Saint Polycarp Martyrdom

“86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” Polycarp’s Martyrdom (ca. 69-ca. 155)

This text is the story, from around 160 AD, of the martyrdom of Polycarp, the Bishop of the church in Smyrna, a city in Asia Minor (modern Izmir in Turkey) devoted to Roman worship. The account is in the form of a letter from eye-witnesses to other churches in the area. It is the earliest chronicle of a martyrdom outside the New Testament.

Polycarp was an old man, at least 86 (see part 10), and probably the last surviving person to have known an apostle, having been a disciple of St. John. This was one reason he was greatly revered as a teacher and church leader. One interesting feature of the letter is that the writer is very conscious of how Polycarp’s death followed the pattern of Christ’s. As you read it, look for parallels between this story and the Easter story in the gospels.

The numbers below refer to segments in the document.

1. Smyrna’s Introduction

We are writing to you, brothers, with an account of the martyrs, especially the blessed Polycarp, whose death brought to the persecution to a close. Almost all the events that led up to it reveal it to be another martyrdom in the divine pattern that we see in the Gospel. For he waited for his betrayal, just like the Lord did, so that we might follow him, in looking out for the needs of others as well as ourselves. True love desires not only one’s own salvation, but the salvation of all our brothers.

2. Earlier MartyrsRead More »

Saint Polycarp

Saint Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle St John, and was born about the seventieth year of the Christian era. He was a Christian from his infancy, and on account of his extraordinary piety was greatly beloved by the apostles, his teachers. Polycarp was also responsible for converting many from Gnosticism. His only existing writing, a pastoral letter to the church at Philippi, shows he had little formal education, and was unpretentious, humble, and direct.

Saint Polycarp was consecrated Bishop of Smyrna by St John himself before this apostle’s banishment to the Island of Patmos. It is looked upon as certain that our saint was the angel, or Bishop of Smyrna, commended by the Lord in the Apocalypse: “And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write…I know they tribulation and they poverty; but thou art rich…Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.”

Polycarp was an old man, at least 86 years old, and probably the last surviving person to have known an apostle, having been a disciple of St. John. This was one reason he was greatly revered as a teacher and church leader. One interesting feature of the letter is that the writer is very conscious of how Polycarp’s death followed the pattern of Christ’s. As you read it, look for parallels between this story and the Easter story in the gospels.

Read More »