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4 Maccabees 17New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

17 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 faith! 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 honour before God and are firmly set in heaven with them. For your children were true descendants of father Abraham.[a]

The Effect of the Martyrdoms

If it were possible for us to paint the history of your religion 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 on their tomb these words as a reminder to the people of our nation:[b]

‘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. 10 They vindicated their nation, looking to God and enduring torture even to death.’

11 Truly the contest in which they were engaged was divine, 12 for on that day virtue gave the awards and tested them for their endurance. The prize was immortality in endless life. 13 Eleazar was the first contestant, the mother of the seven sons entered the competition, and the brothers contended. 14 The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world and the human race were the spectators. 15 Reverence for God was victor and gave the crown to its own athletes. 16 Who did not admire the athletes of the divine[c] legislation? Who were not amazed?

17 The tyrant himself and all his council marvelled at their[d] endurance, 18 because of which they now stand before the divine throne and live the life of eternal blessedness. 19 For Moses says, ‘All who are consecrated are under your hands.’ 20 These, then, who have been consecrated for the sake of God,[e] are honoured, not only with this honour, but also by the fact that because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation, 21 the tyrant was punished, and the homeland purified—they having become, as it were, a ransom for the sin of our nation. 22 And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an atoning sacrifice, divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated.

23 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, 24 and this made them brave and courageous for infantry battle and siege, and he ravaged and conquered all his enemies.

Footnotes:

  1. 4 Maccabees 17:6 Gk For your childbearing was from Abraham the father; other ancient authorities read For . . . Abraham the servant
  2. 4 Maccabees 17:8 Or as a memorial to the heroes of our people
  3. 4 Maccabees 17:16 Other ancient authorities read true
  4. 4 Maccabees 17:17 Other ancient authorities add virtue and
  5. 4 Maccabees 17:20 Other ancient authorities lack for the sake of God
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 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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