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Friday, July 25, 2008

The genuine tradition of Apostolic doctrine

Polycarpus (1) bp. of Smyrna, one of the most prominent figures in the church of the 2nd cent. He owes this prominence less to intellectual ability, which does not appear to have been pre-eminent, than to the influence gained by a consistent and unusually long life. Born some 30 years before the end of the 1st cent., and rasied to the episcopate apparently in early manhood, he held his office to the age of 86 or more. He claimed to have known at least one apostle and must in early life have met many who could tell things they had heard from actual disciples of our Lord. The younger generation, into which he lived on, naturally recognized him as a peculiarly trustworthy source of information concerning the first age of the Church. During the later years of his life Gnostic speculation had become very active and many things unknown to the faith of ordinary Christians were put forth as derived by secret traditions from the Apostles. Thus a high value was attached to the witness Polycarp could give as to the genuine tradition of apostolic doctrine, his testimony condemning as offensive novelties the figments of the heretical teachers. Irenaeus states (iii.3) that on Polycarp's visit to Rome his testimony converted many disciples of Marcion and Valentinus. Polycarp crowned his other services to the church by a glorious martyrdom." [1]


[1] page 846 from the book "A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography: A Reference Guide to over 800 Christian men and women, Heretics, and Sects of the first six centuries" edited by Henry Wace & William C. Piercy. Originally published in London 1911 by John Murray, republished by Hendrickson publishers 1999


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