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However, few scholars today maintain that the Fourth Gospel was written by one of the Twelve.

It is very non-obvious to me how this sentence relates to the subject of this article. Could you please expand? --Brion

It is Polycarp not poly-crap. Look at the picture —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:28, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Regarding John[edit]

Before my correction, the article stated as a fact that John, one of the Twelve, wrote the so-called Gospel of John. This cannot be maintained. See e.g. Raymond E. Brown's two-volume commentary on that gospel (1970ff) in the prestigious Anchor Bible series.

No it didn't. It stated:
Polycarp was a Christian bishop of Smyrna in the first and second centuries. He is generally recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. He was a disciple of John the Evangelist, who was one of the first twelve Apostles. One of his disciples was Ignatius of Antioch.
I don't see anything there about who wrote what gospels, by name or by number. --Brion
Please look at John the Evangelist.
It is true that in e.g. Roman Catholic liturgy the two "Johns" are regarded as one and the same person. But that has little to do with scientific (Church) history.


Shouldn't that note go in John the Evangelist, then? I still haven't the foggiest idea what it's doing in this article. --Brion


Sorry, I didn't put the note there: it was there, stating the matter as a fact. My contribution was just to point out that it is tradition, not historical fact.
If we are to continue this debate, it would help if you would make your personal opinion clear to me.

I have no opinion at all on the matter; virtually everything I know about the early history of Christianity comes from having seen Jesus Christ Superstar. Since the purpose of an encyclopedia is to inform the uninformed, consider me the ideal test audience. :) I find this part of the article to be a complete non-sequitur. Allow me to break it down bit by bit, using the current version:

Polycarp was a Christian bishop of Smyrna in the first and second centuries.

  • Polycarp was a bishop in a place called Smyrna, in the relatively early days of Christianity (first century or so after Christ)

He is generally recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

  • Polycarp is considered a saint by several major denominations.

According to tradition, he was a disciple of John the Evangelist, who was one of the first twelve Apostles.

  • Tradition says that Polycarp was a disciple of John the Evangelist.
    • further detail: John the Evangelist was one of the first twelve apostles.

However, few scholars today maintain that the Fourth Gospel was written by one of the Twelve.

  • Fourth Gospel? What the heck are you talking about? What does this have to do with Polycarp, or Polycarp's being a disciple of John the Evangelist, or John the Evangelist's being one of the twelve?

One of Polycarp's disciples was Ignatius of Antioch.

  • Polycarp had a disciple, named Ignatius of Antiooch.
  • Born: 69* Died: 155

Surviving writings include The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians. Also surviving is an account of The Martyrdom of Polycarp.

  • Polycarp wrote these two documents which are still extant.

As you can see, I'm quite thrown by a sudden mention that some numbered gospel's authorship is disputed, and thought not to have been written by one of the twelve. Why should I, reader of an article on Polycarp, care about whether the fourth gospel was written by one of the first twelve apostles, possibly John? How does whether John the Evangelist (or someone else) wrote the 4th gospel relate to the sentence "According to tradition, [Polycarp] was a disciple of John the Evangelist, who was one of the first twelve Apostles." --Brion

Sorry Brion, - It seems to me that you lack the most elementary knowledge about the New Testament. I have not the time or energy to explain these matters here. Please do what you like with the Polycarp article.

Sinverely yours S.

Well then, I'm removing the sentence in question until somebody who is interested in making comprehensible encyclopedia articles can explain why it belongs there. --Brion
  • Brion is right on time with all his facts,except for possibly 1.He records Polycarp's birth as being in c.69a.d.;however,we cannot in good faith declare Polycarp's birth year as a fact based on the quote attributed to Polycarp that he had served Christ for 86 years.If Polycarp was "born" a Christian,that is,if Polycarp considered himself a Christian from his birth,then 69a.d. would indeed be the date of his birth.However,historical writings that have survived antiquity tell us Polycarp was converted to Christianity by the Apostals themselves.If this is true,then Polycarp would have been born years before 69a.d.,and indeed,would have been much older than 86 years old at the time of his martyrdom.An appoximation of 100 years old for Polycarp(or older) at the time of his martyrdom would be more accurate then the age of 86 years.A man "of great age" when he was martyred? INDEED he was...Randy L.-3712

Further Comment[edit]


S: However, few scholars today maintain that the Fourth Gospel was written by one of the Twelve.

What is your proof that few scholars maintain that John was written by John? Have you defined "scholars" and taken a poll? (EnochBethany (talk) 01:32, 11 November 2014 (UTC))

Brion: *Fourth Gospel? What the heck are you talking about? What does this have to do with Polycarp, or Polycarp's being a disciple of John the Evangelist, or John the Evangelist's being one of the twelve?

End Quote

My understanding (and guessing) of the sentence probably is that the Fourth Gospel here is the Gospel of John, the author of which can be either of the following three:

  1. John the Evangelist, traditional view.
  2. one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, an alternative of the traditional view, probably what S. meant by saying "few scholars today maintain that...."
  3. a disciple of John the Evangelist, most likely Polycarp.


