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Two Challenges From Maccabees


maklelan

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I've found a chiasm in II Maccabees 7 that I'm using in a paper to support my thesis that chapter 7 is a later interpolation to the book of II Maccabees. I argue that it points to a Hebrew composition, while the rest of the book was composed in Greek. My first request (or challenge), is to find an equivalent chiasm anywhere in II Maccabees or in Greek prose from the second century B.C.E to the second century C.E.

A â?? Family threatened with torture for not eating sacrifices (1).

B â?? â??We are ready to die rather than to transgress the laws of our fathersâ? (2).
C â?? The king falls into a rage (3).
D â?? God will show compassion on his servants (6).
E â?? â??The King of the world will raise us up . . . to everlasting lifeâ? (9).

E â?? The brother hopes to be raised again by God (14).
F â?? Antiochus will not be raised to life (14).F â?? God will torment Antiochus and his seed (17).
G â?? â??We suffer these things for our own sake, having sinned against our Godâ? (18).

F â?? â??Do not think . . . that you will escape unpunishedâ? (19).
H â?? â??I do not know how you came into being in my wombâ? (22).

E â?? God will, â??in his mercy give life and breath back to you againâ? (23).

H′ â?? â??I carried you nine months in my wombâ? (27).

F′ â?? Antiochus will not â??escape the hands of Godâ? (31).

G′ â?? The brothers suffer for their own sins (32).

F′ â?? Thou hast not escaped the judgment of Almighty God (35).

F′ â?? Antiochus will be punished for his pride (36).

E′ â?? The brothers are under Godâ??s covenant of everlasting life (36).D′ â?? The brothers appeal to God to show mercy to their nation (37). C′ â?? The king falls into a rage (39).B′ â?? â??So he died in his integrityâ? (40).A′ â?? â??Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme torturesâ? (42).

Scholars like Robert Doran argue that the focus of the chapter is the punishment of Antiochus, but my contention is that the chapter points directly to bodily resurrection as its central theme, and as a recompense for martyrdom, which is a distinctly Christian ideal. The apex of the chiasm is resurrection as it frames Antiochus' fate and acts as the turning point.

I have also found two Greek phrases in IV Maccabees that point to a composition in the late second century C.E. Since IV Macc comes after II Macc, I have to be able to show that it is late as well. I cannot find these phrases anywhere outside of late second century authors (Galen, Julius Pollux, and Sextus Empiricus, to be specific). My second challenge is to find the word τροχαντῆρας and the phrase γενναῖος ἀθλητὴς anywhere in Greek literature prior to the late second century C.E. I have used the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and have not been able to find anything earlier, but I am not very familiar with Greek literature and may be missing other cases and derivatives.

I know very few of you are probably interested in II Maccabees, but it's been slow around here and I would love a few more perspectives on these particular points of my paper, which will hopefully become my dissertation in a couple of years. This seems as good a place as any to see how it works. Thanks in advance.

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Scholars like Robert Doran argue that the focus of the chapter is the punishment of Antiochus, but my contention is that the chapter points directly to bodily resurrection as its central theme, and as a recompense for martyrdom, which is a distinctly Christian ideal. The apex of the chiasm is resurrection as it frames Antiochus' fate and acts as the turning point.

Hi Mak--

Interesting topic.

I would just suggest, as a potential corrective, that the passage you're quoting stands against the assertion that bodily resurrection, as a recompense for martyrdom, is a distinctly Christian ideal. Rather, a general resurrection at the end of time was believed in by many Second Temple Jews.

In this context, note especially John 11.24: "Martha said to him, 'I know that he [Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.'"

Martyrdom was not the sole guarantor of bodily resurrection for Second Temple Judaism, but surely, of course, the Maccabean martyrs would be first in line.

What is to be explained by way of reference to resurrection faith in Jesus Christ is the sudden mutation from a general resurrection at the end of time to the right-now(!) resurrection of Jesus, a mutation productive of what has become known as an inaugurated eschatology--already-not yet.

In sum, I'd suggest that bodily resurrection was an extant and live eschatological option for many Second Temple Jews. The uniquely Christian aspect is the present fulfillment of that expectation, in a limited way, in the person of Jesus.

