Lives of the Saints
5 The tyrant Antiochus, sitting in state with his counselors on a certain high place, and
with his armed soldiers standing around him, 2ordered the guards to seize each and
every Hebrew and to compel them to eat pork and food sacrificed to idols. 3If any
were not willing to eat defiling food, they were to be broken on the wheel and killed.
4When many persons had been rounded up, one man, Eleazar by name, leader of the
flock, was broughta 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.b 5 When Antiochus saw him he said, 6"Before I begin to torture you, old
man, I would advise you to save yourself by eating pork, 7for 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. 8When
nature has granted it to us, why should you abhor eating the very excellent meat of
this animal? 9It is senseless not to enjoy delicious things that are not shameful, and
wrong to spurn the gifts of nature. 10It 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 own hurt. 11Will 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, 12and have compassion on your old age by
honoring my humane advice? 13For consider this: if there is some power watching over
this religion of yours, it will excuse you from any transgression that arises out of
compulsion." 14 When the tyrant urged him in this fashion to eat meat unlawfully,
Eleazar asked to have a word. 15When he had received permission to speak, he began
to address the people as follows: 16"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. 17Therefore we consider that we should not transgress
it in any respect. 18Even 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. 19Therefore do not suppose that it would be a petty sin if we
were to eat defiling food; 20to transgress the law in matters either small or great is of
equal seriousness, 21for in either case the law is equally despised. 22You scoff at our
philosophy as though living by it were irrational, 23but 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; 24it instructs us in justice, so that in all our dealings
we act impartially,c and it teaches us piety, so that with proper reverence we worship
the only living God. 25 "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 us. 26He has permitted
us to eat what will be most suitable for our lives,d but he has forbidden us to eat
meats that would be contrary to this. 27It 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. 28But you shall have no such
occasion to laugh at me, 29nor will I transgress the sacred oaths of my ancestors
concerning the keeping of the law, 30not even if you gouge out my eyes and burn my
entrails. 31I am not so old and cowardly as not to be young in reason on behalf of
piety. 32Therefore get your torture wheels ready and fan the fire more vehemently! 33I
do not so pity my old age as to break the ancestral law by my own act. 34I will not
play false to you, O law that trained me, nor will I renounce you, beloved self-control.
35I will not put you to shame, philosophical reason, nor will I reject you, honored
priesthood and knowledge of the law. 36You, O king,e shall not defile the honorable
mouth of my old age, nor my long life lived lawfully. 37My ancestors will receive me as
pure, as one who does not fear your violence even to death. 38You may tyrannize the
ungodly, but you shall not dominate my religious principles, either by words or through
6 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. 2First they stripped the old man, though he remained adorned with the
gracefulness of his piety. 3After they had tied his arms on each side they flogged him,
4while a herald who faced him cried out, "Obey the king's commands!" 5But the
courageous and noble man, like a true Eleazar, was unmoved, as though being
tortured in a dream; 6yet 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.
7Although he fell to the ground because his body could not endure the agonies, he
kept his reason upright and unswerving. 8One of the cruel guards rushed at him and
began to kick him in the side to make him get up again after he fell. 9But he bore the
pains and scorned the punishment and endured the tortures. 10Like a noble athlete
the old man, while being beaten, was victorious over his torturers; 11in fact, with his
face bathed in sweat, and gasping heavily for breath, he amazed even his torturers by
his courageous spirit. 12 At that point, partly out of pity for his old age, 13partly 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 said, 14"Eleazar, why are you
so irrationally destroying yourself through these evil things? 15We will set before you
some cooked meat; save yourself by pretending to eat pork."
16 But Eleazar, as though more bitterly tormented by this counsel, cried out: 17"Never
may we, the children of Abraham,a think so basely that out of cowardice we feign a
role unbecoming to us! 18For it would be irrational if having lived in accordance with
truth up to old age and having maintained in accordance with law the reputation of
such a life, we should now change our course 19and ourselves become a pattern of
impiety to the young by setting them an example in the eating of defiling food. 20It
would be shameful if we should survive for a little while and during that time be a
laughingstock to all for our cowardice, 21and be despised by the tyrant as unmanly by
not contending even to death for our divine law. 22Therefore, O children of Abraham,
die nobly for your religion! 23And you, guards of the tyrant, why do you delay?" 24
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 the fire.
25There they burned him with maliciously contrived instruments, threw him down, and
poured stinking liquids into his nostrils. 26When he was now burned to his very bones
and about to expire, he lifted up his eyes to God and said, 27"You know, O God, that
though I might have saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the
law. 28Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. 29Make my
blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs." 30After he said this,
the holy man died nobly in his tortures; even in the tortures of death he resisted, by
virtue of reason, for the sake of the law.
31 Admittedly, then, devout reason is sovereign over the emotions. 32For if the
emotions had prevailed over reason, we would have testified to their domination.
