What Is the Third Book of Maccabees?

March 6 2017

While the first and second books of Maccabees are not part of the Hebrew Bible, they have been read by Jews as well as Christians over the ages, and have been the main source of the Jewish understanding of the Hanukkah story. Third Maccabees, by contrast, has been forgotten by both Jews and most Christians, although it is included in the Orthodox Christian canon. Written after 1 and 2 Maccabees, it tells the story of the prior persecution of the Jews by the 3rd-century-BCE Greek-Egyptian ruler Ptolemy IV Philopator, a few decades before the Maccabean revolt. Philip Long describes the book’s undeniably Jewish message:

Third Maccabees may have been written as a defense of Diaspora Jews for a Palestinian Jewish audience. Since these Jews live outside the land, they are considered to be “still in exile” and are therefore still under God’s [negative] judgment. The book demonstrates that God hears the prayers of the Diaspora Jewish community and preserves them in persecution, as he did for Palestinian Jewry during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. It is possible the Jews in Jerusalem looked down on the Jews living outside the land. [The book’s message is that the] Jew of the Diaspora has as close of a connection to God as do the Jews living in the land.

The book [also] addresses the problem of apostasy in the Diaspora since those Jews in the book who renounce their faith are judged harshly. A major theme of the book is the boundary between the Jew and the Gentile. When Gentiles appear in the story, they are prejudiced, lawless, and abominable. Even in Egypt Jews are warned to keep their distance from Gentiles and to avoid apostasy at all cost.

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Read more at Reading Acts

More about: ancient Judaism, Apocrypha, Diaspora, Egypt, History & Ideas

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter