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131

The Letter of Saint Polycarp,

Bishop of Smyrna,

to the Philippians

THE TEXT

Polycarp and the presbyters with him, to the church of God that sojourns at Philippi; may mercy and peace be multiplied to you from God Almighty and Jesus Christ, our Saviour.304304I Peter 1:1, 2; Jude 2; I Clem., pref.; Mart. Poly., pref.

1 I rejoice with you greatly in our Lord305305Phil. 4:10; 2:17. Jesus Christ, in that you have welcomed the models of true Love,306306The Love, of whom the martyrs are models, may refer either to Christ or to all those who love God and their neighbor. Cf. I John 4:16; Ignatius, Rom. 6:2; 7:3. and have helped on their way,307307Acts 15:3. as opportunity was given you, those men who are bound in fetters which become the saints,308308Smyr. 11:1. which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and of our Lord.  2And I also rejoice because the firm root of your faith, famous from the earliest times,309309Acts 15:7; Col. 1:6. still abides and bears fruit for our Lord Jesus Christ, who endured for our sins even to face death, "whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of Hades."310310Acts 2:24 (Western text).3In him, "though you have not seen him, you believe with inexpressible and exalted joy"311311I Peter 1:8, 12.—joy that many have longed to experience—knowing that "you are saved by grace, not because of works,"312312Eph. 2:5, 8, 9. namely, by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

2 "Therefore, girding your loins, serve God in fear" and in truth,313313I Peter 1:13; Eph. 6:14; Ps. 2:11; cf. I Clem. 19:1. forsaking empty talkativeness and the erroneous teaching of the crowd,314314I Tim. 1:6; I Clem. 9:1; 7:2; Ignatius, Phil. 1:1. "believing on him who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him glory"315315I Peter 1:21. and a throne 132on his right hand; "to whom he subjected all things, whether in heaven or on earth,"316316Phil. 3:21; 2:10; I Cor. 15:28. whom "everything that breathes"317317Ps. 150:6; Isa. 57:16. serves, who will come as "judge of the living and the dead,"318318Acts 10:42. whose blood God will require from those who disobey him.319319Ezek. 3:18; Luke 11:50, 51.2For "he who raised him from the dead will raise us also,"320320II Cor. 4:14; I Cor. 6:14; Rom. 8:11. if we do his will and follow his commandments, and love what he loved,321321I John 4:11, 12. refraining from all wrongdoing, avarice, love of money, slander, and false witness; "not returning evil for evil or abuse for abuse,"322322I Peter 3:9. or blow for blow, or curse for curse; but rather remembering what the Lord said when he taught:  3"Judge not, that you be not judged; forgive, and you will be forgiven; be merciful, that you may be shown mercy; the measure you give will be the measure you get"323323Matt. 7:1, 2; Luke 6:36–38; cf. I Clem. 13:2.;and "blessed are the poor and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God."324324Luke 6:20; Matt. 5:3, 10.

3 I write these things about righteousness, brethren, not at my own instance, but because you first invited me to do so.  2Certainly, neither I nor anyone like me can follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who, when he was present among you face to face with the generation of his time,325325Acts 16:12, 13. taught you accurately and firmly "the word of truth."326326Eph. 1:13. Also when absent he wrote you letters that will enable you, if you study them carefully,327327Cf. I Clem. 45:2. to grow in the faith delivered to you— 3"which is a mother of us all,"328328Gal. 4:26. (The word "all" is not read in the best MSS. of the New Testament, but is a reading of the Textus Receptus.) accompanied by hope, and led by love to God and Christ and our neighbor.329329Col. 1:4, 5; cf. I Thess. 1:4 for the order: faith, love, hope. For if anyone is occupied in these, he has fulfilled the commandment of righteousness; for he who possesses love is far from all sin.  4 But "the love of money is the beginning of all evils."330330I Tim. 6:10. Knowing, therefore, that "we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out,"331331I Tim. 6:7; cf. Job 1:21. let us arm ourselves "with the weapons of righteousness,"332332II Cor. 6:7. and let us first of all teach ourselves to live by the commandment of the Lord.

2Then you must teach your wives in the faith delivered to them 133and in love and purity—to cherish their own husbands333333I Clem. 1:3. in all fidelity, and to love all others equally in all chastity, and to educate their children in the fear of God.334334I Clem. 21:6, 8. 3And the widows should be discreet in their faith pledged to the Lord, praying unceasingly on behalf of all,335335I Tim. 5:5; cf. I Thess. 5: 17. refraining from all slander, gossip, false witness, love of money—in fact, from evil of any kind—knowing that they are God's altar, that everything is examined for blemishes,336336I Clem. 41:2. and nothing escapes him whether of thoughts or sentiments,337337I Clem. 21:3. or any of "the secrets of the heart."338338I Cor. 14:25.5 Knowing, then, that "God is not mocked,"339339Gal. 6:7. we ought to live worthily of his commandment and glory.

2Likewise the deacons should be blameless340340Cf I Tim. 3:8–13. before his righteousness, as servants of God and Christ and not of men; not slanderers, or double-tongued, not lovers of money, temperate in all matters, compassionate, careful, living according to the truth of the Lord, who became "a servant of all"341341Mark 9:35. There is a play here on the word "deacon," which means literally "a servant.";to whom, if we are pleasing in the present age, we shall also obtain the age to come, inasmuch as he promised to raise us from the dead. And if we bear our citizenship worthy of him,342342I Clem. 21:1; cf. Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10. "we shall also reign with him"343343II Tim. 2:12; I Cor. 4:8. —provided, of course, that we have faith.

3Similarly also the younger ones must be blameless in all things, especially taking thought of purity and bridling themselves from all evil. It is a fine thing to cut oneself off from the lusts that are in the world, for "every passion of the flesh wages war against the Spirit,"344344I Peter 2:11; Gal. 5:17. and "neither fornicators nor the effeminate nor homosexuals will inherit the Kingdom of God,"345345I Cor. 6:9, 10. nor those who do perverse things. Wherefore it is necessary to refrain from all these things, and be obedient to the presbyters and deacons as unto God and Christ.346346Cf. Mag., chs. 2; 6:1; 13:2; Trall. 2:2; 3:1; Smyr. 8:1; Poly. 6:1. And the young women must live with blameless and pure conscience.3473471 Clem. 1:3.

6 Also the presbyters must be compassionate, merciful to all, turning back those who have gone astray, looking after the sick,348348I Clem. 59:4. not neglecting widow349349Cf. Poly. 4:1; Smyr. 6:2. or orphan or one that is poor; but "always taking thought for what is honorable in the sight 134of God and of men,"350350II Cor. 8:21; Rom. 12:27; Prov. 3:4. refraining from all anger, partiality, unjust judgment, keeping far from all love of money, not hastily believing evil of anyone, nor being severe in judgment,351351Cf. I Tim. 5:19 ff. knowing that we all owe the debt of sin.  2If, then, we pray the Lord to forgive us, we ourselves ought also to forgive352352Matt. 6:12, 14, 15.;for we are before the eyes of the Lord and God, and "everyone shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ and each of us shall give an account of himself."353353Rom. 14:10, 12; cf. II Cor. 5:10.3So then let us "serve him with fear and all reverence,"354354Cf. ch. 2:1; Ps. 2:11; Heb. 12:28. as he himself has commanded, and also the apostles who preached the gospel to us and the prophets who foretold355355Acts 7:52; I Clem. 17:1. the coming of the Lord.

Let us be zealous for that which is good, refraining from occasions of scandal and from false brethren, and those who bear in hypocrisy the name of the Lord, who deceive empty-headed people.  7 For "whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist"356356I John 4:2, 3; 2:22; II John 7.;and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross "is of the devil"357357I John 3:8.;and whosoever perverts the sayings of the Lord358358Cf. I Clem. 53:1. to suit his own lusts and says there is neither resurrection nor judgment—such a one is the first-born of Satan.359359See Irenaeus, Adv. haer. III. 3:4; Eusebius, Hist. eccl., IV, ch. 14; and Mart. Poly., Epilogue 3.2Let us, therefore, forsake the vanity of the crowd and their false teachings360360Cf. ch. 2:1; I Clem. 7:2; 9:1. and turn back to the word delivered to us from the beginning, "watching unto prayer"361361I Peter 4:7. and continuing steadfast in fasting, beseeching fervently the all-seeing God362362I Clem. 55:6; 64:1. "to lead us not into temptation,"363363Matt. 6:13. even as the Lord said, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."364364Matt. 26:41; cf. Mark 14:38.

8 Let us, then, hold steadfastly and unceasingly to our Hope365365Col. 1:27; I Tim. 1:1; Mag., ch. 11; Trall., pref.; ch. 2:2. and to the Pledge366366Eph. 1:14; II Cor. 1:22; 5:5. of our righteousness, that is, Christ Jesus, "who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, who committed no sin, neither was guile found on his lips"367367I Peter 2:24, 22.;but for our sakes he endured everything that we might live in him.  2Therefore let us be imitators of his patient endurance, and if we suffer 135for the sake of his name, let us glorify him.368368I Peter 4:15, 16. For he set us this example369369I Peter 2:21; I Clem. 16:17. in his own Person, and this is what we believed.

9 Now I exhort all of you to be obedient to the word of righteousness370370Heb. 5:13. and to exercise all patient endurance, such as you have seen with your very eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus, but also in others who were of your membership, and in Paul himself and the rest of the apostles;  2being persuaded that all these "did not run in vain,"371371Phil. 2:16; cf. Gal. 2:2. but in faith and righteousness, and that they are now in their deserved place372372I Clem. 5:4, 7. with the Lord, in whose suffering they also shared. For they "loved not this present world,"373373II Tim. 4:10. but Him who died on our behalf and was raised by God for our sakes.374374II Cor. 5:15; cf. I Thess. 5:10.

