1. The Greek word Apocrypha
, that is, hidden
books, was early applied by the fathers of the Christian church to anonymous or spurious books that falsely laid claim to be a part of the inspired word. By some, as Jerome, the term was extended to all the books incorporated by the Alexandrine Jews, in their Greek version, into the proper canon of the Old Testament, a few of which books, though not inspired, are undoubtedly genuine. Another designation of the books in question was ecclesiastical
, books to be read in the churches for edification, but not as possessing authority in matters of faith. But at the era of the Reformation, when these books were separated by the Protestant churches from the true canon, and placed by themselves between the books of the Old and the New Testament, Jerome's old epithet Apocrypha
, or the Apocryphal books
, was applied to the entire collection.
How the term Apocrypha, hidden, became associated with the idea of spurious or anonymous is doubtful. According to Augustine, it was because the origin of these books was not clear to the church fathers. A later conjecture, expressed by the translators of the English Bible, is |because they were wont to be read not openly and in common, but as it were in secret and apart.| Still more probable is the opinion that they were so called from their close relation to the secret books containing the mysteries -- secret doctrines -- of certain heretical sects.
2. The date of several of the apocryphal books is very uncertain; but none of them can well be placed as early as the beginning of the third century before Christ. Though some of them were originally written in Hebrew or Aramean, they have been preserved to us only in Greek or other versions. None of them were ever admitted into the Hebrew canon. The ground of their rejection is well stated by Josephus (Against Apion 1, 8), namely, that from the time of Artaxerxes, Xerxes' son (Artaxerxes Longimanus, under whom Ezra led forth his colony, Ezra 7:1, 8), |the exact succession of the prophets| was wanting. The Alexandrine Jews, however, who were very loose in their ideas of the canon, incorporated them into their version of the Hebrew Scriptures. How far the mass of the people distinguished between their authority and that of the books belonging to the Hebrew canon is a question not easily determined. But Josephus, as we have seen, clearly recognized their true character. Philo also, as those who have examined the matter inform us, though acquainted with these books, never cites any one of them as of divine authority. The judgment of these two men doubtless represents that of all the better informed among the Alexandrine Jews, as it does that of the Saviour and his apostles, who never quote them as a part of the inspired word.
3. During the first three centuries of the Christian era very few of the church fathers had any knowledge of Hebrew. The churches received the Scriptures of the Old Testament through the medium of the Alexandrine Greek version, which contained the apocryphal books. It is not surprising, therefore, that the distinction between these and the canonical books was not clearly maintained, and that we find in the writings of the church fathers quotations from them even under the name of |divine scripture.| But Jerome, who translated the Old Testament from the Hebrew, understood perfectly the distinction between the canonical and the apocryphal books. The canon which he has given agrees with that of the Palestine Jews. He says (Prologus Galeatus) of the apocryphal books Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Tobit, and Maccabees, that the church reads these |for the edification of the people, not for authority in establishing church doctrines.| The same distinction is made by Rufinus, the contemporary and antagonist of Jerome. The language of Augustine was more wavering and uncertain. At the Council of Hippo, A.D.393, at which he was present, the |ecclesiastical books,| as the apocryphal books are called, were included in the catalogue of sacred books; and from that day to the time of the Reformation the extent of the Old Testament canon was regarded as an open question. But the Romish Council of Trent included the apocryphal books in the canon of the Old Testament, with the exception of Esdras and the prayer of Manasseh, pronouncing an anathema on all who should hold a contrary opinion. The Protestant churches, on the other hand, unanimously adhered to the Hebrew canon, separating from this the apocryphal books as useful for reading, but of no authority in matters of faith.
4. Although the Protestant churches rightly reject the apocryphal books as not belonging to the inspired word, the knowledge of their contents is nevertheless a matter of deep interest to the biblical scholar. The first book of Maccabees is in the main authentic, and it covers an important crisis of Jewish history. All of the apocryphal books, moreover, throw much light on the progress of Jewish thought, especially in the two directions of Grecian culture and a rigid adherence to the forms of the Mosaic law. Keil divides the apocryphal books into historical, didactic, and prophetic, but with the remark that this division cannot be rigidly carried out. In the following brief notice of the several books the arrangement of the English Bible is followed.
