Maccabean martyr theology : its genesis, antecedents and significance for the earliest soteriological interpretation of the death of Jesus
Seven beliefs comprise Maccabean martyr theology. First, though it could not explain suffering in toto, the retributive explanation was a theological foundation stone: Israel's sin resulted in God's judgement. Second, to avoid theodicean problems, this doctrine was galvanized to cosmic dualism; thus, the Antiochan persecution was interpreted as a manifestation of a heavenly war. Third, these persecutions were a sign that the divinely predetermined Endzeit was nigh and the eschatological kingdom imminent. Fourth, the suffering of the righteous was believed to precipitate divine eschatological vengeance. Fifth, the expression of this vengeance results in the exaltation of the righteous and humiliation of the wicked. Sixth, the righteous believed they could defeat evil with the highly effective weapons of obedience, suffering and witness. Finally, the sacrifice of the martyrs expiates the wrath of God. The antecedents of Maccabean martyr theology include: the Old Testament cultus, the death of Old Testament individuals, the prophet-martyr, the righteous sufferer, the Aqedah, the Suffering Servant, Hellenistic religion and prophetic eschatology. The Old Testament background alone was insufficient to explain martyr theology, but the breakdown in the Jewish Weltanschauung allowed the borrowing of sacrificial and eschatological concepts from non-Jewish religions. Hellenistic notions of vicarious sacrifice, the positive value of suffering and the apotheosis of the dying hero were motifs the soteriology of Maccabean martry theology borrowed. The earliest soteriological interpretation of the death of Jesus, viz. Mark 10:45, Jesus' eucharistic words and Romans 3:24-26, has been influenced by martyr theology. Romans 3:24-26 probably displays the greatest influence; no closer parallel than Eleazar's martyrdom can be adduced from the extant literature. Mark 10:35-45 also betrays a marked influence-especially in the cup and baptism metaphors and the ransom logion. Jesus' eucharistic words have a multifarious background, martyr theology being one. In sum, Maccabean martyr theology is a decisive background for the earliest soteriological interpretation of the death of Jesus.