10 Stand375375With this chapter the original Greek text is no longer extant (except for ch. 13). The translation is from the Latin. firm, therefore, in these things and follow the example of the Lord, "steadfast and immovable"376376I Cor. 15:58; Col. 1:23. in the faith, "loving the brotherhood,"377377I Peter 2:17. "cherishing one another,"378378I Peter 3:8; Rom. 12:10. "fellow companions in the truth"379379III John 8.;in "the gentleness of the Lord preferring one another"380380II Cor. 10:1; Rom. 12:10. and despising no one.  2"Whenever you are able to do a kindness, do not put it off,"381381Prov. 3:28. because "almsgiving frees from death."382382Tobit 4:10 ff. All of you submit yourselves to one another,383383I Peter 5:5. having your manner of life above reproach from the heathen, so that you may receive praise for your good works and the Lord may not be blasphemed on your account.384384I Peter 2:12.3"Woe to them, however, through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed."385385Isa. 52:5; Trall. 8:2. Therefore, all of you teach the sobriety in which you are yourselves living.

11 I have been exceedingly grieved on account of Valens, who was sometime a presbyter among you, because he so forgot the office that was given him. I warn you, therefore, to refrain from the love of money and be pure and truthful.  2"Shun evil of every kind."386386I Thess. 5:22. For how shall he who cannot govern himself in these things teach another?387387I Tim. 3:5. If anyone does not refrain from the love of money he will be defiled by idolatry388388Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5. and so be judged as if he were one of the heathen, "who are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord."389389Jer. 5:4. Or "do we not know 136that the saints will judge the world," as Paul teaches?390390I Cor. 6:2. However, I have neither observed nor heard of any such thing among you, with whom blessed Paul labored and who were his epistles in the beginning.391391Or, "who were mentioned in the beginning of his epistle." Phil. 4:15; cf. II Cor. 3:2; I Clem. 47:2. Of you he was wont to boast in all the churches392392Phil. 2:16; II Thess. 1:4. which at that time alone knew God; for we did not as yet know him.  4I am, therefore, very grieved indeed for that man and his wife. "May the Lord grant them true repentance."393393II Tim. 2:25; 1:18. But you, too, must be moderate in this matter; and "do not consider such persons as enemies,"394394II Thess. 3:15. but reclaim them as suffering and straying members,395395I Clem. 59:4. in order that you may save the whole body of you.396396I Clem. 37:5. For in doing this you will edify yourselves.397397I Thess. 5:11.

12 I am confident, indeed, that you are well versed in the sacred Scriptures and that nothing escapes you398398I Clem. 53:1; cf. Ignatius, Eph. 14:1.—something not granted to me—only, as it is said in these Scriptures, "be angry but sin not" and "let not the sun go down on your anger."399399Ps. 4:5, LXX; Eph. 4:26. Blessed is he who remembers this. I believe it is so with you.  2May God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest himself, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth and in all gentleness, without anger and in patient endurance, in long-suffering, forbearance, and purity; and give you a portion and share400400Acts 8:21. among his saints, and to us also along with you, and to all under heaven who are destined to believe401401Col. 1:23; cf: I Tim. 1:16. in our Lord Jesus Christ and in "his Father who raised him from the dead."402402Gal. 1:1; Col. 2:12; I Peter 1:21.3"Pray for all the saints."403403Eph. 6:18. "Pray also for emperors and magistrates and rulers,"404404I Tim. 2:1, 2; cf. I Clem., ch. 61. and for "those who persecute and hate you,"405405Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27. and for "the enemies of the cross,"406406Phil. 3:18. that your fruit may be manifest in all,407407I Tim. 4:15. so that you may be perfected in him.408408Col. 2:10; James 1:4.

13 Both409409The Greek original of this chapter, except for the last sentence, has been preserved by Eusebius (Hist. eccl. IV, 36: 13–15). you and Ignatius have written me that if anyone is leaving for Syria he should take your letter along too. I shall attend to this if I have a favorable opportunity—either myself 137or one whom I shall send to represent you as well as me.  2We are sending you the letters of Ignatius, those he addressed to us and any others we had by us, just as you requested. They are herewith appended to this letter. From them you can derive great benefit, for they are concerned with faith and patient endurance and all the edification pertaining to the Lord. Of Ignatius himself and those who are with him, let us have any reliable information that you know.

14 I am sending you this letter by Crescens, whom I recently commended to you and now commend him again. He has lived with us blamelessly, and I believe he will do so among you.410410Cf. I Clem. 63:3. I also commend to you his sister, when she arrives among you. Farewell in the Lord Jesus Christ in grace,411411Smyr., ch. 13. both you and all who are yours. Amen.

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