|Martyr, Church Father and Bishop of Smyrna|
|Died||AD 155 (aged 86 or 87)|
Smyrna, Asia, Roman Empire
|Venerated in|| Roman Catholic Church,|
Oriental Orthodox Church,
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
|Feast||February 23 (formerly January 26)|
|Attributes||Wearing the pallium, holding a book representing his Epistle to the Philippians|
|Major works||Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians|
Polycarp ( // ; Greek : Πολύκαρπος, Polýkarpos; Latin : Polycarpus; AD 69 – 155) was a Christian bishop of Smyrna. According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp , he died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to consume his body. Polycarp is regarded as a saint and Church Father in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. His name means "much fruit" in Greek. Both Irenaeus and Tertullian record that Polycarp had been a disciple of John the Apostle, one of Jesus’ disciples. In On Illustrious Men Jerome writes that Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle and that John had ordained him as a bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers, along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch.
The sole surviving work attributed to him is the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians , a mosaic of references to the Greek Scriptures, which, along with an account of The Martyrdom of Polycarp , forms part of the collection of writings called Apostolic Fathers . After the Acts of the Apostles, which describes the death of Stephen, the Martyrdom is considered one of the earliest genuine accounts of a Christian martyrdom.Charles E. Hill argues extensively that the teachings Irenaeus ascribes to a certain apostolic "presbyter" throughout his writings represent lost teachings of Polycarp, his teacher.
The chief sources of information concerning the life of Polycarp are The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Adversus Haereses , The Epistle to Florinus, the epistles of Ignatius, and Polycarp's own letter to the Philippians. In 1999, the Harris Fragments, a collection of 3rd- to 6th-century Coptic texts that mention Polycarp, were published.
According to Irenaeus, Polycarp was a companion of Papias, another "hearer of John", and a correspondent of Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius addressed a letter to him and mentions him in his letters to the Ephesians and to the Magnesians.
Irenaeus regarded the memory of Polycarp as a link to the apostolic past. In his letter to Florinus, a fellow student of Polycarp who had become a Roman presbyter and later lapsed into heresy, Irenaeus relates how and when he became a Christian:
I could tell you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat to preach the Word of God. It is yet present to my mind with what gravity he everywhere came in and went out; what was the sanctity of his deportment, the majesty of his countenance; and what were his holy exhortations to the people. I seem to hear him now relate how he conversed with John and many others who had seen Jesus Christ, the words he had heard from their mouths.
In particular, he heard the account of Polycarp's discussion with John and with others who had seen Jesus. Irenaeus reports that Polycarp was converted to Christianity by apostles, was consecrated a presbyter, and communicated with many who had seen Jesus. He writes that he had had the good fortune, when young, to know Polycarp, who was then far advanced in years.
According to Irenaeus, during the time his fellow Syrian Anicetus was Bishop of Rome, Polycarp visited Rome to discuss differences in the practices of the churches of Asia and Rome. Irenaeus states that on certain things the two speedily came to an understanding, while as to the observance of Easter, each adhered to his own custom, without breaking off full communion with the other.Polycarp followed the Eastern practice of celebrating the feast on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Jewish Passover, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell, while Anicetus followed the Western practice of celebrating the feast on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Anicetus allowed Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his own church, which was regarded by the Romans as a great honor.
In the Martyrdom, Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death: "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong." This could indicate either that he was then eighty-six years oldor that he had lived eighty-six years after his conversion. Polycarp goes on to say: "How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked." Polycarp was burned at the stake and pierced with a spear for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. On his farewell, he said: "I bless you, Father, for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ."
The date of Polycarp's death is in dispute. Eusebius dates it to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, c. 166–167. However, a post-Eusebian addition to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, dates his death to Saturday, February 23, in the proconsulship of Lucius Statius Quadratus, c. 155 or 156. These earlier dates better fit the tradition of his association with Ignatius and John the Evangelist.
The Martyrdom of Polycarp states that Polycarp was killed on "the Great Sabbath". English patristic scholar William Cave (1637–1713) believed that this was evidence that the Smyrnaeans under Polycarp observed the seventh-day Sabbath, i.e. assembled on Saturdays.J. B. Lightfoot records as a common interpretation of the expression "the Great Sabbath" to refer to Pesach or another Jewish festival. This is contradicted by the standard Jewish calendar, under which Nisan 14, the date of the Pesach, can fall no earlier than late March and hence at least a month after the February 23 dating. Hence, Lightfoot understood the expression in reference to the Purim festival, celebrated a month before Pesach, while other scholars suggest that at the time the Jewish calendar had not yet been standardized, and that this day, both Jews and Christians celebrated Pesach and a (Quartodeciman) Christian Passover, respectively.
Polycarp occupies an important place in the history of the early Christian Church.He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survived. Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a "disciple of the apostle John and by him ordained presbyter of Smyrna". He was an elder of an important congregation that was a large contributor to the founding of the Christian Church. He is from an era whose orthodoxy is widely accepted by Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Church of God groups, Sabbatarian groups, mainstream Protestants and Catholics alike.
According to Eusebius, Polycrates of Ephesus cited the example of Polycarp in defense of local practices during the quartodeciman controversy.
Irenaeus, who as a young man had heard Polycarp preach, described him as"a man who was of much greater weight, and a more steadfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics". Polycarp lived in an age after the deaths of the apostles, when a variety of interpretations of the sayings of Jesus were being preached. His role was to authenticate orthodox teachings through his reputed connection with the apostle John: "a high value was attached to the witness Polycarp could give as to the genuine tradition of old apostolic doctrine" "his testimony condemning as offensive novelties the figments of the heretical teachers". Irenaeus states (iii. 3) that on Polycarp's visit to Rome, his testimony converted many disciples of Marcion and Valentinus.
