FOURTH BOOK OF MACCABEES

 

FOURTH BOOK OF MACCABEES

 

THIS book is like a fearful peal of thunder echoing out of the dim horrors of ancient tyranny. It is a chapter based on persecution by Antiochus, the tyrant of Syria, whom some called Epiphanes, The Madman. Roman history of the first cen­turies records two such tyrants the other, Caligula, the Second Brilliant Madman.

The form of this writing is that of an oration. So carefully timed are the risings and fallings of the speech; so devastating are its arguments; so unfaltering is its logic; so deep its thrusts; so cool its reasoningthat it takes its place as a sample of the sheerest eloquence.

The keynote is Courage. The writer begins with an impassioned statement of the Philosophy of Inspired Reason. We like to think of this twentieth Century as the Age of Reason and contrast it with the Age of Myths yet a writing such as this is a challenge to such an assumption. We find a writer who probably belonged to the first century before the Christian Era stating a clear-cut philosophy of Reason that is just as potent today as it was two thousand years ago.

The setting of the observations in the torture chambers is unre­lenting. On our modem ears attuned to gentler things it strikes appallingly. The details of the successive tortures (suggesting the instruments of the Spanish Inquisition centuries later) are elaborated in a way shocking to our taste. Even the emergence of the stoical characters of the Old man, the Seven Brothers, and the Mother, does nothing to soften the ferocity with which this orator conjures Courage.

The ancient Fathers of the Christian Church carefully preserved this book (we have it from a Syrian translation) as a work of high moral value and teaching, and it was undoubtedly familiar to many of the early Christian martyrs, who were aroused to the pitch of martyrdom by reading it.

 

 

CHAP. I.

An outline of philosophy from ancient times concerning In­spired Reason. Civilization has never achieved higher thought. A discussion of "Repressions." Verse 48 sums up the whole Philosophy of mankind.


PHILOSOPHICAL in the highest degree is the ques­tion I propose to discuss, namely whether the Inspired Reason is supreme ruler over the passions; and to the philosophy of it I would seriously entreat your earnest attention.

2   For not only is the subject generally necessary as a branch of knowledge, but it includes the praise of the greatest of virtues, whereby I mean self-control.

3   That is to say, if Reason  is proved to control the passions adverse to temperance, gluttony and lust, it is also clearly shown to be lord over the passions, like malevolence, opposed to justice, and over those opposed to man­liness, namely rage and pain and fear.

4   But, some may ask, if the Reason is master of the passions, why does it not control forget-fulness and ignorance? their ob­ ject being to cast ridicule.

5   The answer is that Reason is not master over defects in­ hering in the mind itself, but over the passions or moral de­ fects that are adverse to justice and manliness and  temperance and judgement; and its action in their case is not to extirpate the passions,  but  to  enable  us to resist them successfully.

6   I could bring before you many examples, drawn from various sources, where Reason has proved itself master over the passions, but the best instance by far that I can give is the noble conduct of those who died for the sake of virtue, Eleazar, and the Seven Brethren and themMother.

7   For these all by their con­ tempt of pains, yea, even unto death, proved that Reason rises superior to the passions.

8   I might enlarge here in praise of their virtues, they, the men with the Mother, dying on this day we celebrate for the love of moral beauty and good­ness, but rather would I felici­ tate them on the honours they have attained.

9   For the admiration felt for  their courage and endurance, not only by the world at large but by their very executioners, made them the authors of the down­ fall of the tyranny under which our nation lay,  they defeating the tyrant by their endurance,

so that through them was their country purified.

10But I shall presently take opportunity to discuss this, after we have begun with the general theory, as I am in the habit of doing, and I will then proceed to their story, giving glory to the all-wise God.

11     Our enquiry, then, is whether the Reason is supreme master over the passions.

12     But we must  define  just what the Reason is and what passion is, and how many forms of passion there are, and whether the Reason is supreme over all of them.

13  Reason I take to be the mind preferring with clear de­ liberation the life of wisdom.

14  Wisdom I take to be the knowledge of things, divine and human, and of their causes.

15      This I take to be the cul­ ture  acquired  under the  Law, through which we learn with due reverence the things of God and for our worldly profit the things of man.

16     Now wisdom is manifested under the forms  of judgement and justice,  and courage,  and temperance.

17 But judgement or self-control is the one that domi­ nates them all, for through it, in truth,   Reason   asserts   its   au­ thority over the passions.

18 But of the passions there are two comprehensive ources, namely, pleasure and pain, and either belongs  essentially also to the soul as well as to the body.

19 And with respect both to pleasure and pain there are many cases where the passions have certain sequences.

20 Thus while desire goes be­ fore pleasure, satisfaction follows after, and while fear goes before pain, after pain comes sorrow.

21Anger, again, if a man will retrace the course of his feelings, is a passion in which are blended both pleasure and pain.

22 Under pleasure, also, cornea that  moral debasement   which exhibits the widest variety of the passions.

23 It manifests itself in thesoul as ostentation, and covet-ousness, and vain-glory, and con­ tentiousness, and backbiting, and in the body as eating of strange meat,  and   gluttony,   and  gor­mandizing in secret.

24  Now pleasure and pain being as it were two trees, grow­ ing from body and soul, many offshoots of these passions sprout up; and each man's R-eason as master-gardener,   weeding and pruning and binding up, and turning on the water and direct­ ing it hither and thither, brings the thicket of dispositions and passions under domestication.

25      For  while  Reason is  the guide of the virtues it is master of the passions.

26      Observe, now, in the first place, that Reason becomes su­ preme over the passions in vir­ tue of the inhibitory action of temperance.

27      Temperance, I take it, is the repression of the desires; but of the desires some are mental and some physical, and both kinds are clearly controlled by Reason; when we are tempted towards forbidden meats, how do we come to relinquish the pleas­

ures to be derived from them?

28       Is it not that Reason has power to repress the appetites? In my opinion it is so.

29 Accordingly when we feel a desire to eat water-animals and birds and beasts and meats of every  description  forbidden  to us under the Law,  we abstain through   the   predominance   o' Reason.

30 For the propensions of out appetites  are  checked  and  in­ hibited by the temperate mind and all the movements of the body obey the bridle of Reason.

31   And what is there to be surprised at if the natural desir if the soul to enjoy the fruition, if beauty is quenched?

32       This, certainly, is why we praise the virtuous Joseph, because   by   his   Reason,   with   a mental  effort,  he  checked the carnal impulse.* For he, a young man at the age when physical desire is strong, by his Reason quenched   the   impulse   of   his passions.

33       And Reason is proved to subdue the impulse not only of sexual desire,  but  of all  sorts of covetings.

34       For the Law says, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor anything that is thy neighbour's.'

35       Verily, when the Law orders us not to covet, it should, I think, confirm strongly the argument that the Reason is capable of controlling covetous desires, even as it does the pas­ sions that militate against justiee.

36 How else can a man, natu­rally gormandizing and greedy and drunken, be taught to change his nature, if the Reason be not manifestly the master of the passions?

37  Certainly, as soon as a man orders his life according to the Law,  if  he  is miserly he acts contrary to his nature, and lends money to the needy without in­ terest, and at the seventh-year periods cancels the debt.

38  And if he is parsimonious,  he   is   overruled   by   the Law through  the  action of Reason, and refrains  from gleaning his stubbles   or   picking   the   last grapes from his vineyards.

39     And with regard to all the rest we can recognize that Reason is in the position of master over the passions or affections.

