POLYCARP: Bishop of Smyrna and martyr; b. in the second half of the first century; d. at Smyrna Feb. 23, 155. He is first mentioned in the letters of Ignatius to the Ephesians (xxi. 1; Eng. transl., ANF, i. 58) and to the Magnesians (xv.; Eng. transl., ANF, i. 65) and to Polycarp. The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, however, is a letter written to accompany the transmission of the letters of Ignatius and was requested by the Philippians (xiii.; Eng. transl., ANF, i. 36). Those who dispute the letters of Ignatius as genuine would have to reject this also as an interpolation; yet it should not be overlooked that Irenæus had this letter in mind as a witness of Polycarp's faith and his preaching of the truth (Hr., iii. 3-4, Eng. transl., ANF, i. 416). The charge that it was falsified together with the letters of Ignatius is excluded by the peculiar character of the epistle and the charge of interpolation is contradicted by the use of I Clement, equally distributed throughout all the parts. The desire of Ignatius expressed in "To the Smyrneans," xi. (Eng transl., ANF, i. 91) and "To Polycarp," viii. (Eng. transl., ANF, i. 100) throws light on the letter or letters of the Philippians to be transmitted to the Syrians mentioned in xiii. of Polycarp's letter. This letter of Polycarp was therefore written at the time of the martyrdom of Ignatius in the reign of Trajan (98-117). It is preserved in Greek only together with the Epistle of Barnabas as far as ix. 2; the remainder, in an inaccurate Latin translation (ix. and xiii. also in Eusebius, Hist. eccl., III., xxxvi. 13-15; Eng. transl., NPNF, 2 ser., i. 168-169). The points of recognition of the letter through Irenæus are substantiated by the contents: Christ, who has suffered for us and as the risen one is exalted, will also raise us if we do the will of God. Its admonitions deal plainly with the Christian walk in life, in reliance upon the New-Testament Scriptures, especially I Peter. The apostasy of a presbyter Valens is deplored (xi.). He writes of the Smyrnean congregation, whose representative he and the presbyters in whose name he writes are, that (in contrast with the Philippians) in the time of Paul they knew not yet God (xi.; Eng. transl., ANF, i. 35). This does not show that he and the presbyters lived at that time, but that the Philippians turned to him, and Ignatius considers his intercourse with him as worthy of mention and writes to him personally, inasmuch as Polycarp must have been by 110-115 a widely known personage.
This is corroborated by the letter which the Smyrnean congregation directed to the congregation at Philomelium and all the congregations of the Catholic Church concerning the martyrdom of Polycarp, less than a year later (xviii. 2; Eng. transl., ANF, i. 43), which points not only to the esteem in which he was held in his own congregation but to his fame also outside of the Church (xvi., xii.; Eng. transl., i. 43; cf. Eusebius, Hist. eccl., Eng. transl., NPNF, 2 ser., i. 188-193). The accounts of his martyrdom have received confirmation from inscriptions discovered since 1880 (cf. J. B. Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, i. 613 sqq.) which also prove the reliability of the additional chapter xxi. not known to Eusebius; for they prove Philip the asiarch (xii.) and high-priest of Tralles (xxi.) to have been asiarch in 149-153, and highpriest and agonothete at Tralles since 137 for life. From this additional chapter, the Acts of Pionius, and the ancient martyrology it is seen that Polycarp was martyred Feb. 23, on a greater Jewish Sabbath (viii. 1, xxi.; perhaps feast of Purim; cf. Lightfoot, ut sup. 692 sqq.) during the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus, fixed by Waddington, using the representations of the rhetorician Aristides, at 154-156, during which the 23d of February occurred as a Sabbath only in 155. W. Schmid attempts to show that the Quadratus of Aristides, evidently Avillius Urinatius Quadratus the consul suffectus of 156, was proconsul in 165-166 under Marcus Aurelius, in accordance with the chronicle of Eusebius delivered by Jerome, Feb. 23, 166, being also on a Sabbath. In all probability, however, the Statius Quadratus of the time of Polycarp's martyrdom is identical with the consul of that name in 142, who, in the course of advancement, must have been the proconsul in 155. The Asiarch Philip also would have been too aged to be high-priest and asiarch in the time of Marcus Aurelius. At the time of his martyrdom Polycarp had been a Christian for eighty-six years (ix.; Eng. transl., ut sup., i. 41). Irenæus relates how and when he became a Christian and in his letter to Florinus (Eusebius, V., xx.; Eng. transl., i. 238-239) stated that he saw and heard him personally in lower Asia; in particular he heard the account of Polycarp's intercourse with John and with others who had seen the Lord. Irenæus also testifies (Hr., iii. 3-4; Eng. transl., ANF, i. 415-417) that Polycarp was converted to Christianity by apostles, made a bishop, and had intercourse with many who had seen the Lord. He repeatedly emphasizes the very old age of Polycarp (ut sup.). If the supreme recognition of Polycarp was due to his old age and former intercourse with the apostles, so were likewise his presence in Rome under Anicetus and his success in the conversion of heretics (154). In the disagreement with Anicetus, Polycarp appealed for authority to his intercourse with John and other disciples (Eusebius, V., xxiv. 16, Eng. transl., i. 415-416). Irenæus makes mention of several epistles to neighboring churches and individual Christians which are not extant (Eusebius, V., xx. 8, Eng. transl., i. 239). The Vita Polycarpi auctore Pionio, knowing chapter xii. and many letters and homilies of Polycarp, is corrupted with so many fables that to extract the historical is impossible. Feuardentius, in his notes to Irenæus, Hr, iii. 3 (Cologne, 1596), gives several fragments ascribed to Polycarp which were preserved in a catena of Victor of Capua in his Liber responsorum, to which T. Zahn (Forschungen, vi. 103, Leipsic, 1900) admits the possibility of a partial genuineness. The statements of the learned Armenian Ananias of Shirak (600-650) in his "Epiphany of our Lord" also must speak for themselves. See PAPIAS.