The Book of TO INDEX
V I C T O R Y
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
then one might ask, if reason being master of the passions, why does it not
control forgetfulness or ignorance?
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.
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
these taking no account of pain even unto death, proved that reason rises
superior to the passion.
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
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.
inquiry then is, whether reason is supreme master over the passions.
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.
I take to be the mind, clearly preferring to say, "the norm of
then I take to be the knowledge of things both human and divine, as well as
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
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.
respect to pleasure and pain there are many instances where the passions have
while desire goes before pleasure, satisfaction follows afterwards, and while
fear precedes pain, sorrow follows after pain.
then, if a man will retrace his feelings, he will note that it is a passion in
which both pleasure and pain are blended.
pleasure comes also that moral debasement which shows itself in the widest
variety of passions.
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.
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.
how in the first place - reason becomes master over passion by the inhibition of
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
reason has proved to subdue not only sexual desires but all sorts of desires.
law says, you shall not desire your neighbor's wife or anything that is your
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.
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
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.
when he was angered by Dathan and Abiram, did not give free vent to his wrath,
but governed his anger by reason.
temperate mind is as I have said, able to triumph over passions, modifying some
and crushing others completely.
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.
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.
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.
does not eradicate passions, but works to control them, the case of King David
in his thirst may serve to clarify this.
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.
passing the sentries they searched through the camp, and finding the spring they
drew from it for the king.
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.
he set reason against desire, and poured out the drink as an offering to God.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Apollonius after his astonishing deliverance departed to report to the king the
things that had befallen him.
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.
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
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.
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.
having plundered the city, he made a decree announcing the penalty of death on
everyone seen to live after the law of our fathers.
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
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.
the tyrant Antiochus with his counselors sat in judgment on a certain high place
with his troops drawn up around him in full armor.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
when Eleazar replied thus eloquently to the tyrant's exhortations, the guard
dragged him roughly to the implements of torture.
they unclothed the old man, who was adorned with the beauty of his holiness.
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
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.
sweat stood on his brow, and he drew his breath in hard gasps till his noble
soul brought the tormentors themselves to admire him.
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
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
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.
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.
O sons of Abraham die nobly for righteousness sake, but as for you peons of the
tyrant - why have you stopped your work?"
seeing him thus triumphant over the tortures, unmoved even by the pity of his
executioners, they dragged him to the fire.
they burned him with cunningly devised instruments, and poured an evil smelling
concoction into his nostrils.
the fire had already reached his bones, and he was at the point of expiring, he
lifted up his eyes to God and said:
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
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.
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.
that reason has conquered his passions we properly confer upon it the power of
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.
proof covers not only the superiority of reason over pain, but to pleasures as
well, and to its complete surrender.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
man, who was more powerful than the tortures, O reverend elder more vigorous
than the flame, you great king over the passions - Eleazar.
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.
age, O reverend gray head, O life faithful to the law, and perfected
by the seal of death.
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.
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?
the wise and self controlled man is the brave ruler of the passions.
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
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;
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
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
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;
better feel fear my lads, and the Justice you worship will pardon your unwilling
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.
30. And just
think of what argument some would have had, if they had been fainthearted, would
they not have said something like this;
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
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.
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?
The sons mock the tyrant.
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.
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;
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."
words of the youth then redoubled the wrath of the tyrant, not just for their
disobedience, but for their ingratitude.
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.
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;
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."
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
14. And as he
said this, they added hot coals upon him, intensifying the torture, and
straining him yet tighter on the wheel.
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
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
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.
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
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?
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."
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.
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.
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."
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".
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
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.
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."
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.
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?
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.
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;
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
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.
the guards have been officers for us, and not of you O tyrant, but of the Divine
law, therefore is our reason not conquered."
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
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.
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;
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.
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.
this prayer he cast himself into the red-hot brazier, and so gave up the spirit.
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.
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.
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.
formed a noble choir of righteousness as they cheered one another on saying; Let
us die like brother's O brothers, for the law.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
and instant is the power of fire, and swiftly did it bring the bodies to
not count it amazing that reason triumphed with these men when even a woman's
soul despised an even greater diversity of pains
mother of the seven youths endured the torments inflicted on each one of her
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.
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.
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.
the mother of those young men, with a soul like Abraham was not moved from her
purpose by her affections for her children.
reason that was lord over the passions, O faith that was dearer to the mother
than her children.
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.
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.
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.
nature, parental love, and yearning of parents for offspring and wages of
nursing, and unconquerable affections of mothers.
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.
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
you weep as you beheld the eyes of each amidst the torments boldly looking on
the same anguish seeing death approaching in their nostrils.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.