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V I C T O R Y

        Chapter 1

       The wisdom of reason

1.  The question I propose to discuss is philosophical in the highest degree, namely, whether devout reason is supreme ruler over the passions, and I entreat you to give my words your earnest attention.

2.  For not only is the subject an indispensable branch of knowledge, but it includes the praise of the greatest of virtues, namely; self control.

3.  If reason is shown to control the passions, to temper gluttony and lust, then it also demonstrates to lord over the passions that impede justice such as malice, and also over that which impedes courage - such as rage, fear, and pain

4.  But then one might ask, if reason being master of the passions, why does it not control forgetfulness or ignorance?

5. The question however is absurd, for the answer is that reason is not master over inherent defects in the mind itself, but over the passions, or moral defects that are opposed to justice and courage and temperance.

6. And to be master over these is not in such a way as to eradicate them, but to keep us from surrendering to them.

7.  I could bring many examples of various sources proving where reason was master over the passions.

8. But by far the best example that I can give you is the noble conduct of those who died for the sake of virtue, namely, Eleazar, and the seven brothers and their mother.

9. For these taking no account of pain even unto death, proved that reason rises superior to the passion.

10.  I might enlarge here the praise of their virtues; they dieing on this day, which we celebrate, for the love of moral beauty and goodness, yet rather I congratulate them on the honors they have attained.  

11.  For not only by the world at large was admiration felt for their courage and endurance, but by their very executioners as well, which made them the authors of the downfall of the tyranny under which our nation was held.

12.  For by their endurance they defeated the tyrant, and so through them their country was purified.

13.  But I shall yet have an opportunity to discuss this, meanwhile I will begin, as I am accustomed to do, with the general theory, and then return to their story, giving glory to the all-wise God.

14.  Our inquiry then is, whether reason is supreme master over the passions.

15.  But we must define just what reason is, and what passion is, and how many forms of passion there be, and if reason may be supreme over all of them.

16.  Reason, I take to be the mind, clearly preferring to say, "the norm of wisdom".

17.  Wisdom then I take to be the knowledge of things both human and divine, as well as their causes.

18.  And this I take to be the culture acquired from the law, by which with due reverence we learn the things of God, and what man's worldly profits thereby are.

19.  Wisdom now is manifested in the forms of judgment, justice, courage, and temperance.  

20.  And of these, judgment, or self-control, is the one that dominates them, for by it, in truth, reason asserts its authority over the passions.

21.  Of the passions then there are two all embracing kinds, namely, pleasure and pain, and each of these in the body as well as in the soul.

22.  And with respect to pleasure and pain there are many instances where the passions have sequences.

23. Thus while desire goes before pleasure, satisfaction follows afterwards, and while fear precedes pain, sorrow follows after pain.

24.  Anger then, if a man will retrace his feelings, he will note that it is a passion in which both pleasure and pain are blended. 

25.  Under pleasure comes also that moral debasement which shows itself in the widest variety of passions.

26.  It manifests itself in the soul by pretensions, covetous, vainglory, contentions, and backbiting, and in the body as the eating of gourmet foods, gluttony, and gorging in secret.

27.  Pleasure and pain now, as two branches stemming from body and soul, many offshoots, and each man's reason as master gardener by pruning, weeding, binding up, and irrigating brings under control these undergrowth’s of inclinations and passions, for reason is the guide of virtues, and master of passions.

28.  Observe how in the first place - reason becomes master over passion by the inhibition of temperance.

29.  Temperance then I take as the repression of desires, and regarding desires, some relate to the mental, and others to the physical, with both clearly controlled by reason.

30.  For when we are tempted towards forbidden meats, how do we come to reject the pleasure thereto?  Is it not because reason has power to control appetites?  I at least believe it to be so.

31.  Likewise when we feel the desire to eat the meat of fish, of birds, or of any beast that is prohibited by law, we abstain from it by the mastery of reason.

32.  For the desires of our appetites are checked and inhibited by the temperate mind even as all movements of the body will obey the bridle of reason.

33.  Why then should it be surprising when the natural desire for union with the beauty is suppressed?  This certainly is why Joseph is to be praised who by reason in his mental effort controlled the carnal impulse.

34.  For he being a young man at an age when physical desires are strong, he by his reason checked the impulse of his passions.

35.  And reason has proved to subdue not only sexual desires but all sorts of desires.

36.  For the law says, you shall not desire your neighbor's wife or anything that is your neighbors.

37.  Surely then since the law orders us not to covet I should think that it strongly confirms the argument that reason is indeed capable of controlling covetous desires just as it controls the passions that war against justice.

38.  How else can a man continually over-eating, greedy, and drunken, be taught to change his ways - if reason is not shown him to be the master of passions?

39.  As soon as a man orders his life according to the law, then one who is greedy will be acting contrary to his nature and instead lends money to the needy without interest, and at the seventh year cancels the debt.

40.  And if a man be rebellious, he is brought under the rule of the law by reason, and refrains from gleaning his fields or picking the last grapes from his vineyard.

41.  And with regards to all the rest, we can recognize that reason is in the position of master over the passions of affections.

42.  For the law ranks above the affection for parents to the extend that a man will not betray virtue for their sake, and it over-rides the love for a wife so that if she transgresses a man may reprove her.

43.  And it governs love for children, so they may be punished for their wrongs, and it controls the claims of friendship so that a man may reprove his friend if they transgress.

44.  And do not think it paradoxical when reason by the law is able to overcome even hatred so that a man refrains from cutting down his enemy's orchard, and instead protects it from spoilers, and gathers up what has been scattered.

45.  And the rule of reason is likewise proven with the more aggressive passions of vice, ambition, vanity, pretensions, pride, and talking behind one's back, for the temperate mind repels all these debased passions as it does anger.

46.  Moses when he was angered by Dathan and Abiram, did not give free vent to his wrath, but governed his anger by reason.

