So what does one do when they fail to complete an academic writing assignment? Throw it up on a blog! And so I follow this rule that I just made up.
This was supposed to be a reflection on 2 Maccabees, but the deadline was a little to quick for my writing habits. Yet, instead of locking this up in a mausoleum, I set it free on the net. So here it is.
Perhaps the most emotionally gripping passage in 2 Maccabees is chapter seven with the persecution of the mother and her seven sons. Yet, in the midst of the vivid descriptions of the barbarous torture of the family, the theological theme of atoning martyrdom is brought up. While the references to atoning martyrdom in this passage are brief, I will argue that the concept arose out of the Jewish experience of persecution and the defilement of the temple. In this brief reflection the first part will examine the material in 2 Maccabees (especially chs. 5-7), and then conclude with a discussion of the role of atoning martyrdom with Jesus in the New Testament gospels.
The context for the development of atoning martyrdom begins in 2 Maccabees 5 with the invasion of wrathful Antiochus from Egypt to Jerusalem in 5:11. After his great slaughter, he, led by Menelaus, entered the temple and seized the temple vessels and votive offerings (5:16). While the text does not explicitly say, it can be reasonably inferred that this action caused the temple to be defiled. Following this, the narrative aside (5:17-20) makes it clear that the nation was under God’s judgment, which also implies that they were defiled because of sin.
Turning to 2 Maccabees 6, the Hellenistic culture is violently forced upon the Jewish nation. This includes the debauchery of the people in the temple, and the forbidden elements offered on the altar. If there was any question of the defilement of the temple from the previous chapter, it is obvious that the nation is defiled, thus rendering it unable to offer means of atonement for sin and purification.
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Maybe someday I'll finish it, but I'm not holding out hope.
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