2 3 4
5 6 7
8 9 10
11 12 13
14 15 16
 The subject that I am about to discuss is
most philosophical, that is, whether devout reason is
sovereign over the emotions. So it is right for me to
advise you to pay earnest attention to philosophy.
 For the subject is essential to everyone who
is seeking knowledge, and in addition it includes the
praise of the highest virtue -- I mean, of course,
 If, then, it is evident that reason rules
over those emotions that hinder self-control, namely,
gluttony and lust,
 it is also clear that it masters the emotions
that hinder one from justice, such as malice, and those
that stand in the way of courage, namely anger, fear,
 Some might perhaps ask, "If reason rules
the emotions, why is it not sovereign over forgetfulness
and ignorance?" Their attempt at argument is
 For reason does not rule its own emotions,
but those that are opposed to justice, courage, and
self-control; and it is not for the purpose of
destroying them, but so that one may not give way to
 I could prove to you from many and various
examples that reason is dominant over the emotions,
 but I can demonstrate it best from the noble
bravery of those who died for the sake of virtue,
Eleazar and the seven brothers and their mother.
 All of these, by despising sufferings that
bring death, demonstrated that reason controls the
 On this anniversary it is fitting for me to
praise for their virtues those who, with their mother,
died for the sake of nobility and goodness, but I would
also call them blessed for the honor in which they are
 For all people, even their torturers,
marveled at their courage and endurance, and they became
the cause of the downfall of tyranny over their nation.
By their endurance they conquered the tyrant, and thus
their native land was purified through them.
 I shall shortly have an opportunity to speak
of this; but, as my custom is, I shall begin by stating
my main principle, and then I shall turn to their story,
giving glory to the all-wise God.
 Our inquiry, accordingly, is whether reason
is sovereign over the emotions.
 We shall decide just what reason is and what
emotion is, how many kinds of emotions there are, and
whether reason rules over all these.
 Now reason is the mind that with sound logic
prefers the life of wisdom.
 Wisdom, next, is the knowledge of divine and
human matters and the causes of these.
 This, in turn, is education in the law, by
which we learn divine matters reverently and human
affairs to our advantage.
 Now the kinds of wisdom are rational
judgment, justice, courage, and self-control.
 Rational judgment is supreme over all of
these, since by means of it reason rules over the
 The two most comprehensive types of the
emotions are pleasure and pain; and each of these is by
nature concerned with both body and soul.
 The emotions of both pleasure and pain have
 Thus desire precedes pleasure and delight
 Fear precedes pain and sorrow comes after.
 Anger, as a man will see if he reflects on
this experience, is an emotion embracing pleasure and
 In pleasure there exists even a malevolent
tendency, which is the most complex of all the emotions.
 In the soul it is boastfulness,
covetousness, thirst for honor, rivalry, and malice;
 in the body, indiscriminate eating,
gluttony, and solitary gormandizing.
 Just as pleasure and pain are two plants
growing from the body and the soul, so there are many
offshoots of these plants,
 each of which the master cultivator, reason,
weeds and prunes and ties up and waters and thoroughly
irrigates, and so tames the jungle of habits and
 For reason is the guide of the virtues, but
over the emotions it is sovereign. Observe now first of
all that rational judgment is sovereign over the
emotions by virtue of the restraining power of
 Self-control, then, is dominance over the
 Some desires are mental, others are
physical, and reason obviously rules over both.
 Otherwise how is it that when we are
attracted to forbidden foods we abstain from the
pleasure to be had from them? Is it not because reason
is able to rule over appetites? I for one think so.
 Therefore when we crave seafood and fowl and
animals and all sorts of foods that are forbidden to us
by the law, we abstain because of domination by reason.
 For the emotions of the appetites are
restrained, checked by the temperate mind, and all the
impulses of the body are bridled by reason.
 And why is it amazing that the desires of the
mind for the enjoyment of beauty are rendered powerless?
 It is for this reason, certainly, that the
temperate Joseph is praised, because by mental effort he
overcame sexual desire.
 For when he was young and in his prime for
intercourse, by his reason he nullified the frenzy of
 Not only is reason proved to rule over the
frenzied urge of sexual desire, but also over every
 Thus the law says, "You shall not covet
your neighbor's wife...or anything that is your
 In fact, since the law has told us not to
covet, I could prove to you all the more that reason is
able to control desires. Just so it is with the emotions
that hinder one from justice.
 Otherwise how could it be that someone who is
habitually a solitary gormandizer, a glutton, or even a
drunkard can learn a better way, unless reason is
clearly lord of the emotions?
 Thus, as soon as a man adopts a way of life
in accordance with the law, even though he is a lover of
money, he is forced to act contrary to his natural ways
and to lend without interest to the needy and to cancel
the debt when the seventh year arrives.
 If one is greedy, he is ruled by the law
through his reason so that he neither gleans his harvest
nor gathers the last grapes from the vineyard. In all
other matters we can recognize that reason rules the
 For the law prevails even over affection for
parents, so that virtue is not abandoned for their
 It is superior to love for one's wife, so
that one rebukes her when she breaks the law.
 It takes precedence over love for children,
so that one punishes them for misdeeds.
 It is sovereign over the relationship of
friends, so that one rebukes friends when they act
 Do not consider it paradoxical when reason,
through the law, can prevail even over enmity. The fruit
trees of the enemy are not cut down, but one preserves
the property of enemies from the destroyers and helps
raise up what has fallen.
 It is evident that reason rules even the
more violent emotions: lust for power, vainglory,
boasting, arrogance, and malice.
 For the temperate mind repels all these
malicious emotions, just as it repels anger -- for it is
sovereign over even this.
 When Moses was angry with Dathan and Abiram
he did nothing against them in anger, but controlled his
anger by reason.
 For, as I have said, the temperate mind is
able to get the better of the emotions, to correct some,
and to render others powerless.
 Why else did Jacob, our most wise father,
censure the households of Simeon and Levi for their
irrational slaughter of the entire tribe of the
Shechemites, saying, "Cursed be their anger"?
 For if reason could not control anger, he
would not have spoken thus.
 Now when God fashioned man, he planted in
him emotions and inclinations,
 but at the same time he enthroned the mind
among the senses as a sacred governor over them all.
 To the mind he gave the law; and one who
lives subject to this will rule a kingdom that is
temperate, just, good, and courageous.
 How is it then, one might say, that if
reason is master of the emotions, it does not control
forgetfulness and ignorance?
 This notion is entirely ridiculous; for it is
evident that reason rules not over its own emotions, but
over those of the body.
 No one of us can eradicate that kind of
desire, but reason can provide a way for us not to be
enslaved by desire.
 No one of us can eradicate anger from the
mind, but reason can help to deal with anger.
 No one of us can eradicate malice, but reason
can fight at our side so that we are not overcome by
 For reason does not uproot the emotions but
is their antagonist.
 Now this can be explained more clearly by the
story of King David's thirst.
 David had been attacking the Philistines all
day long, and together with the soldiers of his nation
had slain many of them.
 Then when evening fell, he came, sweating and
quite exhausted, to the royal tent, around which the
whole army of our ancestors had encamped.
 Now all the rest were at supper,
 but the king was extremely thirsty, and
although springs were plentiful there, he could not
satisfy his thirst from them.
 But a certain irrational desire for the
water in the enemy's territory tormented and inflamed
him, undid and consumed him.
 When his guards complained bitterly because
of the king's craving, two staunch young soldiers,
respecting the king's desire, armed themselves fully,
and taking a pitcher climbed over the enemy's ramparts.
 Eluding the sentinels at the gates, they
went searching throughout the enemy camp
 and found the spring, and from it boldly
brought the king a drink.
 But David, although he was burning with
thirst, considered it an altogether fearful danger to
his soul to drink what was regarded as equivalent to
 Therefore, opposing reason to desire, he
poured out the drink as an offering to God.
 For the temperate mind can conquer the
drives of the emotions and quench the flames of frenzied
 it can overthrow bodily agonies even when
they are extreme, and by nobility of reason spurn all
domination by the emotions.
 The present occasion now invites us to a
narrative demonstration of temperate reason.
 At a time when our fathers were enjoying
profound peace because of their observance of the law
and were prospering, so that even Seleucus Nicanor, king
of Asia, had both appropriated money to them for the
temple service and recognized their commonwealth --
 just at that time certain men attempted a
revolution against the public harmony and caused many
and various disasters.
 Now there was a certain Simon, a political
opponent of the noble and good man, Onias, who then held
the high priesthood for life. When despite all manner of
slander he was unable to injure Onias in the eyes of the
nation, he fled the country with the purpose of
 So he came to Apollonius, governor of Syria,
Phoenicia, and Cilicia, and said,
 "I have come here because I am loyal to
the king's government, to report that in the Jerusalem
treasuries there are deposited tens of thousands in
private funds, which are not the property of the temple
but belong to King Seleucus."
 When Apollonius learned the details of these
things, he praised Simon for his service to the king and
went up to Seleucus to inform him of the rich treasure.
 On receiving authority to deal with this
matter, he proceeded quickly to our country accompanied
by the accursed Simon and a very strong military force.
 He said that he had come with the king's
authority to seize the private funds in the treasury.
 The people indignantly protested his words,
considering it outrageous that those who had committed
deposits to the sacred treasury should be deprived of
them, and did all that they could to prevent it.
 But, uttering threats, Apollonius went on to
 While the priests together with women and
children were imploring God in the temple to shield the
holy place that was being treated so contemptuously,
 and while Apollonius was going up with his
armed forces to seize the money, angels on horseback
with lightning flashing from their weapons appeared from
heaven, instilling in them great fear and trembling.
 Then Apollonius fell down half dead in the
temple area that was open to all, stretched out his
hands toward heaven, and with tears besought the Hebrews
to pray for him and propitiate the wrath of the heavenly
 For he said that he had committed a sin
deserving of death, and that if he were delivered he
would praise the blessedness of the holy place before
 Moved by these words, Onias the high priest,
although otherwise he had scruples about doing so,
prayed for him lest King Seleucus suppose that
Apollonius had been overcome by human treachery and not
by divine justice.
 So Apollonius, having been preserved beyond
all expectations, went away to report to the king what
had happened to him.
 When King Seleucus died, his son Antiochus
Epiphanes succeeded to the throne, an arrogant and
 who removed Onias from the priesthood and
appointed Onias's brother Jason as high priest.
 Jason agreed that if the office were
conferred upon him he would pay the king three thousand
six hundred and sixty talents annually.
 So the king appointed him high priest and
ruler of the nation.
 Jason changed the nation's way of life and
altered its form of government in complete violation of
 so that not only was a gymnasium constructed
at the very citadel of our native land, but also the
temple service was abolished.
 The divine justice was angered by these acts
and caused Antiochus himself to make war on them.
 For when he was warring against Ptolemy in
Egypt, he heard that a rumor of his death had spread and
that the people of Jerusalem had rejoiced greatly. He
speedily marched against them,
 and after he had plundered them he issued a
decree that if any of them should be found observing the
ancestral law they should die.
 When, by means of his decrees, he had not
been able in any way to put an end to the people's
observance of the law, but saw that all his threats and
punishments were being disregarded,
 even to the point that women, because they
had circumcised their sons, were thrown headlong from
heights along with their infants, though they had known
beforehand that they would suffer this --
 when, then, his decrees were despised by the
people, he himself, through torture, tried to compel
everyone in the nation to eat defiling foods and to
 The tyrant Antiochus, sitting in state with
his counselors on a certain high place, and with his
armed soldiers standing about him,
 ordered the guards to seize each and every
Hebrew and to compel them to eat pork and food
sacrificed to idols.
 If any were not willing to eat defiling food,
they were to be broken on the wheel and killed.
 And when many persons had been rounded up,
one man, Eleazar by name, leader of the flock, was
brought before the king. He was a man of priestly
family, learned in the law, advanced in age, and known
to many in the tyrant's court because of his philosophy.
 When Antiochus saw him he said,
 "Before I begin to torture you, old man,
I would advise you to save yourself by eating pork,
 for I respect your age and your gray hairs.
