Journal of Undergraduate Research


Antiochus IV, Jewish martyrdom, literature




Comparative Arts and Letters


The study of ancient martyrdom literature has typically revolved around early Christian literature. Many scholars view the concept of martyrdom as a Christian construct, which borrowed only minimally from earlier literary traditions.1This assumption exists largely because Christian writers first used the term “martyr”—originally a Greek legal term referring to a witness in court—to refer to someone who died for their witness of Jesus Christ.2When reading Jewish literature, however, it becomes evident that although no term for martyrdom yet existed, the ideologies of martyrdom were nevertheless prevalent in Jewish thought. The aim of this project was 1) to establish the existence of martyrdom in Jewish literature before the advent of the Christian tradition, and 2) to assess the historical forces that may have sparked the genre.