Satanology of the Apostolic Fathers: Martyrdom of Polycarp

On the basis of the most likely date for the death of Polycarp himself,1 the Martyrdom of Polycarp is typically dated to the late second century.2  The extant textual tradition consists of seven Greek manuscripts dating from the tenth to the twelfth century, one thirteenth century manuscript, Codex Mosquensis (the Moscow Manuscript, which is notable for its many unique readings),3 quotations in Eusebius, and a Latin translation.4 Chapters 21 and 22 contain comments by later writers, and are themselves likely to be later additions to the original text.5

A brief reference to eschatological events makes no mention of satan, demons, or fallen angels, despite its reference to ‘the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment which is reserved for the ungodly’ (11.2),6 where reference to ‘the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:41, New English Translation), might at least be expected.There is one use of diabolos (2:4),7 and one use of ho ponēros, ‘the evil one’, or ‘the evil’ (17:1),8 both as explanatory recourse for Christian martyrdom. A single instance of satanas (23:2), appears in a chapter which was not part of the original text, is found only in the Moscow Manuscript, and consequently need not be considered.9

The variety of different renderings in both the scholarly English translations and the critical editions of the Greek text reflects the underlying inconsistencies of the textual tradition, due to poorly preserved manuscripts,10 textual variants and interpolations,11 and the grammatical uncertainty of various passages.12 Comparison of the extant manuscripts reveals various forms of editing, redaction, and interpolation, reducing the integrity of the available textual witness.13 This is particularly the case with regard to 2:4 and 17:1, the only passages in which satanological terminology is used. Although these recognized textual inconsistencies, interpolations, and ambiguities do not suggest that either ho ponēros or diabolos have no place in the text, they do indicate that these passages have been subjected to modifications intended to alter the intended meaning of these terms by changing their referents.

Standard English translations of 2:4 typically obscure the underlying textual difficulty.

Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:
4 And in a similar manner those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured terrible punishments: they were forced to lie on sharp shells and afflicted with various other forms of torture in order that he7 might, if possible, by means of the unceasing punishment compel them to deny their faith; for the devil tried many things against them.14

A footnote advises that the reading ‘in order that he might’ is only supported by one manuscript in the textual tradition, the Moscow Manuscript;15 all the other textual witnesses16 read ho turannos, ‘the tyrant’.17 Brannan’s English translation reads ‘tyrant’, following Kirsopp Lake’s Greek text;18 Lieu also notes the variant.19 The interpretive implications of the original reading will be addressed shortly. Likewise, the text of 17:1-2 historically caused both copyists and interpreters great difficulty, for reasons apparent even in English.

Martyrdom of Polycarp 17:
1 But the jealous and envious Evil One, the adversary of the race of the righteous, when he observed the greatness of his martyrdom and that his life was irreproachable from the beginning, and that he was now crowned with the crown of immortality and had won a prize which no one could challenge, saw to it that not even his poor body should be taken away by us, even though many desired to do this and to touch his holy flesh.
2 So he incited Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to plead with the magistrate not to give up his body, “or else,” he said, “they may abandon the crucified one and begin to worship this man”—all this being done at the instigation and insistence of the Jews, who even watched when we were about to take it from the fire; they did not know that we will never be able either to abandon the Christ who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those who are saved, the blameless on behalf of sinners, or to worship anyone else.20

Although the ‘evil one’ is said to incite Nicetes, it is unclear whether the direct quotation which follows are the words of the ‘evil one’ or Nicetes. The Greek text is even more obscure, since the word for ‘the adversary’ (antikeimenos), may refer either to a human or supernatural agent.21 Gibson notes that the grammar of 17:1 can be parsed in a range of ways, making it ‘unclear who or what this “evil one” is’,22 and that ‘strained syntax’ in 17:2b results in uncertainty as to who it was that expressed concern that the Christians might abandon Jesus and worship Polycarp.23 She further observes that these ambiguities of grammar and syntax ‘coincide with instability in the textual tradition’.24 This suggests that copyists of the text struggled with its original lack of clarity and sought to correct it with modifications of their own, resulting in further difficulties for later copyists; Gibson herself notes significant editing in the manuscript tradition at this place in the text, with two manuscripts completely omitting 17.2d and 17.3 altogether.25

