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Jewish Martyrdom

7
Phoebe Ndoro
12-15-2002
01:56 PM ET (US)
Why does God save Isaac but not Christ?
God saves Isaac because Isaac was a test of Abraham's love for God, where as he did not save Christ becuase his son was the sacrifice by which humanity could be redeemed, in other words it showed that the depth of his love for humanity was so great that he would sacrifice his son for this love.
Since Abraham had put into action his love and faithfulness for God, as he had already lifted up the knife/dagger with which he was going to kill his son, there was no need to kill Isaas because Abraham had already demonstrated his faith and passed the test. Furthermore God saved Isaac because he was an essential part of God's plan through which Abraham would become "a father of many nations". Isaac and not Ishmael was the son that God had prophesized would continue Abraham's legacy, therefore it was important for God not to let Isaac die.
Christ was a necessary sacrifice, becuase God needed a sacrifice that was so dear to him and was an integral part of him, because the death of the sacrice would reveal to humanity the magnitude of his love for them. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son" John 3:16.
Secondly, Christ was a necessary sacrfice because like Isaac he was part of God's plan, where his death would become the sacrificial lamp that would bear the sins of humanity and thus enable humanity to be redeemed and forgiven. " Whoever believes in (Christ) shall have not death, but everlasting life". John 3:16
Therefore Christ's death was crucial to God's plan for humanity, whereas SAVING Isaac was crucial to God's other plan for humanity.
6
Mandy Cass
11-04-2002
10:57 PM ET (US)
Sorry to have not posted sooner! I completely forgot. I hope it's not too late to post on Maccabees, considering we haven't really discussed them yet.

In Maccabees there were two themes which really stood out to me, those of reason and law. Both of these terms are fairly loaded in modern usage and I was a little unclear as to exactly what they meant in this context as well. It's made very clear that reason is the "antagonist to emotion" (130). This makes sense and fits fairly well with the stoics thoughts on not allowing for great attachment to loved ones. However, the stoics philosophized that the reason one should not allow for attachment was so that one didn't become overwhelmed by it and ignore the important things in life (ie. philosophy). In Maccabees, it seems that this lack of attachment is so that one is not succeptable to tyranny. Both philosophies were common during times of trouble (as Evie pointed out about Maccabees) and thus they address the same issues, but it seems for slightly different reasons. Death of loved ones in stoicisim was to be seen as God's will and just the way that things were to progress, but in the Maccabees, the deaths are far from simple acts of God and are instead forceful acts of WILL to obey LAW.

The ideas of will and law are also very interesting (and prevailent). As we discussed when looking at stoicism, will was the last thing one could call their own when being opressed, and thus it makes sense that in this time of trial it would have resurfaced as an important value. In Maccabees, however, the will is to submit yourself to torture, rather than to kill yourself; though in the end they both amount to death. Though stoic death was generally justified by a belief that God had given you a sign that it was time to die, it has none of the "live by the law" connotations of Maccabees. The law refered to here is obviously God's law, as it is for not eating pork that many people die. However, this reminded me of Socrates unwillingness to flee from his persecution in order to obey the laws of his city. Socrates also believed that he was following the command of God, but he really seemed to remain because of the laws of the city, not of God. Is this indicative of the change in perception of God? I can't really see how... especially considering that Socrates was already on his way to a more benevolent God. It seems like too much of a coincidence that they both rely so strongly on their adherence to the law, but that the law is defined so differently... I don't know...

The last thing that I found really cute (well, not cute, but cute) was the distinction on page 140 that sympathy for children is what sets people apart from the "animals", and yet this passage instructs that the virtuous action is not to obey these inclinations and to allow your children to be sacrificed! What is the purpose of this passage? It confused me. I actually meant to bring it up in class and maybe I will next time...

Again, profuse apologies for the late posting!
5
Hannah Fisher
11-04-2002
11:33 AM ET (US)
How is Abraham transformed by the binding of Isaac? How is Isaac
transformed? How does society and its relationship to God transformed?

After waiting for many years (I believe almost one-hundred) to have a son with his wife Sara, Abraham had Isaac, who, through the events surrounding his conception and birth, we see to be nothing short of a miracle- a gift from God. But, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away. Just as God gave Abraham what he wanted most- a son to carry on his lineage, to raise and to bequeath his lands and possessions- - God could then demand that gift as a sacrifice. Abraham, always the faithful servant, does not hesitate when God demands that he, himself, kill his son and set his body on fire. This is exactly God's purpose, as Genesis says, to test Abraham. The reader knows all along that God doesn't really want Isaac, he just wants the test. The outcome demonstrated two things to Abraham. One, that God is kind and generous in that he doesn't demand your only child as sacrifice. Two, that fidelity is rewarded. Abraham becomes, symbolically, the father of a great nation because he was willing to lose his status as a father. What Isaac learned, is that his father and that fathers in general, must be faithful to God first, before their family. He does not choose to run as far away from his father as possible, or lead a troubled and delinquent childhood only to commit patricide later on as revenge. He continues to live with his father and probably admire him. This story, so early on in the Bible, became a lesson to all the Jews who come after. This lesson is demonstrated by all those who killed their children on Massada or who witnessed them tortured by the Greek king. Fidelity to God is far more important than emotional ties to family. Kill your children or don't go to their rescue, but never allow your love for them to encourage them to deny God. That would be the true tragedy.
4
Karen JohannsPerson was signed in when posted
11-04-2002
11:19 AM ET (US)
Does honor function the same way for the Maccabees as it did for Livy's heroes and gladiators?

