What it Means to Be a TRUE Christian Martyr

Essay by betsyrubbleUniversity, Bachelor's October 2007

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During the attack on Christianity in the early years after Jesus' death, most "true" Christians believed so powerfully in God and their religion that they were willing to declare Jesus their savior and relish in their association with such a heretical religion despite the imminent and very real threat of death, as Clark, Ehrman, and Richardson all tell us. However, I find there to be a difference in holding steadfast to one's beliefs when being captured and affronted by Roman persecution compared to looking for said persecution because one wants to become a martyr of Christianity, as we can see in the differences between the martyrdom of Polycarp and that of Ignatius.

Ehrman prefaces his excerpt of Ignatius'letter to the Romans with a summary explaining that his letter attempted to persuade his fellow Christians to let him be tortured; he "wants to be thrown to the wild beasts and so become a martyr for Christ" (28).

I find this strange as I do not think Christ and/or God would have wanted their followers to be tortured willingly; it seems vaguely comparable to suicide, at least if one goes looking for this type of persecution.

Polycarp on the other hand ran and hid multiple times when he heard that the authorities were coming to arrest him. He did not want to be caught and persecuted, as we see by his moving twice to farms outside his city (32). Yet once he was arrested, he stayed true to his faith and would not declare Caesar as his "Lord" (32). We even read of "a voice from heaven" speaking to Polycarp at the beginning of his death day, telling him to "Be strong…and act like a man" (33). Thus, a true Christian has such strength as to know his beliefs, cling tight...