There is strong evidence that the lack of clarity as to the role of the ‘evil one’ was responsible for the confusion of subsequent copyists, and the consequent instability of the text. Although ‘the evil one’ is the initial subject of the passage, Nicetes is introduced later as the agent of opposition against the Christians wishing to recover the body of Polycarp, then finally the Jews are held responsible for instigating the opposition,26 in a way which makes them appear to be responsible for Nicetes’ decision, rather than ‘the evil one’. Eusebius edited the text in the process of copying it,27 addressing the ambiguity of the text by making a specific effort to connect ‘the Jews’ with ‘the evil one’.28 Instead of the ambiguous reading ‘he incited Nicetes’, Eusebius wrote ‘certain ones suggested Nicetes’, and changed the syntax of the paragraph to fit.29

‘So certain ones suggested Niketes, Herod’s father and Alke’s brother, petition the governor not to give up his body, ‘Otherwise,’ he said, ‘they may abandon the crucified one and begin to worship this man.’ They said these things at the suggestion and insistence of the Jews…’30

The consequence is a text from which the influence of ‘the evil one’ has been removed completely, so that the opposition originates from human opponents instead of from ‘the evil one’.31 The significance of this is that Eusebius saw this as a valid interpretation of the text, despite the presence of ‘the evil one’ at the start of the paragraph. Following Eusebius, Rufinus likewise retained the reference to ‘the evil one’ while reading the remainder of the text as a description of human opponents preventing the removal of Polycarp’s body.32

‘But that envier of all good and adversary of all the just, after he saw that [Polycarp] was crowned on account of the glory of his martyrdom and the virtues of his outstanding life, and obtained the prizes of immortality by his death, began to busy himself so that no-one would hand over his remains for burial to us asking. Therefore Nicetas, father of Herod, and brother of Dalca [sic], was incited to go to the judge and ask him that he not hand over the body for burial; he [Nicetas] said, ‘lest perhaps the Christians, leaving him who was crucified, begin to worship this man.’33

These revisions by Eusebius and Rufinus not only illustrate the inherent ambiguities and textual difficulties of the text as they received it, but also the challenge of identifying ‘the evil one’ as responsible for influencing Nicetes to petition the magistrate not to surrender Polycarp’s body. Aside from the grammatical ambiguity, it is also possible that nether Eusebius nor Rufinus (both of whom most likely understood ‘the evil one’ to be the devil of their theology), could understand why Satan would not want Christians to abandon their devotion to Christ. However, Eusebius’ text results in the Jews fearing that the Christians would renounce Christ in favour of Polycarp, which hardly seems more credible, and is possibly the reason why Rufinus made a further edit to remove all reference to the Jews completely, making Nicetas the one expressing concern for the potential shift in Christian loyalty.

Linguistic parallels with the Maccabean literature provide a useful insight into the source of the narrative’s structure and content, and point towards a simple solution to the identity of ‘the evil one’ which resolves the interpretive difficulties with which Eusebius and Rufinus struggled. It is widely agreed that the Martyrdom of Polycarp has been modeled on the Jewish martyrdom tradition, in particular the martyrology of 4 Maccabees.34 Additionally, the use of both 2 and 4 Maccabees has been noted by Perler, Baumeister, and Lieu, with Lieu arguing the parallels with Maccabean literature are stronger than those with biblical literature or contemporary Christian influences such as Ignatius.35 The author’s familiarity with the Maccabean literature is an interpretive key to the understanding of the diabolos in 2.4 and the ‘evil one’ in 17.1. As noted previously, the majority reading of the textual tradition in 2.4 is ho turannos, ‘the tyrant’.

Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:
4 And in a similar manner those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured terrible punishments: they were forced to lie on sharp shells and afflicted with various other forms of torture in order that he7 [most manuscripts, ho turannos, ‘the tyrant’] might, if possible, by means of the unceasing punishment compel them to deny their faith; for the devil tried many things against them.36

The Moscow Manuscript lacks ho turannos, making ho diabolos the subject, instead of the majority reading in which ho turannos is the subject and interprets diabolos. There are several reasons for preferring the majority reading. On internal considerations, it seems less likely that a copyist would add ho turannos (‘the tyrant’), to a martyrological passage in which the subject was already identified clearly as ho diabolos (‘the devil’). It is more likely that a copyist would consider ho turannos to cause an unnecessary confusion of the subject by rendering the identity of ho diabolos ambiguous, and wish to remove it in order to ensure the presence of the devil is made explicit.

Additionally, it seems less likely that a copyist would add ho turannos, which would be unusual in this context since ‘it is not a common term in Christian martyrologies’.37 Even more significantly, ho turannos is not only used of earthly persecutors in Jewish martyrology, but was used extensively in 4 Maccabees, the very text on which Martyrdom of Polycarp was modeled.38 With the reading ho turannos, the diabolos in 2.4 then becomes a term for the earthly persecutor, the Roman proconsul mentioned in the very next passage (3.1).39 Further evidence for this is the fact that ho diabolos ponēros (‘the evil enemy’), is used in 1 Maccabees 1:36 of the opponents of the Jews under Apollonius,40 providing a possible source for ho ponēros in Martyrdom of Polycarp 17.1.

Summarizing the external evidence therefore, the extensive use of Maccabean literature by Martyrdom of Polycarp, the fact that ho turannos is used in the text on which it was most dependent, and the fact that ho diabolos ponēros is found in 1 Maccabees as a reference to human persecutors, gives good reason to maintain the reading ho turannos in Martyrdom of Polycarp, and understand both 2.4 and 17.1 as referring to the Roman proconsul. This is also in harmony with the description of the ‘evil one’ in 17.1 as ‘jealous and envious’, a term which makes sense as a polemical description of the proconsul, who not only wishes to turn the martyrs from worshipping Jesus to worshipping Caesar (thus ‘jealous’ of the worship received by Jesus), but who would also be concerned by the Christians abandoning their veneration of Jesus, only to take up Polycarp as a substitute.

Support from this is found in 1 Clement, in which human jealousy is cited repeatedly as the motivation for the persecution of Christians by Roman rulers (5.1-6.2), making this an established martyrological motif.41 In contrast, it seems considerably less likely that a Christian writer would consider the devil to be jealous of worship (since he is never the subject of worship even by his followers), and dismayed by Christians abandoning their devotion of Jesus for the idolizing of Polycarp. Further evidence for this interpretation is the fact that the ‘evil one’ does not oppose the Christians directly, but seeks the aid of a human assistant, who is then used to petition the magistrate.42 This seems more than a little clumsy if a supernatural evil being is involved, who could simply move the magistrate directly to oppose the Christians.

Finally, when the centurion eventually burns the body of Polycarp to prevent its recovery by the Christians, his action is not connected in any way with the ‘evil one’; instead the Jews are held to blame (18.1),43 and the devil is not identified as either the proximate or ultimate cause. If the reader is intended to understand that the devil was in fact attempting to obstruct the Christians, it is curious that his carefully orchestrated scheme involving three different people is abruptly dropped from the narrative, and a Roman soldier is successful instead. If the ‘evil one’ is understood as the proconsul, it is more comprehensible that the centurion’s independent action, prompted by Jewish opposition to the Christian’s, pre-empts the plan of his superior.

