4 Maccabees 6 Common English Bible (CEB)
Eleazar endures torture
6 When Eleazar had answered the tyrant’s arguments, the soldiers who were standing by hauled him off to the instruments used for torture. 2 First they tore off the old man’s clothes, though he was still decently dressed by his respect for God. 3 They tied his arms behind him and began to whip him from both sides 4 while an official kept calling out, “Obey the king’s orders!” 5 But Eleazar was dignified and generous. He experienced the truth of his name[a] and seemed like a person being tortured only in a dream. He didn’t change his resolve in any way. 6 The old man kept his eyes raised toward heaven while the whips tore into his flesh, ripped his sides, and made his blood flow. 7 His body fell to the ground because it couldn’t stand the pain, but he kept his thinking upright and unbending. 8 One of the cruel guards rushed up to him and started kicking him in his side to make him stand up again. 9 But Eleazar endured the pain, ignored the agony, and put up with the suffering. 10 Like an honorable athlete in the games, the old man defeated his torturers while they were beating him up. 11 His face dripping with sweat and gasping for breath, he amazed even the torturers with his courage.
12 Some members of the king’s staff were moved by Eleazar’s situation, partly out of pity for his old age, 13 partly because of their previous relationship with him, and partly out of admiration for his endurance. These people came to him and said, 14 “Eleazar, why are you throwing your life away so thoughtlessly in the midst of these torments? 15 We will set some cooked meat in front of you. Save yourself by pretending that it is pork and eat it.”
16 Eleazar screamed out as if this advice were even more painful than the whips: 17 “May we who are Abraham’s children never think so wickedly that we would pretend to act this inappropriately because we are cowards! 18 To change our ways now would be the truly thoughtless thing to do. We have lived in line with God’s truth well into old age and earned a reputation for keeping the Law. 19 We would become an example of ungodly behavior for the younger people, and pave the way for them to eat forbidden food. 20 It would be a disgrace for us to become a joke for our lack of courage, just to survive a little longer. 21 This tyrant would look down on us as cowards because we weren’t willing to defend the divine Law to the point of death. 22 For all these reasons, children of Abraham, die well for the sake of showing God proper respect! 23 As for you, soldiers of the tyrant, what are you waiting for?”
24 When the king’s advisors saw that he remained confident in the face of torture and didn’t appreciate their compassion, the guards carried him to the fire. 25 They burned his body with diabolical devices, and then they threw him on the ground and poured disgusting liquids into his nostrils. 26 Eleazar was now burned down to his bones and on the edge of death. He raised his eyes toward God and said, 27 “God, you know that I could have saved myself; instead, I am being burned and tortured to death for the sake of your Law. 28 Have mercy on your people. Make our punishment sufficient for their sake. 29 Purify them with my blood, and take my life in exchange for theirs.” 30 When he said this, the holy man died with dignity from the torture. By thinking clearly, he resisted even while facing the pains of death for the sake of the Law.
Eleazar is praised as an example
31 So without question, godly thinking rules over the emotions. 32 If the emotions had overpowered clear thinking in these events, we would have given evidence of their superior strength. 33 But as it is, since clear thinking conquered the emotions, we are correct to affirm its authority to rule. 34 It’s only right for us to affirm that clear thinking has greater power when it has gained control over the response to physical pain. It would be ridiculous to say anything else. 35 So I am showing that clear thinking maintains control not only in the face of physical pain but also in the face of pleasure, without giving way to any of these things.