33But now that reason has conquered the emotions, we properly attribute to it the
power to govern. 34It is right for us to acknowledge the dominance of reason when it
masters even external agonies. It would be ridiculous to deny it.b 35I have proved not
only that reason has mastered agonies, but also that it masters pleasures and in no
respect yields to them.

(IV Maccabees 8-12)
8 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 torture. 2For 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 would be freed after
eating, but if any were to refuse, they would be tortured even more cruelly. 3 When
the tyrant had given these orders, seven brothers--handsome, modest, noble, and
accomplished in every way--were brought before him along with their aged mother.
4When the tyrant saw them, grouped about their mother as though a chorus, he was
pleased with them. And struck by their appearance and nobility, he smiled at them,
and summoned them nearer and said, 5"Young men, with favorable feelings I admire
each and every one of you, 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. 6Just as I am able to punish those who disobey my orders, so I can be a
benefactor to those who obey me. 7Trust me, then, and you will have positions of
authority in my government if you will renounce the ancestral tradition of your national
life. 8Enjoy your youth by adopting the Greek way of life and by changing your manner
of living. 9But if by disobedience you rouse my anger, you will compel me to destroy
each and every one of you with dreadful punishments through tortures. 10Therefore
take pity on yourselves. Even I, your enemy, have compassion for your youth and
handsome appearance. 11Will you not consider this, that if you disobey, nothing
remains for you but to die on the rack?" 12 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. 13When the guards had placed before them wheels and
joint-dislocators, rack and hooksa and catapultsb and caldrons, braziers and
thumbscrews and iron claws and wedges and bellows, the tyrant resumed speaking:
14"Be afraid, young fellows; whatever justice you revere will be merciful to you when
you transgress under compulsion." 15 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 tyranny.
16Let 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 the following?
17"O wretches that we are and so senseless! Since the king has summoned and
exhorted us to accept kind treatment if we obey him, 18why do we take pleasure in
vain resolves and venture upon a disobedience that brings death? 19O 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? 20Let us take pity on our youth and have compassion on our mother's age; 21and
let us seriously consider that if we disobey we are dead! 22Also, divine justice will
excuse us for fearing the king when we are under compulsion. 23Why do we banish
ourselves from this most pleasant life and deprive ourselves of this delightful world?
24Let us not struggle against compulsionc or take hollow pride in being put to the
rack. 25Not even the law itself would arbitrarily put us to death for fearing the
instruments of torture. 26Why does such contentiousness excite us and such a fatal
stubbornness please us, when we can live in peace if we obey the king?" 27 But the
youths, though about to be tortured, neither said any of these things nor even
seriously considered them. 28For they were contemptuous of the emotions and
sovereign over agonies, 29so that as soon as the tyrant had ceased counseling them
to eat defiling food, all with one voice together, as from one mind, said:
9 "Why do you delay, O tyrant? For we are ready to die rather than transgress our
ancestral commandments; 2we are obviously putting our forebears to shame unless we
should practice ready obedience to the law and to Mosesa our counselor. 3Tyrant and
counselor of lawlessness, in your hatred for us do not pity us more than we pity
ourselves.b 4For we consider this pity of yours, which insures our safety through
transgression of the law, to be more grievous than death itself. 5You are trying to
terrify us by threatening us with death by torture, as though a short time ago you
learned nothing from Eleazar. 6And if the aged men of the Hebrews because of their
religion lived piouslyc 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. 7Therefore, 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. 8For we, through
this severe suffering and endurance, shall have the prize of virtue and shall be with
God, on whose account we suffer; 9but you, because of your bloodthirstiness toward
us, will deservedly undergo from the divine justice eternal torment by fire."
10 When they had said these things, the tyrant was not only indignant, as at those
who are disobedient, but also infuriated, as at those who are ungrateful. 11Then 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. 12When they had worn
themselves out beating him with scourges, without accomplishing anything, they
placed him upon the wheel. 13When the noble youth was stretched out around this,
his limbs were dislocated, 14and with every member disjointed he denounced the
tyrant, saying, 15"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 law." 16And when the guards said, "Agree
to eat so that you may be released from the tortures," 17he 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; 18through all these tortures I will convince you that
children of the Hebrews alone are invincible where virtue is concerned." 19While he
was saying these things, they spread fire under him, and while fanning the flamesd
they tightened the wheel further.20The 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. 21Although the ligaments joining his bones
were already severed, the courageous youth, worthy of Abraham, did not groan, 22but
as though transformed by fire into immortality, he nobly endured the rackings.
23"Imitate me, brothers," he said. "Do not leave your post in my strugglee or renounce
our courageous family ties. 24Fight 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." 25When he had said this, the saintly youth broke
the thread of life. 26 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 catapult. 27Before torturing
him, they inquired if he were willing to eat, and they heard his noble decision.f
28These 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, 29"How sweet is any kind of death for the religion of our ancestors!" 30To
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? 31I lighten my pain by the joys that come
from virtue, 32but you suffer torture by the threats that come from impiety. You will
not escape, you most abominable tyrant, the judgments of the divine wrath."
