Letter To Polycarp Religious Realism Essay

Polycarp of Smyrna played a huge rule in the early Christian church. He is on of the early Christian’s who’s work actually is still available to this day. He was known to be born around the year 69 but got most of his successful teachings and works done when he was 84 in the year 153. When Polycarp died he was approximately 84 and was known for his death to have been similar to how Jesus died. Polycarp was the twelfth martyr in Smyrna. During this time of Polycarp’s life, the church was strongly disliked by the Roman Empire, in that we can easily understand that Christian’s like Polycarp had it hard.

Christians were not allowed to show their faith and if they did they were to die. But Polycarp played a major role for the fact that he continued to always share the Gospel no matter what. What was going on during this time didn’t effect Polycarp and his version to spread the Gospel. Polycarp had so much courage and honor to spread the Gospel that still to this day can be so admirable. You can tell the when a person does well spreading the word of God because people are trying to take them down and the devil is trying to attack them.

That is what was going on with Polycarp, the more he spread the word the more the Empire was after him. Not to just arrest him but to kill him and take him down. As I said before he played a very important role in the history of the Christian church. In Polycarp’s later years he served as a bishop and that’s when major changes in the church started happening. In this time was when the rise of the orthodox began to happen and Polycarp did all he could to make sure that did not happen. He remained one hundred percent faithful to his teachings and the teaching he received from the apostles.

That is simple to understand by the fact that he was taught by the apostles themselves so their traits and faith was passed down to him to be used to benefit the glory of God. During this same time Polycarp went to Rome and was able to turn many Marcionites from doing wrong. He did this while he was in the process of separating Jewish roots from the church itself. He has such persuasive teachings that with a little effort this came easy to him. He was able to kill two birds with one stone.

Polycarp was a person who knew his theology very well and he stuck to his knowledge and what he was taught because he trusted it. Because Polycarp was so well known for his works and spreading the Gospel we tend to be more informed about him over any other Christian of his time. As I have said many times before during the early second century the church was very much disliked so for Polycarp to bolding share the gospel was a big deal. Being a Christian was not taken lightly so Polycarp is very admirable for his works and his spreading of the Gospel.

During the early second century there are some letters written to Polycarp, about him, and by him. The main source for this era that I used was this letter, which was the letter to the Philippians from Polycarp. The one some members in my group and I were able to find useful was his letter to the Philippians. Something about Polycarp was that he gave credit when it was due. In the letter to the Christians of Philippi he included a collection of Ignatius’ letters. In the letter he addressed multiple concerns including the Philippians request for the letters of Ignatius.

Polycarp had no problem doing what some asked of him but when he felt like someone was in the wrong he had no problem in correcting them. The reason that they were asking Polycarp out of all people for the letters from Ignatius was because along with Polycarp and Clement, he was one of the Apostolic Fathers. This letter was based of the sole work of Ignatius. His relationship with both Ignatius and Clement had a huge part of a lot of Polycarp’s writing and Polycarp’s over all works in the people and impact on people.

Continuing with the discussion of Polycarp’s letter to the Christians of Philippi, he decided to include a cover letter with his actual letter because of the concerns he had. In that cover letter was the collection of Ignatius’ letters. He then goes on to explain why he wrote a cover letter and gives his reasons as well. One of the reasons was that when he was among the Philippians and Ignatius as well they had wanted him to forward a letter they send to him to the Antioch, so in a sense use him as a messenger. Polycarp uses this letter he is writing to show how he plans on responding to what they asked of him.

Polycarp has learned of some kind of malfeasance y one of the former presbyters of Philippi… engaged in shady dealings, possibly involving church finances” (Ehrman 324), because of this Polycarp tells them they need to handle that and gives them the advice of not getting wrapped up in the love of money. Polycarp addresses a few more concerns he has in this cover letter of his but what I got from it wasn’t the overall point of what he was saying, although it was wise and contained so much truth, was that he genuinely cares about the Philippians.

This not only shows love for them but through this you can see the person he is and how much he genuinely cares for people. He was very straightforward with his over all reasons of why he was writing and his sincere concerns. Polycarp very much invests himself in his writings and doesn’t take it lightly. He is able to give his opinion and give whoever he is writing to the proper corrections that need to be made. It’s easy for people that are like Polycarp to get wrapped up in themselves and just focus on what they think is write and not take in what is best for the person the advice is being applied to.

