The Martyrdom of Polycarp

True names version based on Lightfoot

by Jackson Snyder, August 8, 2010


THE LETTER OF THE SMYRNAEANS OR THE MARTYRDOM OF POLYCARP

 

The Assembly of YHWH that sojourns at Smyrna to the Assembly of YHWH that sojourn in Philomelium and to all the families of the distinctive and universal Assembly sojourning in every place; mercy and peace and love from YHWH the Father and our Master Yahshua the Anointed be multiplied.

We write to you, brothers, an account of what befell those that suffered martyrdom and especially the blessed Polycarp, who endured the persecution, having set his seal on it by his martyrdom. For nearly all the previous events came to pass so that the Master might show us once more an example of martyrdom that is conformable to the Evangel.

For he lingered on so he might be delivered up, even as the Master did, to the end that we too might be imitators of him, not looking only to what concerns us, but also to what concerns our neighbors. For it is the place of true and steadfast love, not only to desire to be saved, but all the brothers also.

So then blessed and noble are all the martyrdoms that have taken place according to the will of YHWH (for it is expedient and very scrupulous of us to assign to YHWH the power over all things).

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 inner workings of their flesh was visible even as far as the internal veins and arteries, they endured patiently, so that the onlookers had pity and wept; while they themselves reached such a pitch of bravery that none of them uttered a cry or a groan, showing to us all that the martyrs of the Anointed at the hour of their torture were absent from the body, or rather that the Master was standing by and consoling them.

And heeding the favor of the Anointed One they despised the tortures of this world, purchasing at the cost of one hour a release from eternal punishment. They even found the fire of their inhuman torturers to be cold: for they set before their eyes the escape from the eternal fire that is never quenched; while with the eyes of their heart they gazed upon the good things that are reserved for those that endure patiently, things that neither the ear has heard nor the eye seen nor the heart of man has entertained, yet were shown by the Master to them, for they were no longer men but malakim already.

In the same way those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured horrifying 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 such tricks against them.

But thanks be to YHWH; for He truly prevailed against all. For the noble Germanicus encouraged their fears through the constancy that was in him; and he fought with the wild beasts in a unique way. For when the proconsul wanted to spare him, counseling him to take pity for the sake of his young age, Germanicus used violence and dragged the wild beast towards him, desiring a release from their unrighteous and lawless life more expediently.

So after this all the multitude, amazed at the bravery of the Master's own, those who were beloved by YHWH and thus feared him; they raised a cry, 'Away with the atheists! Go search for Polycarp.'

But one man, Quintus by name, a newly arrived Phrygian, turned coward when he saw the wild beasts. He forced himself and some others to come forward of their own free will. Through much pleading the proconsul persuaded this man to swear the oath and to offer incense. Because of this, brothers, we do not praise those who deliver themselves up, since the Evangel does not teach us so.

At first, the famous Polycarp was not dismayed when he first heard it; so far from it he wanted to stay in town; but the majority persuaded him to leave. So he withdrew to a farm not far from the city; and there he stayed with a few friends, doing nothing but praying night and day for all those in the assemblies throughout the world; for this was his persistent habit.

While praying he fell asleep and experienced a vision three days before his arrest; and he saw his pillow on fire and burning. He turned and said to those that were with him: 'It must be required of me that I will be burned alive.'

As those who were in search of him persisted, he left for another farm; and right away those who were searching him out came forth; and not finding him, they seized two slave boys, one of whom confessed where he could be found under torture; for it was impossible for him to remain concealed, seeing that the very same ones who betrayed him were those of his own household.

The police captain, who happened to have a suitable name like Herod, was eager to bring him into the stadium, so that Polycarp might fulfill his destiny, being made a partaker with the Anointed One, while they - his betrayers - underwent the punishment of Yehudah (Judas) himself.

So taking the lad with them, on the fifth day at suppertime, the officers and horsemen went out with their usual weapons, very quickly as though against a robber. And coming together as one body late in the evening, they found their man in bed in an upper room in a particular cottage; and though he might have left there for another place, he would not, saying, The will of YHWH be done.

When he heard that they had arrived, he went down and talked with them, being surprised at his endurance for such an advanced age, and wondering why there should be so much zeal for the arrest of an old man like him. Right away then, he gave orders that a table should be spread for them to eat and drink at that hour, as much as they wanted. Then Polycarp persuaded them to grant him an hour that he might pray without interference; and when they consenting, he stood up and prayed, being so full of the favor of YHWH, that for two full hours he could not hold his peace, and those that heard were baffled, and many repented that they had come against such a venerable old man.

But when he finally 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 Assembly throughout the world, the hour of departure being come, they seated him on an ass and brought him into the city - a high Sabbath began.

