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The Forgotten Books of Eden, by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr., [1926], at


The ruling of Desire and Anger. The story of David's thirst. Stirring chapters of ancient history. Savage attempts to make the Jews eat swine. Interesting references to an ancient bank (Verse 21.)

WELL then, someone may ask, if Reason is master of the passions why is it not master of forgetfulness and ignorance?

2 But the argument is supremely ridiculous. For Reason is not shown to be master over passions or defects in itself, but over those of the body.

3 For example, none of you is able to extirpate our natural desire, but the Reason can enable him to escape being made a slave by desire.

4 None of you is able to extirpate anger from the soul, but it is possible for the Reason to come to his aid against anger.

5 None of you can extirpate a malevolent disposition, but Reason can be his powerful ally against being swayed by malevolence.

6 Reason is not the extirpate of the passions, but their antagonist.

7 The case of the thirst of King David may serve at least to make this clearer.

8 For when David had fought the live-long day against the Philistines, and by the help of our country's warriors had slain many of them, he came at eventide, all fordone with sweat and toil, to the royal tent, around which was encamped the whole army of our ancestors.

9 So all the host fell to their evening meal; but the king,

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being consumed with an intense thirst, though he had abundance of water, was unable to slake it.

10 Instead, an irrational desire for the water that was in the possession of the enemy with growing intensity burned him up and unmanned and consumed him.

11 Then when his body-guard murmured against the craving of the king, two youths, mighty warriors, ashamed that their king should lack his desire, put on all their armour, and took a water-vessel, and scaled the enemy's ramparts; and stealing undetected past the guards at the gate, they searched through all the enemy's camp.

12 And they bravely found the spring, and drew from it a draught for the king.

13 But David, though still burning with the thirst, considered that such a draught, reckoned as equivalent to blood, was a grievous danger to his soul.

14 Therefore, opposing his Reason to his desire, he poured out the water as an offering to God.

15 For the temperate mind is able to conquer the dictates of the passions, and to quench the fires of desire, and to wrestle victoriously with the pangs of our bodies though they be exceeding strong, and by the moral beauty and goodness of Reason to defy with scorn all the domination of the passions.

16 And now the occasion calls us to set forth the story of the self-controlled Reason.

17 At a time when our fathers enjoyed great peace through the due observance of the Law, and were in happy case, so that Seleucus Nicanor, the king of Asia, sanctioned the tax for the temple-service, and recognized our polity, precisely then, certain men, acting factiously against the general concord, involved us in many and various calamities.

18 Onias, a man of the highest character, being then high priest and having the office for his life, a certain Simon raised a faction against him, but since despite every kind of slander he failed to injure him on account of the people, he fled abroad with intent to betray his country.

19 So he came to Apollonius, the governor of Syria and Phoenicia and Cilicia, and said, 'Being loyal to the king, I am here to inform you that in the treasuries of Jerusalem are stored many thousands of private deposits, not belonging to the temple account, and rightfully the property of King Seleucus.'

20 Apollonius having made inquiry into the details of the matter, praised Simon for his loyal service to the king, and hastening to the court of Seleucus, disclosed to him the valuable treasure; then, after receiving authority to deal with the matter, he promptly marched into our country, accompanied by the accursed Simon and a very powerful army, and announced that he was there by the king's command to take possession of the private deposits in the treasury.

21 Our people were deeply angered by this announcement, and protested strongly, considering it, an outrageous thing for those who had entrusted their deposits to the temple treasury to be robbed of them, and they threw all possible obstacles in his way.

22 Apollonius, however, with threats, made his way into the temple.

23 Then the priests in the temple and the women and children besought God to come to the rescue of his Holy Place that was being violated; and when Apollonius with his armed host marched in to seize the moneys, there appeared from heaven

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angels, riding upon horses, with lightning flashing from their arms, and cast great fear and trembling upon them.

24 And Apollonius fell down half-dead in the Court of the Gentiles, and stretched out his hands to heaven, and with tears he entreated the Hebrews that they would make intercession for him and stay the wrath of the heavenly host.

25 For he said that he had sinned and was worthy even of death, and that if he were given his life he would laud to all men the blessedness of the Holy Place.

26 Moved by these words, Onias, the high-priest, although most scrupulous in other cases, made intercession for him lest king Seleucus should possibly think that Apollonius had been overthrown by a human device and not by divine justice.

27 Apollonius, accordingly, after his astonishing deliverance departed to report to the king the things that had befallen him.

28 But Seleucus dying, his successor on the throne was his son Antiochus Epiphanes, an overweening terrible man; who dismissed Onias from his sacred office, and made his brother Jason high-priest instead, the condition being that in return for the appointment Jason should pay him three thousand six hundred and sixty talents yearly.

29 So he appointed Jason high-priest and made him chief ruler over the people.

30 And he (Jason) introduced to our people a new way of life and a new constitution in utter defiance of the Law; so that not only did he lay out a gymnasium on the Mount of our fathers, but he actually abolished the service of the temple.

