This Era lasted from 167 BC to AD 1
Fun Fact #1: The World Power in this era is The Roman Empire
Fun Fact #2: Famous secular persons who lived in this era included Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus
Fun Fact #3: Important events that happened in this era include Pompey capturing Jerusalem in 63 BC and Virgil writing the Aeneid in 30 BC
Welcome back, Jeff Cavins!!
We have just left the Return after the Exile
Now the people of Israel are back in the land of Judah
There are a number of books during this time period that not a lot of people in this Bible in a Year community are familiar with
So what do we do now?
We are entering one of the most UNDERRATED AND IMPORTANT periods in setting the table for the Messiah, Jesus, to come onto the scene
For our Protestant friends who have been joining us on our most excellent adventure, they are running into a book now that might seem a little bit foreign
So we will take a couple minutes to explain that book, where it came from, what it’s talking about, and this whole issue of being INSPIRED or DEUTEROCANONICAL or “APOCRYPHA”
We have FOUR BOOKS
1 and 2 Maccabees
The Book of Sirach
The Book of Wisdom
Not everyone in this community will be familiar with them
We talked about some of the other Deuterocanonical books in the past
Like Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and parts of Esther and Daniel
So how do we read/listen to these books?
Do we listen/read them the same way as the rest of the Bible?
What’s the story with how we got these books and how some Bibles don’t have these books?
When Jeff Cavins first created the Great Adventure Bible Study and the Timeline, he was a 25 year old pastor
When he got to this period of Salvation History, he had what he called “400 silent years”
When he came back to the Catholic Church, he was blessed by getting seven more books which were not NEW, but were quite old
Lo and behold, these books filled in that 400 year gap
That was Maccabees, specifically some of the events of 2 Maccabees
It is worth noting that there are two different canons in Christianity today
You have the Protestant canon, which has 66 books
You have the Catholic canon, which has 73 books
One of which is 1 and 2 Maccabees
So we have to ask ourselves the question, which comes up so often, “Did we as Catholics ADD seven books? Or did Protestants TAKE AWAY seven books?”
The answer is NEITHER ONE
The early Church that the Catholic Church springs from, used what was called the SEPTUAGINT
The Septuagint is the Greek Old Testament
That is the book that the Early Church used
It had Maccabees and the other books in there all the way until the REFORMATION
The REFORMERS decided not to go with the Septuagint
They decided to go with a different canon, which was the Jewish canon that did not have those seven books
It’s not fair to say, “Catholics added books.”
It’s not fair to say, “Protestants took books away.”
What IS fair to say is that the Bible we have been using for Bible in a Year IS THE BIBLE THAT THE EARLY CHURCH USED
So we encourage our Protestant friends not to get upset, but to be open to understanding Salvation History
The Early Church used this as the INSPIRED WORD OF GOD
So maybe they can be open to what God wants to help become more like Jesus
Fr. Mike has gotten messages from folks who have been journeying with us who are not Catholic and they find Tobit to be so fascinating
A woman who has a very popular podcast reached out to him and said, “This is incredible to me to be able to go through this story of The Book of Tobit and getting so much out of these books that I have never encountered before.”
Not only are there Catholics who have never read these books before
But for ALL OF US, there is something when it comes to being OPEN TO WHATEVER GOD HAS FOR US IN THIS JOURNEY
One of the temptations or battles that a lot of folks might have to face in the next thirty or so days in this Maccabean Revolt Era is SUSPICION
We already addressed that months ago when it came to learning how God acting in the lives of broken people
Or here is God acting in the lives of people who are coming in to conquer the land of Canaan
We can have this kind of suspicion about God and his motives in Scripture
One of the temptations we have to be aware of and be able to face is the temptation to suspicion IN OUR OWN HEARTS towards, “If I don’t understand one of THESE books of the Bible, maybe I will be suspicious towards the Bible. Whereas in the past, I was suspicious towards God himself. Now maybe I’m suspicious towards God’s Word.”
So just be OPEN!!
GOD HAS SOMETHING HE WANTS TO SAY TO ALL OF US IN THESE WORDS!!
DO NOT IMMEDIATELY DISCOUNT THEM EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE KIND OF A DIFFERENT STYLE!!