I. THE TWO BOOKS OF ESDRAS.
5. The first two in order of the apocryphal books in the English version bear the title of Esdras, that is, Ezra. The Greek Bible has only the first, which stands sometimes before our canonical book of Ezra, and sometimes after Nehemiah. In the former case it is called the first book of Esdras, that is, Ezra; in the latter the third, Nehemiah being reckoned as the continuation of Ezra, and called the second book of Ezra. It gives the history of the temple and its service from Josiah to Ezra -- its restoration by Josiah, destruction by the Chaldees, rebuilding and reestablishment through Zerubbabel and Ezra. Its original and central part is a legend from an unknown source respecting a trial of wisdom between Zerubbabel and two other young men, made in the presence of Darius, king of Persia, which resulted in Zerubbabel's favor, and so pleased the king that he issued letters for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and conferred many other favors on the Jews. Chaps.3, 4. The preceding and following parts are made up of extracts from 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, in which the compiler has made a free use of his biblical sources, at one time abridging the narrative, at another making explanatory additions, and again transposing the order of events contrary to historical truth. Some, as Keil, think that the writer made use of the Alexandrine version; others, that he drew from the original Hebrew. His design was to exhibit the liberality of Cyrus and Darius towards the Jews as a pattern for the heathen rulers of Judea in his own day. (Keil.) Neither the author nor the date of the book is known, but it cannot be placed earlier than the second century before Christ.
6. The second book of Esdras (called also the fourth, when the first is reckoned as the third) is extant in a Latin, an Arabic, and an Ethiopic version. The Greek original has not thus far been found. The Arabic and Ethiopic are thought to represent the primitive text more correctly than the Latin: as they want the two introductory and closing chapters of the latter, which are generally admitted to be spurious additions by a later hand; and contain, on the contrary, a long passage after chap.7:35, which is not found in the Latin, and is thought to be genuine.
7. If we reject the first two and last two chapters of the Latin version, which do not belong to the original work, the remainder of the book has entire unity from beginning to end. It consists of a series of pretended visions vouchsafed to Ezra through the angel Uriel in the thirtieth year after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldees, while he mourned over the desolate and distressed condition of the covenant people with fasting and prayer. Of these visions, the first six, which are preparatory to the last, pertain mainly to the method of God's dealing with men, the end of the present age, the introduction of the coming age, and the glorification of Zion, with the heavy judgments of God that shall accompany these events. Many of these revelations are made through the medium of symbols. In the seventh and last revelation, a voice addresses Ezra out of a bush, as it did Moses of old. Upon his complaining that the law has been burnt, he is directed to take five ready scribes, with a promise that the holy writings which are lost shall be restored to his people. The next day the voice calls to him again, commanding him to open his mouth and drink the cup which is offered to him, |full as it were with water, but the color of it was like fire.| Upon this he is filled with the spirit of inspiration, and dictates to his five scribes in forty days 204 books (according to some 94). Of these the last 70 are secret, to be delivered only |to such as be wise among the people.| The rest are to be published openly, that the worthy and unworthy may read them. The historic truth underlying this fabulous revelation seems to be the revision of the canon of the Old Testament by Ezra and his associates. Chap.15, No.17. It is agreed that this book is the production of a Jew, but the date of its composition is a disputed point. Some assign it to the first century after Christ; others to the century preceding our Lord's advent, but with interpolations that manifestly belong to the Christian era.
