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THE REFORMING POWER of the Scriptures

This illustrated monthly series in the Journal encompasses the dramatic history of how the world's scriptures developed over thousands of years. It focuses on the great reformers who wrote and translated the Bible. Many of these reformers gave their lives to make the Bible and its reforming influence available to all men and women.

The Apocrypha: historical link between the Testaments

Part two

From the October 1993 issue of The Christian Science Journal

The second century before the birth of Jesus was a tempestuous period in Jewish history. A power struggle was under way in the Middle East, even as today. Ever since the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., his eastern kingdom had been divided between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria. At the beginning of the second century B.C., these two major dynasties were battling for control of Palestine. But eventually the Seleucids, who had enthusiastically embraced the Greek culture of Alexander, asserted their supremacy.

In an attempt to build political unity, the Seleucids tried to impose their Hellenized culture and religion on the Jews. By 175 B.C., when Antiochus IV ... Epiphanes came to the throne in Syria, the pressure on Jews to conform to Greek traditions reached a crisis point. Although some aristocrats cooperated with Antiochus, most Jews fiercely resisted the attempt at forced Hellenization. Antiochus reacted by revoking the religious rights of all Jews.

One family in particular, the Hasmoneans, led a tenacious guerrilla resistance against the forces of Antiochus. From their power base in the hills outside Jerusalem, these deeply religious rebels struck repeatedly at the enemy under the brilliant leadership of Judah "the Maccabee" (meaning "the hammer" in Hebrew). Before being killed in battle, Judah managed to free the Temple in Jerusalem. Then his brother Jonathan continued the fight, driving the Seleucids out of Palestine by 150 B.C. After Jonathan's death in captivity, the youngest Hasmonean brother, Simon, completed the victory over the Seleucids and reestablished free worship in Palestine. Thus began a century of independence for the Jews under Hasmonean rule. I, II, and IV Maccabees were written from ten to one hundred years apart. Each recounts a view of ... this history and its significance to the Jews.

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