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 Sovereign, and offering incense,' with more talk like this, 'and saving yourself?' But at first he gave them no answer. When they persisted, he said, 'I am not going to do what you advise me.'

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 one person's voice could be so much as heard.

As Polycarp entered into the stadium, a voice came to him from heaven; 'Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.' No one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice. After a long time, when Polycarp was brought up, there was a great cheer, for they heard that Polycarp had been arrested.

So when he was brought before him, the proconsul asked whether he were the man. On his confessing that he was, he tried to persuade him to a denial saying, 'Have respect for your age,' and other such words, since they wanted him to say, 'Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the atheists.' With a solemn face, Polycarp then looked at the whole multitude of lawless heathens who inhabited the stadium, and waved his hand to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he said, 'Away with the atheists!'

But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, 'Swear the oath, and I will release you; curse Christos!' But Polycarp said, 'Eighty-six  years I have been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'

But on his persisting again and saying, 'Swear by the genius of Caesar,' he answered, 'If you falsely suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and making believe that you are ignorant about who I am, hear thou plainly, I am a "Christian." So if you would like to learn the teachings of "Christianity," assign a day and give me a hearing.'

The proconsul said; 'Let the people know!' But Polycarp said; 'As for you, I would have considered you worthy of discussion; for we have been taught to render princes and authorities appointed by YHWH such honor as is appropriate, which does us no harm; but as for these, I do not consider them worthy so that I would defend myself before them.'

Hearing this, the proconsul said; 'I have wild beasts here and I will throw you to them, unless you change your mind.' But he said, 'Call for them: for changing one's mind from better to worse is not allowed us. The impressive act is to change from indecency to righteousness.'

Then he said to him again, 'I will cause you to be consumed by fire if you do not like wild beasts, unless you change your mind.' But Polycarp said; 'Thou threaten a fire that burns for a time. After a little while, it is quenched. But you are entirely ignorant of the fire of future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the unrighteous. So why delay any longer? Come, do whatever you will.'

Saying these things and more besides, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his countenance was filled with favor, so that not only did it not drop in dismay at the things that 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 has confessed himself to be a "Christian."'

When this was proclaimed by the herald, the whole multitude of both Gentiles and Jews who lived in Smyrna cried out with chaotic wrath and a deafening shout, 'This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the the "Christians," the one who has thrown down our gods, who teaches crowds 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 legal for him to do this because he had already brought the spectacle to a close.

Then they thought it appropriate to shout with one accord. 'Polycarp should be burned alive.' (For it was necessary that the vision about the pillow was to be fulfilled, when he saw it on fire while praying, and he turning around to prophesy to the faithful with him, 'I must be burned alive.'

These things then happened with such great speed, quicker than words could relate, the crowds immediately coming together from the workshops and baths with timber and kindling, and the Jews assisting in this with excessive zeal, as is their way.

When the pile was made ready, divesting himself of all his upper garments and loosing his girdle, he tried to take off his shoes (though he was not in the habit of doing this because the faithful always eagerly competed to be the one to first touch his flesh). He had been treated with great honor for his devoted life even before his gray hairs appeared.

 

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Then the instruments that were prepared for the pile were placed around him; and as they were about to nail him to the stake, he said; 'Leave me as I am; for the same One who granted me endurance for the fire will grant me to stay steadfast at the pile also, even without the security you expect from the nails.'

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 YHWH, looking up to heaven said the verse:

'O Sovereign YHWH Almighty, the Father of Your beloved and blessed Son Yahshua the Anointed One, through whom we have received knowledge of You, the Sovereign of malachim and elohim and of all creation and the entire race of the righteous who are alive in Your being;  I bless You for granting me this day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of Your Anointed One toward the resurrection of eternal life, both of spirit and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Spirit of devotion. May I be received among these in Your presence today as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as You prepared and revealed it beforehand, and have now made it happen, You that are the faithful and true Master. For this cause, yes and for all things, I praise You, I bless You, I esteem You, through the timeless and skyward Cohen ha gadol Yahshua the Messiah, Your beloved Son, through whom with Him and the Spirit of devotion be esteemed both now and for the ages to come. Amein.'

When he had offered up the Amein and finished his prayer, the firemen lit the fire. A mighty flame flashed forth! Those of us granted to see beheld a prodigy, yea and we were preserved so that we might relate to the rest what happened.

The fire, making the appearance of a vault, like the sailboat's sail filled by the wind, made a wall around the body of the martyr; and it was there in the middle, not like flesh burning, but like a loaf in the oven or gold and silver being refined in the furnace. For we noticed such a fragrant odor as if it were that of frankincense or some other precious spice floating through the air.

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 spear. When this was done there came forth a quantity of blood, enough that it extinguished the fire; and the multitude was astonished that there should be so great a difference between the unbelievers and the elect.