47.  For the temperate mind is as I have said, able to triumph over passions, modifying some and crushing others completely.

48.  Why else did our wise father Jacob blame Simeon and Levi for the slaughter of the Shechemites saying; Accursed be their anger?  For if reason had not possessed him to restrain his anger he would not have spoken in that way.

49.  For when God created man, He implanted within him his passions and inclinations, and also at the very same time enthroned the intellect amidst the senses to be his sacred guide in all things.

50.  And to the intellect He gave the law, which if a man orders his life thereby, he shall reign over a kingdom that is temperate and brave.

 

       Chapter 2

       Reason in wisdom

1. Now someone may ask; that reason being master of the passions why is it not master of ignorance and forgetfulness?

2. But this argument is very foolish since reason is not shown to be master of inherent defects in itself, but over those of the body.

3.  None of us, for example, can eradicate our natural desires, but reason enables us to escape from becoming enslaved to them.

4. None of us can eradicate anger from our soul, but it is possible for reason to come to our aid against anger.

5. None of us can eradicate a disposition of malice, but reason can be our powerful ally in preventing us from being overwhelmed thereby.

6. Reason does not eradicate passions, but works to control them, the case of King David in his thirst may serve to clarify this.

7.  For David had fought the entire day against the Philistines, and with the help of his people had killed many of them, he came all perspiring to his royal tent, and around him was the whole army of his ancestors.

8. So all the host took to their evening meal, but the king being parched with thirst was unable to shake it even though there was abundant water with him.  Instead he was racked with an irrational desire for the water that was in the enemy's camp, and it inflamed and unnerved him.

9. Then when the bodyguards grumbling at the king's desire, two youths, mighty warriors, ashamed that the king should lack his desire, put on their armor, and taking a water vessel scaled the enemy ramparts.

10.  And passing the sentries they searched through the camp, and finding the spring they drew from it for the king.

11.  But David, though still burning with thirst, considered the drinking of such water the equal of drinking blood and as a dreadful danger to his soul.

12. Accordingly he set reason against desire, and poured out the drink as an offering to God.

13.  For the temperate mind is able to conquer the dictates of the passions and to quench the fires of desire, and to battle victoriously over the pains of the body however extreme they be, and through the nobility of reason defy with scorn the whole dominion of the passions.

     The treason of Simon

14.  At a time when our fathers enjoyed great peace in observing the law, and were faring so well that even the king of Asia, Seleucus Nicanor, allocated tax for the temple service, and recognized the priestly rule, just then certain men took repressive measures against this communal harmony implicating us in various disasters.

15.  A certain Simon set himself up as an opponent to Onias the high priest, a man of the highest character who had his office for life.  And when all sorts of slander failed to harm Onias in the eyes of the people, this Simon fled with a view to betray his country.

16.  So he came to Apollonius the governor of Syria and of Phoenicia and Cilicia and said; "In loyalty to the king I am here to inform you that in the treasures in Jerusalem are stored many private deposits not belonging to the temple accounts that rightfully belong to king Seleucus."

17.  Apollonius then having inquired into the details of the matter praised Simon for his loyal service and went to the court of Seleucus to disclose to him concerning this valuable treasure.

18.  Then after receiving authority to deal with the matter, he proudly marched into our country accompanied with the accursed Simon and a powerful army, and announced that he had come by the king's command to take possession of the private deposits in the treasury.

19.  Our people then were greatly angered by this, and strongly protested it as an outrageous thing against those who had entrusted their deposits to the temple treasury, to be robbed of them, and they did all things possible to prevent him.

     The Lord defeats the treason

20. Apollonius however made his entry into the temple with threats, then the priests in the temple, and the women and children entreated God to come to the rescue of His holy place, which was being violated.

21.  And when Apollonius marched in with his armed host to take the moneys there appeared from heaven angels riding on horses with lightning flashing from their arms, which brought great fear and trembling.

22.  Apollonius from great fear fell down half dead in the court of the Gentiles, and stretching out his hands to heaven with tears he entreated the Hebrews that they would make intercession for him to stay the wrath of the heavenly host.

23. He announced that he had sinned, and was worthy even of death, but that if his life were spared he would acclaim to all men the blessedness of the holy place.

24.  And moved by these words Onias the high priest; despite his anxiety interceded for him lest king Seleucus should think that Apollonius had been overthrown by a human device rather than by divine justice.

25.  Accordingly Apollonius after his astonishing deliverance departed to report to the king the things that had befallen him.

     A scoundrel takes to be priest

26.  But Seleucus died, and his son Antiochus Epiphanes, an arrogant and terrible man, having succeeded his father, deposed Onias from his sacred office, and made his brother Jason high priest instead.

27.  The condition being that in return for the appointment Jason should pay him 3660 talents yearly; thus he appointed Jason high priest and made him chief over the people.

28.  This Jason then introduced the people to a new way of life, a new constitution in utter defiance of the law, so that he not only build a gymnasium on the citadel of our native land, but he also abolished the service of the temple.

     A tyrant brought against Jerusalem

29.  Therefore the Divine Justice was angered and brought Antiochus himself as an enemy against us, for when he was at war with Ptolemy in Egypt, and heard that the people of Jerusalem took the greatest delight in a rumor of his death, he then promptly marched against them.

30.  And having plundered the city, he made a decree announcing the penalty of death on everyone seen to live after the law of our fathers.

31.  But discovering that his decree was of no avail to breakdown the respect of the people for the law, his threats and penalties being utterly despised.

32.  For even the women, though knowing before hand what was in store for them, they circumcised their sons, and were together with their children cast headlong upon the rocks.

33.  When therefore his decree was continually in contempt by the population, he himself tried to force each individual under torture to eat unclean meats, to so break off the Jewish religion.

34.  And so the tyrant Antiochus with his counselors sat in judgment on a certain high place with his troops drawn up around him in full armor.

