An Early Protestant Bible Containing The Third Book Of Maccabees

An Early Protestant Bible Containing The Third Book Of Maccabees

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


With A List Of Editions And Translations Of Third Maccabees

B. M. Metzger

In M. Brecht’s Text – Wort – Glaube Studien Zur Überlieferung, Interpretation Und Autorisierung Biblischer Texte, 1980, pp.123-133.

© Walter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin

Among the voluminous works of Johann Brenz (1499-1570)[1], the German theologian and Swabian Reformer, is a noteworthy edition of the Latin Bible, published at Tübingen in 1564. Despite several obviously useful features that it provides among its helps for the reader, the edition apparently had only a limited circulation. Since it was made by a Protestant, the helps were not acceptable to Roman Catholics, and German-reading Protestants used Luther’s translation with prefaces to the several books.

For whatever reason, very few copies of the edition survive today. The rarity of the edition can be gauged from its absence from otherwise extensive printed lists of Bibles and library collections. Bibliographies of Reformation literature make no mention of the edition, nor does T. H. Darlow and H. F. Moule’s Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of the Bible in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

No copy of the edition is in the British Museum, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Bodleian, or in the university libraries at Cambridge, Göttingen, Glasgow, Munich, and Strasbourg. Until 1977 no American collection known to the present writer possessed a copy.

What is even more surprising is that no mention of the edition is made in the Indices Librorum Prohibitorum. The Antwerp Index of 1570 lists almost all Protestant editions of the Bible, but not this one; the same applies to the Portuguese Index of 1581 and to the Spanish Index of 1583.[2]

On the other hand the title of the edition is cited by A. G. Masch in his enlarged edition of Jacques Le Long’s Bibliotheca sacra,[3] and by Köhler in his Bibliographia Brentiana,[4] where information is given that in Germany copies are at Esslingen and Helmstedt; to which the present writer can add the information that a copy is in the Evangelische Stift at Tübingen.

In 1977 the Robert E. Speer Library at Princeton Theological Seminary acquired a well-preserved copy of the volume, bound in sturdy pig-skin, and fastened with two brass clasps. The page measurements are 24.6 x 16.5 cm. (911/16 x 61/2 inches). With its covers it is 10.8 cm. thick (41/4 inches). The title page reads as follows:

Biblia | sacra. | cum diligentia, cu|ra, studio singulari elaborata, deque senten|tia doctissimorum virorum, & inprimis Hebraicæ lin|guæ peritorum, plurimis in locis vltra prio|res editiones emendata atque | correcta.| | Praemissis ubique et D. Hieronymi Prole|gomenis, et insuper prooemio eximij theologi Ioannis Brentii, in quo|cùm sacrarum literarum

autoritas præclarè asseritur, tum breuiter sum|ma harum explicatur, & consilium atque finis de|monstratur. | | Accessit Latina interpretatio, nominum Hebræo|rum, Chaldæorum, Græcorum quæ, passim in his scriptis occurrunt, | perquàm copiosa & accurata. | | Ad hæc index fidelis et locuples rerum sen|tentiarumque memorabilium in his libris. [Device] Tubingæ, Apud viduam Ulrici Morhardi. M.D. LXIIII.

This edition, the first Bible issued in Württemberg, was the work of a printer named Georg Gruppenbach, who followed as a pattern the Latin Vulgate Bible printed by Wolrab at Leipzig in 1544 (this, in turn, was based on the Stephanus 1540 edition). Even in details the Leipzig and the Tübingen editions agree. For example, both offer in the margin at Genesis 3: 15 the note »Hebr. ipsum« attached to the reading of the Vulgate ipsa (»she«, interpreted by Catholics as

Mary, who would tread upon the head of the serpent), and both present the Greek text of the Prayer of Manasseh following 2 Chronicles. They differ, however, in that for the New Testament Wolrab’s edition presents Erasmus’s Latin translation in parallel columns along with the Vulgate.

