Second Maccabees and Jewish society: Representations of Jewishness, Hellenism and the interaction between the Greeks and the Jews
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
In the Second Century B.C.E. the Jews rebelled against their Seleucid overlords achieving, for a while at least, some sort of limited independence. The events that occurred are, in the main, recorded by two works: First and Second Maccabees. The latter of these is a much neglected text. It is maligned as tragic or pathetic history and generally only used by scholars on an ad hoc basis to support particular arguments. Second Maccabees is, however, still a product of a particular time and place, and therefore can give insights into the society from which it evolved. This thesis makes use of this premise to analyse Second Maccabees. Our intention is to uncover some of the author's perceptions and beliefs in order to explain aspects of Jewishness and Jewish society. To do this we approach the text in a fresh way, paying close attention to repeated uses of particular words and any patterns in context that can be associated with these words - this includes associations that are made to particular events or groups. Repeated patterns, it is suggested, provide both an insight into aspects of the author's society and a context within which to interpret the text. As part of this process we also discuss: First, the concept of identity - Jew, Judaean and the role of the 'other'. Second, the place of the Hellene and Hellenic culture in Jewish society (Jewishness), with particular attention given to the age old dichotomy of Jew versus Greek, Hellenism versus Judaism. The result suggests that the increasing tendency to minimise any Jewish-Hellenic conflict should be reassessed. This does not mean that Jews did not adopt aspects of Hellenic culture, but rather that the reality is far more complex. Societies operate and evolve on many, often (seemingly) contradictory levels, the self adoption of foreign (Hellenic) ideas does not mean that Hellenism cannot symbolise a threat.