Martha Shamoni: A Jewish Syriac rhymed liturgical poem about the Maccabean martyrdoms (Sixth Maccabees)

Sigrid Peterson, University of Pennsylvania


This research investigates a rediscovered Syriac poem ("6 Macc"). Its text was published in 1895; only Witold Witakowski has published on the poem in more than 100 years since. Late manuscripts preserve an early work of Jewish pseudepigrapha predating 4 Macc. We know this because 4 Macc, in elaborate Greek rhetorical style from the second century C.E. at the latest, combines material from 2 Macc 6-7 and from 6 Macc. For the narrative basis to 6 Macc to have come later in time, following 4 Macc, it would have necessitated removing 2 Macc 6-7 material from 4 Macc. Chapter One introduces 6 Macc, and explores its manuscript history in Christian settings. Chapter Two presents the case that 6 Macc is, nevertheless, a Jewish work, of the kind described as Jewish pseudepigrapha. The chapter reviews and reassesses the style of scholarship that assumes that Syriac is a "Christian" language, to the exclusion of Judaism. This chapter argues for a Jewish community producing the work. The third chapter describes 6 Macc as 'evolved literature', examining its redaction history. Variations in poetic style indicate different editors and viewpoints. The fourth chapter compares the three versions—2 Macc, 6 Macc, and 4 Macc—that consistently present the tale in the order in which Eleazar, priest and/or scribe, is first to face torture to the death, during the persecutions of the Jews by the Greek ruler Antiochus ca. 168 B.C.E. The fifth chapter contains a summary and suggests additional lines of research. A comparison chart and a separate table are used to present the specifics of the Central Narrative of Torture common to 6 Macc and 4 Macc. Appendix 1 includes the Bibliography, a brief note about the article that follows, and the original paper "Fourth Maccabees and the Asia Minor Hypothesis." Appendix 2 presents Part 2. Text, Translation, Notes, and Commentary for 6 Macc.

Subject Area

Classical studies|Religious history|Bible|Middle Eastern history

Recommended Citation

Peterson, Sigrid, "Martha Shamoni: A Jewish Syriac rhymed liturgical poem about the Maccabean martyrdoms (Sixth Maccabees)" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3267127.