Is lying praised here?


Upon reading the extremely interesting 2 Maccabees, in 2 Maccabees 7:24-27, we see the mother of the 7 martyr-sons agreeing to convince her son to eat pork and defile himself (verse 26). Then in verse 27 the narrator seemingly praises her action by saying, “Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant…” (NRSV Catholic Edition) and ends up encouraging her son to die as a righteous martyr like the rest of his brethren.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that she didn’t falter in her faith for a moment, when her previous 6 children were being exhorted by her, only to return the next second to her senses: it’s clear that she lied. So my question is this: how is it that the author seemingly praises her? I’ve checked the original KJV translation and the translation from my Orthodox Bible, and they seem to imply that the author was just recording her joy at tricking Antiochus IV:

“Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language,” (2 Macc. 7:27a NRSV Catholic Edition)

" But shee bowing her selfe towards him, laughing the cruell tyrant to scorne…" (1611 KJV Edition)

It seems that she is praised for deriding the cruel tyrant, but does this mean the author endorsed her lying?


The NRSV translates 2 Maccabees 7:27 very poorly. She didn’t lie.

*But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: (2 Maccabees 7:27 RSV-CE)

So bending herself towards him, mocking the cruel tyrant, she said in her own language: 2 Maccabees 7:27 DR)

But she bowing herself toward him, laughing the cruel tyrant to scorn, spake in her country language on this manner: (2 Maccabees 7:27 KJV)*

The mother spoke to the king contemptuously but she didn’t lie. The mother is a picture of Mary under the cross, encouraging her son to remain faithful to his mission, to complete the work that he was sent to accomplish, saying to her last son;

Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again (2 Maccabees 7:29 RSV-CE)

The mother of the seven sons is the image of Mary - a foreshadow of the co-redemtrix under the cross encouraging her son, the perfect helpmate prophesied in Genesis 2:18.


In the Scripture on the USCCB website, verse 26 reads: “After he had urged her for a long time, she agreed to persuade her son.” It doesn’t necessarily say *what *she agreed to persuade her son to do!

Deception is not the same as lying. Deception is misleading someone; lying is intentionally saying something you know is not true. The woman deceived the king, but perhaps she did not lie.

When the youth paid no attention to him at all, the king appealed to the mother, urging her to advise her boy to save his life.26After he had urged her for a long time, she agreed to persuade her son.27She leaned over close to him and, in derision of the cruel tyrant, said in their native language: “Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age.28I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things.* In the same way humankind came into existence.29Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with your brothers.”

It appears she either was dishonest with the king when she “agreed to persuade” her son to eat pork, or she changed her mind when she told him to “accept death”.

The authors of the Old Testament endorse, or seem to endorse, worse things than lying. Like genocide for instance.
Interpreting scripture is not easy for the layman. Thank God we have the true Church to guide us.
Pope Benedict on the word of God:

The “dark” passages of the Bible

  1. In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult. Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance. God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel. So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.[140] I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.

Thank you all for your responses. I agree that it’s entirely possible that the mother had a moment of weakness but later changed her mind, though I think the text implies otherwise. I think that it’s possible that she “agreed” in a way that is not lying. I think the best explanation that seems to me is that the author of 2 Maccabees is praising her derision of Antiochus, and not her lying - he is praising the correct motivation and not the incorrect means that she may or may not have undertaken: at least that’s the way the text can be understood, the other being that the author praised both, but nobody except the author can be the judge of that :slight_smile:

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