The Reception of the Maccabean Martyrs : Their Historiographical and Paradigmatic Functions in Antique and Late-antique Jewish and Christian Sources

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Title: The Reception of the Maccabean Martyrs : Their Historiographical and Paradigmatic Functions in Antique and Late-antique Jewish and Christian Sources
Author: Tolonen, Anna-Liisa
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, teologinen tiedekunta, Eksegetiikan laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Biblical Studies
Helsingfors universitet, teologiska fakulteten, Institutionen för exegetik
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2010
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: The Religious Roots of Europe
The Religious Roots of Europe
The Religious Roots of Europe
Abstract: The study attempts a reception-historical analysis of the Maccabean martyrs. The concept of reception has fundamentally to do with the re-use and interpretation of a text within new texts. In a religious tradition, certain elements become re-circulated and thus their reception may reflect the development of that particular tradition. The Maccabean martyrs first appear in 2 Maccabees. In my study, it is the Maccabean martyr figures who count as the received text; the focus is shifted from the interrelations between texts onto how the figures have been exploited in early Christian and Rabbinic sources. I have divided my sources into two categories and my analysis is in two parts. First, I analyze the reception of the Maccabean martyrs within Jewish and Christian historiographical sources, focusing on the role given to them in the depictions of the Maccabean Revolt (Chapter 3). I conclude that, within Jewish historiography, the martyrs are given roles, which vary between ultimate efficacy and marginal position with regard to making a historical difference. In Christian historiographical sources, the martyrs role grows in importance by time: however, it is not before a Christian cult of the Maccabean martyrs has been established, that the Christian historiographies consider them historically effective. After the first part, I move on to analyze the reception in sources, which make use of the Maccabean martyrs as paradigmatic figures (Chapter 4). I have suggested that the martyrs are paradigmatic in the context of martyrdom, persecution and destruction, on one hand, and in a homiletic context, inspiring religious celebration, on the other. I conclude that, as the figures are considered pre-Christian and biblical martyrs, they function well in terms of Christian martyrdom and have contributed to the development of its ideals. Furthermore, the presentation of the martyr figures in Rabbinic sources demonstrates how the notion of Jewish martyrdom arises from experiences of destruction and despair, not so much from heroic confession of faith in the face of persecution. Before the emergence of a Christian cult of the Maccabean martyrs, their identity is derived namely from their biblical position. Later on, in the homiletic context, their Jewish identity is debated and sometimes reconstructed as fundamentally Christian , despite of their Jewish origins. Similar debate about their identity is not found in the Rabbinic versions of their martyrdom and nothing there indicates a mutual debate between early Christians and Jews. A thematic comparison shows that the Rabbinic and Christian cases of reception are non-reliant on each other but also that they link to one another. Especially the scriptural connections, often made to the Maccabean mother, reveal the similarities. The results of the analyses confirm that the early history of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism share, at least partly, the same religious environment and intertwining traditions, not only during the first century or two but until Late Antiquity and beyond. More likely, the reception of the Maccabean martyrs demonstrates that these religious traditions never ceased to influence one another.
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