Historicity and Historical Ambivalence

Sara Raup Johnson

in Historical Fictions and Hellenistic Jewish Identity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780520233072
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928435 | DOI:
Historicity and Historical Ambivalence

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The tale of the Third Maccabees takes place under the reign of a known historical figure, Ptolemy IV Philopator, and the author has gone to some trouble to supply historical details and official documents to add to the verisimilitude of his setting. Moreover, Josephus reports a virtually identical persecution at Alexandria, complete with drunken elephants, which he places under the reign of Ptolemy VIII Eurgetes II Physcon. The Second Maccabees reports an incident very similar to Philopator's experience at the Temple in Jerusalem but substitutes Heliodorus, a minister of Seleucus IV, in Philopator's place. Virtually all scholars, with a few notable exceptions, have rejected Third Maccabees as a legitimate, reliable historical source for an otherwise unknown persecution in the reign of Philopator.

Keywords: Physcon; Heliodorus; Seleucus IV; Alexandria; Jerusalem

Chapter.  15554 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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