Original Research - Special Collection: Eben Scheffler Festschrift

3 Maccabees as a monomyth

Nicholas P.L. Allen
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 3 | a5497 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i3.5497 | © 2019 Nicholas P.L. Allen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 April 2019 | Published: 21 November 2019

About the author(s)

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


The story of the hero, as a rite of passage, is often seen as a narratological quest, which because of the work of Campbell is now referred to as the monomyth. The basic pattern of all monomyths is an account of how a hero commences a journey, encounters a major crisis and then returns back home transformed in some way. Most importantly, this transformation not only advantages the hero but also significantly benefits the community that he or she originally hails from. Regardless of the authority concerned, the basic structure of a monomyth is tripartite, embracing the hero’s journey in three phases: departure, initiation and return. A surface reading of 3 Maccabees (cf. Charles 1913:155–173; Amir 1972:660–661) gives the impression that if one views the Jewish people as a single entity, one can infer that they too appear to play a role similar to the character of the hero in a typical monomyth or the rite of passage (initiation). This article attempts to examine this possibility in more detail. The author concludes that the narrative in 3 Maccabees, which deals with the transformation of the Jewish population in Egypt, largely conforms to the monomyth archetype but with some intriguing subtle differences.


3 Maccabees; monomyth; Judaism; hero myth; initiation rite


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