THE LETTER OF THE SMYRNAEANS
or THE MARTYRDOM OF POLYCARP


Translated by J.B. Lightfoot. 
Adapt. and mod. (c) 1990.  ATHENA DATA PRODUCTS

MartPoly prologue:1
The church of God which sojourneth at Smyrna to the Church of God
which sojourneth in Philomelium and to all the brotherhoods of the
holy and universal Church sojourning in every place; mercy and peace
and love from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be multiplied.

MartPoly 1:1
   We write unto you, brethren, an account of what befell those
that suffered martyrdom and especially the blessed Polycarp, who
stayed the persecution, having as it were set his seal upon it by his
martyrdom. For nearly all the foregoing events came to pass that the
Lord might show us once more an example of martyrdom which is
conformable to the Gospel

MartPoly 1:2
For he lingered that he might be delivered up, even as the Lord did,
to the end that we too might be imitators of him, not looking only
to that which concerneth ourselves, but also to that which
concerneth our neighbors. For it is the office of true and
steadfast love, not only to desire that oneself be saved, but all the
brethren also.

MartPoly 2:1
   Blessed therefore and noble are all the martyrdoms which have taken
place according to the will of God (for it behoveth us to be very
scrupulous and to assign to God the power over all things).

MartPoly 2:2
For who could fail to admire their nobleness and patient endurance
and loyalty to the Master? seeing that when they were so torn by
lashes that the mechanism of their flesh was visible even as far as
the inward veins and arteries, they endured patiently, so that the
very bystanders had pity and wept; while they themselves reached such
a pitch of bravery that none of them uttered a cry or a groan, thus
showing to us all that at that hour the martyrs of Christ being
tortured were absent from the flesh, or rather that the Lord was
standing by and conversing with them.

MartPoly 2:3
And giving heed unto the grace of Christ they despised the tortures
of this world, purchasing at the cost of one hour a release from
eternal punishment. And they found the fire of their inhuman
torturers cold: for they set before their eyes the escape from the
eternal fire which is never quenched; while with the eyes of their
heart they gazed upon the good things which are reserved for those
that endure patiently, things which neither ear hath heard nor eye
hath seen, neither have they entered into the heart of man, but
were shown by the Lord to them, for they were no longer men but
angels already.

MartPoly 2:4
And in like manner also those that were condemned to the wild beasts
endured fearful punishments, being made to lie on sharp shells and
buffeted with other forms of manifold tortures, that the devil might,
if possible, by the persistence of the punishment bring them to a
denial; for he tried many wiles against them.

MartPoly 3:1
   But thanks be to God; for He verily prevailed against all. For the
right noble Germanicus encouraged their timorousness through the
constancy which was in him; and he fought with the wild beasts in a
signal way. For when the proconsul wished to prevail upon him and
bade him have pity on his youth, he used violence and dragged the
wild beast towards him, desiring the more speedily to obtain a
release from their unrighteous and lawless life.

MartPoly 3:2
So after this all the multitude, marvelling at the bravery of the
God-beloved and God-fearing people of the Christians, raised a cry,
'Away with the atheists; let search be made for Polycarp.'

MartPoly 4:1
   But one man, Quintus by name, a Phrygian newly arrived from Phrygia,
when he saw the wild beasts, turned coward. He it was who had forced
himself and some others to come forward of their own free will. This
man the proconsul by much entreaty persuaded to swear the oath and to
offer incense. For this cause therefore, brethren, we praise not
those who deliver themselves up, since the Gospel doth not so teach
us.

MartPoly 5:1
   Now the glorious Polycarp at the first, when he heard it, so far
from being dismayed, was desirous of remaining in town; but the
greater part persuaded him to withdraw. So he withdrew to a farm not
far distant from the city; and there he stayed with a few companions,
doing nothing else night and day but praying for all men and for the
churches throughout the world; for this was his constant habit.

MartPoly 5:2
And while praying he falleth into a trance three days before his
apprehension; and he saw his pillow burning with fire. And he turned
and said unto those that were with him: 'It must needs be that I
shall be burned alive.'

MartPoly 6:1
   And as those that were in search of him persisted, he departed to
another farm; and forthwith they that were in search of him came up;
and not finding him, they seized two slave lads, one of whom
confessed under torture;

MartPoly 6:2
for it was impossible for him to lie concealed, seeing that the very
persons who betrayed him were people of his own household. And the
captain of the police, who chanced to have the very name, being
called Herod, was eager to bring him into the stadium, that he
himself might fulfill his appointed lot, being made a partaker with
Christ, while they--his betrayers--underwent the punishment of Judas
himself.

