Re-evaluating 3 Maccabees: An Oniad Composition? Meron M. Piotrkowski
3 Maccabees is generally considered one of the more enigmatic works in the corpus of ancient Jewish-Hellenistic literature. The precise date of the work’s composition remains disputed, but modern scholars commonly maintain a 2nd cent. BCE–1st cent. CE dating.1 Further evidence shows that the text, which is written in a highly polished Greek, was composed in the late Ptolemaic period (ca. 150–130 BCE),2 in Alexandria.3 As is the case with many other Jewish-Hellenistic compositions originating in the Egyptian Diaspora, 3 Maccabees is often given an Alexandrian author- ship. Such a claim of course implies that Alexandria was home to all literarily active Jewish intellectuals of that time.4 The following text challenges the claim of Alexandrian authorship for 3 Maccabees and argues that the work originated in an altogether different milieu. Moreover, the evidence presented here sug- gests that the author of 3 Maccabees was a member of the Jewish mercenary 1 Wills 2002, 174. For a dating after 100 BCE, see Emmet 1913, 156–159; Bickerman 1928, 797–800; Anderson 1985, 510–512. An early Roman date for the composition was suggested by Tcherikover (1961, 11–18), because of the ‘λαογραφία’ mentioned in 3 Macc. 2, 28. Tcherikover argues that in the wake of the Roman re-organization of Egypt initiated by Augustus in 31 BCE a census was conducted, and that the passage in 3 Macc. 2, 28 hence is an allusion to that incident. See also Hadas 1953, 18–21; Paul 1987, 331– 333. Such censuses,...
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