John Lilburne's journal about 1 Maccabees.



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0850 L Fri 23 Nov 2001

The first reading in today's Mass is 1 Maccabees 4:36-37.52-59

Judas and his brothers said, 'Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.' So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made. The altar was dedicated, to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it. The whole people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who had made them so successful. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings. They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, repaired the gates and the storerooms and fitted them with doors. There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, and the reproach of the pagans was lifted from them. Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness.

Rarely in the Bible to we have such a specific date for an event: Their 25 Chislev 148 is our 14 December 164 B.C. The annual festival has various titles, the most common being Hanukkah.

In recent weeks I have read the Pope saying religion should not be a cause for war.

From that country, where followers of various religions live together peacefully, I reaffirmed with force that religion must never be used as cause for conflict. (Reported on many sites including

The first four chapters of 1 Maccabees provide a illustration of how it has been.

Alexander the Great has conquered. The Greeks are in charge. All are to become a single people, renouncing his particular customs. There is resistance led by Mattathias:

a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the the altar in Modein as the royal edict required. When Mattathias saw this, he was fired with zeal; stirred to the depth of his being, he gave vent to his legitimate anger, threw himself on the man and slaughtered him on the altar. (1 Macc 2:23-24)

There is not much attention given to freedom of religion:

Mattathias and his friends made a tour, overthrowing the altars and forcibly circumcising all the boys found uncircumcised in the territories of Israel. (1 Macc 2:45)

Mattathias dies and his son Judas Maccabaeus takes command. He has his victory and so is able to restore and purify the temple at Jerusalem.

Disagreements over religion have led to war and this passages provide an example of this. Religious intolerance by the king leads to resistence. So the things happening today are not very different to what was happening in 164 B.C.

The right to religious freedom is discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n 2104 - 2109. Particularly relevant seems to be CCC 2108:

The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, [Cf. Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum 18; Pius XII AAS 1953, 799.] but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.[Cf. DH 2.]

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 23 November 2001. Bible extracts from The Jerusalem Bible.