35.  And he ordered his guards to bring forth every single man of the Hebrews to compel them to eat the flesh of swine's, and such things as offered to idols and anyone who refused to defile himself with these were to be tortured and killed.

        Wisdom of Eleazar

36.  And when many had been taken by force, there was one man among the first company whose name was Eleazar, by birth a priest, trained in the knowledge of the law, he was advanced in years and well known for his philosophy by the court of the tyrant.

37.  And Antiochus looking at him said; Before I allow the tortures to come on you O you honored man, I wish to counsel you that you should eat of the flesh of the swine and save your life.  For I respect your age and gray hair, although I do not think you to be a philosopher, having clung so long to the Jewish religion.

38.  For the meat of the animal which nature has so graciously provided is excellent, and why should you have contempt for it, it truly is foolish not to enjoy innocent pleasures, it being wrong to reject nature's favors.

39.  But it will be even greater folly to defy me, and your own punishment, so as I presume you may with idle conceit about truths, will you not awaken from your preposterous philosophy,

40.  And put aside the nonsense of your calculations, and adapt another frame of mind fitting with your years?  Learn the true philosophy of expediency bow to my charitable counsel, and have pity on your own honorable age.

41.  And 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 made under compulsion.

42.  And thus urged by the tyrant to the unlawful eating of unclean meats, Eleazar asked permission to speak, and receiving it, he began his speech before the court as follows;

43. “We O Antiochus having accepted the divine law as the law of our country do not believe that there is no power laid upon us any stronger than our willing obedience to the law.

44.  Under no circumstances therefore do we deem it right to transgress the law, and even if you suggest that our law is not truly divine, and we vainly believe it to be divine, even then it would not be right for us to destroy our reputation for piety.

45. Do not think therefore that it shall be a small sin for us to eat unclean things, for the transgression of the law - small or great is equally despised.

46.  And you scoff at our philosophy as if we were living under it in some manner contrary to reason, but this is not so, since the law teaches self control, so that we may be masters of our pleasures and desires.

47. And it trains us courage to endure all pain with readiness, and it teaches justice, so that with our various dispositions we act fairly, and it teaches righteousness so that with due reverence we worship only the God who is.

48.  Therefore we do not eat unclean meats, for believing our law to be given by God, we know also that the Creator of the world, as a Lawgiver, gave it us according to our nature.

49.  He commanded us to eat the things well suited to our souls, and forbade us to eat meats that are contrary.

50.  But it is an act of a tyrant that you should compel us not only to transgress the law, but yet also to force us to eat in a manner that you might mock at this defilement so utterly abominable to us.

51. But you will not mock at me in such way, nor will I break the sacred oath of my ancestors to keep the law, nor even if you tear out my eyes and burn entrails.

52. I am not so old or unmanly that when it comes to righteousness that I should lose the youthful strength of reason, but sooner - it returns to me.

53. So twist your racks, and blow your furnace even hotter, I do not pity my old age - to break the law of my fathers in my person.

54. I will not play you false - O law who was my teacher, I will not desert you O beloved self control, nor put you to shame O wisdom loving reason, nor will I deny you O honorable priesthood, and knowledge of the law.

55. Neither shall you defile the reverent lips of my old age, nor my lifelong service to the law; my fathers shall welcome me pure, unafraid of your torments, even to death.

56. For you may indeed be a tyrant over unrighteous men, but you shall not preside over my resolution in the matter of righteousness, neither by words, nor by your deeds.

 

      Chapter 3 

      Eleazar gains Victory

1.  So when Eleazar replied thus eloquently to the tyrant's exhortations, the guard dragged him roughly to the implements of torture.

2.  First they unclothed the old man, who was adorned with the beauty of his holiness.

3. Then binding his arms on either side, they scourged him while a herald stood and shouted; obey the orders of the king.

4. But the great-soured and noble man, an Eleazar (help of God) in all truth, was no more moved in his mind then if he were tormented in a dream.  And keeping his eyes raised to heaven, he suffered his flesh to be torn by the scourges till he was bathed in blood and his sides became a mass of wounds.

5. And even when he fell to the ground, when his body could no longer support him, he kept his reason upright and inflexible.

6. One of the guards kicked him savagely with his foot in his side as he fell, to make him stand up, but he endured the anguish, and despised the compulsion, bearing up under the torments like a brave athlete taking punishment, and the old man wore out his tormentors.

7. The sweat stood on his brow, and he drew his breath in hard gasps till his noble soul brought the tormentors themselves to admire him.

8.  Thereupon, partly in pity for his old age, and partly in sympathy for their friend, and partly in admiration of his courage, some of the king's courtiers went up to him and said;

9. "Why O Eleazar are you madly destroying yourself in this misery, we will bring you the cooked meat, and you pretend to partake of the swine flesh, and so save yourself."

10.  But Eleazar, their counsel only adding to his torment, cried loudly, "May the children of Abraham never think such evil thoughts out of cowardice to do something so ill becoming to us.

11.  It would indeed be most contrary to reason for us after having lived to the truth till old age, (wisdom) and having preserved our reputation for so living to the law - then to change to become an example of impiety to the young as to encourage them to eat unclean meats.

12.  It would indeed be shameful for us to live just a little longer and become a laughingstock for cowardice, and be despised by the tyrant as unmanly because we did not defend our divine law unto death.

13.  Therefore O sons of Abraham die nobly for righteousness sake, but as for you peons of the tyrant - why have you stopped your work?"

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

15.  There they burned him with cunningly devised instruments, and poured an evil smelling concoction into his nostrils.

16.  And when the fire had already reached his bones, and he was at the point of expiring, he lifted up his eyes to God and said:

17.  "Thou O God knows that although I could have saved myself, I am dieing in torments for Thy law, be merciful to Thy people, and let our punishment be a satisfaction on their behalf, make my blood their purification, and take my soul to ransom their souls."