8. The book of Tobit contains a narrative of the piety, misfortunes, and final prosperity of Tobit, an Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali, who was among the captives brought to Assyria by Enemessar (Shalmaneser) king of Assyria. With Enemessar he was in favor, became his purveyor, and was able to deposit ten talents of silver with Gabael at Rages, a city of Media. But Sennacherib, the successor of Enemessar, persecuted him, especially for his pious care in burying the bodies of his Jewish brethren whom that king had slain, and he was obliged to flee with his wife Anna and his son Tobias, leaving all his goods as plunder to the Assyrian king. Under Sarchedonus (Esarhaddon) he returned again to his home, but soon a new misfortune overtook him. As he lay one night by the wall of his courtyard, being unclean from the burial of a Jew whom his son had found strangled in the market-place, |the sparrows muted warm dung| into his eyes, which deprived him of sight. Wishing now to send his son Tobias for the ten talents of silver deposited with Gabael at Rages in Media, he directs him to seek a guide for the way; when the angel Raphael offers himself under the name of Azarias the son of Ananias the great, one of Tobit's brethren. As the angel and Tobias journey together, they come one evening to the river Tigris. As the young man goes down to the river to bathe, a fish assaults him; but by the angel's direction he seizes him, drags him on shore, and takes for future use his heart, liver, and gall. On their way to Rages they come to Ecbatane, a city of Media, where resides Raguel, the cousin of Tobias, whose only daughter, Sara, has lost seven husbands on the night of their marriage, through the power of Asmodeus, an evil spirit. Tobias being her nearest surviving kinsman, marries her according to the law of Moses. By the angel's direction, upon entering the marriage-chamber, he lays the heart and liver of the fish upon embers. The evil spirit, at the smell of the smoke, flees away into the utmost parts of Egypt, where the angel binds him. The angel goes to Rages and brings the ten talents and Gabael himself to the wedding feast; the wedded pair return in safety to Tobit with the silver, and also the half of Raguel's goods, which Sara receives as her wedding portion. Finally Tobias, by the angel's direction, anoints his father's eyes with the gall of the fish; whereupon he recovers his sight, and lives in honor and prosperity to a good old age. Such is a brief outline of the story, which is told in an interesting and attractive style. How much historic truth lies at its foundation, it is impossible to determine. The introduction of the angelic guide may well be regarded as a mythical embellishment.
9. The book of Tobit is extant in various texts -- Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Hebrew, the Hebrew forms being all translations from the Greek or Latin. These texts differ in minor details, but have all sprung directly or indirectly from one original, which was probably Hebrew or Aramaic, though some maintain that it was Greek. The book is thoroughly Jewish in its spirit. The date of its composition is uncertain. The common opinion of biblical scholars is that it was composed about 250-200 B.C. In its general scope the book has a resemblance to that of Job. A good man encounters suffering in the way of piety, but is finally delivered, lives in prosperity, and dies in a good old age. The portraiture which it gives of domestic piety is very pleasing, and affords an instructive insight into the spirit of the age in which it was written. It gives great prominence to deeds of charity; but the alms on which it insists so earnestly flow from inward faith and love. In this respect they are distinguished from the dead works of the late Scribes and Pharisees.
10. This book relates the exploit of Judith, a Jewish widow distinguished alike for beauty, courage, and devotion to her country. When Holofernes, one of Nebuchadnezzar's generals, was besieging Bethulia, a city of Judea, she went over to his camp with her maid in the character of a deserter, promised to guide him to Jerusalem, and by her flattery and artful representations so insinuated herself into his favor that he entertained her with high honor. At last, being left alone with him at night in his tent, she beheaded him with his own falchion as he lay asleep and intoxicated, and going forth gave his head to her maid, who put it in her bag, and they two passed the guards in safety under the pretext of going out for prayer, as had been their nightly custom. The head of Holofernes was suspended from the wall of the city, and when the warriors within sallied forth, the besieging army fled in consternation. Judith receives as a reward all the stuff of Holofernes, lives at Bethulia as a widow in high honor, and dies at the age of one hundred and five.