It is very much HISTORY and they seem different
When you begin to listen to 1 and 2 Maccabees you are going to be reading along with a type of history that is MORE FAMILIAR than say, Judith
You are going to run into some FAMOUS EVENTS and some FAMOUS PEOPLE that are in history as we know it
For example, we have Alexander the Great
We have Antiochus Epiphanes
We have the Maccabean Revolt
Even though the Jewish community does not consider 1 and 2 Maccabees to be INSPIRED SCRIPTURE, what is happening in these books, namely HANUKKAH, is quite at the center of Jewish celebration TODAY
One way to really help everybody to situate themselves in The Book of Maccabees is to go back and remember all of the enemies of Israel
We have a little pithy saying, “Eat A Big Purple GRape.”
E for EGYPT
A for ASSYRIA
B for BABYLON
P for Persia
G for Greece
R for Rome
That is a wonderful way to not get lost and to remember where we are at
We are now entering the RISE OF THE GREEK CULTURE
The star is Alexander the Great
Most of us are familiar with him
A poll was taken not too long ago, “Who is the greatest Greek ever to live?”
98% or so of the people who answered said Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great’s goal was to hellenize the world
He wanted the whole world to speak Greek and to worship Greek gods and Greek customs and so forth
He actually was quite successful
He was a REAL military leader
He didn’t just sit back and watch
He had his armies follow him and he was injured quite a bit
He really took most of the modern world and stopped just short of India because his leaders and soldiers were worn out
Maccabees records how he came to Jerusalem and the people were so afraid that they even did something that is hard to think about
They reversed circumcision to blend into the crowd
They didn’t want to be known as the people who were marked as different
Alexander the Great was actually quite impressed with the Jews in Jerusalem and allowed them to maintain their life
Everything went south when Alexander died suddenly
Historians have said it was due to some viral infection
But just in the last 20 years historians are starting to think he was assassinated
He left his entire kingdom to two generals
The Ptolemies took over in this area of the world and continued to allow this doctrine of tolerance that Alexander had
Then the Seleucids took over
This is where we meet Antiochus Epiphanes, who is like the devil on wheels
He is like Jezebel, Ahab, and all those older kings who did horrible things
So he decided to strike at the heart of the Jewish people
He goes to a little city northwest of Jerusalem called Modein (I’m just guessing at the spelling here...hope I’m right 😉)
Modein is very close to the place where the early Christians would walk and fellowship with one another
So he goes to Modein and he starts to pick on the really orthodox families
He tries to get them to eat pork
You and I know that pulled pork is not on the menu (sadly, neither is bacon 😉)
The Jewish people resist
Antiochus Epiphanes even desecrates the Temple in Jerusalem
This brings about a TREMENDOUS REVOLT against the Greek leader
This is the setting we have in Maccabees where a number of REALLY AMAZING stories take place
Probably the most well known story is Hanukkah
When the Jews resisted the Greeks and took back Jerusalem and the Temple, what happened?
They REDEDICATED THE TEMPLE!!
Lo and behold, a MIRACLE took place
They didn’t have enough oil to rededicate the Temple
The oil that they had lasted and the Temple was rededicated
Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days starting on the 25th day of Chislev according to the Hebrew calendar
When they finally realized that they had Jerusalem back, they wanted to rededicate it
They wanted the lights to shine again
So while in the New Testament we don’t call it Hanukkah, we do celebrate it and Jesus does
It is called the FEAST OF LIGHTS
Of course, Jesus is the LIGHT OF THE WORLD
This great holiday of Hanukkah which our older brothers and sisters, the Jewish people, celebrate it every single year and we also celebrate it with them as well in the REDEDICATING OF THE TEMPLE
So in Modein there was a family that ended up resisting
They were pretty successful
Judas Maccabeus, his brothers, and the Jewish people were able to wage a war against this massive army and fight back for their sovereignty
One of the great stories is in 2 Maccabees Ch 7
That is the story of a woman who is going to go down in history as being one of the greatest ever in the entire Bible
She has seven sons
She is a Jewish martyr
Her seven sons are Jewish martyrs
They were all arrested by Antiochus Epiphanes and were forced to prove their respect to him by consuming pig meat
They refused and he tortured and killed the sons one by one in front of this unflinching, powerful woman
THAT IS SO HEROIC!!