Both the Leipzig and the Tübingen editions open with a Pro�mium written by Johannes Brenz. In this foreword the authority of the Scripture is supported by such arguments as: the Apostles could not lie or speak in jest; they were eyewitnesses, and could have always been contradicted by contemporaries; they bore testimony to their teaching by their blood.

Further proofs are to be found in the miracles of Jesus and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning his birth and ministry. Moses, who is cast in the role of legislator, is defended against reproaches of black magic and imposture. The latter part of the Pro�mium provides brief summaries of the chief points in each Biblical books.[5]

The sixteen pages of the Pro�mium are followed by four pages of the »Summa totius sacrae Scripturae«, giving, so to speak, the pith and marrow of Biblical theology. Topics, each very briefly set forth, range from statements about God; the creation of mankind; sin; the promise of the Messiah; the Mosaic Law; Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit; faith, love, hope; justification; good works; Christ as master, high priest, mediator, and advocate; and finally judgment, eternal life, and eternal fire.

Next follow two indexes, one listing passages in the Old Testament which are cited by Christ or the Apostles, the other listing Old Testament passages to which allusion is made in the New Testament.

Then follow two tables of contents, setting forth the order of the books of the Old Testament and of the New Testament. The sequence of the books in each list agrees with that which is normal in the Latin Vulgate Bible except that 2 Maccabees is followed by 3 Maccabees.

No mention is made of the Prayer of Manasseh. The front matter of the edition concludes with the text of St. Jerome’s Prologus galeatus (in which he defines the contents and limits of the Old Testament) as well as his Preface to the Pentateuch. Thereafter, before each book or group of books, Jerome’s appropriate preface is given.

At the close of the volume, after the Apocalypse, stand two indexes. The former, printed in three columns per page, is an extensive list of Hebrew, Chaldaic (Aramaic), and Greek proper names, each with its (supposed) meaning given in Latin. The latter is a useful index to things and ideas which are contained in the Old and New Testaments.

The edition presents the usual division of books into chapters, but not into verses. The several sections within a chapter are marked in the margin with AB C . . . G, spaced so that, whether the chapter is long or short, the divisions are more or less equal in length within each chapter.

References to parallel passages, as well as variant readings, stand in the margins throughout the volume. Two half-title pages are present, one for »Prophetae omnes« and the other for the New Testament (»Novum Iesu Christi Domini nostri Testamentum omne«).

According to information presented by Kolb,[6] the printer of the volume received a subvention of 300 florin from the Church (gemeine Kirchenkasten). One thousand copies were allocated to the monasteries, and paid for by them. A further 76 copies were allocated to the Kirchenrat, at 18 batzen (a Swiss coin worth four kreutzers). From this number 30 copies were sent to Mömpelgard.

One of the special features of this edition is, as was mentioned earlier, the presence of the text of the Third Book of Maccabees, which concludes the Old Testament (it is followed by the colophen »Veteris Testamenti finis«). This so-called Third Book of Maccabees has no relation to the other four[7] books of Maccabees, all of which deal, at least in part, with the revolt of Judaea against Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria ftom 168-167 B.C., whereas this book deals with events half a century earlier.[8] 

The title, which is a misnomer, was no doubt given to the work because the book deals with the oppression of Jews by a foreign power. Third Maccabees, written by an unknown author in a pseudoclassical style of Greek, purports to be a historical account of the persecution and miraculous salvation of Egyptian Jewry during the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopater (221- 205 B.C.). It relates how Ptolemy IV, attempting to enter the sanctuary of the Temple at Jerusalem (217 B.C., after the bartle of Raphia), is miraculously repulsed.

In consequence he determines to wreak his vengeance on the Jews of Alexandria, and of Egypt as a whole, first by interfering with their religion and altering their political status, and afterwards by letting loose drunken elephants to trample them to death in the Hippodrome of Alexandria.

After his intentions have been several times thwarted by Providence, the king repents and becomes the patron of the Jews, who return in safety and rejoicing to their homes. The local feast of the Alexandrian Jews, of which the book purports to explain the origin (6:36), is connected by Josephus (Contra Apionem, ii. 5) with an event that took place under Ptolemy Physcon (145-116 B.C.).