31 Wherefore the divine justice was kindled to anger and brought Antiochus himself as an enemy against us.

32 For when. be was carrying on war with Ptolemy in Egypt and heard that the people of Jerusalem had rejoiced exceedingly over a report of his death, he immediately marched back against them.

33 And when he had plundered the city he made a decree denouncing the penalty of death upon any who should be seen to live after the law of our fathers.

34 But he found all his decrees of no avail to break down the constancy of our people to the Law, and he beheld all his threats and penalties utterly despised, so that even women for circumcising their sons, though they knew beforehand what would be their fate, were flung, together with their offspring, headlong from the rocks.

35 When therefore his decrees continued to be contemned by the mass of the people, he personally tried to force by tortures each man separately to eat unclean meats and thus abjure the Jewish religion.

36 Accordingly, the tyrant Antiochus, accompanied by his councillors, sat in judgement on a certain high place with his troops drawn up around him in full armour, and he ordered his guards to drag there every single man of the Hebrews and compel them to eat swine's flesh and things offered to idols; but if any should refuse to defile themselves with the unclean things, they were to he tortured and put to death.

37 And when many had been taken by force, one man first from among the company was brought before Antiochus, a Hebrew whose name was Eleazar, a priest by birth, trained in knowledge of the law, a man advanced in years and well known to many of the tyrant's court for his philosophy.

38 And Antiochus, looking on him, said: 'Before I allow the tortures to

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begin for you, O venerable man, I would give you this counsel, that you should eat of the flesh of the swine and save your life; for I respect your age and your grey hairs, although to have worn them so long a time, and still to cling to the Jewish religion, makes me think you no philosopher.

39 For most excellent is the meat of this animal which Nature has graciously bestowed upon us, and why should you abominate it? Truly it is folly not to enjoy innocent pleasures, and it is wrong to reject Nature's favours.

40 But it will be still greater folly, I think, on your part if with idle vapouring about truth you shall proceed to defy even me to your own punishment.

41 Will you not awake from your preposterous philosophy? Will you not fling aside the nonsense of your calculations and, adopting another frame of mind befitting your mature years, learn the true philosophy of expediency, and how to my charitable counsel, and have pity on your own venerable age?

42 For consider this, too, that even if there be some Power whose eye is upon this religion of yours, he will always pardon you for a transgression done under compulsion.'

43 bus urged by the tyrant to the unlawful eating of unclean meat, Eleazar asked permission to speak; and receiving it, he began his speech before the court as follows:

44 'We, O Antiochus, having accepted the Divine Law as the Law of our country, do not believe any stronger necessity is laid upon us than that of our obedience to the Law.

45 Therefore we do surely deem it right not. in any way whatsoever to transgress the Law.

46 And yet, were our Law, as you suggest, not truly divine, while we vainly believed it to be divine, not even so would it be right for us to destroy our reputation for piety.

47 Think it not, then, a small sin for us to eat the unclean thing, for the transgression of the Law, be it in small things or in great, is equally heinous; for in either case equally the Law is despised.

48 And you scoff at our philosophy, as if under it we were living in a manner contrary to reason.

49 Not so, for the Law teaches us self-control, so that we are masters of all our pleasures and desires and are thoroughly trained in manliness so as to endure all pain with readiness; and it teaches justice, so that with all our various dispositions we act fairly, and it teaches righteousness, so that with due reverence we worship only the God who is.

50 Therefore do we eat no unclean meat; for believing our Law to be given by God, we know also that the Creator of the world, as a Lawgiver, feels for us according to our nature.

51 He has commanded us to eat the things that will be convenient for our souls, and he has forbidden us to eat meats that would be the contrary.

52 But it is the act of a tyrant that you should compel us not only to transgress the Law, but should also make us eat in such manner that you may mock at' this defilement so utterly abominable to us.

53 But you shall not mock at me thus, neither will I break the sacred oaths of my ancestors to keep the Law, not even though you tear out mine eyes and bum out mine entrails.

54 I am not so unmanned by old age but that when righteousness is at stake the strength of youth returns to my Reason.

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55 So twist hard your racks and blow your furnace hotter. I do not so pity mine old age as to break the Law of my fathers in mine own person.

56 I will not belie thee, O Law that wast my teacher; I will not desert thee, O beloved self-control; I will not put thee to shame, O wisdom-loving Reason, nor will I deny ye, O venerated priesthood and knowledge of the Law.

57 Neither shalt thou sully the pure mouth of mine old age and my lifelong constancy to the Law. Clean shall my fathers receive me, unafraid of thy torments even to the death.

58 For thou indeed mayest be tyrant over unrighteous men, but thou shalt not lord it over my resolution in the matter of righteousness either by thy words or through thy deeds.'

Next: Chapter III