4 Maccabees sophistication - David A. deSilva

Steven Avery

Fourth Maccabees and the Promotion of the Jewish Philosophy: Rhetoric, Intertexture, and Reception (2020)
David A. deSilva


Steven Avery

text noted above. Finally, in chapter 10 (“Beyond the Eclectic Text of 4 Maccabees:
Reading 4 Maccabees in Codex Sinaiticus”), I inquire into how readers of 4
Maccabees as represented in a particular, fourth-century Christian manuscript will
experience the text differently than readers of the reconstructed, eclectic text (or
translations based on the same). It is, incidentally also a testimony to the
importance of 4 Maccabees for the early Church that it should have been included
in Codex Sinaiticus (as well as Codex Alexandrinus) in the first place.
surprise. Despite the exceptional piety of its author and his commitment to the
particulars of the Jewish Torah, it was nevertheless written in Greek a significant
time after 2 Maccabees, a book that likewise never achieved canonical status in the
synagogue. 4 Maccabees was far too late, far too distant from Hebrew culture, and
far too derivative to suggest inspiration. How, then, did it attain such importance,
even authority, in the Christian community by the fourth and fifth centuries that it
would be included in the great Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus?367 What did it
offer to the church of the second and third centuries, that would so speak to the
spiritual and pastoral needs of Christian communities as to lend it such distinction?

4i8. Colish (Ambrose’s Patriarchs, 122) writes that “all versions of the Septuagint, the text of
the Old Testament that Ambrose used, include 1 and 2 Maccabees. The Alexandrian version of
the Septuagint includes all four books of the Maccabees as canonical. Jerome also includes these
books as canonical in his Vulgate Bible, and 4 Maccabees forms part of the Vet us LatinaTo the
best of my knowledge, Jerome only included 1 & 2 Maccabees in his Vulgate; there is no
evidence that the pre-Vulgate Latin Bibles included 4 Maccabees; Codex Vaticanus lacks all of
the books entitled “Maccabees” while Sinaiticus includes 1 and 4 Maccabees, but not 2 or 3
Maccabees (hence, not “all versions of the Septuagint . . . include 1 and 2 Maccabees”).
Moreover, we must question whether inclusion in a codex implies canonicity. If so, would we
extend this to the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, included in Codex
Sinaiticus, or to 1 & 2 Clement, included in Codex Alexandrinus? It is likely that Ambrose
would have regarded 1 and 2 Maccabees as part of his Old Testament, as would his disciple,
Augustine. There is nothing to suggest that he so regarded 4 Maccabees.