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The faithful venerate their memories, celebrate their feast days, name places of worship, schools and hospitals after them. And yet, those who would claim the title blow themselves up in explosive-laden cars in crowded market-placeseviscerate their own bodies and those around them with bombs in concert hallsturn vehicles into instruments of mass murder and kill and maim with knives and machine guns on city streets.
That their act of murderous self-destruction bears no relation to the steadfast, but essentially passive, courage of those persecuted for their beliefs in ages past.
The history of martyrdom is not clear cut. The ideology of martyrdom has always been contested and has long contained a potential to commit violence against others. Later it was used to describe those who, arrested and on trial, admitted to being Christians. By the middle of the second century, it was granted to those who suffered execution for their faith.
Christians were not alone in their admiration of those willing to die for their principles. Statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates in Athens. The philosopher hoped for, but was not sure of, an afterlife.
The martyr, however, was very certain of an afterlife. Indeed, the martyr was certain not just of an afterlife but of salvation and reward in heaven. Their example in this belief was the Holy Maccabees, the second-century Jewish family executed for refusing to break Jewish law by the king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes.
In death, the Maccabees claimed victory and said: The king of the world shall raise us up those who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life. Roman persecution of Christians, at least before the middle of the third-century, was usually sporadic.
Christians were widely despised and scapegoated for natural disasters and urban fires. Some Christians, however, pursued martyrdom.
Having executed a number without having stifled the clamour, Arrius finally declared: You miserable wretches, if you want to die, you have cliffs to leap from and ropes to hang by. The close relationship between the sinful act of suicide and voluntary martyrdom was a matter of fierce controversy within the church.
St Cyprianbishop of Carthage, was one critic of voluntary martyrdom but his own story reveals the depth of disagreement among Christians over how to behave in the face of persecution.
In the third-century, successive emperors made efforts to compel all subjects to participate in the sacrificial rituals thought necessary to retain the favour of the gods. Christians who refused became victims of renewed persecution. In AD, Cyprian chose exile from Carthage to avoid the authorities, an act some of those who shared his religion regarded as cowardly.
Yet Cyprian did not lack courage and accepted his own martyrdom in the arena in AD. The move to terror It was the deliberate courting of death that was clearly sinful. The worthy would be gifted martyrdom by God. By this time, though, there were those who did not merely volunteer for martyrdom, they provoked it.
They smashed idols, disrupted pagan rituals and assaulted temple priests knowing they would die in the ensuing violence. The ideology of martyrdom had shifted subtly — for some, martyrs did not simply die for God, now they killed and terrorised in his name.
Such beliefs were always contested. Bishops at the Council of Elvira in AD firmly decreed that those killed in retaliation for smashing idols were to be denied the name of martyr.Viens rencontrer les femmes chaudes et coquines de Italie qui cherche une rencontre d'un soir pour du sexe.
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