The paucity of satanological language in the Martyrdom of Polycarp is remarkable given the genre of the work, especially in comparison with the explicitly supernatural references in Ignatius’ descriptions of martyrdom (Romans 5.3;44 7:7,45 Magnesians 1.246). Consequently it may be classified as non-mythological

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  1. ‘In view of the various difficulties, including a possible leap year, greater precision than approximately 155 to 160 is probably unwarranted.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 145. []
  2. ‘On the composition date, the majority of scholars still favor the late second century,’, David L. Eastman, Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West (Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 4. []
  3. ‘Of these, m [Mosquensis] stands out as distinctive in many of its readings, a good number of which agree with the quotations of Eusebius, who cites most of the document in his Ecclesiastical History 4.15 (although he paraphrases 2.2-7.3 and gives no citation of 19.2-22.3).’, Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers: I Clement. II Clement. Ignatius. Polycarp. Didache (Harvard University Press, 2003), 363. []
  4. ‘The text of the Martyrdom is preserved in eight Greek manuscripts. One of the eight, the “Moscow Manuscript” (m), offers a different text of the final few paragraphs. Eusebius preserves some extracts from the letter in his Church History (4.15), and there is also a Latin version of the document.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 302. []
  5. ‘The letter of the church of Smyrna originally ended with Mart. Pol. 20. Chapter 21 was added because of an interest in the hagiographic calendar – evidence that a special festival in memory of the famous bishop’s martyrdom was being instituted.’, Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament (Walter de Gruyter, 2000), 348; ‘Chapters 21 and 22 may be (and the notes by Gaius, Socrates, and Pionius certainly are) later additions to the text.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 300. []
  6. ‘Then he said to him again: “I will have you consumed by fire, since you despise the wild beasts, unless you change your mind.” But Polycarp said: “You threaten with a fire that burns only briefly and after just a little while is extinguished, for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you wish.”’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 235. []
  7. ‘And in a similar manner those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured terrible punishments: they were forced to lie on sharp shells and afflicted with various other forms of torture in order that he might, if possible, by means of the unceasing punishment compel them to deny their faith; for the devil tried many things against them.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 229. []
  8. ‘But the jealous and envious Evil One, the adversary of the race of the righteous, when he observed the greatness of his martyrdom and that his life was irreproachable from the beginning, and that he was now crowned with the crown of immortality and had won a prize which no one could challenge, saw to it that not even his poor body should be taken away by us, even though many desired to do this and to touch his holy flesh.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 241. []
  9. ‘The Moscow manuscript additionally includes an anecdote of Polycarp confronting Marcion, which can also be found in Irenaeus, Haer. 3.3.4. The text narrates that Marcion ‘once met’ Polycarp, without locating this encounter. Marcion exclaimed: ‘Recognize us, Polycarp.’ Polycarp fired back: ‘I do recognize [you] – I recognize the firstborn of Satan.’’, Paul Hartog, Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp: Introduction, Text, and Commentary, Oxford Apostolic Fathers (Oxford University Press, 2013), 334. []
  10. ‘Several of the manuscripts are in poor or fragmentary condition.’, Paul Hartog, Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp: Introduction, Text, and Commentary, Oxford Apostolic Fathers (Oxford University Press, 2013), 167. []
  11. Gibson’s annotation of a critical text is typical, ‘Square brackets denote material missing in two manuscripts. Italics mark interpolations according to Campenhausen, “Bearbeitungen und Interpolationen des Polykarpmartyriums.” Underlined text marks possible interpolations according to Schoedel, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Fragments of Papias.’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 152. []
