Although the Seven Sleepers are referred to by various names, including the Seven Holy Youths, the Seven Sleeping Youths, and the Seven Youths of Ephesus, they are held in the same high regard in Christianity and Islam.
These young men lived in the city of Ephesus in the third century AD, at a period when Christians were subjected to harsh persecution. They were also Christians, but they kept their faith a secret. All of them were of aristocratic birth, and one was the son of the mayor of Ephesus.
As soon as the Roman emperor Decius Trajan arrived in the city, he issued a proclamation mandating that all of the locals offer sacrifices to the local pagan gods in preparation for the upcoming conflict. On the other hand, seven other pals categorically refused to comply with that request.
Surprisingly, they were not executed for this but rather had their military belts removed and sent away to “reflect and modify their thoughts.” The young guys came to the conclusion that they should go into voluntary exile. They escaped the city and sought shelter in a cave located on Mount Pion. The precise location of this cave has not yet been determined.
The young people hid away in the cave for a while, but eventually, the emperor found them there and gave them an order to come before him for judgment if they continued to disobey his command. After the young men came forward and vowed that they would not renounce their beliefs, they were handed a particularly gruesome death sentence.
The young guys were brought into a cave where they sought sanctuary, and after that, the cave’s entrance was shut with stones to ensure that they would suffer a slow death from starvation and dehydration within the cave. A wooden chest with stone tablets was put at the mouth of the cave, and the names of those imprisoned there and the misdeeds they committed were written on the tablets.
However, as a result of divine intervention or some other factor (we shall go into more detail about this later on), the young men did not pass away but instead began to fall asleep one after the other. They all continued to sleep through the passing of the days, months, and years. After then, there were two centuries gone by.
In the fifth century AD, the owner of the property on which Mount Pion stood with a cave made the decision to begin constructing a home. In preparation for this endeavor, he instructed his workmen to destroy the entrance to the cave and bring the stones to him. It seemed as though the seven young guys had not slept in over two millennia when the cave entrance was opened again.
In addition to this, the young men could not even recall how they ended up being imprisoned in a cave; but, as soon as they began to feel hungry, they sent one of them named Iamblichus to go to the city for bread.
Iamblichus was astounded by what he saw as he neared Ephesus, which was a representation of a Christian cross on each of the city’s gates. The era in which Christians were persecuted has come to an end. However, Iamblichus was still unable to comprehend what was taking on; so, he attributed the event that occurred at the cross to a heavenly miracle. After this, he proceeded to purchase bread and paid for it with a coin that dated back to the reign of Decius Trajan.
And as soon as this was discovered, he was taken into custody and accused of unearthing a long-lost treasure and concealing it in his house. When the man was taken before the mayor, the mayor, based on the man’s cryptic statements, concluded that the situation was entirely different, and he then freed Iamblichus and all of the others who were inquisitive about going to that particular cave.
It wasn’t until then that the identical box with tablets was discovered next to the cave. The tablets detailed everything that had occurred to the seven young guys.
There is one additional point that has to be brought up individually. In the 5th century, many people who later became known as heretics began to question the possibility that the Lord’s will might bring the dead back to life. That is, those individuals who are skeptical about the miracles accomplished by Jesus as well as his own resurrection. They questioned how it was possible for there to be a resurrection of the dead if after death, there was neither the body nor the soul.
And when the seven boys emerged, who had either been dead or had been sleeping for two centuries in a cave, this was taken by the people as what God establishes by this example, which is that the resurrection from the dead is feasible.
As soon as the news of the miracle involving the seven lads began to spread to neighboring places, Emperor Theodosius II traveled to Ephesus to see it for himself. After he had conversed with the young men in the cave for a considerable amount of time about something, they bowed to him, and then they “went asleep” or passed away.
Next, the cave was again sealed off, and it was stated that the young men would be revived the following time they appeared in front of the World Court.
The account of the seven youths sounds somewhat similar in Islam, with the exception that a dog accompanied them on their journey.
If this were a true story, how might it be explained logically and rationally, without appealing to supernatural or divine intervention? Perhaps the young guys slipped into a deep slumber and dozed off the night. This condition is quite similar to death, and throughout history, it was not unusual for a person who had fallen into a sluggish slumber to be mistaken for a dead person and buried as such as a result of this widespread occurrence.
The oldest documented case of lethargy lasted for 22 years, however the patient was fed via a tube on a regular basis throughout that time. It is impossible for a sluggish patient to survive this long without food and drink.
But what happens if the human body’s metabolism slows down so much that it causes all of the processes that take place in the cells to “sleep” as well? When a person is kept in a state of suspended animation for the duration of lengthy space travel, a scenario similar to this is shown in science fiction films. However, the research of such behaviors is only being started in the scientific community.
But the human body is full of unexpected twists and turns. It is possible for it to enter a condition of suspended animation when temperatures are low enough.
In 2006, a Japanese man named Mitsutaka Uchikoshi, then 35 years old, went without food or drink for 24 days, reaching a condition that was comparable to being in suspended animation. The guy went missing in the mountains, and when he was located, his metabolic process had almost completely halted, his pulse had vanished, and his body temperature had reached 22 degrees Celsius. The physicians speculated that he may have suffered from hypothermia at an earlier stage of his condition. After that, his brain function was restored to its previous level entirely.
Imagine for a moment if the same thing took place to those young guys while they were in the cave. After the temperature dropped as a result of the lack of fresh air and as a result of the stress (seeing you being walled up alive is another test), they entered an extremely lengthy state of suspended animation and did not emerge from it until fresh air was introduced into the cave.
However, there is no question that their bodies withstood the most severe shock, but they were unable to bounce back. This is the only thing that can explain why young men are going to die so quickly following their “resurrection.”