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Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum / Journal of Ancient Christianity

Ed. by Brennecke, Hanns Christof / Drecoll, Volker Henning / Heil, Uta / Markschies, Christoph

Together with Elm, Susanna / Gemeinhardt, Peter / Meier, Mischa / Perrone, Lorenzo / Pollmann, Karla / Riedweg, Christoph / Schöllgen, Georg / Williams, Rowan / Wischmeyer, Wolfgang

3 Issues per year

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.189
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.705
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.081

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Das Martyrium als imitatio Christi: Die literarische Gestaltung der spätantiken Märtyrerakten und -passionen nach der Passion Christi

Maarten Taveirne
  • Universität Gent, Vakgroep Letterkunde, Blandijnberg 2, B-9000 GENT
  • :
Published Online: 2014-11-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zac-2014-0010


From the beginning of Christianity, the martyrs have been deemed paragons of the ideal of imitatio Christi, their willingness to lose their life for Christ’s sake proving their perfect discipleship. This article examines how martyrdom is literarily framed as an imitation of the Passion of Christ within the Latin acta martyrum and passiones from the 4th to 6th centuries. After an outline of the imitation concept in the New Testament, several instances from those late antique stories reveal a literary technique to deepen the description of the martyrdom by means of inserting quotations from and allusions to the Passion into the martyr narrative. In this manner the martyrdom account relates to the Passion of Christ, and-to at least some extent-renews its model. Two early instances (the stoning of Stephen [Acts 6:8−7:60] and the Martyrium Polycarpi) demonstrate that such stylization is no late antique innovation but dates back to the era of the Apostolic Fathers. Observations in the late antique narrative show its continuing popularity, but also a restraint in identifying the martyrs too much with Christ. By limiting the references, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the hagiographers made sure that (even a partial) imitation of the Passion of Christ in no way would amount to rivalry with the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.

Published Online: 2014-11-22

Published in Print: 2014-11-01

Citation Information: Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum / Journal of Ancient Christianity. Volume 18, Issue 2, Pages 167–203, ISSN (Online) 1612-961X, ISSN (Print) 0949-9571, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zac-2014-0010, November 2014

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