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Introduction to the Books of the Maccabees

Introduction to the Books of the Maccabees
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

For the purposes of this research assignment we will only consider the first four books of Maccabees, two of which (1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees) are part of the Old Testament for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians but are included by Protestants with the Apocrypha. The other two (3 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees) are considered variously by the different Christian traditions. The Greek Orthodox church includes 3 Maccabees in the canon of the Bible and 4 Maccabees in appendix to the biblical canon. Both 3 and 4 Maccabees are regarded by Protestants as part of the pseudepigrapha and by Roman Catholics as part of the Apocrypha. None of the four books is included in the Hebrew Bible.

The title Maccabees comes from the nickname of the military leader Judas, or Judah. He was the most renowned member of the Hasmonaeans. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean royal dynasty and established Jewish independence in the Hasmonean Kingdom for about one hundred years, from 164 BC to 63 BC.

Although they were said not to be of the family of the Maccabees, seven Jewish brothers and their mother, described as martyred for their faith in 2 and 4 Maccabees, have been known in Christianity as the "Holy Maccabean Martyrs" or "Holy Maccabees", from the title of the book where their martydom is described: 2 Maccabees 7.

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the "Holy Maccabean Martyrs" on August 1, the first day of the Dormition Fast.

The following articles on Maccabees will discuss each book individually in chapter outline format.

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