees differs from 1 Maccabees in content, order, literary style, and intent, and shows no sign of direct dependence on it. Third Maccabees is not about the Maccabees at all, but about the difficult political situation faced by Jews in Alexandria, ostensibly at the time of Ptolemy IV Philopator (221–204 B.C.E.). The theme of Jewish persecution by foreign rulers and some obvious similarities with 1 and 2 Maccabees—for example, Philopator's attempt to enter the Jerusalem sanctuary (3 Macc 1:11–29, cf. 1 Macc 1:21, 2 MACC 3), imposition of the worship of Dionysus (3 Macc 2:29, cf. 2 Macc 6:7), the vision that frightened the elephants (3 Macc 5:10, 6:18–21; cf. 1 Macc 6:34), and the figure of Eleazar (3 Macc 6:1–16, cf. 2 Macc 6:18–31)—may have led to the inclusion of 3 Maccabees with 1, 2 and 4 Maccabees in the fourth-fifth century C.E. Codex Alexandrinus. Fourth Maccabees, finally, is a rhetorical discourse “On the Supremacy of Reason,” which probably dates from the first century C.E. and which uses the story of Eleazar and the seven brothers (see 2 Macc 6:18—7:42) to demonstrate that religious reason (as exemplified by Jews who under persecution remain fast to the Law) has control over the emotions.
Structure and Contents.
The basic structure of 1 Maccabees is clearly discernible, and signalled by some obvious markers provided by the author. All scholars agree that CHAPTERS 1–2 form an introduction to the book, explaining the political and religious background to the following events. Chapters 3:1—9:22 relate the work and achievements of Judas, named Maccabeus, the son of Mattathias; the section is clearly defined by the identification of Judas in 3:1 and a closing formula in 9:22 (modeled on similar formulae from 1–2 Kings). Chapters 9:23—16:23 relate the work and achievements of Mattathias's other sons, Jonathan and Simon, with a coda similar to that of 9:22 but in fact referring to the deeds of Simon's son John, Simon's achievements having been described in great detail earlier (14:4–15, 25–37). Some scholars subdivide 9:23—16:23 into sections on Jonathan (9:23—12:53), Simon (12:1—16:17), and John (16:18–23), but the accounts of their activities intertwine and cannot be completely separated out, and the speech of Mattathias (2:65–66) refers programmatically to the roles of Simon and Judas, with no reference to either Jonathan or John. The third section of the book is firmly focused on the achievements of Simon, with a closing hint at the greatness of his son and successor John Hyrcanus (16:23).
Section 1 (chs. 1–2).
Closer examination of the three sections shows that the author has structured his book with some care. Section 1 begins with a prologue (1:1–10) summarily describing the career and death of Alexander the Great, and the subsequent break up of his empire between the Diadochoi (“successors”); the author focuses immediately on the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (188–164 B.C.E.), in whose reign the Maccabean struggle began. Chapter 1:11–64 blames events on the political intentions of renegade Jews, who with Antiochus's approval established a non-Jewish cultural regime in Jerusalem (1:12–14), and on Antiochus's territorial ambitions in Egypt (1:16–19). This led to three events: the looting of the Temple treasures (1:20–24); the destruction and garrisoning of Jerusalem (1:29–35); and the attack on Jewish religious observances themselves (1:41–64). Each event is followed by a poetic lament (1:14B–28; 36–40; 2:7–13). Chapter 2 recounts the several Jewish responses to the attack on Jewish religious practices: one unnamed Jew is prepared to apostatise and Mattathias kills him (2:23–26). “Many” Jews “seeking righteousness and justice” fled to the wilderness but declined to resist attack on the Sabbath, and were massacred (2:29–38). A third group led by Mattathias, including some called “Hasideans” who were prepared to fight, set up a resistance movement (2:39–48). The author presents this third approach as the correct one; Mattathias's death-bed speech (2:49–68) urges his sons and followers to show zeal for the Law and covenant of Israel and follow the example of their Israelite ancestors, and commends Simon as their father and Judas as their commander. These carefully structured opening chapters reveal the literary skill of the author, and set the scene for the following events.
Section 2 (chs. 3:1—9:22).