In the church Sant' Ambrogio della Massima in Rome, Italy, there are guarded relics of Polycarp.
Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, he had seen and heard the preaching of Polycarp, the last known living connection with the Apostles, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist.
Ignatius of Antioch, also known as Ignatius Theophorus or Ignatius Nurono, was an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch. While en route to Rome, where he met his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote a series of letters. This correspondence now forms a central part of a later collection of works known to be authored by the Apostolic Fathers. He is considered to be one of the three most important of these, together with Clement of Rome and Polycarp. His letters also serve as an example of early Christian theology. Important topics they address include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
Pope Anicetus was the bishop of Rome from c. 157 to his death in April 168. According to the Annuario Pontificio, the start of his papacy may have been 153. Anicetus actively opposed Gnosticism and Marcionism. He welcomed Polycarp of Smyrna to Rome to discuss the controversy over the date for the celebration of Easter.
Pope Clement I, also known as Saint Clement of Rome, is listed by Irenaeus and Tertullian as Bishop of Rome, holding office from 88 to his death in 99. He is considered to be the first Apostolic Father of the Church, one of the three chief ones together with Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch.
Cerinthus was an early gnostic Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to the Church Fathers, he used the Gospel of Cerinthus, and denied that the Supreme God made the physical world. In Cerinthus' interpretation, the Christ descended upon Jesus at baptism and guided him in ministry and the performing of miracles, but left him at the crucifixion. Similarly to the Ebionites, he maintained that Jesus was not born of a virgin, but was a mere man, the biological son of Mary and Joseph.
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The Apostolic Fathers were core Christian theologians among the Church Fathers who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, who are believed to have personally known some of the Twelve Apostles, or to have been significantly influenced by them. Their writings, though widely circulated in Early Christianity, were not included in the canon of the New Testament. Many of the writings derive from the same time period and geographical location as other works of early Christian literature which came to be part of the New Testament. Some of the writings found among the Apostolic Fathers appear to have been as highly regarded as some of the writings which became the New Testament.
Quartodecimanism refers to the custom of some early Christians observing the Passover beginning with the eve of the 14th day of Nisan.
The authorship of the Johannine works—the Gospel According to St. John, the three Epistles of John, and the Revelation of St. John the Divine—has been debated by scholars since at least the 2nd century AD. The debate focuses mainly on the identity of the author(s), as well as the date and location of authorship of these writings.
John the Presbyter was an obscure figure of the early Church who is either distinguished from or identified with the Apostle John and/or John of Patmos. He appears in fragments from the church father Papias of Hierapolis as one of the author's sources and is first unequivocally distinguished from the Apostle by Eusebius of Caesarea. He is frequently proposed by some as an alternative author of some or all of the Johannine books in the New Testament.
Martyrdom of Polycarp is a manuscript written in the form of a letter that relates the religious martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and disciple of John the Apostle in the 2nd century AD. It forms the earliest account of Christian martyrdom outside of the New Testament. The author of Martyrdom of Polycarp is unknown, but it has been attributed to members of the group of early Christian theologians known as the Church Fathers. The letter, sent from the church in Smyrna to another church in Asia Minor at Philomelium, is partly written from the point of view of an eye-witness, recounting the arrest of the elderly Polycarp, the Romans' attempt to execute him by fire, and subsequent miraculous events.
The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians is an epistle attributed to Polycarp, an early bishop of Smyrna, and addressed to the early Christian church in Philippi. It is widely believed to be a composite of material written at two different times, in the first half of the second century. The epistle is described by Irenaeus as follows:
The controversy over the correct date for Easter began in Early Christianity as early as the 2nd century AD. Discussion and disagreement over the best method of computing the date of Easter Sunday has been ongoing and unresolved for centuries. Different Christian denominations continue to celebrate Easter on different dates, with Eastern and Western Christian churches being a notable example.
Against Heresies, or On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, sometimes referred to by its Latin title Adversus Haereses, is a work of Christian theology written in Greek about the year 180 by Irenaeus, the bishop of Lugdunum.
Christianity in the ante-Nicene period was the time in Christian history up to the First Council of Nicaea. This article covers the period following the Apostolic Age of the first century, c.100 AD, to Nicaea in 325 AD.
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations of Christianity. The historical period of the Patristic Era spans approximately the late 1st to mid 8th centuries, with a flourishing during the 4th and 5th centuries, when Christianity was in the process of establishing itself as the state church of the Roman Empire.
Marcellina was an early Christian Carpocratian religious leader in the mid-second century AD known primarily from the writings of Irenaeus and Origen. She originated in Alexandria, but moved to Rome during the episcopate of Anicetus. She attracted large numbers of followers and founded the Carpocratian sect of Marcellians. Like other Carpocratians, Marcellina and her followers believed in antinomianism, also known as libertinism, the idea that obedience to laws and regulations is unnecessary in order to attain salvation. They believed that Jesus was only a man, but saw him as a model to be emulated, albeit one which a believer was capable of surpassing. Marcellina's community appears to have sought to literally implement the foundational Carpocratian teaching of social egalitarianism. The Marcellians in particular are reported to have branded their disciples on the insides of their right earlobes and venerated images of Jesus as well as Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle. Although the Marcellians identified themselves as "gnostics", many modern scholars do not classify them as members of the sect of Gnosticism.
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