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Literature / Books of Maccabees

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A series of apocryphal books that are not included in the Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament (though four of them appear in the Greek Septuagint), centering mostly around The Maccabean Revolt.

1st Maccabees is the story of Judah Maccabee and his two brothers (the Hasmoneans) as they led Judea through the period of the revolt.

2nd Maccabees focuses mostly on Judah Maccabee's campaign, with supernatural elements thrown in.

3rd Maccabees (also called Ptolemaika) is a In Name Only prequel focusing on the 3rd-century BC persecution of the Jews of Egypt.

4th Maccabees is a discourse about the supremacy of reason over passion, focusing on the seven martyred brothers of 2nd Maccabees as the subject.

There is also a 5th Maccabees, alternatively referred to as Arabic 2nd Maccabees. This covers the period between Heliodorus' attempt to rob the Temple treasury to the death of Herod the Great's two sons about 6 BC.

Structure of the books:

1st Maccabees:
  • The oppression of King Antiochus IV (1st Maccabees chapter 1)
  • The story of Mattathias (1st Maccabees chapter 2)
  • The story of Judah Maccabee (1st Maccabees chapters 3 to 8)
  • The story of Jonathan (1st Maccabees chapters 9 to 12)
  • The story of Simon (1st Maccabees chapters 13 to 16)

2nd Maccabees:

  • The preface (2nd Maccabees chapters 1 and 2)
  • The corruption of the priesthood (2nd Maccabees chapters 3 to 5)
  • The martyrs under King Antiochus IV (2nd Maccabees chapters 6 and 7)
  • Judah Maccabee's battles and victories (2nd Maccabees chapters 8 to 15)

3rd Maccabees:

  • The battle of Raphia (3rd Maccabees 1:1-7)
  • King Ptolemy Philopator threatens sacrilege in Jerusalem (3rd Maccabees 1:8-2:24)
  • King Ptolemy Philopator threatens genocide in Alexandria (3rd Maccabees chapters 3 to 4)
  • The king's plans are foiled (3rd Maccabees 5:1-6:29)
  • The fortunes of the Jews are reversed (3rd Maccabees 6:30-7:23)

4th Maccabees:

  • Introduction and statement of the thesis (4th Maccabees 1:1-12)
  • Development of the author's thesis (4th Maccabees 1:13-3:18)
  • An extended narrative demonstrating the thesis (4th Maccabees 3:19-17:6)
  • Epilogue (4th Maccabees 17:7-18:24)

These books provide examples of:

