BOOK 12 (from: _Apostolic Fathers,_ Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation)
Martyrdom of Polycarp
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0:0 @[Lightfoot's Title: Letter of the Smyrnaeans]
0:1 @The Church of God which sojourneth at Smyrna to
the Church of God which sojourneth in Philomelium and
to all the brotherhoods of the holy and universal
Church sojourning in every place; mercy and peace and
love from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be
1:1 @We write unto you, brethren, an account of what
befel those that suffered martyrdom and especially the
blessed Polycarp, who stayed the persecution, having
as it were set his seal upon it by his martyrdom. For
nearly all the foregoing events came to pass that the
Lord might show us once more an example of martyrdom
which is conformable to the Gospel.
1:2 For he lingered that he might be delivered up,
even as the Lord did, to the end that we too might be
imitators of him, _not looking_ only _to that which
concerneth ourselves, but also to that which
concerneth our neighbours._ For it is the office of
true and stedfast love, not only to desire that
oneself be saved, but all the brethren also.
2:1 @Blessed therefore and noble are all the
martyrdoms which have taken place according to the
will of God (for it behoveth us to be very scrupulous
and to assign to God the power over all things).
2:2 For who could fail to admire their nobleness and
patient endurance and loyalty to the Master? seeing
that when they were so torn by lashes that the
mechanism of their flesh was visible even as far as
the inward veins and arteries, they endured patiently,
so that the very bystanders had pity and wept; while
they themselves reached such a pitch of bravery that
none of them uttered a cry or a groan, thus showing to
us all that at that hour the martyrs of Christ being
tortured were absent from the flesh, or rather that
the Lord was standing by and conversing with them.
2:3 And giving heed unto the grace of Christ they
despised the tortures of this world, purchasing at the
cost of one hour a release from eternal punishment.
And they found the fire of their inhuman torturers
cold: for they set before their eyes the escape from
the eternal fire which is never quenched; while with
the eyes of their heart they gazed upon the good
things which are reserved for those that endure
patiently, things _which neither ear hath heard nor
eye hath seen, neither have they entered into the
heart of man,_ but were shown by the Lord to them, for
they were no longer men but angels already.
2:4 And in like manner also those that were
condemned to the wild beasts endured fearful
punishments, being made to lie on sharp shells and
buffeted with other forms of manifold tortures, that
the devil might, if possible, by the persistence of
the punishment bring them to a denial; for he tried
many wiles against them.
3:1 @But thanks be to God; for He verily prevailed
against all. For the right noble Germanicus encouraged
their timorousness through the constancy which was in
him; and he fought with the wild beasts in a signal
way. For when the proconsul wished to prevail upon him
and bade him have pity on his youth, he used violence
and dragged the wild beast towards him, desiring the
more speedily to obtain a release from their
unrighteous and lawless life.
3:2 So after this all the multitude, marvelling at
the bravery of the God-beloved and God-fearing people
of the Christians, raised a cry, `Away with the
atheists; let search be made for Polycarp.'
4:1 @But one man, Quintus by name, a Phrygian newly
arrived from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts,
turned coward. He it was who had forced himself and
some others to come forward of their own free will.
This man the proconsul by much entreaty persuaded to
swear the oath and to offer incense. For this cause
therefore, brethren, we praise not those who deliver
themselves up, since the Gospel doth not so teach us.
5:1 @Now the glorious Polycarp at the first, when he
heard it, so far from being dismayed, was desirous of
remaining in town; but the greater part persuaded him
to withdraw. So he withdrew to a farm not far distant
from the city; and there he stayed with a few
companions, doing nothing else night and day but
praying for all men and for the churches throughout
the world; for this was his constant habit.
