In a world which valued courage and sacrifice, and a time which opposing sects vied for their beliefs’ supremacy martyrdom was much more than a matter of personal glory or localised religious expression: it was a powerful, attention-grabbing and awe-inspiring political tool with which a sect could use to strengthen its following or defend its position. Irenaeus bases his position’s legitimacy on this strategy, stating in Against Heresies that other groups have no true martyrs and that their creeds maintain that martyrdom is not at all necessary. He goes on to liken the martyrs (his martyrs) to the oft-persecuted prophets of the Hebrew Bible, stating that those who suffer do so because they have truly received the “word of G-d”. To summarise: Irenaues claims that because his community is not only willing to suffer, but also to embrace suffering, on behalf of their creed this makes their beliefs more-genuine than those of other sects whose doctrines place less emphasis on martyrdom.
In contrast, Clement of Alexandria as well as the Testimony of Truth do not hold the same ideals of embracing martyrdom and in fact try to dissuade zealous martyrdom-seekers. While he greatly respects and applauds those who would die for their faith should it come to that (section 4.9) he also disapproves of those who actively try to become martyrs. “If he who kills a man of G-d sins against G-d, he also who presents himself before the judgment-seat becomes guilty of his death,” Clement writes (section 4.10). To Clement martyrdom is an admirable last-resort, not a defining tenet of the faith. The Testimony of Truth maintains a closely similar position, stating that those who outright offer themselves up to persecutors are not true martyrs guaranteed salvation, but merely people searching for their own personal glory in death. On the subject of martyrdom and salvation the text puts it simply: “These matters are not settled in this way.”