Living and Dying for the Law: The Mother-martyrs of 2 Maccabees

Susan Haber


The martyr texts of 2 Maccabees record the deaths of three mothers who sacrificed their lives, along with those of their sons, in order to uphold Jewish law under the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Two of these anonymous women are briefly mentioned as having been sentenced to death for circumcising their sons, while a third is the subject of a lengthy account of martyrdom. This study examines the portrayal of all three women as both mothers and martyrs and demonstrates that these mother-martyrs lived for the Law in the same way as they died for the Law, taking on religious obligations that are traditionally attributed to men.

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