Although you have had them for so long a time, it does
not seem to me that you are a philosopher when you
observe the religion of the Jews.
 Why, when nature has granted it to us, should
you abhor eating the very excellent meat of this animal?
 It is senseless not to enjoy delicious things
that are not shameful, and wrong to spurn the gifts of
 It seems to me that you will do something
even more senseless if, by holding a vain opinion
concerning the truth, you continue to despise me to your
 Will you not awaken from your foolish
philosophy, dispel your futile reasonings, adopt a mind
appropriate to your years, philosophize according to the
truth of what is beneficial,
 and have compassion on your old age by
honoring my humane advice?
 For consider this, that if there is some
power watching over this religion of yours, it will
excuse you from any transgression that arises out of
 When the tyrant urged him in this fashion to
eat meat unlawfully, Eleazar asked to have a word.
 When he had received permission to speak, he
began to address the people as follows:
 "We, O Antiochus, who have been
persuaded to govern our lives by the divine law, think
that there is no compulsion more powerful than our
obedience to the law.
 Therefore we consider that we should not
transgress it in any respect.
 Even if, as you suppose, our law were not
truly divine and we had wrongly held it to be divine,
not even so would it be right for us to invalidate our
reputation for piety.
 Therefore do not suppose that it would be a
petty sin if we were to eat defiling food;
 to transgress the law in matters either
small or great is of equal seriousness,
 for in either case the law is equally
 You scoff at our philosophy as though living
by it were irrational,
 but it teaches us self-control, so that we
master all pleasures and desires, and it also trains us
in courage, so that we endure any suffering willingly;
 it instructs us in justice, so that in all
our dealings we act impartially, and it teaches us
piety, so that with proper reverence we worship the only
 "Therefore we do not eat defiling food;
for since we believe that the law was established by
God, we know that in the nature of things the Creator of
the world in giving us the law has shown sympathy toward
 He has permitted us to eat what will be most
suitable for our lives, but he has forbidden us to eat
meats that would be contrary to this.
 It would be tyrannical for you to compel us
not only to transgress the law, but also to eat in such
a way that you may deride us for eating defiling foods,
which are most hateful to us.
 But you shall have no such occasion to laugh
 nor will I transgress the sacred oaths of my
ancestors concerning the keeping of the law,
 not even if you gouge out my eyes and burn
 I am not so old and cowardly as not to be
young in reason on behalf of piety.
 Therefore get your torture wheels ready and
fan the fire more vehemently!
 I do not so pity my old age as to break the
ancestral law by my own act.
 I will not play false to you, O law that
trained me, nor will I renounce you, beloved
 I will not put you to shame, philosophical
reason, nor will I reject you, honored priesthood and
knowledge of the law.
 You, O king, shall not stain the honorable
mouth of my old age, nor my long life lived lawfully.
 The fathers will receive me as pure, as one
who does not fear your violence even to death.
 You may tyrannize the ungodly, but you shall
not dominate my religious principles either by word or
 When Eleazar in this manner had made eloquent
response to the exhortations of the tyrant, the guards
who were standing by dragged him violently to the
instruments of torture.
 First they stripped the old man, who remained
adorned with the gracefulness of his piety.
 And after they had tied his arms on each side
they scourged him,
 while a herald opposite him cried out,
"Obey the king's commands!"
 But the courageous and noble man, as a true
Eleazar, was unmoved, as though being tortured in a
 yet while the old man's eyes were raised to
heaven, his flesh was being torn by scourges, his blood
flowing, and his sides were being cut to pieces.
 And though he fell to the ground because his
body could not endure the agonies, he kept his reason
upright and unswerving.
 One of the cruel guards rushed at him and
began to kick him in the side to make him get up again
after he fell.
 But he bore the pains and scorned the
punishment and endured the tortures.
 And like a noble athlete the old man, while
being beaten, was victorious over his torturers;
 in fact, with his face bathed in sweat, and
gasping heavily for breath, he amazed even his torturers
by his courageous spirit.
 At that point, partly out of pity for his
 partly out of sympathy from their
acquaintance with him, partly out of admiration for his
endurance, some of the king's retinue came to him and
 "Eleazar, why are you so irrationally
destroying yourself through these evil things?
 We will set before you some cooked meat;
save yourself by pretending to eat pork."
 But Eleazar, as though more bitterly
tormented by this counsel, cried out:
 "May we, the children of Abraham, never
think so basely that out of cowardice we feign a role
unbecoming to us!
 For it would be irrational if we, who have
lived in accordance with truth to old age and have
maintained in accordance with law the reputation of such
a life, should now change our course
 become a pattern of impiety to the young, in
becoming an example of the eating of defiling food.
 It would be shameful if we should survive
for a little while and during that time be a laughing
stock to all for our cowardice,
 and if we should be despised by the tyrant
as unmanly, and not protect our divine law even to
 Therefore, O children of Abraham, die nobly
for your religion!
 And you, guards of the tyrant, why do you
 When they saw that he was so courageous in
the face of the afflictions, and that he had not been
changed by their compassion, the guards brought him to
 There they burned him with maliciously
contrived instruments, threw him down, and poured
stinking liquids into his nostrils.
 When he was now burned to his very bones and
about to expire, he lifted up his eyes to God and said,
 "You know, O God, that though I might
have saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for
the sake of the law.
 Be merciful to your people, and let our
punishment suffice for them.
 Make my blood their purification, and take
my life in exchange for theirs."
 And after he said this, the holy man died
nobly in his tortures, and by reason he resisted even to
the very tortures of death for the sake of the law.
 Admittedly, then, devout reason is sovereign
over the emotions.
 For if the emotions had prevailed over
reason, we would have testified to their domination.
 But now that reason has conquered the
emotions, we properly attribute to it the power to
 And it is right for us to acknowledge the
dominance of reason when it masters even external
agonies. It would be ridiculous to deny it.
 And I have proved not only that reason has
mastered agonies, but also that it masters pleasures and
in no respect yields to them.
 For like a most skilful pilot, the reason of
our father Eleazar steered the ship of religion over the
sea of the emotions,
 and though buffeted by the stormings of the
tyrant and overwhelmed by the mighty waves of tortures,
 in no way did he turn the rudder of religion
until he sailed into the haven of immortal victory.