From a theological standpoint, the book represents the strict and conservative school of the Hasidim, devoted to the law and opposed to attempts at hellenizing. Although it belongs to Alexandria, it shows no trace of typically Alexandrian ideas. Strangely enough, there seems to be no reference to this book in ancient Jewish sources. Even more strange is the circumstance that it should ever have found entrance into Christian circles.

It is listed in the Biblical catalogue in the Apostolic Canons (can. 85), in the Stichometry of Nicephorus, in the Synopsis Athanasii, and is mentioned by Eusebius in his Chronicle (ii. 122). Theodoret of Antioch summarizes the book and treats it as historical (Com. in Dan. xi). As can be seen, the attestation is overwhelmingly Eastern; in fact, the only Western attestation to the canonicity of 3 (and 4) Maccabees is the eight-century Liber de numeris.[9]

The text of 3 Maccabees is found in manuscripts of the Septuagint (A, V, and many minuscules). There are free and expanded renderings in the Syriac Peshitta as well as in most manuscripts of the Armenian Bible. Today the book is regarded as authoritative (deuterocanonical) by the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The following is a list of Bibles, Old Testaments, and other publications that contain the text of 3 Maccabees.

An analysis of the list discloses that even after the Council of Trent, which on April 8, 1546, declared that only 1 and 2 Maccabees should be received as authoritative, not a few Bibles in the West continued to be published containing 3 Maccabees. This is true for Bibles in Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, and Latin.

The most recently published Bible in English that contains 3 Maccabees (as well as 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151, texts highly regarded by Eastern Churches) is the 1977 Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Enlarged Edition, Revised Standard Version, edited by H. G. May and B. M. Metzger (Oxford University Press) – which has received commendation of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Church leaders as the first truly »common Bible«.

In the list the items are given chronologically under each language. Following the initial notation as to the kind of publication stand the names (when known) of the editor and/or translator and of the printer and place of publication. The work of compiling the list extended over many months and involved visits to the libraries of the American Bible Society, the British Bible Society, the Foundation of Reformation Research (St. Louis, Missouri),

Pusey House and Wycliffe Hall (both in Oxford), and the university libraries at Birmingham, Cambridge, Glasgow, Oxford, and Tiibingen. Finally mention should be made of the assistence kindly given by Dr. Errol F. Rhodes, Mrs. S. Allen Chambers, Jr., and Dr. Allen Wikgren, each of whom provided one or more items for the list.

List of Editions and Translations of 3 Maccabees

I. Editions of the Greek Text

1517 Complutensian Polyglot Bible, Francisco Ximenes, vol. 4; Arnoldus Guillelmus de Brocario (Alcalà).

1526 Bible, J. Lonitzer; Vuolphius (Wolfgang) Cephalaeus (Strassburg).

1545 Bible, preface by Philip Melanchthon; Ioan. Herüagius (Basel).

1571 Antwerp Polyglot Bible, Benedictus Arias Montanus; Christopher Plantin (Antwerp).

1587 (1586) Vetus Testamentum iuxta Septuaginta, ex auctoritate Sixti V. Pont. Max. editum; Francisci Zannetti (Rome). [For a list of several dozen editions based on the Sixtine ed., see Eb. Nestle, Urtext, pp. 65ff.].

