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Alison Rowan, Understanding authentia in 3 Maccabees 2, 29


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Assuming the LATER meaning of “absolute sway or power,” I would suggest that in all of this, the ONLY person with authentia is Ptolemy Philopater.

The Jews themselves devised a way to have their “previous condition” restored by payment. It was not in the original decree that this was an option. It seems to me that in either scenario, that it is not possible that the text says that these people would be “restored to their previous condition of being, to some degree, masters of themselves.” Rather, does not the text say that their permissions would have drastically changed for the better or the worse?

However, I propose this alternative interpretation of authentia, itself entirely possible from the context and the other associated authent– words with a meaning of “to slay” (and by sacrifice).

Ptolemy’s entire motivation for this edict was to avenge himself of the humiliation of not being freely allowed to make a gift to YHWH. Now, if the Jews want to offer THEIR gifts, they need his “PERMISSION TO KILL” by sacrifice. To compound their humiliation, it will be restricted to only those who will be publicly disgraced by bearing the branding mark of a god whose worshippers were notoriously violent and orgiastic.

Does not “permission” or “authority to kill” as a translation of authentia also provide an excellent semantic route into its later meaning of “absolute sway and authority” when it is over people? But here, it is permission to kill birds and animals in sacrifice.

In other words, they will be “set apart for this now conditional permission to sacrifice”.

Conclusion

The whole purpose of Ptolemy’s edict was to pay back in greater measure, the humiliation he had received by being denied access to Jerusalem’s Temple to sacrifice to YHWH. Now, if the Jews want “PERMISSION TO KILL” by sacrifice, it will be restricted to only those now enslaved, who will themselves be publicly humiliated to bear the branding mark of a despised foreign god. Since it was the withdrawal of permission to sacrifice which warranted the implementations of the conditions, surely it must be the restoration of the “right to sacrifice” (the authentia) which is the paramount consideration in the edict described in this passage?

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