Many of us see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that
She stood and watched her Son who was CRUCIFIED
Her Son who DIED FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD
Her Son who said, “I will not bow. I will be the faithful Son.”
So we see a PERFECT PICTURE there of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus
IT IS VERY VERY POWERFUL!!
Not too long ago, Dr. Scott Hahn and his wife, Kimberly, had a son named Jeremiah who became a priest
Jeff Cavins talked to Kimberly and she said, “Oh Jeff, I just went and I prayed and I asked the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the times that we are living now, oh please don’t let my son suffer. Don’t let my son suffer as a priest. I beg you, please don’t.”
She said that she felt like Mary spoke back to her and said, “You’re talking to me? I’ve watched my Son suffer!”
Just like this heroic Jewish martyr in 2 Maccabees Ch 7 who watched her seven sons die in front of her
We will get to this story in around 20 days from now
IT IS A STORY OF FAITHFULNESS!!
Fr. Mike prays with this story so many times
Not only because of the BROTHERHOOD of the brothers
Not only because of the MOTHERHOOD of this mom
BUT BECAUSE OF THE FAITHFULNESS THEY HAD
THEY REFUSED TO COMPROMISE
This is a theme particularly when it comes to the leverage the Greeks would have tried to use in this particular case over the Jews
“Just pretend to eat some of this meat and you will be fine.”
“No, I can’t even pretend to violate this because what kind of scandal would I give?”
IT IS REALLY REMARKABLE ON SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS
The sons are saying, “Hey, be a man!”
The mom is saying, “Hey, be a man, my sons!”
THAT REFUSAL TO COMPROMISE!!
It’s not just a modern thing
In our hearts we think, “The Lord would not want me to suffer. The Lord wouldn’t really want this,”
God doesn’t necessarily want us to suffer
GOD DOES WANT US TO BE FAITHFUL
THAT IS A HIGH CALL THAT WE EXPERIENCE!!
That is one of the stories that highlights 1 and 2 Maccabees
So what else should we hone in on and not miss?
2 Maccabees 12:38-46
We have an example of the faithful on earth PRAYING, SACRIFICING, HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE US!!
Our Protestant brothers and sisters might flinch at that
But what we see here is that in the Kingdom of God, and certainly after Jesus’ Sacrifice, we DO have this Body of Christ that CANNOT BE SEPARATED BY DEATH!!
So when people ask us, “Why do you guys pray to dead people?”
OUR ANSWER IS, “WE DO NOT TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE! WE TALK TO ALIVE PEOPLE! WE TALK TO PEOPLE WHO ARE ALIVE IN CHRIST AND IN SOME WAYS PROBABLY MORE ALIVE THAN WE ARE TODAY! JUST LIKE WE ASK ONE ANOTHER FOR PRAYERS AND INTERCESSION, WE DO THAT WITH OUR OLDER BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO HAVE GONE ON BEFORE US!”
So when you read 2 Maccabees Ch 12, BE OPEN
Listen to this economy, if you will, in the Old Testament
IT IS VERY VERY POWERFUL!!
There is also another great story in 2 Maccabees 2:4-8
Let’s set the stage real quick…
When you hear Fr. Mike reading this, it is going to COME ALIVE
We know that in the Old Testament there is an ARK OF THE COVENANT
When they came out of Egypt, Moses built a Tabernacle which had a Holy Place
In the back was a square called the Holy of Holies
Inside the Holy of Holies was the ARK OF THE COVENANT
THE MOST PRIZED, PRECIOUS, HOLY PIECE OF FURNITURE
The Ark of the Covenant contained a copy of the Ten Commandments, a bowl of manna, and Aaron’s rod/staff that was blossoming with almond blossoms
So there are three things that are attached to that Ark of the Covenant
Well, the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC
Jeremiah said, “We have to take the Ark of the Covenant out of there and we have to hide this before the Babylonians come.”
AND THEY DID!!