18.  And with these words the man nobly yielded up his spirit under the torture, having held out for sake of the law by his reason, even against the torments of death.

19.  Beyond question therefore, the inspired reason is master over the passions, if his passions or suffering had prevailed over his reason, I would have credited these with testimony of their superior power.

20.  But now that reason has conquered his passions we properly confer upon it the power of command.

21.  And it is right that we should admit to the superiority of reason in all cases, at least where it comes from outside ourselves, since it is ridiculous to deny it.

22.  And my proof covers not only the superiority of reason over pain, but to pleasures as well, and to its complete surrender.

 

      Chapter 4

       Honor for Eleazar

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

2.  No city besieged with so many and cunning devices ever defended itself so well as did this holy man when his sacred soul was attacked with scourge and rack and flame.

3.  And he moved them who were laying siege to his soul through his reason, the shield of sanctity.

4.  For our father Eleazar setting his mind firm like a rock in the waves broke the mad onslaught of the surges of the passions.

5.  O priest, worthy of your priesthood, you did not defile your holy teeth, nor your body with unclean meats, there being only room for piety and purity.

6.  O confessor of the law and philosopher of the divine life, just so should they be - whose office it is to serve the law, and to defend it with their blood and sweat honorably in the sufferings to the death.

7.  You O father did strengthen our fidelity to the law by your steadfastness to glory, and having spoken in honor of holiness you did not annul your but confirmed the words of divine philosophy by your deeds.

8.  O aged man, who was more powerful than the tortures, O reverend elder more vigorous than the flame, you great king over the passions - Eleazar.

9.  For even as our father Aaron armed with a censer ran through the massed congregation 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.

10.  And yet most wonderful of all, he being an old man with the muscles of his body unstrung and relaxed, his nerves weakened, he grew again in the spirit of his reason, and by reason, like Isaac, turned the many headed torture to incompetence.

11.  O blessed age, O reverend gray head, O life faithful to the law, and perfected by the seal of death.

12.  If therefore an old man despised the torments to death for righteousness sake, we must admit that inspired reason is able to guide the passions.

13.  But some perhaps may answer, that not all men are masters of the passions because not all men have their reason enlightened.

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

15.  Therefore the validity of our argument is not impaired by the fact that some appear to be enslaved by their passions because of the weakness of their reason.

16.  For who is there, being a philosopher, rightly following the rule of philosophy, and having his trust in God, and knowing that it is a blessed thing to endure all hardship for the sake of virtue, that would not conquer his passions for the sake of righteousness?

17.  For only the wise and self controlled man is the brave ruler of the passions.

        A fool attempts to sway the wise

18.  Yes indeed even young men having become philosophers by virtue of reason in compliance with righteousness; have triumphed over yet greater tortures.

19.  For when the tyrant found himself notably defeated in his first attempt, and unable to compel an old man to eat unclean meat.  He in violent rage ordered the guards to bring others of the young men of the Hebrews, and to release them if they would eat the unclean meat, and if they refused to torture them yet more savagely.

20.  And under these orders of the tyrant, seven brother together with their aged mother were brought as prisoners before him, all handsome, modest, well born, and generally attractive.

21.  And when the tyrant saw them standing there with their mother in their midst as though they were a chorus, he was struck by their calmness and nobility, and smiling at them he called them near and said;

22.  Young men, I admire each and every one of you and wish to show you favor.  And since I admire the beauty of such a large band of brothers, I not only advice you not to persist in the madness of that old man that has already suffered, but even I entreat you to yield to me, and take advantage of my friendship.

23.  For just as I am able to punish those who disobey my orders, I am able to favor those who do obey me, and be assured that you shall be given positions of importance and of authority in my service if you will reject the ancestral law of your priesthood.

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 then pity on yourself, for though I am your opponent, I myself feel compassion for you in your youth and beauty, consider that if you disobey, there is nothing for you except death by torture.

26.  And with these words he ordered the implements of torture to be brought forward in order to convince them by fear to eat unclean meat.

27.  But when the guards had brought the wheels and joint dislocations, and the racks and bone crushers, and catapults, cauldrons, braziers, thumb-screws, iron saw, wedges, and branding iron the tyrant spoke again and said;

28.  You had better feel fear my lads, and the Justice you worship will pardon your unwilling transgression.

29.  But they hearing this persuasion, and seeing his dreadful implements, not only showed no fear but actually opposed the tyrant with their philosophy, abasing the tyrant by their correct reason.

         Example of cowardice reason

30.  And just think of what argument some would have had, if they had been fainthearted, would they not have said something like this;

31.  Alas!  Miserable creatures that we are and foolish beyond measure, for when the king invited and appealed to us on his terms of kind treatment, should we not obey him?

32.  Or, why do we encourage ourselves with vain desires to dare a disobedience that will cost us our lives?  Shall we not O men my brothers dread the dreaded implements, and duly consider these threats of torture, and abandon our vainglory, and this fatal boasting?

33.  Let us take pity on our youth, and take compassion on our mother's age, let us take it to heart that if we disobey - we die.

34.  And will not the Divine Justice have mercy on us if by necessity compelled we yield to the king in fear?  Why then should we cast away from us this dear life and rob ourselves of this sweet world?

35.  Let us not strive against necessity, nor with vain confidence invite our torture, not even the law itself would willingly condemn us to death for being afraid of the implements of torture.

36.  Why then should such contentions inflame us, and such fatal resistance finds favor with us when we can have a peaceful life by obeying the king?

 

      Chapter 5

       The sons mock the tyrant.

1.  But no such word escaped from these young men at the prospect of the torture, nor did even the thought enter their minds, for they were masters over the passions and over pain.

2.  And thus no sooner did the tyrant conclude his urging for them to eat unclean meat, or they all in one voice, and as with one soul, said to him;

3.  "Why do you delay O you tyrant?  We are ready to die rather than transgress the commandments of our fathers, for we would be putting our ancestors to shame if we did not walk in obedience of the law and take Moses as our counselor.