11. The historical and geographical contradictions of this book are too many and grave to allow the supposition that it contains an authentic narrative of facts. It was manifestly written after the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity and the rebuilding of the city and temple (chaps.4:3; 5:18, 19), when the nation was governed, not by a king, but by a high priest and Sanhedrim. Chap.4:6, 8; 15:8. Yet it makes Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned in Babylon long before, king in Nineveh in the eighth year of his reign, whereas his father had destroyed Nineveh. The attempts that have been made to reconcile these and other inconsistencies with true history are forced and unnatural. Whatever historical truth may lie at the basis of the story, it is so interwoven with fiction that the two elements cannot be separated from each other. It was probably written by a Palestinian Jew in Hebrew or Aramaic somewhere about the second century before Christ. The design of the book is to excite the people to faith and courage in their severe conflicts with foreign persecutors; but its morality is of a very questionable character. Judith, its heroine, while she adheres with great punctiliousness to the Mosaic ritual, does not scruple to employ hypocrisy and falsehood that she may prepare the way for assassination, being evidently persuaded that in the service of the covenant people the end sanctifies the means.
IV. ADDITIONS TO THE BOOK OF ESTHER.
12. These are printed by themselves in our English version, and entitled: |The rest of the chapters of the Book of Esther, which are found neither in the Hebrew, nor in the Chaldee;| but in the Septuagint and old Latin they are dispersed through the canonical book so as to form with it a consistent whole. They profess to supply deficiencies in the canonical Esther -- a dream of Mordecai with its interpretation; an account of the conspiracy of the two eunuchs to destroy Ahasuerus; a pretended copy of the king's edict for the destruction of the Jews; the prayer of Mordecai and of Esther in view of this edict; various details of Esther's visit to the king; and the pretended edict of Artaxerxes (Ahasuerus) revoking the former edict, and giving the Jews liberty to destroy all who should assault them -- into which the name of God, which nowhere appears in the genuine book of Esther, is abundantly introduced. The origin of these legends is unknown.
V. THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON.
13. The author of this book personages Solomon, and speaks in his name, Solomon being to the ancient Jews the representative of all wisdom. Keil gives the summary of its contents in three divisions, as follows; (1.) |The book begins with a forcible exhortation to the rulers of the earth to strive after wisdom as the fountain of righteousness and the guide to immortality and happiness. With this it connects a warning against the folly of unbelieving men who rebel against the law, oppress the righteous, and thus bring upon themselves just punishment, distraction, and everlasting shame. Chaps.1-6. (2.) After the example of King Solomon, who is introduced as speaking, the way to obtain wisdom is next pointed out, and she is described in her nature as the spirit that formed and sustains the world, and is the author of all that is good, true, and great. Chaps.7-9. (3.) Then follows a long historical discourse (interrupted in chaps.13-15 by a copious discussion concerning the origin and nature of idolatry), in which the blessed effects of wisdom and the fear of God, and the unhappy consequences that come from the folly of idolatry are illustrated by the opposite fortunes of the righteous and the wicked of past ages, especially of the people of God as contrasted with the idolatrous Canaanites and Egyptians.| The different parts of the book constitute a well connected whole.
14. The book was originally composed in Greek by an Alexandrine Jew, who is generally placed by biblical scholars somewhere in the second century before Christ. Though possessing no canonical authority, it is very interesting and valuable for the view which it gives of the progress of Jewish thought in both religion and philosophy. This writer is the first who expressly identifies the serpent that deceived Eve with the devil: |Through envy of the devil came death into the world.| Chap.2:24. He teaches also the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and of a future judgment. In a passage of great beauty he personifies Wisdom, after the example of the book of Proverbs, as the worker of all things, and the teacher and guide, of men. |She is the breath of the power of God, and a pure efflux from the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled can find entrance into her. For she is the effulgence of the everlasting light, and the unspotted mirror of the divine might, and the image of his goodness. And being but one she can do all things; and remaining in herself [unchanged] she makes all things new. From age to age entering into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets.| Chap.7:25-27. But along with this true development of doctrine on the basis of the Old Testament he holds the unscriptural doctrine of the preexistence of souls (chap.8:20), whether borrowed from the Platonists, or taken from some other source. Some have thought that he also holds matter to be eternal. But when he speaks of God's almighty hand as having |created the world out of formless matter| (chap.11:17), he may have reference simply to the chaotic state described in Gen.1:2.
Jerome left the Latin translation of this book unrevised. The text, therefore, of our Latin Bibles is that of the |Old Latin| version, as it existed before his day.
