Discourse Matters: You accursed wretch! O there's more where that came from... (2 Macc 7:9)

By Kris (with a "K") As I wrote my last post on μὲν I realized there was nothing juicy about the example I gave to illustrate it’s function. I stumbled on this one the other day. It’s a bit more fun.

[Scenario: The ruler of the Seleucid Empire (Antiochus IV) is torturing 7 boys and their mom, killing them unless they apostatize and eat pork. Now, one of the sons speaks up…]

ἐν ἐσχάτῃ δὲ πνοῇ γενόμενος εἶπεν Σὺ μέν, ἀλάστωρ, ἐκ τοῦ παρόντος ἡμᾶς ζῆν ἀπολύεις, ὁ δὲ τοῦ κόσμου βασιλεὺς ἀποθανόντας ἡμᾶς ὑπὲρ τῶν αὐτοῦ νόμων εἰς αἰώνιον ἀναβίωσιν ζωῆς ἡμᾶς ἀναστήσει

And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You [μὲν] accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, [δὲ] but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.” (2 Macc 7:9 – NRSV)

The decision to place μὲν before the gracious name-calling (You accursed wretch!) let’s the Antiochus know that a follow-up comment is coming. In other words, it let’s Antiochus know that after the dying boy says whatever it is he's saying about the accursed wretch, another related comment should be expected.

In this case, the boy acknowledges that the king is about to kill him—but that’s not all. He goes on to say that “the King of the universe” will reverse this action and resurrect the martyrs.

Seven Brothers, Martyrs

If the μὲν had been absent, Antiochus IV would have heard “you dismiss us from the present life” and not necessarily anticipated anything more. It might have seemed like a simple acknowledgement of the facts. But with the presence μὲν, he knows better. With the initial comment, the soon-to-be martyr is acknowledging the unavoidable fate he is about to suffer at the hands of the accursed wretch, but immediately he goes on to explain why the efforts of the king are futile: God will raise up the very body Antiochus has thrown down.