Archive for the ‘Maccabees’ Category

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The Maccabee – Origins of the Word ‘Maccabee’

September 26, 2011

‘Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’

– Jeremiah 23:29

The word Maccabee means Hammer in the Hebrew Language.

Origins of the Word ‘Maccabee’

(Hoi Makkabaioi in Greek, Machabei in Latin, most probably from Aramaic word Maqqaba =“hammer”)

The name Machabee (Maccabee) was originally the surname of Judas, the third son of Mathathias, but was later extended to all the descendants of Mathathias, and even to all who took part in the rebellion. It is also given to the martyrs mentioned in II Maccabees 7, 18:8. Of the various explanations of the word the one given above is the most probable. Machabee would accordingly mean “hammerer” or “hammer-like”, and would have been given to Judas because of his valour in combating the enemies of Israel.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910)

Origins of the word Maccabee

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As just mentioned above, the word ‘Maccabee’ most likely originated with the third son of the initial Maccabee rebel leader and Temple priest known as Mattathias the Hasmonen. The most convincing legends and ancient sources clearly indicate that young Judas, the son of Mattathias, who was also considered a Hasmonean, became nicknamed Maccabee or Maccabaeus due to his superior military skills and personal combat ferocity. It seems quite probable that those Jews who fought beside him quickly noticed the way he would, quite literally, hammer the enemy into submission and eventual retreat.

It could also be possible that, because of the extensive collection of Pagan Greek statues and idolatrous shrines that had sprouted up throughout Judea and the surrounding area, Judas may have also been dubbed the ‘Hammer’ due to his propensity to smash any idol or statue which he encountered into as many pieces as possible. It is most likely that he would order any troops under his command to do the same. Not only that, the Books of the Maccabees clearly state that Judas and his fellow Maccabees immediately put a stop to the abominable Pagan sacrifices of swine and forcibly circumcised all the males residing in Judea in accordance to the ancient Laws of God.

Either way, Judas, the son of Mattathias the Hasmonean, quickly became the scourge of the Greek Empire and, in time, a world-renowned Jewish hero and military genius commonly known to everyone as Judas Maccabaeus, the Hammer of the LORD.

May the LORD God bless you in the name of St. Judas Maccabaeus.

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The Maccabee – A Reggae Song called ‘Maccabee Version’

September 24, 2011

‘Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’

– Jeremiah 23:29

in 1807, A little more than 200 years ago, the Abolition of the Slave Trade became a law in Great Britain. This marked ‘the beginning of the end of the virulent capturing and transporting of African people to be the slaves of the white plantation owners in North and South America and the Caribbean.’ What remains little known is the the fact that a mere ‘6% of the slaves exported from Africa ended up in the United States.’ Far more of them ended up in the West Indies, also called the Caribbean. It is claimed that the treatment of the slaves who ended up there was ‘much more harsh and abusive than in the United States.’

For whatever reason, the descendants of these slaves, who are now free, had a habit of identifying, and indeed, preferring what is called the Maccabee Bible, over the King James Bible, which usually did not include the Book of the Maccabees I and II. The Maccabee Bible did include these two books. Here is the history of the situation in the Caribbean when it comes to Christianity and the reading of the Bible:

In 1827 the British and Foreign Bible Society decided never to print or circulate copies of the King James Version containing the Apocrypha. The reason was that among the books of the Apocrypha are the four books of the Maccabees. The Maccabees detail the glorious exploits of Judas Maccabaeus, a Jewish guerrilla leader, descended from a well-known priest, Mattathias….The slaves of the West Indies came to identify as deeply with Judas Maccabaeus of the books of the Maccabees in the Apocrypha as they did with Moses of the Exodus.

– Reggae reveals Church involvement in slavery, by Paul A Tidemann

Reverence for the Maccabees, whose two books must have been studied by at some black slaves centuries ago, lingers on today in the form of a Reggae song written by Max Romeo. Reggae is a form of music performed by what are known as Rastafarians, a Christian sect which ‘began in the 1930s and declares that Ethiopia’s late Emperor, Haile Selassie, was divine and a savior, that Ethiopia is Eden, and that Blacks will eventually be repatriated to Africa.’ Their music is, in many ways, directly descended from the original folk music that the original black slaves brought with them to Jamaica from Africa. The lyrics to this song, written in 1976, read as follows:

Yu gave I King James Version;

King James was a White Man.

Yu built I dang’rous weapon

To kill I all de Black Man.

Yu sold de land God gave I

And taught I to be covetous.

What other wicked deeds

Have yu got in mind?

Tell me, what are yu gonna do

To stop dese daily crimes?

 

Bring back Maccabee Version

Dat God gave to Black Man.

Give back King James Version

Dat belongs to de White Man.

Black Man get up, stan’ up

Fin’ yu foot

And give Black God de glory.

Black Man get up, stan’ up

Fin’ yu foot

And give Black God de glory.

 

Yu suffer I and yu rob I;

Yu starve I, den yu kill I.

But what are yu gonna do

Now dat yu sword have turned against yu?

Black Man get up, stan’ up

Fin’ yu foot

And give Black God de glory.

Black Man get up, stan’ up

Fin’ yu foot

And give Black God de glory.

 

Bring back Maccabee Version

Dat God gave to Black man.

Give back King James Version

Dat belongs to de White Man.

Black Man get up, stan’ up

Fin yu foot

And give Black God de glory.

Black Man get up, stan’ up

Fin’ yu foot

And give Black God de glory.

– Maccabee Version, by Max Romeo

The most puzzling aspect of these lyrics is when the singer claims that God gave ‘Maccabee Version’ of the Bible to the black man in Jamaica. Why does he sing this? One possibility is that the black slaves who knew about these two Books of the Maccabees must have identified with their description of a rebellion against the Greek occupiers and oppressors of the Jews. Thus, when the white Christian missionaries began to evangelize the black Jamaican slaves and their descendants with Bibles that did not include the Books of the Maccabees, this may have made them suspicious as to why this had been done. One sources has the following explanation:

The decision of the British mission society to prohibit the printing of these books in Bibles meant that in one way or another knowledge of them became part of the folk wisdom of the Black people and when these actual writings became known they were seen as uniquely “Black.” The reggae by Max Romeo, coming out of the strong Black-consciousness of Jamaican Rastafarianism, manifests such a theme.

– Reggae reveals Church involvement in slavery, by Paul A Tidemann

In short, the early cultural memories of the Books of the Maccabees, along with the rebellion that they describe, lived on long after they had been excluded from the Bibles typically used by the black Jamaicans. From slavery to freedom, the Caribbean blacks must have identified Bibles that excluded the Maccabees as being tools of continuing white oppression. Two centuries after black slavery was abolished in Jamaica, the ‘Maccabee Version’ became simply another Reggae song from 1976.

May the LORD GOd bless you in the name of St. Judas Maccabaeus.

 

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