5 Maccabees Chapter 00.04 (from The Five Books of Maccabees) Introduction by Henry Cotton D.C.L. Archdeacon of Cashel

by Henry Cotton D.C.L. Archdeacon of Cashel

p. 30 The fifth book, although Calmet supposes that it was originally written in Hebrew, and from thence was translated into Greek, is not now known to exist in either of those languages. We have it in Arabic, and also in Syriac. It is a kind of Chronicle of Jewish affairs, commencing with the attempt on the treasury at Jerusalem made by Heliodorus, (with an interpolation of the p. 31 history of the Septuagint version composed by desire of Ptolemy,) and reaching down to the birth of Jesus Christ : or, speaking accurately, to that particular point of time, at which Herod, almost glutted with the noblest blood of the Jews, turned his murderous hands upon the members of his own family ; and completed the sad tragedy of the Asmonaean princes, by the slaughter of his own wife Mariamne, her mother, and his own two sons.

The Arabic of this book, with a Latin version of it by Gabriel Sionita, first appeared in the Paris Polyglott Bible of Le Jay, with no other notice than the following preface.

” Liber hie a “cap. 1 usque ad 16 inclusive inscribitur ‘II. ” Machabceorum ex HebrcBorum translationej uti ” in calce ejusdem cap. 16 videre est. Reliquus ” vero liber simpliciter notatur ‘ II. Machabcsorum] continuata tamen cum antecedentibus ca” pitum serie. At cum neque textui Syriaco, qui ” praecipuse inter Orientales auctoritatis est, neque ” Graeco, neque Vulgatae editioni consonet, (quan” quam in omnibus ferine Orientalium extet codi” cibus,) ilium in calce horum Bibliorum reposui” mus, et quidem destitutum apicibus suis : tum ” ne cuiquam inter caeteros Canonicos libros recen” seri a nobis videatur : tum quia secundus Macha ” baeorum, qui pro Canonico habetur, ex integro ” nobis extat, quanquam sub nomine primi. Habes ” tamen in hoc quaedam ex primo et secundo ; ” quaedam vero alia hacteuus forte in lucem non ” edia quae tibi non injucunda fore speramus: ” quandoquidem liber totus est quaedam liistoria’ p. 32 ” continuatio, ab ipsis Machabaeis deducta usque ” ad regnum Herodis et praefecturam Pilatic[1]foot note: c This appears to be a mistake, as will be perceived on referring to the note on chap. lix. verse 25., et ” consequenter Christi Domini tempora. Tandem ” hoc unum scias velimus, nos ea bona fide textum ” expressisse, ut ne ea quidem quae facile emendari ” poterant mutaverimus.”

The appearance of this book in the Paris Polyglott, without any account of the Manuscript from which it had been taken, or any farther particulars connected with its publication, is thought to have arisen from the quarrels which were continually taking place between two of the editors of the Oriental department of that Bible, Gabriel Sionita and Abraham Ecchellensis. From the Paris edition it was copied into the London Polyglott of Bishop Walton.

Its author is wholly unknown. He may have been contemporary with Josephus, but was not Josephus himself; as may be proved by many differences from that historian, and some contradictions of him, collected instances of which may be seen in Calmet. That he lived after the capture of Jerusalem by Titus may be evidenced by the expression occurring at chap. ix. ” till after “the third captivity:” and again, in chap. xxi. ” till the destruction of the second House.” It has been supposed to have been compiled from the Acts of each successive high priest. In three places, chap. xxv. 5, lv. 25, and lix. 96, mention is made of ” the author of this book ;” but who is p. 33 the person designated by this expression, it is not perhaps easy to say.

The book contains some remarkable peculiarities of language ; such as ” The House of God,” and ” The Holy House,” for the Temple: —” the ” land of the Holy House,” for Judtea :—” the ” city of the Holy House,” for Jerusalem :—the exclamations, ” to whom be peace ! ” and ” God be ” merciful to them,” used in speaking of the dead : —” the men of the west : “—the ” great and good ” God,” (answering to the ” Deus Optimus Maxi” mus” of Roman authors; ) and the same expression is found in the Samaritan Chronicle :—” the ” land of the sanctuary :” in the Samaritan Chronicle Jerusalem is called “the sanctuary,” and its king, ” the king of the sanctuary.”

