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Introduction to The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

The following is transcribed from Kirsopp Lake in The Apostolic Fathers (published London 1912), v. I, pp. 280-281.

Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna in the first half of the second century, and was martyred, in all probability, on February 23rd, 155 A.D., at the age of eighty-six. He had been a disciple of John, and opinions differ as to whether this John was the son of Zebedee, or John the Presbyter.

According to Irenaeus [Adv. Haer. v. 33. 4] Polycarp wrote several epistles, but only one is extant. This is the epistle sent to the Philippians in connection with Ignatius.

The object of the epistle is apparently partly to warn the Philippians against certain disorders in the Church at Philippi, and especially against apostasy; but it appears to have been immediately called for by the desire of the Philippians to make a collection of the letters of Ignatius. They had written to Polycarp to help him in this task, and the letter to the Philippians is, as we should say, a "covering letter" for the copies which Polycarp sends of all the Ignatian epistles to which he had access. It is interesting to notice that the one epistle which neither Polycarp nor the Philippians could easily obtain would be that to the Romans, and that it is this letter which in the Ignatian MSS. seems to have had a different textual history from that of the other six.

The epistle is preserved in eight defective Greek MSS., representing a single archetype, in two long quotations in Eusebius, and in a Latin version contained in the Latin version of the Corpus Ignatianum (see p. 171). The reconstructed archetype of the Greek MSS. is quoted as G, that of the Latin MSS, as L, and Eusebius as Eus. A full collation of the individual Greek and Latin MSS. is given by Lightfoot.

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Kirby, Peter. "Greek Reconstruction of 0212." Early Christian Writings. <>.