  • All Crimes Are Equal: In Eleazar the priest's defense to the king about why he wouldn't eat unclean meat even when forced by the king's decree:
    Therefore do not suppose that it would be a petty sin if we were to eat defiling food; to transgress the law in matters either small or great is of equal seriousness, for in either case the law is equally despised. (4th Maccabees 5:19-21)
  • Altar Diplomacy: In 1st Maccabees chapter 10, King Alexander, after the defeat of his rival Demetrius, made a treaty of friendship with King Ptolemy of Egypt by having him give his daughter Cleopatra to Alexander as his wife, which Ptolemy accepted. In the following chapter, however, Ptolemy had later regretted it and decided to take back his daughter and give her to Demetrius' son to make an alliance with him, thus causing a rift between himself and Alexander.
  • Ancient Rome: Rome shows up in the picture a few times in 1st Maccabees as Judah and his brothers send delegates there to negotiate a treaty between Rome and Judea, but although Rome offers to aid Judea when needed against their adversaries, they hardly show up to do anything else besides negotiations. Past the time of these books, the Jews' alliance with Rome would come back to bite them in the butt, as the Roman Empire would eventually occupy their territory, thus setting up the situation for Jesus' first coming as recorded in The Four Gospels.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Nicanor's death at the hands of Judah Maccabee and his army was met with a day of festivity for the Jews.
  • Animal Stampede: In 3rd Maccabees, King Ptolemy Philopator had Hermon the elephant trainer drug the elephants with frankincense and unmixed wine so that they could be let loose to trample the Jews to death as a spectacle to the king and his guests. However, God kept interfering with those plans, first by putting the king into a deep sleep, then by constantly having him change his mind about the stampede.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Dositheus had his arm chopped off by a member of the Thracian cavalry in 2nd Maccabees chapter 12.
  • The Armies of Heaven: God's heavenly army shows up in various places throughout 2nd Maccabees to protect the faithful Jews.
  • Back from the Dead: The Jews that remained faithful to their religion unto death — in particular, the seven brothers in 2nd Maccabees — believed that God would raise them from the dead.
  • Badass Family: Judah Maccabee and his brothers.
  • Badass Israeli: Judah Maccabee and his brothers, plus their army. Also Judah's father Mattathias, who went so far as to slay one of the Jews that dared to sacrifice upon the pagan altar.
  • Belly Flop Crushing: Judah's brother Eleazar died by being crushed by the elephant carrying the attacking enemy troops when he went under the creature and killed it to stop them.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Razis in 2nd Maccabees chapter 14, who chose to kill himself rather than let Nicanor and his forces kill him, though it takes a few attempts before he finally dies.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: In 2nd Maccabees chapter 12, Judah and his forces attack and slaughter the people of Caspin, causing a nearby lake to turn red with blood by the number of people slaughtered.
  • Book Burning: Scrolls that contained the Law of Moses were forcibly burned, and anyone who was found with them were put to death.
  • Break the Haughty: God does this to King Antiochus Ephiphanes in 2nd Maccabees chapter 9 when he came to Jerusalem with the intent of turning it into "a cemetery for Jews". First God gave him pain in his bowels with sharp internal tortures. When the king persisted in his arrogance, he fell out of his chariot so hard that he broke all the bones in his body. And on top of all this, God caused the king's body to be eaten from the inside out with worms, and he ended up stinking so badly that even he himself couldn't stand the smell. It was then he decided to do a Heel–Faith Turn and make amends with God before his death.
  • Call-Back: To Numbers in 1st Maccabees, as Mattathias burned in his zeal for God's Law and killed a Jew who was sacrificing to a pagan altar, much in the way that Phinehas dealt with Zimri son of Salu when he brought a Midianite woman into the Israelite camp to have some private time with.
  • Category Traitor: In three of the four books, the Jews considered those who caved in to the demands of tyrants like King Antiochus Epiphanes and King Ptolemy Philopator, and abandoned their religion and culture for that of Greek culture, to be traitors.
  • Circumcision Angst: Inverted. The Jews who participated in the exercise routines in the gymnasium built in their land had their circumcisions undone to disguise the fact that they were Jews, since ancient Greek gymnasiums required its participants to exercise in the nude, and the Greeks looked down on anyone that had an exposed circumcised penis.
  • Civil War: It wasn't just Judah Maccabee and his brothers against the Greeks; it was also them against their own fellow Jews that decided to apostatize rather than stay faithful to their religion.
  • Compressed Adaptation: 2nd Maccabees is stated by its writer to be condensed from a five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene (now lost to antiquity), although it has been embellished with the purpose to encourage Jews to celebrate the Feast of Dedication every year.
  • Continuity Nod: To other canonical books of Old Testament Scripture, as the Jews remind each other about past successes their people had through God.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The seven brothers and their mother in 2nd Maccabees were roasted to death for failing to obey the king's command to eat unclean meat that goes against the Jews' dietary laws.