Polycarp doesn’t seem to do that he focuses very much on what the right thing is to do by what he knows is true, the Gospel. Because of that that has made him the admirable person he is. He was lucky enough to be taught by the apostle’s so we can see why he teaches and responses to certain situations the way he does. As I have said before, Polycarp is a very brave person for taking the steps he has and in boldness like he has. The atmosphere for Christians during the early second century was not positive but very cruel and the opposite of upright.

It wasn’t easy being a great leader during this time but Polycarp managed to do so. In saying that, all the martyrdoms that unfortunately happened during that era were looked at as very dauntless and resilient, Polycarp was one of them. Understanding the gospel and Christianity itself helps us know what Polycarp believed and what was happening often but not a whole lot during this time. Like I said, although Christianity was frowned upon, God still was able to move and it was still a growing belief during the early second century.

Nevertheless, the Romans had a very practical mindset when it came to religion. Over all the Romans were very practical people so they felt this way about many things thus having a hard time placing all their time and belief into one all-mighty and powerful god. For them religion wasn’t so much spiritual experience for them. They tended to have more contractual relationships with the high-powers they believed to control them and they’re well- being. For whatever reason they found that more practical than focusing on one sole god.

They went on worshiping so many gods and goddesses and feeding them praying to them and bowing down to them. Many of the god and goddesses the Romans believed in were mixes of multiple different religious influences they knew of. A lot of them were introduced to the Roman’s through some Greek colonies of Italy. As well as them being introduced by the Greek’s, many were rooted in old religions of Etruscans or even Latin tribes. But even so they’re were many mixed origins for each god and goddess. An example of that is the goddess Diana, she was an older Latin goddess.

She was moved to Rome and then eventually became known as the Greek goddess Artemis. What was to be known as the the Roman in a sense church, looked similar to the Greek but with different names. When it came to worshiping and praying to the Roman god and goddesses people didn’t really know what and why they were worshiping sometimes. They would worship and often forget the reason of worshiping the god or goddess. One example of that was the deity Furrina, they would host a festival for her but then after sometime no-one was left who actually remembered what she was the goddess of.

A lot of the religious activity involved some sort of sacrifice. Prayer was very often confusing because of deities having multiple names they were called and their actual gender being unknown. The religion that the Roman empire followed and believed in was almost the completely opposite of Christianity so we can see why Polycarp was such an issue to the Romans. Even though the Roman empire was able to get to Polycarp they couldn’t stop the work he had done and the people he impacted. One very important person he impacted was Ireneaus, a student of his.

Ireneaus recorded much of Polycarp’s life as his mentor and his experience. Polycarp was a student himself of John the Apostle according to Ireneaus. Polycarp’s relationship with Ireneaus was important because Polycarp had a very positive influence on Ireneaus and he was able to pass down Polycarp’s works and facts about Polycarp’s life. Another person whose relationship was very important was his relationship with his teacher the apostle John. John gave Polycarp the proper tools and advice that made Polycarp who he was.

One thing that I felt was very beneficial was the John the apostle told Polycarp to always stay away from those who were trying to change the sole truth of the Gospel. Ultimately that’s what the Romans did. They were constantly changing who the god and goddesses were and what they were gods and goddesses were gods of. They constantly were changing their religious habits. They didn’t focus on just one sole belief they some what just mixed a bunch of religions and ideas from other places and called in their own, when it really wasn’t.

Overall, the topic I had made me understand Polycarp and his work so much easier. I was able to dig deep into what life was like around him and put myself in his shoes. Although I could never imagine how life could be like if I had to pick religion or my life I can fathom how hard it was. Studying the religious aspect of the early second century in the Roman empire I was able to see what was going on during that time. Learning that Christianity was very much disliked and frowned upon made Polycarp very admirable.

Seeing the connections that Polycarp had as teachers made it easy to understand what type of person he was. Learning about the impact and relationships Polycarp had with his students helps me understand that his ideas and teachings were very accurate. Knowing what was going on around Polycarp at the time helped me understand why he was doing what he did. Digging deep into the topic I had made Polycarp very admirable, from his courage to his faith with God. He died a very courageous death.

Most of Polycarp’s life he had the Roman Empire after him for sharing the Gospel and doing what he did. That did not stop him. Through my topic I was able to understand the importance of Polycarp’s life and why he did what he did. We can all to this day still learn something about Polycarp and his faith. Even though the martyr of Polycarp wasn’t the best, he left behind people to pass down his teachings. Even though it’s been a long while since Polycarp was his life his teachings and faith are still around through his story.