In 2 Maccabees Ch 2 we have the description of this
They took the Ark, the most precious of all furniture, and they hid it in a cave
One of the guys said, “We are going to cover this up and after 70 years of exile we will come back here. Let’s put a little marker on it and we’ll see that little green flag and know it’s here.”
Jeremiah said, “No, we are not going to do that. This place will remain a mystery UNTIL God has gathered all of his people back together and revealed his MERCY.”
We have to ask ourselves the question, “When is the next time that God is going to bring all of his people back together and REVEAL HIS MERCY?”
THAT IS IN THE BIRTH OF JESUS!!
We all should meditate on this…
MARY IS THE NEW ARK OF THE COVENANT!!
OUT OF HER WOMB COMES THE WORD OF GOD
OUT OF HER WOMB COMES THE MANNA FROM HEAVEN, THE EUCHARIST
OUT OF HER WOMB COMES JESUS, THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST
So we have ANOTHER connection to the Blessed Virgin Mary here, just like we did with the mother with her seven sons
Here in 2 Maccabees Ch 2 we have the connection to the NEW ARK OF THE COVENANT
So that really brings us to more of a POLITICAL TRANSITION NOW TO JESUS THE MESSIAH!!
THIS IS A MASSIVE BRIDGE!!
While Jeff Cavins was away from the Catholic Church, for him there was 400 years of silence when all there was for him was WAITING AND PROMISE (after The Return era)
What is the action happening here?
What is God doing with his people in the meantime?
This is all setting up the Eat A Big Purple GRape
Now we are getting past the Greeks to the Romans
We are following along and this is how God is walking with his people
He is inviting them back into Covenant faithfulness all through this time and setting the stage for the Messiah, for JESUS HIMSELF to FULFILL THOSE PROMISES THAT WE HAVE BEEN HEARING FOR 281 DAYS!!
This history of the Greeks moving into the Romans is one of the most POWERFUL and EYE-OPENING TRANSITIONS that we have gone through so far in the Bible
It is a transition that sets the table for THE MESSIAH
JESUS THE MESSIAH
Here’s how it goes, my friends
If you can get this and keep this in your thinking, then not only will Maccabees be POWERFUL
THE GOSPELS WILL JUST BLOW UP WITH MEANING FOR YOU!!
We know that after Alexander the Great, after the Ptolemies, after the Seleucids, we are going to have a CHANGE IN POWER which is going to be to the ROMANS
The very famous leader, Julius Caesar, was a part of what was called the First Triumvirate in the Roman Republic
Julius Caesar adopts a young man named Octavian
You might forget the name Octavian but you WON’T FORGET WHAT HIS NAME BECAME
He was a part of the Second Triumvirate of the Roman Republic
So it meant a country that is lead by three people
Octavian, the son of Julius Caesar was part of the second one
Julius Caesar proclaimed himself to be GOD
But on the Ides of March, he was assassinated in the senate
Before that, he adopted Octavian, one member of the Triumvirate
Octavian wanted to be THE leader, not one of three
But he had to go against another guy in the Triumvirate named MARC ANTONY
NOT J-LO’S EX HUSBAND!!
THIS IS A DIFFERENT MARC ANTONY
So Octavian ended up going out to sea and defeating Marc Antony in the Battle of Actium
Now watch this…
Octavian comes back and he enters Rome as the SOLE LEADER and the senate gives him the honorary name, CAESAR AUGUSTUS
He ruled the Roman Empire for a long time
Here is the kicker...
In the city of Corinth, there were some archaeological finds that said, “That never before, during, or after will anybody eclipse the glory and the power of Caesar Augustus who is the prince of peace. He is the one who ushered in peace. He is the son of god, the son of Julius Caesar, and he has ushered in the euangelion (good news of the world).”
NOW THINK ABOUT THAT...
Caesar Augustus is known as the SON OF GOD, the PRINCE OF PEACE, and the one who USHERED IN THE GOOD NEWS FOR THE WORLD
Have we heard this before? 🤔
THOSE TERMS SOUND SO FAMILIAR!!
This is the stage that is set now for a baby to be born in Bethlehem who IS THE SON OF GOD
WHO IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE
WHO IS GOING TO USHER IN THE GOOD NEWS FOR THE WORLD
THIS IS WHERE WE ARE AT RIGHT NOW!!