4. You O tyrant who counsels us to transgress the law, you do not pity us in your hatred more than we pity ourselves, for we esteem your mercy for our lives in return for breaking the law, a thing much harden to bear than death itself.

5. You look to terrify us with your threats as if you have learned nothing from Eleazar.  For if the old man of the Hebrews endured up until death for righteousness sake, it is even more fitting that we as young men should despise the torments of your compulsion over which our aged father also triumphed.

6. Put us to the test O you tyrant, and if you take our lives for the sake of righteousness, do not think that you will hurt us with your tortures, for we through this evil treatment and our endurance will win the prize of virtue.

7.  But you for our cruel murder shall suffer sufficiently at the hands of the Divine Justice in torments by fire forever."

8. These words of the youth then redoubled the wrath of the tyrant, not just for their disobedience, but for their ingratitude.

      Victory of the eldest

9. So by his orders the scourges brought forth the eldest of them, and stripping him of his garments they bound his hands and arms on both sides with thongs.

10.  But having scourged him till they were tired, and had gained nothing, they put him on the wheel.

11. 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 this way;

12. "O you most abominable tyrant, you enemy of the Justice of heaven, and bent on slaughter, you torment me in this way not for murder or impiety, but for defending the law of God."

13.  Then the guard said to him.  "Consent to eat, so you may be released from your torture."  But he said to them.  "Your methods O miserable peons is not strong enough to capture my reason, cut off my limbs, burn my flesh, and twist my joints, for through all the torments I will show you that on behalf of virtue only the sons of the Hebrews are invincible."

14.  And as he said this, they added hot coals upon him, intensifying the torture, and straining him yet tighter on the wheel.

15.  And the whole wheel was smeared with his blood, and the hot coals put out by the discharges of his body fluids, and the torn flesh ran around the axles of the machine.

16.  And with this, his whole body being already dissevered, this great soured youth, like a true son of Abraham did not at all groan, but as though he was by the fire being transformed into in-corruption, he nobly endured the torment saying

17.  "Follow my example O brothers, do not ever desert me, and do not forswear the nobility of our brotherhood.

18.  Fight a holy and honorable warfare on behalf of righteousness by which the just Providence who watched over our fathers, may become merciful to His people, and take vengeance on the accursed tyrant."

19. And with these words the holy youth gave up the spirit.

        Victory of the second son

20.  And while everyone was amazed at his fortitude of soul, the guards brought the second oldest son, and fastened him with sharp-clawed hands of iron to the implements of the catapult.

21.  But when they heard his noble resolve in answer to their question to eat rather than to be tortured, they tore off his muscles with these claws of iron, and cut away all the flesh from his cheeks, and tore off the skin of his head like mad panthers.

22.  But he steadfastly endured this agony and said; "How sweet is every form of death for the sake of righteousness of our fathers."

23.  And to the tyrant he said; "You O most ruthless of tyrants, does it now seem to you that you suffer worse than me in seeing your tyrannical arrogance to have been overcome by my endurance for righteousness?

24.  For I am sustained in my pains by the joys that come in defense of virtue, but you are in torment while glorifying in your impiety, nor will you escape the penalties of the Divine wrath O you most abominable tyrant."

        Victory of the third son

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

26.  But he answered in a loud voice; "Are you ignorant of it that the same father begot me and my brothers, who are dead, and also the same mother gave us birth, and I was brought up in the same doctrine.

27.  I do not forswear the noble bonds of brotherhood, thus if you have any implement of torment, apply it to this body of mine, for though you may try, yet you cannot reach my soul."

28.  And they were greatly angered at the bold speech of the man, and they dislocated his hands and his feet with their dislocating implements, and wrenched his limbs out of their sockets, his fingers legs and arms.

29.  And not being able to strangle his spirit, they stripped him of his skin taking the points of the fingers with it, and they tore in scything fashion the scalp of his head and at once brought him on the wheel.

30.  And on this they twisted his spine till he saw his own flesh hanging in strips, and streams of blood poured from his entrails.

31.  And at the point of death he said; "We O most abominable tyrant suffer for our upbringing in the virtues of Gods, but you for your impieties and your cruelties shall endure torments without end."

        Victory of the fourth son

32.  And when this man had died worthy of his brothers, they brought up the fourth, and said to him; "be not mad with the same madness as your brothers, but obey the king and save yourself".

33.  But he said to them; "You do not even have a fire hot enough to make me a coward, but for the blessed death of my brothers, and for the eternal doom the tyrant, and for the glorious life of the righteous, I will not deny my noble brotherhood.

34.  Invent tortures O tyrant in order that thereby you may learn that I am a brother of those who already have been tortured."

35.  And when he heard this, the bloodthirsty murderous and utterly abominable Antiochus, he told them to cut off his tongue, but he said; "Even if you remove my organ of speech, God also hears the speechless.

36.  And look, I am putting out my tongue already, so cut it off, for you shall not thereby silence my reason.

37.   For the cause of God we gladly give our members to be mutilated, and God will soon come after you, for you cut out the tongue that sang songs of praise to Him."

         Victory of the fifth son

38.  And when this man was also put to a death of agony with the tortures, the fifth sprang forward saying; "I am wasting no time O tyrant from demanding the torture for sake of virtue.

39.  And of myself I come forward in order that by adding to your misdeeds in killing me you may yet increase the penalty that you owe to the Justice of heaven.

40.  You O enemy of virtue and of man, for what crime do you destroy us in this way?  Does it seem evil to you that we worship the Creator of all, and live according to His virtues law?

41.  These things are worthy of honor, and not of torture, that is if you had any understanding of human aspirations and hope in the salvation of God, but now you are Gods enemy by making war on those that worship God."

