Polycarp of Smyrna & the Way of Jesus


Today is the day when the church remembers Polycarp of Smyrna (70 – 155).

Polycarp was arrested by Roman officials after having served as Bishop of Smyrna for many decades. When the Roman proconsul ordered him to declare that “Caesar is Lord” and to curse Christ, the elderly Polycarp refused, saying, “Eighty-six years I have served him and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Polycarp was sentenced to death by fire, but the flames miraculously stood like a wall around him and he was not burned. The executioner then stabbed him in the heart, which issued such an abundance of blood that the fire was quenched.

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  • I read the Martyrdom of Polycarp my first year of seminary. Ever since then I have wondered if we can include the saints in Protestant life. It’s something I think we can learn great things from, even if it’s just some stories to tell and a reason to get together and eat.

    • He’s in the Episcopal Church calendar (along with a lot of other saints) so why not?

      • Unfortunately a combination of the misuse of the notion of communion of the saints by some Catholics, and the mischaracterization of it by many Protestants, have combined to make the saints something we don’t talk much about.  While I don’t think there’s anything heretical in asking those believers who’ve gone on before to pray for us, those Catholics who really did/do pray *to* the saints, and those Protestants who think that’s what all Catholics do, mess up the notion pretty thoroughly.

        I agree with Kurt and Kellen though…whatever label is applied to them, that “cloud of witnesses” should be people about whom we still learn, as their obedience and suffering can be a real inspiration to us.

  • Matteo

    I’m sorry but I don’t believe a word of it.

  • Reading the writings of the early church fathers and studying their history is something I really enjoy.  I joy in what Polycarp testified of Paul.  Read it here in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library 
    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.iv.ii.iii.html  .   Great stories of the early church writers.  I can imagine myself sitting and listening to him as he speaks about the writings of Peter and Paul.  

  • Mike Ward

    I read Polycarp’s letter, Ignatius’s letter to Polycarp, and the Martyrdom of Polycarp last year as as part of reading of the apostolic fathers I’m stilling working through (mostly done now, but Hermas is slow going). Reflecting on that now, I realize how little of what I read I have retained. I guess I need to read them again.