  12. For example, ‘According to whose custom is the body cremated? It sounds as if he means Jewish custom, but we have no ancient examples of Jews who practiced cremation rather than burial. Presumably he means pagan custom, but the grammar is ambiguous.’, Claudia Setzer, Jewish Responses to Early Christian: History and Polemics, 30-150 CE (Fortress Press, 1994), 115. []
  13. ‘Neither the consensus with respect to MPoly’s date nor its integrity are so sound that the text can be regarded as a transparent account of Christian life in Smyrna and certainly not of relations between Jews and Christians, especially given revisions recently proposed.’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 150. []
  14. Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 229. []
  15. Designated ‘m’ in the footnote. []
  16. Manuscripts b, p, s, v, c, a, the combined witness of which is designated ‘g’ in the footnote, as explained in the introduction; ‘g = the combined testimony of bpsvca’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 241. []
  17. he [i.e., the devil]: so m; g reads the tyrant.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 229. []
  18. ‘ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ οἱ εἰς τὰ θηρία κατακριθέντες ὑπέμειναν δεινὰς κολάσεις, κήρυκας ὑποστρωννύμενοι καὶ ἄλλαις ποικίλων βασάνων ἰδέαις κολαζόμενοι, ἵνα, εἰ δυνηθείη· ὁ τύραννος διὰ τῆς ἐπιμόνου κολάσεως εἰς ἄρνησιν αὐτοὺς τρέψῃ. πολλὰ γὰρ ἐμηχανᾶτο κατʼ αὐτῶν ὁ διάβολος.’, Rick Brannan, Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear (Lexham Press, electronic ed. 2011); ‘The Greek text used in this interlinear is Kirsopp Lake’s edition, originally published in the Loeb Classical Library: Lake, Kirsopp. The Apostolic Fathers. 2 vols. Loeb Classical Library 24–25. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912–13. Most areas where there are serious differences between Lake and the other available Greek editions (those of Holmes, Lightfoot, and Ehrman) are discussed in notes.’, Rick Brannan, “Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear” (Lexham Press, electronic ed. 2011). []
  19. ‘And possibly as ‘the tyrant’ (o turannoV) which is read in 2.4 by the majority of Greek MSS (except M).’, Judith Lieu, Neither Jew Nor Greek?: Constructing Early Christianity (A&C Black, 2005), 145. []
  20. Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 241. []
  21. ‘At the beginning of the passage ‘the adversary’ (o antikeimenoV) or devil is the singular subject of two verbs: epiethdeusen (‘he saw to it’ that Polycarp’s body not be taken) and uperbalen (‘he suggested’ that Niketes petition the governor). The portion of direct speech that follows appears to be the Devil’s rationalization of why keeping Polycarp’s body was important, but it is grammatically somewhat unclear whose words they are: the Devil’s words to Niketes or Niketes’ words to the governor?  The lack of clarity about who is speaking here exploits the ambiguity of antikeimenoV, which stood in scripture for both a cosmic spiritual adversary and a human doing such an adversary’s dirty work.’, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, “Diabololical Motivations: The Devil in Ecclesiastical Histories from Eusebius to Evagrius,” in Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, ed. Professor Geoffrey Greatrex and Professor Hugh Elton (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015), 123. []
  22. ‘The passage’s roughness is evident in its opening sentence. It is unclear who or what this “evil one” is: he is identified by a string of substantives that allows multiple parsings (o de antizhloV kai baskanoV kai ponhroV, o antikeimenoV tw genei twn dikaiwn).’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 154. []
  23. ‘The syntax of this passage is similarly strained. MPoly 17.2b begins with an abrupt shift into direct speech to introduce the concern that the Christians might give up Christ to worship Polycarp. The subject of fhsiV, the verb that introduces the direct speech, however, is unclear: the “evil one,” Nicetes, and the archon are all possibilities.’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 154. []
  24. ‘Interestingly, these stressors to the syntax and coherence of the passage coincide with instability in the textual tradition.’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 155. []
  25. ‘Variations in the manuscript tradition also plague this passage and, although they have not figured prominently in its analysis, can cast new light on this vexing passage. Two manuscripts omit 17.2d and 17.3, resulting in this text:

