Philomelion was probably a Pergamenian foundation on the great Graeco-Roman highway from Ephesus to the east, and to its townsmen the Smyrniotes wrote the letter that describes the martyrdom of Polycarp. Cicero, on his way to Cilicia, dated some of his extant correspondence there; and the place played a considerable part in the frontier wars between the Byzantine emperors and the sultanate of Rum.
When Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was martyred (A.D.
155), the crowd shouted, "This is the father of the Christians" 2; but the words were probably prompted by the Jews, who took a prominent part in the martyrdom, and who naturally viewed Polycarp in the light of a great Christian rabbi, and gave him the title which their own teachers bore.
The Church writers who flourished toward the end of the apostolic age and during the half century that followed it, including Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna and the author known as "Barnabas."
He continued to work at his editions of the Apostolic Fathers, and in 1885 published an edition of the Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp, collecting also a large store of valuable materials for a second edition of Clement of Rome, which was published after his death (1st ed., 1869).
St Polycarp, the disciple of St John the Evangelist and bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome in 159 to confer with Anicetus, the bishop of that see, on the subject; and urged the tradition, which he had received from the apostle, of observing the fourteenth day.
Anicetus, however, declined to admit the Jewish custom in the churches under his jurisdiction, but readily communicated with Polycarp and those who followed it.
It was during his pontificate that St Polycarp visited the Roman Church.
The influence of its language is probably to be seen in Ignatius, Polycarp and Hermas, less certainly in the epistle of Barnabas.
Thus the work was composed before 190, and, since it most probably uses the martyrdom of Polycarp, after 155.
The first consists of seven letters addressed by Ignatius to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans and to Polycarp. The second collection consists of the preceding extensively interpolated, and six others of Mary to Ignatius, of Ignatius to Mary, to the Tarsians, Antiochians, Philippians and Hero, a deacon of Antioch.
The Church of Smyrna had early to explain its position in this matter with regard to St Polycarp: "We worship Christ, as the Son of God; as to the martyrs, we love them as the disciples and imitators of the Lord" (Martyrium Polycarpi, xvii.
2) Polycarp indeed observes that Paul wrote E7ru rToXhr to them; but, even if the plural could not be taken as equivalent to a single despatch, it would not necessarily support the partition theory of the canonical Philippians.
Polycarp may have known of more than one Pauline note to Philippi, no longer extant, or he may be referring loosely to 2 Thessalonians, which was addressed to a neighbouring Macedonian church.
Later he devoted himself to the revision of the Syriac version of the Bible, and with the help of his chorepiscopus Polycarp produced in 598 the so-called Philoxenian version, which was in some sense the received Bible of the Monophysites during the 6th century.
Polycarp 7) echoes St John.
The Pauline doctrine of " grace " has been perverted to lasciviousness, as by the heretics whom Polycarp opposes Polyc. vii.), and this doctrine is taught for " hire " (vv.
The nature of the heresy, opposed, however, and the resort to the authority of Jude " the brother of James " against it, favour rather the period of Polycarp and Papias (117-150).
POLYCARP (c. 69 - c. 155), bishop of Smyrna and one of the Apostolic Fathers, derives much of his importance from the fact that he links together the apostolic age and that of nascent Catholicism.
The sources from which we derive our knowledge of the life and activity of Polycarp are: (1) a few notices in the writings of Irenaeus, (2) the Epistle of Polycarp to the Church at Philippi, (3) the Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, (4) the Epistle of the Church at Smyrna to the Church at Philomelium, giving an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Since these authorities have all been more or less called in question and some of them entirely rejected by recent criticism, it is necessary to say a few words about each.
3, 4, (b) in the letter to Victor, where Irenaeus gives an account of Polycarp's visit to Rome, (c) in the letter to Florinus - a most important document which describes the intercourse between Irenaeus and Polycarp and Polycarp's relation with St John.
The relevant statements in the letter, moreover, are supported by the references to Polycarp which we find in the body of Irenaeus's great work.
The Epistle of Polycarp. - Though Irenaeus states that Polycarp wrote many "letters to the neighbouring churches or to certain of the brethren" 4 only one has been preserved, viz.
The testimony which it affords to the Ignatian Epistles is so striking that those scholars who regard these letters as spurious are bound to reject the Epistle of Polycarp altogether, or at any rate to look upon it as largely interpolated.
