Monday, April 7, 2008

Polycarp - Martyr At Age 86

He lived at the end of the age of the original apostles, when the church was making the critical transition to the second generation of believers. Tradition has it that Polycarp was personally discipled by the apostle John and that he was appointed as bishop of Smyrna (in modern Izmir, Turkey) by some of the original apostles.

After being a Christian all his life, it is not clear why he was suddenly arrested in his old age. He was escorted to the local proconsul, Statius Quadratus, who interrogated him in front of a crowd of onlookers.

"Swear, and I will release thee;--reproach Christ."urged the proconsil. Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?"
Quadratus threatened to throw Polycarp to wild beasts, he'd be burned at the stake, and so on. Polycarp just told Quadratus that while this fire lasts but a little while, the fires of judgment ("reserved for the ungodly," he slyly added) cannot be quenched. Polycarp concluded, "But why do you delay? Come, do what you will."

Soldiers then grabbed him to nail him to a stake, but he was only tied, he assured them he would stand still. He prayed aloud, the fire was lit, and his flesh was consumed. The chronicler of this martyrdom said it was "not as burning flesh but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace."

The account ended by saying that Polycarp's death was remembered by "everyone"—"he is even spoken of by the heathen in every place."

Excerpts taken from Fox's Book of Martyrs - (The Fourth Persecution), and Christian History & Biography

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