  • Decapitation Presentation: After Nicanor was slain in battle, his head and his right hand were chopped off by the Jews and put on display outside the city of Jerusalem.
  • Defiant to the End: The seven Jewish brothers in 2nd Maccabees who refused to eat forbidden food in order to save their lives, along with their mother and Eleazar the teacher of God's Law, who himself refused to even fake eating forbidden food when meat sanctioned by the Law of God was substituted, so as to not cause faithful Jews to turn away from following God.
  • Den of Iniquity: What the Temple is reduced to, as lovingly described in 2nd Maccabees with all the pagan revelry going on.
    This all-out attack on Jewish life and beliefs was universally considered the worst ever. The Temple was turned into a night club complete with cocktail parties, pork cooked on the altar burners, all-nighters, female escorts, sex on demand. If it was against the Law, it was on the Temple menu now. (2nd Maccabees 6:3-5, The Message Catholic Edition)
  • Despair Speech: Mattathias gives one in 1st Maccabees 2:7-13 regarding the fallen state of Jerusalem and Judea. He doesn't commit suicide, but he is eventually driven to react against the oppressors.
    “Alas! Why was I born to see this,
    the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city,
    and to live there when it was given over to the enemy,
    the sanctuary given over to aliens?
    Her temple has become like a person without honor;
    her glorious vessels have been carried into exile.
    Her infants have been killed in her streets,
    her youths by the sword of the foe.
    What nation has not inherited her palaces
    and has not seized her spoils?
    All her adornment has been taken away;
    no longer free, she has become a slave.
    And see, our holy place, our beauty,
    and our glory have been laid waste;
    the Gentiles have profaned them.
    Why should we live any longer?”
  • Devoured by the Horde: In 2nd Maccabees chapter 9, King Antiochus Epiphanes was being eaten from the inside by intestinal worms when he attempted to destroy the Jews, leading to his Heel–Faith Turn before his death.
  • Dirty Coward: "Word came to Judas concerning Nicanor’s invasion; and when he told his companions of the arrival of the army, those who were cowardly and distrustful of God’s justice ran off and got away." (2nd Maccabees 8:12-13)
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: In 4th Maccabees chapter 9, the first of the seven brothers answers back to King Antiochus: "In your hatred for us, don't pity us more than we pity ourselves! We consider your pity, which offers safety at the cost of breaking our Law, to be more bitter than death." (4th Maccabees 9:3-4, Common English Bible)
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Ptolemy Macron in 2nd Maccabees chapter 10 ingested poison and died because he had heard reports about being called a traitor, because he had abandoned Cyprus, which Philometor had entrusted to him, and had gone over to Antiochus Epiphanes, and was no longer able to command the respect due his office.
    • Razis in 2nd Maccabees chapter 14 makes multiple attempts to kill himself while avoiding being captured by Nicanor's forces before finally dying.
    • Annibal took poison and died after he was defeated and taken prisoner by Scipio in 5th Maccabees 12:25.
  • Due to the Dead: Judah and his family members not only pay their respects when each of them die, he and his army also pray for the dead Jews that were bearing the tokens of the idol of Jamnia in the hopes that their sins would be forgiven.note 
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In 3rd Maccabees chapter 4, when the decree was issued that the Jews were to be rounded up and brought to Egypt to be destroyed, even some of the Jews' enemies wept over how miserable the Jews were being treated.
  • Evil Smells Bad: In 2nd Maccabees chapter 9, Antiochus IV was stricken with such a devastating illness by the Lord that his entire army was sickened by the smell and no one could even come close enough to carry him around on a litter. Eventually even the king couldn't stand the smell of himself and decided to make amends with the Jewish people and God.
  • A Fête Worse than Death: In 3rd Maccabees chapter 4, a feast of gladness for the Gentiles was given to them while the Jews were being rounded up and brought to Alexandria to have the Final Solution applied to them. Fortunately God stepped in and protected the Jews before that happened in the king's court.
  • False Friend: King Antiochus Epiphanes, who in 1st Maccabees chapter 1 spoke peaceable words to the people of Jerusalem to gain their trust, before he and his forces plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and surrounding walls, taking the women and children captive and seizing their livestock.
  • Final Solution: King Philopator in 3rd Maccabees decides to wipe out the whole Jewish nation for the slight of not being allowed entry into the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple. Fortunately, God intervenes and puts a stop to that plan.
  • Final Speech: Mattathias gives one to Judah and his brothers before dying in 1st Maccabees chapter 2, reminding them of the heroes of Israel and how they were rewarded for their faith in God.
  • Forced Sleep: In 3rd Maccabees chapter 5, God puts King Philopator of Egypt into a deep sleep in order to frustrate his plan to destroy the Jews.
  • Foreshadowing: In 1st Maccabees 2:62, in Mattathias' final words to his sons, he tells them, "Don't let the threats of that brutal Antiochus frighten you! He may be famous, but he's nothing but food for worms." (Contemporary English Version) This would come true with King Antiochus Epiphanes' death as recorded in 2nd Maccabees chapter 9, as his broken body was eaten by worms and began to stink terribly.
  • Forged by the Gods: Judah Maccabee's sword, which in the fifteenth chapter of 2nd Maccabees he claims was given to him from heaven by Onias the high priest and Jeremiah the prophet to smite the forces of evil coming against the Jews. In 1st Maccabees, Judah's sword was actually Apollonius', which he took after slaying him and used it for the rest of his life.
  • Give Me a Sign: In 2nd and 3rd Maccabees, God responds with miraculous deliveries whenever the Jews prayed for His help.
  • God Is Good: The writer of 2nd Maccabees takes a brief moment in the story to tell his readers this:
    Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities, but to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately. For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us, in order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people. (2nd Maccabees 6:12-16)
  • Good Is Not Soft: While Judah Maccabee and his family are presented as the good guys in 1st and 2nd Maccabees, they sure don't tolerate Jews that go against God's Law, reacting very harshly even against those who don't show any sign of hospitality towards them.
  • Greed: In 2nd Maccabees chapter 10, this gets the better of some of the men who were with Simon, Joseph, and Zacchaeus when Judah left them to watch over two very strong towers that were being besieged by them, whom 9,000 Idumeans had entered in for refuge. Those men were bribed into letting some of the Idumeans slip away by being paid 70,000 drachmas. When Judah heard of this, he had these men put to death for turning traitor on the Jews by letting their enemies escape.
  • Happily Ever Before: In 1st Maccabees, The Hero died two chapters after the events related at the end of 2nd Maccabees. The book then goes on to the leadership periods, and deaths, of the Hero's brothers. And there were only two, not six.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: When stricken by God as punishment for going against the Jews in 5th Maccabees chapter 8, King Antiochus Epiphanes prayed to God for relief and forgiveness. He was denied.
  • Heel–Face Turn: King Philopator near the end of 3rd Maccabees, when God shows up to ruin his plan of destroying the Jews.
  • Heel–Faith Turn:
    • Heliodorus, who planned to steal funds from the Temple, was stopped by God's angels in 2nd Maccabees chapter 3 and spared from death for the sake of being a witness of God to his superiors. He ended up becoming a believer.
    • King Antiochus IV makes one in 2nd Maccabees chapter 9 when he is struck down by God with an incurable disease, resulting in a Final Speech where he promises to make amends with the people of Judea before his death.
  • The Hero Dies: The titular Maccabee, Judas, dies nine chapters into the first book while defending Israel, leaving his family members to carry up his mantle and fight off whatever tyrants threaten the nation.
  • Holy Is Not Safe: In 1st Maccabees chapter 9, Alcimus gave orders to tear down the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary, the Jewish Temple, but just as he started the project, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed him and died shortly after.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: When Judah Maccabee fell in battle in 1st Maccabees chapter 9, his brothers Jonathan and Simon and all Israel lamented, saying, "How is the mighty fallen, the savior of Israel!" However, this is merely Judah fallen in battle rather than also in power.
  • Illegal Religion: Judaism as practiced by the Jews that remained faithful to God's Law, whenever rulers like Antiochus Epiphanes enforced their religion and culture upon them.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: 4th Maccabees 2:2-3 refutes this thinking when talking about sexual matters, namely Joseph not falling for the temptations of his mistress, Potiphar's wife.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: In 2nd Maccabees chapter 4, the king was so enraged at the news of Andronicus' murder of Onias the high priest that he not only stripped Andronicus of his royal robe, he also stripped the man of all his clothes and forced him to go through the entire town naked before he was killed.
  • Invisible to Normals: As a sort of inversion, in 3rd Maccabees chapter 6, after Eleazar the priest makes his prayer to God to protect His people from King Philopator's forces coming to destroy them, God dispatches angels that are visible to all but the Jews that tied up the enemy troops in unbreakable chains, leaving them completely shocked and terrified.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Jason the high priest, who had driven many of his own people out of the land into exile, was himself driven out of the land and died in exile, with no one to bury him, as recorded in 2nd Maccabees chapter 5.
    • Menelaus, for committing many sins against the altar of God, whose fire and ashes were holy, met his death by falling from a tower into a pile of ashes, as recorded in 2nd Maccabees chapter 13.
  • Kill It with Fire: In 5th Maccabees chapter 7, Judah and his men had set fire to the house that Felix had locked himself away in, killing him in the process.
  • La Résistance: Judah and his brothers formed one in response to Antiochus Epiphanes and his forcing Greek culture upon the Jews to the point of defiling the Temple with the "abomination of desolation", as predicted in the Book of Daniel.
  • Last Stand: In 1st Maccabees chapter 9, when Judah and his men saw that they were outnumbered by Bacchides' enemy forces at Elasah, and that his own forces were dwindling, he didn't make an appeal to Heaven, but rather told his remaining men to stand their ground and fight so that no one should question their honor. That was how Judah met his end.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: 1st Maccabees ends with this regarding Simon's son John:
