4 Maccabees Chapter 11 (from The Five Books of Maccabees)


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P. 253 – 255 Book 4 B.C. 167 [PDF: 303/305 of p.524]

CHAPTER 11

(i) The death of the fifth and sixth brothers.

1 And after this youth also had died, being miserably mangled in torments, the fifth leaped 2 forward, saying ; ” I am not about, O tyrant, to beg escape from the torturing which is inflicted on 3 us for virtue’s sake. But of my own accord I have come forward, that having put me also to death, you may owe to heavenly justice a debt 4 of vengeance for still more enormities. O thou hater of virtue, and of the human race ! what have we done, that thou destroyest us after this 5 merciless manner ? Does it seem to you wrong that we venerate the universal Creator, and live 6 according to his most virtuous law ? This conduct, surely, deserves honours rather than tortures. [If (at least )1)P. 253 Foot Note a. This part, to the end of the verse, is omitted by Josephus. The sense at present is imperfect, and requires to be completed by the insertion of the words, ” yon would have been sensible of this,” if, &c.. you had ever felt any of the desires of men, and had entertained a hope of salvation from God. But lo ! now, being estranged from God, you persecute those who are reverent towards Him.”]

7 While he was uttering these words, the guards having bound him, dragged him to the catapelta : 8 to which tying him by the knees, and making these fast with iron fetters, they twisted2)P. 254 Foot Note b. The Greek text of this verse is somewhat difficult of interpretation : Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] It may mean, that he was broken into as many pieces as there are joints in the tail of a scorpion. his loins upon the wedge of the wheel ; on which being wholly disjointed, he curled round the wheel like a scorpion [or snake], and was pulled limb from limb. In this manner, being both hard pressed 9 for breath, and crushed in his body, he said : ” Involuntarily, O tyrant, you bestow on us fair 10 favours, giving us opportunity, by more nobly borne sufferings, to exhibit our endurance in defence of the law.”

11 And when he also was dead, the sixth was brought out, a mere youth: who, when the tyrant asked if he would eat and save himself, replied ” I indeed in age am younger than my brethren, 12 but in purpose of mind I am their equal. For 13 we, having been brought forth and educated in the same manner, ought alike to die in defence of the same cause. So that if you chuse to 14 torment us because we eat not unclean food, torment.”

When he had thus spoken, they brought him 15 to the rack : stretched on which, with his limbs strained and his spine disjointed, he was roasted from beneath. And having heated sharp spits, 16 they applied them to his back ; and piercing through his sides, they burned away his entrails. But he, while thus tormented, said ; ” O holy 17 noble trial, to which so many brothers of us being called, to be exercised in sufferings for p. 255 18 religion’s sake, have not been overcome ! For righteous knowledge3)P. 255 Foot Note c. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] The punctuation in this and the next two verses is very faulty in the edition of 1817, and obstructs the sense., armed with honour and 19 virtue, O tyrant, is invincible. I shall soon die, and be with my brethren: and so will you4)P. 255 Foot Note d. The Greek text is obscure here. It may mean, that ” I myself shall bring upon you a severe avenger.” , O tyrant, shortly, having brought upon yourself a 20 severe avenging fiend. O thou inventor of new torments5)P. 255 Foot Note e. See the same character given of Antiochus at 3 Mace, ix. 6. ” He had tormented other men’s bowels with many and strange torments.”, and enemy of those who are truly religious, we six youths have demolished thy 21 tyrannic sway. For is it not a demolishing of you, that you have not been able to persuade away our Principle, nor to force us to the 22 eating of unclean food ? Your fire to us is cold : your catapeltæ give no pain : and your violence 23 is powerless. For the guards, not of a tyrant, but of the Divine Law, are our protectors ; through this, we retain our Principle unsubdued.”


Original Source: Transcribed from PDF copy of Book "The Five Books of Maccabees in English. With Notes and Illustrations", by HENRY COTTON, D.C.L.(Sir) Archdeacon of Cashel, and Late Student of Christ Church, Oxford. Publication date 1832 | PDF


References   [ + ]

1. P. 253 Foot Note a. This part, to the end of the verse, is omitted by Josephus. The sense at present is imperfect, and requires to be completed by the insertion of the words, ” yon would have been sensible of this,” if, &c.
2. P. 254 Foot Note b. The Greek text of this verse is somewhat difficult of interpretation : Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] It may mean, that he was broken into as many pieces as there are joints in the tail of a scorpion.
3. P. 255 Foot Note c. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] The punctuation in this and the next two verses is very faulty in the edition of 1817, and obstructs the sense.
4. P. 255 Foot Note d. The Greek text is obscure here. It may mean, that ” I myself shall bring upon you a severe avenger.” 
5. P. 255 Foot Note e. See the same character given of Antiochus at 3 Mace, ix. 6. ” He had tormented other men’s bowels with many and strange torments.”

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