The rehabilitation of the Ignatian letters in modern times has, however, practically destroyed the attack on the Epistles of Polycarp. The external evidence in its favour is of considerable weight.
3; 4) expressly mentions and commends a "very adequate" (trcavw-riurij) letter of Polycarp to the Philippians, and we have no reason for doubting the identity of this letter mentioned by Irenaeus with our epistle.
Some modern scholars (among whom Harnack was formerly numbered, though he has modified his views on the point) feel a difficulty about the peremptory tone which Ignatius adopts towards Polycarp. There was some force in this argument when the Ignatian Epistles were dated about 140, as in that case Polycarp would have been an old and venerable man at the time.
But now that the date is put back to about 112 the difficulty vanishes, since Polycarp was not much over forty when he received the letter.
The epistle gives a minute description of the persecution in Smyrna, of the last days of Polycarp and of his trial and martyrdom; and as it contains many instructive details and professes to have been written not long after the events to which it refers, it has always been regarded as one of the most precious remains of the 2nd century.
Lightfoot, 8 Harnack,' Kruger)'° is unanimous in regarding it as an authentic document, though it recognizes that here and there a few slight interpolations have been inserted."Besides these we have no other sources for the life of Polycarp; the Vita S.
Polycarpi auctore Pionio (published by Duchesne, Paris, 1881,1881, and Lightfoot Ignatius and Polycarp, 1885, ii.
Irenaeus tells us that in early life Polycarp" had been taught by apostles and lived in familiar intercourse with many that had seen Christ "(iii.
I can even now point out the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed, and describe his goings out and his comings in, his manner of life and his personal appearance and the discourses which he delivered to the people, how he used to speak of his intercourse with John and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words.
And everything that he had heard from them about the Lord, about His miracles and about His teaching, Polycarp used to tell us as one who had received it from those who had seen the Word of Life with their own eyes, and all this in perfect harmony with the Scriptures.
To these things used to y listen at the time, through the mercy of God vouchsafed to me, noting them down, not on paper but in my heart, and constantly by the grace of God brood over my accurate recollections."These are priceless words, for they establish a chain of tradition (John-Polycarp-Irenaeus) which is without a parallel in early church history.
Polycarp thus becomes the living link between the Apostolic age and the great writers who flourished at the end of the 2nd century.
12 (a) The connexion of Irenaeus and Polycarp, he argues, is very weak, because Irenaeus was only a boy (irals) at the time, and his recollections therefore carry very little weight.
The fact too that he never shows any signs of having been influenced by Polycarp and never once quotes his writings is a further proof that the relation between them was slight.
(b) The connexion which Irenaeus tries to establish between Polycarp and John the apostle is probably due to a blunder.
Polycarp was the disciple of the latter, not the former.
Ignatius and Polycarp, i.
It is true that Harnack has adduced arguments which cannot be discussed here to prove that Irenaeus was not born till about 140; 15 but against this we may quote the decision of Lipsius, who puts the date of his birth at 130, 16 while Lightfoot argues for 120.17 The fact that Irenaeus never quotes Polycarp does not count for much.
Polycarp wrote very little.
In spite therefore of much modern criticism there seems to be no solid reason for rejecting the statements of Irenaeus and regarding Polycarp as the link between the Apostolic age and the first of the Catholic fathers.
Though Polycarp must have been bishop of Smyrna for nearly half a century we know next to nothing about his career.
- Ignatius, while on his way to Rome to suffer martyrdom, halted at Smyrna and received a warm welcome from the church and its bishop. Upon reaching Troas he despatched two letters, one to the church at Smyrna, another addressed personally to Polycarp. In these letters Ignatius charged Polycarp to write to all the churches between Smyrna and Syria (since his hurried departure from Troas made it impossible for him to do so in person) urging them to send letters and delegates to the church at Antioch to congratulate it upon the cessation of the persecution and to establish it in the faith.
The letters of Ignatius illustrate the commanding position which Polycarp had already attained in Asia.
It was in the discharge of the task which had been laid upon him by Ignatius that Polycarp was brought into correspondence with the Philippians.
The Church at Philippi wrote to Polycarp asking him to forward their letters to Antioch.
Polycarp replied, promising to carry out their request and enclosing a number of the letters of Ignatius which he had in his possession.