Christian Memories of the Maccabean Martyrs by D. Joslyn-Siemiatkoski

By D. Joslyn-Siemiatkoski

This booklet examines texts and fabrics, starting from the jap Mediterranean to northwestern Europe, relating to the Maccabean martyrs. Joslyn-Siemiatkoski demonstrates that Christian thinkers built stories of the Maccabean martyrs that concurrently appropriated Jewish traditions and obscured the Jewish origins of Christianity.

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THE MACCABEAN MARTYRS AND IMPERIAL RESISTANCE IN AMBROSE OF MILAN’S ON JACOB AND THE BLESSED LIFE Like Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose of Milan (ca. 339–97) in On Jacob and the Blessed Life attempted to construct an image of the Maccabean martyrs so his community would remember them as both an example of virtue and a righteous resistance of unjust imperial power. Ambrose composed On Jacob from sermons delivered to catechumens during Lent and Holy Week as they prepared for baptism on Easter. In this text Ambrose offered an extended meditation on the Maccabean martyrs as an example of the virtue of temperance and endurance that the patriarch Jacob exemplified.

In the act of constructing a memory of the Maccabean martyrs to aid the resistance of the Carthaginian Christian community against imperial persecution, any meaning of the story of the Maccabean martyrs that retains a Jewish valence is erased for a supersessionist interpretation. Cyprian of Carthage explains how his community ought to spiritually understand the story of the Maccabean martyrs. Given the pastoral concern he had for encouraging his community to stand firm amid persecution, he did not deal in detail with the text’s Jewish origins.

44 Chrysostom’s opposition to “Judaizing” Christians who observed Jewish rituals and attended synagogue services or other rites was an effort to establish 44 Christian Memories of the Maccabean Martyrs the boundaries of his own church and, by extension, his own authority as its bishop. Chrysostom’s sermons on the Maccabean martyrs reflected his concern over proper Christian devotion to the Maccabean martyrs and improper associations of the cult with the Jews of Antioch. Scholarship indicates, as discussed above, that at this time in Antioch there existed two sites associated with the Maccabean martyrs—the Christian basilica dedicated to the Maccabean martyrs in the Kerateion and the shrine at Matrona’s Cave initially used by Jews.

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