A martyr (Greek: μάρτυς, mártys, 'witness' stem μαρτυρ-, martyr-) is someone who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, or refusing to renounce or advocate, a religious belief or other cause as demanded by an external party. In colloquial usage, the term can also refer to any person who suffers a significant consequence in protest or support of a cause.

The Christian Martyrs of Japan; 17th-century Japanese painting

In the martyrdom narrative of the remembering community, this refusal to comply with the presented demands results in the punishment or execution of an individual by an oppressor. Accordingly, the status of the 'martyr' can be considered a posthumous title as a reward for those who are considered worthy of the concept of martyrdom by the living, regardless of any attempts by the deceased to control how they will be remembered in advance.[1] Insofar, the martyr is a relational figure of a society's boundary work that is produced by collective memory.[2] Originally applied only to those who suffered for their religious beliefs, the term has come to be used in connection with people killed for a political cause.

Most martyrs are considered holy or are respected by their followers, becoming symbols of exceptional leadership and heroism in the face of difficult circumstances. Martyrs play significant roles in religions. Similarly, martyrs have had notable effects in secular life, including such figures as Socrates, among other political and cultural examples.

Meaning edit

In its original meaning, the word martyr, meaning witness, was used in the secular sphere as well as in the New Testament of the Bible.[3] The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness, although it is known from ancient writers (e.g., Josephus) and from the New Testament that witnesses often died for their testimonies.

During the early Christian centuries, the term acquired the extended meaning of believers who are called to witness for their religious belief, and on account of this witness, endure suffering or death. The term, in this later sense, entered the English language as a loanword. The death of a martyr or the value attributed to it is called martyrdom.

The early Christians who first began to use the term martyr in its new sense saw Jesus as the first and greatest martyr, on account of his crucifixion.[4][5][6] The early Christians appear to have seen Jesus as the archetypal martyr.[7]

The word martyr is used in English to describe a wide variety of people. However, the following table presents a general outline of common features present in stereotypical martyrdoms.

Common features of stereotypical martyrdoms[8]
1. A hero A person of some renown who is devoted to a cause believed to be admirable.
2. Opposition People who oppose that cause.
3. Foreseeable risk The hero foresees action by opponents to harm him or her, because of his or her commitment to the cause.
4. Courage and commitment The hero continues, despite knowing the risk, out of commitment to the cause.
5. Death The opponents kill the hero because of his or her commitment to the cause.
6. Audience response The hero's death is commemorated. People may label the hero explicitly as a martyr. Other people may in turn be inspired to pursue the same cause.

Martyrdom in the Middle East edit

In contemporary Middle Eastern cultures, the term for 'martyr’ (Arabic shahid) has more uses than the English word ‘martyr’.[9]

While the term can be narrowly used for a person who is killed because of their religion, it is more generally used to mean a person who died a violent death. Thus it can arguably mean a general ‘victim’.[10]

A person is a martyr if they were killed because of their identity, because of natural disasters like earthquakes,[11] or while performing relief or health care work. For example, İbrahim Bilgen was killed by Israel in the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid. Because he died as a humantiarian activist, he is called a martyr by Al-Jazeera.[12]

Martyrdom is also tied with nationalism, because a martyr can be a person who died in the context of national struggle.[13] For example, in Beirut, Martyrs' Square is a public square that's dedicated to Lebanese nationalists who were executed by the Ottomans.

In Palestine, the word ‘martyr’ is traditionally used to mean a person killed by Israeli forces, regardless of religion.[14][15] For example, Shireen Abu Akleh was a Palestinian Christian journalist who was killed by Israeli forces, and Arabic media calls her a ‘martyr’.[16] This reflects a communal belief that every Palestinian death is part of a resistance against Israeli occupation.[17] Children are likewise called martyrs, such as the late children of journalist Wael Al-Dahdouh who were killed in an Israeli airstrike.[18]

The label of martyrdom is used as a form of memoralizing the dead within some narrative, such as how the victims of the 2020 Beirut explosion were called ‘martyrs of corruption’ as a form of protest against the government.[19]

The wide usage of ‘martyr’ is not restricted to Arabic. Armenian culture likewise uses the term for the victims of the Armenian genocide, who are called Holy Martyrs.[20] April 24 is Armenian Genocide Memorial Day, and also called "Armenian Martyrs Day".[21]