The events in Section 2 are also carefully presented, framed between a poem in praise of Judas (3:3–9) and a final poetic lament (9:21). The narrative divides into two similarly constructed halves (3:10—6:17; 7:1—9:18), separated by the Seleucid recapture of the sanctuary at Jerusalem (6:18–63):
I. Judas defeats Seleucid generals and surrounding gentiles: death of Antiochus IV
3:10–26 Judas defeats Apollonius and Seron
3:27–37 Antiochus IV's response
3:38—4:35 Judas repulses attacks by Gorgias and Lysias
4:36–59 Judas cleanses the sanctuary in Jerusalem
4:60–61 Judas fortifies Mount Zion (the sanctuary) and Beth-zur
5:1–68 Judas campaigns against the surrounding gentiles
6:1–17 Death of Antiochus IV
6:18–63 Judas attacks the Seleucid garrison in Jerusalem; the Seleucid general Lysias and Antiochus V counter attack, offer peace terms, and recapture the sanctuary and Beth-zur.
II. Judas defeats Nicanor and makes alliance with Rome: death of Judas
7:1–25 Demetrius becomes the Seleucid king; Alcimus becomes high priest; Bacchides replaces Lysias; the response of the Hasideans and Judas
7:26–50 The general Nicanor falsely offers peace; Judas defeats him in battle. Nicanor threatens the sanctuary; and is killed in battle.
8:1–32 Judas engages in diplomacy with Rome.
9:1–18 Bacchides defeats Judas, who is killed in battle.
In the first half Judas battles against King Antiochus's generals Gorgias and Lysias; in the second against King Demetrius's generals Bacchides and Nicanor. In the first half Judas achieves the cleansing and rededication of the Temple; in the second half Nicanor threatens to reverse this by burning the Temple. In the first half, Judas and his brothers attack the surrounding gentiles in Idumea, Galilee, the Transjordanian regions, and the coastal area; in the second half Judas initiates diplomatic relations with Rome in the west (on these two passages, which interrupt the sequence of the narrative, see below). In the first half Antiochus IV dies; in the second half Judas is killed. This is not a rigid literary scheme, but the author seems to construct two parallel periods of Judas's activity, in each of which Judas's successful campaigns in Judea and Jerusalem are followed by his activity abroad, and then by the deaths of Antiochus IV and Judas respectively. Between these two halves comes the setback of the Seleucid recapture of the sanctuary (6:60–62), which was finally remedied by Simon
(13:49–63), an important link between the author's accounts of the achievements of Judas and Simon.
CHAPTERS 5 and 8 are two separately constructed blocks of material, not closely integrated into their literary context. At the heart of CHAPTER 5 (VV. 9–64) is an account of how Simon rescues Jews from Galilee (21–23), Judas rescues Jews from Gilead (24–54), and how Joseph and Azariah fail in their unauthorized attack on Jamnia (because “they did not belong to the family of those men [the Maccabees] through whom deliverance was given to Israel,” [V. 62], an important programmatic note indicating the author's stance). Surrounding these events the author has set two pairs of stories, recounting Judas's wars against the Idumeans and the Ammonites (VV. 3–5, 6–7) and against the peoples of Hebron and Azotus (VV. 65, 66–68). Judas in this chapter is compared with King Saul, fighting the Philistines and rescuing Jews from Gilead (1 Sam 11:1–11), and with King David, defeating Ammonites and Edomites (2 Sam 8:13–14, 10:1–14). There is no clear indication of the date or precise historical context of these campaigns, but the author has skillfully linked the chapter to the reference to Idumea in 4:61.
CHAPTER 8 also stands out as a separate piece, breaking the narrative of Judas's campaigns against Nicanor and Bacchides (CH. 7 continues in 9:1). Verses 1–16 provide the author's very positive introduction to the Romans and their empire, designed as the prelude to Judas's diplomatic contact with Rome (8:17–20, and subsequent contacts in 12:1–4, 16; 14:16, 24; 15:15–24). They are “very strong and well disposed toward all who made an alliance with them” (v. 1), they had crushed Antiochus the Great and other kings (vv. 6, 11–12), they did not put on crowns or wear purple (like the Seleucids), but ruled through a senate (like the Jewish council of elders) and the annual consulate (vv. 14–16). These points might commend the Romans to the Jews. Judas's mission (VV. 17–22) was successful, and the letter recorded in VV. 23–30 (presumably a Greek translation of an original Latin document) incorporates an authentic Roman treaty of friendship and alliance (for details see Goldstein 1976, 360–68). This treaty is undated, but a letter from a Roman official Gaius Fannius preserved by Josephus (Ant. 14:233) requesting safe passage for Jewish delegates returning home bearing Senatorial decrees may date the mission to 162–161 B.C.E.
