Martyr

Preaching and Worship Resources about Martyr

Various forms of the Greek verb martureo or the noun martus occur with some frequency in the Bible but almost always in the straightforward definition of the word: a witness, or someone who bears testimony, often in a legal setting. A martyr is someone who bears witness to what he has seen or heard. Over time, however, and into the earliest years of the Christian church, this term became associated with those who bore witness to Jesus as Messiah or Savior or Lord all the way to the point of death itself. The church's earliest martyr was the deacon Stephen, who was stoned to death in Acts 7 for his refusal to deny the lordship of Jesus. Later, in Acts 22:20, Paul uses the Greek word martus in the sense of one who died on account of that witness, which is why some Bible translations render this as the English "martyr" (though other translations still have "witness"). It is one of the few times the connotation of "martyr" as one who died for his faith matches its use in the biblical text: "`And while the blood of your witness [martyr] Stephen was shed, I myself was standing by, approving and keeping the coats of those who killed him.'" This sense of the word "martyr" continued throughout church history and was made famous by Father John Foxe in his sixteenth-century book Foxe's Book of Martyrs, which catalogues some of the more famous martyrs in church history from the earliest days of Roman persecution through Foxe's time.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.