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Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians
The New Testament Canon
Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians
is Polycarp's biographical information followed by his Epistle
to the Philippians. Parentheses are used to identify Polycarp's
quotations of New Testament verses. The citations included
are the result of my own work as well as a comparison to the
work of Bob Thiel. (Bob Thiel's article on this subject is
entitled "Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians with New Testament
Scriptural Annotations." It is available online at http://www.cogwriter.com/polycarpletter.htm.)
Citations in black identify clear quotes of the New Testament
by Polycarp. Citations in blue indicate that Polycarp may
be quoting the New Testament, but the text is inconclusive.
Red highlights indicate where other authors have identified
New Testament quotes, but which seem to be inconclusive at
best. For this reason, citations in red were not taken into
account when cataloging the number of New Testament books
that Polycarp quotes.
As the following summary shows, Polycarp clearly quotes from
24 of the books of the New Testament with possible citations
to two other books (Philemon and Jude). We also know from
historical data that Polycarp was appointed bishop in Smyrna
by John the Apostle and that John sent a copy of the Book
of Revelation to Smyrna while Polycarp was there. This means
that Polycarp definitely had at least 25 of the 27 New Testament
books (and very possibly had all 27). Polycarp's letter was
written between 110 and 135 AD. And it is clear from the letter
that Polycarp uses the New Testament as a canon to remind
the Christians of sound Christian teaching and to refute false
Polycarp quotes the following New Testament books:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2
Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians,
1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus,
Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John;
TOTAL books = 24
Polycarp possibly quotes: Philemon,
Jude = 2
Polycarp does not quote: Revelation = 1
"Polycarp, Saint - c.A.D. 70-A.D. 156?, Greek bishop of
Smyrna, Father of the Church. He was a disciple of
St. John, who appointed him bishop. Thus he linked
the apostles and such 2d-century Christian expositors as St.
Irenaeus. St. Polycarp was a close friend of St. Ignatius
of Antioch. As a very old man, Polycarp went to Rome to
discuss the problem of dating Easter. He died a martyr in
Smyrna. His one surviving work, the Epistle to the Philippians,
has been the subject of controversy. Some scholars have maintained
that the letter is really two-one written c.115, enclosing
St. Ignatius' epistles, and the other written c.135 to
warn the Philippians against the teachings of Marcion. He
was in his time the mainstay of Christianity in Asia Minor."
- The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.
Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians (often simply
called To the Philippians) composed around 110 to
140 AD - wikipedia.org, Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians
Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians
Polycarp, and the presbyters with him, to the Church of God
sojourning at Philippi: Mercy to you, and peace from God Almighty,
and from the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, be multiplied.
CHAP I - PRAISE OF THE PHILIPPIANS.
I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ,
because you have followed the example of true love (as displayed
by God), and have accompanied, as became you, those who were
bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which
are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God (Colossians
3:12) and our Lord; and because the strong root of
your faith, spoken of in days long gone by (cf.
Philemon 5), endureth even until now, and bringeth
forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 15:8), who
for our sins suffered even unto death (cf. 1
Corinthians 15:3), (but) "whom God raised from the
dead, having loosed the bands of the grave" (Acts 2:24). "In
whom, though now you see Him not, you believe, and believing,
rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8);
into which joy many desire to enter (Matthew
13:17; cf. 1 Peter 4:13),
knowing that "by grace you are saved, not of works," (Ephesians
2:8-9) but by the will of God through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians
CHAP. II - AN EXHORTATION TO VIRTUE.
"Wherefore, girding up your loins" (cf. Ephesians 6:14;1 Peter
1:13), "serve the Lord in fear" (cf. Hebrews
12:28) and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain,
empty talk and error of the multitude, and "believed in Him
who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave
Him glory" (1 Peter 1:21) and a throne at His right hand.
To Him all things in heaven and on earth are subject (1 Peter
3:22; cf. Philippians 2:10). Him every spirit serves. He comes
as the Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy
4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). His blood will God require of those who
do not believe in Him (cf. Luke 11:50). But He who raised
Him up from the dead will raise up us also (1 Corinthians
6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 8:11), if we do His will,
and walk in His commandments (2 John 6;cf.
and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness
(cf. John 7:18), covetousness, love of money, evil speaking,
false witness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for
railing" (1 Peter 3:9), or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing,
but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching :
"Judge not, that you be not judged; forgive, and it shall
be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy
(Romans 11:31); with what measure you mete, it shall be measured
to you again; and once more" (Matthew 7:1-2, cf. Matthew 6:12,14;
Luke 6:36-38), "Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted
for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God"
(Luke 6:20; Matthew 5:3,10).
