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The Archparadox of Death

Martyrdom as a Philosophical Category


Dariusz Karłowicz

The book deals with martyrdom understood as a philosophical category. The main question pertains to the evidential value of the Christian witness through death. The author approaches an answer through a philosophical interpretation of the belief in the evidential role of martyrdom. Numerous historical documents confirm that ancient martyrdom might have been considered as a kind of proof also by people unaffiliated with the Church. The author observes the theology and the reality of martyrdom through the perspective of the ancient philosophy of death and radical personal transformation. He believes that the Christian stance in the face of persecutions could have been understood as the realization of the unrealized ambitions of philosophy, thereby proving indirectly the veracity of the teaching revealed by Jesus Christ.
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Part I: Dethroning Philosophy


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Part I:  Dethroning Philosophy

1.  Paul at the Areopagus

In the 17th chapter of Acts of the Apostles we find a speech made by St. Paul during his stay in Athens. It was delivered to philosophers who were gathered at the Areopagus. The facts that the speech comes from a canonical book of the New Testament, that it was written down by the hand of St. Luke, and finally, that its speaker is the Apostle to the Nations encourage us to see in it a model stance toward philosophy which is faithful to the Gospel; or, even more widely, such a stance toward all of pagan culture.1 Thus, there is nothing strange that in the Athenian episode recorded in Acts 17:16–33 (which took place in the Autumn of the year 50AD, during what is called Paul’s Second Apostolic Journey)2, scholars expect to find basic instructions for appraising the aims of, the mediation model for, and the essence of proper relations between Jerusalem and Athens. Unfortunately this, as Harnack calls it, “most beautiful fragment of the Acts of the Apostles”3, unexpectedly disappoints all those who expect a clear interpretation in the name of an Apostolic magisterium. ← 17 | 18 →


Let’s begin with the widely discussed issue of the speech’s authenticity. It is clear that the problem of ascertaining the degree of readiness to integrate elements of pagan culture in the Acts of the Apostles depends...

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