4 Maccabees

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Light iron-age reading
The Bible
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Gabbin' with God

4 Maccabees is a philosophical discourse and homily that is holy to Rational Wiki, as it praises rationality over passion. At least in a 100s BCE, Koine Greek Jewish sorta-way.

The association with the Maccabian books is due to 4 Maccabees heavy reliance on 1 & 2 Maccabess for its subject matter. 4 Maccabees uses the martyrdoms described in 2 Maccabees as chief examples of choosing reason (the desire to do what is right and to serve God) over passion (fear of pain and death). The style itself is somewhat unique for traditional Jewish writings, and follows a style more reminiscent of the Greek School of Philosophical discourse. First, the author lays out clearly what he feels to be the most important virtues, and details why they matter. Then he uses the story of the marytrdom of Elezar to bring descriptive discussion to the stated facts.

Canon status[edit]

4 Maccabees is in the canon of the Georgian Orthodox Church,Wikipedia and is in the appendix of the Greek Bible, but is otherwise not part of the canon of any church including the Eastern Orthodox Church, nor by Catholics or Protestants.

Like the rest of the Deuterocanon, 4 Maccabees was written in Koine Greek, and the Catholic Church distinctly identified those works as not part of the original Hebrew Bible, and therefore set them apart.


There are questions about the purpose of 4 Maccabees. If it were a homily, in any traditional Koine Jewish style, then it would have been more scripturally based. As it is, the philosophical discourse leaves little room for religious ceremony and rhetoric.

The work is traditionally ascribed to Josephus, thanks to Roman church historian Eusebius of Caesarea. However, given the amount of writing of Josephus' that exists, linguistic scholars have generally denied his authorship of 4 Maccabees.

The theological content and philosophical discourse generally place it in the Hellenistic Jewish world of 100 BCE to 100 CE.

See also[edit]