40  For the Law ranks above affection for parents, so that a man may not for their sakes sur­ render his virtue, and it over­ rides love for a wife, so that if she transgress a man should re buke her, and it governs love for children, so that if they are naughty a man should punish them, and it controls the claims of friendship, so that a man should reprove his friends if they do evil.

41      And do not  think it a paradoxical thing when Reason through the Law is able to overcome even hatred, so that a man refrains from cutting down the enemy's orchards, and pro­ tects the property of the enemy from the spoilers, and gathers up

their   goods   that   have   been scattered.

42      And the rule of Reason is likewise proved to extend through the more aggressive pas­sions or vices, ambition, vanity, ostentation, pride, and backbit­ ing.

43      For the temperate mind repels all these debased passions, even as it does anger, for it conquers even this.

44      Yea, Moses when he was angered   against   Dathan   and Abiram did not give free course to his wrath, but governed his anger by his Reason.

45 For the temperate mind is able, as I said, to win the victory over the passions, modifying some, while crushing others ab­solutely.

46        Why else did our wise father Jacob blame the houses of Simeon and Levi for their un­ reasoning slaughter of the tribe of the Shechemites, saying, 'Ac­ cursed be their anger!'

47        For had not Reason pos­ sessed the power to restrain their anger he would not have spoken thus.

48   For in the day when God created man, he implanted in him his passions and inclinations, and also, at the very same time, set the mind on a throne amidst the

senses to be his sacred guide in all things;  and to the mind he gave the Law, by the which if a man order himself, he shall reign over a kingdom that is temperate, and just, and virtu­ous, and brave.

 

 

CHAP. II.

The ruling of Desire and Anger. The story of David's thirst. Stirring chapters of ancient his­tory. Savage attempts to make the Jews eat swine. Interesting references to an ancient bank (Verse 21.)

 


WELL then, someone may ask, if Reason is master of the passions why is it not master of forgetfulness and igno­rance?

2   But the argument is su­premely ridiculous. For Reason is not shown to be master over passions or defects in itself, but over those of the body.

3   For example, none of you is able to extirpate our natural de­ sire, but the Reason can enable him  to  escape  being made  a slave by desire.

4   None of you is able to extir­ pate anger from the soul, but X is possible for the Reason to come to his aid against anger.

5 None of you can extirpate malevolent   disposition,   but Reason can be his powerful ally against being swayed by malev­olence.

6   Reason is not the extirpate of the passions, but their an­ tagonist.

7   The case of the thirst of Sing David may serve at least to make this clearer.

8For when David had fought :he   live-long   day   against   the 3hilistines, and by the help of our country's warriors had slain many of them, lie came at even-ide, all fordone with sweat and oil, to the royal tent, around vhich was encamped the whole army of our ancestors.

9So all the host fell to their evening   meal;   but   the   king, being consumed with an intense thirst, though he had abundance of water, was unable to slake it.

10     Instead, an irrational desire for the water that was in the possession  of  the  enemy _ with growing intensity burned him up and  unmanned  and  consumed him.

11     Then when his body-guard murmured against the craving of the  king,   two  youths,   mighty warriors, ashamed that their king should lack his desire, put on

all their armour,  and took  a water-vessel,    and   scaled   the enemy's ramparts; and stealing undetected past the guards at the gate, they searched through

all the enemy's camp.

12     And  they  bravely  found the spring, and drew from it a draught for the king.

13     But David, though still burning with the thirst, con­ sidered that such a draught, reckoned as equivalent to blood, was a grievous danger to his soul.

14  Therefore, opposing hi Reason to his desire, he poured out the water as an offering to God.

15 For the temperate mind is able to conquer the dictates of the passions, and to quench the fires  of  desire,  and to  wrestle victoriously with the pangs oi our bodies though they be ex­ ceeding strong, and by the mora! beauty and goodness of Reason

to defy with scorn all the domi­ nation of the passions.

16And now the occasion calls us to set forth the story of the self-controlled Reason.

17At a time when our fathers enjoyed great peace through the due observance of the Law, anc were in happy case, so that Se-leucus Nicanor, the king of Asia sanctioned the tax for the tern pie-service, and recognized our polity, precisely then, certaii

men, acting factiously against the general concord, involved us n many and various calamities.

17   Onias, a man of the highest character, being then high priest and having the office for his life, certain Simon raised a faction against him,  but since despite every kind of slander he failed o injure him on account of the Deople, he fled abroad with inent to betray his country.

19So he came to Apollonius, the   governor   of   Syria   and Phoenicia and Cilicia, and said, Being loyal to the king, I am lere to inform you that in the ;reasuries of Jerusalem are stored many thousands of private de­ posits, not belonging to the tem­ ple account, and rightfully the property of King Seleucus.'

20       Apollonius   having   made inquiry into the details of the matter, praised Simon for his loyal service to the king, and hastening to the court of Se­ leucus, disclosed to him the valu­ able treasure; then, after receiv­ ing authority to deal with the matter,   he  promptly  marched into our country, accompanied by the accursed Simon and a

very powerful  army,  and an­ nounced that he was there by the king's command to take pos­session of the private deposits in the treasury.

21       Our   people   were   deeply angered by this announcement, and protested strongly, consider­ing it an outrageous thing for those who had entrusted their deposits to the temple treasury to be robbed of them, and they threw all possible obstacles in his way.

22       Apollonius, however, with threats, made his way into the temple.

23   Then   the   priests   in   the temple and the women and chil­ dren besought God to come to the rescue of his Holy Place that was being violated;  and when Apollonius with his armed host marched in to seize the moneys, there   appeared   from   heaven angels, riding upon horses, with lightning flashing from their arms, and cast great fear and trembling upon them.

24        And Apollonius fell down half-dead in the Court of the Gentiles, and stretched out his hands to heaven, and with tears he entreated the Hebrews that they   would   make   intercession for him and stay the wrath of the heavenly host.

25        For he said that he had sinned and was worthy even of death, and that if he were given his life he would laud to all men the blessedness of the Holy Place.

26        Moved   by   these   words, Onias, the high-priest, although most scrupulous in other cases, made intercession for him lest king   Seleucus   should   possibly think that  Apollonius had been overthrown by a human device and not by divine justice.

27        Apollonius,   accordingly, after his astonishing deliverance departed to report to the king the things that had befallen him.

28        But Seleucus dying, his suc­cessor on the throne was his son Antiochus Epiphanes, an  over­ weening terrible man; who dis­ missed   Onias  from  his   sacred office, and made his brother Jason high-priest instead, the condition being that in return for the ap­ pointment Jason should pay him three thousand six hundred and sixty talents yearly.

29        So   he   appointed   Jason high-priest and made him chief ruler over the people.

30        And he (Jason) introduced to our people a new way of life and a new constitution in utter defiance of the Law; so that not only  did  he  lay out  a gym­ nasium on the Mount of our fathers, but he actually abolished the service of the temple.

31    Wherefore the divine jus­tice was kindled to anger and brought Antiochus himself as an enemy against us. For when he was carrying on war with Ptolemy in Egypt and heard that the people of Jerusalem had rejoiced exceed­ingly over a report of his death, he immediately marched back against them.

33 And when he had plun­dered the city he made a decree denouncing the penalty of death upon any who should be seen to live after the Law of our fathers.

34     But he found all his decrees of no avail to break down the constancy of our people to the Law, and he beheld all his threats and penalties utterly despised, so that even women for circumcis­ ing their sons, though they knew beforehand what would be their fate, were flung, together with their   offspring,   headlong   from the rocks.

35     When therefore his decrees continued to be contemned by the mass of the people, he per­ sonally tried to force by tortures each man separately to eat un­ clean meats and thus abjure the Jewish religion.