I may here remark, in passing, that this Samaritan Chronicle exists in an Arabic translation, made from the Hebrew, but in the ancient Samaritan characters, in a manuscript which formerly belonged to the learned Joseph Scaliger, and is now preserved in the public library at Leyden. It begins from the death of Moses, (whence it obtained the title of ” the book of Joshua,”) and ends with the emperor Antonine. I am not aware that it has ever been published ; but Hottinger lias given an epitome of it in his ” Exercitationes ” Anti-morinianae,” 4to. 1644 ; and several extracts in his ‘* Smegma Orientate,” 4to. 1658: it is also briefly mentioned by Basnage, in his “His” tory of the Jews,” II. i. 2.

The learned Dr. Huntington, who about a hundred and thirty years ago travelled into the East, p. 34 and visited the town of Sichem, where he found only small and miserable remains of the Samaritans, saw there a ” Samaritan Chronicle” different from that which is mentioned by Scaliger, and less copious, but still embracing the period from the Creation to the time of Mahomet. This book he brought over with him to England, and it is now deposited among the Huntington MSS. in the Bodleian library. A chronological abstract of it appears in the “Acta Eruditorum” for 1691 ‘ where it seems to have been continued by some unknown hand down to the year of Christ 1492.

In the “Biblia Maxima” by Jo. de la Haye, 19 torn, folio, Paris, 1660, the Latin version of Le Jay’s Polyglott is reprinted, but with the omission of the first nineteen chapters.

A French translation of this fifth book, from the Arabic, appears, with other apocryphal writings, in the Appendix to De Sacy’s Bible : and Calmet has given a version of a portion of it, viz. of chapters xx to xxvi ; being so much as contains the acts of John Hyrcanus, namely, that part only which Sixtus Senensis had seen, and had considered to be the legitimate fourth book. He adds, that the entire book had been recently published in French by M. Baubrun, in the third volume of Le Maitre’s Bible, fol. Paris. This I have not seen. I do not know that it has hitherto appeared in English. I have rendered it from the Latin version of the Arabic text printed in the Polyglotts ; taking care to adhere as closely as possible to my copy, lest a translation of a translation p. 35 should be found to have wholly lost sight of the Original, if too much liberty were allowed; only endeavouring – , as before stated, that the English should bear some resemblance to that of the other Maccabaic books.

In the several notes and illustrations from heathen authors subjoined to the text, I have thrown upon various parts of it whatever light I was able to procure. But at the same time I have been unwilling to quote at length the corresponding passages of those authors, lest the volume should be swelled to a bulk disproportionate to its worth.

On the Canonical authority sought to be affixed to two of these books.

It is well known to the learned, that of these five books, those which are commonly called the first and second have been usually attached to copies of the Bible throughout the western church ; and by the adherents to the see of Rome they are, even at this day, deemed to be of Canonical authority. The ground for this may perhaps be sought, and found, in an over strained interpretation of those approving terms in which several of the early Fathers spoke of these books, either as faithful or edifying narratives.

But, on the question of their having been considered as the work of inspiration, and in such a character admitted either into the Jewish or early Christian canon, I shall beg permission to adduce one single testimony from each of these two churches; which, as it is that of a writer of high character, and is direct and unambiguous. I trust p. 36 may be thought decisive of the

I trust p. 36 may be thought decisive of the question, according to the maxim of Aristotle,
For the Jewish canon, hear Josephus, in his first book against Apion,

But from ” Artaxerxes down to our own times all events ” are indeed recorded : but they are not considered equally worthy of belief with those which ” preceded them, because there was not an exact ” succession of prophets as before.””

And for the Christian church, no less an authority than St. Jerome distinctly affirms, ” Macha” baeorum libros legit quidem ecclesia, SED EOS ” INTER CANONICAS SCRIPTURAS NON RECI” pit.” Praefat. in Proverb. Salomonis.

One might have thought, that this solemn assertion, coming from so high a quarter, would have been decisive : that a Roman catholic at least would have bowed with implicit deference to the recorded judgment of this learned Father, to whom he owns himself indebted for his Bible. And so indeed he did, during earlier and better times. But Rome found troubles come upon her: doubts arose, and objections were made, and must be met at all events : and the third book of Maccabees offered too fair a field, of dreams, and visions, and miraculous appearances, and a (fancied) recommendation of prayers for the dead, to be neglected by that church. The council of Trent boldly pronounced the two books Canonical ; and p. 37 as such they are professedly received by all the adherents of the Roman see.

It is sad however, to see some of her learned followers betraying their distrust of the grounds upon which they are bidden to stand ; and such men as P. de la Haye, and Calmet after him, driven to the miserable shift of attempting to find reasons for the propriety of their being deemed Canonical, from the mere fact of St. Paul’s having used, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. xii. 35, where he is speaking of the martyrs, the expression,   ” which torture,” say they, ” Eleazar suffered !” as if therefore it necessarily followed, that the particular book which details these his sufferings must be, not only that one which the Apostle had in view, but moreover must have been written by divine inspiration, and consequently be Canonical!

The reader, who desires to see this point treated in detail, is referred to ” Jo. Rainoldi censura li” brorum apocryphorum Veteris Testament], ad” versum Pontificios,” LZ torn. 4to. Oppenheimii 1591 : and to Archbishop Ussher’s ” Summary of ” Christian Religion.”

I may also take leave to mention, that the question of the Canonical character of these books was warmly debated in Germany, about the middle of the last century, by Froelich and the two Wernsdorfs; the former of whom denied, and the latter maintained, their title to that high distinction. The contest began by some observations made in a publication of Froelich, entitled ” Annales Re” gum Syria*,” 4to. 17-14. To these E. Wernsdorf p. 38 replied, in ” Prolusio de Fontibus Historia? ” Syriae in Libris Maccabaeorum,” 4to. Lipsiae, 1746. Froelich rejoined, in ” Prolusio in Examen ” vocata,” 4to. 1746. G. Wernsdorf then entered the field, with a ” Commentatio de Fide Histo” rica Librorum Maccabaeorum,” 4to. 1747 ; and was supported by an anonymous Jesuit, who published a treatise entitled, ” Authoritas Libro” rum Maccabaeorum canonico-historica adserta,” 4to. Vienna?, 1749- In 1754, Froelich republished his ” Annales,” and probably replied to all the arguments of his opponents : for in the Preface he states, ” post ultimum anno 1749, pro li” bris Maccabaeorum finitum certamen, silentium ” et pax.”

What may be the character or merits of these last-named publications, I am unable to judge or pronounce ; as not a single one of them was to be procured in any public or private library in Dublin.—Nor have I been able to meet with ” Mi” chaelis on the Maccabees,” 4to. 1774 : nor ” Charles Wilson’s Version of the apocryphal ” books, with critical and historical Observations,” 8vo. 1801 : nor the dissertations said to be contained in the ” Bibliotheca Historica” of Meuselius: nor the ” Harmony” by J. M. Faber, 8vo. 1794, &c. &c. : a perusal of which treatises, together with many others illustrating the same subject, might perhaps have considerably diminished the imperfections of the present work.

Source: The Five Books of Maccabees in English. With Notes and Illustrations, by Henry Cotton, D.C.L. Archdeacon of Cashel, and Late Student of Christ Church, Oxford. originally published before 1832.

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Original Source: Transcribed from PDF copy of Book "The Five Books of Maccabees in English. With Notes and Illustrations", by HENRY COTTON, D.C.L.(Sir) Archdeacon of Cashel, and Late Student of Christ Church, Oxford. Publication date 1832 | PDF


1 foot note: c This appears to be a mistake, as will be perceived on referring to the note on chap. lix. verse 25.

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