Polycarp, A Church Father Who Taught TRUTH
Polycarp, A Church Father Who Taught TRUTH
By Christine Egbert
In the past, I’ve written articles comparing Scripture’s TRUTH to unscriptural declarations made by certain Church Fathers. Today, I will also write about a Church Father, a Church Father who taught TRUTH. I was inspired to write this article while reading the 3rd epistle of John, which historians believe to have been penned between 85 and 90 A.D. It was verses 9 and 10 that got me to thinking.
“…loving to be first of them, Diotrephes does not receive us. Because of this, if I come, I will recall his works which he does, ranting against us with evil words. And not being satisfied with these, neither does he receive the brothers and those intending to (receive us) he prevents, and thrusts them out from his assembly.”
History doesn’t reveal much, if anything, about Diotrephes, whose name means “nurtured by Jupiter”. But the Apostle John certainly does. Diotrephes ranted evil words against John. He refused John and his disciples and threw everyone, who offered to receive John and his disciples, out of his congregation.
This reminded me of Constantine’s declaration: “Let us then have nothing in common with the Jews, for we have received from our savior a different way…”
Constantine’s assertion that he received from his savior a different way should remind us of what Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 11:3-4: “But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds might be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion and purity to the Messiah. For if someone comes and proclaims another Yeshua, whom we did not proclaim, or if you receive a different spirit, that you did not receive, or a different “good news” that you did not accept, you put up with that well enough!”
Next I read the book of Jude, who exhorts us to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.” (Paul, in Romans 3:1-2, declared that the word of God was entrusted to the Jews, the very same people of God the Roman Emperor Constantine commanded the Gentile Christians of Rome to have nothing to do with.) In verse 4, Jude went on to warn that “ungodly men had crept in” and were perverting the grace of our God into unbridled lust.
These revealing verses in the 3rd epistle of John and in Jude got me to thinking about a Church Father named Polycarp, who lived between 69 and 155 A.D., and was a contemporary of both John and Jude, who wrote their epistles between 85 and 90 A.D.
Throughout the 2nd century many false teachers spread heresies,. But as always, God maintained His faithful remnant who taught His scriptural TRUTH. One of these TRUTH-teachers was Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna. Historians have long recognized Polycarp as the last Christian leader to be taught by one of the Messiah’s disciples. Historian Irenaeus, who lived between 130 and 202 A.D, wrote this:
“But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth…for he [Polycarp] tarried [on earth] a very long time….having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.4).
Irenaeus records that Polycarp went to Rome sometime around 150 A.D. to confront the Bishop of Rome, Anicetus, regarding the correct day on which to observe the paschal (Passover) feast. (Eusebius, Church History, bk 4, 14:1- 7).
Anicetus did not honor Passover on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, in accordance with Scripture, nor did he hold to the teaching of Yeshua’s disciples, but Polycarp and all the Eastern Churches did.
Irenaeus wrote: “At this time, while Anicetus was at the head of the church of Rome, Polycarp, who was still alive, was at Rome and had a conference with Anicetus on a question concerning the day of the paschal feast…” (Eusebius, Church History, bk 4, 14:1- 7). “And when the blessed Polycarp was at Rome in the time of Anicetus, and they disagreed a little about certain other things, they immediately made peace with one another, not caring to quarrel over the matter. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord and the other apostles with whom he had associated, and neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus… (ibid, bk 5, 24:16-17).
Polycarp, whom John (an original Apostle of Yeshua) taught, had Scripture to stand on regarding when to celebrate Passover, which was on the 14th of Nissan. But Rome’s Bishop didn’t care. He didn’t care what Scripture, nor what Messiah’s disciples, taught. Thus, under Anicetus, the 10th or 11th bishop of Rome, heresy reached a climax, separating Gentiles from the truth of Scripture and the doctrines and traditions taught by Yeshua and His original Apostles, for like Constantine, Anicetus had received a different way from his savior.
I will close with Jude’s plea, exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints, like Church Father Polycarp contended for that original faith.