 No city besieged with many ingenious war
machines has ever held out as did that most holy man.
Although his sacred life was consumed by tortures and
racks, he conquered the besiegers with the shield of his
 For in setting his mind firm like a jutting
cliff, our father Eleazar broke the maddening waves of
 O priest, worthy of the priesthood, you
neither defiled your sacred teeth nor profaned your
stomach, which had room only for reverence and purity,
by eating defiling foods.
 O man in harmony with the law and philosopher
of divine life!
 Such should be those who are administrators
of the law, shielding it with their own blood and noble
sweat in sufferings even to death.
 You, father, strengthened our loyalty to the
law through your glorious endurance, and you did not
abandon the holiness which you praised, but by your
deeds you made your words of divine philosophy credible.
 O aged man, more powerful than tortures; O
elder, fiercer than fire; O supreme king over the
 For just as our father Aaron, armed with the
censer, ran through the multitude of the people and
conquered the fiery angel,
 so the descendant of Aaron, Eleazar, though
being consumed by the fire, remained unmoved in his
 Most amazing, indeed, though he was an old
man, his body no longer tense and firm, his muscles
flabby, his sinews feeble, he became young again
 in spirit through reason; and by reason like
that of Isaac he rendered the many-headed rack
 O man of blessed age and of venerable gray
hair and of law-abiding life, whom the faithful seal of
death has perfected!
 If, therefore, because of piety an aged man
despised tortures even to death, most certainly devout
reason is governor of the emotions.
 Some perhaps might say, "Not every one
has full command of his emotions, because not every one
has prudent reason."
 But as many as attend to religion with a
whole heart, these alone are able to control the
passions of the flesh,
 since they believe that they, like our
patriarchs Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, do not die to
God, but live in God.
 No contradiction therefore arises when some
persons appear to be dominated by their emotions because
of the weakness of their reason.
 What person who lives as a philosopher by
the whole rule of philosophy, and trusts in God,
 and knows that it is blessed to endure any
suffering for the sake of virtue, would not be able to
overcome the emotions through godliness?
 For only the wise and courageous man is lord
of his emotions.
 For this is why even the very young, by
following a philosophy in accordance with devout reason,
have prevailed over the most painful instruments of
 For when the tyrant was conspicuously
defeated in his first attempt, being unable to compel an
aged man to eat defiling foods, then in violent rage he
commanded that others of the Hebrew captives be brought,
and that any who ate defiling food should be freed after
eating, but if any were to refuse, these should be
tortured even more cruelly.
 When the tyrant had given these orders, seven
brothers -- handsome, modest, noble, and accomplished in
every way -- were brought before him along with their
 When the tyrant saw them, grouped about their
mother as if in a chorus, he was pleased with them. And
struck by their appearance and nobility, he smiled at
them, and summoned them nearer and said,
 "Young men, I admire each and every one
of you in a kindly manner, and greatly respect the
beauty and the number of such brothers. Not only do I
advise you not to display the same madness as that of
the old man who has just been tortured, but I also
exhort you to yield to me and enjoy my friendship.
 Just as I am able to punish those who disobey
my orders, so I can be a benefactor to those who obey
 Trust me, then, and you will have positions
of authority in my government if you will renounce the
ancestral tradition of your national life.
 And enjoy your youth by adopting the Greek
way of life and by changing your manner of living.
 But if by disobedience you rouse my anger,
you will compel me to destroy each and every one of you
with dreadful punishments through tortures.
 Therefore take pity on yourselves. Even I,
your enemy, have compassion for your youth and handsome
 Will you not consider this, that if you
disobey, nothing remains for you but to die on the
 When he had said these things, he ordered
the instruments of torture to be brought forward so as
to persuade them out of fear to eat the defiling food.
 And when the guards had placed before them
wheels and joint-dislocators, rack and hooks and
catapults and caldrons, braziers and thumbscrews and
iron claws and wedges and bellows, the tyrant resumed
 "Be afraid, young fellows, and whatever
justice you revere will be merciful to you when you
transgress under compulsion."
 But when they had heard the inducements and
saw the dreadful devices, not only were they not afraid,
but they also opposed the tyrant with their own
philosophy, and by their right reasoning nullified his
 Let us consider, on the other hand, what
arguments might have been used if some of them had been
cowardly and unmanly. Would they not have been these?
 "O wretches that we are and so
senseless! Since the king has summoned and exhorted us
to accept kind treatment if we obey him,
 why do we take pleasure in vain resolves and
venture upon a disobedience that brings death?
 O men and brothers, should we not fear the
instruments of torture and consider the threats of
torments, and give up this vain opinion and this
arrogance that threatens to destroy us?
 Let us take pity on our youth and have
compassion on our mother's age;
 and let us seriously consider that if we
disobey we are dead!
 Also, divine justice will excuse us for
fearing the king when we are under compulsion.
 Why do we banish ourselves from this most
pleasant life and deprive ourselves of this delightful
 Let us not struggle against compulsion nor
take hollow pride in being put to the rack.
 Not even the law itself would arbitrarily
slay us for fearing the instruments of torture.
 Why does such contentiousness excite us and
such a fatal stubbornness please us, when we can live in
peace if we obey the king?"
 But the youths, though about to be tortured,
neither said any of these things nor even seriously
 For they were contemptuous of the emotions
and sovereign over agonies,
 so that as soon as the tyrant had ceased
counseling them to eat defiling food, all with one voice
together, as from one mind, said:
 "Why do you delay, O tyrant? For we are
ready to die rather than transgress our ancestral
 we are obviously putting our forefathers to
shame unless we should practice ready obedience to the
law and to Moses our counselor.
 Tyrant and counselor of lawlessness, in your
hatred for us do not pity us more than we pity
 For we consider this pity of yours which
insures our safety through transgression of the law to
be more grievous than death itself.
 You are trying to terrify us by threatening
us with death by torture, as though a short time ago you
learned nothing from Eleazar.
