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, rational judgment.
 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, and pain.
 Some might perhaps ask, "If reason rules the emotions, why
is it not sovereign over forgetfulness and ignorance?" Their attempt at
argument is ridiculous!
 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 them.
 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
 All of these, by despising sufferings that bring death,
demonstrated that reason controls the emotions.
 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 held.
 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
 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 emotions.
 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 many consequences.
 Thus desire precedes pleasure and delight follows it.
 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 pain.
 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
 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 emotions.
 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.
 Self-control, then, is dominance over the desires.
 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
 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 the passions.
 Not only is reason proved to rule over the frenzied urge
of sexual desire, but also over every desire.
 Thus the law says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's
wife...or anything that is your neighbor's."
 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 sakes.
 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 wickedly.
 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
 Now when God fashioned man, he planted in him emotions
 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 malice.
 For reason does not uproot the emotions but is their antagonist.
 Now this can be explained more clearly by the story of King
 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
 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 blood.
 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 desires;
 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 betraying it.
 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
 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 the temple.
 While the priests together with women and children were
imploring God in the temple to shield the holy place that was being treated
 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 all people.
 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
 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 terrible man,
 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
 Jason changed the nation's way of life and altered its
form of government in complete violation of the law,
 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
 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 renounce Judaism.
 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 nature.
 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 own hurt.
 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
 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 compulsion."
 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 despised.
 You scoff at our philosophy as though living by it were
 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
 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 real God.
 "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
 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 at me,
 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 my entrails.
 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
 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 self-control.
 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 by deed."
 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
 while a herald opposite him cried out, "Obey the king's
 But the courageous and noble man, as a true Eleazar, was
unmoved, as though being tortured in a dream;
 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
 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 old age,
 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 said,
 "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 death.
 Therefore, O children of Abraham, die nobly for your religion!
 And you, guards of the tyrant, why do you delay?"
 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.
 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
 Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange
 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 govern.
 And it is right for us to acknowledge the dominance of
reason when it masters even external agonies. It would be ridiculous to
 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 the emotions.
 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
 Such should be those who are administrators of the law,
shielding it with their own blood and noble sweat in sufferings even to
 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 passions, Eleazar!
 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 reason.
 Most amazing, indeed, though he was an old man, his body
no longer tense and firm, his muscles flabby, his sinews feeble, he became
 in spirit through reason; and by reason like that of Isaac
he rendered the many-headed rack ineffective.
 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
 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 torture.
 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 aged mother.
 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 me.
 Trust me, then, and you will have positions of authority
in my government if you will renounce the ancestral tradition of your national
 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
 Therefore take pity on yourselves. Even I, your enemy,
have compassion for your youth and handsome appearance.
 Will you not consider this, that if you disobey, nothing
remains for you but to die on the rack?"
 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 speaking:
 "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 tyranny.
 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
 and let us seriously consider that if we disobey we are
 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 world?
 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 considered them.
 For they were contemptuous of the emotions and sovereign
 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 commandments;
 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 ourselves.
 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
 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,
 "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."
 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
 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
 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
 I lighten my pain by the joys that come from virtue,
 but you suffer torture by the threats that come from impiety.
You will not escape, most abominable tyrant, the judgments of the divine
 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 same teachings?
 I do not renounce the noble kinship that binds me to my
 Enraged by the man's boldness, they disjointed his hands
and feet with their instruments, dismembering him by prying his limbs from
 and breaking his fingers and arms and legs and elbows.
 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 save yourself."
 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 noble brotherhood.
 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
 God will visit you swiftly, for you are cutting out a tongue
that has been melodious with divine hymns."
 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
 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 tortures."
 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 disjointed.
 In this condition, gasping for breath and in anguish of
 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,
 "I am younger in age than my brothers, but I am their equal
 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 wheel.
 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 invincible.
 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 truly devout.
 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
 When he also, thrown into the caldron, had died a blessed death,
the seventh and youngest of all came forward.
 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 disobedience.
 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 kingdom."
 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
 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
 Because of this, justice has laid up for you intense and
eternal fire and tortures, and these throughout all time will never let
 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
 Then because he too was about to die, he said,
 "I do not desert the excellent example of my brothers,
 and I call on the God of our fathers to be merciful to
 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 their emotions.
 The supremacy of the mind over these cannot be overlooked,
for the brothers mastered both emotions and pains.
 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
 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 religion."
 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
 Let us not fear him who thinks he is killing us,
 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 us."
 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
 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 around religion,
 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 animals,
 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 Abraham.
 O reason of the children, tyrant over the emotions! O religion,
more desirable to the mother than her children!
 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 promise.
 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 children.
 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
 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 religion.
 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 her attitude.
 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 complete devotion!
 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 tears.
 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 mother.
 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 in God.
 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
 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
 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
 "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 wretched nursings!
 In vain, my sons, I endured many birth-pangs for you, and
the more grievous anxieties of your upbringing.
 Alas for my children, some unmarried, others married and
without offspring. I shall not see your children or have the happiness
of being called grandmother.
 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
 "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
 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 God.
 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 body.
 O mother, who with your seven sons nullified the violence
of the tyrant, frustrated his evil designs, and showed the courage of your
 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 father Abraham.
 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 our nation:
 "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 Hebrews.
 They vindicated their nation, looking to God and enduring
torture even to death."
 Truly the contest in which they were engaged was divine,
 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 brothers contended.
 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
 Who did not admire the athletes of the divine legislation?
Who were not amazed?
 The tyrant himself and all his council marveled at their
 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
 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
 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 way,
 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 inheritance.
 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 bereavement.
 While he was still with you, he taught you the law and
 He read to you about Abel slain by Cain, and Isaac who
was offered as a burnt offering, and of Joseph in prison.
 He told you of the zeal of Phineas, and he taught you about
Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in the fire.
 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
 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 tortures.
 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.