While the first and second books of Maccabees are the basis for the Hanukkah story, the rabbis excluded them from the Jewish canon. The first of these books is a Greek translation of a no-longer-extant Hebrew work; the second, according to its own preface, was composed in Greek and is an abridgment of an earlier work by a Jew living in what is now Libya. Examining the theological differences between the two, Daniel R. Schwartz argues that one represents the attitudes found in the newly independent kingdom of Judea, and the other those of the Diaspora:
For 1Maccabees, Judeans suffer because the wicked Greek kings and the Judeans’ nasty neighbors persecute them, and they are rescued by the valiant efforts of military heroes, the Hasmoneans.
For 2Maccabees, in contrast, Jews suffer because their sins cause God “to hide His face” (as it is put in Deuteronomy 31:17 and 32:20), i.e., to suspend His providence. They are rescued through the death of Jewish martyrs, which serves as an atonement, and so God’s “wrath turns into mercy,” allowing Judah Maccabee to be victorious
For the diasporic 2Maccabees, whose expected readers—like Christians in the Roman empire—could not contemplate military resistance if ever oppressed, martyrdom, in the hope that it would move God to intervene, is the best they could do and, indeed, it is effective. . . . For 1Maccabees, in contrast, martyrs, who are killed due to their adherence to Jewish religion, accomplish nothing; they are part of the problem, not the solution, and are . . . no more than pious fools.
No one in a Judean state, with a Judean army, could subscribe to the assertion of 2Maccabees that the Jewish soldiers who die in battle must be guilty of a sin, for otherwise God might be suspected of injustice (12:40–41). That can be said only by someone living in the Diaspora interested in inculcating belief in divine providence, who had no need to worry that his son might one day have to fight in a Judean army.