A comparison of 1 Macc. 2 and Hebrews 11 – ISBL Proposal

MattathiasThe International SBL is in Vienna this summer and I have just submitted my proposal to the Epistle of Hebrews session (and actually finished writing the paper!). This is something I have been thinking about for twenty years or so. It will be interesting to see what sort of response it receives (assuming it is accepted).

Similarities are often noted between the final exhortation of Mattathias to his sons (1 Macc. 2:49ff) that they “remember the deeds of the ancestors” and the admonition of the author of Hebrews that his audience should consider the “faith of our ancestors.” In this paper I will offer not only a close (albeit abridged for time) reading of the two passages, but suggest that the author of Hebrews 11 was influenced by 1 Macc. 2 and did so on the assumption that his audience would know the passage. Thus Hebrews 11 should be read with and against 1 Macc. 2 and in so doing interesting similarities and contrasts emerge.

What piqued my curiosity is the fact that commentators often say “1 Macc. 2 is sort of like Hebrews 11, but not really so we won’t bother with it.” The similarities seem too obvious to just set aside. Of course there are differences too and I think setting Hebrews 11 in a context that includes 1 & 2 Maccabees as part of the cultural milieu provides a richer reading.

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