THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO POLYCARP
Translated by J.B. Lightfoot.
Adapt. and mod. (c) 1990. ATHENA DATA PRODUCTS
Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto Polycarp who is bishop of the
church of the Smyrnaens or rather who hath for his bishop God the
Father and Jesus Christ, abundant greeting.
Welcoming thy godly mind which is grounded as it were on an
immovable rock, I give exceeding glory that it hath been vouchsafed
me to see thy blameless face,
whereof I would fain have joy in God. I exhort thee in the grace
wherewith thou art clothed to press forward in thy course and to
exhort all men that they may be saved. Vindicate thine office in all
diligence of flesh and of spirit. Have a care for union, than which
there is nothing better. Bear all men, as the Lord also beareth thee.
Suffer all men in love, as also thou doest.
Give thyself to unceasing prayers. Ask for larger wisdom than thou
hast. Be watchful, and keep thy spirit from slumbering. Speak to each
man severally after the manner of God. Bear the maladies of all, as a
perfect athlete. where there is more toil, there is much gain.
If thou lovest good scholars, this is not thankworthy in thee.
Rather bring the more pestilent to submission by gentleness. All
wounds are not healed by the same salve. Allay sharp pains by
Be thou prudent as the serpent in all things and guileless
always as the dove. Therefore art thou made of flesh and spirit,
that thou mayest humor the things which appear before thine eyes; and
as for the invisible things, pray thou that they may be revealed unto
thee; that thou mayest be lacking in nothing, but mayest abound in
every spiritual gift.
The season requireth thee, as pilots require winds or as a
storm-tossed mariner a haven, that it may attain unto God. Be sober,
as God's athlete. The prize is incorruption and life eternal,
concerning which thou also art persuaded. In all things I am devoted
to thee--I and my bonds which thou didst cherish.
Let not those that seem to be plausible and yet teach strange
doctrine dismay thee. Stand thou firm, as an anvil when it is
smitten. It is the part of a great athlete to receive blows and be
victorious. But especially must we for God's sake endure all things,
that He also may endure us.
Be thou more diligent than thou art. Mark the seasons. Await Him
that is above every season, the Eternal, the Invisible, who became
visible for our sake, the Impalpable, the Impassible, who suffered
for our sake, who endured in all ways for our sake.
Let not widows be neglected. After the Lord be thou their protector.
Let nothing be done without thy consent; neither do thou anything
without the consent of God, as indeed thou doest not. Be steadfast.
Let meetings be held more frequently. Seek out all men by name.
Despise not slaves, whether men or women. Yet let not these again be
puffed up, but let them serve the more faithfully to the glory of
God, that they may obtain a better freedom from God. Let them not
desire to be set free at the public cost, lest they be found slaves
Flee evil arts, or rather hold thou discourse about these. Tell my
sisters to love the Lord and to be content with their husbands in
flesh and in spirit. In like manner also charge my brothers in the
name of Jesus Christ to love their wives, as the Lord loved the
If any one is able to abide in chastity to the honor of the flesh of
the Lord, let him so abide without boasting. If he boast, he is lost;
and if it be known beyond the bishop, he is polluted. It becometh men
and women too, when they marry, to unite themselves with the consent
of the bishop, that the marriage may be after the Lord and not after
concupiscence. Let all things be done to the honor of God.
Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. I am
devoted to those who are subject to the bishop, the presbyters, the
deacons. May it be granted me to have my portion with them in the
presence of God. Toil together one with another, struggle together,
run together, suffer together, lie down together, rise up together,
as God's stewards and assessors and ministers.
Please the Captain in whose army ye serve, from whom also ye will
receive your pay. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your
baptism abide with you as your shield; your faith as your helmet;
your love as your spear; your patience as your body armor. Let your
works be your deposits, that ye may receive your assets due to you.
Be ye therefore long-suffering one with another in gentleness, as God
is with you. May I have joy of you always.
Seeing that the church which is in Antioch of Syria hath peace, as
it hath been reported to me, through your prayers, I myself also have
been the more comforted since God hath banished my care; if so be I
may through suffering attain unto God, that I may be found a disciple
through your intercession.
It becometh thee, most blessed Polycarp, to call together a godly
council and to elect some one among you who is very dear to you and
zealous also, who shall be fit to bear the name of God's courier--to
appoint him, I say, that he may go to Syria and glorify your zealous
love unto the glory of God.
A Christian hath no authority over himself, but giveth his time to
God. This is God's work, and yours also, when ye shall complete it:
for I trust in the Divine grace, that ye are ready for an act of well
doing which is meet for God. Knowing the fervor of your sincerity, I
have exhorted you in a short letter.
Since I have not been able to write to all the churches, by reason
of my sailing suddenly from Troas to Neapolis, as the Divine will
enjoineth, thou shalt write to the churches in front, as one
possessing the mind of God, to the intent that they also may do this
same thing--let those who are able send messengers, and the rest
letters by the persons who are sent by thee, that ye may be glorified
by an ever memorable deed--for this is worthy of thee.
I salute all by name, and especially the wife of Epitropus with her
whole household and her children's. I salute Attalus my beloved. I
salute him that shall be appointed to go to Syria. Grace shall be
with him always, and with Polycarp who sendeth him.
I bid you farewell always in our God Jesus Christ, in whom abide ye
in the unity and supervision of God. I salute Alce, a name very dear
to me. Fare ye well in the Lord.