CHAP. III - EXPRESSIONS OR PERSONAL UNWORTHINESS.
These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness,
not because I take anything upon myself, but because you have
invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one,
can come up to the wisdom (cf. 2 Peter 3:15)
of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among
you, accurately and stedfastly taught the word of truth (Ephesians
1:13) in the presence of those who were then alive (cf. Acts
16:13). And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter (Philippians),
which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means
of building you up in that faith which has been given you,
and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards
God, and Christ, and our neighbour, "is the mother of us all"
(Galatians 4:26). For if any one be inwardly possessed of
these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness,
since he that hath love is far from all sin (cf. James
CHAP. IV - VARIOUS EXHORTATIONS.
"But the love of money is the root of all evils" (1 Timothy
6:10). Knowing, therefore, that "as we brought nothing into
the world, so we can carry nothing out" (1 Timothy 6:7), let
us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness (2 Corinthians
6:7; Ephesians 6:11); and let us teach, first of all, ourselves
to walk in the commandments of the Lord (John 14:15)(2 John
1:6). Next, (teach) your wives (to walk) in the faith given
to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own
husbands in all truth, and loving all (others) equally in
all chastity (Titus 2:4,5); and to train up their children
in the knowledge and fear of God (Ephesians
6:4). Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the
faith of the Lord, praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
for all (cf. 1 Timothy 5:5), being far from all slandering,
evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every
kind of evil; knowing that they are the altar is of God, that
He clearly perceives all things, and that nothing is hid from
Him, neither reasonings, nor reflections, nor any one of the
secret things of the heart (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:25).
CHAP. V - THE DUTIES OF DEACONS, YOUTHS, AND VIRGINS.
Knowing, then, that "God is not mocked" (Galatians 6:7), we
ought to walk worthy of His commandment (2 John 6) and glory
(cf. 2 Peter 1:3). In like manner
should the deacons be blameless (Titus 1:7) before the face
of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ,
and not of men (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2-10). They must not be slanderers,
double-tongued (1 Timothy 3:8), or lovers of money (1 Timothy
3:8), but temperate in all things (1 Timothy 3:8), compassionate,
industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord (cf.
3 John 4), who was the servant of all (cf. Matthew 20:28;
Mark 9:35; John 13:14-16). If we please Him in this present
world, we shall receive also the future world, according as
He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the
dead, and that if we live worthily of Him (cf. Philippians
1:27), "we shall also reign together with Him" (2 Timothy
2:12), provided only we believe. In like manner, let the young
men also be blameless in all things, being especially careful
to preserve purity, and keeping themselves in, as with a bridle,
from every kind of evil (Titus 2:6-8). For it is well that
they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world,
since "every lust warreth against the spirit" (1 Peter 2:11);
and "neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves
with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians
6:9,10; cf. Revelation 22:15), nor
those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming (cf. Ephesians
5:4). Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all
these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons,
as unto God and Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:11-12).
The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience
(cf. Titus 2:4-8).
CHAP. VI - THE DUTIES OF PRESBYTERS AND OTHERS.
And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all,
bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and
not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always
"providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God
and man" (2 Corinthians 8:21; cf. Romans
12:17); abstaining from all wrath (cf. Galatians
5:19-20; 1 Peter 2:11), respect of persons, and unjust
judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly
crediting (an evil report) against any one, not severe in
judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin.
If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves
to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15); for we are before the eyes of
our Lord and God, and "we must all appear at the judgment-seat
of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself"
(Romans 14:10,12) (2 Corinthian 5:10). Let us then serve Him
in fear, and with all reverence (Hebrews 12:28), even as He
Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached
the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand
the coming of the Lord (have alike taught us). Let us be zealous
in the pursuit of that which is good (Galatians 4:18), keeping
ourselves from causes of offence (cf. Matthew
17:27) (Matthew 18:7), from
false brethren (2 Timothy 3:5), and
from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord (1
Timothy 4:1-2), and draw away vain men into error.
CHAP. VII - AVOID THE DOCETAE, AND PERSEVERE IN FASTING AND
"For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come
in the flesh, is antichrist"(1 John 4:3) (2 John 1:7), and
whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is
of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord
to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection
nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore,
forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let
us return to the word which has been handed down to us from
the beginning (cf. Jude 3); "watching
unto prayer" (1 Peter 4:7), and persevering in fasting; beseeching
in our supplications the all-seeing God "not to lead us into
temptation" (Matthew 6:13) as the Lord has said: "The spirit
truly is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41; Mark
CHAP. VIII - PERSEVERE IN HOPE AND PATIENCE.
Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest
of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, "who bore our
sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24), "who did
no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (1 Peter 2:22),
but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him (cf.