15. The Greek title of this book is, The Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach, or more briefly: The Wisdom of Sirach. The Latin title, Ecclesiasticus, that is, Ecclesiastical book, designates it as a book that was read for edification in the churches, though not included in the Hebrew canon. We give, mainly from Keil, the summary of its contents: This copious book is rich in its contents, embracing the whole domain of practical wisdom, and, what is inseparable from this, the fear of God. These virtues it describes, commends, and inculcates according to their origin and nature, their characteristics and results, and their realization in life, in a rich collection of proverbs, with rules and counsels for the regulation of life in all its manifold relations. The whole is after the manner of the Proverbs of Solomon, only with much greater particularity of details, extending to all the spheres of religious, civil, and domestic life, and giving rules of conduct for the regulation of the same. This collection of wise maxims, moral precepts, and rules of life constitutes a united whole, in which the particular proverbs, counsels, and warnings are strung together in accordance with an association of ideas that is often quite loose. Interwoven with these are a number of connected discussions and prayers. The author closes his instructions with two extended discourses, in the former of which he celebrates the works of God in creation (chaps.42:15-43:33); in the latter, the praises of the famous men of Scripture from Enoch to Simon the high priest, the son of Onias (chaps.44-50). He then adds in the final chapter a thanksgiving and prayer (chap.51). This book, like that of Wisdom, is of great value for the insight which it gives into the theology and ethics of the Jews at the time of its composition.
16. It is undoubtedly genuine, having been written in Hebrew by the man whose name it bears, and translated into Greek in Egypt by his grandson, as stated in the prologue. But the age of the translator, and consequently of the author, is a matter of dispute. The last of the worthies described by him is |Simon, the son of Onias, the high priest.| There were two high priests of this name, both sons of Onias, but the author's eulogy is applicable only to the former, who flourished about 310-290 B.C. It is a natural inference that Jesus, the son of Sirach, wrote not many years afterwards. The translator, again, speaks of himself as coming into Egypt |in the eight and thirtieth year, when Euergetes was king.| Does he mean the eight and thirtieth year of his own life, or of Euergetes' reign? If the latter, then of the two kings that bore the surname Euergetes the latter only (B.C.170-117) can be understood, since the former reigned only twenty-five years. If the former, as is most probable, then we naturally understand Euergetes I., who reigned B.C.217-222, during which period the translation must have been executed.
The Greek text, as exhibited in manuscripts, is in a very corrupt and confused state, with many variations and transpositions. The Latin text is that of the |Old Latin,| which Jerome left, as he did that of the book of Wisdom, without revision.
VII. BARUCH AND THE EPISTLE OF JEREMIAH.
17. This is the only apocryphal book which assumes the character of prophecy. It is formed after the model of Jeremiah, and ascribed to Baruch his friend. But its spuriousness is generally admitted. Besides historical inaccuracies, such as are not conceivable in the case of Baruch, the fact that its author employed the Septuagint translation of Jeremiah and Daniel mark it as of a later date. Keil assigns it to about the middle of the second century B.C. The book professes to be a letter written by Baruch in the name of the captive Jews in Babylon to their brethren at Jerusalem, and consists of two well-marked divisions, the first of which, extending to chap.3:8, is, in the opinion of some, a translation from an original Hebrew document. This part contains, after an introductory notice, a confession of sin with prayer for deliverance. The second part begins with an address to the covenant people, in which they are rebuked for neglecting the teachings of divine wisdom, and encouraged with the hope of returning prosperity when they shall obey her voice. Chaps.3:9-4:8. Zion is then introduced lamenting over the desolations which God has brought upon her and her children (chap.4:9-4:29), and afterwards comforting them with the hope of certain deliverance and enlargement (chaps.4:30-5:9). It is generally agreed that the second part was originally written in Greek, and some think that the same is true of the first part also.
18. There is another Epistle of Baruch preserved to us in the Syriac, which is inserted in the London and Paris Polyglotts. It is addressed to the nine and a half tribes, and |made up of commonplaces of warning, encouragement, and exhortation.| Smith's Bib. Dict., Art. Baruch.