 And if the aged men of the Hebrews because of
their religion lived piously while enduring torture, it
would be even more fitting that we young men should die
despising your coercive tortures, which our aged
instructor also overcame.
 Therefore, tyrant, put us to the test; and if
you take our lives because of our religion, do not
suppose that you can injure us by torturing us.
 For we, through this severe suffering and
endurance, shall have the prize of virtue and shall be
with God, for whom we suffer;
 but you, because of your bloodthirstiness
toward us, will deservedly undergo from the divine
justice eternal torment by fire."
 When they had said these things the tyrant
not only was angry, as at those who are disobedient, but
also was enraged, as at those who are ungrateful.
 Then at his command the guards brought
forward the eldest, and having torn off his tunic, they
bound his hands and arms with thongs on each side.
 When they had worn themselves out beating
him with scourges, without accomplishing anything, they
placed him upon the wheel.
 When the noble youth was stretched out
around this, his limbs were dislocated,
 and though broken in every member he
denounced the tyrant, saying,
 "Most abominable tyrant, enemy of
heavenly justice, savage of mind, you are mangling me in
this manner, not because I am a murderer, or as one who
acts impiously, but because I protect the divine
 And when the guards said, "Agree to eat
so that you may be released from the tortures,"
 he replied, "You abominable lackeys,
your wheel is not so powerful as to strangle my reason.
Cut my limbs, burn my flesh, and twist my joints.
 Through all these tortures I will convince
you that sons of the Hebrews alone are invincible where
virtue is concerned."
 While he was saying these things, they
spread fire under him, and while fanning the flames they
tightened the wheel further.
 The wheel was completely smeared with blood,
and the heap of coals was being quenched by the
drippings of gore, and pieces of flesh were falling off
the axles of the machine.
 Although the ligaments joining his bones
were already severed, the courageous youth, worthy of
Abraham, did not groan,
 but as though transformed by fire into
immortality he nobly endured the rackings.
 "Imitate me, brothers," he said.
"Do not leave your post in my struggle or renounce
our courageous brotherhood.
 Fight the sacred and noble battle for
religion. Thereby the just Providence of our ancestors
may become merciful to our nation and take vengeance on
the accursed tyrant."
 When he had said this, the saintly youth
broke the thread of life.
 While all were marveling at his courageous
spirit, the guards brought in the next eldest, and after
fitting themselves with iron gauntlets having sharp
hooks, they bound him to the torture machine and
 Before torturing him, they inquired if he
were willing to eat, and they heard this noble decision.
 These leopard-like beasts tore out his
sinews with the iron hands, flayed all his flesh up to
his chin, and tore away his scalp. But he steadfastly
endured this agony and said,
 "How sweet is any kind of death for the
religion of our fathers!"
 To the tyrant he said, "Do you not
think, you most savage tyrant, that you are being
tortured more than I, as you see the arrogant design of
your tyranny being defeated by our endurance for the
sake of religion?
 I lighten my pain by the joys that come from
 but you suffer torture by the threats that
come from impiety. You will not escape, most abominable
tyrant, the judgments of the divine wrath."
 When he too had endured a glorious death, the
third was led in, and many repeatedly urged him to save
himself by tasting the meat.
 But he shouted, "Do you not know that
the same father begot me and those who died, and the
same mother bore me, and that I was brought up on the
 I do not renounce the noble kinship that
binds me to my brothers."
 Enraged by the man's boldness, they
disjointed his hands and feet with their instruments,
dismembering him by prying his limbs from their sockets,
 and breaking his fingers and arms and legs
 Since they were not able in any way to break
his spirit, they abandoned the instruments and scalped
him with their fingernails in a Scythian fashion.
 They immediately brought him to the wheel,
and while his vertebrae were being dislocated upon it he
saw his own flesh torn all around and drops of blood
flowing from his entrails.
 When he was about to die, he said,
 "We, most abominable tyrant, are
suffering because of our godly training and virtue,
 but you, because of your impiety and
bloodthirstiness, will undergo unceasing torments."
 When he also had died in a manner worthy of
his brothers, they dragged in the fourth, saying,
 "As for you, do not give way to the
same insanity as your brothers, but obey the king and
 But he said to them, "You do not have a
fire hot enough to make me play the coward.
 No, by the blessed death of my brothers, by
the eternal destruction of the tyrant, and by the
everlasting life of the pious, I will not renounce our
 Contrive tortures, tyrant, so that you may
learn from them that I am a brother to those who have
just been tortured."
 When he heard this, the bloodthirsty,
murderous, and utterly abominable Antiochus gave orders
to cut out his tongue.
 But he said, "Even if you remove my
organ of speech, God hears also those who are mute.
 See, here is my tongue; cut it off, for in
spite of this you will not make our reason speechless.
 Gladly, for the sake of God, we let our
bodily members be mutilated.
 God will visit you swiftly, for you are
cutting out a tongue that has been melodious with divine
 When this one died also, after being cruelly
tortured, the fifth leaped up, saying,
 "I will not refuse, tyrant, to be
tortured for the sake of virtue.
 I have come of my own accord, so that by
murdering me you will incur punishment from the heavenly
justice for even more crimes.
 Hater of virtue, hater of mankind, for what
act of ours are you destroying us in this way?
 Is it because we revere the Creator of all
things and live according to his virtuous law?
 But these deeds deserve honors, not
 While he was saying these things, the guards
bound him and dragged him to the catapult;
 they tied him to it on his knees, and
fitting iron clamps on them, they twisted his back
around the wedge on the wheel, so that he was completely
curled back like a scorpion, and all his members were
 In this condition, gasping for breath and in
anguish of body,
 he said, "Tyrant, they are splendid
favors that you grant us against your will, because
through these noble sufferings you give us an
opportunity to show our endurance for the law."
 After he too had died, the sixth, a mere
boy, was led in. When the tyrant inquired whether he was
willing to eat and be released, he said,
 "I am younger in age than my brothers,
but I am their equal in mind.
 Since to this end we were born and bred, we
ought likewise to die for the same principles.
 So if you intend to torture me for not
eating defiling foods, go on torturing!"
 When he had said this, they led him to the
 He was carefully stretched tight upon it,
his back was broken, and he was roasted from underneath.