1596 Hamburg Polyglot, ed. David Wolder, part 5, Appendix; Jacob Lucius Juni (Hamburg).

1628 Vetus Testamentum secundum LXX, et ex auctoritate Sixti V. Pont. Max. editum, vol. 2; Claudium Sonnium (Paris).

1629 Paris Polyglot Bible, vol. 4; Antonius Vitray (Paris).

1657 London Polyglot Bible, ed. Brian Walton, vol. 4; Thomas Roycroft (London).

1804 Libri Veteris Testamenti Apocryphi, ed. Jo. Christian. Guilielm. Augusti (Leipzig).

1805 Old Testament, Juxta exemplar Vaticanum, ex editione Lamberti Bos; Libri apocryphi (Oxford).

1827 Vetus Testamentum Graecum, ed. R. Holmes and J. Parsons, vol. 5 (Oxford).

1837 Libri Veteris Testamenti Apocryphi Graece, ed. Henricus Eduardus Apel (Leipzig).

1871 Libri Apocryphi Veteris Testamenti Graece, ed. Otto Fridolinus Fritsche (Leipzig).

1871 The Apocrypha: Greek and English in Parallel Columns, S. Bagster & Sons (London).

1894 The Old Testament in Greek, ed. H. B. Swete, vol. 3 (Cambridge).

1935 Septuaginta, ed. Alfred Rahlfs, vol. 1 (Stuttgart).

1953 The Third and Fourth Books of Maccabees, ed. Moses Hadas (New York).

1960 Septuaginta, vol. ix, fasc. 3, ed. Robert Hanhart (Göttingen).

II. Translations into Other Languages


1666 Bible, Uscan (Amsterdam).

1805 Bible, Zohrab (San Lazzaro, Venice). (Engl. trans. in The Uncanonical Writings of the Old Testament, by Jacques Issaverdens, Venice, 1901).

Czech (Bohemian)

1570 Bible, Melantrych (Prague).

1588 Bible, vol. 5; Solin (Kralitz).


1556 Bible, Gheyllaert (Emden).

1563 Bible, Lenaert der Kinderen (Biestkins) (Emden).

1589 Bible, Deux Aes (Leyden).

1614 Bible, Jan Canin (Biestkins) (Dort).

1637 Bible, States-General (Amsterdam).

1665 Bible, Jacob Braat (Dort).

1665 Bible, Helmich van Cappel (Gorinchem).

1874 De apocriefe boeken des Ouden Verbonds, trans. by Joh. Dyserinck (Haarlem).


1549 The volume of the bokes called Apocryipha: Coteining these bokes following. The thyrd boke of Esdras. . . The .iii. boke of Machabees; John Daye and W. Seres (London). [3 Macc. translated by Edmund Becke.]

1550 The Thyrde Boke of the Machabees, printed with: A brief and compendiouse table in manner of a concordaunce . . . by Henry Bullynger . . . Imprinted at London for Gualter Lynne.

1551 Matthew’s (or Tavener’s) Bible, with Edmund Becke’s trans. of 3 Macc.; Jhon Daye (London).

1563 The Third Book of the Maccabees, . . . in H. Bullinger’s Brief Concordance. . .; John Tysdale (London).

1727 Third Book of the Maccabees, in William Whiston’s Collection of Authentick Records Belonging to the Old and New Testament, i, pp. 162-199 (London).

1785 Bible, with notes by Thomas Wilson, ed. by Clement Crutwell, who also translated 3 Macc.; R. Crutwell (Bath).

1832 The Five Books of Maccabees, with notes, by Henry Cotton (Oxford).

1871 The Apocrypha: Greek and English in Parallel Columns, S. Bagster & Sons (London). [trans. by Sir Launcelot C. L. Brenton.]

1880 Apocrypha of the Old Testament, trans. by Edwin Cone Bissell (Edinburgh).

1884 Uncanonical and Apocryphal Scriptures, trans. by Wm. R. Churton (London).

1901 The Uncanonical Writings of the Old Testament Found in the Armenian MSS of the Library of St. Lazarus, trans. by Jacques lssaverdens (Venice).

1913 Third Maccabees, trans. by Cyril W. Emmet, in R. H. Charles (ed.), Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. i (Oxford).