    … 17.2a So he incited Nicetes, the father of Herod and the brother of Alce, to beg the magistrate not to give up his body. 17.2b “Lest,” he said, “they abandon the Crucified and begin to worship this man.” 17.2c And with the Jews suggesting and urging these things, the Jews who watched as we were about to take him from the fire. 18.1 When the centurion, then, saw the contentiousness caused by the Jews, he put him in the center, as they usually do, and burned him…’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 155. []

  26. ‘In the final sentence of this passage the focus of blame shifts abruptly again to another party, the Jews, who share the same verb of suggestion that was just used of the devil (upoballw). This is not the first, or the worst, imputation of diabolical malevolence to the Jews by early Christians.’, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, “Diabololical Motivations: The Devil in Ecclesiastical Histories from Eusebius to Evagrius,” in Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, ed. Professor Geoffrey Greatrex and Professor Hugh Elton (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015), 123. []
  27. ‘But even Eusebius’ text must have been the result of some revisions of the original, as Hans Von Campenhausen has demonstrated in a convincing analysis.’, Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament (Walter de Gruyter, 2000), 348. []
  28. ‘Eusebius, the earliest witness to the story, forges more tightly the connection between the activities of the “evil one” and the Jews.’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 155. []
  29. ‘Eusebius reproduced the Martyrdom of Polycarp in his Ecclesiastical History in a combination of paraphrase and near verbatim citation, with only a handful of small changes. However, some of those changes were made to passages where the original text had an interesting ambiguity of the relative agency of humans and the devil. For example, in his version of the penultimate sentence of the passage of Marti. Pol. cited above, Eusebius introduced a brand new plural subject, tineV, ‘certain ones,’ who governed a plural verb of suggestion(upebalon), and a new plural verb of saying (epien):’, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, “Diabololical Motivations: The Devil in Ecclesiastical Histories from Eusebius to Evagrius,” in Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, ed. Professor Geoffrey Greatrex and Professor Hugh Elton (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015), 123. []
  30. Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, “Diabololical Motivations: The Devil in Ecclesiastical Histories from Eusebius to Evagrius,” in Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, ed. Professor Geoffrey Greatrex and Professor Hugh Elton (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015), 124. []
  31. ‘That is, Eusebius has entirely removed the devil from the story of the embassy to the governor, and instead introduced the intervention of plural humans making suggestions to Niketes – humans who probably anticipate the plural Jews mentioned next. This alteration made it impossible to identify the singular speaker in the middle of this paragraph as the devil himself, whispering in human ears, and clarified that it was Niketes speaking.’, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, “Diabololical Motivations: The Devil in Ecclesiastical Histories from Eusebius to Evagrius,” in Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, ed. Professor Geoffrey Greatrex and Professor Hugh Elton (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015), 124. []
  32. ‘For example, Rufinus, following the Martyrdom of Polycarp and Eusebius, described the devil as hatching a plot to prevent the body of the saint from being rescued, but used a passive verb, instigabatur, without any diabolical ablative agent, to describe Niketes’ approach to the governor (here, ‘judge’):’, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, “Diabololical Motivations: The Devil in Ecclesiastical Histories from Eusebius to Evagrius,” in Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, ed. Professor Geoffrey Greatrex and Professor Hugh Elton (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015), 124-5. []
