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Idea of martyrdom

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Cross in front of the Colosseum
Cross in front of the Colosseum

Christianity in its origins differed quite significantly from what we know in its present form, although the idea of ​​martyrdom raises vivid emotions among the faithful to this day and is still through it appreciated and praised.

In those days, when Christianity was taking its first steps in the Roman world, the ideal of holiness was embodied precisely in the form of a martyr who “bears witness” to the Christian faith with his blood. John (Saint Apostle of Christians) mentions three witnesses – the Spirit, water (baptism) and blood (martyrdom). Origen even mentions prior persecution as the golden age of the church. Thus, in early Christian culture, the figure of the martyr replaced the figure of the hero in pagan culture, and the lives and legends of the martyrs took the place of heroic myths and legends.

A protocol of interrogations from the no longer existing city near Carthage – Scylla, from July 17, 180 CE, has been preserved to this day. depicting the interrogation of Christians, during which the proconsul Saturnin tries to convince the accused to worship the emperor (because, as we know, there was a cult and holy fear towards the emperor at that time), but Speratus – one of the accused proudly refused, and the rest with him. After the sentence was pronounced, they were sentenced to beheaded, but before its execution, they said, “Today we are martyrs in heaven: thanks be to God!”.

This example, which is in fact one of many, undoubtedly shows the determination and courage of people who despise death and utterly devoted to the idea of ​​the Kingdom of Jesus, while being for some an example of the recklessness and stupidity of people who gave their lives for a sublime and unreal idea. The worship of martyrs must be viewed in terms of the interpretation of Jesus’ death. As Paul of Tarsus put it, it was the death of an innocent lamb whose blood had washed away the original sin of mankind. The death of the martyrs, including the innocent (as emphasized by Christian writers), was both a protest against the violation of the law of conscience and a testimony of faith in Jesus.

Author: Adam Zawojak
  • Jan Wierusz Kowalski, Wczesne chrześcijaństwo I-X wiek, 1985
  • Th. Ruinart, Acta Martyrum, Ratyzbona 1859, s. 132-133

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