1916 Third Maccabees, Translations of Early Documents, series ii, C. W. Emmet (London).

1953 Third and Fourth Books of Maccabees, by Moses Hadas (New York).

1977 Oxford Annotated Bible, with the Apocrypha, Expanded Edition, ed. H. G. May and B. M. Metzger (New York).


1550 Bible, Balthazar Arnouillet (Lyon).

1556 Bible, Héritiers du feu Jean Michel (Lyon)

1558 Bible, Michel du Boys (Lyon).

1562 Bible, Pierre Michel; Iaques Faure (Lyon).

1566 Bible, René Benoist; Nicolas Chesneau (Paris).

1568 Bible, René Benoist; Sebastien Nivelle (Paris).

1669 Bible, S. and H. des Marets; L. & D. Elzevier (Amsterdam).

1742 Livres apocryphes de I’ancien Testament in francrois, avec des notes, vol i, pp. 198-240 (Paris).

1856 J. Po Migne, Encyclopédie théologique, 3e série, vol. xxiii, cols.715-38.

1879 Bible, trans Édouard Reuss, part. vii (Paris).


1743 Bible, ed. by Prince Vakhusht (Moscow).


1529 Zurich, Swiss-German Bible, vol. 5, Apocrypha trans. by Leo Juda [whose version was also published separately by H. Steiner, Augsburg 1529]; Christoffel Froschauer (Zurich).

1531 Bible, Froschauer (Zurich).

1543 Bible, Froschauer (Zurich).

1545 Bible, Froschauer (Zurich).

1552 Bible, Froschauer (Zurich) [reprinted several times, 1543, 1545, 1552, 1560].

1554 3 Macc., trans. Joach. Ciremberger (Wittenberg).

1565 Bible, Johann und Heinrich denen Sternen Gebrudern (Luneburg). [In smaller type after the Prayer of Manasses: »Anhang oder Zugabe dreyer Bucher 3 und 4 Ezra und 3 Macc.«]

1596 Hamburg Polyglot, ed. David Wolder, part 5, Appendix; Jacob Lucius Juni (Hamburg).

1641 Bible, Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Weimar (Weimar).

1684 Bible, Andreas Hügenet, ed. by Johann Piscator (Bern). [3 Macc. precedes 1 and 2 Macc.]

1690 Bible, Johann Andrea Endters Seel. Söhne (Nurnberg).

1742 Bible, trans. by J. F. Haug et al., vol. 8, pp. 224-39 (Berleburg).

1743 Bible, Christoph Saur (Germantown, Pennsylvania). [The first Bible in a European language printed in America; contains Luther’s translation, with 3 Macc. from the Berleburg Bible, 1742.]

1776 Bible, trans. by Simon Gryniius; J. R. Im-Hof und Sohn (Basel).

1809-14 Bible, trans. by J. C. W. Augusti and W. M. L. de Wette; Engelmann und Meder (Heidelberg).

1818 Handbuch zum philol. Verstehen der Apokr. Schriften des A. T., Joh. Friedr. Gaab (Tübingen).

1841 Die Apokryphen des Alten Testaments, trans. by M. Gutmann (Altona).

1869 Vollständiges Bibelwerk für die Gemeinde, ed. Chr. C. J. Bunsen, II Abt., III Theil, Die Apokryphischen Bücher, ed. H. J. Holtzmann (Leipzig).

1898 Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments, E. Kautzsch, vol. ii (Tübingen).

1928 Altjudisches Schrifttum außerhalb der Bibel, trans. Paul Riessler (Augsburg).


1830 Kethubim acharmim, sive Hagiographa posteriora, S. J. Fraenkel (Leipzig).

1937 Hasepharim Hahizonim, ed. A. Kahana (Tel Aviv).


1551 Bible, Bruccioli (Venice).


1517 Complutensian Polyglot Bible, Francisco Ximenes, vol. 4; Arnaldus Guillelmus de Brocario (Alcala).

1522 Bible, A. Osiander the elder; F. Peypus (Nuremberg).

1527 Bible, Johannes Rudelius; Quental (Cologne).

1529 Bible, Johannes Rudelius; Quentel, 2nd ed. (Cologne).

1532 Bible, Melchior & Gasper Trechsel (Paris).

1543 Bible, Apocrypha, transl. by Petrus Cholinus; Chr. Froschoverus (Zürich).

1544 Bible, Nicholas Wolrab (Leipzig).

1564 Bible, Johannes Brenz (Tübingen).

1570 Antwerp Polyglot Bible, Benedictus Arias Montanus, vol. 4; Christopher Plantin (Antwerp).

1573 Bible, ed. Jacobus Faber; Sebastian Nivellius (Paris).

1577 Old Testament, part 2, Immanuel Tremellius and Franciscus Junius; And. Wechelus (Frankfort on Main).

1579 Old Testament, part 2, Immanuel Tremellius and Franciscus Junius; Henry Middleton (London). [3 Macc. precedes 1 and 2 Macc.]