MartPoly 7:1
   So taking the lad with them, on the Friday about the supper hour,
the gendarmes and horsemen went forth with their accustomed arms,
hastening as against a robber. And coming up in a body late in the
evening, they found the man himself in bed in an upper chamber in a
certain cottage; and though he might have departed thence to another
place, he would not, saying, The will of God be done.

MartPoly 7:2
So when he heard that they were come, he went down and conversed with
them, the bystanders marvelling at his age and his constancy, and
wondering how there should be so much eagerness for the apprehension
of an old man like him. Thereupon forthwith he gave orders that a
table should be spread for them to eat and drink at that hour, as
much as they desired. And he persuaded them to grant him an hour that
he might pray unmolested;

MartPoly 7:3
and on their consenting, he stood up and prayed, being so full of the
grace of God, that for two hours he could not hold his peace, and
those that heard were amazed, and many repented that they had come
against such a venerable old man.

MartPoly 8:1
   But when at length he brought his prayer to an end, after
remembering all who at any time had come in his way, small and great,
high and low, and all the universal Church throughout the world, the
hour of departure being come, they seated him on an ass and brought
him into the city, it being a high Sabbath.

MartPoly 8:2
And he was met by Herod the captain of police and his father Nicetes,
who also removed him to their carriage and tried to prevail upon him,
seating themselves by his side and saying, 'Why what harm is there
in saying, Caesar is Lord, and offering incense', with more to this
effect, 'and saving thyself?' But he at first gave them no answer.
When however they persisted, he said, 'I am not going to do what ye
counsel me.'

MartPoly 8:3
Then they, failing to persuade him, uttered threatening words and
made him dismount with speed, so that he bruised his shin, as he got
down from the carriage. And without even turning round, he went on
his way promptly and with speed, as if nothing had happened to him,
being taken to the stadium; there being such a tumult in the stadium
that no man's voice could be so much as heard.

MartPoly 9:1
   But as Polycarp entered into the stadium, a voice came to him from
heaven; 'Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.' And no one saw the
speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice.
And at length, when he was brought up, there was a great tumult, for
they heard that Polycarp had been apprehended.

MartPoly 9:2
When then he was brought before him, the proconsul enquired whether
he were the man. And on his confessing that he was, he tried to
persuade him to a denial saying, 'Have respect to thine age,' and
other things in accordance therewith, as it is their wont to say;
'Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the
atheists.' Then Polycarp with solemn countenance looked upon the
whole multitude of lawless heathen that were in the stadium, and
waved his hand to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he
said, 'Away with the atheists.'

MartPoly 9:3
But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, 'Swear the oath,
and I will release thee; revile the Christ,' Polycarp said,
'Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me
no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'

MartPoly 10:1
   But on his persisting again and saying, 'Swear by the genius of
Caesar,' he answered, 'If thou supposest vainly that I will swear by
the genius of Caesar, as thou sayest, and feignest that thou art
ignorant who I am, hear thou plainly, I am a Christian. But if thou
wouldest learn the doctrine of Christianity, assign a day and give me
a hearing.'

MartPoly 10:2
The proconsul said; 'Prevail upon the people.' But Polycarp said; 'As
for thyself, I should have held thee worthy of discourse; for we have
been taught to render, as is meet, to princes and authorities
appointed by God such honor as does us no harm; but as for these, I
do not hold them worthy, that I should defend myself before them.'

MartPoly 11:1
   Whereupon the proconsul said; 'I have wild beasts here and I will
throw thee to them, except thou repent' But he said, 'Call for them:
for the repentance from better to worse is a change not permitted to
us; but it is a noble thing to change from untowardness to
righteousness'

MartPoly 11:2
Then he said to him again, 'I will cause thee to be consumed by fire,
if thou despisest the wild beasts, unless thou repent.' But Polycarp
said; 'Thou threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and
after a little while is quenched: for thou art ignorant of the fire
of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for
the ungodly. But why delayest thou? Come, do what thou wilt.'

MartPoly 12:1
   Saying these things and more besides, he was inspired with courage
and joy, and his countenance was filled with grace, so that not only
did it not drop in dismay at the things which were said to him, but
on the contrary the proconsul was astounded and sent his own herald
to proclaim three times in the midst of the stadium, 'Polycarp hath
confessed himself to be a Christian.'

MartPoly 12:2
When this was proclaimed by the herald, the whole multitude both of
Gentiles and of Jews who dwelt in Smyrna cried out with ungovernable
wrath and with a loud shout, 'This is the teacher of Asia, the father
of the Christians, the puller down of our gods, who teacheth numbers
not to sacrifice nor worship.' Saying these things, they shouted
aloud and asked the Asiarch Philip to let a lion loose upon Polycarp.
But he said that it was not lawful for him, since he had brought the
sports to a close.