Grammatical Error

"According to Irenaeus, during the time his fellow Syrian, Anicetus, was Bishop of Rome, in the 150s or 160, Polycarp visited Rome to discuss the differences that existed between Asia and Rome "with regard to certain things" and especially about the time of the Easter festivals."

This sentence is a victim of comma splice, and should be rewritten. - Bryan. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:50, 17 January 2013 (UTC)



I've just read the page about Polycarp and noticed myself that it still says: It is probable that he knew St. John the Evangelist, the disciple of Jesus. As seems to be said above, surely it is merely a matter of church tradition only that John, the disciple of Jesus, was an evangelist (ie. author of the gospel that bears this name. Evangelist = gospel writer). The majority of experts on church history these days consider John's gospel to have been the last of the gospels to have been written, and that it reflects developed Christian theology, not the reminisences of an eye-witness. So what are the facts here? Is Polycarp supposed to have known the original John, and if so, on what evidence? Or is it just that he probably knew the person who wrote the gospel? Either way some editing seems required. Perhaps: It is probable that he knew St John, the disciple of Jesus.

As an aside, I must say this sounds surprising to me anyway, since surely John would have been very aged by the time Polycarp was around.

Revilo098 22:33, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

What is your proof that the majority of experts on C. H. consider that & deny eye-witness? Have you defined expert & taken a poll? Are not the majority of supposed experts in this area RCC & E Orthodox boys? You reckon they agree with you? I have taught C H on graduate level; & I don't agree with you. What do you mean by "church tradition"? Do you have a lot of primary sources which are not written by men who claimed to be Christians? What do the superscriptions or postscriptions of the mss say as to author? What do the writers closest to the time say about author? One typical argument which falls as a dud, is claims about what the majority of the scholars say (no one named; no poll taken). (EnochBethany (talk) 04:08, 11 November 2014 (UTC))

The fourth gospel, assuming briefly that John the Apostle wrote it (reasonably high probability), was probably written in the 90-100 A.D. time frame. So there would be no special reason to think that Polycarp did not know him based on age alone.

Further, John's gospel almost certainly does represent developed Christian theology, because he wrote it later to fill in the blanks in the other gospels. I'm not sure "merely . . . church tradition" isn't simply a contradiction in terms. Those who started "church tradition" were eyewitnesses; those who are experts now are trying to start fresh, in a sense, after 2,000 years. There are a number of possible authors -- including those who spent time with John the Apostle and then later wrote down his teachings -- but the chance that the Apostle himself wrote the gospel is as good if not better as anyone else.-- (talk) 20:24, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

Page name[edit]

Why was this moved from Polycarp to Saint Polycarpus? Polycarp is by far the more common name (500,000 google hits vs. 59,000 for "Polycarpus". There are now all kinds of redirects.--Cúchullain t/c 19:03, 21 April 2006 (UTC)

I moved it back.--Cúchullain t/c 19:17, 21 April 2006 (UTC)

Importance of martyrdom[edit]

I added some details about the importance of Polycarp's martyrdom, which seemed appropriate to the article. --LawrenceTrevallion 01:09, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

I added some details about how the later date for Polycarp's martyrdom are derived, primarily coming from Killen in response to Lightfoot. The pages from Lightfoot of interest are given as well to ensure that it is possible to check both sides of the story. However, it is harder to access the Killen paper, along with there being no Wiki for him. --Gilgamesh_42 00:43, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Switching the Evangelist for the Presbyter[edit]

The official RC view, which is presented in this article as factual history, conflates John the Evangelist with Polycarp's teacher John the Presbyter. Jerome did not make this mistake, which has been introduced effectively to draw Polycarp a generation closer to the Apostolic tradition. This is the root of the confusions reflected in posts above.

The more accurate, sourced article John the Presbyter is not reflected in the dogma presented as history here. No mention of John the Presbyter was at Prester John, or "Presbyter John". I have added a disambiguation there. Am I cynical to expect a spate of "revisions" to be made now at John the Presbyter? Let us see.--Wetman 00:18, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Discussion moved from article[edit]

With the previous statement "being at odds with the Biblical evidence" is incorrect. When you look at all the Deciples they were all Jews. They worshiped on Sabbath (Friday night to Saturday night) so Polycarp who studied under John would have learned of Sabbath. So the (Acts 20:7) talked about is a Saturday night meeting going on until Sunday day. (Evening to evening {look at how the Bible starts} Evening and morning are the first day, evening and morning is the second day, etc) Gods day starts at evening) So with this look real close at all those texts. 1 Cor 16:1,2 is talking about laying aside money (yes for an offering) but to the Jews Sunday was another work day, they shut down their businesses on Sabbath (friday night before dark and then could count their assets saturday night after dark) This is not a church collection. Mark 16:9 says on the first day of the week. If you look carefully it does not say Sabbath.. The women were going to do work on the first day of the week. To prepare Jesus' body for burial that would have been work... As the commandment says "you shall do no work......" on the Sabbath day...

