Hammer - Alfred J. Church

This story is based on the first book of Maccabees from the Old Testament. It is set during the Macedonian occupation of Judea (around 250 B.C.), a very critical period in Jewish history, and tells the story of a young Jewish man who is first attracted to the "modern" Greek way of life, but eventually joins the Maccabee brothers in their desperate revolt against their Macedonian overlords. The conflict between the cosmopolitan and decadent Greek manner of life, and the customs of traditional Judaism is well portrayed .

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[Book Cover] from The Hammer by Alfred J. Church
[Frontispiece] from The Hammer by Alfred J. Church


[Title Page] from The Hammer by Alfred J. Church


It is not so very long since the Apocrypha was found in almost every copy of the English Bible, but in the present day it is seldom printed with it, and very seldom indeed read. One or two of the writings included under this name are trivial and even absurd; but on the whole, the Apocryphal books deserve far more attention than they receive. Among the foremost, in point of interest and value, must be placed the First Book of Maccabees. Written within fifty years of the events which it records, at a time, it must be remembered, that was singularly barren of historical literature, it is a careful, sober, and consistent narrative. It is our principal, not unfrequently our sole, authority for the incidents of a very important period, a period that was in the highest degree critical in the history of the Jewish nation and of the world which that nation has so largely influenced. It is commonly said that the great visitation of the Captivity finally destroyed in the Hebrew mind, the tendency to idolatry. But the denunciations of Ezekiel prove to us that the exiles carried into the land of their captivity the evil which they had cherished in the land of their birth, and it is no less certain that they brought it back with them on their return. It grew to its height in the early part of the Second Century B.C., along with the increasing influence of Greek civilization in Western Asia. The feeble Jewish Commonwealth was more and more dominated by the powerful kingdoms which had been established on the ruins of the empire of Alexander, and the national religion was attacked by an enemy at least as dangerous as the Phoenician Baal-worship had been in the earlier days, an enemy which may be briefly described by the word Hellenism. The story of how Judas and his brothers led the movement which rescued the Jewish faith from this peril is the story which we have endeavoured to tell in this volume. Our plan has been to follow strictly the lines of the First Book of Maccabees, going to the Second, a far less trustworthy document, only for some picturesque incidents. The subsidiary characters are fictitious, but the narrative is, we believe, apart from casual errors, historically correct.

We have to acknowledge special obligations to Captian Conder's Judas Maccabaeus, a volume of the series entitled The New Plutarch. We also owe much to Canon Rawlinson's notes in the Speaker's Commentary on the Bible, to Canon Wescott's articles in the Dictionary of the Bible, and to Dean Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church.

If any reader should be curious as to the literary partnership announced on the title-page—a partnership that has grown, so to speak, out of another of many years' standing, shared by the writers as author and publisher—he may be informed that the plan of the story and a detailed outline of it have been contributed by Richmond Seeley, and the story itself written for the most part by Alfred Church.

       Sept. 3, 1889

[Contents Page 1 of 2] from The Hammer by Alfred J. Church
[Contents Page 2 of 2] from The Hammer by Alfred J. Church
[List of Illustrations] from The Hammer by Alfred J. Church