36     Accordingly, the tyrant Antiochus, accompanied by his councillors, sat in judgement ona a certain high place with his troops drawn up around him in

full armour, and he ordered his guards to drag there every single man of the Hebrews and compel them to eat swine's flesh and things offered to idols; but if any should   refuse  to defile them­ selves with the unclean things, they were to be tortured and put

to death.

37     And when many had been taken by  force,  one man first from among the company was brought before   Antiochus,    a Hebrew whose name was Eleazar, a  priest   by   birth, trained   in knowledge of the law, a man ad­ vanced in years and well known

to many of the tyrant's court for his philosophy.

38  And Antiochus, looking on him, said: 'Before I allow the tortures to begin for you, 0 venerable man, I would give you this counsel, that you should eat of the flesh of the swine and save your life; for I respect your age and your grey hairs, although to have worn them so long a time, and still to cling to the Jewish religion, makes me think you no phi­losopher.

39      For most excellent is the meat of this animal which Na­ture   has   graciously   bestowed upon us, and why should you abominate it?   Truly it is folly not to enjoy innocent pleasures, and it is wrong to reject Nature's favours.

40      But it will be still greater folly, I think, on your part if with idle vapouring about truth you shall proceed to defy even me to your own punishment.

41      Will you not awake from your   preposterous   philosophy? Will you not fling aside the non­ sense of your calculations and, adopting another frame of mind befitting your mature years, learn the true philosophy of expedi­ ency, and bow to my charitable

counsel, and have pity on your own venerable age?

42      For consider this, too, that even  if  there  be  some Power whose eye is upon this religion of yours, he will always pardon you for a transgression   done under compulsion.'

43      Thus urged by the tyrant to the unlawful eating of unclean meat, Eleazar asked permission to speak;   and receiving it, he began his speech before the court as follows:

44    'We, 0 Antiochus, having accepted the Divine Law as the Law of our country, do not be­ lieve any  stronger necessity  is laid upon us than that of our obedience to the Law.

45        Therefore   we   do   surely deem it right not in any way whatsoever   to  transgress   the Law.

46   And yet, were our Law, as you suggest, not truly divine, while we vainly believed it to be divine, not even so would it be right for us to destroy our repu­tation for piety.

47 Think it not, then, a small sin for us to eat the unclean thing, for the transgression of the Law, be it in small things or in great, is equally heinous; for in either case equally the Law is despised.

48 And you scoff at our phi­losophy, as if under it we were living in a manner contrary to reason.

49        Not so, for the Law teaches us self-control, so that we are masters of all our pleasures and desires and are thoroughly trained in manliness so as to en­dure all pain with readiness; and it teaches justice, so that with all our various dispositions we act fairly, and it teaches right­ eousness, so that with due rever­

ence we worship only the God who is.

50        Therefore do we eat no un­ clean  meat;   for  believing   our Law to be given by God, we know also that the Creator of the world, as a Lawgiver, feels for us according to our nature.

51       He has commanded us to eat the things that will be con­ venient for our souls, and he has forbidden us to eat meats that would be the contrary.

52       But it is the act of a tyrant that you should compel us not only to transgress the Law, but should also make us eat in such manner that you may mock at

this defilement so utterly abomi­ nable to us.

53       But you shall not mock at me thus, neither will I break the sacred oaths of my ancestors to keep the Law, not even though you   tear   out   mine   eyes   and burn out mine entrails.

54 I am not so unmanned by old age but that when righteous­ ness is at stake the strength of youth returns to my Reason.

55       So twist hard your racks and blow your furnace hotter, do not so pity mine old age as to break the Law of my fathers in mine own person.

56       I will not belie thee, 0 Law that wast my teacher; I will not desert thee, 0 beloved self-con­ trol; I will not put thee to shame, 0 wisdom-loving Reason, nor will I deny ye, 0 venerated priesthood and knowledge of the Law.

57       Neither shalt thou sully the pure mouth of mine old age and my lifelong constancy to the Law. Clean  shall  my   fathers receive me, unafraid of thy tor­ ments even to the death.

58       For thou indeed mayest be tyrant over unrighteous men, but thou shalt not lord it over my resolution in the matter of right­ eousness either by thy words or through thy deeds.'


 

CHAP. III.

Eleazar, the gentle spirited old man, shows such fortitude that even as we read these words 2000 years later, they seem like an inextinguishable fire.

 


BUT when Eleazar replied i thus eloquently to the ex­hortations of the tyrants, the guards around him dragged him roughly to the torturing place.

2   And first they unclothed the old man, who was adorned with the beauty of holiness.

3   Then binding his  arms on either side they scourged  him, a herald standing and shouting out over against him, 'Obey the orders of the king!'

4   But   the   great-souled   and noble man, an Eleazar in very truth, was no more moved in his mind than if he were being  tormented in a dream;  yea, the old man keeping his eyes stead­ fastly raised to heaven suffered his   flesh   to   be   torn   by   the

scourges till he was bathed in blood and his sides became a mass of wounds; and even when he fell to the ground because his body could no longer support the pain he still kept his Reason erect and inflexible.

5   "With his foot then one of the cruel guards as he fell kicked him savagely in the side to make him get up.

6   But he endured the anguish, and despised the compulsion, and bore up under the torments, and like a brave athlete taking pun­ishment, the old man outwore his tormentors.

7   The sweat stood on his brow, and he drew his breath in hard gasps, till his nobility of soul extorted the admiration of his tormentors themselves.

8   Hereupon, partly in pity for his old age, partly in sympathy for their friend,  partly in ad­ miration of his courage, some of the courtiers of the king went up to him and said:

9   'Why, 0 Eleazar, dost thou madly   destroy   thyself  in  this misery?   We will bring to thee of  the  seethed  meats,  but  do thou feign only to partake of the swine's flesh, and so save thyself.'

10    And  El eazar,  as   if  their counsel did but add to his tor­ tures, cried loudly: 'No.   May we sons of Abraham never have so evil a thought as with faint heart to counterfeit a part unseemly to us.

11Contrary to Reason, in­ deed, were it for us, after living unto the truth till old age, and guarding   in   lawful   guise   the repute   of   so .living,   now   to change and become in our own persons a pattern to the young of impiety, to the end that we should encourage  them  to  eat unclean meat.

12    Shame were it if we should ive  on  a  little  longer,  during ;hat little being mocked of all men  for  cowardice,   and  while despised by the tyrant as un­ manly should fail to defend the Divine Law unto the death.

13     Therefore, 0 sons of Abra­ham, do ye die nobly for right­ eousness' sake; but as for you, O minions of the tyrant, why pause ye in your work?'

14     So they, seeing him thus triumphant   over   the   tortures and unmoved even by the pity of his executioners, dragged him to the fire.

15     There they cast him on it, burning  him with cruelly cun­ning  devices,  and they  pourd broth  of  evil  odour  into   his  nostrils.

16     But when the fire already reached to his bones and he was about to give up the ghost, he lifted up his eyes to God and said:

17     'Thou, 0 God, knowest that though I might save my­self I am dying by fiery torments for thy Law. Be merciful unto thy people, and let our punish­ ment be a satisfaction in their behalf. Make my blood their purification, and take my soul to ransom their souls.'

18     And with these words the holy man nobly yielded up his spirit under the torture, and for the sake of the Law held out by his Reason even against the torments unto death.

19     Beyond question, then, the Inspired Reason is master over the passions; for if his passions or sufferings had prevailed over his Reason we should have cred­ ited them with this evidence of their superior power.