1 John 4:9). Let us then be imitators of His patience (James
5:10); and if we suffer for His name's sake, let us glorify
Him (Acts 5:41; Romans 8:17; cf. 1 Peter 4:16). For He has
set us this example in Himself, and we have believed that
such is the case (1 Peter 2:21).
CHAP. IX - PATIENCE INCULCATED.
I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word
of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you
have seen (set) before your eyes, not only in the case of
the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in
others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest
of the apostles. (This do) in the assurance that all these
have not run in vain (Philippians 2:16; Galatians 2:2), but
in faith and righteousness, and that they are (now) in their
due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they
suffered. For they loved not this present world (1 John 2:15;
cf. 2 Timothy 4:10), but Him who died for us, and for our
sakes was raised again by God from the dead.
CHAP. X - EXHORTATION TO THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE.
Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example
of the Lord (Philippians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:8, 2 Thessalonians
2:15), being firm and unchangeable in the faith (Hebrews 10:12)
(1 Corinthians 10:1; Jude 3), loving
the brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17), and being attached to one
another (cf. 1 Peter 3:8), joined
together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord
in your intercourse with one another (cf. 2
Corinthians 10:1), and despising no one. When you can
do good, defer it not (Galatians 6:10),
because alms delivers from death. Be all of you subject one
to another (1 Peter 5:5) "having your conduct blameless among
the Gentiles," (1 Peter 2:12) that you may both receive praise
for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through
you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed
(cf. 2 Peter 2:1-2)! Teach, therefore, sobriety to all, and
manifest it also in your own conduct.
CHAP. XI - EXPRESSION OF GRIEF ON ACCOUNT OF VALENS.
I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter
among you, because he so little understands the place that
was given him (in the Church). I exhort you, therefore, that
you abstain from covetousness (cf. Hebrews
13:5; Titus 2:12), and that
you be chaste (Titus 2:5) (2 Corinthians
11:2) and truthful. "Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians
5:22). For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters,
how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep
himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry,
and shall be judged as one of the heathen (cf. Colossians
3:5-6). But who of us are ignorant of the judgment
of the Lord? "Do we not know that the saints shall judge the
world?" as Paul teaches (1 Corinthians 6:2). But I have neither
seen nor heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of
whom the blessed Paul laboured, and who are commended in the
beginning of his Epistle (cf. Philippians 1:1-6). For he boasts
of you in all those Churches which alone then knew the Lord;
but we (of Smyrna) had not yet known Him. I am deeply grieved,
therefore, brethren, for him (Valens) and his wife; to whom
may the Lord grant true repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-25)! And
be you then moderate in regard to this matter, and "do not
count such as enemies" (2 Thessalonians 3:15), but call them
back as suffering and straying members, that you may save
your whole body. For by so acting you shall edify yourselves.
CHAP. XII - EXHORTATION TO VARIOUS GRACES.
For I trust that you are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures,
and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege
is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures,
"Be you angry, and sin not," and, "Let not the sun go down
upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Happy is he who remembers
this, which I believe to be the case with you. But may the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ
Himself, who is the Son of God (Mark 1:1), and our everlasting
High Priest (Hebrews 3:1), build you up in faith and truth,
and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering,
forbearance, and purity; and may He bestow on you a lot and
portion among His saints (cf. Revelation
14:12), and on us with you, and on all that are under
heaven, who shall believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ,
and in His Father, who "raised Him from the dead" (Galatians
1:1). Pray for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18,23). Pray also
for kings, and potentates, and princes (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-2),
and for those that persecute and hate you (Matthew 5:44),
and for the enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18), that
your fruit may be manifest to all, and that you may be perfect
CHAP. XIII - CONCERNING THE TRANSMISSION OF EPISTLES.
Both you and Ignatius wrote to me, that if any one went (from
this) into Syria, he should carry your letter with him; which
request I will attend to if I find a fitting opportunity,
either personally, or through some other acting for me, that
your desire may be fulfilled. The Epistles of Ignatius written
by him to us, and all the rest (of his Epistles) which we
have by us, we have sent to you, as you requested. They are
subjoined to this Epistle, and by them you may be greatly
profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and all things
that tend to edification in our Lord. Any more certain information
you may have obtained respecting both Ignatius himself, and
those that were with him, have the goodness to make known
CHAP. XIV - CONCLUSION.
These things I have written to you by Crescens, whom up to
the present time I have recommended unto you, and do now recommend.
For he has acted blamelessly among us, and I believe also
among you. Moreover, you will hold his sister in esteem when
she comes to you. Be you safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace
be with you all (Philemon 3). Amen.