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(from Gk. martys, martyros, “witness”). The disciples and apostles were “witnesses” of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; cf. Acts 1:8 “Ye shall be witnesses (Gk. martyres).” Clement of Rome (see Apostolic Fathers, 1) spoke of witness in the sense of giving one's life for one's faith. Tertullian* regarded martyrdom in this sense as a 2d baptism because it removed all sin and assured heavenly bliss. Augustine* of Hippo held that the reason for suffering, not suffering itself, makes a martyr.

Some regard the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem as the 1st Christian martyrs (see Church Year, 1). Other early Christian martyrs include Stephen (Acts 6:8–7:60), James (Acts 12:2), and Antipas (Rv 2:13); Peter and Paul are usually included on basis of tradition; others include Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp (see Apostolic Fathers, 3) and others who perished in persecutions* of Christians.

Legendary accounts of martyrs began to be gathered in special books in the 4th c. See also Acta martyrum; Acta sanctorum; Bolland, Jean de; Bollandists.

Martyrs of the Reformation and post-Reformation age include L. de Berquin,* A. Clarenbach,* G. II de Coligny,* T. Cranmer,* J. Diaz,* J. Esch,* P. Fliesteden,* P. Hamilton,* Henry* of Zutphen, J. Hooper,* B. Hubmaier,* L. Kaiser,* H. Latimer,* A. Paleario,* N. Ridley,* J. Rogers,* H. Voes,* G. Wishart.*

In the 1st half of the 20th c. many Christians, esp. clerics, were killed in Russ. Many lost their lives in persecutions of RCs in Sp. 1936–37 and Mex. 1926–38. In Ger., RCs and Prots. were executed by Nazis (see also Bonhoeffer, Dietrich; Kirchenkampf). Armenian Christians were killed in Ottoman persecutions during and after WW I.

Missionaries were often killed by natives to whom they were bringing the Gospel.

In Am., some RC missionaries were killed by natives. Most prominent Luth. martyrs: Jean Ribault of Dieppe, Fr., and ca. 280 companions (mems. of a naval miss. sent by the king of Fr. to colonize the E coast of Florida), killed by Spanish “because they were Lutherans and enemies of our holy Catholic faith,” September and October 1565 near Saint Augustine, Florida

The term martyr is used also of those who suffered persecution and torture for the faith but without loss of life.

See also Saints, Veneration of, 2, 3; United States, Religious History of the, 2.

L. E. Smith, Heroes and Martyrs of the Modern Missionary Enterprise (Providence, Rhode Island, 1856); H. W. Surkau, Martyrien in jüdischer und frühchristlicher Zeit (Göttingen, 1938); B. H. Forck, und folget ihrem Glauben nach: Gedenkbuch für die Blutzeugen der Bekennenden Kirche (Stuttgart, 1949); D. Attwater, Martyrs from St. Stephen to John Tung (London, 1958); G. Ricciotti, The Age of Martyrs: Christianity from Diocletian to Constantine, tr. A. Bull (Milwaukee, 1959); N. Brox, Zeuge und Märtyrer: Untersuchungen zur frühchristlichen Zeugnis-Terminologie (Munich, 1961); K. Rahner, On the Theology of Death, tr. C. H. Henkey (New York, 1961); H. v. Campenhausen, Die Idee des Martyriums in der alten Kirche, 2d ed. (Göttingen, 1964); W. H. C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus (Oxford, 1965). EL

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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