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“Why do you delay, O tyrant? For we are ready to die rather than transgress our ancestral commandments; we are obviously putting our forebears to shame unless we should practice ready obedience to the law and to Moses[a] our counselor. Tyrant and counselor of lawlessness, in your hatred for us do not pity us more than we pity ourselves.[b] For we consider this pity of yours, which insures our safety through transgression of the law, to be more grievous than death itself. You are trying to terrify us by threatening us with death by torture, as though a short time ago you learned nothing from Eleazar. And if the aged men of the Hebrews because of their religion lived piously[c] while enduring torture, it would be even more fitting that we young men should die despising your coercive tortures, which our aged instructor also overcame. Therefore, tyrant, put us to the test; and if you take our lives because of our religion, do not suppose that you can injure us by torturing us. For we, through this severe suffering and endurance, shall have the prize of virtue and shall be with God, on whose account we suffer; but you, because of your bloodthirstiness toward us, will deservedly undergo from the divine justice eternal torment by fire.”

The Torture of the First and Second Brothers

10 When they had said these things, the tyrant was not only indignant, as at those who are disobedient, but also infuriated, as at those who are ungrateful. 11 Then at his command the guards brought forward the eldest, and having torn off his tunic, they bound his hands and arms with thongs on each side. 12 When they had worn themselves out beating him with scourges, without accomplishing anything, they placed him upon the wheel. 13 When the noble youth was stretched out around this, his limbs were dislocated, 14 and with every member disjointed he denounced the tyrant, saying, 15 “Most abominable tyrant, enemy of heavenly justice, savage of mind, you are mangling me in this manner, not because I am a murderer, or as one who acts impiously, but because I protect the divine law.” 16 And when the guards said, “Agree to eat so that you may be released from the tortures,” 17 he replied, “You abominable lackeys, your wheel is not so powerful as to strangle my reason. Cut my limbs, burn my flesh, and twist my joints; 18 through all these tortures I will convince you that children of the Hebrews alone are invincible where virtue is concerned.” 19 While he was saying these things, they spread fire under him, and while fanning the flames[d] they tightened the wheel further. 20 The wheel was completely smeared with blood, and the heap of coals was being quenched by the drippings of gore, and pieces of flesh were falling off the axles of the machine. 21 Although the ligaments joining his bones were already severed, the courageous youth, worthy of Abraham, did not groan, 22 but as though transformed by fire into immortality, he nobly endured the rackings. 23 “Imitate me, brothers,” he said. “Do not leave your post in my struggle[e] or renounce our courageous family ties. 24 Fight the sacred and noble battle for religion. Thereby the just Providence of our ancestors may become merciful to our nation and take vengeance on the accursed tyrant.” 25 When he had said this, the saintly youth broke the thread of life.

26 While all were marveling at his courageous spirit, the guards brought in the next eldest, and after fitting themselves with iron gauntlets having sharp hooks, they bound him to the torture machine and catapult. 27 Before torturing him, they inquired if he were willing to eat, and they heard his noble decision.[f] 28 These leopard-like beasts tore out his sinews with the iron hands, flayed all his flesh up to his chin, and tore away his scalp. But he steadfastly endured this agony and said, 29 “How sweet is any kind of death for the religion of our ancestors!” 30 To the tyrant he said, “Do you not think, you most savage tyrant, that you are being tortured more than I, as you see the arrogant design of your tyranny being defeated by our endurance for the sake of religion? 31 I lighten my pain by the joys that come from virtue, 32 but you suffer torture by the threats that come from impiety. You will not escape, you most abominable tyrant, the judgments of the divine wrath.”


  1. 4 Maccabees 9:2 Other ancient authorities read knowledge
  2. 4 Maccabees 9:3 Meaning of Gk uncertain
  3. 4 Maccabees 9:6 Other ancient authorities read died
  4. 4 Maccabees 9:19 Meaning of Gk uncertain
  5. 4 Maccabees 9:23 Other ancient authorities read post forever
  6. 4 Maccabees 9:27 Other ancient authorities read having heard his noble decision, they tore him to shreds

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