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Alison Rowan, Understanding authentia in 3 Maccabees 2, 29


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Furthermore, it’s NOT TRUE that their rights are unchanged. They are NOT in their “original rights”, limited as they already were, and I shall explain in the next section what has changed.

4) Questions of Translation

I believe that the whole of verse 28 should be reviewed.

28a: μηδένα τῶν μὴ θυόντων εἰς τὰ ἱερὰ αὐτῶν εἰσιέναι

This has been translated as “That entrance to their own temple was to be refused to all those who would not sacrifice.”

It COULD be understood as “those who will not make the following sacrifices of themselves”, but here, τῶν μὴ θυόντων should be literally translated as “those not offering by burning.” In other words, “those not making burnt offerings.”

However, I question the translation as it stands, since it makes no sense. It reads that Ptolemy prohibits those who don’t want to sacrifice and welcomes those who do! The Jews WISHED to sacrifice to YHWH, so why is Ptolemy stipulating a prohibition which is exempted if they do what they wish to do, anyway? This is not a punitive measure at all!

Would the phrase be better understood as Ptolemy being exceptionally emphatic! He has already written, μηδένα which in itself is strict enough as “not even one” or “no-one, without exception.” However, in addition to this, could it be possible that the following μὴ “not” is there to strengthen εἰσιέναι, to “come into,” “enter” and should not, therefore, be inserted into “those offering by burning”?

Perhaps 28a should simply read “Absolutely no persons may enter their own temple to make burnt offerings”? In other words, he was allowing entrance for prayer, but he was BANNING ALL BURNT OFFERINGS – the whole of Judaism’s ethos of atonement by substitution! To me, it is catastrophically more serious than it first appears from the current translation!

28b: πάντας δὲ τοὺς ᾿Ιουδαίους εἰς λαογραφίαν καὶ οἰκετικὴν διάθεσιν ἀχθῆναι

Oiketes would not have a translation as “common people,” but “servant.” The translation of λαογραφίαν in v 28b “registration among the common people” is apt, but where is there a translation of καὶ οἰκετικὴν διάθεσιν in the text?

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