(μάρτυς and μάρτυρ, so rendered only in Ac 22:20; Re 2:13; Re 18:6) is properly a witness, and is applied in the New Testament
(a) to judicial witnesses (Mt 18:16; Mt 26:65; Mr 14:63; Ac 6:13; Ac 7:58; 2Co 13:1; 1Ti 5:19; Heb 10:28. The Septuagint also uses it for the Hebrew עֵד, ed, in De 17:16; Pr 24:28);
(b) To one who has testified, or can testify to the truth of what he has seen, heard, or known. This is a frequent sense in the New Testament, as in Lu 24:48; Ac 1:8,22; Ro 1:9; 2Co 1:23; 1Th 2:5,10; 1Ti 6:12; 2Ti 2:2; 1Pe 5:1; Re 1:5; Re 3:14; Re 11:3, and elsewhere.
(c) The meaning of the word which has now become the most usual. is that in which it occurs most rarely in the Scriptures, i.e. one who by his death bears witness to the truth. In this sense we only find it in Ac 22:20; Re 2:13; Re 17:6. This now exclusive sense of the word was brought into general use by the early ecclesiastical writers, who applied it to every one who suffered death in the Christian cause (see Suicer, Thesaurus Eccles. sub. roc.). SEE MARTYRS. Stephen was in this sense the first martyr, SEE STEPHEN, and the spiritual honors of his death tended in no small degree to raise to the most extravagant estimation, in the early Church, the value of the testimony of blood. Eventually a martyr's death was supposed, on the alleged authority of the under-named texts, to cancel all the sins of the past life (Lu 12:50; Mr 10:39); to supply the place of baptism (Mt 10:39), and at once to secure admittance to the presence of the Lord in Paradise (Mt 5:10-12).
In imitation of the family custom of annually commemorating at the grave the death of deceased members, the churches celebrated the deaths of their martyrs by prayers at their graves, and by love-feasts. From this high estimation of the martyrs, Christians were sometimes led to deliver themselves up voluntarily to the public authorities — thus justifying the charge of fanaticism brought against them by the heahen. the. For the most part, however, this practice was discountenanced, the words of Christ himself being brought against it (Mt 10:23; see Gieseler, Eccles. Hist. 1:109, 110). For monographs, see Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 75, 116. SEE CONFESSOR.