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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Maccabees, Books of

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(Μακκαβαίων ά, β᾿ , etc.). Four books which bear the common title of "Maccabees" are found in some MSS. of the Sept.; a fifth is found in an Arabic version. Two of these were included in the early current Latin versions of the Bible, and hence passed into the Vulgate. As forming part of the Vulgate, they were received as canonical by the Council of Trent, and retained among the Apocrypha by the Reformed churches. The two other books obtained no such wide circulation, and have only a secondary connection with the Maccabaean history. But all the books, though they differ most widely in character, and date, and worth, possess points of interest which make them a fruitful field for study. If the historic order were observed, the so-called third book would come first, the fourth would be an appendix to the second, which would retain its place, and the first would come last; but it will be more convenient to examine the books in the order in which they are found in the MSS., which was probably decided by some vague tradition of their relative antiquity. In the following account of these books we adopt much of the matter found in the dictionaries of Kitto and Smith.

The controversy as to the mutual relations and historic worth of the first two books of Maccabees has given rise to much very ingenious and partial criticism. The subject was very nearly exhausted by a series of essays published in the last century. which contain, in the midst of much unfair reasoning. the substance of what has been written since. The discussion was occasioned by E. Frolich's Annals of Syria. (Annalles... Syriae.... numis veteribus illustrati, Vindob. 1744). In this great work the author-a Jesuit-had claimed paramount authority for the books of Maccabees. This claim was denied by E. F. Wernsdorf in his Prolusio de fontibus historiae Syriae in Libris Maccabees (Lipsiae, 1746). Frolich replied to this essay in another, De fontibus hist. Syriae in Libris Maccabees prolusio... in examen vocata (Vindob. 1746), and then the argument fell into other hands. Wernsdorf's brother (Gli. Wernsdorf) undertook to support his cause, which he did in a Commentatio historico-critica de fide librorumn Maccab. (Wratisl. 1747); and nothing has been written on the same side which can be compared with his work. By the vigor and freedom of his style, by his surprising erudition and unwavering confidence-almost worthy of Bentley he carries his readers often beyond the bounds of true criticism, and it is only after reflection that the littleness and sophistry of many of his arguments are apparent. But, in spite of the injustice and arrogance of the book, it contains very much which is of the greatest value, and no abstract can give an adequate notion of its power. The reply to Wernsdorf was published anonymously by another Jesuit: Auctoritas utriusque Libri Maccabees canonico-historica adserta... a quodam Soc. Jesu sacerdote (Vindob. 1749). The authorship of this was fixed upon J. Khell (Welte, Einleit. p. 23, note); and while in many points Khell is unequal to his adversary, his book contains some very useful collections for the history of the canon. In more recent times, F. X. Patritius (another Jesuit) has made a fresh attempt to establish the complete harmony of the books, and, on the whole, his essay (De Consensu utriusque Libri Maccabees Romae, 1856), though far from satisfactory, is the most able defense of the books which has been published. For a copious list of original editions, translations, and commentaries on the first three books of Maccabees, see Fü rst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 2:316 sq.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Maccabees, Books of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/m/maccabees-books-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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