5:2 And while praying he falleth into a trance three
days before his apprehension; and he saw his pillow
burning with fire. And he turned and said unto those
that were with him: `It must needs be that I shall be
6:1 @And as those that were in search of him
persisted, he departed to another farm; and forthwith
they that were in search of him came up; and not
finding him, they seized two slave lads, one of whom
confessed under torture;
6:2 for it was impossible for him to lie concealed,
seeing that the very persons who betrayed him were
people of his own household. And the captain of the
police, who chanced to have the very name, being
called Herod, was eager to bring him into the stadium,
that he himself might fulfil his appointed lot, being
made a partaker with Christ, while they -- his
betrayers -- underwent the punishment of Judas
7:1 @So taking the lad with them, on the Friday about
the supper hour, the gendarmes and horsemen went forth
with their accustomed arms, hastening _as against a
robber._ And coming up in a body late in the evening,
they found the man himself in bed in an upper chamber
in a certain cottage; and though he might have
departed thence to another place, he would not,
saying, _The will of God be done._
7:2 So when he heard that they were come, he went
down and conversed with them, the bystanders
marvelling at his age and his constancy, and wondering
how there should be so much eagerness for the
apprehension of an old man like him. Thereupon
forthwith he gave orders that a table should be spread
for them to eat and drink at that hour, as much as
they desired. And he persuaded them to grant him an
hour that he might pray unmolested;
7:3 and on their consenting, he stood up and prayed,
being so full of the grace of God, that for two hours
he could not hold his peace, and those that heard were
amazed, and many repented that they had come against
such a venerable old man.
8:1 @But when at length he brought his prayer to an
end, after remembering all who at any time had come in
his way, small and great, high and low, and all the
universal Church throughout the world, the hour of
departure being come, they seated him on an ass and
brought him into the city, it being a high sabbath.
8:2 And he was met by Herod the captain of police
and his father Nicetes, who also removed him to their
carriage and tried to prevail upon him, seating
themselves by his side and saying, `Why what harm is
there in saying, Caesar is Lord, and offering
incense,' with more to this effect, `and saving
thyself?' But he at first gave them no answer. When
however they persisted, he said, `I am not going to do
what ye counsel me.'
8:3 Then they, failing to persuade him, uttered
threatening words and made him dismount with speed, so
that he bruised his shin, as he got down from the
carriage. And without even turning round, he went on
his way promptly and with speed, as if nothing had
happened to him, being taken to the stadium; there
being such a tumult in the stadium that no man's voice
could be so much as heard.
9:1 @But as Polycarp entered into the stadium, a
voice came to him from heaven; `Be strong, Polycarp,
and play the man.' And no one saw the speaker, but
those of our people who were present heard the voice.
And at length, when he was brought up, there was a
great tumult, for they heard that Polycarp had been
9:2 When then he was brought before him, the
proconsul enquired whether he were the man. And on his
confessing that he was, he tried to persuade him to a
denial saying, `Have respect to thine age,' and other
things in accordance therewith, as it is their wont to
say; `Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say,
Away with the atheists.' Then Polycarp with solemn
countenance looked upon the whole multitude of lawless
heathen that were in the stadium, and waved his hand
to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he
said, `Away with the atheists.'
9:3 But when the magistrate pressed him hard and
said, `Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile
the Christ,' Polycarp said, `Fourscore and six years
have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong.
How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'
10:1 @But on his persisting again and saying, `Swear
by the genius of Caesar,' he answered, `If thou
supposest vainly that I will swear by the genius of
Caesar, as thou sayest, and feignest that thou art
ignorant who I am, hear thou plainly, I am a
Christian. But if thou wouldest learn the doctrine of
Christianity, assign a day and give me a hearing.'
10:2 The proconsul said; `Prevail upon the people.'
But Polycarp said; `As for thyself, I should have held
thee worthy of discourse; for we have been taught to
render, as is meet, to princes and authorities
appointed by God such honour as does us no harm; but
as for these, I do not hold them worthy, that I should
defend myself before them.'
11:1 @Whereupon the proconsul said; `I have wild
beasts here and I will throw thee to them, except thou
repent.' But he said, `Call for them: for the
repentance from better to worse is a change not
permitted to us; but it is a noble thing to change
from untowardness to righteousness.'
11:2 Then he said to him again, `I will cause thee
to be consumed by fire, if thou despisest the wild
beasts, unless thou repent.' But Polycarp said; `Thou
threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and
after a little while is quenched: for thou art
ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and
eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly.
But why delayest thou? Come, do what thou wilt.'
12:1 @Saying these things and more besides, he was
inspired with courage and joy, and his countenance was
filled with grace, so that not only did it not drop in
dismay at the things which were said to him, but on
the contrary the proconsul was astounded and sent his
own herald to proclaim three times in the midst of the
stadium, `Polycarp hath confessed himself to be a
12:2 When this was proclaimed by the herald, the
whole multitude both of Gentiles and of Jews who dwelt
in Smyrna cried out with ungovernable wrath and with a
loud shout, `This is the teacher of Asia, the father
of the Christians, the puller down of our gods, who
teacheth numbers not to sacrifice nor worship.' Saying
these things, they shouted aloud and asked the Asiarch
Philip to let a lion loose upon Polycarp. But he said
that it was not lawful for him, since he had brought
the sports to a close.
