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4 Maccabees 14New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

14 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,[a] 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 suffering of these young men; they not only saw what was happening, not only heard the direct word of threat, but also bore the sufferings patiently, and in agonies of fire at that. 10 What could be more excruciatingly painful than this? For the power of fire is intense and swift, and it consumed their bodies quickly.

An Encomium on the Mother of the Seven

11 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, 12 for the mother of the seven young men bore up under the rackings of each one of her children.

13 Observe how complex is a mother’s love for her children, which draws everything toward an emotion felt in her inmost parts. 14 Even unreasoning animals, as well as human beings, have a sympathy and parental love for their offspring. 15 For example, among birds, the ones that are tame protect their young by building on the housetops, 16 and the others, by building at the tops of mountains and the depths of chasms, in holes of trees, and on tree-tops, hatch the nestlings and ward off the intruder. 17 If they are not able to keep the intruder[b] 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. 18 And why is it necessary to demonstrate sympathy for children by the example of unreasoning animals, 19 since even bees at the time for making honeycombs defend themselves against intruders and, as though with an iron dart, sting those who approach their hive and defend it even to the death? 20 But sympathy for her children did not sway the mother of the young men; she was of the same mind as Abraham.

Footnotes:

  1. 4 Maccabees 14:2 Or O minds
  2. 4 Maccabees 14:17 Gk it
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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