Reception of Scripture and Its Ethical Implications in 2 Maccabees

At distinctive positions 2 Maccabees adopts biblical tradition. The fights of the Maccabees supported by supernatural riders, are framed through explicit references to a supernatural messenger from a long time ago (2 Kings 19:35) in 2 Macc 8:19 and 15:22. Right before the battle against the Seleucid Timotheos 2 Macc 10:26 quotes almost literally LXX Ex 23:22 and remembers the Exodus-Angel, who accompanied Israel on the way out of Egypt and in the desert. A closer examination reveals that the supernatural riders in 2 Maccabees overall should be understood in the context of older angel-traditions. However, angels in Ex 23:22 und 2 Kings 19:35 appear in situations where people of Israel do not act war-like – this was up to the angels. In contrast, the people in 2 Maccabees are not inactive. After the intervention of Antiochus IV. in Jewish religious practices (2 Macc 6) and tales of martyrium (2 Macc 6:18-7:42), Judas recruits 6.000 men for a revolt (2 Macc 6:12). Interestingly, 2 Macc 6:12 and 7:32f. emphasise that the people of Israel suffer because of “their own sins” (7:32) what the narrator understands as an act of education and reason for their suffering. The behaviour of the Maccabees who want to defend the torah by force of arms and to end all the suffering for the sake of the torah, contradicts the narrator’s view at some point. Indeed, the time of God’s punishment seems to be over when the Maccabees start their revolt since the appearance of supernatural riders support their fights and indicate divine interventions. So until 2 Macc 7, an ethical dimension of punishment and education of the people of Israel is focused; from 2 Macc 8 on we can recognize an ethical concept of self-defence and resistance. In contrast to this stands the book of Daniel: in the last vision it also tells about war-like angels but does not show their acting on earth – they emerge only in an unearthly, transcendental sphere (Dan 10:13.20; 12:1). The book of Daniel instructs his readers not to take up arms although they are in a menacing situation. With an ethic view it emphasises the endurance of their distress and therefore the knowledge of revelation is essential, as it predicts the soon ending of the Greek dominion and contains the hope of resurrection.