12:3 Then they thought fit to shout out with one
accord that Polycarp should be burned alive. For it
must needs be that the matter of the vision should be
fulfilled, which was shown him concerning his pillow,
when he saw it on fire while praying, and turning
round he said prophetically to the faithful who were
with him, `I must needs be burned alive.'
13:1 @These things then happened with so great speed,
quicker than words could tell, the crowds forthwith
collecting from the workshops and baths timber and
faggots, and the Jews more especially assisting in
this with zeal, as is their wont.
13:2 But when the pile was made ready, divesting
himself of all his upper garments and loosing his
girdle, he endeavoured also to take off his shoes,
though not in the habit of doing this before, because
all the faithful at all times vied eagerly who should
soonest touch his flesh. For he had been treated with
all honour for his holy life even before his gray
13:3 Forthwith then the instruments that were
prepared for the pile were placed about him; and as
they were going likewise to nail him to the stake, he
said; `Leave me as I am; for He that hath granted me
to endure the fire will grant me also to remain at the
pile unmoved, even without the security which ye seek
from the nails.'
14:1 @So they did not nail him, but tied him. Then
he, placing his hands behind him and being bound to
the stake, like a noble ram out of a great flock for
an offering, a burnt sacrifice made ready and
acceptable to God, looking up to heaven said; `O Lord
God Almighty, the Father of Thy beloved and blessed
Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the
knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers and of
all creation and of the whole race of the righteous,
who live in Thy presence;
14:2 I bless Thee for that Thou hast granted me this
day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst
the number of martyrs in the cup of [Thy] Christ unto
resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of
body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May
I be received among these in Thy presence this day, as
a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as Thou didst prepare
and reveal it beforehand, and hast accomplished it,
Thou that art the faithful and true God.
14:3 For this cause, yea and for all things, I
praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, through the
eternal and heavenly High-priest, Jesus Christ, Thy
beloved Son, through whom with Him and the Holy Spirit
be glory both now [and ever] and for the ages to come.
15:1 @When he had offered up the Amen and finished
his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire. And, a
mighty flame flashing forth, we to whom it was given
to see, saw a marvel, yea and we were preserved that
we might relate to the rest what happened.
15:2 The fire, making the appearance of a vault,
like the sail of a vessel filled by the wind, made a
wall round about the body of the martyr; and it was
there in the midst, not like flesh burning, but like
[a loaf in the oven or like] gold and silver refined
in a furnace. For we perceived such a fragrant smell,
as if it were the wafted odour of frankincense or some
other precious spice.
16:1 @So at length the lawless men, seeing that his
body could not be consumed by the fire, ordered an
executioner to go up to him and stab him with a
dagger. And when he had done this, there came forth [a
dove and] a quantity of blood, so that it extinguished
the fire; and all the multitude marvelled that there
should be so great a difference between the
unbelievers and the elect.
16:2 In the number of these was this man, the
glorious martyr Polycarp, who was found an apostolic
and prophetic teacher in our own time, a bishop of the
holy Church which is in Smyrna. For every word which
he uttered from his mouth was accomplished and will be
17:1 @But the jealous and envious Evil One, the
adversary of the family of the righteous, having seen
the greatness of his martyrdom and his blameless life
from the beginning, and how he was crowned with the
crown of immortality and had won a reward which none
could gainsay, managed that not even his poor body
should be taken away by us, although many desired to
do this and to touch his holy flesh.
17:2 So he put forward Nicetes, the father of Herod
and brother of Alce, to plead with the magistrate not
to give up his body, `lest,' so it was said, `they
should abandon the crucified one and begin to worship
this man' -- this being done at the instigation and
urgent entreaty of the Jews, who also watched when we
were about to take it from the fire, not knowing that
it will be impossible for us either to forsake at any
time the Christ who suffered for the salvation of the
whole world of those that are saved -- suffered though
faultless for sinners -- nor to worship any other.
17:3 For Him, being the Son of God, we adore, but
the martyrs as disciples and imitators of the Lord we
cherish as they deserve for their matchless affection
towards their own King and Teacher. May it be our lot
also to be found partakers and fellow-disciples with
18:1 @The centurion therefore, seeing the opposition
raised on the part of the Jews, set him in the midst
and burnt him after their custom.
