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Etymologically, “martyrdom” means much more than “suffering death for the faith”, a restricted sense which the word came to have very early, not indeed in the NT, but attested in the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, c. 150. In the NT it means giving testimony, but in words, by preaching, and not that of being killed in odium fidei. It is revealing for the nature of the Christian faith that a word which in general(though not exclusively) meant testimony came to be used in christianity for that given by suffering death for the Christian faith, while …

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Otto Semmelroth, “Martyrdom”, in: Sacramentum Mundi Online, General Editor Karl Rahner, SJ. Consulted online on 29 February 2024 <>
First published online: 2016

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