By Kris (with a "K") Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, has just come to Judea because while he was away fighting the Egyptian empire, he got wind that rumors were floating around and that he had died in battle, and that the Jews delighted in this would-be-truth. This angered Antiochus, so he leaves Egypt and now begins to personally oversee the torture of Jews. All they must do to escape the torture is to eat pork.
A respected old man named Eleazar is the first to be pulled from the crowd. Maybe if we break such a weak old man, the fortitude of the rest will crumble...
24 Thus, in seeing him [Eleazar] being so high minded toward the torture, and not being turned quickly by their compassion, they brought him to the fire. 25 Then, burning him with maliciously produced tools, they threw him down and poured stinking liquids into his nose. 26 And by this time, being burnt to his bones and about to pass out, he stretched his eyes toward God and said, 27 “You know, God, although it is possible for me to save myself from fiery torture, I am dying for the law. 28 Be merciful to your nation, this being sufficient for our punishment concerning them. 29 Make my blood their [Jews] purification, and take my soul in exchange for their life.” 30 And after saying this, the holy man nobly died in the torture, and he resisted until the tortures of death by his reason for the law.**
What stood out most to me was Eleazar's plea that his suffering be enough for the just punishment due to the Jewish people for their past sins.
Sounds like Jesus on the cross to me.
What's even more intriguing is that 4 Maccabees (or "On the Sovereignty of Reason", as Eusebius and Jerome called it) was probably composed around the middle of the 1st century—after Jesus's atoning death.
I wonder what the relationship is between the two events? Eleazar died hundreds of years before Christ, but in the first telling of the story, the significance of Eleazar's death is not presented as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of his people (4 Macc 5–7 is a re-telling of the earlier version from 2 Macc 6.18–31).
Perhaps the Jesus-narrative inspired the Jews to re-invent an older wheel?
**Brannan, R., Penner, K. M., Loken, I., Aubrey, M., & Hoogendyk, I. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Septuagint (4 Mac 6:24–30). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.