    The rest of the acts of John and his wars and the brave deeds that he did, and the building of the walls that he completed, and his achievements, are written in the annals of his high priesthood, from the time that he became high priest after his father.
  • Made of Incendium: 2nd Maccabees chapter 1 tells of how from a sacred fire that the Temple priests have hid, they have created a liquid that became flammable when exposed to sunlight when Nehemiah used it to ignite the sacrifice made to God.
  • Malicious Slander: In 3rd Maccabees chapter 3, while King Ptolemy Philopator was preparing to gather all the Jews together to destroy them, some of his subjects decided to add further injury to the Jews by passing around a false report that the Jews were hindering others from practicing their own customs, although such was not the case.
  • Marriage to a God: King Antiochus' attempt to "marry" the Persian goddess Nanea, in order to establish himself as a godlike emperor, is mentioned in 2nd Maccabees chapter 1, along with the ensuing revolt by the people who had seen what he had done to the priests of Nanea's temple.
  • Money Is Not Power: Despite basic Scripture canon stating this to the effect that it cannot save a soul from death, 2nd Maccabees contradicts this with Judah and his men collecting money to be sent to Jerusalem as a sin offering for the dead Jews wearing the tokens of Jamnia, saying that almsgiving can save a soul from death, which is why it is used as part of the Catholic canon of Scripture.
  • Nasty Party: Ptolemy son of Abubus invited Simon, the last of the Maccabee brothers, to a banquet and there had his soldiers kill Simon, his two sons, and some of their servants while they were drunk.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: King Antiochus Epiphanes brought Greeks into the region of Judea and forced their culture and religion on the Jews. This made the faithful Jews so angry that they decided to revolt and force the Greeks out of their region, with Judah Maccabee and his family leading the rebellion.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: 1st Maccabees 9:22 states this of Judah Maccabee:
    Now the rest of the acts of Judas, and his wars and the brave deeds that he did, and his greatness, have not been recorded, but they were very many.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • Zabdiel the Arab chopped off King Alexander Epiphanes' head and sent it to King Ptolemy VI in 1st Maccabees chapter 11. Three days later, Ptolemy also died.
    • Mattathias cut off a renegade Jew's head in 5th Maccabees 6:17.
    • Ptolemy's two brothers were ordered by Judah to be beheaded in 5th Maccabees 10:34-35.
    • Scipio defeated and cut off the head of Asdrupal the brother of Annibal in 5th Maccabees 12:15.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: 2nd Maccabees 8:33 says of Judah and his army:
    While they were celebrating the victory in the city of their ancestors, they burned those who had set fire to the sacred gates, Callisthenes and some others, who had fled into one little house; so these received the proper reward for their impiety.
  • Prayer of Malice: In 1st Maccabees 7:37-38, the Temple priests prayed for the Lord to take vengeance on Alcimus for threatening to burn down the Temple if Judah Maccabee and his army were not delivered into Alcimus' hands.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Jason the corrupt (and eventually former) high priest continued to slaughter Jews in 2nd Maccabees chapter 5, without realizing that a victory that destroys his own people is the worst possible defeat, because he was thinking he had won a battle against enemies rather than against other Jews.
  • Rasputinian Death: Razis from 2nd Maccabees chapter 14, when he was surrounded by Nicanor's forces, tries to kill himself by falling on his own sword, then failing to die that way, he climbs to the top of the tower and jumps to the ground, hoping to kill himself that way. Still failing to die, he runs to the top of a steep rock, tearing out his insides and throwing them down to the people while praying to the Lord before finally dying.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: 1st Maccabees ends with Simon, the last brother of Judah Maccabee, murdered along with his sons, but his surviving son John escapes to carry on the fight for his nation.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The seventh martyred brother gives one to King Antiochus in 2nd Maccabees 7:30-38:
    “What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our ancestors through Moses. But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God. For we are suffering because of our own sins. And if our living Lord is angry for a little while, to rebuke and discipline us, he will again be reconciled with his own servants. But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all mortals, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes, when you raise your hand against the children of heaven. You have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty, all-seeing God. For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.”
  • Rousing Speech: Judah gives one to his troops in 2nd Maccabees chapter 15 about a vision he once had about seeing Onias the high priest with Jeremiah the prophet in heaven, giving him a sword with which to smite evil, which encourages them to fight against Nicanor and his troops.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Judah Maccabee and his brothers decide to violate the Sabbath if it means saving Jewish lives from an oppressor who wants them to violate their own laws and customs.
