Recently one of the readers of my book series and I had a discussion on Polycarp. (She had recently started re-reading the Apostle John Series) and in book 1 – Hold the Faith, Polycarp was ‘introduced.’
First bishop of Smyrna - Polycarp or Bucolus?
Polycarp was a fascinating person to research, and as it turned out, June. the reader I was talking with, had also studied into Polycarp, Bucolus and some of the other people mentioned in Hold the Faith.
A video clip I saw some years ago said he had been born in 70 AD.
Other sources put him being born in 80 AD
(I had found 69 AD the most preferred option.) The clip says that legend has it that he was anointed bishop of Smyrna by the Apostle John. I had read that too, but further research led me to the first bishop of Smyrna being a dedicated man by the name of Bucolus.
So, as can be seen, Polycarp is someone about whom there is much contradiction in writings.
Now, as to whether the Apostle John was the one who ordained him as the first bishop of Smyrna – bishop meaning overseer, let’s examine what else is recorded…
Legend has it that the Apostle John was taken captive to Rome, and, because he persisted in his refusal to acknowledge Emperor Domitian as lord and god, was plunged into a vat of boiling oil.
When he survived, he was sent to the Isle of Patmos, where he is generally considered to have written the book of Revelation. (He was released from Patmos, most likely after the murder of Emperor Domitian, in 96 AD)
I needed to check who was overseer at that time. Whilst it is not impossible for Polycarp to have been anointed as bishop by John, I considered it unlikely, given the Bible’s guidelines about not appointing young men to the office of an elder… a bishop is an elder. Then, as mentioned at the start, I discovered another source that stated that the first bishop of Smyrna was a well-loved and respected man named Bucolus. According to some sources, he was the one who passed the fellowship in Smyrna into the care of Polycarp. I will put some links in at the end of this post so you can read it up for yourself if you want.
Polycarp had ‘humble’ beginnings, some of which he ‘discussed’ with Benjamin in Hold the Faith.
Some 'figurings' about Polycarp
Polycarp born 69 or 70 AD
John taken to Rome 94 or 95 AD
Polycarp would have been 24 – 26 years old then
Had Polycarp been born in 80 AD he would have been 14 or 15 years old when John was taken to Rome.
I favor the opinion that Bucolus was the first bishop/overseer of Smyrna.
Nevertheless, both men have interesting ‘histories.’
An overview of Bucolus – https://oca.org/saints/lives/2016/02/06/100441-st-bucolus-the-bishop-of-smyrna
Well, that’s the wondering for this week. Hope you enjoyed them.