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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Apocryphal Books and History.

1.

Our lack of precise knowledge about the date and place of composition of many of the books of the Apocrypha (F.3–5) precludes any certain deduction about the relationship between most of these writings and the historical background outlined in G. It is thus possible that the Additions to Daniel, Tobit, and the Letter of Jeremiah should be understood against the background of the Babylonian Diaspora, and that Wisdom of Solomon and the additions incorporated in the Greek Esther were products of the Jewish community in Egypt in the late Hellenistic age (so e.g. Nickelsburg 1981 ), but since the circumstances in which these writings were produced can only be deduced from their contents, any argument that the contents reveal the impact of the circumstances in which they were composed is dangerously circular.

2.

However, some books in the Apocrypha can be more precisely located. Thus Sirach was composed in the Land of Israel in the first quarter of the second century BCE when the country lay under Seleucid control and Greek culture was being enthusiastically adopted by the upper class of Jerusalem for whom Jesus ben Sira wrote. It is thus significant that, although his thought contains elements apparently derived from Hellenistic philosophy, and especially Stoicism, ben Sira wrote in Hebrew and within the traditional Jewish genre of wisdom literature. On the other hand the book contains no explicit polemic against Greek culture, so if he wrote in opposition to Hellenism he did so only indirectly. From the period following the Maccabean revolt originate of course both 1 and 2 Maccabees. 1 Maccabees appears to be an attempt by a Judean Jew to justify the assumption of power by the Hasmonean dynasty by referring back to their great deeds at the time of the rebellion. 2 Maccabees contains an edifying reminiscence for diaspora readers of the heroic deeds of the rebels, putting these comparatively recent events into the same category of the revelation of divine care for Israel to be found in biblical stories about the distant past. The book of Judith, with its interest in political as well as religious freedom, may also belong to this period, but the evidence is uncertain. The only other work in the Apocrypha for which a moderately sure origin can be postulated is 4 Ezra, the Jewish apocalypse incorporated into 2 Esd 3–14 , which appears to have constituted a reaction by a Judean Jew to the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.

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