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Septuagint Sunday: I Heart Maccabees

August 5, 2012


I’d give away half a bookshelf worth of books to see Mark Wahlberg or Matt Damon star in a film adaptation of 1 Maccabees. Judas Maccabeus (“Hammer” will be his nom de film) and his Hasmonean family drive out imperial powers and call the Jewish people back to faithful observance of the Torah. They do it with great violence, against all odds. (This would be an action movie, and not for small children.)

Here’s how Jonathan A. Goldstein, in his 1 Maccabees Anchor Bible commentary, begins his introduction. Try to call to mind that deep male voice that does movie trailer voice-overs:

The faithful Israelite living in Judaea under the rule of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids in the third and second centuries B.C.E. learned from childhood that the LORD’s chosen people had nothing to fear if they kept the LORD’s commandments. Subjection to the great empires of Persia and the Hellenistic kings had brought stability and security over long periods, which in part compensated for galling exploitation and servitude and for episodes of devastating warfare. Then, under the Seleucid Antiochus IV from 167 to 164 B.C.E., obedience to the LORD’s commandments became a crime punished with extreme severity. No harsher trial ever tested the monotheistic faith of the Jews.

[Cue music swell.] Goldstein/our movie trailer goes on:

The outcome was entirely unexpected: the desperate resistance of the Jews prevailed, and for a time the “yoke of foreign empires” was lifted from the Jews as they became independent under the Hasmonaean dynasty. After the centuries of heartbreaking delay, were the glorious predictions of the prophets of a mighty restored Israel being fulfilled?

That’s got to be good watching, folks. It’s certainly making for great reading! (I’m focusing on the first four chapters for a directed study for one of my seminary classes.) Here is a “Quick and Dirty Summary” of 1 Maccabees from Gordon College professor Ted Hildebrandt.

As I wrote in an earlier post about the Septuagint:

Books like 1 Maccabees, especially, fill out the intertestamental gap between Malachi and Matthew. I’ve been working my way through 1 Maccabees lately, and it’s really helping me better understand Jewish expectation of a conquering Messiah who would expel oppressive Roman rule.

Good book. Would make an awesome movie. The Maccabean Identity? Or, perhaps, simply: I Heart Maccabees.

What do you think?

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