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Stelae, Elephants, and Irony: The Battle of Raphia and Its Import as Historical Context for 3 Maccabees

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
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  • 1 Marquette University, Milwaukee, wi, USA
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Abstract

The opening verses of 3 Maccabees set the story in the aftermath of the Battle of Raphia (217 bce); the significance of this historical setting has been overlooked. The Battle of Raphia is intimately related to the narrative at large in at least three ways. First, 3 Maccabees advocates for a counter-tradition to a stele tradition that arises out of Ptolemy’s victory at Raphia. Second, the story reworks the famous incident of Ptolemy’s elephant retreat at Raphia into a tale of praise for the God of the Jews. And finally, the book is invested with the irony already present in the historical realities of Ptolemy’s short-lived victory.

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