Fourth Maccabees' Unique Inclusion into the Georgian Orthodox Biblical Canon

It is rather remarkable that the Georgian Orthodox Bible is the only Orthodox Bible containing the Fourth book of Maccabees. Unique historical, political, cultural, and theological factors were likely to influence that singular inclusion, which I will attempt demonstrate in this study. The paper envisions a tripartite discussion, starting with a brief examination of the standard and “accidental” reasons influencing the inclusion of a disputable book into the biblical canon. The second part deals with the particularities of the Fourth book of Maccabees, whereas the last part analyzes its unique placement within the Georgian biblical canon in light of the specifics of Georgian Orthodoxy, Georgian history of biblical codification, and cultural aspects. Thus, after the analysis of the external and internal criteria of canonicity for the inclusion of a book into the canon, Fourth Maccabees is then examined in light of these criteria, with a special emphasis on the nuance of the book’s philosophical exhortation to mastering one’s passions. Even though the book, situated in Hellenistic diaspora, is full of Stoic rhetoric, its exhortation on the mastery over passions is closer to the Orthodox rather than Stoic understanding of obliteration of passions; more in line with Christian asceticism and patristic teaching about passions. Not imperturbability, but obedience to Torah is the goal, which puts a slightly different accent on the concept, more akin to the re-directing of the passions. The resulting underlying message is: mastery over passions in service to total commitment to Torah. Total commitment functions as an ascetic routine that enables a person to gain control and to stay totally committed. The second part of the Fourth Maccabees describing the martyrdom of Eleazar, seven brothers, and their mother, contains important insights into the notion of Orthodox martyrology and the martyrology of Georgian saints, in particular, with their ancient history of Christianity; their “martyr-prolific” encounters with the Muslim massacre of Jalal ad-Din in 1226; martyr Salome of Jerusalem (a significant “literary” allusion to the martyred mother of the seven brothers), and other quintessential incidents of martyrdom. I believe that the study would shed light on that unique history of inclusion and retention of Fourth Maccabees in the Georgian biblical canon, and that this inquiry, at large, would contribute to a more in-depth understanding of what the biblical canonical status entails, as shown on the material of the Georgian Orthodox Church and canon.