2. Book of the Maccabees

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Old Testament history books

Names indented after the ÖVBE
: Deuterocanonical (Catholic and Orthodox) or Apocrypha (Protestant)

The second book of the Maccabees (abbreviated 2 Makk ) is a deuterocanonical or apocryphal book of the Old Testament , which in its current version was probably written in the second half of the first century BC.


For the most part, the second book of the Maccabees, according to their own information, is a Greek-written, with an introduction and slightly supplemented summary of a (not preserved) five-volume historical work by the otherwise unknown author Jason of Cyrene. At a later stage, this summary was preceded by two letters originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. In this context, the main part has probably also been revised. In terms of its form, it is a Hellenistic, religiously interpreted historiography .

Even if the author of the summary has hardly taken up teacher narratives that can be considered historically, for example the martyrdom of the seven brothers in chapter 7 EU , and the second introductory letter (1.10–2.18 EU ) as well as the letter of Antiochus ( 2 Makk 9.19-27  EU ) are considered forgeries, the second book of the Maccabees contains a lot of valuable historical material that supplements and partially corrects the representation in the first book of the Maccabees , including a. the first introductory letter and documents in 11.16–38 EU .

The book was not included in the Jewish canon , but is part of the Septuagint and is viewed by Catholics and Orthodox Christians as part of the Bible , but rejected as apocryphal by Protestants . The prayer taught in this book for the souls of the dead , which Protestantism rejects, is one of the main reasons for the rejection of the book by Protestants. The other teachings of the book, which are otherwise not or at least not directly mentioned in the Old Testament, are merits of the martyrs , intercession of the saints and the resurrection of the dead . In Pharisaic Judaism, and therefore also in Christianity, all of these teachings have become significant.

The 2nd Book of Maccabees contains one of the few passages in the Bible that explicitly speaks of a "creation out of nothing" ( creatio ex nihilo ). The passage reads: “I ask you, my child, look at heaven and earth; see everything that is there and recognize: God created it out of nothing ( ex ouk ontōn , lit. from non- existent things ) and this is how people come into being ”( 2 Makk 7:28  EU ). Creation out of nothing is also mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews : "Through faith we recognize that the world was created through God's Word, so that everything that is seen has become nothing" ( Heb 11: 3  EU ).

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah refers to events described in the first and second books of the Maccabees: the consecration of the altar and the establishment of an annual commemorative festival in 10.1–8 EU .


The second book of the Maccabees is not a continuation of the first , but can be understood as an independent text or supplement.

First of all (chapters 1 and 2) it contains two letters from the Jews in Palestine to their comrades in Egypt with the request to co-celebrate the feast of the temple consecration. This is followed by an introduction ( 2 Makk 2,19-32 EU ) in which the author explains  his approach and intention in writing his work, a summary of a five-volume historical work by Jason of Cyrene.

Chapters 3 to 7 are dedicated to the prehistory of the Maccabees' revolt , they tell of the temple robber Heliodorus (Chapter 3 EU ), about bad high priests (Chapter 4 EU ), the cruelty of Antiochus (Chapter 5 EU ) and his comrades (Chapter 5 EU ) . 6 EU ), especially against the aged scribe Eleazar ( 2 Makk 6,18–31  EU ) and against a Jewish mother with seven sons (chapter 7 EU ). In the rest of the book, parallel to 2.42 EU  - 7.50 (but in more detail) the events of the Maccabees uprising are presented starting with the intervention of Judas Maccabeus up to the death of Nikanor: the victories of Judas (chap. 8 EU ), death of Antiochus (chapter 9 EU ), the cleaning of the temple (chapter 10 EU ), the victory over the imperial administrator Lysias and the conclusion of peace (chapter 11 EU ), victories over neighboring peoples (chapter 12 EU ), the unsuccessful attack on Jerusalem by Antiochus Eupator (chap. 13 EU ) and campaign and death of Nikanor (chap. 14 EU and 15 EU ).


  • Klaus Bringmann : Hellenistic reform and religious persecution in Judea. An investigation into Jewish-Hellenistic history (175–163 BC). Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1983, ISBN 3-525-82413-0 .
  • Klaus Bringmann: On the criticism of historical representation in the Second Book of Maccabees. In: Klio . Volume 96, 2014, pp. 587-606, doi : 10.1515 / klio-2014-0046 .
  • Elias Bickermann : The God of Maccabees. Investigations into the meaning and origin of the Maccabean uplift. Schocken, Berlin 1937, DNB 572392915 (online edition: DNB 1032739355 ).
  • Stephanie von Dobbeler: The books 1, 2 Maccabees (= New Stuttgart Commentary. Old Testament. Volume 11). Katholisches Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-460-07111-7 .
  • Werner Dommershausen: 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees (= The New Real Bible. Delivery 12). 2nd Edition. Echter, Würzburg 1995, ISBN 3-429-00955-3 .
  • Thomas Fischer : Seleucids and Maccabees. Contributions to the history of the Seleucids and the political events in Judea during the 1st half of the 2nd century BC Chr. Brockmeyer, Bochum 1980, ISBN 3-88339-138-7 .

See also

Web links

Commons : 2 Maccabees  - collection of images, videos and audio files