Though lying outside the Jewish and Christian canons, 4 Maccabees raises questions fundamental to what it means to be moral beings in relationship to a holy God and thus addresses questions of primary importance for ethics and theology. What does it mean to be fully human? Where is God, and what is the proper human response, in the midst of the experience of evil? What role do convictions about life beyond death play in the confrontation of evil in human experience? 4 Maccabees promotes a view of the human being and a set of convictions concerning death and the life beyond that nurture moral accountability beyond self-preservation and self-interest. These convictions free the individual from the domination of these drives for other-centered moral actions–empowering one to resist inducements to perpetrate evil or cooperate with evil–that give us life, in a sense, beyond ourselves.

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