10 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. 2But he shouted, "Do you
not know that the same father begot me as well as those who died, and the same
mother bore me, and that I was brought up on the same teachings? 3I do not
renounce the noble kinship that binds me to my brothers."a 5Enraged by the man's
boldness, they disjointed his hands and feet with their instruments, dismembering him
by prying his limbs from their sockets, 6and breaking his fingers and arms and legs
and elbows. 7Since they were not able in any way to break his spirit,b they abandoned
the instrumentsc and scalped him with their fingernails in a Scythian fashion. 8They
immediately brought him to the wheel, and while his vertebrae were being dislocated
by this, he saw his own flesh torn all around and drops of blood flowing from his
entrails. 9When he was about to die, he said, 10"We, most abominable tyrant, are
suffering because of our godly training and virtue, 11but you, because of your impiety
and bloodthirstiness, will undergo unceasing torments."
12 When he too had died in a manner worthy of his brothers, they dragged in the
fourth, saying, 13"As for you, do not give way to the same insanity as your brothers,
but obey the king and save yourself." 14But he said to them, "You do not have a fire
hot enough to make me play the coward. 15No--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 noble family ties. 16Contrive tortures, tyrant, so that you may learn
from them that I am a brother to those who have just now been tortured." 17When he
heard this, the bloodthirsty, murderous, and utterly abominable Antiochus gave orders
to cut out his tongue. 18But he said, "Even if you remove my organ of speech, God
hears also those who are mute. 19See, here is my tongue; cut it off, for in spite of
this you will not make our reason speechless. 20Gladly, for the sake of God, we let our
bodily members be mutilated. 21God will visit you swiftly, for you are cutting out a
tongue that has been melodious with divine hymns."
11 When he too died, after being cruelly tortured, the fifth leaped up, saying, 2"I will
not refuse, tyrant, to be tortured for the sake of virtue. 3I have come of my own
accord, so that by murdering me you will incur punishment from the heavenly justice
for even more crimes. 4Hater of virtue, hater of humankind, for what act of ours are
you destroying us in this way? 5Is it becausea we revere the Creator of all things and
live according to his virtuous law? 6But these deeds deserve honors, not tortures."b
9While he was saying these things, the guards bound him and dragged him to the
catapult; 10they tied him to it on his knees, and fitting iron clamps on them, they
twisted his backc around the wedge on the wheel,d so that he was completely curled
back like a scorpion, and all his members were disjointed. 11In this condition, gasping
for breath and in anguish of body, 12he 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."
13 When 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, 14"I am younger in age than
my brothers, but I am their equal in mind. 15Since to this end we were born and bred,
we ought likewise to die for the same principles. 16So if you intend to torture me for
not eating defiling foods, go on torturing!" 17When he had said this, they led him to
the wheel. 18He was carefully stretched tight upon it, his back was broken, and he
was roastede from underneath. 19To his back they applied sharp spits that had been
heated in the fire, and pierced his ribs so that his entrails were burned through.
20While 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! 21For religious knowledge, O tyrant, is invincible. 22I also,
equipped with nobility, will die with my brothers, 23and I myself will bring a great
avenger upon you, you inventor of tortures and enemy of those who are truly devout.
24We six boys have paralyzed your tyranny. 25Since 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? 26Your fire is cold to us, and the catapults painless, and your violence
powerless. 27For 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."
12 When he too, thrown into the caldron, had died a blessed death, the seventh and
youngest of all came forward. 2Even though the tyrant had been vehemently
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 persuade
him, saying, 3"You see the result of your brothers' stupidity, for they died in torments
because of their disobedience. 4You too, if you do not obey, will be miserably tortured
and die before your time, 5but if you yield to persuasion you will be my friend and a
leader in the government of the kingdom." 6When he had thus appealed to him, 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. 7But when his mother had exhorted him in the Hebrew language, as we shall
tell a little later, 8he said, "Let me loose, let me speak to the king and to all his
friends that are with him." 9Extremely pleased by the boy's declaration, they freed him
at once. 10Running to the nearest of the braziers, 11he 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? 12Because of this, justice has laid up for you
intense and eternal fire and tortures, and these throughout all timea will never let you
go. 13As 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? 14Surely they by dying nobly
fulfilled their service to God, but you will wail bitterly for having killed without cause
the contestants for virtue." 15Then because he too was about to die, he said, 16"I do
not desert the excellent exampleb of my brothers, 17and I call on the God of our
ancestors to be merciful to our nation;c 18but on you he will take vengeance both in
this present life and when you are dead." 19After he had uttered these imprecations,
he flung himself into the braziers and so ended his life.d
[1] IV Maccabees 5-6
The Martyrdom of Eleazar the Priest,
Solomone and her seven sons