(217 BCE). The abruptness with which the book opens and the use of the Greek conjunctive particle “de” may indicate that the introduction
to 3 Maccabees has not survived (see also 2.25n.
). Alternatively, the account of the battle may have been excerpted from a historical source. It resembles the account given
by the second century BCE historian Polybius (book 5), who also reports a plot to kill the king, but not the role of Dositheus in foiling it.
Ptolemy IV [Philopator] was king of Egypt 221–204. From those who returned, fugitives who had escaped. Antiochus III, later called the Great, was king of Syria 223–187. Raphia, a city of Palestine, three miles from Gaza and not far from the Egyptian frontier. Arsinoë, Ptolemy's sister, who became his wife, was later put to death at the instigation of her husband.
Theodotus had been chief commander of the Egyptian forces in Syria, but subsequently became disaffected and deserted to Antiochus III
Dositheus is mentioned in Hibeh papyrus 90 as priest of Alexander in 222 BCE, a very exalted position, and he is also mentioned in earlier papyri as a Ptolemaic administrator. The papyri, however, do
not identify him as Jewish. A certain insignificant man, Polybius identifies the man as Andreas, the king's physician.
According to Polybius (5.86.5–6), Antiochus lost nearly 10,000 infantry, 300 cavalry, and 4,000 prisoners; Ptolemy lost 1,500
infantry and 700 cavalry.
Reference to the supreme God, Greek “megistos theos,” occurs frequently in 3 Maccabees (
1.9,16; 3.11; 4.16; 5.25; 7.22
) as well as in 2 Maccabees (
). The God of the Jews was often known as The Most High God in antiquity. Ptolemy's offering sacrifice to the God of the Jews was not an unusual practice in an age of religious syncretism. The holy place, an alternative term for “the Temple” in 3 Maccabees and other Jewish literature.
No attempt by a Ptolemy to enter the holy of holies is otherwise known. The Roman general Pompey did enter it in 63 BCE, but the closest parallel to 3 Maccabees on this point is found in the story of Heliodorus in 2 Macc 3
, although the details of the stories are different (Heliodorus was attempting to seize the Temple treasure).
High priest … once a year,
Compare the reaction to the attempt of Heliodorus in 2 Macc 3.14–21
, and also the historical episodes when Pontius Pilate introduced the sacrilegious Roman standards into Jerusalem (Josephus, War
) and when Caligula attempted to have his statue installed in the Temple (
Young women were not permitted to appear in public before marriage; cf. 2 Macc 3.19
For other references to bridal chambers see Joel 2.16; 2 Esd 16.33–34; Bar 2.23
Die courageously for the ancestral law,
1 Macc 2.40; 3.21; 13.3–4; 2 Macc 8.21
. It is noteworthy that the militants are restrained by the elders here, in contrast to the Maccabean rebellion and to the
later Jewish revolt against Rome.
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