MartPoly 12:3
Then they thought fit to shout out with one accord that Polycarp
should be burned alive. For it must needs be that the matter of the
vision should be fulfilled, which was shown him concerning his
pillow, when he saw it on fire while praying, and turning round he
said prophetically to the faithful who were with him, 'I must needs
be burned alive.'

MartPoly 13:1
   These things then happened with so great speed, quicker than words
could tell, the crowds forthwith collecting from the workshops and
baths timber and faggots, and the Jews more especially assisting in
this with zeal, as is their wont.

MartPoly 13:2
But when the pile was made ready, divesting himself of all his upper
garments and loosing his girdle, he endeavored also to take off his
shoes, though not in the habit of doing this before, because all the
faithful at all times vied eagerly who should soonest touch his
flesh. For he had been treated with all honor for his holy life even
before his gray hairs came.

MartPoly 13:3
Forthwith then the instruments that were prepared for the pile were
placed about him; and as they were going likewise to nail him to the
stake, he said; 'Leave me as I am; for He that hath granted me to
endure the fire will grant me also to remain at the pile unmoved,
even without the security which ye seek from the nails.'

MartPoly 14:1
   So they did not nail him, but tied him. Then he, placing his hands
behind him and being bound to the stake, like a noble ram out of a
great flock for an offering, a burnt sacrifice made ready and
acceptable to God, looking up to heaven said;
'O Lord God Almighty,
the Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ,
through whom we have received the knowledge of Thee,
the God of angels and powers and of all creation
   and of the whole race of the righteous, who live in Thy presence;

MartPoly 14:2
I bless Thee for that Thou hast granted me this day and hour,
that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs
   in the cup of [Thy] Christ unto resurrection of eternal life,
both of soul and of body,
in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.
May I be received among these in Thy presence this day,
as a rich and acceptable sacrifice,
as Thou didst prepare and reveal it beforehand,
and hast accomplished it,
   Thou that art the faithful and true God.

MartPoly 14:3
For this cause, yea and for all things,
   I praise Thee, I bless Thee,
I glorify Thee, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest,
   Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son,
   through whom with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory
      both now [and ever] and for the ages to come. Amen.'

MartPoly 15:1
   When he had offered up the Amen and finished his prayer, the firemen
lighted the fire. And, a mighty flame flashing forth, we to whom it
was given to see, saw a marvel, yea and we were preserved that we
might relate to the rest what happened.

MartPoly 15:2
The fire, making the appearance of a vault, like the sail of a vessel
filled by the wind, made a wall round about the body of the martyr;
and it was there in the midst, not like flesh burning, but like [a
loaf in the oven or like] gold and silver refined in a furnace. For
we perceived such a fragrant smell, as if it were the wafted odor of
frankincense or some other precious spice.

MartPoly 16:1
   So at length the lawless men, seeing that his body could not be
consumed by the fire, ordered an executioner to go up to him and stab
him with a dagger. And when he had done this, there came forth [a
dove and] a quantity of blood, so that it extinguished the fire; and
all the multitude marvelled that there should be so great a
difference between the unbelievers and the elect.

MartPoly 16:2
In the number of these was this man, the glorious martyr Polycarp,
who was found an apostolic and prophetic teacher in our own time, a
bishop of the holy Church which is in Smyrna. For every word which he
uttered from his mouth was accomplished and will be accomplished.

MartPoly 17:1
   But the jealous and envious Evil One, the adversary of the family of
the righteous, having seen the greatness of his martyrdom and his
blameless life from the beginning, and how he was crowned with the
crown of immortality and had won a reward which none could gainsay,
managed that not even his poor body should be taken away by us,
although many desired to do this and to touch his holy flesh.

MartPoly 17:2
So he put forward Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce,
to plead with the magistrate not to give up his body, 'lest,' so it
was said, 'they should abandon the crucified one and begin to worship
this man'--this being done at the instigation and urgent entreaty of
the Jews, who also watched when we were about to take it from the
fire, not knowing that it will be impossible for us either to forsake
at any time the Christ who suffered for the salvation of the whole
world of those that are saved--suffered though faultless for
sinners--nor to worship any other.

MartPoly 17:3
For Him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs as disciples
and imitators of the Lord we cherish as they deserve for their
matchless affection towards their own King and Teacher. May it be our
lot also to be found partakers and fellow-disciples with them.