  • Sinister Minister: Jason, the corrupt high priest appointed by King Antiochus IV, who brought Greek culture into Judea and made the Jews turn from following God. He was succeeded by Menelaus, the brother of the corrupt Temple official Simon, who basically bought his position with money and was described as having "the hot temper of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a savage wild beast." He even goes so far as to put his brother Lysimachus in charge, who ends up stealing valuable items from the Temple. Also Alcimus, who was appointed by Demetrius.
  • Slave Brand: In 3rd Maccabees, King Philopater of Egypt decided to disgrace the Jews by subjecting them to registration as slaves and having the ivy-leaf symbol of Dionysus branded upon them unless they chose to renounce their religion and thus be regarded as equals among the Alexandrian citizens.
  • Smash the Symbol: The Jews under Judah Maccabee's leadership, after they had regained control of the Temple, proceeded to remove the "abomination of desolation" that Antiochus IV had set up and restored it as a proper place for the Jewish worship of God, as recorded in both 1st and 2nd Maccabees.
  • Stealing from the Till: In 2nd Maccabees chapter 4, Menelaus was helping his brother Lysimachus rob the Temple of its gold dishes and other sacred objects.
  • Succession Crisis: Alexander the Great's death in 1st Maccabees chapter 1 would set off a series of succession wars that occurred throughout the entire book between the various rival powers, with the Jews caught in the middle.
  • Suicidal Pacifist: In 1st Maccabees, where some Jews would rather let themselves be killed on the Sabbath than defend their lives. The eponymous family of the Maccabees decide to skip that rule in order to defend their country. (It's worth noting that most Jewish traditions, at least nowadays, are quite clear on the principle that working to save a life permits breaking the Sabbath).
  • Taking Up the Mantle: After Mattathias dies, his son Judah takes up the mantle of leadership for the Jewish resistance. His brother Jonathan takes over when Judah dies, then their brother Simon takes over when Jonathan dies, and finally Simon's son John takes over when Simon dies.
  • Tame His Anger: "None of you can eliminate anger from your soul, but clear thinking can help you deal with your anger." (4th Maccabees 3:3, Common English Bible)
  • A Taste of the Lash: Heliodorus gets scourged by the angelic protectors of the Temple in 2nd Maccabees chapter 3.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: In 1st Maccabees chapter 2, after hearing about a group of Jews that decided that they would rather die honorably than break the Sabbath for the sake of defending themselves, Judah and his family decided that they would rather break the Sabbath and defend themselves from King Antiochus' forces than allow all of the faithful Jews to be massacred.
  • Tongue Trauma: The first of the seven brothers to be martyred in 2nd Maccabees had his tongue cut out before he was roasted in the fire. The third brother willingly offered up his tongue as well as his hands to his tormentor, saying that the Lord is able to give them back to him again.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: 4th Maccabees points out, through the detail given about the seven brothers and their mother who were tortured to death by King Antiochus' men for failing to submit to him, that while their mindful bravery in preferring torture over deliverance didn't accomplish anything with what that evil king wanted, it did eventually bring about the end of King Antiochus and his rulership.
  • Troll Bridge: In 1st Maccabees chapter 5, Judah and his army come across the town of Ephron, which has the only road that would let them pass safely through on their way to Jerusalem. However, the people of the city decided to block up the gates and prevent Judah and his men from passing through, even when they promised no harm would come to their town. So Judah and his men ended up laying siege to the town until it fell, and they slaughtered all the men there and plundered it and marched through over the dead bodies.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Antiochus Epiphanes starts the whole situation in 1st Maccabees. His successors prove to be varying degrees of evil.
  • War Elephants: Pretty much make their appearance in the books. Judah's brother Eleazar died taking one down to stop their advance.
  • Watering Down: Used by the writer of 2nd Maccabees at the end to compare with writing a good story.
    For just as it is harmful to drink wine alone, or, again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment, so also the style of the story delights the ears of those who read the work. And here will be the end. (2nd Maccabees 15:39)
  • Wedding Smashers: Jonathan, Simon, and the Jews ended up turning a very important wedding of officials from the Jambri tribe into a funeral by attacking them.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In 2nd Maccabees, when the Jewish people rebelled against the corrupt high priest Jason, who had been appointed by King Antiochus IV, and ran him out of town, the king left Egypt for Jerusalem. Once in Jerusalem, he massacred many, young and old, women and children, virgins and infants. In 1st and 2nd Maccabees, King Antiochus IV then decreed that everyone take up the customs of everyone else, except the Jewish customs. He outlawed all Jewish customs, including circumcision. The children who were circumcised were killed, as were their mothers and whoever performed the circumcision.

Alternative Title(s): First Maccabees, Second Maccabees, Third Maccabees, Fourth Maccabees