THIS IS THE TRANSITION!!
THIS IS WHY MACCABEES IS VERY VERY IMPORTANT!!
THAT IS SO AMAZING!!
Connecting the far apart dots and connecting the close together dots and be able to open up the entire New Testament
The Lord has set the stage by giving us these books of 1 and 2 Maccabees
This is the context now in which God himself breaks into the world in this COMPLETELY NEW WAY
THAT IS PHENOMENAL!!
Oh of course, Jesus is the King of Kings
Jesus is the Prince of Peace
Jesus is the Son of God
Jesus brings the good news
Those terms had a context when they were first written
We recognize here is one of the ways that Christianity could be seen as a threat because those terms no longer apply to the Roman Emperor, but they belong to the GOD WE ARE FOLLOWING
THIS HAS ALSO COME TO CHANGE THE WORLD IN A REMARKABLE WAY
THIS WORLD THAT HAS BEEN ENTERED BY GOD
THIS WORLD HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR JESUS
BUT IN SOME WAYS THIS WORLD IS NOT READY FOR JESUS
ALL OF OUR HEARTS HAVE TO BE TRANSFORMED FOR THAT TO HAPPEN!!
We are living in difficult times right now
There are two things that people are really desiring
We are listening to this podcast because WE ARE HUNGRY
WE WANT TO KNOW GOD
WE WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWERS TO LIFE
WE WANT TO KNOW THE BIG STORY AND HOW WE FIT INTO IT
It can be very confusing
People are looking for a BRIGHTER FUTURE
People are looking for SOMEONE TO TRUST
THAT IS HARD TO COME BY TODAY
We might see difficult things going on in politics as they did back then with the Greeks and the Romans
It didn’t look like this story was really going anywhere
THE TRUTH IS THAT WE WERE JUST ON THE EDGE OF THIS STORY GOING EVERYWHERE
DO NOT LOSE HOPE!!
Even though politics might not look like what you want it to be
Social issues might not be exactly where you want them
GOD HAS A PLAN OF SHEER GOODNESS (CCC 1)
If we stay with that plan and his faithfulness, we are going to see that GOD WILL PREVAIL
DO NOT GIVE UP!!
AMEN TO THAT!!
Here are the people wandering in darkness, they have seen a great light
Before they see that GREAT LIGHT, they are wandering in darkness just clinging on to the promises of God all through this time
Without seeing the fruit of their faithfulness
Without seeing the fruit of what they were fighting for
God himself had CHOSEN THEM
He entered into relationship WITH THEM
He made a PROMISE TO THEM
How is God going to do it?
No one could have predicted how, even with all the prophecies we have heard
We don’t know if anyone could have predicted the way in which God would make right ALL THAT HAD GONE WRONG
This is so true for our lives
“Oh my gosh, what could God do with this?”
We can NEVER predict the way in which God can make RIGHT all the stuff that has gone WRONG with us
We are grateful for this time period, the final one before we launch into the last Gospel we haven’t read yet, The Gospel of Luke, and the Era of the Church
So any last thoughts, Jeff Cavins? 🤔
If this book is foreign to you, approach it with an OPEN HEART and ask God to ILLUMINATE THE TRUTH HERE and what is happening in terms of the entire plan of Salvation History
Just say, “Lord, give me an open heart to understand what is happening here.”
During this reading of Maccabees, keep in mind what is going on in the world today
Just keep in mind that Fr. Mike and Jeff Cavins have both read the END OF THE BIBLE
HERE IS A SPOILER: WE WIN!!
We are not ending just yet though
We are still working our way
We are still walking with the Lord
We are still allowing God to shape our hearts...
We are still allowing God to shape our vision...
We are still allowing God to shape our worldview…
So that we can recognize OUR STORY in HIS STORY
We do have a couple more eras to get to
We are not home yet
We are SO FAR from where we have started
If you have reached this day, you have a lot to be proud of
We have so much to be grateful for
WE NEED EACH OTHER
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU
JEFF CAVINS IS PRAYING FOR YOU
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE AND JEFF CAVINS
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER