The Catholic Bible Dictionary discusses the date and authorship of First and Second Maccabees.

Scott W. Hahn

Scott W. Hahn, "Maccabees, First and Second Books of," in Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 561-64 (Logos ed.)

Logos, Doubleday
Scott W. Hahn
Reading Public

MACCABEES, FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS OF The last of the Historical Books of the Old Testament. They narrate the struggle led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers against the Seleucid kings in the second century B.C. Although related to some extent because of common subject matter, the two books are independent of each other. Both books are among the deuterocanonical books, accepted as Scripture by Catholic and Orthodox Christians.


In all probability, 1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew. Testimony to this effect comes from Saint Jerome, who wrote that he saw the book in Hebrew. Internal evidence also suggests that the books were translated into Greek from a Semitic original. The author is unknown, although the language indicates that the work was composed in Palestine by a writer who was familiar with Palestinian geography and who was deliberately trying to imitate the historical style of an earlier period (e.g., 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings). The date of its composition is uncertain, but it was probably written after 134 B.C., following the death of Simon and during the period of John Hyrcanus (134–104 B.C.).

The Second book of Maccabees was written in Greek as an abridgment of a five-volume history of the Maccabees written by Jason of Cyrene (2 Macc 2:19–31). The larger work is now lost, and nothing further is known of Jason, except that he probably lived in Palestine, as his work shows considerable geographical knowledge. As for the author of 2 Maccabees, he may have lived in Alexandria, Egypt, and his mention of the resurrection of the dead (7:14) raises the possibility that he may have been a Pharisee. The book was probably composed in Greek, given its limited number of Hebraisms and the presence of native Greek idioms and constructions. The date for its composition has been estimated at a time after 124 B.C. and perhaps as late as 80 B.C.

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