Unlike 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees was written originally in Greek, probably in Alexandria, Egypt, c 124 BC. It presents a revised version of the historical events recounted in the first seven chapters of 1 Maccabees, adding material from the Pharisaic tradition, including prayer for the dead and a resurrection on Judgment Day.

Catholics and Orthodox consider the work to be canonical and part of the Bible. Protestants and Jews reject most of the doctrinal issues present in the work. Some Protestants include 2 Maccabees as part of the Biblical Apocrypha, useful for reading in the church. Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England defines it as useful but not the basis of doctrine and not necessary for salvation.