Only the Greek text has survived, and this only through its inclusion in the Christian canon. Origen claims that the title of the original was Sarbēth Sarbanael (variants include Σαρβηθ Σα[ρ]βαναι ελ “Sarbēth Sa[r]banai El” and Σαρβηθ Σα[ρ]βανέελ Sarbēth Sa[r]baneel), an enigmatic Greek transliteration from a putative Hebrew original. Various reconstructions have been proposed:
“Book of the Prince of the House of Israel” or “the Prince of the House of God (El)”, from the Hebrew שַׂר בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, Sar Beit-Yisra’el or שַׂר בֵּית אֵל, Sar Beit-El, respectively,
“History of the House of the Warriors”,
“Book of the House of the Princes of God”,
“the Book of the Dynasty of God’s resisters”, perhaps from סֵפֶר בֵּית סָרְבָנֵי אֵל, Sefer Beit Sarevanei El (“Book of the House who strive for God”).
Gustaf Dalman, meanwhile, suggests that the title is a corruption of the Aramaic “The Book of the House of the Hasmoneans”.
The book’s author is unknown, but some suggest that it may have been a devout Jew from the Holy Land who may have taken part in the events described in the book. He shows intimate and detailed geographical knowledge of the Holy Land, but is inaccurate in his information about foreign countries. The author interprets the events not as a miraculous intervention by God, but rather God’s using the instrument of the military genius of the Maccabees to achieve his ends.
2 Maccabees is a deuterocanonical book which focuses on the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and concludes with the defeat of the Syrian general Nicanor in 161 BC by Judas Maccabeus, the hero of the hard work.
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.