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'will assay to abridge in one volume.' But,' says Du Pin, the author of this abridgment does not make an exact 'abridgment of Jason. Sometimes he copies, sometimes he abridges, and oftentimes he passes from one narration to another, and does not relate facts in their true order.'
II. The sufferings of these seven brothers, and likewise of Eleazar, related in the sixth chapter of this second book of Maccabees, and said to be " one of the principal scribes, and fourscore years old and ten," are entirely omitted in the first book of the Maccabees: though the author of it there writes of the Jewish affairs, and their sufferings in the time. of Antiochus. It appears to be probable, that he would not have omitted the sufferings of these persons, if he had been acquainted with them. But so far from relating them particularly, he does not give any the least hint of them.
III. There is not any notice taken of this Eleazar, or these seven brethren, or their mother, by Josephus, in any of his authentic writings. He had twice a fair occasion to mention them; first in his History of the Jewish War, written not many years after the destruction of Jerusalem, in the first book of which he relates the encroachments of Antiochus Epiphanes; and secondly in his Antiquities, written many years afterwards, where he again recounts the sufferings of the Jewish people under the same prince, Ant. L. xii. cap. v. But in neither of those works has he said any thing of Eleazar, or these seven brothers; whose story is so remarkable, that it could not have been omitted by him, if it had been matter of fact.
It is true, there is a work, sometimes ascribed to Josephus, entitled, Of the Empire of Reason, or a Discourse of the Maccabees.' But, as Cave says, it is denied to be his by many learned men. Josephi tamen esse negant ex eruditis, quam plurimi.' And the late Mr. Whiston, who translated into English all the genuine writings of Josephus, omitted this, and would not join it with the rest. And in an advertisement at the end of his version, he says, I have ' omitted what is in the other editions of Josephus; I mean 'the discourse about the Maccabees, that is, about the tor'ments of the mother, and her seven children, under Anti'ochus Epiphanes. It is commended by Eusebius, and 'Jerom themselves, as an elegant performance, and as the genuine work of Josephus. It seems to me not to deserve that character. Nor can it, I think, with the least proba'bility, be ascribed to Josephus, unless as a declamation
when he was a school-boy.' And he observes, that the history is taken from the second book of the Maccabees,
'which it evidently appears Josephus never made use of in his other writings.' So Mr. Whiston. To me it appears to be the work of some christian.
IV. This account is defective in what we generally call internal characters of credibility.
1. The thing is in itself very extraordinary; that so many persons, of one and the same family, should be all at one and the same time called out to suffer, and be all steady and valiant. It is very improbable, and almost incredible.
2. The whole story has the appearance of a contrived fiction. First there is an account of Eleazar, who suffers at the age of fourscore years and ten, that he might leave a notable example to such as are young, to die willingly and courageously for the honourable and holy laws.' Then follow the sufferings and death of these young men, who too are exactly seven, a number much respected among the Jews.
3. The sufferers are not described so particularly as they ought to be, and generally are, in credible relations. The names of the seven brothers are all omitted. Nor is it said, what was their tribe, or family, or what was the usual place of their abode. Nor are we told, who was their father. some modern accounts the fore-mentioned Eleazar may be said to be their father. But there is no ground for it in this narrative. Nor are we told the name of the mother of these brothers, though she is so often mentioned. Nor is it said how she died. All that is said, is this: "Last of all after the sons, the mother died." In the discourse of the Maccabees, ascribed to Josephus, it is said, "the mother, that no man might touch her body, threw herself upon the pile.” Και ινα μη ψαύσειε τε σώματος αυτής εαυτην έρριψε κατα Tys Tupas, chap. 17. Upon which the note of Cambesis might be seen. This is one of those passages, which makes me think that work to have been composed by a christian. Josippon, or Josephus Ben Gorion, a Jewish writer of the ninth or tenth century, or later, says, that after she had offered up her prayer to God, her spirit departed from her, and she fell upon the heaps of her son's dead bodies, and lay upon the earth. But these things are additional to the original account. Postquam desiit ita orare, et effundere orationem coram Jehova, egressa est anima ejus, dum adhuc loqueretur, et exiit spiritus ejus, et corruit super acervos corporum filiorum ejus et jacuit etiam cum eis projecta super terram,' p. 115, Oxon. 1706.
4. These seven brothers are here represented to have beer examined, tortured, and slain, one after another, in the
presence of the king, or Antiochus. Which is very improbable. For such examinations and executions are generally delegated to officers. And in the first book of the Maccabees, upon which we can depend, we are assured, that Antiochus had officers for this purpose in the several parts of Judea. So 1 Macc. i. 51, "In the self-same manner wrote he to his whole kingdom, and appointed overseers over all the people, commanding the cities of Judah to sacrifice, city by city." And afterwards it is particularly said, 1 Macc. ii. 25, "that Mattathias slew the king's commissioner at Modin, who compelled men to sacrifice."