20     But now his Reason having conquered his passions, we prop­erly attribute to it the power oi commanding them.

21     And it is right that we should admit that the mastery lies with reason, in cases at least where it conquers pains that come from outside our­ selves; for it were ridiculous to deny it.

22  And my proof covers not only the superiority of Reason o pains, but its superiority to pleasures also; neither does it surrender to them.


 

 

 

CHAP. IV.

 

This so called "Age of Reason" may in this chapter read that the Philosophy of Reason is 2000 years old. The story of seven sons and their mother.

 


FOR the Reason of our father Eleazar, like a fine steers­man steering the ship of sanctity on the sea of the passions, though buffeted by the threats of the tyrant and swept by the swelling waves of the tortures, never shifted for one moment the helm of sanctity until he sailed into the haven of victory over death.

2  No city besieged with many and   cunning   engines  ever  de­ fended itself so well as did that holy man when his sacred soul was attacked with scourge and rack and flame, and he moved them who were laying siege to his soul through his Reason that was the shield of sanctity.

3  For our father Eleazar, set­ ting his mind firm as a beetling sea-cliff, broke the mad onset of the surges of the passions.

4  0   priest   worthy   of   thy priesthood, thou didst not defile thy holy teeth, nor didst thou befoul with unclean meat thy belly that had  room only for piety and purity.

5  0 confessor of the Law and philosopher of the Divine life! Such should those be whose office is to serve the Law and defend it with their own blood and hon­

ourable sweat in the face of suf­ ferings to the death.

6  Thou, 0 father, didst fortify our fidelity to the Law through thy   steadfastness   unto   glory; and having spoken in honour of holiness thou didst not belie thy speech,  and  didst confirm the words of divine philosophy by thy deeds, 0 aged man that wast more forceful than the tortures.

7   0 reverend elder that wast tenser-strung   than   the   flame, thou great king over the pas­ sions, Eleazar.

8   For  as   our  father  Aaron, armed   with   the   censer,    ran through   the   massed   congrega­ tion against the fiery angel and overcame   him,   so  the  son  of Aaron, Eleazar, being consumed by the melting heat of the fire, remained unshaken in his Reason.

9   And yet most wonderful of all, he, being an old man, with the sinews of his body unstrung and his muscles relaxed and his nerves weakened, grew a young man again in the spirit of his Reason and with Isaac-like Rea­ son   turned   the   hydra-headed

torture to impotence.

10       0 blessed age, 0 reverend g*y head, O life faithful to the Law and perfected by the seal of death!

11       Assuredly, then, if an old man despised the torments unto death for righteousness' sake it must be admitted that the In­ spired Reason is able to guidethe passions.

12       But some perhaps may an­ swer that not all men are masters of the passions because not all men have their Reason enlight­ ened.

13       But as many as with their whole heart make righteousness their first thought, these alone are able to master the weakness of the flesh, believing that unto God they die not, as our patri­archs, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, died not, but that they

live unto God.

14       Therefore there is nothing contradictory in certain persons appearing to be slaves to passion in consequence of the weakness of their Reason.

15   For who is there that being a   philosopher   following   right­ eously  the  whole  rule  of  phi­ losophy, and having put his trust in God, and knowing that it is a blessed thing to endure all hardness for the sake of virtue, would not conquer his passions for the sake of righteousness?

16       For the wise and self-con­trolled man alone is the brave ruler of the passions.

17       Yea, by this means even young boys, being philosophers by virtue of the Reason which is  according   to   righteousness, have triumphed over yet more grievous tortures.

18       For when the tyrant found himself notably defeated in his first attempt, and impotent to compel an old man to eat un­ clean meat, then truly in violent rage he ordered the guards to bring others of the young men of   the   Hebrews,   and   if  they

would eat unclean meat to re­ lease them after eating it, but if they refused,  to torture them yet more savagely.

19       And under these orders of the tyrant  seven brethren to­ gether with their aged mother were brought prisoners before him, all handsome, and modest, and well-born, and generally at­ tractive.

20   And when the tyrant saw them there, standing as if they were a festal  choir with their mother in the  midst,  he took notice of them, and struck by their   noble   and   distinguished bearing he smiled at them, and calling them nearer said:

21       '0 young men, I wish well to each one of you, and admire  your beauty, and honour highly so large a band of brothers; so not only do I advise you not to persist in the madness of that old man who has already suf­ fered, but I even entreat of you to yield to me and become par­ takers in my friendship.

22       For, as I am able to pun­ ish those who disobey my orders, so am I able to advance those who do obey me.

23   Be assured then that you shall be given positions of im­portance and authority in my service if you will reject the ancestral law of your polity.

24   Share in the Hellenic life, and walk in a new way, and take   some   pleasure   in   your youth;  for if you drive me to anger   with   your disobedience you will compel me to resort to terrible penalties and put every single one of you to death by torture.

25        Have pity then on your­ selves, whom even I, your oppo­nent, pity for your youth and your beauty.

26         Will you not consider with yourselves this thing, that if you disobey me there is nothing be­ fore you but death in torments?'

27   With these words he  or­ dered the instruments of torture to be brought forward in order to persuade them by fear to eat unclean meat.

28       But when the guards had produced wheels, and joint-dis-locators,  and racks,  and bone- crushers,    and   catapults,   and cauldrons,    and   braziers,    and thumb-screws,   and  iron  claws, and wedges, and branding irons, the tyrant spoke again and said:

29       'You had better feel fear, my lads,  and the justice you worship  will  pardon your  un­ willing transgression.'

30       But they, hearing his per­ suasions, and seeing his dreadful engines, not only showed no fear but actually arrayed their phi­ losophy   in   opposition   to   the tyrant, and by their right Rea­ son did abase his tyranny.

31       And yet consider; suppos­ ing some amongst them to have been faint-hearted and cowardly, what   sort   of   language  would they have used? would it no' have been to this effect?

32'Alas!   miserable creatures that we are and foolish abovi measure!    When the king in vites us and appeals to us on ierms of kind treatment shall we aot obey him?

33       Why do we encourage ourselves with vain desires and dare a disobedience that is to cost us jur lives?   Shall we not, 0 men my brothers, fear the dread in­ struments   and  weigh  well  his ;hreats   of   the   tortures,   and abandon   these   empty   vaunts and this fatal bragging?

34       Let us take pity on our own youth and have compassionon our mother's age; and let us lay to heart that if we disobey we shall die.

35       And even the divine justice will have mercy on us, if com­pelled by necessity we yield to the king in fear.   Why should we cast away from us this dear Jife and  rob  ourselves  of this sweet world?

36       Let us not strive against necessity  nor  with  vain confi­ dence invite our torture.

37   Even the Law itself does not   willingly   condemn   us   to death, we being in terror of the instruments of torture.

38       Why does such contentious­ ness inflame us and a fatal obsti­ nacy find favour with us, when we might have a peaceful life by obeying the king?'

39       But no such words escaped these young men at the prospect of  the   torture,  nor  did  such thoughts enter into their minds.

40       For they were despisers of the passions and masters overpain.


 

 

CHAP. V.

A chapter of horror and torture revealing ancient tyranny at its

utmost   savagery.  Verse 26 is profound truth.

 


AND thus no sooner did the tyrant conclude his urging of them to eat unclean meat than all with one voice together, and as with one soul, said to him:

2   'Why  dost  thou  delay, 0 tyrant?    We are ready to die rather than transgress the com mandments of our fathers.

3   For we should  be putting our ancestors also to shame, I we did not walk in obedience to the Law and take Moses as our counsellor.

