1 But not much time later, the king sent a certain elder of Antioch, who compelled the Jews to transfer themselves from the laws of God and of their fathers,
2 and also to contaminate the temple that was in Jerusalem, and to name it ‘Jupiter of Olympus,’ and in Garizim, ‘Jupiter of Hospitality,’ exactly like those who inhabited the place.
3 Yet the worst and most grievous thing of all was the onrush of evils.
4 For the temple was full of the luxuries and carousings of the Gentiles, and of consorting with promiscuous women. And the women hurried themselves unreservedly into the sacred buildings, bringing in things that were not lawful.
5 And even the altar was filled with illicit things, which were prohibited by the laws.
6 And also the sabbaths were not kept, and the solemn days of the fathers were not observed, neither did anyone simply confess himself to be a Jew.
7 And so, they were led by bitter necessity, on the birthday of the king, to the sacrifices. And, when the holy things of Liber were celebrated, they were forced to go around crowned with the ivy of Liber.
8 Then a decree went out to the neighboring cities of the Gentiles, suggested by the Ptolemeans, that they too should act in a similar manner against the Jews, to oblige them to sacrifice,
9 and that those who were not willing to conform to the institutions of the Gentiles should be executed. Therefore, there was misery to be seen.
10 For two women were denounced for having had their boys circumcised. These, with the infants suspended at their breasts, when they had publicly led them around the city, they cast down from the walls.
11 Truly, others, meeting together in nearby caves and celebrating the Sabbath day secretly, when they had been discovered by Philip, were burned with fire, because they showed reverence to the observances of religion, deciding to help themselves by their own hand.
12 So then, I beg those who will read this Book, let them not be repelled by these adverse events, but let them consider that these things happened, not for the destruction, but for the correction, of our people.
13 For it is also an indication of great benefits that sinners are not permitted to continue in their ways for a long time, but are promptly brought to punishment.
14 For, as it is with other nations, (whom the Lord patiently awaits, so that, when the day of Judgment will arrive, he may punish them according to the plentitude of their sins,)
15 not so does he also deal with us, as if to put off our sins until the end, so as to punish us for them eventually.
16 Because of this, he certainly would never take away his mercy from us. Yet truly, chastising his people in adversity, he does not abandon them.
17 But these few things have been spoken by us as a reminder to the reader. For now we have arrived at the narration.
18 And so, Eleazar, one of the chief scribes, a man advanced in years and of stately countenance, was compelled to open his mouth wide to consume the flesh of swine.
19 Yet he, embracing a most glorious death as greater than a detestable life, went forward voluntarily to the torments.
20 And so, thinking over the manner by which he ought to approach it, enduring patiently, he was determined not to permit, due to a love for life, any unlawful things.
21 Yet those who stood near, being moved by an iniquitous pity because of long friendship with the man, taking him aside privately, asked that flesh be brought which was lawful for him to eat, so that he could pretend to have eaten, just as the king had commanded, from the flesh of the sacrifice.
22 So then, by doing this, he might be freed from death. And it was because of their old friendship with the man that they performed this kindness for him.
23 But he began to consider the eminent dignity of his stage of life and old age, and the natural honor of gray hair, as well as his exemplary words and deeds from childhood. And he responded quickly, according also to the ordinances of the sacred law preserved by God, saying, that he would first be sent to the underworld.
24 “For it is not worthy for those of our age,” he said, “to deceive, so that many adolescents might think that Eleazar, at ninety years, had converted to the life of the foreigners.
25 And so, they, because of my pretense and for the sake of a brief time of a corruptible life, would be misled, and, through this stain and desecration, I would defile my last years.
26 But if, in the present time, I were rescued from the torments of men, I would then not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither in life, nor in death.
27 For this reason, by departing life with fortitude, I will show myself to be clearly worthy of my long life.
28 And so, I will bequeath an example of fortitude to youths, if, with a ready soul and constancy, I carry out an honest death, for the sake of the most serious and most holy laws.” And having said this, he was immediately dragged away to execution.
29 But those who led him, and who were more mild a little before, were turned to anger because of the words spoken by him, which they considered to have been brought forth by way of arrogance.
30 But when he was ready to perish by the scourges, he groaned, and he said: “O Lord, who holds all holy knowledge, you clearly understand that, although I could be freed from death, I suffer grievous pains in body. Truly, according to the soul, I willingly endure these things, because of your fear.”
31 And the way in which this man passed from this life, bequeathed, not only to youths, but also to the entire people, the memory of his death as an example of virtue and fortitude.