Religious meanings edit

Eastern religions edit

Chinese culture edit

Martyrdom was extensively promoted by the Tongmenghui and the Kuomintang party in modern China. Revolutionaries who died fighting against the Qing dynasty in the Xinhai Revolution and throughout the Republic of China period, furthering the cause of the revolution, were recognized as martyrs.[citation needed]

Hinduism edit

Despite the promotion of ahimsa (non-violence) within Sanatana Dharma, and there being no concept of martyrdom,[22] there is the belief of righteous duty (dharma), where violence is used as a last resort to resolution after all other means have failed. Examples of this are found in the Mahabharata. Upon completion of their exile, the Pandavas were refused the return of their portion of the kingdom by their cousin Duruyodhana; and following which all means of peace talks by Krishna, Vidura and Sanjaya failed. During the great war which commenced, even Arjuna was brought down with doubts, e.g., attachment, sorrow, fear. This is where Krishna instructs Arjuna how to carry out his duty as a righteous warrior and fight.

Sikhism edit

Sculpture at Mehdiana Sahib of the execution of Banda Singh Bahadur by Mughals in 1716

Martyrdom (called shahadat in Punjabi) is a fundamental concept in Sikhism and represents an important institution of the faith. Sikhs believe in Ibaadat se Shahadat (from love to martyrdom). Some famous Sikh martyrs include:[23]

  • Guru Arjan, the fifth leader of Sikhism. Guru ji was brutally tortured for almost 5 days before he attained shaheedi, or martyrdom.
  • Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru of Sikhism, martyred on 11 November 1675. He is also known as Dharam Di Chadar (i.e. "the shield of Religion"), suggesting that to save Hinduism, the guru gave his life.
  • Bhai Dayala is one of the Sikhs who was martyred at Chandni Chowk at Delhi in November 1675 due to his refusal to accept Islam.
  • Bhai Mati Das is considered by some one of the greatest martyrs in Sikh history, martyred at Chandni Chowk at Delhi in November 1675 to save Hindu Brahmins.
  • Bhai Sati Das is also considered by some one of the greatest martyrs in Sikh history, martyred along with Guru Teg Bahadur at Chandni Chowk at Delhi in November 1675 to save kashmiri pandits.
  • Sahibzada Ajit Singh, Sahibzada Jujhar Singh, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh – the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh guru.
  • Bhai Mani Singh, who came from a family of over 20 different martyrs

Abrahamic religions edit

Judaism edit

Martyrdom of the seven Hebrew brothers, Attavante degli Attavanti, Vatican Library

Martyrdom in Judaism is one of the main examples of Kiddush Hashem, meaning "sanctification of God's name" through public dedication to Jewish practice. Religious martyrdom is considered one of the more significant contributions of Hellenistic Judaism to Western Civilization. 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees recount numerous martyrdoms suffered by Jews resisting Hellenizing (adoption of Greek ideas or customs of a Hellenistic civilization) by their Seleucid overlords, being executed for such crimes as observing the Sabbath, circumcising their boys or refusing to eat pork or meat sacrificed to foreign gods. However, the notion of martyrdom in the Jewish and Christian traditions differ considerably.[24]

Christianity edit

From the gallery of 20th century martyrs at Westminster Abbey—l. to r. Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Óscar Romero and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In Christianity, a martyr, in accordance with the meaning of the original Greek martys in the New Testament, is one who brings a testimony, usually written or verbal. In particular, the testimony is that of the Christian Gospel, or more generally, the Word of God. A Christian witness is a biblical witness whether or not death follows.[25]

Illustration of Christian martyrs burned at the stake by Ranavalona I in Madagascar

The concept of Jesus as a martyr has recently received greater attention. Analyses of the Gospel passion narratives have led many scholars to conclude that they are martyrdom accounts in terms of genre and style.[26][27][28] Several scholars have also concluded that Paul the Apostle understood Jesus' death as a martyrdom.[29][30][31][32][33][34] In light of such conclusions, some have argued that the Christians of the first few centuries would have interpreted the crucifixion of Jesus as a martyrdom.[7][35]

