The Maccabean Martyrs as Models in Early Christian Writings

  • Jan Willem van Henten


The Maccabean martyrs were tortured to death during a persecution by the Greek king Antiochus IV (175–164 BCE). Christian authors were familiar with these Jewish martyrdoms reported in Second Maccabees 6:18–7:42 and Four Maccabees 5–18. They reinterpreted these martyrs as models for Christians. This contribution identifies important trends in the Christian reception and also deals with Origen’s reinterpretation of these martyrdoms in his Exhortation to Martyrdom (235 CE). Origen consistently Christianized the Maccabean martyrs as models for Christians. The outcome of this case study is that the role of the Jews as legitimation remains mainly implicit in the passages discussed, which may still reflect a lack of self-confidence within Christianity regarding the role of its “mother religion”.


Jewish Identity Intended Reader Jewish Origin Christian Perspective Jewish Practice 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Willem van Henten
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamNetherlands
  2. 2.Stellenbosch University AmsterdamStellenboschSouth Africa

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