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

Date and Place of Composition.

In discussing date and place, one has to ask about both the date of Jason of Cyrene and the date of the epitome. The only secure date for Jason's work is that it was written before the epitome. If one assumes that Jason was an eyewitness to the events or that he drew on oral reports from contemporaries, he might have written not long after 161 BCE, the date of the battle against Nicanor. In attempting to date the epitome one has to decide whether the prefixed letters, particularly the first, were originally joined to the epitome or not. If one does assume this, then one has to decide whether the epitome was written along with the letter or previously. Since the first letter is dated to 124 BCE, then the epitome would have been written on or before that date. If the epitome and the letters were written separately and then joined later, then one has to rely on other clues in the epitome itself. In a work which emphasizes God's defence of the temple, one might suggest that it was written before Pompey the Great entered Jerusalem and the temple in 63 BCE. The chronological differences between 1 and 2 Maccabees have also been used as a clue to argue that Jason/the epitomist wrote to refute 1 Maccabees with its pro-Hasmonean bias, and thus after 1 Maccabees (Goldstein 1976; 1983 ), but this is unlikely. So no one knows either when Jason of Cyrene wrote his five-volume work or when the epitomist did his shortening, with dates for the latter ranging from around 124 to 63 BCE. Nor can one be sure where the works were written. The epitomist has clearly learnt Greek well, and is aware of Greek historigraphical conventions, so he could have written anywhere in the Greek-speaking world. The opposition he shows towards the gymnasium suggests a city where some Jews were beginning to attend the gymnasium, but that again could be anywhere.

E. Outline.

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