See, for example, Robert B. Stewart, ed., The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Cross and N.T. Wright in Dialogue (Fortress Press), and N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press).

Best.

CKS

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I have also found two Greek phrases in IV Maccabees that point to a composition in the late second century C.E. Since IV Macc comes after II Macc, I have to be able to show that it is late as well.

Wait. I glossed over this. You're arguing that Maccabees, or portions thereof, were written between 100-200 AD secondary to the lack of an extant phrase match prior to then?

Is that your only evidence for such a late date? It seems rather sketchy.

(I certainly hope the phrase-matching texts aren't quoting Maccabees IV! :P Could you cite the relevant, specific sources in Galen, Julius Pollux, and Sextus Empiricus?)

Curious.

CKS

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Wait. I glossed over this. You're arguing that Maccabees, or portions thereof, were written between 100-200 AD secondary to the lack of an extant phrase match prior to then?

Is that your only evidence for such a late date? It seems rather sketchy.

(I certainly hope the phrase-matching texts aren't quoting Maccabees IV! :P Could you cite the relevant, specific sources in Galen, Julius Pollux, and Sextus Empiricus?)

Curious.

CKS

The chiasm is part of my effort to decouple II Macc 7 from the rest of the text, which is a strong argument, but Christian Habicht made the argument first and most persuasively back in 1971. Scholarship admits that it probably has a Hebrew provenance. The chiasm merely makes that more concrete. There isn't a single chiasm over one verse long in the entire rest of the book, and Greek prose from this time period rarely, if ever (I can't find an instance), utilizes chiasmus for more than one or two lines.

Once the text is separated I can analyze it independent of the rest of it. I do have other evidence that helps me give it the late date. For instance:

1) There is no mention of the book of II Macc or its events (those not found in I Macc) anywhere in all of recorded history until the late second century C.E., and even then it is just a passing reference to the book and not the chapter I'm interested in. The first to comment on the martyrdoms from II Macc 7 are third century Christians.The Jews don't mention them until the fourth century.

2) Martyrdom as heroic is not a part of Judaism until after Rome takes over. Until Christianity hits the scene, a willingness to die is viewed as a means of catalyzing divine intervention. From Daniel to Enoch to the Jews in front of Pilate, they always viewed a willingness to die as an opportunity for God to swoop in and save them. Maccabees is the first time they actually die, which is completely unique and occurs 200 years before this idealogical shift is made.

3) Bodily resurrection is not seen as a gift only for specific people in Judaism, ever. It evolves from an eternal life independent of a body to a universal resurrection without ever treating it as a reward for specific acts. Christianity, on the other hand, viewed martyrdom for a time as a means to a better resurrection (see Hebrews 11:35), which is exactly the ideal in II Macc 7. The seven sons will be resurrected, but Antiochus will not. This is not second temple Judaism resurrection doctrine.

4) The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is found in II Macc 7:28, appealed to in connection with God's power to resurrect. Nowhere in Judaism or Christianity is resurrection and God's creative power juxtaposed until Celsus and Tatian in the late second century C.E. In addition, creation out of nothing is a late second century doctrine. It did not exist at all prior to that.

5) The temple is expressely ignored in the text. The rest of the book is purely temple proaganda (it's where Hanukah comes from!), but chapter 7 refuses to even mention the temple, even though it refers to Antiochus' having forced Jews to eat pork, which only ever happened after the sacrifice of a pig on the temple altar. This makes absolutely no sense unless they temple had already been destroyed.The seven brothers actually replace temple sacrifice. The number seven represents the perfect sacrifice, and it happens where normally the temple would be. Also, they say, "to me and my brothers it remains to bring an end to the wrath of the Almighty, which has justly fallen upon our whole nation" (II Macc 7:37-38).

6) In second temple Judaism God's favor is restored through intercessory prayers on behalf of Israel, not through human sacrifice. In I Macc Judas regains control after an intercessory prayer. In Daniel and Enoch God comes and saves them after intercessory prayers. In chapter 8 of II Macc Judas starts winning all his battles immediately following an intercessory prayer with thousands of his men, but the previous chapter says that the seven sons were sacrificed to appease the wrath of God and restore mercy to Israel. Expiatory human sacrifice is not a part of second temple Judaism. It is first found in Rome, Christianity, and then borrowed into Judaism. The chapter is superfluous, and the ideology is premature.

