First Maccabees 7:34 employs four verbs to describe the offensive speech by Nicanor, the Seleucid general, addressed to the Jewish elders and priests. The third verb indicates that Nicanor defiled his audience. While this has led scholars to associate 1 Maccabees with the Jewish concept of gentile impurity, several factors suggest that, at this point, an error found its way into the Greek translation from the original Hebrew. The present argument comprises three steps. First, I use the biblical Sennacherib story, featured in the background of the Nicanor episode in 1 Maccabees, as a means of reconstructing the relevant original Hebrew verb employed by 1 Maccabees. Second, I suggest a possible misreading of one letter on the part of the Greek translator. Finally, I propose that a similar, earlier verse in 1 Maccabees, 1:24b, may have been conducive to the translator’s commission of this mistake, thus offering an insight into his way of thinking.

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