The previous paragraph was added to the main article on March 30, 2008 by an unregistered user. --Bwpach (talk) 15:17, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Lutheran Saint?[edit]

The article declared that Polycarp is regarded as a saint also in the Lutheran churches - if someone could verify that. I'm from a Lutheran background and I have always been taught that there are no saints in the Lutheran Churches. (talk) 18:18, 6 August 2009 (UTC)Zcy

Passover Dating[edit]

Under "The Great Sabbath" section, it says: "...Nisan 14 (the date that Polycarp observed Passover) cannot come before the end of March in any year." This is not true, unless "the end of March" simply means "late March." In fact, Nisan 14 is on March 29 this year. (talk) 21:44, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

Recent edits and reversions concerning the identity of John[edit]

User Bulgary16 and user at IP-address please stop making edits that obscure that John the Evangelist, John the Apostle and John the Presbyter are not universally believed to be one and the same person. And don't remove references. Wikipedia articles are supposed to be point of view neutral. Martijn Meijering (talk) 18:29, 28 July 2010 (UTC)

Edit request from Kdoseck2008, 3 August 2010[edit]

{{editprotected}} Polycarp occupies an important place in the history of the early Christian Church[8]. He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survive. It is probable that he knew John the Apostle, the disciple of Jesus.[citation needed]

(The citation needed, you can use the information from the "Catholic Encyclopedia:St. Polycarp. (see this as the proof of this citation: Then follows the list of the Roman bishops down to Eleutherius, the twelfth from the Apostles, the ninth from Clement, "who had both seen and conversed with the blessed Apostles". From the Roman Church, representing all the churches, the writer then passes on to two Churches, that of Smyrna, in which, in the person of Polycarp, the sub-Apostolic Age had been carried down to a time still within living memory, and the Church of Ephesus, where, in the person of St. John, the Apostolic Age had been prolonged till "the time of Trajan". Of Polycarp he says, "he was not only taught by the Apostles, and lived in familiar intercourse with many that had seen Christ, but also received his appointment in Asia from the Apostles as Bishop in the Church of Smyrna". He then goes on to speak of his own personal acquaintance with Polycarp, his martyrdom, and his visit to Rome, where he converted many heretics. He then continues, "there are those who heard him tell how John, the disciple of the Lord, when he went to take a bath in Ephesus, and saw Cerinthus within, rushed away from the room without bathing, with the words 'Let us flee lest the room should fall in, for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within'. Yea, and Polycarp himself, also, when on one occasion Marcion confronted him and said 'Recognise us', replied, 'Ay, ay, I recognise the first-born of Satan' ".) Kdoseck2008 (talk) 18:47, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

I'd propose a more pov neutral formulation than "It is probable that he knew John the Apostle, the disciple of Jesus.". Traditional church teaching states the John mentioned by Irenaeus was John the Apostle and it seems likely this is what Irenaeus meant when he wrote about Polycarp being a disciple of John. If I'm not mistaken there were some doubts even in antiquity about which John was the real teacher of Polycarp. I believe Jerome stated somewhere that the author of Revelation and the author of the gospel of John cannot have been the same author, simply because their Greek is so different in style. I'll try to get some references from an expert. Martijn Meijering (talk) 19:00, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
It's probably a good thing to mention that the precise identity of the teacher of Polycarp is an important matter. As I understand it, standing within the Apostolic tradition was very important to Irenaeus, since it was the determining factor between orthodoxy and heresy. Irenaeus argues that through Polycarp and "John" he himself stood in that Apostolic tradition, unlike his gnostic opponents. And given Irenaeus' important role in establishing the Christian canon this is an important consideration for church teaching as a whole.
As far as I know there can be no doubt that Irenaeus was talking of John the Apostle, whom he probably believed to be identical with John the Evangelist, as he is talking in the context of establishing his own apostolic credentials. This ought to be mentioned in the article. There can be doubt as to whether this "John" was identical with John the Apostle, John the Evangelist or John the Presbyter. Traditional church teaching is that all three are the same person and this ought to be mentioned in the article. At the same time there are doubts within critical scholarship whether this is historically true. This too ought to be mentioned. Martijn Meijering (talk) 19:39, 3 August 2010 (UTC)
X mark.svg Not done Please establish a consensus before using the editprotected template. HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 23:16, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

"Importance" section[edit]

"Surviving accounts of the bravery of this very old man in the face of death by burning at the stake added credence to his words."

What is the point of this sentence? I would argue for its removal as it adds nothing as far as I can see.

--Skepp, 05 March 2013 —Preceding undated comment added 14:27, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

link rot[edit]

The link to Wikisource goes to deleted material. (talk) 13:48, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

Delete "pope" where not supported by reliable 2ndary source.[edit]

Irenaeus does not call anyone pope. I deleted the claim about Anicetus. I searched Irenaeus and didn't find "pope" anywhere. Also I searched for Anicetus in Irenaeus and never found Anicetus called anything like "pope." Irenaeus does call him Bishop of Rome. The article gives no reliable secondary source either to support this claim. And referring to anyone that early as "pope" is definitely a violation of NPOV. Of course RCC scholars will say there was a pope, and of course many non-RCC scholars will deny that a pope existed that early. (EnochBethany (talk) 01:29, 11 November 2014 (UTC))