“Bacon or Death?:”
The Books of Maccabees
I don’t want to give the wrong impression.. I really like
This week we will be looking at the books of Maccabees
in the Bible. This is the story of a battle for religious
freedom, a battle to keep the distinctiveness of the
Jewish Religion alive in the presence of overwhelming
pressure to conform.
Religion functions on a number of levels. The first level
is the relationship between people and their God. But
Religion also influences:
- How people understand themselves.
- How groups in society are structured and how they
- how individuals and groups participate in political life
That is why the rulers of societies can and often do see
religion as either a threat or an advantage. By
controlling the religious institutions that guide and
support people’s faith, and that influence personal and
group formation and behavior, some governments
believe that they can better control the people.
Ultimately, however, a person’s faith in God cannot be
controlled. Even the threat of death and persecution
cannot wipe out strong beliefs. In fact, it can
strengthen these beliefs: we see martyrs throughout
history as strengthening people’s faith.
The books of Maccabees tell the story of some of the
Hebrews’ struggle for religious purity at a time when
they were ruled by a foreign power. The new ruler,
Antiochus IV Epiphanes, wished to increase his power
by making the people all follow one religion.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people,
 and that each should give up his customs. ( 1 Maccabees 1: 41-42)
The penalty for going against this edict.. was death.
The people’s faith and determination, as it turned out
was stronger than their fear of death.
The books of Maccabees are filled with violence and
action. There are heroes and villains and not much in
between. To understand what all the fuss is about, I will
provide some background information before you read
any of the assigned rea