Section 3 (chs. 9:23—16:24).
Section 3 covers the activities of Jonathan and Simon, and Simon's son John. The history of these events seems much more complex than those under Judas (partly because the stage is a much wider one, involving Egypt, Syria, Sparta, and Rome, and the time period longer), and the structure of the book becomes more complicated, with the inclusion of a large number of archival documents. The contents may be summarized as follows:
- 9:23–73 Jonathan assumes leadership, Alcimus dies, Jonathan and Bacchides make peace, and Bacchides withdraws
- 10:1–50 Alexander Balas (pretender to Seleucid throne) and Demetrius I compete for Jonathan's support; Alexander defeats Demetrius
- 10:51–66 Alexander allies with Ptolemy, and honors Jonathan
- 10:67–89 Demetrius II arrives; Jonathan defeats his army
- 11:1–19 Ptolemy and Alexander die after battle; Demetrius II supreme
- 11:20–53 Jonathan supports Demetrius II (Trypho emerges, 38-40)
- 11:54–59 Trypho and Antiochus VI bid for Jonathan and Simon's support
- 11:60–74 Jonathan takes control of Askalon, Gaza; Simon takes Beth-zur; Jonathan defeats Demetrius's army near Hazor
- 12:1–23 Jonathan renews friendship with Rome, and allies with Sparta
- 12:24–32 Jonathan defeats Demetrius's army; Simon takes Joppa
- 12:33–38 Jonathan isolates Jerusalem citadel; Simon fortifies Adida
- 12:39–53 Trypho seizes power, and captures Jonathan
- 13:1–11 Simon succeeds Jonathan, fortifies Jerusalem, captures Joppa
- 13:12–24 Trypho invades Judah; death of Jonathan
- 13:25–30 Burial of Jonathan; Simon builds monumental tomb at Modein
- 13:31–42 Simon makes peace with Demetrius
- 13:43–53 Simon takes Gazara, and captures Jerusalem citadel
- 14:1–3 Demetrius campaigns in Media and is captured
- 14:3–15 Poem in praise of Simon
- 14:16–24 Correspondence from Rome and Sparta
- 14:25–49 Bronze record of Simon's career
- 15:1–9 Letter of Antiochus VII to Simon
- 15:10–14 Antiochus VII besieges Trypho in Dor
- 15:15–24 Roman letter about Jews to kings and countries
- 15:25–36 Antiochus VII's dispute with Simon
- 15:37—16:10 Cendebaeus's invasion of Judah
- 16:11–22 Death of Simon
- 16:23–24 Author's conclusion: the acts of John [Hyrcanus]
The narrative is focused on Jonathan and Simon's dealings with the successive Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings—Alexander Balas (150–145 B.C.E.), Demetrius I (162–150 B.C.E.), Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–145 B.C.E.), Demetrius II Nicator (145–141 B.C.E.), Trypho (142–138 B.C.E.), and Antiochus VII (138–129 B.C.E.). Into this has been inserted material, mostly drawn from archives, about Jewish diplomatic relationships with Rome (12:1–4; 14:16–19, 24; 15:15–24) and Sparta (12:5–23; 14:20–23); the insertion is clear at 12:1–23, where the dealings with Rome and Sparta clearly break into the story of Jonathan's war with Demetrius II, and at 15:15, where Numenius's arrival from Rome interrupts the story of Antiochus VII's siege of Dor. The sequence of the diplomatic missions to and from Rome is confusing; probably Numenius's mission from Simon (14:24) should precede the Roman activity in 14:17–18; then follows Numenius's return in 15:15, with letters from Rome to sundry rulers. The author's combination of genuine diplomatic material about Rome with diplomatic fiction about Sparta in 12:1–23 and 14:16–24 is further evidence of the author's attempts to manage his disparate materials about Jewish relationships abroad.
The final chapters reveal other structural difficulties. The eulogy of Simon in 14:3–15 seems to offer a natural conclusion to the book, neatly balancing the opening eulogy of Judas Maccabeus in 3:3–9. The author may at one stage have intended this as his conclusion, immediately after the highpoint in Simon's career in making peace with Demetrius and capturing the Jerusalem citadel. The diplomatic achievements with Rome and Sparta, and the public record of Simon's achievements (14:25–49) were too important to omit, and historical honesty perhaps compelled the author to include the less impressive activities of the final war with Antiochus and the inglorious story of Simon's end. Chapter 16:23–24 conclude the book with a summary reference to the long career of Simon's son John Hyrcanus, who ruled 135/4–104 B.C.E.
First Maccabees, though undoubtedly written by a Jew for the benefit of Jewish contemporaries—perhaps especially for the author's contemporary Jewish rulers—has never been part of the Jewish scriptures. However, it belonged to the Greek Bible of the early Christian church, and was mentioned or quoted by such scholars as Clement of Alexandria (end of second century), Hippolytus and Tertullian (early third century), Origen and Cyprian (third century), and Eusebius of Caesarea (fourth century). Hippolytus values 1 Maccabees for demonstrating the truth of Daniel's prophecies, Origen for the examples of religious zeal; Eusebius sees God's wrath against his people threatened in Ps 78:56–64 demonstrated in 1 Macc 7:15–17. While Jerome distinguished “canonical” books found in the Hebrew Bible from “ecclesiastical books” found in the Greek and Old Latin Bibles, allowing the latter to be read for edification but not for doctrine, Augustine commented that “this writing which is called ‘Of the Maccabees’ is not held by the Jews on the same level as the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, but is received by the Church as not without use, if read and heard carefully, especially on account of the Maccabees, who suffered such unworthy and horrendous things from their persecutors on account of God's law” (Contra Gaudentium I:31; Migne PL 43:729; quoted Abel , xi.). That is, 1 Maccabees is valued for the examples it gives of faithfulness under persecution to God's law. This approach has a long history in the Christian recognition of the Maccabean sufferers as martyrs, starting with Origen and Augustine. Typologically, Judas's defeat of Antiochus could be seen to correspond to Christ's defeat of the Antichrist (Jerome, Comm. in Danielem; Migne, PL 25:569–70; cf. Luther, Preface to 1 Maccabees). The debate about the canonicity of 1 and 2 Maccabees continued for centuries; in the Reformation Luther was prepared to grant that 1 Maccabees would have been worthy of canonicity for its usefulness in explaining Daniel CHAPTER 11 (cf. Hippolytus earlier).
Between the Reformation and the present day, thanks to the influence of the Enlightenment, scholars have approached the Maccabean writings in search of a more accurate understanding of the historical events behind them, and with a growing appreciation of the effect of Hellenism upon Judaism in the second century B.C.E. In the nineteenth century, the important commentary was that of C. Grimm (1851–60). In the twentieth century, the works of E. J. Bickermann (Der Gott der Makkabaer, 1937; Eng. trans. 1979) and V. Tcherikover (Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, 1959), together with M. Hengel (Judaism and Hellenism, 1974), have brought about a totally new understanding of the Maccabean revolt. F. M. Abel (1949M) and J. Goldstein (1976) published important detailed commentaries.
The most important discussion of the interpretation of the Maccabean story remains that of Elias Bickerman, in the first two chapters of his Der Gott der Makkabaer (The God of the Maccabees ). Bickerman argued that the author of 1 Maccabees blamed events on the imperial aims of the Syrian kings and the hellenizing ambitions of some leading Jews; 2 Maccabees explained events by saying that God was punishing the Jews for their sins through the hand of Antiochus. Non-Jews might see Antiochus as a champion of Hellenistic culture against Jewish barbarism. The church later saw Antiochus as the Antichrist, the precursor of the Christian persecutors Nero, Decius, and Diocletian; the persecution was the result of Antiochus's pride, the Greek sin of hubris (vividly presented in 2 Macc 9); the Maccabeans were martyrs. But the Maccabees also in time became biblical models for resistance against tyrants, even against ecclesiastical tyrants; Luther's opposition to the Pope could be justified by reference to the Maccabees (though the biblical precept “Fear God, honor the king” (1 Pet 2:17) made it hard to justify opposition to a tyrannical but Christian head of state). In the Enlightenment period, an older view reappeared: Antiochus was a cultivated Hellenistic ruler who needed to unify his empire, while the Jews were rebels; since the Jews used their religion as a pretext for rebellion, Antiochus abolished the Jewish religion. In the late nineteenth century, Antiochus was seen as trying to abolish local nationalism, to turn all the peoples of his empire into Zeus-worshipping Greeks (though in fact there is no evidence that this was Antiochus's aim); the Jews were to become fully integrated into his empire. In Germany at that time, the feeling was that the Jews should give up their particularism and become culturally fully German.