  33. Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, “Diabololical Motivations: The Devil in Ecclesiastical Histories from Eusebius to Evagrius,” in Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, ed. Professor Geoffrey Greatrex and Professor Hugh Elton (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015), 125. []
  34. ‘The mid-second-century document Martyrdom of Polycarp also carries traces of awareness of the portrayal of the martyrdoms in 4 Maccabees. Before the execution is carried out, Polycarp is given a chance to offer incense to the emperor. The proconsul’s invitation is very similar to Antiochus’s invitation to Eleazar (4 Macc. 5.11-12): ‘the proconsul tried to persuade him to a denial saying, “Have respect for thine age”, and other things in accordance therewith, as is their wont to say’ (Mart. Pol. 9). The final phrase provides evidence that the antagonist’s portrayal in martyrologies has already become somewhat conventionalized and 4 Maccabees is the earliest expression of this particular convention (hence perhaps its originator). Polycarp’s refusal is framed with the same logic found in the seven brothers, who prefer to face the torments that last for a season rather than procure temporary safety at the cost of eternal punishment, the fate of the impious (4 Macc. 9.7-9, 31-32; 10.11; 13.14-15): ‘you threaten that fire which burns for a season and after a little while is quenched: for you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgement and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly’ (Mart. Pol. 11). The Martyrdom of Polycarp (1; 13; 17) continues the sense given to the word ‘witness’ found in 4 Macc. 16.16 as a testimony given through the endurance of sufferings and death. The death of the martyr is again a new birth (Mart. Pol. 18; cf. 4 Macc. 16.13); the martyr carries off the prize (Mart. Pol. 17; cf. 4 Macc. 16.28; 17.12) and the reward of his testimony is a ‘crown of immortality’ (Mart. Pol. 17. 20; cf. 4 Macc. 17.12, 15). Once more, there are enough points of correspondence to suggest that 4 Maccabees was formative at some level for the shaping of the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom.’, David deSilva, 4 Maccabees (A&C Black, 1998), 150-1; ‘4 Maccabees certainly influenced the description of the martyrdom of Polycarp, which is reminiscent of the Akedah. Polycarp was compared to a ‘noble ram out of a great flock for an offering, a burnt offering made ready and acceptable to God.’ The allusion to the Akedah was reinforced by the description of the martyr being bound, rather than being nailed. In 4 Maccabees Isaac is portrayed as a martyr who consciously accepted the role of the sacrificial animal.’, Edward Kessler, Bound by the Bible: Jews, Christians and the Sacrifice of Isaac (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 105; ‘Isaac emerges most fully as a Christian model for martyrdom in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, an account which itself owes something to 4 Maccabees. The narrative is set at the time of Passover. Like Isaac, Polycarp goes to his death with “confidence and joy”. Most significantly, at the moment of execution, Polycarp refuses to be nailed to his funeral pyre and is bound instead, like a “distinguished ram,” prepared as an “acceptable burnt-offering” to God (cf. the mother’s last description of Isaac in 4 Macc 18:11).’, Ruth A. Clements, “Parallel Lives of Early Jewish and Christian Texts and Art,” in New Approaches to the Study of Biblical Interpretation in Judaism of the Second Temple Period and in Early Christianity: Proceedings of the Eleventh International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, Jointly Sponsored by the Hebrew University Center for the Study of Christianity, 9–11 January, 2007, ed. Gary Anderson, Ruth A. Clements, and David Satran (Brill, 2013), 216; ‘But 4 Maccabees is also strikingly similar to various Christian martyrologies. This literary genre makes its first appearance in Christian form during the second century, from which point the accounts proliferate. Many of these texts also exhibit the lurid description characteristic of 4 Maccabees; for example, Polycarp is burned alive in the Sabbath,’, Douglas A. Campbell, The Rhetoric of Righteousness in Romans 3.21-26 (A&C Black, 1992), 227. []