1584 Bible, vol. 2, Franciscus Vatablus; Gaspar à Portonarijs suis & Guilielmi Rouillij (Salmantica).

1588 Old Testament, ed. Flaminius Nobilius; Georgius Ferrarius (Rome).

1596 Hamburg Polyglot, ed., Daniel Wolder, part. 5, Appendix; Jacob Lucius Juni (Hamburg).

1629 Paris Polyglot Bible, vol. 4, Antonius Vitray (Paris).

1630 Bible, Philipp Albertum, vol. ii, Part 4 (Geneva)

1657 London Polyglot Bible, ed. Brian Walton, vol. 4; Thomas Rycroft (London).

1660 Biblia Maxima versionum ex linguis orientalibus . . . ed. Joanne de la Haye, vol. 12 (Paris).


1688 Bible, trans. Nicolae Milescu, et al. (Bucharest).

1795 Bible, ed. by Samuil Klain (Blaj).


1875 Old Testament, Synod version (St. Petersburg).

1956 Bible, Patriarchate version (Moscow).


1581 Bible, auspices of Konstantine, Prince of Ostrog, printed by Fedorov (Ostrog).

1663 Bible, revision of 1581 Bible (Moscow).


1657 London Polyglot Bible, ed. Brian Walton, vol. 4; Thomas Rycroft (London), with a Latin translation.

1861 Libri Veteris Testamenti Apocryphi, Syriace, ed. Paul A. de Lagarde (Leipzig and London).


[1] For an index to his works, printed and in manuscript, and to works about him, see W. E. Köhler, Bibliographia Brentiana (Berlin, 1904). There is no complete edition of Brenz’s productions, though selected works in eight large folio volumes were published at Tübingen in 1576-1590. A Studienausgabe is currently under way, edited by Martin Brecht and Gerhard Schäfer (Tübingen, 1970 -).

[2] Cf. Fr. Henrich Reusch, Die Indices librorum prohibitorum des sechszehnten Jahrhunderts (Nieuwkoop, 1961).

 [3] Pars sec., vol. 3 (1783), p. 324.

[4] op. cit., item no.727.

[5] Whether these argumenta, as they are called, are the work of Brenz or of another has been questioned; see Jürgen Quack, Evangelische Bibelvorreden von der Reformation bis zur Aufklärung (Quellen und Forschungen zur Reformationsgeschichte, 43; Heidelberg, 1975), pp. 128 f., who attributes them to an anonymous writer. (I owe this reference to the kindness of Prof. Dr. Brecht.)

[6] Chr. Kolb, Die Bibel in der Evangelischen Kirche Altwürttembergs (Stuttgart, 1917), pp. 8 f.

[7] For an English translation of the little-known Fifth Book of Maccabees, see Henry Cotton’s The Five Books of Maccabees (Oxford, 1832).

[8] For this reason several editions of 3 Macc., identified in the list below, place it before 1 and 2 Macc., and Cotton (op. cit.) renames it »First Maccabees.«

[9] For the text of Liber de numeris, which probably originated in Irish circles on the continent (?Salzburg) about A.D. 750, see Ernst von Dobschütz, Das Decretum Gelasianum (Texte und Untersuchungen, vol. 38, Heft 4 [1912]), p. 68, lines 81-85. According to Martin McNamara, we cannot say whether the two books were known in Ireland itself (The Apocrypha in the Irish Church [Dublin, 1975], p. 28).

[10] A curiosity in Bible publishing is Bassandyne and Arbuthnot’s 1579 Bible (the first Bible printed in Scotland), containing the text of the 1560 Geneva version; at the bottom of the last page of 2 Maccabees is printed the title: The thirde boke of the Maccabees newlie translated out of the original Greke. But the book itself (which was not part of the Geneva version) is not included.