In the context of church history, from the time of the persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire and Nero, it developed that a martyr was one who was killed for maintaining a religious belief, knowing that this will almost certainly result in imminent death (though without intentionally seeking death). This definition of martyr is not specifically restricted to the Christian faith. Christianity recognizes certain Old Testament Jewish figures, like Abel and the Maccabees, as holy, and the New Testament mentions the imprisonment and beheading of John the Baptist, Jesus's possible cousin and his prophet and forerunner. The first Christian witness, after the establishment of the Christian faith (at Pentecost), to be killed for his testimony was Saint Stephen (whose name means "crown"), and those who suffer martyrdom are said to have been "crowned". From the time of Constantine, Christianity was decriminalized, and then, under Theodosius I, became the state religion, which greatly diminished persecution (although not for non-Nicene Christians). As some wondered how then they could most closely follow Christ there was a development of desert spirituality, desert monks, self-mortification, ascetics, (Paul the Hermit, St. Anthony), following Christ by separation from the world.[clarification needed] This was a kind of white martyrdom, dying to oneself every day, as opposed to a red martyrdom, the giving of one's life in a violent death.[36]

Jan Luyken's drawing of the Anabaptist Anna Utenhoven being buried alive at Vilvoorde (present-day Belgium) in 1597. In the engraving, her head is still above the ground and the Catholic priest is exhorting her to recant her faith, while the executioner stands ready to completely cover her up upon her refusal. This engraving was part of a major Protestant outrage praising Utenhoven as a martyr.

In Christianity, death in sectarian persecution can be viewed as martyrdom. There were martyrs recognized on both sides of the schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England after 1534. Two hundred and eighty-eight Christians were martyred for their faith by public burning between 1553 and 1558 by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I in England leading to the reversion to the Church of England under Queen Elizabeth I in 1559. "From hundreds to thousands" of Waldensians were martyred in the Massacre of Mérindol in 1545. Three hundred Roman Catholics were said to have been martyred by the Church authorities in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[37]

Even more modern day accounts of martyrdom for Christ exist, depicted in books such as Jesus Freaks, though the numbers are disputed. The claim that 100,000 Christians are killed for their faith annually is greatly exaggerated according to the BBC, with many of those deaths due to war,[38] but the fact of ongoing Christian martyrdoms remains undisputed.[39][40][41][42]

Islam edit

A painting commemorating the martyrdom of the 3rd Shia Imam Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD

Shahid originates from the Quranic Arabic word meaning "witness" and is also used to denote a martyr. Shahid occurs frequently in the Quran in the generic sense "witness", but only once in the sense "martyr, one who dies for his faith"; this latter sense acquires wider use in the hadiths. Islam views a martyr as a man or woman who dies while conducting jihad, whether on or off the battlefield (see greater jihad and lesser jihad).[43] The concept of the martyr in Islam had been made prominent during the Islamic revolution (1978/79) in Iran and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war, so that the cult of the martyr had a lasting impact on the course of revolution and war.[44]

The Islamic meaning of martyr is connected with the general Middle Eastern meaning of martyrdom.

Baháʼí Faith edit

In the Baháʼí Faith, martyrs are those who sacrifice their lives serving humanity in the name of God.[45] However, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Baháʼí Faith, discouraged the literal meaning of sacrificing one's life. Instead, he explained that martyrdom is devoting oneself to service to humanity.[45]

Notable people entitled as martyr edit

Interior of the Coliseum at the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, Auriesville, New York, showing the sanctuary and high altar.

Political people entitled as martyr edit

A political martyr is someone who suffers persecution or death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, or refusing to advocate a political belief or cause.

