Monday, July 23, 2012

Polycarp of Smyrna

Seems that Polycarp is possibly the angel to the church in Smyrna John writes to in Revelation.  I can see that.  He and Ignatius were both John’s disciples.  He was martyred for the Lord at about 86-years-old.  In his own writings, I see nothing that I disagree with.

1. “In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that “by grace ye are saved, not of works,” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ”.
2.  Exhorting them to gird up their loins and wait on Christ’s judgment
3.  Polycarp declares himself unworthy compared to Paul.
7. Warnings against the Docetists who believe that Christ didn’t have a human body
8. “Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ.”
10. Grieving over Valens, a former elder, who had lapsed

Polycarp did not write about his own martyrdom.  There are some good lines in this that have lasted for millennia. I saw Eusebius's name thrown around, but I really can't tell from Philip Schaff's introduction who wrote it.

Intro: “We love the martyrs, but the Son of God we worship: it is impossible for us to worship any other.”
3. “But upon this the whole multitude, marvelling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians, cried out, “Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!””
5. Polycarp tried to remain in Smyrna when he heard of his arrest, but the folks asked him to leave.  Then he had a vision that his pillow was on fire, so he prophesied that he will be burnt alive.
6.  Some young guy ratted him out.  The author wishes him to suffer like Judas Iscariot.  That’s rather extreme.  He was just a young guy.  If that’s the case, then we all should suffer like Judas, but praise God, he’s merciful.
8.  Some tried to save him by persuading him to say “Caesar is Lord” and to sacrifice to him, but he said “I will not do as you advise me.”
9. “Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?””
15.  When Polycarp entered the fire, he did not burn, but smelled like baked bread and glowed like gold or silver.  He smelled like incense.
16. So they stabbed him with a dagger.  A dove came out and his blood extinguished the fire.  The spectators wondered at the difference between unbelievers and the elect, of which Polycarp was the latter.
17. Really confusing language.  Did the government want to spare him or the Christians?  Did the government still burn him so that he would not be worshipped or did he offer himself so as not to forsake Christ and be worshiped? 
18. Polycarp finally burned, and his friends will now celebrate the anniversary of his death in honor of the martyrs and those who will be martyred.
19. Polycarp is someone people should try to emulate and praise.

So Polycarp wanted to honor Christ in his death and not take glory from him.  His biographers would have done better to do that and not declare a celebration of his martyrdom every year.

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