  35. ‘Perler (1949), 66-7, and Baumeister (1980), 295-8, argue that the author of Mart. Pol. has used 2 and 4 Maccabees.’, Friedrich Avemarie and Jan Willem van Henten, Martyrdom and Noble Death: Selected Texts from Graeco-Roman, Jewish and Christian Antiquity (Routledge, 2005), 95 ; ‘The echoes in M. Poly. of Jewish martyrological traditions, and in particular of 2 and especially 4 Maccabees, although rarely if ever implying direct quotation or allusion, are stronger than their common biblical roots might explain. They are also far stronger than the echoes often noted in Ignatius’s understanding of his forthcoming martyrdom, to which M. Poly. is also heir.’, Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality: the Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century (London;  New York: T&T Clark, 1996), 79–80. []
  36. Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 229. []
  37. ‘Although often seen as secondary, it is not a common term in Christian martyrologies,’, Judith Lieu, Neither Jew Nor Greek?: Constructing Early Christianity (A&C Black, 2005), 145. []
  38. ‘it is used of the earthly opponent and persecutor in Jewish martyr stories (4 Macc. 9.1, 10, etc.), and so perhaps should be preserved.’, Judith Lieu, Neither Jew Nor Greek?: Constructing Early Christianity (A&C Black, 2005), 145; ‘In 4 Maccabees the word tyrannos is liberally employed, making, like nomos, over forty appearances. In the martyrology itself, Antiochus, o turannoV, is indeed the archetypal tyrant, seated on a lofty throne, his fully-armed soldiers mustered around him.’, Tessa Rajak, “Dying for the Law: The Martyr’s Portrait in Jewish-Greek Literature,” in Portraits: Biographical Representation in the Greek and Latin Literature of the Roman Empire, ed. Mark Edwards and Simon Swain (Oxford University Press, 1997), 53. []
  39. ‘But thanks be to God, for he did not prevail against any of them.8 For the most noble Germanicus encouraged them, fearful though they were, by his own patient endurance; he also fought with the wild beasts in an outstanding way. For when the proconsul wished to persuade him and asked him to consider his youthfulness, he forcibly dragged the wild beast toward himself, desiring to be released as quickly as possible from their unrighteous and lawless life.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 229. []
  40. ‘καὶ ἐγένετο εἰς ἔνεδρον τῷ ἁγιάσματι καὶ εἰς διάβολον πονηρὸν τῷ Ισραηλ διὰ παντός.’, Werner Kappler, ed., Maccabaeorum Liber I (vol. IX, 1; Vetus Testamentum Graecum. Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967), 1 Mac 1:36. []
  41. ‘5. But to pass from the examples of ancient times, let us come to those champions who lived nearest to our time. Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our own generation. (2) Because of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars14 were persecuted, and fought to the death. (3) Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. (4) There was Peter, who, because of unrighteous jealousy, endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. (5) Because of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the way to the prize for patient endurance. (6) After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, (7) having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West.15 Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance. 6. To these men who lived holy lives there was joined a vast multitude of the elect who, having suffered many torments and tortures because of jealousy, set an illustrious example among us. (2) Because of jealousy women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae,16 suffering in this way terrible and unholy tortures, but they safely reached the goal in the race of faith, and received a noble reward, their physical weakness notwithstanding.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 35. []
  42. ‘The “evil one” also does not directly oppose the Christians; rather, he seeks the help of Nicetes, who is himself awkwardly introduced by his relationship to two family members.’, E. Leigh Gibson, “The Jews and Christians in the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 154. []
  43. ‘The centurion, therefore, seeing the opposition raised by the Jews, set it in the middle and cremated it, as is their custom.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 241. []
  44. ‘Bear with me—I know what is best for me. Now at last I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing visible or invisible envy me, so that I may reach Jesus Christ. Fire and cross and battles with wild beasts, mutilation, mangling,73 wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil—let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ!’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 173. []
  45. ‘The ruler of this age wants to take me captive and corrupt my godly intentions. Therefore none of you who are present must help him. Instead take my side, that is, God’s. Do not talk about Jesus Christ while you desire the world.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 173–175. []
  46. ‘For inasmuch as I have been judged worthy to bear a most godly name, in these chains which I bear I sing the praises of the churches, and I pray that in them there may be a union of flesh and spirit that comes from Jesus Christ, our never-failing life, and of faith and love, to which nothing is preferable, and—what is more important—of Jesus and the Father. In him we will, if we patiently endure all the abuse of the ruler of this age and escape, reach God.’, Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 152. []

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