Revolutionary martyr edit

The term "revolutionary martyr" usually relates to those dying in revolutionary struggle.[47][48] During the 20th century, the concept was developed in particular in the culture and propaganda of communist or socialist revolutions, although it was and is also used in relation to nationalist revolutions.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Gölz, Olmo "Martyrdom and the Struggle for Power. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Martyrdom in the Modern Middle East.", Behemoth 12, no. 1 (2019): 2–13, 5.
  2. ^ Gölz, Olmo "The Imaginary Field of the Heroic: On the Contention between Heroes, Martyrs, Victims and Villains in Collective Memory." Archived 2020-01-03 at the Wayback Machine In helden.heroes.héros, Special Issue 5: Analyzing Processes of Heroization. Theories, Methods, Histories. Ed. by N Falkenhayner, S Meurer and T Schlechtriemen (2019): 27–38, 27.
  3. ^ See e.g. Alison A. Trites, The New Testament Concept of Witness, ISBN 978-0-521-60934-0.
  4. ^ Frances M. Young, The Use of Sacrificial Ideas in Greek Christian Writers from the New Testament to John Chrysostom (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004), pp. 107.
  5. ^ Eusebius wrote of the early Christians: "They were so eager to imitate Christ ... they gladly yielded the title of martyr to Christ, the true Martyr and Firstborn from the dead." Eusebius, Church History 5.1.2.
  6. ^ Scholars believe that Revelation was written during the period when the word for witness was gaining its meaning of martyr. Revelation describes several Christian reh with the term martyr (Rev 17:6, 12:11, 2:10–13), and describes Jesus in the same way ("Jesus Christ, the faithful witness/martyr" in Rev 1:5, and see also Rev 3:14).
  7. ^ a b A. J. Wallace and R. D. Rusk, Moral Transformation: The Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation (New Zealand: Bridgehead, 2011), pp. 217–229.
  8. ^ From A. J. Wallace and R. D. Rusk, Moral Transformation: The Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation (New Zealand: Bridgehead, 2011), pp. 218.
  9. ^ Fierke (2012). "Martyrdom in the contemporary Middle East and north Africa". Political Self-Sacrifice: Agency, Body and Emotion in International Relations: 198. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139248853.011. ISBN 9781139248853.
  10. ^ Whitaker, Brian (October 12, 2000). "Martyrs, never victims". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Akasoy, Anna (2006). "Islamic Attitudes to Disasters in the Middle Ages: A Comparison of Earthquakes and Plagues". The Medieval History Journal. 10 (1–2): 398. doi:10.1177/097194580701000214.
  12. ^ Keddie, Patrick (21 Jul 2016). "Remembering the Mavi Marmara victims". Al Jazeera.
  13. ^ Buckner, Elizabeth and Khatib, Lina (2014). "The Martyrs' Revolutions: The Role of Martyrs in the Arab Spring". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 41 (4): 370. doi:10.1080/13530194.2014.918802.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "The Culture of Palestinian Shaheeds" (PDF). The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. January 4, 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2023.
  15. ^ Fierke (2012). "Martyrdom in the contemporary Middle East and north Africa". Political Self-Sacrifice: Agency, Body and Emotion in International Relations: 216. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139248853.011. ISBN 9781139248853.
  16. ^ Alamuddin, Baria (May 16, 2022). "Shireen Abu Akleh: A martyr to the truth of Israeli inhumanity". Arab News.
  17. ^ Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek (December 31, 2022). "For Palestinians, a Rush to Claim 'Martyrs' Killed by Israel". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Abu Mazen, Saddam (October 28, 2023). "كتاب وأدباء عرب: صلابة وائل الدحدوح نموذج للجسارة الفلسطينية [Arab writers and writers: Wael Al-Dahdouh's toughness is a model of Palestinian courage]". Al Jazeera.
  19. ^ ICSR Team (10 May 2023). "Martyrdom in Lebanon: An Evolution of Memory-Making". International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.
  20. ^ "Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide". The Armenian Church, Eastern Diocese of America. Retrieved 28 October 2023.
  21. ^ The Genocide Education Project. "President Biden formally recognizes the Armenian Genocide".
  22. ^ Stephen Knapp (2006) The Power of the Dharma: An Introduction to Hinduism and Vedic Culture [1]
  23. ^ Sandeep Singh Bajwa (2000-02-11). "Biographies of Great Sikh Martyrs". Sikh-history.com. Archived from the original on 2019-04-03. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  24. ^ See Philippe Bobichon, « Martyre talmudique et martyre chrétien », Kentron : Revue du Monde Antique et de Psychologie Historique 11, 2 (1995) and 12, 1 (1996), pp. 109–129
  25. ^ See Davis, R."Martyr, or Witness?" Archived 2011-05-11 at the Wayback Machine, New Matthew Bible Project
  26. ^ J. W. van Henten, "Jewish Martyrdom and Jesus' Death" in Jörg Frey & Jens Schröter (eds.), Deutungen des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005) pp. 157–168.
  27. ^ Donald W. Riddle, "The Martyr Motif in the Gospel According to Mark." The Journal of Religion, IV.4 (1924), pp. 397–410.
  28. ^ M. E. Vines, M. E. Vines, "The 'Trial Scene' Chronotype in Mark and the Jewish Novel", in G. van Oyen and T. Shepherd (eds.), The Trial and Death of Jesus: Essays on the Passion Narrative in Mark (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), pp. 189–203.
  29. ^ Stephen Finlan, The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors (Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2004), pp. 193–210
  30. ^ Sam K. Williams, Death as Saving Event: The Background and Origin of a Concept (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press for Harvard Theological Review, 1975), pp. 38–41.
  31. ^ David Seeley, The Noble Death (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), pp. 83–112.
  32. ^ Stanley Stowers, A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (Ann Arbor: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 212ff.
  33. ^ Jarvis J. Williams, Maccabean Martyr Traditions in Paul's Theology of Atonement (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2010)
  34. ^ S. A. Cummins, Paul and the Crucified Christ in Antioch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
  35. ^ Stephen J. Patterson, Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004).
  36. ^ Arena, Saints, directed by Paul Tickell, 2006
  37. ^ "Forty Martyrs of England and Wales | Description, History, Canonization, & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-09-13.
  38. ^ Alexander, Ruth (2013-11-12). "Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year?". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  39. ^ "IS 'beheads Christian hostages' in Nigeria". BBC News. 2019-12-27. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  40. ^ Chiaramonte, Perry (2016-04-21). "Martyr killed by bulldozer becomes symbol of growing persecution of Christians in China". Fox News. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  41. ^ "Christian evangelist murdered in southeast Turkey". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. 22 November 2019. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  42. ^ "Christianity's Modern-Day Martyrs: Victims of Radical Islam". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  43. ^ A. Ezzati (1986). The Concept Of Martyrdom In Islam. Tehran University.
  44. ^ Gölz, "Martyrdom and Masculinity in Warring Iran. The Karbala Paradigm, the Heroic, and the Personal Dimensions of War.", Behemoth 12, no. 1 (2019): 35–51, 35.
  45. ^ a b Winters, Jonah (1997-09-19). "Conclusion". Dying for God: Martyrdom in the Shi'i and Babi Religions. M.A. Thesis. Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  46. ^ "Biography of Hazrat Abdullah bin az-Zubayr (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)". Aal-e-Qutub. 2018-06-03. Retrieved 2023-09-05.
  47. ^ The French Revolution Page 95 Linda Frey, Marsha Frey – 2004 "He was immortalized by the painter David in the famous painting of the death scene that became the icon of the revolution and an emblem of revolutionary propaganda. The revolutionary martyr was commemorated not only in painting and in ..."
  48. ^ Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican ... p. 250 John Mason Hart – 1987 "They popularized Ricardo Flores Magon as a revolutionary martyr who was harassed by the American and Mexican ..."
  49. ^ Vietnam At War Mark Philip Bradley – 2009 "As the concept of 'sacrifice' (hi sinh) came to embody the state's narrative of sacred war (chien tranh than thanh), the ultimate sacrifice was considered to be death in battle as a 'revolutionary martyr' (liet si)."
  50. ^ Staff, The New Arab (2021-10-04). "Algeria says 5.6 million died under French colonialism". www.newarab.com/. Retrieved 2023-08-18.