19. There is a spurious Epistle of Jeremiah which appears in the Vulgate and our English version as the sixth chapter of Baruch. It is entitled: |Copy of an epistle which Jeremiah sent to those who were to be led captives into Babylon by the king of the Babylonians to make announcement to them, as it was commanded him by God.| It purports to be a warning to these captives against the idolatrous practices which they shall witness in Babylon, and is made up of a long discourse on the impotence of the idols which the heathen worship, written in a rhetorical style, in imitation of Jer.10:1-16. Its author is supposed to have been a Hellenistic Jew who lived towards the end of the Maccabean period.
VIII. ADDITIONS TO THE BOOK OF DANIEL.
20. The Greek version of the book of Daniel, besides many departures from the Hebrew and Chaldee original, contains three large additions. The first of these is: The Prayer of Azarias, and the Song of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace, which is appended to the third chapter. The second is: The History of Susanna, who is exhibited as a pattern of chastity, and was delivered from the machinations of her enemies through the wisdom of Daniel. This is placed sometimes before the first chapter of Daniel, and sometimes after chapter 12. The third addition is: The Story of Bel and the Dragon, which stands at the end of the book, and is falsely ascribed in the Septuagint to the prophet Habakkuk. Its design is to show the folly of idolatry. According to Keil, these three pieces were composed in Egypt towards the end of the third, or the beginning of the second century before Christ.
IX. THE PRAYER OF MANASSES.
21. A genuine prayer of Manasseh, king of Judah, existed at the time when the books of Chronicles were composed.2 Chron.33:18, 19. But the existing prayer of the Apocrypha, though upon the whole beautiful and appropriate, cannot claim to be a true representative of that prayer. |The author,| says Keil, |was a pious Jew who lived at all events before Christ, though his age cannot be more accurately determined.|
X. THE BOOKS OF THE MACCABEES.
22. These are five in number. The first two passed from the Greek into the early Latin versions, and thence into the Vulgate and the English versions, and were received as canonical by the Council of Trent. Two others are found in some manuscripts of the Septuagint. The fifth exists only in Arabic. |If the historic order were observed, the so-called third book would come first, the fourth would be an appendix to the second, which would retain its place, and the first would come last; but it will be more convenient to examine the books in the order in which they are found in the MSS., which was probably decided by some vague tradition of their relative antiquity.| Smith's Bible Dict., Art. Maccabees. The name Maccabees is applied to the family and posterity of the illustrious Jewish priest Mattathias, who maintained a long and successful struggle with the Syrian kings, and finally succeeded in establishing for a period the independence of the Jews. The origin of the term has been variously explained; but the most common account of it is, that it comes from a Hebrew word signifying hammer, so that the adjective Maccabee (Greek [Greek: Makkabaios]) will denote Hammerer. According to Josephus (Antiq.12, 6, 1) Mattathias was descended from one Asmonaeus: Hence the family of the Maccabees are also called Asmoneans.
23. The first book of the Maccabees. This is one of the most important of all the apocryphal books. It contains a narrative of the long and bloody struggle of the Jews, under their Maccabean leaders, for the preservation of their religion, and the deliverance of the nation from the yoke of their Syrian oppressors. The history bears the internal marks of authenticity and credibility, being distinguished by simplicity and candor. It is only when speaking of foreign nations that the writer falls into some inaccuracies. These do not detract from his trustworthiness in relating the affairs of his own nation through a period of forty years of the most eventful character (B.C.175-135). The book is pervaded throughout by the Jewish spirit, and must have been written by a Palestinian Jew. Its date is uncertain, but may probably be placed somewhere during the government of the high priest John Hyrcanus (B.C.135-106). According to the testimony of Origen, the book was originally written in Hebrew. With this agrees its internal character; for the Greek version of it contains many Hebraisms, as well as difficulties which are readily accounted for upon the supposition of a Hebrew original.