Bickerman demonstrated that, as so often, the interpretation of a book depends on the context in which it is read, that “scholars have always tended to ‘modernize’ Antiochus” (Bickerman, trans. Moehring, 1972, 31). His own book appeared in 1937, at the height of Nazi Germany, and the overtones of such a study on “the meaning and origin of the Maccabean revolt” cannot have been lost on the German academic world of the time. But Bickerman insisted that the ancient records conveyed accurate factual tradition, while being as unsatisfactory as more recent interpreters in the evaluation of the facts; it was important to return to the original documents, and establish accurately the sequence of events, in order to understand their significance. (Much recent scholarly effort has been devoted to untangling the chronology of the Maccabean books; e.g., Bringmann 1983, Grabbe 1991, Bartlett 1998.) Bickerman saw the Maccabean struggle as primarily a civil war between reformers and orthodox, though remembered by posterity as a war against the Seleucids.
The reception history of the Maccabean story begins with its liturgical commemoration. 2 Maccabees begins with two letters (the first dated 124 B.C.E., the second perhaps from Janneus's reign, 103–76 B.C.E.) sent from Jews in Jerusalem to Jews in Egypt, urging them to keep the feast later known as Hanukkah (“dedication”). The festival is first named as such in the first-century C.E. Jewish writing megillat ta‘annit (“scroll of fasting”), which lists the days and the events they commemorated on which fasting was not allowed. This festival celebrated Judas Maccabeus's restoration and dedication of the Temple and its courts in 164 B.C.E., and lasted for eight days, beginning on 25 Kislev each year (see 1 Macc 4:36–59; 2 Macc 10:3–8). The eight-day feast recalls the purification of the Temple under Hezekiah (2 Chr 29:16–17) and the original dedication of the Temple by Solomon (1 Kgs 7–8). First Maccabees emphasizes the rebuilding and dedication of the altar of burnt offering; 2 Maccabees 10:3–8 emphasizes the purification of the Temple, and compares the feast (with its use of branches and palm-fronds) to the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (see Lev 23:33-36, 39-43; cf. 2 Macc 1:9). The reference to “ivy-wreathed wands” suggests association with the feast of the Greco-Roman god Bacchus/Dionysus (see 2 Macc 5.7). In addition to being associated with the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles,
Hanukkah is also associated with fire (see 2 Macc 1:18) and the lighting of lamps (1 Macc 4:50; 2 Macc 10:3). Josephus (Ant. 12:325) notes that his contemporaries called the feast “lights” (phōta) from the unhoped-for restoration of worship celebrated by this feast. The New Testament (Jn 10:22) refers to Jesus' presence in the Temple for the Feast of Dedication (enkainia).
The events described in 1 Maccabees have probably been used less in art and literature through the centuries than those of many other biblical and apocryphal stories, e.g., the ancestral narratives in Genesis, the Exodus and Wilderness themes, the accounts of heroines like Esther, Judith, and Susanna, and the story of the martyrdom of the mother and her seven children in 2 Maccabees. However, there are a number of artistic, literary and musical allusions from the Middle Ages onward worth noting. In the tenth century Aelfric used the example of Judas's just war to encourage the English in their resistance to the Norsemen, and Chaucer (ca. 1345–1400) refers to Judas as “God's knight” (see Besserman , 421). In the early fourteenth century, ca. 1319, the poet Dante mentions Judas Maccabeus in the company of the heroes Joshua, the conqueror of Canaan, and Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne (Paradiso XVIII, 37–48). In 1474 the French painter and illustrator Jean Fouquet (1420– ca. 1481), known for his work on illuminated manuscripts of Boccaccio and the Grand Chroniques de France, illustrated two volumes of a French translation of Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews. His illustrations include a colorful and sharply defined picture of the Syrian general Bacchides' Sabbath attack on Jonathan at the bank of the Jordan (1 Macc 9.43-49), with the battle at the river in the foreground and a medieval castle atop a hill in the middle distance. Shakespeare (Love's Labour's Lost, Act V, scenes 1 and 2, first performed ca. 1595) has fun with the figure of Judas Maccabeus as one of the Nine Worthies (the warriors Hector, Alexander, Julius Caesar; Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus; Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon), making his characters confuse him with the traitor Judas; a few years later (1601) another English dramatist William Houghton produced a play, no longer extant, on Judas Maccabaeus. In 1635–36 the painter Paul Rubens was commissioned by the Bishop of Tournai to produce two paintings for an altar for the departed, behind the high altar at Tournai Cathedral (D'Hulst and Vandenven, 1989); one of these showed Judas Maccabeus praying for the dead (but this story comes not from 1 Maccabees but from 2 Maccabees 12:39–46).
