2 Maccabees, 6
1. After a while, the king sent an older Athenian to force the Jews to abandon their ancestral laws and no longer live according to the laws of God.
2. And to have them also profane the temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to the Olympian god. In the same way, he wanted them to dedicate the temple in Mount Gerizim to the hospitable god, according to the wishes of the inhabitants of the place.
3. This worsened the evil and made it difficult and unbearable for all.
4. The Temple was profaned by the orgies of the pagans who went there to have a good time with prostitutes, and had intercourse in the sacred enclosures. And besides, they brought into the Temple things not permitted by the Law;
5. the altar was laden with unclean victims prohibited by the law.
6. It was no longer allowed to celebrate the sabbath or observe the customs of our fathers, or even to declare oneself a Jew.
7. But, on the contrary, they were led by bitter necessity to celebrate the king's birthday with a monthly sacrifice. And when the feast of Dionysus came, they were also forced to follow the Dionysus procession and wear floral wreaths.
8. At the suggestion of the inhabit-ants of Ptolemy, a decree was sent to the neighboring Greek cities ordering them to treat the Jews who lived there in the same way and oblige them to participate in the sacrifices.
9. Those who would not adopt the Greek customs were to be killed. So it was easy to foresee the fatal outcome.
10. Two women were charged of having performed the rite of circumcision on their sons. They publicly paraded the women throughout the city with their babies hung at their breasts. Then they hurled them down from the city wall.
11. Others who had assembled in nearby caves to celebrate the sabbath were denounced to Philip and they allowed themselves to be burned. Because of the holiness of the sabbath day, they had scruples about defending themselves.
12. I now ask the readers of this book not to be shocked by these calamities. Bear in mind that this did not happen for the destruction of our race, but rather for our education.
13. God is showing his kindness when he does not let sinners continue on their way for a long time, but punishes them at once.
14. As for the other nations, the patient Lord doesn't punish them until they reach the full measure of their sins. But he deals with us in a different manner:
15. he does not wait until we have reached the full measure in order to punish us.
16. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us, and does not abandon his people, even when he punishes us with some adversity.
17. After reminding our readers of these truths, let us continue the story.
18. Eleazar, one of the prominent teachers of the Law, already old and of noble appearance, was forced to open his mouth to eat the flesh of a pig.
19. But he preferred to die honorably than to live in disgrace, and voluntarily came to the place where they beat him to death. He spit out bravely the piece of meat,
20. as should be done by those who do not want to do things prohibited by the Law, even to save their life.
21. Those in charge of this impious banquet took him aside, since they had known him for a long time, and tried to convince him to pretend to be eating the meat, but in reality, to eat something allowed by the Law and prepared by himself.
22. In this way, he could escape death, and be treated with humanity for the sake of their long-time friendship.
23. But he preferred to make a noble decision worthy of his age, of his noble years, of his shining white hair, and of the irreproachable life he had led from childhood. Above all, showing respect for the holy laws established by God, he answered that he would rather be sent to the place of the dead. And he added,
24. "It would be unworthy to pretend at our age, and to lead many young people to suppose that I, at ninety years, have gone over to the pagan customs.
25. If I led them astray for the sake of this short life I would bring disgrace to my old age.
26. Even if I could now be saved from men, I cannot - whether living or dead - escape from the hands of the Almighty.
27. I prefer to bravely sacrifice my life now, as befits my old age.
28. So I shall leave an excellent example to the young, dying voluntarily and valiantly for the sacred and holy laws." Having said this, he gave himself over to death.
29. Those who escorted him considered his words foolishness, so their previous gentleness turned into harshness.
30. When he was almost at the point of death, he said groaning, "The Holy Lord, who sees all, knows that though I could have saved myself from death, I now endure terrible sufferings in my body. But in my soul, I suffer gladly because of the respect I have for him."
31. In his death, he left a noble example and a memorial of virtue and strength, not only to the young but to the whole nation.