Church father who knew St. John the disciple?

Several months ago, I was reading about church fathers who knew the apostles personally.

I came across a Church Father who, when he was young, personally saw and heard John the disciple preach.

I was wondering if anyone knows the name of this Church father…it could be St. Ireneaus but I cannot remember. Thanks.

It’s Polycarp.

Ignatius of Antioch

Polycarp personally knew John.

The bit that I read said that this church father didn’t personally know John, but when he was a young boy he heard John (who was an old man at the time) preaching.

It’s bugging me, I don’t remember who he was.

Also St. Ignatius of Antioch supposedly heard St. John the Apostle.

Could it be that you may be thinking that Ignatius of Antioch heard Jesus preaching when a young boy? There is a ‘legend’ that Ignatius of Antioch was one of the children Jesus blessed and he also knew John. :shrug:

Polycarp was John’s disciple I read. I don’t know if that’s what he means or not.

Which Apostles Taught the Early Church Fathers?

Clement was a disciple of Peter and Paul.

Polycarp was a disciple of John.

Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of Peter and John.


Writing a few years after the turn of the first century, a man known to us as Ignatius of Antioch, was arrested by the Romans and sent via overland route to Rome where he was eventually martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch – his predecessors were Simon Peter and Evodius – and it is believed that Ignatius was ordained by Peter and was also known to the Apostle John.

The journey from Antioch to Rome was long, and along the way, his Roman guards allowed Ignatius to write letters to friends living in various cities as well as one to a special friend named Polycarp who was Bishop of Smyrna, and seven of Ignatius’ letters including his letter to Polycarp have survived to this day. Polycarp himself would follow Ignatius in martyrdom many years later, and though the actual date of his death is disputed, it is interesting to note that the Roman historian, Eusebius, places it in the reign of Marcus Aurelius – ca. 166-167. According to an ancient eye-witness account of Polycarp’s death, he was bound and burned at the stake, but he was ultimately stabbed to death when the flames failed to touch him.

Polycarp’s disciple, Irenaeus of Lyons, mentioned his mentor frequently in his letters. Writing in the late second century in a letter to Florinus, Irenaeus describes his tutelage under Polycarp thus:

For, while I was yet a boy, I saw thee in Lower Asia with Polycarp, distinguishing thyself in the royal court, and endeavouring to gain his approbation. For I have a more vivid recollection of what occurred at that time than of recent events (inasmuch as the experiences of childhood, keeping pace with the growth of the soul, become incorporated with it); so that **I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse-his going out, too, and his coming in-his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance. **Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures. These things, through, God’s mercy which was upon me, I then listened to attentively, and treasured them up not on paper, but in my heart; and I am continually, by God’s grace, revolving these things accurately in my mind.

Yep 100% sure it was Ireneaus now. He didn’t hear John preach, but he heard Polycarp, who knew John!

Thanks to all you guys!!! That one was really bugging me

St Irenaeus was a disciple of St Polycarp who was a disciple of St John. St Ignatius of Antioch was also a disciple of St John.

‘There are also those who heard from him [Polycarp] that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.”’ - St Irenaeus of Lyons

Thanks Randy. I really enjoyed reading this.

*]Ignatius & Polycarp were disciples of John
*]Clement was also ordained by the apostles.
*]Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp.
*]Irenaeus gives a listing of bishops of Rome from Peter and Paul. Bk 3 Chapter 3 v 1-3 [Against Heresies]


It’s amazing that irenaeus actually knew Polycarp, who personally knew St. John…when you dwell on it it’s incredible. More incredible is that we have his writings…

So did ireneus have any notable students?

Who was Cerinthus ? I never heard of him.

Maybe this will help

“A persecution broke out, and some of the leaders of the Lyons church were imprisoned; a few suffered martyrdom. This was in the reign of the philosophical pagan emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Since Lyons was a vital outpost of imperial power, adorned with temples and fine public buildings, the Roman officials perhaps thought it necessary to keep the new religion in check here. When Irenaeus returned from Rome it was to fill the now vacant bishopric. The brief period of persecution was over, and the twenty or more years of his episcopate were fairly peaceful. In addition to his pastoral duties at Lyons, Irenaeus is said to have extended the sphere of Christian influence by sending missionaries to other towns of Gaul-SS. Felix, Fortunatus, and Achilleus to Valence, and SS. Ferrutius and Ferreolus to Besancon. The bishop identified himself with his flock so completely as to speak habitually the native tongue instead of Latin or Greek, and to encourage all priests to do likewise.”

As an aside, Have you seen the movie “Gladiator”? In the beginning of the movie, the time period is 180 a.d. And Marcus Aurelius was emperor. When I saw the opening narrative in the movie and that date, I immediately thought, this is the time period of Irenaeus. The scenes in the movie, show the realities of life in the year 180, so we know how rugged it was being Catholic. ~70 yrs earlier, Ignatius was thrown to the lions in Rome for being a Catholic bishop. And this persecution is still going on in Irenaeus time.

And the church is still being persecuted in some places today.

Is it possible you’re thinking of the following phrase from Irenaeus writing about Polycarp?


  1. [FONT=Comic Sans MS]But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom (~167 a.d.) departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true[/FONT]

Yes that’s exactly right. It was irenaeus writing about Polycarp. Amazing that Polycarp actually talked to John and Irenaeus confirms it in his writings!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit