This quarantine has given me the perfect opportunity to spend more time reading my Bible. Apart from the readings at Mass, I recently have lost my attentiveness to pick-up my Bible and read. Not only does Scripture offer a great outlook on our history and the life of Jesus, it offers us a meditative way to pray and reflect on events that inspired pioneers of our faith to act and respond. I remember one day Fr. Sean at a Sunday Mass homily mentioning the book of Maccabees and how everyone should read it. If you’re reading this Fr. Sean, I finally took your challenge and encouragement. So for the next couple weeks, I’m going to dive into Maccabees and the commentaries written about it and offer you some insight on what I learn and discover. Every blog I will let you know what I read and it’s my prayer you’ll take out your Bible and read and study along with me as we dive into 1-2 Maccabees.
I think the best place to begin is the etymology of “Maccabee” which means “hammer” and is the surname given to Judas. Judas was one of three sons of the high priest Mattathias. The earliest version of these writings was recovered in Greek, Maccabee in Greek is Makkabaios which means “designated by God.” This name could have been given because of his father or because God did in fact choose him to begin the revolt.
The first book of Maccabee was written as a testimony to the difficulties the Jewish people encountered and what led to Judas’ revolt against the Seleucid kings. Seleucid kings were pagonist and were forceful against the Jewish people. These two letters are a tribute to the presence of God with his chosen people and his salvific actions towards them. Judas and his family laid the foundation for revolution and independence setting an important example for all Israelites. Not only through their actions but the fidelity of the law they upheld and stressed. A common complaint against the writer is his nationalism to Israel and how although this is a historical document depicting the pressure they were under, the fear amongst historians and protestants is the numbers are inflamed to make the work of them and God seem more impressive, completely overlooking the actual presence of God evident.
As you begin to read through the first chapter of Maccabees, look for examples of the common themes carried out in the writing: zealous for Jewish law, oppression from pagonist, and the presence and evident relationship between God and his chosen people.
I hope you’ll come on this journey with me and in the next post, I’ll be discussing the first chapter.