42.  And as he spoke thus, the guards bound him and brought him before the catapult tying him on his knees to it with iron clamps, and they wrenched his loins over the rolling wedge so that he was completely curled back like a scorpion and every joint was disjointed.

        Victory of the sixth son

43.   And when this man was also dead, the sixth, a mere boy, was brought, who in answer to the tyrants inquiry if he was willing to eat and be released said;

44.   "I am not so old in years as my brothers, but I am just as old in mind, for we were born and brought up for the same purpose, and are equally bound in the same cause.  So if you chose to torture us for not eating unclean meat, torture us then."

45.  And as he spoke these words, they brought him to the wheel, and stretching him out with care they dislocated the bones of his back, and set fire under him.

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

47.  But he in the midst of this torture exclaimed; "How worthy is this contest wherein so many of us brothers have entered for the sake of righteousness to compete for torments and not having been conquered, for the righteous understanding O you tyrant is unconquerable.

48.  In the honor of virtue I go to join my brothers in death, and to add in myself one stronger avenger to punish you O devisor of the tortures and enemy of the true righteous.

49.  We six youths have been overthrown by your tyranny, it being your incompetence whereby you could not alter our reason, we defeated you in not eating unclean meat.  Your fire is cool for us, your implements of torture are no torment, and your violence is impotent.

50.  Instead the guards have been officers for us, and not of you O tyrant, but of the Divine law, therefore is our reason not conquered."

 

       Chapter 6 

        Victory of the seventh son

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

2.  But the tyrant although fiercely exasperated by his brothers felt pity for the boy, and seeing him there already bound - he had him brought near and tried to convince him saying;

3.  "You saw the end of the folly of your brothers, for by their disobedience they have been racked to death, and you also if you will not disobey will also be miserably tortured and put to death before your time.

4.  But if you obey me you shall be my friend, and be advanced to a high position the business of the kingdom."

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

6.  But the mother speaking in Hebrew tongue, as I shall tell later on, encouraged the boy.  And he said to the guards Loosen me so I may speak to the king and to his friends with him.

7.  And they rejoicing at the boy's request hasten to loosen him and running up to the red-hot brazier he cried.  O you impious tyrant, you most ungodly of all sinners are you not ashamed to take your blessings and your kingship at the hands of God, and yet to slay His servants, torturing the followers of righteousness?

8.  For this however the Divine Justice will deliver you into a more rapid and felt pity for the boy, and seeing him there already bound he had him brought near and tried to convince him saying;

9.  You being only a man, you savage beast, are you not ashamed to cut out the tongue of men who share the same feelings as you, and to torture them in this brutal manner?

10.  But while they filled their righteousness towards God in their noble death, you shall cry miserably saying; woe is me, for your unjust murder of the champions of virtue.

11.  Then standing on the brink of death he said; I am no renegade to the witness borne by my brothers, and I call upon the God of my fathers to be merciful to my nation, but you will be punished both in this life, and after you are dead.

12.  And with this prayer he cast himself into the red-hot brazier, and so gave up the spirit. 

     Commentary

13.  If therefore the seven brothers despised the tortures even to death, it is universally proven that the inspired reason is supreme lord over the passions.

14.  For if they had yielded to their passions or sufferings and eaten the unclean meat, we would say that they had been conquered thereby.

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

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

17.  How else can we admit reason's mastery over passion with these men who shrank not before the agonies of burning.

18.  For just as towers on the entrance of harbors repulse the assaults of the waves offering a calm entrance to those entering the haven, so the seven towered, the right reason of the youths defending the haven of righteousness, and repulsing the temptations of passions.

19.  They formed a noble choir of righteousness as they cheered one another on saying; Let us die like brother's O brothers, for the law.

20.  Let us imitate the three children at the Assyrian court who despised this same ordeal of the furnace, let us not turn cowards before the proof of righteousness.

21.  And one said; Brother be of good cheer.  And another; bear it nobly.  And still another recalling the past; Remember of what stock you are, and at whose fatherly hand Isaac for righteousness sake gave himself to be a sacrifice.

22.  And each and all of them together looking at each other brightly and very boldly said; With a whole heart will we consecrate ourselves to God, and give our souls, let us lend our bodies to the keeping of the law.

23.  Let us not fear him who only thinks he kills, for a great torment and peril of soul in eternal torments awaits those who transgress the ordinance of God.

24.  Let us arm ourselves with divine reason, mastering the passion, for after this passion shall Abraham Isaac and Jacob receive us, and our forefathers praise us.

25.  And to each one separate of the brothers as they were taken they said; Do not disgrace us brother, nor be false to our already dead brothers.

26.  You are not ignorant of the love of brotherhood which the all-wise and Divine Providence has given us by their prayers to their offspring implanted even in their mothers womb wherein brothers live and are formed for the same period of time.

27.  They drew milk from the same fountain wherein their souls were nursed together in arms at the same breasts, and knit yet closer together by a common upbringing and companionship and education under the discipline of the law.

28.  The feeling of brotherly love being thus naturally strong, the seven brothers had their mutual accord made even stronger, for trained in the same law, and disciplined in the same virtues, and brought up together in upright living, they loved one another that much more.

29.  Their common zeal for moral beauty and goodness increased their mutual accord, for in conjunction with their piety it rendered their brotherly love more fervent.

30.  Thus this nature of companionship and high moral character added to the charm of brotherhood, and it was by their piety that the surviving sons had the endurance to look upon their brothers while they were being racked with pain, tortured to death.

31.  Yet even more than that it encouraged them to face the agony as not only to despise their own tortures, but also to conquer their passions of brotherly affection.

32.  O reasoning minds more kingly than kings, more free than free-men, how holy, and well the harmony of the seven brothers attuned to the keynote of piety.

33.  None of the seven youths turned, none drew back in the face of death, but all hastened to death by torture as if running the road to immortality.

