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INTRODUCTION [l0LYCARP WAS a well-known and venerable figure of E1 the first half of the second century. From Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Eusebius we learn that he had listened at Ephesus to St. John the Apostle, who had appointed him bishop of nearby Smyrna.1 Here he was host to Ignatius of Antioch, from whom he received at least one letter.2 This and other letters of St. Ignatius he forwarded to the Philippians at their request, as well as the letter here translated. At a later time he journeyed to Rome to consult with Pope Anicetus on the matter of the controversy over the date of Easter. Of numerous letters known to have been written by St. Polycarp, only the Letter to the Philippians has been preserved. St. Polycarp was a man of more than eighty3 when a violent persecution broke out in Smyrna and finally engulfed him (A.D. 156). An authentic account of his heroic and Christian end is given in the Martyrdom which in this volume immediately follows the present letter. A Life of St. Polycarp ascribed to a certain Pionius is altogether legendary. A recent study4 has made it appear probable that what the manuscripts have handed down as the single letter of St. Polycarp to the Philippians is really composed of two letters 1 Tertullian. De praescriptione haereticorum 32.2; Irenaeus. Adv. haer. 3.3,4; Eusebius, His/oria ecclesiastica 5.20.5 If. 2 See Ch. 13. The letter in question is presumably the extant letter of St. Ignatius. translated elsewhere in this volume (pp. 124 If.) . 3 In the Martyrdom of St. Poiycarp 9 (see p. 1551f. below) , the saint is quoted at the point of death. as saying that he had served Christ for eighty-six years. 4 That of P. N. Harrison. See Select Bibliography. 131 132 SAINT POLYCARP to these same persons. The letter earlier in time would comprise Chapters 13 and 14 of the traditional text.&'This would have been a short note to the Philippians, written while St. Ignatius was still on his way to Rome for trial or, at least, before St. Polycarp had received any news of his death (ca. 110), There would have accompanied this note the various letters of St. Ignatius mentioned above. St. Polycarp's concern for the bishop of Antioch is shown by his request that the community of Philippi (which was nearer to Rome than Smyrna was) should tell him anything' they might learn of the fate of St. Ignatius and of those with him. Chapters I to 12 form the second letter supposed by the recent analysis of the text. This letter would be surely of later date since, in Chapter 9, St. Ignatius is now considered as dead. St. Polycarp is here replying to a request for counsel made to him by the Philippians (1.1). The exact nature of this request to St. Polycarp, then the most venerable ecclesiastic in the East, is not clear; it is suggested that the Philippians were seeking advice as to the proper steps to take against the Marcionite heresy.6 If such were the situation, a date around 135 could be fairly conjectured. Chapter 14 has the ring of a postscript, naming the bearer of the letter, a certain Crescens, and commending to the Philippians both Crescens and his sister. It might belong to either the earlier or the latter letter. It is the earlier letter which presents the figure in his full stature as bishop, successor of the Apostles. The writer, to be sure, affirms his inability to rival 'the blessed and glorious Paul,' reminding the Philippians of the oral and written teach5 Possibly Ch. 14 belongs instead to the latter letter. See below. 6 For St. Polycarp's frank defiance of Marcion see Martyrdom 22.4 and p. 163. below. INTRODUCTION 133 ing given them by the Apostle (3.1-3; 11.1.). In his own letter St. Polycarp twice employs phrases taken from that of St. Paul.7 The doctrinal content of St. Polycarp's letter, while varied, hardly requires analysis. As shedding light on the organization of the Church at Philippi, we may note the mention of 'presbyters and deacons' (5.3). It is to them that submission is to be given; St. Polycarp nowhere speaks of a bishop. Repeated warnings are given against avarice and greed.8 Of these instances one in particular stands out as noteworthy-a passage (Ch. 11) dealing with the presbyter Valens and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813211015
Related ISBN
9780813215495
MARC Record
OCLC
867796587
Pages
426
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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