This related question touches on the book of Maccabees.

I was wondering if Jews believe the content of Maccabees (I-IV) is true, even though it is outside the canon. If any of the Rishonim or Acharonim ever mentioned this book (especially I Maccabees) I suppose that would answer the question.

I know that the narrative mentioned there differs from the way it is presented in Megilat Antiochus (which was accepted R Saadia Gaon and Halachot Gedolot).

As a follow-up, if it turns out that Jews do not believe the content to be true, then is it permitted to read the book?

[ I glanced through I Maccabees and noticed that I didn't see any mention of the miracle of flask of oil burning for 8 days ... or any mention of miracles for that matter.

I was always under the impression that the Maccabim was only Matityau and sons and a few more Chashmonaim, wheras there - the Chashmonai fighters are in the thousands

The death of Nikanor and Antiyochus are also presented differently in Maccabees.

Then it dawned on me that it may have been wrong of me to read through it in the first place. ]

  • 2
    What does it mean to be a Jewish source? And I mean this very seriously because I don't know how to answer your question. Do you mean it was written by a Jew? A believing Jew? A Jew with Ruach haKodesh/Nevua? For comparison, on Mi Yodeya we usually refer to a Jewish Source to exclude, say, a Christian translation of the Bible.
    – Double AA
    Dec 16, 2012 at 23:11
  • I mean: could a believing Jew read this and take it for-granted that the content is true. If it had haskamot from leading Rabbinic authorities (like Rishonim/Acharonim) then I would say yes.
    – Danield
    Dec 17, 2012 at 6:44
  • ok but I wasn't aware we could do that even for the Book of Exodus (unless you wear tefillin on the palm of your hand, eat matza for 6 days, and poke out people's eyes as a court punishment).
    – Double AA
    Dec 17, 2012 at 15:47
  • @DoubleAA there's clearly a difference. The Torah was given by Hashem - so it's true. However it's not always to be taken literally- we need to learn the oral Torah to understand it. However the book of Maccabees was written by an (unknown) man with his own (possibly warped/bias) views. Who says we should take it as being true?
    – Danield
    Dec 17, 2012 at 17:14
  • If God's giving it made it true then why don't you wear tefillin on the palm of your hand? (Hint: there is a serious semantic ambiguity in the word true which makes your question still really quite hard to answer.) Maybe Maccabees is also true just it's not always to be taken literally.
    – Double AA
    Dec 17, 2012 at 17:18

1 Answer 1


In the Artscroll book on Chanukah, Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm writes that while many ancient chroniclers follow the timeline of Megillas Antiochus, "most contemporary Orthodox historians" (including R' Yitzchak Isaac Halevi, author of Doros Harishonim) follow the timeline provided by I and II Maccabees. He also writes that R' Yaakov Kaminetzky concurred with this approach.

So, not only does there not appear to be any problem with reading I or II Maccabees, but they are generally considered more reliable than Megillas Antiochus. III and IV Maccabees are far less important works and are not considered reliable by anyone.

  • +1 thanks.. is there an online version of Doros Harishonim to take a look?
    – Danield
    Dec 17, 2012 at 17:16
  • I believe all seven volumes are available on hebrewbooks.org. In a footnote R' Goldwurm writes, "R' I. HaLevi does not deal directly with the Chanukah miracle, but his references to other events of that period indicate unmistakably that he accepts the dating of Maccabees, e.g. he places the death of Yose ben Yoezer in the Seleucid year 151 (3600) on the basis of the dates given in Maccabees for the tenure of Alcimus, the Hellenist Kohen Gadol who assumed office after the Chanukah miracle occurred (see Doros HaRishonim, vol. 1, pp. 168, 177, ed. Israel).
    – LazerA
    Dec 17, 2012 at 20:04

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