What is 4 Maccabees?

Despite the name of this book, 4 Maccabees has nothing to do with Judas Maccabeus and his brothers. So why is it called 4 Maccabees?

4 Maccabees is in the Hellenistic Judaism tradition. The point of the book is that reason can be used to overcome every situation. The author uses some Old Testament examples to start off but then spends most of his time talking about Eleazar and the seven brothers, who we were introduced to in 2 Maccabees.

These Jews were tortured during the reign or Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In this version of their story, it is more their use of reason than their faith that allows them to remain loyal to their traditions and face death bravely. The proper use of reason is the focus of the entire book.

One other interesting aspect of this book is the view of the afterlife. The martyrs in 2 Maccabees look forward to the resurrection of the body. In 4 Maccabees, it is the immortality of the soul that is the hope.

You can find the text for 4 Maccabees online but I’m using the one found in the The New Oxford Annotated Bible.


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