 To his back they applied sharp spits that
had been heated in the fire, and pierced his ribs so
that his entrails were burned through.
 While being tortured he said, "O
contest befitting holiness, in which so many of us
brothers have been summoned to an arena of sufferings
for religion, and in which we have not been defeated!
 For religious knowledge, O tyrant, is
 I also, equipped with nobility, will die
with my brothers,
 and I myself will bring a great avenger upon
you, you inventor of tortures and enemy of those who are
 We six boys have paralyzed your tyranny!
 Since you have not been able to persuade us
to change our mind or to force us to eat defiling foods,
is not this your downfall?
 Your fire is cold to us, and the catapults
painless, and your violence powerless.
 For it is not the guards of the tyrant but
those of the divine law that are set over us; therefore,
unconquered, we hold fast to reason."
 When he also, thrown into the caldron, had
died a blessed death, the seventh and youngest of all
 Even though the tyrant had been fearfully
reproached by the brothers, he felt strong compassion
for this child when he saw that he was already in
fetters. He summoned him to come nearer and tried to
console him, saying,
 "You see the result of your brothers'
stupidity, for they died in torments because of their
 You too, if you do not obey, will be
miserably tortured and die before your time,
 but if you yield to persuasion you will be my
friend and a leader in the government of the
 When he had so pleaded, he sent for the boy's
mother to show compassion on her who had been bereaved
of so many sons and to influence her to persuade the
surviving son to obey and save himself.
 But when his mother had exhorted him in the
Hebrew language, as we shall tell a little later,
 he said, "Let me loose, let me speak to
the king and to all his friends that are with him."
 Extremely pleased by the boy's declaration,
they freed him at once.
 Running to the nearest of the braziers,
 he said, "You profane tyrant, most
impious of all the wicked, since you have received good
things and also your kingdom from God, were you not
ashamed to murder his servants and torture on the wheel
those who practice religion?
 Because of this, justice has laid up for you
intense and eternal fire and tortures, and these
throughout all time will never let you go.
 As a man, were you not ashamed, you most
savage beast, to cut out the tongues of men who have
feelings like yours and are made of the same elements as
you, and to maltreat and torture them in this way?
 Surely they by dying nobly fulfilled their
service to God, but you will wail bitterly for having
slain without cause the contestants for virtue."
 Then because he too was about to die, he
 "I do not desert the excellent example
of my brothers,
 and I call on the God of our fathers to be
merciful to our nation;
 but on you he will take vengeance both in
this present life and when you are dead."
 After he had uttered these imprecations, he
flung himself into the braziers and so ended his life.
 Since, then, the seven brothers despised
sufferings even unto death, everyone must concede that
devout reason is sovereign over the emotions.
 For if they had been slaves to their emotions
and had eaten defiling food, we would say that they had
been conquered by these emotions.
 But in fact it was not so. Instead, by
reason, which is praised before God, they prevailed over
 The supremacy of the mind over these cannot
be overlooked, for the brothers mastered both emotions
 How then can one fail to confess the
sovereignty of right reason over emotion in those who
were not turned back by fiery agonies?
 For just as towers jutting out over harbors
hold back the threatening waves and make it calm for
those who sail into the inner basin,
 so the seven-towered right reason of the
youths, by fortifying the harbor of religion, conquered
the tempest of the emotions.
 For they constituted a holy chorus of
religion and encouraged one another, saying,
 "Brothers, let us die like brothers for
the sake of the law; let us imitate the three youths in
Assyria who despised the same ordeal of the furnace.
 Let us not be cowardly in the demonstration
of our piety."
 While one said, "Courage,
brother," another said, "Bear up nobly,"
 and another reminded them, "Remember
whence you came, and the father by whose hand Isaac
would have submitted to being slain for the sake of
 Each of them and all of them together
looking at one another, cheerful and undaunted, said,
"Let us with all our hearts consecrate ourselves to
God, who gave us our lives, and let us use our bodies as
a bulwark for the law.
 Let us not fear him who thinks he is killing
 for great is the struggle of the soul and
the danger of eternal torment lying before those who
transgress the commandment of God.
 Therefore let us put on the full armor of
self-control, which is divine reason.
 For if we so die, Abraham and Isaac and
Jacob will welcome us, and all the fathers will praise
 Those who were left behind said to each of
the brothers who were being dragged away, "Do not
put us to shame, brother, or betray the brothers who
have died before us."
 You are not ignorant of the affection of
brotherhood, which the divine and all-wise Providence
has bequeathed through the fathers to their descendants
and which was implanted in the mother's womb.
 There each of the brothers dwelt the same
length of time and was shaped during the same period of
time; and growing from the same blood and through the
same life, they were brought to the light of day.
 When they were born after an equal time of
gestation, they drank milk from the same fountains. For
such embraces brotherly-loving souls are nourished;
 and they grow stronger from this common
nurture and daily companionship, and from both general
education and our discipline in the law of God.
 Therefore, when sympathy and brotherly
affection had been so established, the brothers were the
more sympathetic to one another.
 Since they had been educated by the same law
and trained in the same virtues and brought up in right
living, they loved one another all the more.
 A common zeal for nobility expanded their
goodwill and harmony toward one another,
 because, with the aid of their religion,
they rendered their brotherly love more fervent.
 But although nature and companionship and
virtuous habits had augmented the affection of
brotherhood, those who were left endured for the sake of
religion, while watching their brothers being maltreated
and tortured to death.
 Furthermore, they encouraged them to face the
torture, so that they not only despised their agonies,
but also mastered the emotions of brotherly love.
 O reason, more royal than kings and freer
than the free!
 O sacred and harmonious concord of the seven
brothers on behalf of religion!
 None of the seven youths proved coward or
shrank from death,
 but all of them, as though running the course
toward immortality, hastened to death by torture.
 Just as the hands and feet are moved in
harmony with the guidance of the mind, so those holy
youths, as though moved by an immortal spirit of
devotion, agreed to go to death for its sake.
 O most holy seven, brothers in harmony! For
just as the seven days of creation move in choral dance
 so these youths, forming a chorus, encircled
the sevenfold fear of tortures and dissolved it.