Bibliography edit

  • "Martyrs", Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Foster, Claude R. Jr. (1995). Paul Schneider, the Buchenwald apostle: a Christian martyr in Nazi Germany: A Sourcebook on the German Church Struggle. Westchester, PA: SSI Bookstore, West Chester University. ISBN 978-1-887732-01-7
  • History.com Editors. "Abolitionist John Brown Is Hanged". History.com, 4 Mar. 2010, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/john-brown-hanged.

Further reading edit

  • Bélanger, Jocelyn J., et al. "The Psychology of Martyrdom: Making the Ultimate Sacrifice in the Name of a Cause." Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 107.3 (2014): 494–515. Print.
  • Kateb, George. "Morality and Self-Sacrifice, Martyrdom and Self-Denial." Social Research 75.2 (2008): 353–394. Print.
  • Olivola, Christopher Y. and Eldar Shafir. "The Martyrdom Effect: When Pain and Effort Increase Prosocial Contributions." Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 26, no. 1 (2013): 91–105.
  • PBS. "Plato and the Legacy of Socrates." PBS. https://www.pbs.org/empires/thegreeks/background/41a.html (accessed October 21, 2014).
  • Reeve, C. D. C.. A Plato Reader: Eight Essential Dialogues. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub. Co., 2012. [ISBN missing]

External links edit