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The Torture of the Fifth and Sixth Brothers

11 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[a] we revere the Creator of all things and live according to his virtuous law? But these deeds deserve honors, not tortures.”[b] While he was saying these things, the guards bound him and dragged him to the catapult; 10 they tied him to it on his knees, and fitting iron clamps on them, they twisted his back[c] around the wedge on the wheel,[d] so that he was completely curled back like a scorpion, and all his members were disjointed. 11 In this condition, gasping for breath and in anguish of body, 12 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.”

13 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, 14 “I am younger in age than my brothers, but I am their equal in mind. 15 Since to this end we were born and bred, we ought likewise to die for the same principles. 16 So if you intend to torture me for not eating defiling foods, go on torturing!” 17 When he had said this, they led him to the wheel. 18 He was carefully stretched tight upon it, his back was broken, and he was roasted[e] from underneath. 19 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. 20 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! 21 For the religious knowledge, O tyrant, is invincible. 22 I also, equipped with nobility, will die with my brothers, 23 and I myself will bring a great avenger upon you, you inventor of tortures and enemy of those who are truly devout. 24 We six boys have paralyzed your tyranny! 25 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? 26 Your fire is cold to us, and the catapults painless, and your violence powerless. 27 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.”


  1. 4 Maccabees 11:5 Other ancient authorities read Or does it seem evil to you that
  2. 4 Maccabees 11:6 Other authorities add verses 7 and 8: If of course you had human feelings and had hope of salvation from God— but, as it is, you are a stranger to God and persecute those who serve him.”
  3. 4 Maccabees 11:10 Gk loins
  4. 4 Maccabees 11:10 Greek obscure
  5. 4 Maccabees 11:18 Other ancient authorities add by fire

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