21. The second book of Maccabees. This book opens with two letters purporting to have been written by the Jews of Palestine to their brethren in Egypt, in which the former invite the latter to join with them in the celebration of |the feast of tabernacles in the month Caslen,| that is, the feast of dedication established to commemorate the purification of the temple after its pollution by Antiochus Epiphanes. To the latter of these is appended an epitome of the five books of Jason of Cyrene, containing the history of the Maccabean struggle, beginning with Heliodorus' attempt to plunder the temple, about B.C.180, and ending with the victory of Judas Maccabeus over Nicanor, B.C.161. Both of the letters are regarded as spurious. The second of them abounds in marvellous legends -- how, upon the destruction of the first temple, the sacred fire of the altar was hid in a hollow pit without water; how, at the close of the captivity, it was found in the form of thick water, which being by the command of Nehemiah sprinkled on the wood of the altar and the sacrifices, there was kindled, when the sun shone upon it, a great fire, so that all men marvelled; how Jeremiah, at God's command, carried the tabernacle, the ark, and the altar of incense to the mountain |which Moses ascended and saw the heritage of God,| that is, mount Nebo (Deut.34:1), and hid them there in a hollow cave, where they are to remain until the time that God shall gather his people together again, and be gracious to them.
The epitome of Jason's history begins some five years earlier than the history contained in the first book, and covers a period of about nineteen years; so that it is partly anterior to that history, partly supplementary, and partly parallel. Alexander's Kitto, Art. Maccabees. The two books are entirely independent in their sources of information; and although the second cannot lay claim to the same degree of trustworthiness as the first, yet the general judgment of biblical scholars is that it is, in its main facts, authentic. But these are set forth with embellishments and exaggerations, in which the author manifests his love for the marvellous. Where the history of the two books is parallel, it agrees in its general outlines, but the details are almost always different, and sometimes they present irreconcilable discrepancies. In its religious aspect this book is very interesting. In the account of the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons for their refusal to eat swine's flesh (chap.7) the doctrine of the resurrection is plainly announced: |It is a thing to be desired,| says the fourth son to the king Antiochus, |that one being put to death by men should wait for the hope of God that he shall be again raised up by him; but for thee there is no resurrection unto life| (v.14). Where Jason composed his work cannot be determined. He cannot have lived long after the events which he describes, else he would have taken notice of the important events that followed. The author of the epitome contained in this book is believed to have been a Hellenistic Jew living in Palestine, who probably wrote in the first century before Christ.
25. The third book of Maccabees. This book does not belong to the Maccabean age, but to the earlier time of Ptolemy Philopator (B.C.221-204). Its title seems to have come simply from the similarity of its contents. It relates in a pompous and oratorical style how Ptolemy Philopator, being enraged at his failure to enter the sanctuary at Jerusalem, determined to wreak his vengeance on the Jews in Egypt, and assembled them for this purpose in the circus, that they might be trampled under foot by drunken elephants, but was hindered by the miraculous interposition of God; whereupon the king liberated the Jews, prepared for them a sumptuous feast, and gave them permission to take vengeance on their apostate countrymen. The narrative probably has a groundwork of truth with legendary embellishments, after the manner of the later Jews. Its author is believed to have been an Alexandrine Jew, but his age cannot be determined. It was never admitted into the Romish canon.
26. The fourth book of Maccabees opens with a philosophical discussion respecting the supremacy of devout reason over the passions, which is then illustrated by the history of the martyrdom of Eleazar and the mother with her seven sons, an account of which we have in 2 Macc., chaps.6 and 7. The author of this book was a Jew imbued with the spirit of the stoical philosophy. It has been falsely ascribed to Josephus.
27. The fifth book of Maccabees exists only in Arabic. We draw our notice of it from Alexander's Kitto, according to which |it contains the history of the Jews from Heliodorus' attempt to plunder the treasury at Jerusalem till the time when Herod revelled in the noblest blood of the Jews;| that is, from 184-86 B.C., thus embracing a period of 98 years. The book is a compilation made in Hebrew, by a Jew who lived after the destruction of Jerusalem, from ancient Hebrew memoirs or chronicles, which were written shortly after the events transpired. In the absence of the original Hebrew, the Arabic versions of it, printed in the Paris and London Polyglotts, give the text upon which we must rely.