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Purpose of The Book of 1 Maccabees:
The purpose in writing 1 Maccabees Book is to record the deliverance of Israel that God worked through the family of Mattathias (5:62) - especially through his three sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, and his grandson, John Hyrcanus. The writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of Israel’s ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David.
Summary of The Book of 1 Maccabees:
The setting of the book is about a century after the conquest of Judea by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, after Alexander's empire has been divided so that Judea was part of the Greek Seleucid Empire. The book tells how the Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to suppress the practice of basic Jewish religious law, resulting in a Jewish revolt against Seleucid rule. The book covers the whole of the revolt, from 175 to 134 BC and highlights how the salvation of the Jewish people in this crisis came from God through Mattathias' family, particularly his sons Judas, Jonathan and Simon, and his grandson John Hyrcanus. The doctrine expressed in the book reflects traditional Jewish teaching, without later doctrines found in, for example, 2 Maccabees.
Author and Dates of The Book of 1 Maccabees:
1 Maccabees was written around the late 2nd century BC. The Jerusalem Bible suggests it was written in about 100 BC, and certainly before the capture of Jerusalem by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC. Most scholars are in agreement on this date.
It was written in Hebrew, but the original has not come down to us. Instead, we have an early, pre-Christian, Greek translation full of Hebrew idioms. The author, probably a Palestinian Jew, is unknown. He was familiar with the traditions and sacred books of his people and had access to much reliable information on their recent history (from 175 to 134 B.C.). He may well have played some part in it himself in his youth.
Outline of The Book of 1 Maccabees:
Themes of The Book of 1 Maccabees:
The main theme of the book of 1 Maccabees is the war of the Hasmonaean family against the Seleucids and their gradual participation in the political games of the neighboring Hellenistic kings and claimants to kingship, until the declaration of Jewish independence by Simeon and its aftermath. Subthemes are interwoven in the main subject of the book, which play a significant role within the narrative and are closely related to it. They are the conquest of parts of the Land of Israel, the refoundation of the Temple and its renovation, the relationship of the first Hasmonaeans with their neighboring kings and princes as well as with more remote but important states (Sparta and Rome), and various ethical and theological issues that seem to have had a major role in the creation of a new Jewish identity in Palestine. The book’s climax is the Jewish independence in the land of Israel achieved by Simeon; its anticlimax is the death of the latter.