The famous "Athletes of Righteousness." Here ends the story of courage called the Fourth Book of Maccabees.
SOME of the guards declared that when she also was about to be seized and put to death, she cast herself on the pyre in order that no man might touch her body.
2 O mother, that together with thy seven sons didst break the tyrant's force, and bring to nought his evil devices, and gavest an example of the nobleness of faith.
3 Thou wert nobly set as a roof upon thy sons as pillars, and the earthquake of the torments shook thee not at all.
4 Rejoice therefore, pure-souled mother, having the hope of thy endurance certain at the hand of God.
5 Not so majestic stands the moon amid the stars in heaven as thou, having lit the path of thy seven starlike sons unto righteousness, standest in honour with God; and thou art set in heaven with them.
6 For thy child-bearing was from the son of Abraham.
7 And had it been lawful for us to paint, as might some artist, the tale of thy piety, would not the spectators have shuddered at the mother of seven sons suffering for righteousness' sake multitudinous tortures even unto death?
8 And indeed it were fitting to inscribe these words over their resting-place, speaking for a memorial to future generations of our people:
HERE LIE AN AGED PRIEST
AND A WOMAN FULL OF YEARS
AND HER SEVEN SONS
THROUGH THE VIOLENCE OF A TYRANT
DESIRING TO DESTROY THE HEBREW NATION.
THEY VINDICATED THE RIGHTS OF OUR PEOPLE
LOOKING UNTO GOD AND ENDURING
THE TORMENTS EVEN UNTO
9 For truly it was a holy war which was fought by them. For on that day virtue, proving them
through endurance, set before them the prize of victory in incorruption in everlasting life.
10 But the first in the fight was Eleazar, and the mother of the seven sons played her part, and the brethren fought.
11 The tyrant was their adversary and the world and the life of man were the spectators.
12 And righteousness won the victor and gave the crown to her athletes. Who but wondered at the athletes of the true Law?
13 Who were not amazed at them? The tyrant himself and his whole council admired their endurance, whereby they now do both Stand beside the throne of God and live the blessed age.
14 For Moses says, 'All also who have sanctified themselves are under thy hands.'
15 And these men, therefore, having sanctified themselves for God's sake, not only have received this honour, but also the honour that through them the enemy had no more power over our people, and the tyrant suffered punishment, and our country was purified, they having as it were become a ransom for our nation's sin; and through the blood of these righteous men and the propitiation of their death, the divine Providence delivered Israel that before was evil entreated.
16 For when the tyrant Antiochus saw the heroism of their virtue, and their endurance under the tortures, he publicly held up their endurance to his soldiers as an example; and he thus inspired his men with a sense of honour and heroism on the field of battle and in the labours of besieging, so that he plundered and overthrew all his enemies.
17 O Israelites, children born of the seed of Abraham, obey this Law, and be righteous in all ways, recognizing that Inspired Reason is lord over the passions, and over pains, not only from within, but from without ourselves; by which means those men, delivering up their bodies to the torture for righteousness' sake, not only won the admiration of mankind, but were deemed worthy of a divine inheritance.
18 And through them the nation obtained peace and restoring the observance of the Law in our country hath captured the city from the enemy.
19 And vengeance hath pursued the tyrant Antiochus upon earth, and in death he suffers punishment.
20 For when he failed utterly to constrain the people of Jerusalem to live like Gentiles and abandon the customs of our fathers, he thereupon left Jerusalem and marched away against the Persians.
21 Now these are the words that the mother of the seven sons, the righteous woman, spake to her children:
22 'I was a pure maiden, and I strayed not from my father's house, and I kept guard over the rib that was builded into Eve.
23 No seducer of the desert, no deceiver in the field, corrupted me; nor did the false, beguiling Serpent sully the purity of my maidenhood; I lived with my husband all the days of my youth; but when these my sons were grown up, their father died.
24 Happy was he; for he lived a life blessed with children, and he never knew the pain of their loss.
25 Who, while he was yet with us, taught you the Law and the prophets. He read to us of Abel who was slain by Cain, and of Isaac who was offered as a burnt-offering, and of Joseph in the prison.
26 And he spake to us of Phineas, the zealous priest, and he taught you the song of
Ananias, Azarias, and Mishael in the fire.
27 And he glorified also Daniel in the den of lions, and blessed him; and he called to your minds the saying of Isaiah,
28 "Yea even though thou pass through the fire, the flame shall not hurt thee."
29 He sang to us the words of David the psalmist, "Many are the afflictions of the just."
30 He quoted to us the proverb of Solomon, "He is a tree of life to all them that do his will."
31 He confirmed the words of Ezekiel, "Shall these dry bones live?" For he forgat not the song that Moses taught, which teaches, "I will slay and I will make alive. This is your life and the blessedness of your days."'
32 Ah, cruel was the day, and yet not cruel, when the cruel tyrant of the Greeks set the fire blazing for his barbarous braziers, and with his passions boiling brought to the catapult and back again to his tortures the seven sons of the daughter of Abraham, and blinded the eyeballs of their eyes, and cut out their tongues, and slew them with many kinds of torment.
33 For which cause the judgement of God pursued, and shall pursue, the accursed wretch.
34 But the sons of Abraham, with their victorious mother, are gathered together unto the place of their ancestors, having received pure and immortal souls from God, to whom be glory for ever and ever.