Today In Fact, 03 August

Martyrs are not kamikaze. A martyr does not harm those who persecute them. A martyr forgives their killers. Originally martyr just meant “witness” in Greek. The idea has been extended by Christians to mean a believer who is called to witness for their religious belief, and on account of this witness, endures suffering and death.

The first Christian martyr was Stephen. His story is told in the book of Acts and his speech takes up the whole seventh chapter of Acts. In the book of Acts, Stephen is described as falling asleep while being stoned by outraged Jews who condemned him for blasphemy.

Stephen’s body was buried by Christians but its location was lost until a local priest, Lucien had a dream in 415 and on this day discovered his bones outside Jerusalem. His relics are preserved in the Church of St. Stephan in Jerusalem.

The idea of martyrdom may seem strange to those whose worldview does not admit an afterlife. Those religions who believe in life after death have always venerated martyrs and indeed, it may be argued that martyrdom was one of the profound innovations of Christianity and Saint Stephan.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (