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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Maccabees, the Fourth Book of
(a), though not given in the Roman Vulgate, and therefore not inserted in the Apocrypha contained in the Bibles translated by the Reformers, yet exists in Greek in two leading texts. One, which, on account of its more extensive circulation, may be called the received or common text, is contained in the early edition of the Sept. printed at Strasburg, 1.526, Basel, 1545 and 1550, Frankfurt, 1597, Basel, 1582, and in the editions of Josephus's work, and is given in its purest form in Bekker's edition of Josephus (Leips. 1855-56, 6 vols.). The other is the Alexandrian, or that of the Codex Alexandrinus, and is the more ancient and preferable one; it is contained in the editions of the Sept. by Grabe and Breitinger, and is adopted, with some few alterations after the common text, in Apel's edition of the Apocrypha (Leipsic, 1837). See Schaack, De libro εἰς Μακκαβαίους qui Josepho tribuitur (Kopenhagen, 1814).
I. Title. — This book is called 4 Maccab. (Μακκαβαίων δ῎ ἡ τετάρτη τῶν Μακκαβ Þ κῶν βίβλος ) in the various MSS., in the Codex Alexandrinus, by Philostorgius and Syncellus (p. 529, 4, and 530,17, ed. Dind.); in Cod. Paris. A, it is denominated Maccab., a Treatise on Reason (Μακκαβαίων τέταρτος περὶ σώφρονος λογισμοῦ ), by Eusebius (Hist. Sirach 3:10, b) and Jerome (Catal. Script. Ecclesiast.) it is called On the Supremacy of Reason (περὶ αὐτοκράτορος λογισμοῦ ), and in the editions of Josephus's works, Josephus's Treatise on the Maccabees (Φλαβ . Ι᾿ωσγ῎που εἰς Μακκαβαίους λόγος ).
II. Design, Division, and Contents. — The design of this book is to encourage the Jews, who — being surrounded by a philosophical heathenism, and taunted by its moral and devout followers with the trivial nature and apparent absurdity of some of the Mosaic precepts — were in danger of being led astray from their faith, to abide faithfully by the Mosaic law, and to stimulate them to observe in every way their ancestral religion, by convincing them of the reasonableness of their divine law, and its unparalleled power to control the human passions (comp. 18:1, 2). To carry out this design the book is divided into two parts, opening with an introduction, as follows:
1. The introduction, comprising ch. 4 Maccabees 1:1-12, contains the resumd of the whole book, and the grand problem for discussion, viz. whether the rational will, permeated and regulated by true piety, has perfect mastery over the passions (ὅτι αὐτοδέσποτός ῾αὐτοκράτωρ ] ἐστι τῶν παθῶν εὐσεβὴς λογιόμός ).
2. The first part, comprising ch. 4 Maccabees 1:13 to 4 Maccabees 3:19, contains a philosophical disquisition on this problem, giving a definition of reason, or the rational will, and of the wisdom which is to be gained by studying the Mosaic law, and which shows itself in the four cardinal virtues discernment, justice, prudence, and fortitude; describes the different passions, and shows that reason, pervaded by piety, has the mastery over them all, except forgetfulness and ignorance.
3. The second part, comprising chap. 4 Maccabees 3:20 to 4 Maccabees 18:20, demonstrates the proposition that sanctified reason has the mastery over the passions by giving a summary of the Maccabaean martyrdoms (4 Maccabees 3:20 to 4 Maccabees 4:26) narrated in 2 Maccabees 3:4; 2 Maccabees 3:7-17; 2 Maccabees 5:1 to 2 Maccabees 6:11; describes the martyrdom of Eleazar (4 Maccabees 5:1 to 4 Maccabees 7:19) and the seven brothers (4 Maccabees 8:1 to 4 Maccabees 12:16), with moral reflections on it (4 Maccabees 13:1 to 4 Maccabees 14:10), as well as the noble conduct and death of their mother (4 Maccabees 14:11 to 4 Maccabees 17:6), and then deduces the lessons to be learned from the character and conduct of these martyrs (4 Maccabees 17:7 to 4 Maccabees 18:2), showing that the Israelites alone are invincible in their struggles for virtue (ὅτι μόνοι παῖδες ῾Εβραίων ὑπὲρ ἀρετῆς εἰσιν ἀνίκητοι ). Ch. 4 Maccabees 18:21-23, is evidently a later addition.
III. Author, Date, and Original Language. — In harmony with the general tradition, Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 3:10), Jerome (Catalog. Script. Eccles. s.v. Josephus), Photius (ap. Philostorgius, Hist. Eccles. i), Suidas (s.v. Ι᾿ώσηπος ), many MSS., and the early editions of the Sept. (Strasburg, 1526; Basle, 1545; Frankfurt, 1595), as well as the editions of Josephus's works, ascribe the authorship of this book to the celebrated Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. But this is utterly at variance with the style and structure of the book itself, and has most probably arisen from a confusion of names, as the work may have been written by some one of the name of Josephus, or from the fact that it was regarded as supplementing this historian, and hence was appended to his writings. Not only is the language quite different from that of Josephus's writings, but —
1. In 4 Maccabees all the proper names in the Bible, except ῾Ιεροσόλυμα and Ε᾿λεάζαρος , are retained in their Hebrew form, and treated as indeclinable (e.g. Ἀβραάμ, Ι᾿σαάκ Νῶε ), whereas Josephus gives them a Greek termination.
2. Fourth Maccabees derives its historical matter from 2 Maccabees, as we have seen in the preceding section, or perhaps from the original work of Jason; while Josephus manifests utter ignorance about the existence of this work.
3. The historical blunders contained in this book (4 Maccabees 4:15; 4 Maccabees 4:26; 4 Maccabees 5:1; 4 Maccabees 17:22-23, etc.) are such as Josephus would never have committed.
