Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dead Theologians Society: St. Polycarp

If you study the early church, I mean the really early church, you quickly run into St. Polycarp. A disciple of the Apostle John, Polycarp lived from 69 to 155, becoming the bishop of Smyrna – some accounts indicate that John nay have ordained him to that position.

Polycarp is an important link in the theological and leadership chain of the church, mentoring Irenaeus, who heard him speak in his youth, as well as Tertullian. Serving in an area led by a government opposed to the new religion, he led his flock for decades. At the age of 86, Polycarp was led into a stadium in Smyrna to be burned alive. After that attempt failed, he was finally killed by a dagger.

Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp is still extant, one written to the Church of Philippi. One passage instructs believers on the proper attitude to maintain. “Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man.”

Along with Clement and Ignatius, Polycarp is considered on the Apostolic Fathers of the 2nd Century church.

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