I was reading through 1 Maccabees the other day when I read 1.10-15 and it helped me better understand why the Apostle Paul would have received so much rebuff for saying things like “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. ” (Gal. 5.6) or “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. ” (Rom. 2.25-27)
In the aforementioned passage from 1 Maccabees it tells the story of Israel under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes and how some from within Israel compromised by living like the pagans. It reads:
“There sprang from these a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome. He became king in the year one hundred and thirty-seven of the kingdom of the Greeks. n those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying: “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.” The proposal was agreeable; some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. hey covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing.”
I can only imagine a Jew familiar with the story of the Maccabees as hearing nothing but compromise from Paul. He must have sounded like these men who lost their Jewish identity to be more like the pagans.