4   0 tyrant that counsellest us to transgress the Law, do not hating us, pity us beyond our­ selves.

5   For we es teem thy mercygiving us our life in return for a breach of the Law, a thing harder to bear than death itself.

6   Thou   wouldst   terrify   us with thy threats of death under torture, as if a little while ago thou hadst learned nothing from Eleazar.

7   But if the old men of the Hebrews   endured  the   tortures for righteousness' sake, yea, until they died, more befittingly will we young men die despising the torments of thy compulsion, over which he our aged teacher also triumphed.

8   Make    trial   therefore,    0 tyrant.   And if thou takest our lives for the sake of righteous­ ness, think not that thou hurtest us with thy tortures.

9   For we through this our evil entreatment and our endurance of it shall win the prize of vir­ tue;   but  thou   for  our   cruel murder shalt suffer at the hands of divine justice sufficient tor­ ment by fire for ever.'

10     These words of the youths redoubled   the   wrath   of   the tyrant, not at their disobedience only but at what he considered their ingratitude.

11     So    by   his   orders   the scourgers  brought  forward  the eldest of them and stripped him of his garment and bound his hands and arms on either side

with thongs.

12  But when they had scourged   him   till   they   were weary,    and    gained    nothing thereby, they cast him upon the wheel.

13     And on it the noble youth was racked till his bones were out of joint.   And as joint after joint gave  way,  he denounced the tyrant in these words:

14     '0 thou most abominable tyrant, thou enemy of the justice of  heaven  and  bloody-minded, thou dost torment me in this fashion not for manslaying nor for impiety  but  for defending the Law of God.'

15     And when the guards said to  him,  'Consent  to  eat,  that so you may  be  released  from your tortures,' he said to them, 'Your method, 0 miserable min­ ions, is  not  strong  enough  to lead captive my Reason.    Cut off my limbs, and burn my flesh, and twist my joints; through all the torments I  will show you that in behalf of virtue the sons of the Hebrews alone are uncon­ querable.'

16     As he thus spake they set bot coals upon him besides, and intensifying the torture strained iim yet tighter on the wheel.

17     And all the wheel was be­ smeared with his blood, and the leaped coals were quenched by ;he humours of his body drop­ ping down, and the rent flesh ran   round   the   axles   of   the machine.

18     And with his bodily frame already in dissolution this greatsouled youth, like a true son of Abraham, groaned not at all; )ut as if he were suffering a :hange by fire to incorruption, he nobly endured the torment, laying:

19     'Follow   my   example,   0 mothers.  Do not for ever desert ne,    and    forswear    not    our rotherhood in nobility of soul.

20  War a holy and honour­able warfare on behalf of right­ eousness, through which may the ust Providence that watched iver our fathers become merci-ul unto his people and take vengeance  on the accursed tyrant.'

21     And with these words the holy youth yielded up the ghost.

22     But while all were wonder­ing at his constancy of soul, the guards brought forward the sec­ ond in age of the sons, and grap­pling   him   with   sharp-clawed hands of iron they fastened him to the engines and the catapult.

23     But when they heard his noble resolve in answer to their question, 'Would he eat rather than be tortured?' these pantherlike  beasts  tore  at  his  sinews with  claws  of  iron,   and   rent away   all   the   flesh   from   his cheeks,   and  tore  off  the  skin from his head.

24     But he steadfastly endur­ ing this agony said, 'How sweet is every form of death for the sake of the righteousness of our fathers!'

25     And to the tyrant he said, 'O most ruthless of tyrants, doth not it seem to thee that at this moment   thou   thyself  sufferest tortures worse than mine in see­ ing thy  tyranny's arrogant in­ tention overcome by my endur­ ance for righteousness' sake?

26     For I am supported under pain   by   the   joys   that   come through virtue, whereas thou art in torment whilst glorying in thy impiety;  neither shalt thou es­ cape, 0 most abominable tyrant, the penalties of the divine wrath.'

27     And when he had bravely met his glorious death, the third son  was  brought  forward  and was earnestly entreated by many to taste and so to save himself.

28     But he answered in a loud voice, 'Are ye ignorant that the same father begat me and my brothers that are dead, and the same mother gave us birth, and in  the  same  doctrines  was  I brought up?

29     I do not forswear the noble bond of brotherhood.

30  Therefore if ye have any engine of torment, apply it to this body of mine; for my soul ye cannot reach, not if ye would.'

31     But    they    were    greatly angered at the bold speech of the man, and they  dislocated his hands  and his  feet with their dislocating engines, and wrenched his limbs out of their sockets, and unstrung them;   and they twisted  round  his fingers,  and

his arms, and his legs, and his elbow-joints.

32     And in no wise being able to    strangle    his    spirit    they stripped off his skin, taking the points of the fingers with it, and tore   in   Scythian   fashion   the scalp from his head, and straight­ way brought him to the wheel.

33     And on this they twisted his  spine  till he saw his  own flesh hanging in strips and great gouts   of   blood   pouring   down from his entrails.

34     And at the point of death he said, 'We, 0 most abominable tyrant, suffer thus for our up­ bringing and our virtue that are of God; but thou for thy impiety and thy cruelty shall endure tor­ ments without end.'

35  And when this man  had died  worthily  of  his  brothers, they brought up the fourth, and said to him, 'Be not thou also mad with the same madness as thy brethren, but obey the king and save thyself.'

36  But  he  said  unto  them, 'For me ye have no fire so ex­ ceeding hot as to make me a coward.

37  By  the  blessed  death  of my   brethren,   by   the   eternal doom of the tyrant, and by the glorious life of the righteous, I will not deny my noble brother­ hood.

38  Invent tortures, 0 tyrant, in order that thou mayest learn thereby that  I  am brother of those  who  have  been  already tortured.'

39  When   he  heard  this  the bloodthirsty,    murderous,    and utterly abominable   Antiochus bade them cut out his tongue.

40      But he said, 'Even if thou dost remove my organ of speech, God  is  a  hearer also  of  the speechless.

41      Lo, I put out my tongue ready: cut it out, for thou shalt not thereby silence my Reason.

42      Gladly   do   we   give   our bodily members to be mutilated for the cause of God.

43      But God will speedily pur­ sue after thee; for thou cuttest out the tongue that sang songs of praise unto him.'

44      But  when  this  man  also was put to a death of agony with   the   tortures,   the   fifth sprang forward saying, 'I shrink not, 0 tyrant, from demanding the torture for virtue's sake.

45      Yea, of myself I come for­ ward, in order that, slaying me also, thou mayest by yet more misdeeds   increase   the   penalty thou   owest   to   the   justice   of Heaven.

46      0   enemy   of   virtue   and enemy of man, for what crime dost  thou  destroy us  in this way?

47      Doth it seem evil to thee that we worship the Creator of all   and   live   according  to his virtuous Law?

48      But these things are worthy of honours  not of tortures,  if thou   didst   understand   human aspirations  and hadst hope  of salvation before God.

49      Lo,  now  thou   art   God's enemy and makest war on thosethat worship God.'

50 As he spake thus the guards bound him and brought him before the catapult; and they tied him thereto on his knees, and, fastening them there with iron clamps, they wrenched his loins over the rolling 'wedge' so that he was completely curled back like a scorpion and every joint was disjointed.

51 And thus in grievous strait for breath and anguish of body he exclaimed, 'Glorious, 0 tyrant, glorious against thy will are the boons that thou bestowest on me, enabling me to show my fidelity to the Law through yet more honourable tortures.'

