states the book's principal thesis, that reason rules over theemotions, and gives a number of basic definitions and descriptions.
Statement of the thesis.
Reason, a major theme of Hellenistic philosophy (e.g., Plutarch, On Moral Virtue 440D), is specified hereas devout (see 6.31; 7.4,16; 8.1; 13.1; 15.23; 16.1,4; 18.2
), correlating it with devotion to God and God'slaw (see 1.15–17
self & control,
courage, the four cardinal virtues of thePlatonic and Stoic traditions (see 1.18; 5.23–24; 15.10; Wis 8.7
; Cicero, On Moral Duties 1.5.15–17).
Praise, anticipating the book's main purpose, to honor virtue, especially as embodied by the martyrs(
1.10; 2.2; 7.9; 13.3,17; 18.13
The objection is answered in
The thesis will bedemonstrated principally through the examples of the martyrs.
The example of Eleazar is elaboratedin chs 5–7
, and that of the seven brothers in chs 8–12
On this anniversary, the phrase (see text noted) has suggested to some that the book was originally an oration meant to be delivered at a festivalcommemorating the martyrs,
though it could just as easily be a literary device (see 3.19; 14.9; 17.8–10
).For the sake of nobility, the martyrs’ character is manifest in their determination to preserve the honorof their country and ancestors (
6.22; 7.8; 9.24; 10.3,15; 11.22; 12.14; 13.25; 15.9; 16.16
; cf. Philo, On the Virtues 187–227).
The downfall of tyranny, through their endurance and deaths the martyrs notonly cause God to deliver the land but also to execute judgment on Antiochus
IV Ephiphanes (see 8.15;9.9,24,30; 11.25; 16.14; 17.20; 18.4–5; cf. Rev 12.10–11
The author's analysis of the emotionsappropriates concepts from Greek ethics and psychology (see 6.31–35; 13.1–7
Sound logic, atechnical term of Greek ethics for the process of rationally choosing virtue over vice (cf. Epictetus,Discourses 4.8.12).
This definition of wisdom is philosophical in origin (see Seneca, Moral Epistles
Education in the law, i.e., the law of Moses, cf. 2.1–23; 5.14–38; 18.1–19; Sir 1.26; 19.20
The division of the emotions into two types—pleasure and pain—is familiar fromAristotle's Rhetoric 2.1.8.
This definition of anger is similar to Aristotle's in Rhetoric 2.2.1–2.
Onthe perils of pleasure,
see Prov 21.17; Isa 47.8–9
Such catalogs of vices were popular in GrecoRoman moral literature (see 2 Tim 3.2–4; Titus 3.3
The work of reason in the soul wasfrequently likened to that of a gardener, e.g., Philo, The Worse Attacks the Better 105.
see 5.23–24; 13.16; Prov 25.28; Sir 18.30–19.3
see Lev 11.1–47; Deut14.3–21
Emotions are not to be extirpated but mastered, as Stoics like Posidonius (ca. 135–ca.50 BCE) taught (cf. 2.21n.
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