Skip to main content

Polycarp and the Power of Grace

October 24th, 2023 | 79 min read

By Camron Bendfeld

Polycarp was born around the year 70 A.D., was later instituted as bishop of Smyrna, and was martyred at the age of 86. Despite Irenaeus describing him as a prolific writer, only his letter to the Philippians has survived, the dating of which is contested.[1] Some argue that the single letter we now possess was originally two separate letters.[2] However, recent scholarship tends to be moving away from this thesis.[3] Regardless, both epistles are genuine with little dispute and therefore, constitute a witness to his faith.[4] Little about Polycarp’s own life is revealed in his letter, unlike the personal transparency of Ignatius or Paul. However, there remains a great deal of external information regarding his life.[5] “There is no reason to doubt that he had conversed with the apostle John,”[6] and was the bishop of Smyrna when Ignatius was being transported to Rome.[7] Eusebius preserves the opinion of Polycrates of Ephesus (130-196 A.D.) who described Polycarp as “one of the greatest luminaries” of their time.[8] Irenaeus (180 A.D.) echoes a similar sentiment regarding Polycarp’s letter to Philippi: "Now there is also a letter of Polycarp written to the Philippians, a most adequate one; from which such as so desire, and have a care for their own salvation, can learn both the character of his faith and the message of truth."[9] 

Login to read more

Sign in or create a free account to access Subscriber-only content. 

Sign in


Camron Bendfeld

Camron Bendfeld is a student at Wayland Baptist University.