2 Maccabees 1
The first letter
1 To our Jewish brothers and sisters in Egypt.
Greetings! Your Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and in the country of Judea wish you prosperous peace.
2 May God do good for you and remember the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his faithful servants.
3 May God give to all of you the passion to worship him and to do his will with a whole heart and a willing spirit.
4 May God open your heart to his Law and commands, and give you peace.
5 May God listen to your prayers and be reconciled with you and not abandon you in an evil time. 6 We are praying for you here.
7 In the year 169, during the rule of Demetrius, we Jews wrote to you during a critical period of suffering that happened to us in the years after Jason and his followers revolted from the holy land and the kingdom. 8 They burned down the gate and murdered innocent people. We pleaded to the Lord, and the Lord heard us. We offered sacrifices and fine flour, lit the lamps, and set out the sacred loaves. 9 So now you should keep the Festival of Booths in the month of Kislev, 10 in the year 188.
The second letter
The citizens of Jerusalem and Judea, the council of elders, and Judas send greetings and wishes of good health to Aristobulus, teacher of King Ptolemy and a member of the family of the anointed priests, and to the Jews in Egypt. 11 God saved us from great danger when we were battling against the king. So we greatly praise God 12 because he forced those fighting in the holy city to leave.
13 The ruler and his armed forces that went into Persia seemed invincible. But they were slain in the goddess Nanea’s temple, when Nanea’s priests tricked them. 14 Since Antiochus came in order to marry the goddess, he and his political advisors came into the temple to take the great wealth as payment for her dowry. 15 When the priests of Nanea had set it out, the king entered with a few men into the enclosed space of the shrine. After closing off the temple as Antiochus entered, 16 and opening the hidden door of the ceiling, they threw stones that struck down the ruler like a bolt of lightning. After dismembering and beheading the bodies, they tossed the heads to those outside.
17 May our God who gave up the immoral to death be praised in every way!
18 Since we are about to celebrate the cleansing of the temple on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, we thought it right to notify you so that you yourselves might also celebrate the Festival of Booths and Fire, when Nehemiah offered sacrifices after he had built the temple and the altar. 19 When our ancestors were taken as captives into Persia, the holy priests secretly took the fire of the altar and hid it in a dry pit. They were careful that no one knew the place. 20 Many years later, when it seemed good to God, Nehemiah, who was commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to retrieve it. After they explained to us that they didn’t find the fire, but rather a thick liquid, he ordered them to bring the liquid. 21 When they brought up the provisions for the sacrifice, Nehemiah commanded the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and on the items lying there. 22 Some time after they did this, as the sun shone brightly from behind the clouds, a great fire flared up and astonished everyone. 23 While the sacrifices were burning, the priests prayed, the priests and all the people. Jonathan took the lead while the others, including Nehemiah, responded. 24 The prayer went like this:
Lord, Lord God, creator of all,
you are fearsome, mighty,
just, and merciful.
You are the only king
and only generous one.
25 You are the only provider,
the only just, almighty, and eternal one.
You save Israel from all evil.
You chose the patriarchs
and made them holy.
26 Receive this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel. Guard your portion and make it holy.
27 Gather together our scattered people, free the ones enslaved among the nations, watch over those who are despised and loathed, and let the nations know that you are our God. 28 Punish the oppressors and those who commit arrogant acts of violence. 29 Plant your people in your holy place, just as Moses said.
30 The priests sang the hymns. 31 When the elements of the sacrifice were consumed, Nehemiah commanded them to pour the remaining liquid on larger stones. 32 When this happened, a flame flared up on these stones. But it went out in the presence of the light shining from the altar. 33 When this situation became known, it was reported to the king of the Persians that in the place where the exiled priests hid the fire, a liquid appeared from which Nehemiah’s followers purified the elements of the sacrifice. 34 After fencing off the place and declaring it holy, the king examined the matter. 35 The king showed favor to those involved and presented many excellent gifts to them. 36 Nehemiah’s circle called this liquid nephthar, which means “purification,” but most people call it nephthai.