34.  For as hands and feet move in harmony with the prompting of the soul, so these holy youths, as if prompted by the immortal soul of faith, went for its sake to death in harmony.

35.  O all holy sevenfold companionship of brothers in harmony, for as the seven days of creation move around faith, so did the youths in chorus circle around the sevenfold assembly, making the terror of the tortures to no account.

36.  We now shudder when we hear of the suffering of the youths, but they not only seeing it with their eyes, and not merely hearing the implement threats, but they actually felt the pains, and endured through it all, and what greater agony can be found than the torture of fire?

37.  For sharp and instant is the power of fire, and swiftly did it bring the bodies to destruction.

38.  And do not count it amazing that reason triumphed with these men when even a woman's soul despised an even greater diversity of pains

39.  For the mother of the seven youths endured the torments inflicted on each one of her children.

40.  Consider then how manifold the yearnings of a mother's heart are wherein the feelings for her offspring becomes the center of her whole world, and indeed even irrational animals have such affection similar to men.

41.  Among the birds for example, the tame ones under our roofs shelter their nestling, and those that nest upon the mountain tops and in the clefts of the rocks, and in the holes of the trees, and in branches who hatch their young there, they also drive away the intruders.

42.  And if they are unable to drive them away, they fly around the nestling in a passion of love calling to them in their own speech, so giving comfort to their young ones in whatever fashion they can.

43.  And what need have we of examples of the love of offspring among irrational animals when even the bees in the season of making honey fend off intruders by stabbing with their stings as with swords, they battle with those who approach their brood even to death.

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

 

      Chapter 7

       Affections of the parents

1.  O reason that was lord over the passions, O faith that was dearer to the mother than her children.

2.  The mother having two choices before her, faith, and the lives of her seven sons according to the tyrants promise, loved rather faith, which saves to eternal life according to God.

3.  Or how may I express the passionate love of parents for children?  We stamp a marvelous likeness of our soul and of our shape on the tender nature of the child, and more so the mother whose affection with her children is deeper than the fathers.

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

5.  But of all mothers, she of the seven sons abounded in love beyond the rest, who in seven childbirth’s felt profound affection for the fruit of her womb.  And having to constrain the pains of affection she had for each, she nevertheless in the fear of God rejected the present safety of her children.

6.  And indeed because of the moral beauty and goodness of her sons and their obedience to the law, her love was made stronger for them.

7.  For they were just and temperate, brave, and pure-soured, loving each other and their mother in obeying her to keep the law even to death.

8.  And though she had many temptations to give in to her natural in no single instance did the dreadful variety of tortures alter her reason, but she rather encouraged each one on separately and together to die for their faith.

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

10.  The mother seeing them one by one racked and burned remained unshaken in her soul for the sake of the faith.

11.  She saw the flesh of her sons being consumed in the fire and the extremities at their hands, their feet shattered and their skin torn from their heads right to their cheeks, as were they masks.

12.  O mother who has known such pains greater than the pains of birth, O woman, alone among women, the fruit of your womb was perfect faith.

13.  Your firstborn giving up the spirit did not alter your resolution nor your second looking with eyes of pity upon you under his tortures, nor did your third as he died.

14.  Nor did you weep as you beheld the eyes of each amidst the torments boldly looking on the same anguish seeing death approaching in their nostrils.

15.  When you beheld the flesh of your sons being cut off, hand after hand, and head after head being flayed, and corpses cast upon corpses, and the place crowded with spectators for the torture of your children, you shed not a tear.

16.  The melodies of birds, nor the song of the swans with sweet sounds, bring so much charm to the ears of the hearer as the voices of your sons speaking to you from among the torments.

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

18.  But inspired reason lend her heart the strength of a man her passion of suffering, and it exalted her, to take no account of her immediate mother-love.

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

20. For in her mind she beheld clever advocates, all these; her mother love, parenthood, nature, and her children on the rack were to her as having a choice between two votes for her children.

21.  One of which was for their death, with the other - to save them alive, and not considering to save her seven sons for but a moment's time, but as a true daughter of Abraham, she called to mind his God-fearing courage.

22.  O mother of the race, vindicator of our law, defender of our faith, and winner of the prize in the struggle within yourself, O woman in resistance nobler than men, and more than warriors.

23.  For as the ark of Noah bearing the burden of the whole living in the worldwide deluge endured the waves, so you the keeper of the law buffeted on every side by the waves of passion.  And strained by the strong blows of the torture of your sons, you boldly weathered the storm that assaulted you for the sake of faith.

24.  If then a woman advanced in years, and mother of seven sons endured the sight of her children being tortured to death, the inspired reason must evidently be supreme ruler over the

25.  Accordingly I have proven that not only men triumphed over suffering, but that a woman also despised the most dreadful tortures.

26.  The lions around Daniel were not so fierce, nor was the oven so hot of the furnace of Michael, as was the natural mother's love at the sight of her seven being tortured.

27.  But she by her faith-guided reason quenched her passions, many and strong as they were.

28.  For this also is to be considered, that if the woman had been weak in spirit, she might have wept over them, and perhaps have spoken like this;

29.  Ah trice wretched woman me, and more so, I bore seven children and am left childless, in vain was I with child seven times, and my nine months of bearing each was to no profit, fruitless has been my nursing, and sorrowful my feeding.

30.  I endured the many pains in vain for you O my sons, and the care of bringing you up.  Alas for my sons that some were yet unwed, and those that had, had no children, I shall never see children of you, nor shall I be called by the name of grandparent.

31.  O me that had many beautiful children am now a widow, desolate in my woe, nor is there any son to bury me in my death.

32.  But the holy and God-fearing mother did not speak this lamentation over any one of them, nor did she seek for any to escape death, nor cried over them as dying men.

33.  But as though she had a soul of Adamant, and was bringing forth the number of her sons for a second time into immortal life, she encouraged them and entreated them that they should die for the sake of faith.

