Polycarp (/ˈpɒliˌkɑːrp/; Greek: Πολύκαρπος, Polýkarpos; Latin: Polycarpus; AD 69 – 155).
He was a 2nd-century Christian bishop of Smyrna. His name 'Polycarp' means 'much fruit' in Greek.
Polycarp died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him.
Polycarp is regarded as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.
He is mentioned by Irenaeus, who heard him speak in his youth, and by Tertullian, that he had been a disciple of John the Apostle. Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a disciple of John and that John had ordained him bishop of Smyrna.
With Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic leaders of the early Church. The sole surviving work attributed to his authorship is his Letter to the Philippians; it is first recorded by Irenaeus of Lyons.
The Letter to the Philippians warns against a number of disorders in the church and against apostasy, and encourages the Christians to persevere in good works.
The Bible and other historical records of the apostolic era confirm that the original Christian Church continued to observe the same feasts and festivals Jesus observed. The practice of observing these festivals continued into the fourth century. With the new Christianity of Constantine, we see in 325 a debate over the Passover, known as the Quartodeciman controversy. The Anti-Semitic sentiment of these new Constantinian Christians found a minority among real Christians agree to abandon the observance of the Passover at the Council of Nicea. That choice was met with fierce opposition from the people in congregations and early Church leaders vigorously resisted rejecting the example and practice of Jesus and the apostles.
- “But the bishops in Asia were led by Polycrates in persisting that it was necessary to keep the custom which had been handed down to them of old. Polycrates himself in a document which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome expounds the tradition which had come to him as follows. ‘Therefore we keep the day undeviatingly, neither adding nor taking away, for in Asia great luminaries sleep, and they will rise on the day of the coming of the Lord, when he shall come with glory from heaven and seek out all the saints. Such were Philip of the twelve apostles … There is also John, who lay on the Lord’s breast … , and there is also Polycarp Smyrna, both bishop and martyr, and Thraseas, both bishop and martyr, from Eumenaea... [Also] Sagaris... Papirius... and Melito... All these kept the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, never swerving, but following according to the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, love according to the tradition of my kinsmen, and some of them have I followed. For seven of my family were bishops and I am the eighth, and my kinsmen ever kept the day when the people put away the leaven. Therefore, brethren, I who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord and conversed with brethren from every country, and have studied all holy Scripture, am not afraid of threats, for they have said, who were greater than I, 'It is better to obey God rather than men.' ”
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- "I could tell you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat to preach the Word of God. It is yet present to my mind with what gravity he everywhere came in and went out; what was the sanctity of his deportment, the majesty of his countenance; and what were his holy exhortations to the people. I seem to hear him now relate how he conversed with John and many others who had seen Jesus Christ, the words he had heard from their mouths."
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- Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, English translation from the original Greek by Kirsopp Lake, Vol. II, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1926, pp. 505, 507.