WHC Frend (Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (Stories of Faith & Fame), 18-19) explains some of the remarkable resemblances between the account of the martyrs of Lyons (177) and the accounts of Maccabean martyrs: “The most obvious point of contact between the two is the identification of the heroic mother of the Maccabean youths and the slave Blandina. She also is ‘a noble mother’ who ‘encouraged her children’ and ‘sent them forth triumphant to their living.’ Having ‘completed her task and endured all the tortures of the children hastened after them.’ Like her prototype in ii and iv Maccabees, she dies last of all, encouraging the youngest of those martyrs about whom anything is recorded, to be steadfast.”
Other parallels fill out the picture:
“Bishop Pothinus finds a parallel in Eleazar and both are described as being 90 years old. . . . there are the vivid and uninhibited descriptions of torture and death which characterize both the letter and iv Maccabees. In both, martyrdom is liked to a contest (agon) and the confessors are the athletes. They regain youth and vigour amid tortures, they resist suffering, they defeat the desperate strength of their executioners, and in the end, by ‘sealing their witness’ by death gain the crown of immortality. The martyrs go to their King, while the Maccabean heroes also go ‘to God.’ Finally, in both the Lyons letters and iv Maccabees, the theme is that the martyrs are honoured by God in a heavenly abode which no act of their adversaries can prevent.”
Frend concludes that “the writer of the Lyons letter was saturated in Maccabean literature.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm
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