34.  O mother, warrior of God in the faith, old, and a woman, you defeated both the tyrant by your endurance, and was stronger than a man in deeds as well as in words.

35.  For verily when you were put in bonds with your sons you stood there beholding Eleazar being tortured, and you spoke to your sons in the Hebrew tongue saying;

        Noble admonition of a mother

36.  My sons, the fight is noble, and you being called to witness for our nation, fight zealously for the law of our fathers, for it would be shameful if this aged man enduring the agony for the sake of faith, that you as young men should draw back before the pain.

37.  Remember that you came into this world for the sake of God to endure all pains for His sake, for likewise Abraham, the ancestor of our nation made haste to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Isaac seeing his father's hand lifting the knife against him, did not draw back.

38.  And Daniel the just man thrown to the lions, and Ananias, Azarias, and Michael were thrown into the furnace of fire, and they endured for the sake of God.

39.  And you also having the same faith to God, be not troubled, for it is unreasonable for you that know true faith not to withstand the pains.

40.  With these words the mother of the seven encouraged every single one of her sons to die rather than to transgress the ordinance of God, they themselves full well knowing that men who die for God - live unto God, as also Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live, and all the patriarchs.

 

       Chapter 8

      Praise of the victory of the mother

1.  Regarding the mother, some of the guards declared that when she was about to be taken, to be put to death, she cast herself in the fire so that no man may touch her body.

2.  O mother, how you together with your seven sons you broke the force of the tyrant, bringing his evil devices to nothing, being an example of the noblest of faith.

3.  You were nobly set as a roof on your sons as pillars, and the earthquake of the torments did not shake you at all, rejoice therefore pure soured mother having the hope of your endurance ensured at the hand of God.

4.  The moon stands not as majestic between the stars of heaven as you having lit the path of your seven starlike sons unto righteousness standing in honor with God and you in heaven with them, for your childbearing was from the son of Abraham.

5.  And if it had been possible for us to paint as on a picture the story of your piety for righteousness, would not the spectators have shuttered to see the mother of seven sons suffer the multitude of tortures to death?

6.  And indeed it is fitting to inscribe these words over their resting place 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 to God, and enduring the torments even to death.

      [Or, as I might say; "From here behold eight of the brightest stars on God's heaven, Eleazar, a mother, and her seven kings.]

7.  For it truly was a holy war fought by them, the endurance in the virtue by them in that day rewarded them with the victory in-corruption in everlasting life.

8.  The first to enter the fight was Eleazar, and the mother of the seven sons also played her part, and the brothers fought as well.

9.  The tyrant was their adversary, with the world of men and life the spectators, with righteousness taking the victory crowing her athletes, who therefore shall not be amazed at the athletes of the true law?

10.  The tyrant himself, and his whole counsel, even they admired their endurance, but the athletes on account thereof now stand beside the throne of God and live the blessed age.

11. For Moses said.  All Thy holy ones are under Thy hand, these men therefore having sanctified themselves for the sake of God not only received this honor, but also the honor that through them the enemy lost its power over our people, and the tyrant suffered punishment, with our country purified.

12.  They having become as were it a ransom for the sins of our nation, that by the blood of these righteous men, and the offering of their death, the Divine Providence delivered Israel, which before this was being ill-treated.

        Reward and defeat

13. For when the tyrant Antiochus saw the heroism of their virtue and their endurance under tortures, he publicly held theirs up to his soldiers as an example.

14. He thus inspired his men with a sense of honor and heroism on the field of battle, and in the siege of the cities that he ravaged and overthrew all his enemies.

15. O Israelites, children born of Abraham, obey this law and be righteous in all ways, recognize that inspired reason is lord over the passions and over pain.  And not only from within but also from outside by which means these men delivered their bodies to the torture for righteousness sake.  And they not only won the admiration of mankind, but were deemed worthy of a divine inheritance.

16. And through it the nation obtained peace and the restoration of the law, the city having been retaken from the enemy, and vengeance has pursued the tyrant Antiochus on earth, and in death he will suffer punishment.

17. For when utterly failing to constrain the people of Jerusalem to live like Gentiles, he left and marched against the Persians.

        Mother's certification.

18. These now are the words, which the mother of the seven sons spoke to her children; I was a virgin and strayed not from my father’s house, and I kept guard over the rib that was build into Eve.

19. No seducer of the desert, no deceiver in the field corrupted me, nor did the false beguiling serpent defile my virginity, I lived with my husband all the days of my youth, but when my children were grown up - their father died.

20. He was happy, for with his children he lived a blessed life, and never knew the pain of their loss, and while he was yet with us, he taught us the law and the prophets.

21. He read to us of Abel who was slain by Cain, and of Isaac who was offered as a burnt offering, and of Joseph in the prison, and he spoke to us of Phinees the zealous priest, and taught us the song of Ananias, Azarias, and Michael in the fire.

22. He glorified Daniel in the den of lions, and blessed him, and he called to your minds the words of Isaiah; Even though you pass through fire - the flame shall not hurt you.

23. He sang to us the words of David the psalmist; saying; Many are the afflictions of the just.  He quoted us the proverbs of Solomon, saying; He is a tree of life to all those that perform His will.

24. He confirmed the words of Ezekiel saying; these dry bones shall live.  Nor did he forget the song that Moses taught which says; I will kill, and I will bring to life, this is your life and the blessedness of your days.

25. Ah bitter was the day, and yet not bitter when the cruel tyrant of the Greeks set the fires blazing for his barbarian ovens.  And with rage he brought back and forth from catapult to fire the seven sons of the daughter of Abraham, putting out their eyes and cutting their tongue, slaying them with many kinds of torment.

26. For which reason the judgment of God will and shall pursue the accursed wretch, but the sons of Abraham with their victorious mother are gathered together to the place of their ancestors having obtained pure and immortal souls from God, to whom be glory forever and ever.

End.