Original Research - Special Collection: Septuagint

Counting half-shekels – Redeeming souls? in 2 Maccabees 12:38–45

Nicholas P.L. Allen, Pierre J. Jordaan
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 3 | a5011 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i3.5011 | © 2018 Pierre Johan Jordaan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 April 2018 | Published: 12 November 2018

About the author(s)

Nicholas P.L. Allen, School of Ancient Languages and Text Studies, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa
Pierre J. Jordaan, School of Ancient Languages and Text Studies, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa


This article deals with a highly debated text, namely 2 Maccabees 12, specifically the problematic verses (38–45) which contain a theology that is distinctly non-Jewish in import. Indeed, most recent scholars concerned with this passage do not seem to be unanimous apropos the best interpretation of the events that are described, resulting in a range of different opinions concerning, inter alia, the afterlife, purgatory and/or doctrinal disputes between Pharisees and Sadducees. By means of an interpretivist or constructivist epistemology, the authors advocate that normally, traditional Judaism emphasises personal, individual responsibility and accountability, whereas in this text God is portrayed as requiring material, financial payment for wrongdoing and not individual תשובה [teshuvah]. This is in contradistinction to, inter alia, Exodus 30:11–16 and theologically Jewish ‘transgression’ has clearly metamorphosed into Christian ‘sin’. In addition, Judas Maccabeus seems to have retained a half-shekel methodology (employed for Jewish men of military age – soldiers) whilst emphasising the ‘atonement for your lives’ from Exodus 30:11–16 in a more literalistic, materialistic, non-Jewish sense whilst de-emphasising the real need to maintain the Temple as well as the proper, traditional rules of תשובה.


half-shekels; Non-Jewish; Pharasees; Sadducees; afterlife; purgatory; interpretist/constructivist epistemology; teshuvah; atonement


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Crossref Citations

1. Unique development of narratological approaches to the apocryphal or deuterocanonical books of the Septuagint with special emphasis on the North-West University scholarship
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