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Cover of: Jerusalem in 1 and 2 Maccabees
Jan Willem van Henten

Jerusalem in 1 and 2 Maccabees

Section: Articles
Volume 9 (2023) / Issue 1, pp. 71-95 (25)
Published 25.07.2023
DOI 10.1628/rre-2023-0007
This contribution on Jerusalem as space in 1 and 2 Maccabees is informed by narratology and theories of space, especially the distinction between perceived and conceived space as developed by Henri Lefebvre (Lefebvre 1974/1991). It focuses in particular on Jerusalem as perceived and conceived space. Jerusalem and Judah as its territory function as the main spatial setting in both narratives. The spatial information about Jerusalem in 2 Maccabees is striking because of its consistent lack of specificity in comparison to 1 Maccabees. Conceived space in 1 Maccabees is apparent from brief poetic sections in the first chapters of the book (1:24–28, 35–40; 2:7–13; 3:45) that offer reflection on the Seleucid capture and destruction of Jerusalem. They include spatial imagery that interprets the oppression and also evokes the sympathy of the narratees (1:27–28, 38–40). Jerusalem is personalised as a widow and depicted in the terms of Jewish Scripture. 2 Maccabees presents Jerusalem as a Greek style city-state, but Jerusalem and Judah together are at the same time a Jewish theocratic state whose fate is dependent on the faithfulness to God and the Jewish laws. Like 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees conceives Jerusalem as a person who has suffered (8:17), but it offers a second form of personalised space by expressing in a series of brief scenes the response of Jerusalem's inhabitants to a threat to the Temple by focusing on their actions and bodily gestures and appearances (3:14–21).