Polycarp's letter to the Philippians

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The Letter to the Philippians (often simply called Philippians) is an epistle composed around AD 110 to 140[1] by Polycarp of Smyrna, one of the Apostolic Fathers, from Antioch[2] to the early Christian church in Philippi. The letter is described by Irenaeus as follows:

There is also a forceful epistle written by Polycarp to the Philippians, from which those who wish to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth.[3]

The letter is one of a number believed to have been written by Polycarp, but is the only extant document.[4] The letter was composed in Greek, but the Greek text has not been preserved in its entirety; there is also a Latin translation of the letter.[5] Moreover, a few quotations of it are preserved in Syriac.[6]


The letter warns against a number of disorders in the church and against apostasy, and encourages the Christians to persevere in good works. It also acted as a covering letter for a collection of writings by Ignatius of Antioch, whose works were being collected by the church at Philippi after Ignatius' visit there.[4][7]

This is one quotation from the epistle:

"Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, 'firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,' helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man."

One of the letter's more important features is its use and citation of other early Christian writings, many of which later came to be part of the New Testament.[7]


  1. ^ Early Christian Writings on Polycarp. Raymond Brown (Introduction to the New Testament, 1997) p. 665 estimates 120-30.
  2. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: St Polycarp
  3. ^ James Stevenson, A new Eusebius (London: SPCK, 1965), p. 120
  4. ^ a b Kirsopp Lake The Apostolic Fathers Volume 1. (London: Heinemann, 1912), pp. 280-281.
  5. ^ On the Greek and Latin manuscript witnesses to the Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians, see Sailors, Timothy B. "Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations". Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  6. ^ Timothy B. Sailors, "Quotations of Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians Preserved in Syriac," The Harp: A Review of Syriac, Oriental and Ecumenical Studies 27 (2012) pp. 335-342
  7. ^ a b Glenn Davis, The Development of the Canon of the New Testament

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