52     And  when  this man also was dead, the sixth was brought, a mere boy, who in nswer to the tyrant's inquiry whether he was willing to eat and be re­ leased, said:

53     'I am not so old in years as my brethren, but I am as old in mind. For we were born and reared for the same purpose and are equally bound also to die for the same cause; so if thou chooseth to torture us for not eating unclean meat, torture.'

54     As he  spake  these words they brought him to the wheel, and with care they stretched him out and dislocated the bones of his back and set fire under him.

55     And    they    made    sharp skewers red-hot and ran them into   his   back,   and   piercing through his  sides  they burned away his entrails also.

56     But he in the midst of his tortures   exclaimed,   '0   contest worthy   of   saints,   wherein   so many  of  us  brethren,   in  the cause of righteousness, have been entered for a  competition in tor­ ments, and have not been con­ quered!

57     For the  righteous  under­ standing,   0   tyrant,   is  uncon­ querable.

58     In  the  armour  of virtue I  go  to  join  my  brothers  in death, and to add in myself one strong avenger more to punish thee, 0 deviser of the tortures and enemy of the truly right­ eous.

59     We six yout hs have over­ thrown thy tyranny.   For is not thine impotence to alter our Rea­ son or force us to eat unclean meat an overthrow for thee?

60     Thy fire is cool for us, thy engines of torture torment not, and thy violence is impotent.

61 For the guards have been officers for us, not of a tyrant, but of the Divine Law; and therefore have we our Reason yet unconquered.'

 


 

CHAP. VI.

Brotherly bonds and a mother's love.

AND when this one also died a blessed death, being cast into the  cauldron, the seventh son, the youngest of them all, came forward.


2 But the tyrant, although fiercely exasperated by his breth­ren, felt pity for the boy, and seeing him there already bound he had him brought near, and sought to persuade him, saying: 'Thou seest the end of the folly of thy brethren; for through their disobedience they have been racked to death. Thou, too, if thou dost not obey, wilt thyself also be miserably tor­tured and put to death before thy time; but if thou dost obey thou shalt be my friend, and thou shalt be advanced to high office in the business of the king­dom.'

4   And while thus appealing to him   he   sent    for   the   boy's mother, in order that in her sor­ row for the loss of so many sons she might urge the survivor to obey and be saved.

5   But  the mother, speaking in the Hebrew tongue, as I shall tell later on, encouraged the boy, and   he   said   to   the   guards; 'Loose me, that I may speak to the king and to all his friends with him.'

6   And they, rejoicing at the boy's   request,   made   haste  to loose him.

7   And running up to the red-hot brazier, 'O impious tyrant, he cried, 'and most ungodly o: all sinners, art thou not ashamec to take thy blessings  and thy kingship at the hands of God and to slay his servants and tor­ture the followers of righteous­ness?

8   For which things the divine ustice delivers thee unto a more rapid  and an  eternal fire and ;orments which shall not leave lold on thee to all eternity.

9   Art thou not ashamed, being a man, 0 wretch with the heart of a wild  beast,  to take men of   like   feelings   with   thyself, made from the same elements, and tear out their tongues, and scourge and torture them in this manner?

10     But while they have ful­ filled their righteousness towards God in their noble deaths, thou shalt miserably cry "Woe is me!" for thy unjust  slaying  of the champions of virtue.'

11And then standing on the brink of death he said, 'I am no renegade to  the  witness  borne by my brethren.

12     And I call upon the God of my fathers to be merciful unto my nation.

13     And  thee  will  he  punish both  in  this  present  life  and after that thou art dead.'

14     And with this prayer hecast   himself   into   the   red-hot brazier,  and  so  gave  up   the ghost.

15  If    therefore    the    seven brethren   despised   the  tortures even  to  the  death,  it  is  uni­ versally proved that the Inspired Reason is supreme lord over the passions.

16    For if they had yielded to their passions or sufferings and eaten unclean meat, we should have said that they had been conquered  thereby.

17    But in this case it was not so;   on  the   contrary by  their Reason, which was commended in the sight of God, they rose superior to their passions.

18And it is impossible to deny the supremacy of the mind; for they won the victory over their passions and their pains.

19      How can we do otherwise than admit right Reason's mas­ tery over passion with these men who   shrank   not   before   the agonies of burning?

20      For even as towers on har­ bour-moles repulse the assaultsof the waves and offer a calm entrance to those entering the haven, so the seven-towered right

Reason of the youths defended the haven of righteousness and repulsed the tempestuousness of the passions.

21      They formed a holy choir of righteousness as they cheered one another on, saying:

22      'Let us die like brothers, 0 brethren, for the Law.

23      Let  us  imitate the Three Children at the Assyrian court who despised this same ordeal of the furnace.

24      Let us not turn cravens be­ fore the proof of righteousness.'

25  And one said, 'Brother, be of   good   cheer,'   and   another, 'Bear it out nobly'; and another recalling the past, 'Remember of what stock ye are, and at whose fatherly  hand  Isaac  for  right­ eousness' sake yielded himself to be a sacrifice.'

26      And each and all of them together, looking at each other brightly and very boldly, said, 'With a whole heart will we con­secrate ourselves unto God who gave us our souls, and let us lend our bodies to the keeping of the Law.

27  Let us not fear him who thinketh  he  kills;   for a great struggle  and  peril of the soul awaits in eternal torment those who transgress the ordinance of God.

28     Let us then arm ourselves with divine Reason's mastery of the passions.

29     After   this   our   passion, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob shall receive us, and all our forefathers shall praise us.'

30  And to each separate one of the brothers., as they were

31     You  are  not  ignorant  of the love of brethren, whereof the divine  and  all-wise  Providence has given an inheritance to those who are begotten though their

fathers,  implanting it in them even    through    the    mother's womb;    wherein    brethren   do dwell the like period, and take their form during the same time, and are nourished from the same blood, and are quickened with the same soul, and are brought into the world after the same space, and they draw milk from the same founts, whereby their fraternal  souls   are  nursed  to­ gether in arms at the breast; and  they  are  knit  yet  closer

through a common nurture and daily companionship and other education, and through our dis­ cipline under the Law of God.

32     The   feeling   of  brotherly love being thus naturally strong, the   seven   brethren   had   their mutual     concord     made     yet stronger.    For  trained   in   the same Law, and disciplined in the same virtues, and brought up to­ gether in the upright life, they loved   one   another   the   more abundantly.   Their common zeal

for moral beauty and goodness heightened their mutual concord, for   in   conjunction   with   their piety it rendered their brotherly love more fervent.

33     But  though  nature,  com­ panionship,  and   their  virtuous disposition increased the ardour of their brotherly love, neverthe­ less the surviving sons through their religion supported the sight of their brethren, who were on the   rack,   being   tortured   to

death; nay more, they even en­ couraged them to face the agony, so as not only to despise their own tortures, but also to con­ quer their passion of brotherly affection for their  brethren.

34 0 Reasoning minds, more kingly than kings, than freemen more free, of the harmony of the seven brethren, holy and well attuned to the keynote of piety!

35 None of the seven youths turned coward, none shrunk in the face of death, but all has­tened to the death by torture as if running the road to immor­tality.

36        For   as   hands   and   feet  move   in   harmony with the promptings of the soul, so those holy youths, as if prompted by the  immortal  soul  of   religion, went in harmony to death for its sake.

37        0 all-holy sevenfold com­ panionship of brethren in har­ mony!

38        For as the seven days of the  creation  of  the  world   do enring religion, so did the youths choir-like enring their sevenfold companionship,   and   made   the terror of the tortures of no ac­ count.