In the number of the elect was this man, the famous martyr Polycarp, who was an apostolic and prophetic teacher in our own time, an overseer of the devoted Assembly of Smyrna. For every word that his mouth spoke happened and will be happening.

But the jealous and envious Evil One, the enemy of the righteous family, having seen the greatness of his martyrdom and his blameless life from the beginning, and how he was crowned with timelessness, a reward that none could dispute, managed that not even his poor body could be taken away by us, although many wanted to do this and to touch his devoted flesh.

So he put forward Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to plead with the magistrate not to give up his body, 'in case,' so it was said, 'they should abandon the crucified one and begin to worship this man' - this being done at the urgent instigation and request of the Jews, who also watched when we were about to take it from the fire, not knowing that it would be impossible for us at any time to forsake the Anointed One who suffered for the salvation of the whole world (that is, those who are saved at any time) - since though faultless, he suffered for sinners - nor could we worship any other.

For Him, being the Son of YHWH, we adore, but we cherish the martyrs as disciples and imitators of the Master since they are deserving for their matchless affection for their own King and Teacher. May it be our destiny to be found partakers and fellow-disciples with them also.

So the centurion, seeing the opposition raised on the part of the Jews, set him in the midst and burnt him after their custom.

Afterwards we picked up his bones (that are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold) and laid them in a suitable place; where the Master will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom for the commemoration of those who have already fought in the contest, and for the training and preparation of those who will do so hereafter.

So it happened that the blessed Polycarp, among those of Philadelphia who suffered martyrdom in Smyrna (twelve in all), is especially remembered more than the others, so much in fact that he is spoken of even by heathens everywhere: for he showed himself to be 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 Evangel of the Anointed One.

Having by his endurance overcome the unrighteous ruler in the conflict to receive the crown of long life, he rejoices in the company of the Apostles and all the righteous, and he magnifies the Almighty Sovereign and Father, and blesses our Master Yahshua the Anointed One, the savior of our souls, pilot of our bodies, and pastor of the universal Assembly that is spread throughout the world.

You did require that what happened should be shown to you in greater detail: but, for the present, we authenticated for you a summary through our brother Marcianus. Once you have been acquainted with these details, send the letter to the brethren that are farther off, so they also may glorify the Master, who chooses from His own servants.

Now to Him who is able to bring us all by His favor and abundance to His timeless realm, through His only-begotten Son Yahshua the Anointed One, be esteem, honor, power, and greatness for ever. Greet all the righteous. Those with us greet you, and Euarestus, who inscribed the letter, with his whole house.

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 high Sabbath, at the eighth hour. He was apprehended by Herod, when Philip of Tralles was high priest, in the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus, but in the realm of the Timeless Potentate Yahshua the Anointed One; to whom be the esteem, honor, greatness, and timeless throne, from generation to generation. Amein.

We bid you the speed of YHWH, brethren, as you walk by the word of Yahshua the Anointed One according to the Evangel; with whom be esteem to YHWH for the salvation of His set-apart elect; even as the blessed Polycarp suffered martyrdom, in whose footsteps may we also be found in the realm of Yahshua the Anointed One.

This account Gaius copied from the papers of Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp. The same also lived with Irenaeus. And I Socrates wrote it down in Corinth from the copy of Gaius. May favor be with all people.

And I Pionius again wrote it down from the copy mentioned before, having searched it out (for the blessed Polycarp showed me something in a revelation, as I will declare in the postscript), gathering it together when it was close to worn out by age, that the Master Yahshua the Anointed may gather me also with His chosen into His heavenly realm; to whom be the esteem with the Father and the devoted Spirit for ever and ever. Amein.

 

{The following are found in the manuscript at Moscow:}

Gaius copied this account from the papers of Irenaeus, who lived with Irenaeus, a disciple of the devoted Polycarp. This Irenaeus, being in Rome at the time of the martyrdom of the overseer Polycarp, instructed many; and many excellent and correct treatises authored by him are in circulation. In these he makes mention of Polycarp, saying that he was taught by him. He ably refuted every heresy, and handed down the universal rule of the Assembly just as he had received it from the righteous man. He mentions this fact also, that when Marcion, after whom the Marcionites are called, met the devoted Polycarp on one occasion, he said, 'Recognize us, Polycarp.' In reply to Marcion, Polycarp replied, 'Yes indeed, I recognize the firstborn of Satan.'

The following statement also is found in the writings of Irenaeus: that on the very day and hour when Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna Irenaeus being in Rome heard a voice like a trumpet saying, 'Polycarp is martyred!'

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.

And I Pionius again wrote it down from the copy of Isocrates, having searched for it in obedience to a revelation of the devoted Polycarp, gathering it together, when it was just about worn out by age, that the Master Yahshua the Anointed One may gather me also with His chosen into His skyward realm; to whom be the esteem with the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit age to age. Amein.