7) The martyrdoms betray a distinctly Roman flavor. The king marvels at the ascetic way in which the boys ignore their pain (uniquely Roman, definitely not Greek). They maintain their honor despite being mutilated (definitely not Greek).

<_< There are four other almost identical stories floating around ancient Judaism about a parent who watches his/her seven sons die one by one at the hands of the king (b. Gittin 57b, Midrash Lamentations 1:16, Pesiqta Rabbiti 43, and the Assumption of Moses 1:9, which has a father instead of a mother). They all testify that their deaths will condemn the king and save Israel. Every single one comes from the second century C.E. or later. Two of them are typologically earlier than II Macc 7 (that is to say, they are less developed, which means they are most likely closer to the original source).

As for IV Macc, the word is trochanter in English, which is the eminence on the superior part of the femur opposite the head. Galen uses it in his medical texts, as does Sextus. Julius Pollux uses it as part of a dictionary. IV Macc changes the meaning to connote a joint-separating torture device (that presumably rips the hip from the socket). The medical meaning obviously precedes the torture device. No other medical texts from prior to that include the word in any form, including Hippocrates and Herophilos.

Galen quotes it forty times, but one is De anatomicis administrationibus 2.303.11. Sextus Empiricus uses it in Adversus Methematicos 1.317.2, 6. Julius Pollux uses it in the Onomasticon 2.187.4.

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  • 1 year later...
I present my paper at BYU on December 7th, if anyone wants to hear it.

I never did hear about how your presentation went, or where you have published it Mak. Any info would be appreciated. And out of curiousity, why Maccabees? Is it a field that is much less worked over, so there are undiscovered gems of things in there or something? I am just curious is al.

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  • 3 months later...

I never did hear about how your presentation went, or where you have published it Mak. Any info would be appreciated. And out of curiousity, why Maccabees? Is it a field that is much less worked over, so there are undiscovered gems of things in there or something? I am just curious is al.

I ran a version of the paper in the last issue of Studia Antiqua that I was in charge of. That research is on hiatus while I prepare an SBL paper and three papers related to a topic on which I'd like to do my dissertation. There is a session at SBL this year that directly engages that tradition of the mother and her seven sons in early Judaism, and three of the presenters are scholars I cite repeatedly in my paper, so I hope to make up some ground speaking with them in November. I can email you a copy of my paper if you're interested in the whole discussion (and you don't have access to Studia Antiqua 7.1).

This research developed as a tangent from some research on creatio ex nihilo I was doing in 2007 for a BYU Religious Education Student Symposium. 2 Macc 7:28 is often cited as the earliest example of creatio ex nihilo, so I set out to investigate the chapter and whether or not it was really in there. The first thing I did was try to nail down a date for 2 Maccabees. My form and source critical research led me to the conclusion that the chapter was secondary to the rest of 2 Macc, so I started looking for a better historical context.

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Interesting topic. I am wondering about a couple of things. Since Maccabees was written during the Hellenistic stages of Jewish history is there any evidence that you can find that the usage of chiasmus found its way in Greek myth or literature? Second, are there any elements of Greek myth in the Maccabees? Thanks.

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Interesting topic. I am wondering about a couple of things. Since Maccabees was written during the Hellenistic stages of Jewish history is there any evidence that you can find that the usage of chiasmus found its way in Greek myth or literature? Second, are there any elements of Greek myth in the Maccabees? Thanks.

Well, Homer used a lot of chiasmus, but I've never come across anything more complex than a two or four cola parallelism in any Greek prose from the 4th century BCE to the New Testament, and at the latter point it's probably more influenced by the Semitic literary filter of the authors than any chiastic properties intrinsic to Greek prose.

There is no Greek mythology in Maccabees. At most there are some remnants of literary motifs common to Greek mythology, but they would have been stock literary elements rather than direct borrowings from the Greek. Three Oxford classes I'm excited about next term are Martin Goodman's Jewish history from 200 BCE to 70 CE, Alison Salvesen's early Jewish and Christian interpretation of the Bible, and Fergus Millar's Roman Diaspora: Jews, Pagans, and Christians to 450 CE. I hope to develop this paper a lot more there and maybe even use it for my thesis.

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