39        We now shudder when we hear  of  the suffering of those youths; but   they,   not   only seeing   it  with  their  eyes,  nor merely hearing the spoken, m­ minent threat, but actually feel­ ing the pang, endured it through; and that in the torture by fire, than which what greater agony can be found?

40        For sharp and stringent is :he power of fire, and swiftly did it bring their bodies to dissolu­ tion.

41        And think it not wonderful if with those men Reason tri­ umphed over the tortures, when even a woman's soul despised a yet greater diversity of pains; for  the  mother  of  the  seven youths   endured   the   torments inflicted on each several one of her children.

42     But consider how manifoldare the yearnings of a mother's heart, so that her feeling for her offspring becomes the centre of her whole world;  and indeed, here, even the irrational animals have for their young an affection and love similar to men's.

43       For  example,  among  the birds, the tame ones sheltering under   our   roofs   defend   their nestlings;   and those that nest upon the mountain tops, and in

the rock clefts, and in the holes of trees,  and in the branches, and hatch their young there, do also drive away the intruder.

44   And then, if they be unable to drive him away, they nutter around the nestlings in a passion of love, calling to them in their own speech, and they give suc­ cour  to   their  young  ones   in whatever fashion they can.

45       And what  need have we of examples of the love of off­ spring among irrational animals, when even the bees, about the season   of   the   making   of  the comb,  fend  off  intruders,  and stab with their sting, as with a sword, those who approach their brood,   and   do   battle   against them even to the death?

46       But   she,   the  mother   of those young men, with a soul like Abraham, was not moved from her purpose by her affec­ tion for her children.

 


 

 

CHAP. VII.

A comparison of a mother's and father's affections,

in this chap­ter are some mountain peaks of eloquence.


O REASON of the sons, lord over the passions!    0 re­ligion, that wast dearer to the mother than her children!

2   The   mother,   having   two choices before her, religion and the present saving alive of her seven   sons   according   to   the tyrant's   promise,   loved   rather religion,    which    saveth    unto eternal life according to God.

3   0 how may I express the passionate love of parents for children?   We stamp a marvelIous likeness of our soul and of our shape on the tender nature of the child, and most of all through the mother's sympathy with her children being deeper than the father's.

4   For women are softer of soul than men, and the more children they   bear   the   more   do   they abound in love for them.

5   But, of all mothers, she of the seven sons abounded in love beyond   the   rest,   seeing   that, having  in  seven   child-bearings felt maternal tenderness for the fruit of her womb, and having been constrained because of the many pangs in which she bore each  to  a  close  affection,  she nevertheless through the fear of God rejected the present safety of her children.

6   Ay,   and  more  than  that, through the moral beauty and goodness of her sons and their obedience to the Law, her ma­ ternal love for them was made stronger.

7   For they were just, and tem­perate,   and   brave   and   great-souled, and lovers of each other and of their mother in such man­ ner that they obeyed her in the keeping of the Law even unto death.

8   But    nevertheless,    though she had so many temptations to yield to her maternal instincts, in  no  single  instance  did  the dreadful variety of tortures have power to alter her Reason; butthe mother urged each son sep­ arately, and all together, to die for their religion.

9   O holy nature, and parental love, and yearning of parents for offspring, and wages of nursing, and unconquerable affection  of mothers!

10       The  mother,  seeing  them one by one racked and burned, remained unshaken in soul for religion's sake.

11   She saw the flesh of her sons being consumed in the fire, and   the   extremities   of   their hands and feet scattered on the ground, and the flesh-covering, torn off from their heads right to their cheeks, strewn about like masks.

12      O mother, who now knewsharper pangs than the pangs of labour!   0 woman, alone among women, the fruit of whose womb was perfect religion!

13      Thy   firstborn,   giving   up the ghost, did not alter thy reso­ lution, nor thy second, looking with eyes of pity on thee under his   tortures,    nor   thy   third, breathing out his spirit.

14      Neither   didst   thou  weep when thou beheldest the eyes of each amid the torments looking boldly on the same anguish, and sawest in their quivering nostrils the signs of approaching death.

15      When thou sawest the flesh of one son being severed after the flesh of another, and hand after hand  being  cut  off,  and head  after   head  being  flayed, and corpse cast upon corpse, and the plaee crowded with specta­ tors on account of the tortures of thy children,  thou sheddest not a tear.

16      Not  the  melodies  of  the sirens  nor the songs  of swans with sweet sound do so charm the hearer's ears, as sounded the voices of the sons, speaking to

the mother from amid the tor­ ments.

17  How many and how great were the tortures with which the mother was tormented while her sons were  being  tortured with torments of rack and fire!

18      But Inspired Reason lent her heart a man's strength under her   passion   of   suffering, and exalted her to make no account of   the   present   yearnings   of mother-love.

19  And although she saw the destruction of her seven children and the many and varied forms of   their   torments,   the   noble mother    willingly    surrendered them through faith in God.

20   For she beheld in her own mind, even as it had been cun­ ning   advocates   in   a council-chamber,   nature,   and   parent­ hood, and mother-love, and her children on the rack, and it was as if she, the mother, having the choice between two votes in the case of her children, one for their death and one to save them alive, thereupon regarded not the sav­ ing of her seven sons for a little time, but, as a true daughter of Abraham,   called   to   mind   his God-fearing courage.

21        0 mother of the race, vindi­ cator of our Law, defender of our religion, and winner of the prize in the struggle within thyself!

22        0 woman, nobler to resist than men, and braver than war­ riors to endure!

23        For as the Ark of Noah, with the whole living world for her burden in. the world-whelm­ ing  Deluge,  did withstand the mighty   surges,   so   thou,   the keeper of the Law, beaten upon every side by the surging waves of the passions, and strained as

with strong blasts by the tor­ tures of thy sons, didst nobly weather the storms that assailed thee for religion's sake.

24   Thus then, if one both a woman and advanced in years and the mother of seven sons endured the sight of her childrei being tortured to death, the In­ spired Reason must confessedly be supreme ruler over the pas sions.

25        I have proved, accordingly that   not   only   have   men   tri umphed   over   their   sufferings but that a woman also has de spised the most dreadful tortures

26        And not so fierce were the lions around Daniel, not so ho was the burning fiery furnace o Mishael, as burned in her the instinct  of  motherhood  at  the sight  of  her seven sons  being tortured.

27       But by her religion-guide Reason the mother quenched he assions, many and strong as they were.

28    For there is this also to insider,  that had the woman ieen weak of spirit, despite her lotherhood,   she   might   have wept over them, and perchance s;poken thus:

29       'Ah,   thrice   wretched  me, and more than thrice wretched! Seven children have I borne and am left childless!

30   In vain was I se ven times with child, and to no profit was nay ten months' burden seven .imes borne, and fruitless have 3een my nursings, and sorrowful my sucklings.

31    In vain for you, 0 my sons, did I endure the many pangs of labour, and the more difficult cares of your upbringing.

32     Alas,   for  my  sons,  that some were yet unwed, and those that were wedded had begotten no  children;   I shall never see :hildren of yours, nor shall I be jailed by  the name of grand­parent.

33       Ah  me,  that  had  many beautiful   children,   and   am   a widow and desolate in my woe! Neither will there be any son to bury me when I am dead!'

33       But   the  holy  and  God­ fearing mother wailed not with this lamentation over any one of  them, neither besought she any to escape  death, nor lamented over them as dying men; but, as though she had a soul of ada­ mant  and were bringing  forth

the number of her sons, for a second time, into immortal life, she   besought   rather   and   en­ treated of them that they should die for religion's sake.