5. It is not said, or hinted, where these persons suffered. Here is a very extraordinary transaction, seven men, all brothers, the sons of one mother, tried, tortured, put to death, one after another, in the presence of a great king. But where is not said, whether at Jerusalem, or in some other city of Judea. As it is not said where all this happened, we may not unreasonably infer, it never happened, or was done any where.
For these reasons this history appears so much like a fiction, that I do not see how it can be relied upon as true. Many acts of christian martyrs, which had been received for a while, have since been examined by learned men, and rejected, some as spurious, others as very much interpolated: why then should we be afraid to examine a like narrative in a Jewish apocryphal book, of little credit?
Obj. It will be said: does not the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews refer to this history, and thereby assure us of the truth of it? Heb. xi. 35, " And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." To which I answer. It is not clear, or certain, that there is a reference to this history in that text. And I shall add a part of what Mr. Hallet says upon this place, in his paraphrase and notes upon the three last chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews. All the commentators agree in
supposing, that the apostle here refers to the history of the 'martyrdom of Eleazar, and the mother, and her seven sons, ' mentioned in the second book of the Maccabees. And I
was once carried away with the stream; but I am now persuaded, that the apostle, in this whole chapter, does not
' refer to any examples that are recommended by any other, book, beside the holy scripture. Estius goes upon this same general principle: and therefore concludes from the common application of this passage, that it affords more than a probable argument for the sacred authority of the 'second book of the Maccabees. For,' says he, all the
examples of the saints mentioned, either expressly, or
❝ tacitly, in this chapter, are taken from the sacred scriptures, that is, from those books which were in the days of 'the writer of this epistle esteemed to be sacred by "chris'tians." Yet still how a man of Estius's excellent, good
sense could have a notion, that the second book of the Maccabees was a part of sacred scripture, when it was 'confessedly written after the spirit of prophecy ceased in • Malachi, and before it was restored in John the Baptist, is 'not a little surprising.
But there is no more need to go to the Apocrypha, than 'to Fox's Book of Martyrs, for instances of men, being tortured, not accepting deliverance." There are confess'edly several instances of this kind in the Old Testament.
The apostle, just after, more particularly points at the 'persons he means, viz. such as "were stoned, sawn asun'der, or slain with the sword," ver. 37." These were tor
tured. These did not accept deliverance." And these 'refused to accept of deliverance upon sinful terms, for this very end," that they might obtain a blessed resurrection" 'to eternal life. These therefore may be the persons here 'meant.'
I am not fond of singularity: yet I hope I can follow truth alone, with a view of increasing her train, and having more company in time, attracted by the same reasons and arguments, by which I have been swayed myself.
We have just seen how Mr. Hallett argues, and that these persons are not referred to in the epistle to the Hebrews; but I do not say that he denied the fact, since he has not expressly told us.
I once thought that Dr. Prideaux doubted of the truth of this history, because he has not particularly related it; and because he points at the want of a material circumstance, the place of this transaction. But perhaps I was mistaken; however I shall transcribe here what he says: Conn. year before Christ 167, p. 181, On this occasion happened the 'martyrdom of Eleazar, and of the mother and her seven
sons, which we have described to us by the author of the 'second book of the Maccabees, and by Josephus; by both ' of which a full account having been given of this matter, ' especially the latter, I refer my readers to them. Rufinus, in his Latin paraphrase of this book of Josephus, concern'ing the Maccabees, gives us the names of these seven brothers, and of their mother. [Maccabees, Aber, Machir, Judas, Achaz, Aseth, Jacob; and their mother's name 'Solomona; but the later Jewish historians call her Anna.]
A Letter to the Author of the Remarks upon the Inquiry, &c. 257
And he tells us, that as well they as Eleazar were carried 'from Judea to Antioch; and that it was there that they 'were judged by Antiochus; but without any authority that we know of for either, except his own invention. The reason of the thing, as well as the tenor of the history, 'which is given us of it by both the authors I have men'tioned, make it much more likely, that Jerusalem, and 'not Antioch, was made the scene of this cruelty: and that, ' especially, since it being designed for an example of 'terror unto the Jews of Judea, it would have lost its 'force, if executed any where else than in that country.'
So says that eminent writer; but, I presume, that no modern, however learned and eminent, can determine the place of an event, which is entirely omitted by all ancient writers. If Rufinus had no authority for placing this transaction at Antioch, except his own invention; Prideaux can have no better authority in behalf of Jerusalem. And if these brothers were tortured, and slain in the presence of Antiochus, Rufinus's conjecture would be as plausible as any other. But all conjectures of this sort are vain and groundless. And they should be declined, and never be proposed, or mentioned by wise and sedate men. We cannot now add to what ancient authors have delivered. In history there is no room for invention.
I am desirous, gentlemen, if you please, by your means, to recommend these thoughts to the consideration of the public. A.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE
REMARKS UPON THE INQUIRY INTO THE TRUTH OF
I AM obliged to you for your Remarks, as they will give me an opportunity farther to clear up the point.
You chiefly object to what I have alleged from Mr. Hallett, relating to Heb. xi. 35.
First published in the LIBRARY for May 1762.