18:2 And so we afterwards took up his bones which
are more valuable than precious stones and finer than
refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place;
18:3 where the Lord will permit us to gather
ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and
joy, and to celebrate the birth-day of his martyrdom
for the commemoration of those that have already
fought in the contest, and for the training and
preparation of those that shall do so hereafter.
19:1 @So it befel the blessed Polycarp, who having
with those from Philadelphia suffered martyrdom in
Smyrna -- twelve in all -- is especially remembered
more than the others by all men, so that he is talked
of even by the heathen in every place: for he showed
himself not only a notable teacher, but also a
distinguished martyr, whose martyrdom all desire to
imitate, seeing that it was after the pattern of the
Gospel of Christ.
19:2 Having by his endurance overcome the
unrighteous ruler in the conflict and so received the
crown of immortality, he rejoiceth in company with the
Apostles and all righteous men, and glorifieth the
Almighty God and Father, and blesseth our Lord Jesus
Christ, the saviour of our souls and helmsman of our
bodies and shepherd of the universal Church which is
throughout the world.
20:1 @Ye indeed required that the things which
happened should be shown unto you at greater length:
but we for the present have certified you as it were
in a summary through our brother Marcianus. When then
ye have informed yourselves of these things, send the
letter about likewise to the brethren which are
farther off, that they also may glorify the Lord, who
maketh election from His own servants.
20:2 Now unto Him that is able to bring us all by
His grace and bounty unto His eternal kingdom, through
His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, be glory, honour,
power, and greatness for ever. Salute all the saints.
They that are with us salute you, and Euarestus, who
wrote the letter, with his whole house.
21:1 @Now the blessed Polycarp was martyred on the
second day of the first part of the month Xanthicus,
on the seventh before the kalends of March, on a great
sabbath, at the eighth hour. He was apprehended by
Herodes, when Philip of Tralles was high-priest, in
the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus, but in the
reign of the Eternal King Jesus Christ. To whom be the
glory, honour, greatness, and eternal throne, from
generation to generation. Amen.
22:1 @We bid you God speed, brethren, while ye walk
by the word of Jesus Christ which is according to the
Gospel; with whom be glory to God for the salvation of
His holy elect; even as the blessed Polycarp suffered
martyrdom, in whose footsteps may it be our lot to be
found in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
22:2 @This account Gaius copied from the papers of
Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp. The same also lived
22:3 @And I Socrates wrote it down in Corinth from
the copy of Gaius. Grace be with all men.
22:4 @And I Pionius again wrote it down from the
aforementioned copy, having searched it out (for the
blessed Polycarp showed me in a revelation, as I will
declare in the sequel), gathering it together when it
was now well nigh worn out by age, that the Lord Jesus
Christ may gather me also with His elect into His
heavenly kingdom; to whom be the glory with the Father
and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
23:0 _The three preceding paragraphs as read in the
23:1 [same as 22:1]
23:2 @This account Gaius copied from the papers of
Irenaeus. The same lived with Irenaeus who had been a
disciple of the holy Polycarp.
23:3 For this Irenaeus, being in Rome at the time of
the martyrdom of the bishop Polycarp, instructed many;
and many most excellent and orthodox treatises by him
are in circulation. In these he makes mention of
Polycarp, saying that he was taught by him. And he ably
refuted every heresy, and handed down the catholic rule
of the Church just as he had received it from the saint.
23:4 He mentions this fact also, that when Marcion,
after whom the Marcionites are called, met the holy
Polycarp on one occasion, and said `Recognize us,
Polycarp,' he said in reply to Marcion, `Yes indeed, I
recognize the firstborn of Satan.'
23:5 The following statement also is made in the
writings of Irenaeus, that on the very day and hour
when Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna Irenaeus being in
the city of the Romans heard a voice as of a trumpet
saying, `Polycarp is martyred.'
23:6 @From these papers of Irenaeus then, as has been
stated already, Gaius made a copy, and from the copy
of Gaius Isocrates made another in Corinth.
23:7 @And I Pionius again wrote it down from the copy
of Isocrates, having searched for it in obedience to a
revelation of the holy Polycarp, gathering it
together, when it was well nigh worn out by age, that
the Lord Jesus Christ may gather me also with His
elect into His heavenly kingdom; to whom be the glory
with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for
ever and ever. Amen.