Polycarp (Martyred in A.D. 155)


The roaring of the crowd pounded in his ears. Their blood lust had been aroused and they wanted to slake it. The sound of their screams competed with the drumbeats of his heart. The old man remembered the Master's words..."MY peace I give unto you..." and his heart stilled. The officers were looking at him, waiting to see if he would recant The Christ and save his own life...what remained of it, for he was very advanced in years. Polycarp moved forward and felt his hip bones creak. On his left, an officer was holding a small bowl of incense. All he had to do was take a pinch of incense, offer it to the massive statue of the Emperor standing in the amphitheater, and say "Caesar is Lord" and he would avoid the live roasting that was planned

for him. Some distance away, to his right, the stake was waiting. Hay and wood were piled high around a sturdy wooden branch driven deep into the ground. A coil of rope to bind him tightly to the stake lay on the ground and several roughly dressed men with hoods over their faces were waiting with flaming torches to send him to eternity. He sent up a simple prayer and made his choice....*

Polycarp lived between A.D 69 or 70 and A.D 155. He was a direct disciple of the Apostle John, and thus he was connected to both the Biblical Apostles and the early church fathers. He served as Bishop of the church in Smyrna (modern day Izmir)and was recognized as one of the early combatants of Christian heresies1. During the latter years of his life, Roman Emperors unleashed a rash of bitter attacks against Christians, whom they considered to be members of a dangerous cult that needed to be destroyed. During one of such attacks, a number of Christians were herded into an arena to be devoured by wild beasts. One of the men, Quintus Phrygian, turned coward when he saw the beasts and recanted his faith1, 2.

When he received the news, Polycarp retreated to a farm to pray. One night, while at the farm, he dreamt that his pillow was consumed by fire, and he told his followers that he would be burnt alive. He was eventually arrested as a Christian and taken to the proconsul, who took pity on Polycarp because of his advanced age. When offered his life in exchange for switching his allegiance from Christ to Caeser, Polycarp said "Eighty-six years have I served Christ and He never did mewrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?1"

Polycarp rejected the offer and gave up a life he could not keep for one he would never lose. He was burned at the stake, but his body was not consumed and he was eventually stabbed.



1. www.polycarp.net

2. www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/martrydom-polycarp-lightfoot.html

*The section in italics, while based on fact, was embellished in the author's imagination.