Perhaps the best known artistic reference to the Maccabean story is the eighteenth-century oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, which appeared in 1747. Thomas Morell wrote the libretto, and Handel the musical score. Morell dedicated his work to His Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cumberland: “This faint portraiture of a truly wise, valiant and virtuous commander as to the possessor of the like noble qualities is…inscribed by his Royal Highness's most obedient and devoted servant the author.” Morell thus deliberately compares the Duke of Cumberland, who had just savagely put down at Culloden (1746) the Jacobite rebellion led by Prince Charles, with the triumphant Judas, and Handel inflates the comparison with his famous chorus “See the conqu'ring hero comes.” This is a somewhat perverse interpretation of the Maccabean story: the Duke of Cumberland was hardly a Judas Maccabeus fighting a tyrannical major power, and Prince Charles was hardly an Antiochus putting down a rebellious people.
The nineteenth century saw further, and perhaps more natural, use of the Maccabean story in the visual arts, music, and literature. The German musician, dramatist, and novelist Otto Ludwig (1813–65) wrote an imaginative play Die Makkabaer (1852), the basis for the opera of the same title written soon after by the Russian composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein (1829–94). Rubinstein was a Jew in an anti-Semitic society, and this may have influenced his choice of subject. In this same decade appeared the Die Bibel in Bildern (1852–60) by the artist Schnorr von Karolsfeld (1794–1872), an engraver of religious and mythological subjects, who in 1846 became Director of the Royal Picture Gallery and Professor in the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. His volume included some two hundred woodcuts; one of which showed a triumphant Judas cleansing and dedicating the Temple in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Macc 4:36–59). In the 1860s appeared the work of the engraver Paul Gustave Doré (1832–83); his engravings (published in Paris in 1865 and London in 1866) included dramatic pictures of Judas's father Mattathias killing the apostate (1 Macc 2:24), Eleazar dying under the elephant he has speared from beneath (1 Macc 6:43-46), and Jonathan destroying the Temple of Dagon (1 Macc 10:84).
In 1868 the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–82) published in his New England Tragedies a verse tragedy in five acts called “Judas Maccabaeus.” The drama begins with Antiochus and his puppet Jewish leader Jason. The story moves on in Act II to show the death of the widow and her seven sons (from 2 Maccabees 7), turns in Act III to Judas and his reaction and achievements, in Act IV to the results for Judas and Jason respectively, and ends in Act V with Antiochus. The Maccabean story has appeared in a number of novels from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The story was made the vehicle for humor in C. E. Vulliamy's novel Judas Maccabaeus: A Study Based upon Dr Quarto Karadyne's Translation of the Ararat Codex (1934). The novel Judas Makkabaeus: Ein Kleinvolk kampft um Glaube und Heimat by the Swiss writer Karl Boxler (1943) saw in Judas's fight for Jewish independence a parallel to William Tell's fight for Swiss independence. The novel My Glorious Brothers by the American Howard Fast (1948), in which Simon remembers his brothers' achievements, reflected Israel's war of independence in 1947–48. The Maccabean theme has more recently been presented in the stained glass windows of the Maccabees choir in St. Andreas Church, Köln, which compare the sufferings of the Maccabees with the sufferings of Christ, and present the salvation of the Maccabees as a symbol for the salvation of humankind. Clearly the Maccabean theme of the emergence of the Hasmonean state of Judah from the persecution of Antiochus IV has had considerable appeal, to both Jews and Christians, in an age when the emergence of the state of Israel followed the horrors of the Holocaust. In spite of Bickerman's scholarly exegesis, the themes of Jewish independence and human martyrdom remain preeminent in art and literature.
- Abel, Félix-Marie. Les Livres des Maccabées. Paris: Gabalda, 1949. A classic, scholarly, and indispensable commentary on the Greek text of 1 and 2 Maccabees.
- Bar-Kochva, Bezalel. Judas Maccabaeus: The Jewish Struggle against the Seleucids. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. 1989. A detailed account of the battles fought by Judas between 166 and 160 B.C.E.