I think it does. There are a number of similarites between the heroes of Livy's stories and the Maccabees. In both accounts there is a very strong allegiance to an ideal: in Livy it is to Rome, and in Maccabees it is to the God of Israel. The hero-soldiers in Livy, like Horatius and Mucius, perform acts of extraordinary bravery not on their own behalf, but in order to defend and protect Rome. Similarly, Eleazar, the mother, and the seven brothers volunteer to be tortured to death rather than betray God, even though many Jews had done exactly that in order to save their lives.

Another similarity is the manner in which the martyrs of both accounts face torment and/or death. Mucius sticks his hand into the flames and bears the agony without flinching. Horatius jumped into the Tiber fully armored rather than flee to safety,accepting the fact that he would drown (although he didn't). In Maccabees, the brothers seemed to eagerly step forward and accept the horrible deaths that had been devised for them. Their mother even flung herself into the fire before the soldiers could grab her. These actions show not only contempt for the enemy, but for pain and death itself.

The language in Maccabees easily extends itself to the gladiator model. Chapter 17 describes their ordeal as a contest. Eleazar is described as a contestant. Gaining "immortality in endless life" is a prize to be won.

A movement, especially a struggling one, needs martyrs. They glorify an ideal and provide examples for resistance. The oppressed Israelites, many of whom were apostasizing to save their lives, needed examples of faithful Jews who would show that their Go and their way of life was worth dying for. The Romans, beseiged by Etruscans, Gauls, and other assorted enemies, also needed martyrs who upheld the image of a fearless, powerful Rome. The examples of martyrs provide powerful reminders to everyone who hears their story or witnesses their deaths.
3
Evie Thibault
11-04-2002
10:54 AM ET (US)
What is the political situation the Maccabees face? Why do teh Maccabees reject the technicalities and casuistries many others utilized to comply with both Roman and Hebraic law?

The world the Maccabees inhabited in 4 Maccabees was in some ways very politically uncertain. Prior to Antiochus's return from Egypt, Jerusalem had been the scene of many bloody power struggles. Simon set up the Hebrews so that Apollonius would punish them, Jason betrayed his brother Onias, and the list of intrigue goes on. When Antiochus, by all accounts king, returned from Egypt it was in the guise of invader and punisher, as he came back furious that any would defy him. It is this anger that sparked the persecutions featured in Maccabees. Antiochus, the tyrant, tried to use the Hebrews as an example of the fate that awaited those who disregarded his laws. To accomplish this, he tried to get them to eat pork, under penalty of torture and death. In much the way the Stoics did, the Maccabees to recourse from a world they cannot affect, the world of the tyrant, into the inner world of the will (or reason is the biblical telling).

The Maccabees reject the technicalities many others used to preserve themselves under Roman and Hebraic law in order to provide an example for the rest of the community. As Eleazor says, even if they are following the wrong law, "not even would it be right for us to invalidate our reputation for piety." To maintain the strength and conviction of the community, Eleazar won't even pretend to eat pork for the sake of his own life. He refuses to become "a pattern of impiety for the young."

There is also a feeling in both the story of Eleazar and the story of Hannah and her sons that dying for the faith is the proper role of a Jew. While being tortured, Eleazar cries out, "May we, the children of Abraham, never think so basely that out of cowardice we feign a role unbecoming to us!" Not only is martyrdom appropriate, it is also proof of power. One of Hannah's sons tells Antiochus, "Through all these tortures I will convince you that sons of the Hebrews alone are invincible where virtue is concerned." If they cannot live the pure life of the divine law, they cannot at least die in the purity of it. And by dying for their reason, they prove their superiority to the Gentiles.

If the martyrs of the Maccabees had feigned obediance to Antiochus, there would have been no examples of heroic defiance for the rest of their communities to follow. They reject the easy way out in order to become exemplars, strengthen the resolve of the community, and elevate themselves in the eyes of God.
2
Ana M. Pardo
11-03-2002
11:52 PM ET (US)
What are the explicit and implicit lessons of this martyrdom for the community?

The lesson if deciding not to be part of the mass suicide is that the community would be living in a shameful way because their decision not to kill themselves would be one made out of cowardice. The Jewish community would become the “laughing stock”, a non-respectable body that transgressed its ancestral commandments and of which its philosophy would not be credible. On the other hand, choosing to be martyrs means assuming the right courageous attitude for the defense of their law. Dying for the law is at the moment the perfect opportunity to acquire nobility (by the manner of their death since they didn’t give the Romans the chance to attack and humiliate them.),admiration (their act is a statement to the world and an example to the “human race.”), honor (from their endurance of great suffering and capacity to not allow the enemy to rule over their nation.) and freedom (with their sacrifice they would not have to fear an angry God any longer and they escape being the Roman’s slaves.)
The Martyrdom of Masada meant accepting God’s punishment and set an example of how to purify the soul from the sins. This episode in history looks for a way into showing that the Jewish community has a divine inheritance from their brave ancestors who acted accordingly to the divine Providence and therefore preserved Israel.
1
Carolina CamargoPerson was signed in when posted
09-18-2002
08:30 PM ET (US)
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