In the context of Christianity, the obvious examples are the apostles, who claimed to have been firsthand eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus (with the exception of the apostle Paul, who didn't witness the resurrection but still claimed to have had a "Damascus Road" encounter). They maintained their testimonies despite opposition, persecution and even death as martyrs.

Are there similar historical examples outside of Christianity?

To be clear, a Muslim Jihadist would not count as an example unless he explicitly claimed to have been a firsthand eyewitness of a miracle and maintained his testimony in spite of persecution until martyrdom.

The Wikipedia article on martyrs was obviously the first thing I checked before I posted this question, but I was not able to identify a specific case of non-Christian martyrdom in which the reason for the persecution was that the individual claimed to have been a firsthand witness of a miraculous event, leading to beliefs that endangered established orthodoxies, the established order or anything of that sort.

I also attempted to find examples by googling "martyr eyewitness miracle" and similar queries, but I only managed to find Christian examples, such as the Martyrdom of Polycarp, which allegedly involved miraculous events (see the first paragraph in the Wikipedia article).

  • Movie recommendation.
    – Lucian
    Aug 2, 2021 at 8:39
  • Does the 6th Dalai Lama count?
    – Jan
    Aug 2, 2021 at 10:31
  • @MCW - It is not clear at all if those non-Christian martyrs referenced in the Wikipedia article were persecuted because they claimed to have witnessed a supernatural event/miracle.
    – user46818
    Aug 2, 2021 at 12:04
  • 3
    Are there Christian examples of such a thing? In general the Christian "Apostles" were killed for preaching against the state religion, or for being prominent figures in a reviled religious minority. Nobody much cared if they thought they witnessed miracles or not.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 2, 2021 at 12:47
  • 1
    @Pieter Geerkens: Was Smith killed for supposed "miracles", or because his polygamist lifestyle offended against then-current ideas of morality? We might make a present-day comparison to the death of Jeffrey Epstein.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 2, 2021 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


I think this is going to be very difficult to answer because the criteria are muddled and not subject to analysis by historical methods and techniques. Until/unless the following are clarified, the question is going to be subjective.

Someone will argue each of the examples below, because there are:

  1. no empirical evidence of miracles,
  2. no clear criteria to classify miracles and; (I am not qualified to judge whether an Islamic Shahid did or did not witness something miraculous)
  3. often no formal legal grounds on which an individual is martyred. (@T.E.D addresses this much more effectively in comments). Arguably the Yasukini martyrs were killed because of their belief in the supernatural status of their Emperor; I am not qualified to evaluate whether there are any miracles involved.
  4. No clear definition of Christian. I've been told that Catholics aren't Christian, that Latter Day Saints aren't Christian, etc. There is no empirical, objective test for Christianity.

The following are examples of people who died for their faith, where that faith involves belief in the supernatural

  • 1
    That last bullet reminds me about the events surrounding the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890. There was a belief in spirit shirts that would repel bullets. This was certainly miracle-based thinking, and it certainly got rather a lot of people killed.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 2, 2021 at 14:31
  • 2
    (You'll typically find these issues discussed as the "ghost dance" and "ghost shirts", but that's a 19th century translation of a Lakota concept, and IMHO inaccurately makes it sound more silly than necessary today. What they believed in was more like The Force than western ghosts).
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 2, 2021 at 14:38
  • @T.E.D.: The Ghost Dance movement wasn't Lakota. It originated with the Northern Paiute leader Wovoka, though many of the western tribes adopted it.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 2, 2021 at 17:01
  • @jamesqf - I suggest you read that link in my comment. The bullet-proof shirts were a Lakota "innovation", not part of Wovoka's theology. Also, Wounded Knee, the massacre that made the dance famous to non-indians, was in Lakota territory, and it was largely their people who died there.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 2, 2021 at 17:48
  • 1
    @T.E.D.: To be honest, I'd never associated Wounded Knee with the Ghost Dance, and I know of Wovoka mainly because he's part of my local history.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 3, 2021 at 4:52

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