The Maccabees

At Evening Prayer this week we have the opportunity to read from the First Book of the Maccabees.  This is what is termed an Inter-Testamental work, referring to the period between Old and New Testaments and written in that period also.  The Books of the Maccabees cover the years of the mid Second Century before the birth of Christ and relate the struggle for independence of the Jewish people, taking on in battle those who wished to maintain Judah as a vassal state.  The Jewish people were fighting, on the one hand, against an encroaching Greek way of life, diluting the cultic laws of the nation under Yahweh, and on the other hand, the political domination of Syria.  The some years they were remarkably successful.

This week we read of Judas Maccabeus and the courage and determination with which he led the people against mighty opponents.  The inspiration that these accounts have given to others throughout history has been demonstrated by the literary, artistic and musical works that have been produced in the succeeding centuries.  Wikipedia has the comment:

In 1746, the composer George Frideric Handel composed his oratorio Judas Maccabeus, putting the biblical story in the context of the Jacobite rising of 1745  […]  The oratorio's most famous chorus is "See, the conqu'ring hero comes". The tune of this chorus was later adopted as a Christian Easter hymn tune Thine Be The Glory, Risen Conquering Son.

If we take the First Maccabees option this week, in chapters 3 and 4, we shall read of one victory after another for this leader and his followers, who held such strong convictions overcoming the overwhelming odds pitched against him. 

John Mann