Saint Polycarp was born in the first century A.D. (c. 69) and grew in the Christian faith under the tutelage of Saint Bucolus, the Bishop of Smyrna, who ordained him to the priesthood. When Bucolois died, Polycarp succeeded him as Bishop of Smyrna. A contemporary of Saint Ignatius and Papias, Polycarp is was familiar and corresponded with both. Ignatius, in his last known letter before his martyrdom, wrote to Polycarp, exhorting Polycarp and the Smyrnaeans to fulfill their Christian duties, as clergy and laity. The witness of Polycarp’s disciple,
Of Ignatius of Antioch’s seven authentic letters, the most personal is his Epistle to Polycarp. Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna, a town to which Ignatius also wrote a more general epistle. In the letter to his fellow bishop, Ignatius (second or third bishop of Antioch in Syria) emphasized the importance of a unified and loving Christian community, reminding Polycarp to especially remember the care of the widows in Smyrna and to fulfill his episcopal duties.
Martyred by the Roman Emperor Trajan between 107 and 117 AD, the letters of Ignatius of Antioch offers important insights into the character and quality of early Christianity. The second or third bishop of Antioch in Syria, Ignatius wrote seven letters to churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), including an Epistle to the Smyrneans. In this letter Ignatius underscored correct belief about Christ, repeating early creedal statements about the life of the Lord and
For Ignatius of Antioch, Christianity was devoid of the complexities of Gnostic logic or Jewish-Christian exegesis; instead, true faith consisted of obedience to the divine and human Christ, whose teaching was received from the apostles and transmitted through the bishops. This perspective comes across quite clearly in his Epistle to the Philadelphians, were he notes the importance of the Gospel, Apostles, and Prophets and indicates that Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) remain superior to Judaism
Ignatius of Antioch’s letters stand as important records of the early faith and practice of followers of Jesus. His Epistle to the Romans is especially important, for it reveals his attitude toward his impending martyrdom at the hands of the Emperor Trajan. Ignatius calls the Roman congregation “preeminent in love” and asks that they not try to save him from death. Rather, the bishop of Antioch desired to die for the Lord, to receive the
Ignatius of Antioch remains one of the most important characters of early Christianity, as the letters he wrote on the road to his martyrdom in Rome contain important insights into the faith and practice of the early Church. The Epistle to the Ephesians is one of seven letters Ignatius wrote to churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) before being martyred under the Emperor Trajan sometime between 107 and 117 AD. In Ephesians, Ignatius stresses