The Book of Second Maccabees

A Diaspora perspective with an emphasis on martyrdom

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Supernatural intervention abounds in Second Maccabees, while religiously motivated military initiatives are emphasized in First Maccabees. (The miracle of the vessel of oil that burned for eight days is never mentioned in any of the Books of the Maccabees, and it appears only in later Rabbinic sources.) The literary style chosen by Jason of Cyrene highlights the martyrdom. It is a melodramatic Greek style that describes graphically the death of innocent children, women and old men. It seeks to shock theaudience with tear-jerking violence and to inspire the reader with heroic resolve to suffer horrendous torture rather than commit idolatry.

The summary of Jason of Cyrene was created by someone seeking to legitimize the celebration of Hanukkah in Ptolemaic Hellenistic Egypt. Therefore the anonymous "epitomizer” (summarizer) provides an abbreviated history with two letters written in 142 BCE by newly independent Judea to the Diaspora Jews in Egypt. The letters call upon their brothers to observe Hanukkah as the holiday of the rededication of the Temple.

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Noam Zion

Noam Zion is the Director of Shalom Hartman Institute's Resource Center for Jewish Continuity. He specializes in teaching Jewish Holidays, Bible and Art, and has edited several educational books for the Shalom Hartman Institute.