1. Matryrdom of Polycarp

In the Martyrdom of Polycarp there are numerous similarities between the Passion of Christ and Polycarp’s death. Polycarp was an elderly man and the bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor. After the persecution and martyrdom of several Christians, the Romans began to hunt down Polycarp in order to kill him. Polycarp knew of his impending persecution, as does Jesus in each of the Gospels, but he was not afraid. He was in control of the whole issue, as is Jesus, specifically in the Gospel of John. Polycarp, “when he first heard the news, was not disturbed, in fact he wanted to stay in town…” (5:1). When the Romans finally caught up with him, he even had a chance to escape, like Jesus could have saved himself, but instead Polycarp said, “…’May God’s will be done’…” (7:1). Similarly, Jesus accepts what must happen to him I order to fulfill the scriptures. Polycarp has a vision in which he realizes that he must be burned alive. Being burnt, he is similar to a burnt offering to God, just as Jesus was portrayed as the paschal and sacrificial Lamb of God in John’s passion narrative. Polycarp is not afraid of upset about his death, but instead confronts his persecution with courage and almost enthusiasm as he can soon join other martyrs and other Christians in the Kingdom of Heaven with God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Polycarp’s joy in death is a sign to all Christians that death is not bad. It is not the end, but merely the beginning of a better after life in Heaven. Knowing this should comfort all who are faced with death.
Going back to Polycarp’s death, it is said that he is burnt, “not like flesh burning, but like bread braking, or like gold and silver being refined in a furnace” (15:2). In death, Polycarp is transformed into something better than he originally was, like a phoenix rising from ashes. This action further strengthen the witness’s belief in the power of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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3 thoughts on “1. Matryrdom of Polycarp

  1. Nice reflections on the similarities between Polycarp’s death and the events surrounding the death of Jesus in John’s Gospel. I hadn’t given much thought of the events in the account of Polycarp as connected to any one particular Gospel more than the others, but your reflections above, particularly the idea of Polycarp as a “sacrificial lamb” do make a compelling case for an important relationship to John’s Gospel. Thanks for making this connection clear!

  2. I also really liked how you made the connection between Polycarp’s death and John’s gospel, highlighting the image of the paschal lamb. I definitely didn’t see this when I read it myself even though your explanation makes a very clear comparison.

  3. Good job highlighting the similarities between Polycarp’s and Jesus’ deaths. It’s important that you note how Polycarp’s story would have been comforting to the early Christians who may have feared death, not understanding that it leads to eternal life with God.

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