Did you know...
Feast Day of February 23
Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (ca. 69- ca. 155) was a Christian bishop of Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey) in the second century. He died a martyr when he was stabbed after an attempt to burn him at the stake failed. Polycarp is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. It is recorded that "He had been a disciple of John." The options for this John are John the son of Zebedee traditionally viewed as the author of the Fourth Gospel, or John the Presbyter (Lake 1912). Traditional advocates follow Eusebius in insisting that the apostolic connection of Papius was with John the Evangelist, and that this John, the author of the Gospel of John, was the same as the Apostle John.
With Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is one of three chief Apostolic Fathers, early church authors who had reportedly known the apostles personally. His sole surviving work is his Letter to the Philippians.
Polycarp was a companion of Papias (Irenaeus V.xxxii) another "hearer of John" as Irenaeus interprets Papias' testimony, and a correspondent of Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius addressed a letter to him, and mentions him in the letters to the Ephesians and to the Magnesians. Polycarp's famous pupil was Irenaeus, for whom the memory of Polycarp was a link to the apostolic past.
Polycarp was converted to Christianity by apostles, was consecrated a bishop and communicated with many who had seen Jesus. He repeatedly emphasizes the very great age of Polycarp.
He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survive. It is probable that he knew John the Apostle, the disciple of Jesus. He was an elder of an important congregation in an area where the apostles laboured. And he is from an era whose orthodoxy is widely accepted by Orthodox Churches, Oriental Churches, Seventh Day Church of God groups, Protestants and Catholics alike. All of this makes his writings of great interest.
Polycarp was not a philosopher or theologian. He appears, from surviving accounts, to have been a practical leader and gifted teacher. He lived in an age after the deaths of the apostles, when a variety of interpretations of the sayings of Jesus were being preached. His role was to authenticate orthodox teachings through his reputed connection with the apostle John. Surviving accounts of the bravery of this very old man in the face of death by burning at the stake added credence to his words.