MartPoly 18:1
   The centurion therefore, seeing the opposition raised on the part of
the Jews, set him in the midst and burnt him after their custom.

MartPoly 18:2
And so we afterwards took up his bones which are more valuable than
precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a
suitable place;

MartPoly 18:3
where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are
able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth-day of his
martyrdom for the commemoration of those that have already fought in
the contest, and for the training and preparation of those that shall
do so hereafter.

MartPoly 19:1
   So it befell the blessed Polycarp, who having with those from
Philadelphia suffered martyrdom in Smyrna--twelve in all--is
especially remembered more than the others by all men, so that he is
talked of even by the heathen in every place: for he showed himself
not only a notable teacher, but also a distinguished martyr, whose
martyrdom all desire to imitate, seeing that it was after the pattern
of the Gospel of Christ.

MartPoly 19:2
Having by his endurance overcome the unrighteous ruler in the
conflict and so received the crown of immortality, he rejoiceth in
company with the Apostles and all righteous men, and glorifieth the
Almighty God and Father, and blesseth our Lord Jesus Christ, the
savior of our souls and helmsman of our bodies and shepherd of the
universal Church which is throughout the world.

MartPoly 20:1
   Ye indeed required that the things which happened should be shown
unto you at greater length: but we for the present have certified you
as it were in a summary through our brother Marcianus. When then ye
have informed yourselves of these things, send the letter about
likewise to the brethren which are farther off, that they also may
glorify the Lord, who maketh election from His own servants.

MartPoly 20:2
Now unto Him that is able to bring us all by His grace and bounty
unto His eternal kingdom, through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ,
be glory, honor, power, and greatness for ever. Salute all the
saints. They that are with us salute you, and Euarestus, who wrote
the letter, with his whole house.

MartPoly 21:1
   Now the blessed Polycarp was martyred on the second day of the first
part of the month Xanthicus, on the seventh before the calends of
March, on a great Sabbath, at the eighth hour. He was apprehended by
Herodes, when Philip of Tralles was high priest, in the proconsulship
of Statius Quadratus, but in the reign of the Eternal King Jesus
Christ. To whom be the glory, honor, greatness, and eternal throne,
from generation to generation. Amen.

MartPoly 22:1
   We bid you God speed, brethren, while ye walk by the word of Jesus
Christ which is according to the Gospel; with whom be glory to God
for the salvation of His holy elect; even as the blessed Polycarp
suffered martyrdom, in whose footsteps may it be our lot to be found
in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

MartPoly 22:2
   This account Gaius copied from the papers of Irenaeus, a disciple of
Polycarp. The same also lived with Irenaeus.

MartPoly 22:3
And I Socrates wrote it down in Corinth from the copy of Gaius. Grace
be with all men.

MartPoly 22:4
And I Pionius again wrote it down from the aforementioned copy,
having searched it out (for the blessed Polycarp showed me in a
revelation, as I will declare in the sequel), gathering it together
when it was now well nigh worn out by age, that the Lord Jesus Christ
may gather me also with His elect into His heavenly kingdom; to whom
be the glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Amen.
{2*** THE THREE PROCEEDING PARAGRAPHS AS READ IN THE MOSCOW MS. ***}2
{9

MartPoly 22:2
   This account Gaius copied from the papers of Irenaeus. The same lived
with Irenaeus who had been a disciple of the holy Polycarp. For this
Irenaeus, being in Rome at the time of the martyrdom of the bishop
Polycarp, instructed many; and many most excellent and orthodox
treatises by him are in circulation. In these he makes mention of
Polycarp, saying that he was taught by him. And he ably refuted every
heresy, and handed down the catholic rule of the Church just as he
had received it from the saint. He mentions this fact also, that when
Marcion, after whom the Marcionites are called, met the holy Polycarp
on one occasion, and said 'Recognize us, Polycarp,' he said in reply
to Marcion, 'Yes indeed, I recognize the firstborn of Satan.' The
following statement also is made in the writings of Irenaeus, that on
the very day and hour when Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna Irenaeus
being in the city of the Romans heard a voice as of a trumpet saying,
' Polycarp is martyred.'

MartPoly 22:3
From these papers of Irenaeus then, as has been stated already, Gaius
made a copy, and from the copy of Gaius Isocrates made another in
Corinth.

MartPoly 22:4
And I Pionius again wrote it down from the copy of Isocrates, having
searched for it in obedience to a revelation of the holy Polycarp,
gathering it together, when it was well nigh worn out by age, that
the Lord Jesus Christ may gather me also with His elect into His
heavenly kingdom; to whom be the glory with the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.