- Bartlett, John Raymond. 1 Maccabees. Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic, 1998. A detailed introduction to the sources, composition, chronological problems, and contents of 1 Maccabees.
- Bartlett, John Raymond. “1 Maccabees.” In Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, edited by James D. G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson, pp. 807–830. Grand Rapids, Mich./Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 2003. An up-to-date commentary on 1 Maccabees.
- Besserman, Lawrence. “Judas Maccabaeus.” In Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, edited by David Lyle Jeffrey, pp. 420–422. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992.
- Bickerman, Elias. Der Gott der Makkabäer. Untersuchungen über Sinn und Ursprung der Makkabäischen Erhebung. Berlin: Schocken Verlag/Jüdischer Buchverlag, 1937. Translated by Horst R. Moehring as The God of the Maccabees: Studies on the Meaning and Origin of the Maccabean Revolt (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1979). Bickerman set a new agenda for twentieth-century Maccabean scholarship, underlining the importance of the Jewish hellenizers in Judah under Antiochus IV, and underlining the need to establish the correct chronology of events.
- Bringmann, K. Hellenistische Reform und Religionsverfolgung in Judäa. Abhandlung der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen: Philologische-Historische Klasse, 3d series 132. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1983. This study is important for both the chronology and the interpretation of the Maccabean revolt, laying much blame for events on the policies of the high priest Menelaus.
- Dancy, John C. A Commentary on 1 Maccabees. Oxford: Blackwell. 1954. A precise, critical discussion of the text, with particular reference to historical details, by a classical scholar.
- Daniell, David. The Bible in English: Its History and Influence. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.
- D'Hulst, Roger-Adolph., and M. Vandenven. Rubens: The Old Testament. London: Harvey Miller and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
- Goldstein, Jonathan A. 1 Maccabees. Anchor Bible vol. 41. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976. An important, detailed commentary by a scholar with a comprehensive knowledge of the scholarly literature.
- Grabbe, Lester L. “Maccabaean Chronology: 167–164 or 168–165 BCE?”, Journal of Biblical Literature 110 (1991), 59–74.
- Green, Peter. Alexander to Actium: The Hellenistic Age. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994. A very readable encyclopedic introduction to the Hellenistic age, with an excellent chapter on Hellenism and the Jews.
- Grimm, Carl Ludwig W. Das erste Buch der Makkabäer. Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen des Alten Testaments, ed. O. F. Fritsche. Leipzig: Hirzel. 1853. The classical, still valuable, scholarly nineteenth-century commentary.
- Gruen, Erich S. “Hellenism and Persecution: Antiochus IV and the Jews.” In Hellenistic History and Culture, edited by Peter Green, pp. 238-74. Berkeley: University of Califormia Press, 1993.
- Hengel, Martin. Hellenism and Judaism. London: SCM Press, 1974. A detailed examination of the impact of Hellenism on the Jews.
- Martola, Nils. Capture and Liberation: A Study in the Composition of the First Book of Maccabees. Acta Academiae Aboensis, Series A, Humaniora 63.1. Åbo: Åbo Academi, 1984. The only detailed study of the composition of 1 Maccabees.
- Momigliano, Arnaldo. “The date of the First Book of Maccabees.” In Sesto contribute alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico, II, pp. 561-66. Storia & Letterature 150. Rome. 1980.
- Mrkholm, Otto. Antiochus IV of Syria. Classica et Medievalia, Dissertationes 8. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1966. An important modern study of Antiochus IV.
- Schürer, Emil. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1885–91; revised English edition in three volumes, edited by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Matthew Black, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 BC–AD 135). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973–87. A standard reference work.
- Tcherikover, Victor, translated by S. Applebaum. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America: Jerusalem: The Magnes Press; The Hebrew University. 1959. Tcherikover's book, both scholarly and readable, argues that hellenization in Judea was resisted by the Hasidim, and that Antiochus's persecution was the result, not the cause, of the Jewish revolt.
- Tedesche, Solomon, and Sidney Zeitlin. The First Book of Maccabees: An English Translation by Sidney Tedesche, Introduction and Commentary by Solomon Zeitlin. New York: Harper, for The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning. 1950. A commentary based on the Greek text with an English translation, particularly useful for its Jewish scholarship.
- Torrey, Charles Cutler. “Maccabees (Books).” In Encyclopaedia Biblica, edited by T. K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black, vol. III, cols 2858–59. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1899–1903.
John R. Bartlett