Epistle of Polycarp

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The Epistle of Polycarp, also Letter to the Philippians by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, is his only letter, of several, that is extant. Polycarp, included among the Apostolic Fathers, was a disciple of St. John the Theologian. St. Polycarp is known mainly through the writings of his disciple Irenaeus of Lyons.


The Letter to the Philippians is connected with the martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius passed through Smyrna about the year 110 on his journey to Rome where he suffered martyrdom. He was well received by the church of Smyrna, Polycarp, and its bishops before his guards took him to Philippi where again the local Christians visited him. The Philippians having learned that St. Ignatius had corresponded with Polycarp and other churches in Asia Minor, subsequently requested copies of these letters from Polycarp.

Polycarp responded with his Letter to the Philippians that, in addition to being the cover letter for the copies of St. Ignatius' letters they had requested, urged the faithful of Philippi to stand fast in their faith, avoid heretical teachings, look to the example of those who were martyred such as St. Ignatius and his companions Zosimus and Rufus, and to persevere in philanthropy and good works.


The Epistle has not survived as a single whole, but has been assembled from various manuscripts. The sources include that which are preserved in eight defective Greek manuscripts, two long quotations in Eusebius, and a version in Latin contained in the Corpus Ignatianum. The letter is available in a number of translations, including those by J. B Lightfoot and Kirsopp Lake.


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