 Even now, we ourselves shudder as we hear of
the tribulations of these young men; they not only saw
what was happening, yes, not only heard the direct word
of threat, but also bore the sufferings patiently, and
in agonies of fire at that.
 What could be more excruciatingly painful
than this? For the power of fire is intense and swift,
and it consumed their bodies quickly.
 Do not consider it amazing that reason had
full command over these men in their tortures, since the
mind of woman despised even more diverse agonies,
 for the mother of the seven young men bore
up under the rackings of each one of her children.
 Observe how complex is a mother's love for
her children, which draws everything toward an emotion
felt in her inmost parts.
 Even unreasoning animals, like mankind, have
a sympathy and parental love for their offspring.
 For example, among birds, the ones that are
tame protect their young by building on the housetops,
 and the others, by building in precipitous
chasms and in holes and tops of trees, hatch the
nestlings and ward off the intruder.
 If they are not able to keep him away, they
do what they can to help their young by flying in
circles around them in the anguish of love, warning them
with their own calls.
 And why is it necessary to demonstrate
sympathy for children by the example of unreasoning
 since even bees at the time for making
honeycombs defend themselves against intruders as though
with an iron dart sting those who approach their hive
and defend it even to the death?
 But sympathy for her children did not sway
the mother of the young men; she was of the same mind as
 O reason of the children, tyrant over the
emotions! O religion, more desirable to the mother than
 Two courses were open to this mother, that of
religion, and that of preserving her seven sons for a
time, as the tyrant had promised.
 She loved religion more, religion that
preserves them for eternal life according to God's
 In what manner might I express the emotions
of parents who love their children? We impress upon the
character of a small child a wondrous likeness both of
mind and of form. Especially is this true of mothers,
who because of their birthpangs have a deeper sympathy
toward their offspring than do the fathers.
 Considering that mothers are the weaker sex
and give birth to many, they are more devoted to their
 The mother of the seven boys, more than any
other mother, loved her children. In seven pregnancies
she had implanted in herself tender love toward them,
 and because of the many pains she suffered
with each of them she had sympathy for them;
 yet because of the fear of God she disdained
the temporary safety of her children.
 Not only so, but also because of the nobility
of her sons and their ready obedience to the law she
felt a greater tenderness toward them.
 For they were righteous and self-controlled
and brave and magnanimous, and loved their brothers and
their mother, so that they obeyed her even to death in
keeping the ordinances.
 Nevertheless, though so many factors
influenced the mother to suffer with them out of love
for her children, in the case of none of them were the
various tortures strong enough to pervert her reason.
 Instead, the mother urged them on, each
child singly and all together, to death for the sake of
 O sacred nature and affection of parental
love, yearning of parents toward offspring, nurture and
indomitable suffering by mothers!
 This mother, who saw them tortured and
burned one by one, because of religion did not change
 She watched the flesh of her children
consumed by fire, their toes and fingers scattered on
the ground, and the flesh of the head to the chin
exposed like masks.
 O mother, tried now by more bitter pains
than even the birth-pangs you suffered for them!
 O woman, who alone gave birth to such
 When the first-born breathed his last it did
not turn you aside, nor when the second in torments
looked at you piteously nor when the third expired;
 nor did you weep when you looked at the eyes
of each one in his tortures gazing boldly at the same
agonies, and saw in their nostrils the signs of the
approach of death.
 When you saw the flesh of children burned
upon the flesh of other children, severed hands upon
hands, scalped heads upon heads, and corpses fallen on
other corpses and when you saw the place filled with
many spectators of the torturings, you did not shed
 Neither the melodies of sirens nor the songs
of swans attract the attention of their hearers as did
the voices of the children in torture calling to their
 How great and how many torments the mother
then suffered as her sons were tortured on the wheel and
with the hot irons!
 But devout reason, giving her heart a man's
courage in the very midst of her emotions, strengthened
her to disregard her temporal love for her children.
 Although she witnessed the destruction of
seven children and the ingenious and various rackings,
this noble mother disregarded all these because of faith
 For as in the council chamber of her own
soul she saw mighty advocates -- nature, family,
parental love, and the rackings of her children --
 this mother held two ballots, one bearing
death and the other deliverance for her children.
 She did not approve the deliverance which
would preserve the seven sons for a short time,
 but as the daughter of God-fearing Abraham
she remembered his fortitude.
 O mother of the nation, vindicator of the
law and champion of religion, who carried away the prize
of the contest in your heart!
 O more noble than males in steadfastness,
and more manly than men in endurance!
 Just as Noah's ark, carrying the world in
the universal flood, stoutly endured the waves,
 so you, O guardian of the law, overwhelmed
from every side by the flood of your emotions and the
violent winds, the torture of your sons, endured nobly
and withstood the wintry storms that assail religion.
 If, then, a woman, advanced in years and
mother of seven sons, endured seeing her children
tortured to death, it must be admitted that devout
reason is sovereign over the emotions.
 Thus I have demonstrated not only that men
have ruled over the emotions, but also that a woman has
despised the fiercest tortures.
 The lions surrounding Daniel were not so
savage, nor was the raging fiery furnace of Mishael so
intensely hot, as was her innate parental love, inflamed
as she saw her seven sons tortured in such varied ways.
 But the mother quenched so many and such
great emotions by devout reason.
 Consider this also. If this woman, though a
mother, had been fainthearted, she would have mourned
over them and perhaps spoken as follows:
 "O how wretched am I and many times
unhappy! After bearing seven children, I am now the
mother of none!
 O seven childbirths all in vain, seven
profitless pregnancies, fruitless nurturings and
 In vain, my sons, I endured many birth-pangs
for you, and the more grievous anxieties of your
 Alas for my children, some unmarried, others
married and without offspring. I shall not see your
children or have the happiness of being called
 Alas, I who had so many and beautiful
children am a widow and alone, with many sorrows.
 Nor when I die, shall I have any of my sons
to bury me."
 Yet the sacred and God-fearing mother did
not wail with such a lament for any of them, nor did she
dissuade any of them from dying, nor did she grieve as
they were dying,
 but, as though having a mind like adamant
and giving rebirth for immortality to the whole number
of her sons, she implored them and urged them on to
death for the sake of religion.
