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Bible Commentaries

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

- Baruch

by George Haydock

THE FIRST BOOK OF MACHABEES.

INTRODUCTION.

These Books are so called, because they contain the history of the people of God under the command of Judas Machabeus and his brethren; and he, as some will have it, was surnamed Machabeus from carrying on his ensigns, or standards, those words of Exodus xv. 11., "Who is like to thee among the strong, O Lord;" in which the initial letters, in the Hebrew, are M. C. B. E. I. It is not known who was the author of these books. But as to their authority, though they are not received by the Jews, saith St. Augustine, (liber[book] xviii., City of God, chap. xxxvi.) they are received by the Church; who, in settling her canon of the Scriptures, chose rather to be directed by the tradition she had received from the apostles of Christ, than by that of the Scribes and Pharisees. And as the Church has declared these two books canonical, even in two general councils, viz., Florence and Trent, there can be no doubt of their authenticity. (Challoner) --- The most ancient Father, Clement [of Alexandria], (Strom. i.) St. Cyprian, (1 ep. iii. ad. Cornel.) St. Ambrose, (Off. i. 41., &c.) quote them as divine; and the third Council of Carthage, Trent, &c., have inserted them in the canon. Though (Worthington) St. Jerome did not translate (Calmet) or urge them against the Jews, he had a great regard for them. (In Daniel i., and xi., &c.) The texts to which Protestants object, will be explained. They are not more difficult than many which occur in the Books of Kings and Paralipomenon. Other books have been formerly contested, which they now admit. The author of the second books seems to have designed at first only to insert two supplements. He then resolved to abridge the work of Jason, and hence added a preface, (chap. ii. 20.) which may be first perused. He then gives an account of some who had suffered death for the truth; and in the eighth and following chapters, the victories of the Machabees, which had been partly recorded in the first book, are specified, with some fresh circumstances. Judas was styled the Machabee for his strength and valour, (Worthington) being "the scourge" of God, (Haydock) or because he was an exterminator. (Menochius) --- Yet the etymology is not well ascertained. That given above, (Zacharias xii. 5.; Haydock) or M. C. B. I. (Buxtorf; Prideaux, &c.) seems to be overthrown, by the Syriac having always k instead of c, which is the case in two Chaldean manuscripts. These may not contain a truer history, but they rectify several mistakes in the printed copies. (Kennicott) --- St. Jerome found the first of these books in Hebrew, the second in Greek. (Ep. 106.) We have a third also in Greek, in the Complutensian Bible; as well as a fourth, mentioned by Sixtus, (Bib. i.; Worthington) "on the administration of Hircan," (Calmet) to which reference seems to be made [in] 1 Machabees xv. 24., (Worthington) though what is extant be a work of no authority. "The empire of reason," falsely attributed to Josephus, and printed among his works, is more probably the fourth book, known to the ancients. Neither of these latter were ever deemed canonical by any authentic decree. (Worthington) --- Many have indeed ranked the with the other contested works: but now it is generally agreed that they belong not to the sacred Scriptures, as the two former do. On these (Calmet) indeed, as almost on all the sacred books, (Haydock) authors have varied: but he most respectable and the most numerous declare in their favour. To arrange the four books in chronological order, we must make the first and third exchange places. This last can obtain its title only inasmuch as the Jews of Alexandria, who were persecuted by Philopator, and miraculously delivered, were animated with the same sentiments of piety and heroism as the rest of the Machabees. (Calmet) See Ecclesiasticus l. 1, 21, 23. (Haydock) --- The authors of the first and second books relate many of the same events; yet seem not to have seen each other's works. The latter follows the Greek chronology, dating from Tisri, September and October, (Calmet) the year of the world 3828 to 3843, (Haydock) while the former dates from Nisan, (Calmet) our March or April, the year 3829 to 3869. The third book gives an account of Philopator's persecution in Egypt, the year 3787. The fourth, from the year 3869 to 3698, (Haydock) is little known among the Latins. Calmet gives two copies, the one regarding Hircan and the other "the government of reason," or the martyrdom of the Machabees, the year 3837; (Haydock) the author of which last seems to have been a Stoic. (Calmet) --- We shall pass them[3 Machabees and 4 Machabees] over, with Protestants, as they are not received by the Catholic Church. (Haydock)