4. The form and tone of the book unquestionably show that the writer was an Alexandrian Jew, who resided in Egypt or somewhere far away from the Holy Land — comp. 4 Maccabees 4:5; 4 Maccabees 4:20, etc., where the writer speaks of "our fatherland," i.e. the Holy Land far away. From this and other passages in which the Temple is spoken of as still existing, and from the fact that 4 Maccabees 14:9 speaks of the Egyptian Jews as having enjoyed external peace and security at the time when this book was written, Grimm dates it before the fall of Jerusalem and the persecutions of the Egyptian Jews by Caligula, i.e. B.C. 39 or 40.
That the Greek is the original language of the book requires no proof. The style is very pompous, flowing, vigorous, and truly Greek. The author's eloquence, however, is not the spontaneous outburst of a heart inspired with the grandeur of the divine theme (εὐσέβεια ) upon which he discourses, but is produced artificially by resorting to exclamations and apostrophes (4 Maccabees 5:33, etc.; 4 Maccabees 7:6; 4 Maccabees 7:9-10; 4 Maccabees 7:15; 4 Maccabees 8:15-16; 4 Maccabees 11:14, etc.), dialogues and monologues (4 Maccabees 8:16-19; 4 Maccabees 16:5-10), far-fetched figures and comparisons (4 Maccabees 7:1, etc.; 4 Maccabees 13:6; 4 Maccabees 17:3; 4 Maccabees 17:5; 4 Maccabees 17:7), and he abounds in ἃπαξ λεγόμενα (4 Maccabees 1:27; 4 Maccabees 1:29; 4 Maccabees 2:9; 4 Maccabees 4:18; 4 Maccabees 6:6; 4 Maccabees 6:17; 4 Maccabees 7:11; 4 Maccabees 8:15; 4 Maccabees 11:4; 4 Maccabees 13:24; 4 Maccabees 14:15; 4 Maccabees 14:18; 4 Maccabees 15:26; 4 Maccabees 17:5).
IV. Canonicity and Importance. — Among the Jews this book is hardly known, and though some of the fathers were acquainted with it, and Gregory of Nazianzum, Augustin Jere, Jerome, etc., quoted with respect its description of the Maccabsean martyrs, yet it was never regarded as canonical or sacred. As a historical document the narrative is of no value. Its interest centers in the fact that it is a unique example of the didactic use which the Jews made of their history. Ewald (Geschichte, 4:556) rightly compares it with the sermon of later times, in which a scriptural theme becomes the subject of an elaborate and practical comment. The philosophical tone of the book is essentially stoical, but the stoicism is that of a stern legalist. The dictates of reason are supported by the remembrance of noble traditions, and by the hope of a glorious future. The prospect of the life to come is clear and wide. The faithful are seen to rise to endless bliss; the wicked to descend to endless torment, varying in intensity. But while the writer shows, in this respect, the effects of the full culture of the Alexandrian school, and in part advances beyond his predecessors, he offers no trace of that deep spiritual insight which was quickened by Christianity. The Jew stands alone, isolated by character and by blessing (comp. Gfrorer, Philo, etc., 2:173). Still the book is of great importance, inasmuch as it illustrates the history, doctrines, and moral philosophy of the Jewish people prior to the advent of Christ. It shows that the Jews believed that human reason, in its natural state, has no power to subdue the passions of the heart, and that it is only able to do it when sanctified by the religion of the Bible (4 Maccabees 5:21; 4 Maccabees 5:23; 4 Maccabees 6:17; 4 Maccabees 10:18); that the souls of all men continue to live after the death of the body; that all will rise, both righteous and wicked, to receive their judgment for the deeds done in the body (4 Maccabees 5:35; 4 Maccabees 9:8; 4 Maccabees 12:13-14; 4 Maccabees 16:22; 4 Maccabees 17:17-18); that this is taught in the Pentateuch (comp. 4 Maccabees 17:18, with Deuteronomy 33:3); and that the death of the righteous is a vicarious atonement (4 Maccabees 6:29). Allusion seems also to be made in the N.T. to some passages of this book (comp. 4 Maccabees 7:18, with Luke 20:37; Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:26; Romans 6:10; Romans 14:8; Galatians 2:19 : 4 Maccabees 12:11, with Acts 17:26 : 4 Maccabees 13:14, with Luke 16:22-23 : 4 Maccabees 16:22, with Luke 20:37).
V. Versions and Exegetical Helps. — The book was translated into Syriac, the MS. of which is in the Ambrosian Library of Milan; into Latin, but loosely, by Erasmus; and again, greatly improved, by Combefis, Bibliothecae Graecorum patrum auctoriunm novissimum (pars i, Paris, 1672). This version is in the editions of Josephus by Havercamp, Oberthiir, and Dindorf. Both a Latin and French version are given by Calmet, Conmment. literal. in Scriptursam V. et N. Test. 3:702 sq.; a very loose English version was first published by L'Estrange in his Translation of Josephus (Lond. 1702); and an improved translation is given by Cotton, The Five Books of Maccabees (Oxford, 1832).
Of exegetical helps we mention Reutlinger, These d'exegese sur le iv live des Maccabees (Strasburg, 1826); Gfrorer, Philo u. d. Alex. — Theosophie, 2:175 sq.; Dihne, Jud. — Alex. Relig. — Philos. 2:190 sq.; Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 4:554 sq.; the elaborate commentary of Grimm, Kurzgefasstes exeyetisce handb. z. d. Apok. d. A. T. (pt. iv, Leips. 1857), p. 285 sq.; Keil, Einleitung in d. A. T. (1859), p. 69 b, sq.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Maccabees, the Fourth Book of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/maccabees-the-fourth-book-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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