Do Ignatius or Polycarp speak of knowing John?

I know tradition holds that both these men were disciples of John, and I thought it would be neat if they ever wrote of their encounters with him.

I wasn’t sure if any such writings exist but I’m interested to know if they do.

Thanks :slight_smile:

Not sure, off-hand, but there are some pretty old texts that attest to it. For instance there’s Tertullian: “For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter.” (Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, ca 200)

There are also the Fragments of Papias (ca 110-140 AD) that indicate Papias knew both men: “Testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John and a friend of Polycarp…”

In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Ignatius speaks of knowing Polycarp: “I write to you, giving thanks unto the Lord, and loving Polycarp even as I do you.”

There’s another mention in Fragments of Irenaeus, who wrote around 170-180, that says Polycarp used to talk about conversations with John: “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…”

Later, the early Church still attested to this, such as Jerome in De Viris Illustribus: “Polycarp disciple of the apostle John…”

Thanks! I actually knew about those and believe them; but I would think the actual people would speak of him too.

If not, would there be any explanation for their silence on knowing such an important person?

In at least one of his letters, Ignatius speaks of being a disciple of John:

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Virgin Mary

Her friend Ignatius to the Christ-bearing Mary.
Thou oughtest to have comforted and consoled me who am a neophyte, and a disciple of thy beloved John. For I have heard things wonderful to tell respecting thy son Jesus, and I am astonished by such a report. But I desire with my whole heart to obtain information concerning the things which I have heard from thee, who wast always intimate and allied with Him, and who wast acquainted with all His secrets. I have also written to thee at another time, and have asked thee concerning the same things. Fare thou well; and let the neophytes who are with me be comforted of thee, and by thee, and in thee. Amen.

And we also have the Blessed Virgin’s reply:

Reply of the Blessed Virgin to This Letter.

The lowly handmaid of Christ Jesus to Ignatius, her beloved fellow-disciple.
The things which thou hast heard and learned from John concerning Jesus are true. Believe them, cling to them, and hold fast the profession of that Christianity which thou hast embraced, and conform thy habits and life to thy profession. Now I will come in company with John to visit thee, and those that are with thee. Stand fast in the faith, and show thyself a man; nor let the fierceness of persecution move thee, but let thy spirit be strong and rejoice in God thy Saviour. Amen.

I was unaware of any writings of the Blessed Virgin. Where did you find this?

Wait, there are written letters from Mary!?!?!?!?!?!? How come I didn’t know about this!? Can you show me where you got this so I can do a study up to see it’s accuracy! Thanks :slight_smile:

I don’t believe there are such letters or if there are they must be fakes.

Concerning that correspondence and two others which are also very dubious, the Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say:

Also there are three letters extant only in Latin. Two of the three purport to be from Ignatius to St. John the Apostle, and one to the Blessed Virgin, with her reply to the same. These are probably of Western origin, dating no further back than the twelfth century.

Emphasis mine.

Yes, there are letters from Mary. You should be able to find what you are looking for in your questions here.

Unfortunately the writings we have from these authors is rather scant. It’s not like the Protestant Reformers, for example, where we have the whole lifetime corpus of people who spent all day writing. We don’t have the memoirs of Ignatius or Polycarp. All we have are some letters that they wrote to various churches. The audiences of the letters would have been familiar with the sender so they probably did not feel it neessary to relate details about their relationship with John. Sad, but their stories are lost to history. :frowning:

These letters are found in Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1.
But apparently I should have read the table of contents more closely, because they are listed under “Spurious Epistles of Ignatius”, which scholars universally consider to be fakes.

I think this is as close as we can get:

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.

Irenaeus makes the unmistakable connection between Polycarp and John the Apostle and others who had seen the Lord Jesus. He stated this in more than one place for he also wrote:

“4Polycarp 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, 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. To these things all the Asiatic churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time” (Against Heresies 3:3:4 [A.D. 189]).

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