1, 2, 3, 4 Maccabees, 1 & 2 Esdras, The Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151
These are important works that tell of the period in which Hellenization (Greek culture and language) dominated the known world. These works describe the various responses to this influence. Greek thought and culture was both welcomed and feared. It also tells of persecution by Greek rulers and Jewish response. These works cover the period from the death of Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BCE to the first century CE.
1 Maccabees is history that recounts the origins of the Hasmonean Dynasty. It begins with the death of Alexander the Great and the rise to power of the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Here you will discover the origins of Hanakkuh.
2 Maccabees tells the same history of the first eight chapters of 1 Maccabees with a unique literary style. It is like a blog versus a news story! The martyrdom of the seven brothers is important for later Christian developments regarding resurrection.
1 Esdras reproduces 2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23, Ezra, and Nehemiah 7:38-8:12. If you have already read the canonical works, you might skim 1 Esdras and notice differences. Read 3:1-5:6 as this passage is unique to 1 Esdras.
The Prayer of Manasseh is a touching prayer of confession by the “wicked” king Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-18). It is a prayer of hope that even the most evil among us are capable of redemption.
Psalm 151. And you thought there were only 150 Psalms! This one isn’t too long. It is a psalm of David.
3 Maccabees is not about the Maccabees at all. It is about another bad guy, King Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-203 BCE) and the struggle that Jews living in Egypt had with him.
2 Esdras is the only apocalypse in the Apocrypha. It reads like the book of Revelation and chapter 7-13 of Daniel. A heavy dose of this will give you bad dreams. Apocalyptic literature told of troubles and of future hope of God’s victory through complex symbols revealed in dreams. The word apocalypse means revelation.
4 Maccabees is a philosophical treatise written around the time of Jesus. It is an interpretation of Judaism using Greek philosophy.