35      0 mother, warrior of God in the cause of religion, old and a woman, thou didst both de­feat the tyrant by thy endur­ ance, and wast found stronger than a man, in deeds as well as words.

36      For verily when thou wast put in  bonds  with thy sons, thou stoodest there seeing Eleazar being tortured, and thou spakest to thy sons in the He­brew tongue:

37      'My   sons,   noble   is   the fight;  and do ye, being called thereto to bear witness for our nation, fight therein zealously on behalf of the Law of our fathers.

38      For it would be shameful if, while this aged man endured the agony for religion's sake, you that are young men shrank be­ fore the pain.

39      Remember   that   for   the sake of God ye have come into the   world,   and   have   enjoyed life, and that therefore ye owe  t to God to endure all pain for  his   sake;   for  whom  also   our father Abraham made haste to sacrifice his son Isaac, the an­ cestor of our nation; and Isaac, seeing his father's hand lifting the knife against him, did notshrink.

40      And Daniel, the just man, was    cast   to   the  lions,   and Ananias,  Azarias,  and  Mishael were flung into the furnace of fire, and they endured for God's sake.

41      And  ye  also,  having  thesame  faith  unto   God,   be  not troubled;   for   it   were against Reason that ye, knowing right­ eousness,  should  not withstand the pains.'

42      With    these    words    the mother of the seven encouraged every single one of her sons to die  rather than  transgress  the ordinance of God;   they them­ selves also knowing well that men dying for God live unto God, as live  Abraham,   and  Isaac,  and Jacob, and all the patriarchs.

 


 

 

 

CHAP. VIII.

The famous "Athletes of Right­eousness." Here ends the story of   courage   called   the   Fourth

Book of Maccabees.

 


SOME of the guards declared _   that   when   she   also   was about to be seized andput to death, she cast herself on the pyre in order that no man might touch her body.

2   0   mother,   that   together with thy seven sons didst break the tyrant's force, and bring to nought   his   evil   devices,   and gavest an example of the noble­ ness of faith.

3   Thou wert nobly set as a roof upon thy sons  as pillars, and the earthquake of the tor­ ments shook thee not at all.

4   Rejoice  therefore,  puresouled mother, having the hope of thy endurance certain at the hand of God.

5   Not so majestic stands the moon amid the stars in heaven as thou, having lit the path of thy   seven   starlike   sons   unto righteousness, standest  in hon­ our with God; and thou art set in heaven with them.

6   For  thy  child-bearing was from the son of Abraham.

7   And had it been lawful for us to paint, as might some artist, the tale of thy piety, would not  the  spectators   have  shuddered at the mother of seven sons suf­fering for righteousness' sake  multitudinous tortures even unto death?

8   And indeed it were fitting to inscribe these words over their resting-place,   speaking for a memorial to future generations of our people:

 


HERE LIE AN AGED PRIEST

AND   A   WOMAN   FULL   OF   YEARS

AND   HER   SEVEN   SONS

THROUGH    THE   VIOLENCE   OF   A

TYRANT

DESIRING TO DESTROY THE HEBREW

NATION.

THEY VINDICATED THE RIGHTS OF

OUR   PEOPLE

LOOKING UNTO GOD AND ENDURING

THE TORMENTS EVEN UNTO

DEATH.

 


9 For truly it was a holy war which was fought by them.   For on that day virtue, proving them through endurance, set before them the prize of victory in in-corruption in everlasting life.

10     But the first in the fight was Eleazar, and the mother of the seven sons played her part, and the brethren fought.

11     The tyrant was their ad­ versary and the world and the life of man were the spectators.

12     And righteousness won the victory, and gave the crown to her athletes.   Who but wondered at the athletes of the true Law?

13     Who were not amazed at them?   The tyrant himself and his whole council admired their endurance, whereby they now do both stand beside the throne of God and live the blessed age.

14     For Moses says, 'AH also who have sanctified themselves are under thy hands.'

15   And these men, therefore, having sanctified themselves for God's sake, not only have re­ceived this honour, but also the honour that through them the enemy had no more power over our people, and the tyrant suf­ fered punishment, and our coun­ try was purified, they having as it were become a ransom for our nation's  sin; and through the blood of these righteous men and the propitiation of their death, the divine Providence delivered Israel that before was evil en­ treated.

16     For when the tyrant Antiochus saw the heroism of their virtue,    and    their    endurance under the tortures, he publicly held up their endurance to his soldiers as an example;  and he thus  inspired his  men with  a sense of honour and heroism on the field of battle and in the labours of besieging, so that he plundered and overthrew all his enemies.

17  0 Israelites, children born of the seed of Abraham, obey this Law, and be righteous in all ways,  recognizing that  In­ spired Reason is lord over the passions, and over pains, not only from within, but from with­out ourselves; by which means those men, delivering up their bodies to the torture for right­eousness' sake, not only won the admiration of mankind, but were deemed worthy of a divine in­heritance.

18       And through them the na­ tion obtained peace and restor­ ing the observance of the Law in. our country hath captured the city from the enemy.

19       And vengeance hath pur­ sued the tyrant Antiochus upon earth, and in death he suffers punishment.

20       For when he failed utterly to constrain the people of Jeru­ salem to live like Gentiles and abandon   the   customs   of   our fathers, he thereupon left Jeru­ salem and marched away against the Persians.

21       Now these are the words that the mother of the seven sons, the righteous woman, spake to her children:

22       'I was a pure maiden, and I strayed not from my father's house, and I kept guard over the rib that was builded into Eve.

23       No seducer of the desert, no deceiver in the field, corrupted me; nor did the false, beguiling Serpent sully the purity of my maidenhood; I lived with my husband  all  the   days  of  my youth; but when these my sons were grown up, their father died.

18       Happy   was   he;   for   he  lived a life blessed with children, and he never knew the pain of their loss.

25     Who, while he was yet with us, taught you the Law and the prophets. He read to us of Abel who was slain by Cain, and of saac who was offered as a burnt-offering, and of Joseph in the prison.

26     And  he  spake to  us  of Phineas, the zealous priest, and  he   taught   you   the   song   of  Ananias, Azarias,  and Mishael in the fire.

27       And he glorified also Dan­ iel   in  the   den  of   lions,   and blessed him; and he called to your minds the saying of Isaiah,

28       "Yea   even   though   thou pass through the fire, the flame shall not hurt thee."

29       He sang to us the words of David the psalmist, "Many are the afflictions of the just."

30       He quoted to us the prov­ erb of Solomon, "He is a tree of life to all them that do his will."

31   He confirmed the words of Ezekiel, "Shall these dry bones live?"    For he forgat not the song that Moses taught, which teaches, "I will slay and I will make alive. This is your life and the blessedness of your days."'

32       Ah, cruel was the day, and yet not  cruel, when the  cruel  tyrant of the Greeks set the fire blazing  for his barbarous bra­ ziers,   and   with   his   passions boiling brought to the catapult and back again to his tortures the seven sons of the daughter of Abraham, and blinded the eye­ balls of their eyes, and cut out their  tongues,  and  slew  them with many kinds of torment.

33       For which cause the judge­ ment of God pursued, and shall pursue, the accursed wretch.

34       But the sons of Abraham, with their victorious mother, are gathered together unto the place of  their  ancestors,  having received pure and immortal souls from God, to whom be glory for ever and ever.

 

 


 

 

(THE FOGOTTEN BOOKS OF EDEN– edited by RUTHERFORD H. PLATT, Jr – Published by Word Bible Publishers, Inc - 1926)

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