Four Books, so called after the hero of the first two, Judas Maccabaeus, are found in some MSS of the Septuagint. The first three are included in the Canon of the E. Church, and the first two in that of the RC Church and the Apocrypha of (non-RC) English Bibles. 1 Macc. is a history of the Jews from the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes (175 bc) to the death of Simon Maccabaeus in 135 bc. It describes the desecration of the Temple and the resistance of Mattathias and his sons. Written probably c.100 bc, it is a primary source for the period. 2 Macc. covers the history of the Maccabean wars from 176 to 161 bc, ending with Judas Maccabaeus's victory over Nicanor. It is an epitome of a larger work and appears to have been written before 63 bc. 3 Macc. describes the attempt of Ptolemy IV to enter the Sanctuary of the Temple (217 bc), his frustration, and his attempt to take vengeance on the Jews of Egypt. Written between 100 bc and ad 70, it is probably thus named on the analogy of the events described with those of the Maccabean period. 4 Macc. is a philosophical treatise on the supremacy of devout reason over the passions, illustrated by examples from the history of the Maccabees.
The Books contain important teaching on immortality (2 Macc. 7: 9 and 23 and 4 Macc.) and on prayers for the dead (2 Macc. 12: 43–5).
Subjects: Biblical Studies.