 O mother, soldier of God in the cause of
religion, elder and woman! By steadfastness you have
conquered even a tyrant, and in word and deed you have
proved more powerful than a man.
 For when you and your sons were arrested
together, you stood and watched Eleazar being tortured,
and said to your sons in the Hebrew language,
 "My sons, noble is the contest to which
you are called to bear witness for the nation. Fight
zealously for our ancestral law.
 For it would be shameful if, while an aged
man endures such agonies for the sake of religion, you
young men were to be terrified by tortures.
 Remember that it is through God that you
have had a share in the world and have enjoyed life,
 and therefore you ought to endure any
suffering for the sake of God.
 For his sake also our father Abraham was
zealous to sacrifice his son Isaac, the ancestor of our
nation; and when Isaac saw his father's hand wielding a
sword and descending upon him, he did not cower.
 And Daniel the righteous was thrown to the
lions, and Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were hurled
into the fiery furnace and endured it for the sake of
 You too must have the same faith in God and
not be grieved.
 It is unreasonable for people who have
religious knowledge not to withstand pain."
 By these words the mother of the seven
encouraged and persuaded each of her sons to die rather
than violate God's commandment.
 They knew also that those who die for the
sake of God live in God, as do Abraham and Isaac and
Jacob and all the patriarchs.
 Some of the guards said that when she also
was about to be seized and put to death she threw
herself into the flames so that no one might touch her
 O mother, who with your seven sons nullified
the violence of the tyrant, frustrated his evil designs,
and showed the courage of your faith!
 Nobly set like a roof on the pillars of your
sons, you held firm and unswerving against the
earthquake of the tortures.
 Take courage, therefore, O holy-minded
mother, maintaining firm an enduring hope in God.
 The moon in heaven, with the stars, does not
stand so august as you, who, after lighting the way of
your star-like seven sons to piety, stand in honor
before God and are firmly set in heaven with them.
 For your children were true descendants of
 If it were possible for us to paint the
history of your piety as an artist might, would not
those who first beheld it have shuddered as they saw the
mother of the seven children enduring their varied
tortures to death for the sake of religion?
 Indeed it would be proper to inscribe upon
their tomb these words as a reminder to the people of
 "Here lie buried an aged priest and an
aged woman and seven sons, because of the violence of
the tyrant who wished to destroy the way of life of the
 They vindicated their nation, looking to God
and enduring torture even to death."
 Truly the contest in which they were engaged
 for on that day virtue gave the awards and
tested them for their endurance. The prize was
immortality in endless life.
 Eleazar was the first contestant, the mother
of the seven sons entered the competition, and the
 The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world
and the human race were the spectators.
 Reverence for God was victor and gave the
crown to its own athletes.
 Who did not admire the athletes of the
divine legislation? Who were not amazed?
 The tyrant himself and all his council
marveled at their endurance,
 because of which they now stand before the
divine throne and live through blessed eternity.
 For Moses says, "All who are
consecrated are under your hands."
 These, then, who have been consecrated for
the sake of God, are honored, not only with this honor,
but also by the fact that because of them our enemies
did not rule over our nation,
 the tyrant was punished, and the homeland
purified -- they having become, as it were, a ransom for
the sin of our nation.
 And through the blood of those devout ones
and their death as an expiation, divine Providence
preserved Israel that previously had been afflicted.
 For the tyrant Antiochus, when he saw the
courage of their virtue and their endurance under the
tortures, proclaimed them to his soldiers as an example
for their own endurance,
 and this made them brave and courageous for
infantry battle and siege, and he ravaged and conquered
all his enemies.
 O Israelite children, offspring of the seed
of Abraham, obey this law and exercise piety in every
 knowing that devout reason is master of all
emotions, not only of sufferings from within, but also
of those from without.
 Therefore those who gave over their bodies in
suffering for the sake of religion were not only admired
by men, but also were deemed worthy to share in a divine
 Because of them the nation gained peace, and
by reviving observance of the law in the homeland they
ravaged the enemy.
 The tyrant Antiochus was both punished on
earth and is being chastised after his death. Since in
no way whatever was he able to compel the Israelites to
become pagans and to abandon their ancestral customs, he
left Jerusalem and marched against the Persians.
 The mother of seven sons expressed also these
principles to her children:
 "I was a pure virgin and did not go
outside my father's house; but I guarded the rib from
which woman was made.
 No seducer corrupted me on a desert plain,
nor did the destroyer, the deceitful serpent, defile the
purity of my virginity.
 In the time of my maturity I remained with my
husband, and when these sons had grown up their father
died. A happy man was he, who lived out his life with
good children, and did not have the grief of
 While he was still with you, he taught you
the law and the prophets.
 He read to you about Abel slain by Cain, and
Isaac who was offered as a burnt offering, and of Joseph
 He told you of the zeal of Phineas, and he
taught you about Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in the
 He praised Daniel in the den of the lions
and blessed him.
 He reminded you of the scripture of Isaiah,
which says, `Even though you go through the fire, the
flame shall not consume you.'
 He sang to you songs of the psalmist David,
who said, `Many are the afflictions of the righteous.'
 He recounted to you Solomon's proverb,
`There is a tree of life for those who do his will.'
 He confirmed the saying of Ezekiel, `Shall
these dry bones live?'
 For he did not forget to teach you the song
that Moses taught, which says,
 `I kill and I make alive: this is your life
and the length of your days.'"
 O bitter was that day -- and yet not bitter
-- when that bitter tyrant of the Greeks quenched fire
with fire in his cruel caldrons, and in his burning rage
brought those seven sons of the daughter of Abraham to
the catapult and back again to more tortures,
 pierced the pupils of their eyes and cut out
their tongues, and put them to death with various
 For these crimes divine justice pursued and
will pursue the accursed tyrant.
 But the sons of Abraham with their
victorious mother are gathered together into the chorus
of the fathers, and have received pure and immortal
souls from God,
 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
2 3 4
5 6 7
8 9 10
11 12 13
14 15 16