First Letter 124 B.C. 1The Jews in Jerusalem and in the land of Judea send greetings to their brethren, the Jews in Egypt, and wish them true peace! 2May God bless you and remember his covenant with his faithful servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 3May he give to all of you a heart to worship him and to do his will readily and generously. 4May he open your heart to his law and his commandments and grant you peace. 5May he hear your prayers, and be reconciled to you, and never forsake you in time of adversity. 6Even now we are praying for you here.
7In the reign of Demetrius,* the year one hundred and sixty‐nine, we Jews wrote to you during the trouble and violence that overtook us in those years after Jason and his followers had revolted against the holy land and the kingdom, a 2 Mc 4, 7–20 . 8setting fire to the gatehouse and shedding innocent blood. But we prayed to the LORD, and our prayer was heard;* we offered sacrifices and fine flour; we lighted the lamps and set out the loaves of bread. b 1 Mc 4, 38 . 9We are now reminding you to celebrate the feast of Booths in the month of Chislev.* 10Dated in the year one hundred and eighty‐eight.*
Festival Letter 164 B.C. The people of Jerusalem and Judea, the senate, and Judas send greetings and good wishes to Aristobulus, counselor of King Ptolemy and member of the family of the anointed priests, and to the Jews in Egypt. 11Since we have been saved by God from grave dangers, we give him great thanks for having fought on our side against the king;* 12 c 12–17: 2 Mc 9, 1–29; 1 Mc 6, 1–13 . it was he who drove out those who fought against the holy city. 13When their leader arrived in Persia with his seemingly irresistible army, they were cut to pieces in the temple of the goddess Nanea* through a deceitful stratagem employed by Nanea's priests. 14 *On the pretext of marrying the goddess, Antiochus with his Friends had come to the place to get its great treasures by way of dowry. 15When the priests of the Nanaeon had displayed the treasures, Antiochus with a few attendants came to the temple precincts. As soon as he entered the temple, the priests locked the doors. 16Then they opened a hidden trapdoor in the ceiling, hurled stones at the leader and his companions and struck them down. They dismembered the bodies, cut off their heads and tossed them to the people outside. 17Forever blessed be our God, who has thus punished the wicked!
18 *We shall be celebrating the purification of the temple on the twenty‐fifth day of the month Chislev, so we thought it right to inform you that you too may celebrate the feast of Booths and of the fire that appeared when Nehemiah, the rebuilder of the temple* and the altar, offered sacrifices. 19When our fathers were being exiled to Persia,* devout priests of the time took some of the fire from the altar and hid it secretly in the hollow of a dry cistern, making sure that the place would be unknown to anyone. 20Many years later, when it so pleased God, Nehemiah, commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to look for it. 21When they informed us that they could not find any fire, but only muddy water, he ordered them to scoop some out and bring it. After the material for the sacrifices had been prepared, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle with the water the wood and what lay on it. 22When this was done and in time the sun, which had been clouded over, began to shine, a great fire blazed up, so that everyone marveled. 23While the sacrifice was being burned, the priests recited a prayer, and all present joined in with them, Jonathan leading and the rest responding with Nehemiah.
24The prayer was as follows: “LORD, LORD God, creator of all things, awesome and strong, just and merciful, the only king and benefactor, 25who alone are gracious, just, almighty, and eternal, Israel's savior from all evil, who chose our forefathers and sanctified them: 26accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel and guard and sanctify your heritage. 27Gather together our scattered people, free those who are the slaves of the Gentiles, look kindly on those who are despised and detested, and let the Gentiles know that you are our God. 28Punish those who tyrannize over us and arrogantly mistreat us. 29Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses promised.” d 2 Mc 2, 18; Dt 30, 3ff .
30Then the priests began to sing hymns. 31After the sacrifice was burned, Nehemiah ordered the rest of the liquid to be poured upon large stones. 32As soon as this was done, a flame blazed up, but its light was lost in the brilliance cast from a light on the altar. 33When the event became known and the king of the Persians was told that, in the very place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, a liquid was found with which Nehemiah and his people had burned the sacrifices, 34the king, after verifying the fact, fenced the place off and declared it sacred. 35To those on whom the king wished to bestow favors he distributed the large revenues he received there. 36Nehemiah and his companions called the liquid nephthar, meaning purification, but most people name it aphtha.*