The Love of Money and the Sin of Valens in Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians

Introduction

In the summer of 115 AD, Polycarp, one of the πρεσβύτεροι of the church in Smyrna, met Ignatius, an ἐπίσκοπος from Antioch who was passing through Smyrna in the custody of Roman soldiers.[1] After spending some time corresponding with nearby churches, Ignatius left Smyrna, continuing on toward Rome and toward martyrdom. A couple months later, Polycarp received a letter from his friends at the church in Philippi, where Ignatius had recently passed through.[2] Polycarp wrote a letter in response, a letter that continues to provoke study to this day, nineteen centuries later.

Some of the questions that are still asked about Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians[3] are these: What were the purposes of Pol. Phil.? What is the relationship between the discussion of righteousness, the sin of Valens (one of the πρεσβύτεροι in Philippi), and the purpose of Pol. Phil.?[4] What was the sin of Valens?[5]

Most of the recent secondary literature on Pol. Phil. is by Kenneth Berding,[6] Paul A. Hartog,[7] and Michael W. Holmes.[8] Berding and Hartog have both written books on Pol. Phil. recently, and Holmes is currently writing a commentary on Pol. Phil.[9] Allen Brent[10] and Clayton N. Jefford[11] have written articles recently that deal with Pol. Phil. The two most recent articles that discuss Pol. Phil. and deal with Valens’ sin specifically are by Harry O. Maier and Peter Oakes.[12] These two articles both introduced new ideas about Valens’ sin that were formerly absent in the secondary literature on Pol. Phil.
In this paper, I will argue that the set of questions raised above can best be answered with this thesis: The sin of Valens was likely a denial of the faith in order to avoid economic persecution. This conclusion is not certain, but it is a reasonable conclusion that is worth seriously considering in one’s reading and interpretation of Pol. Phil.
To explain this thesis, I will first examine the historical setting of Philippi and note the significance of Ignatius’ arrival in town. Next will follow an idea regarding the social status of Valens. From these I will attempt to present an historical reconstruction of the events that happened between when Ignatius left Smyrna and when Polycarp received a letter from the Philippian church.

To defend this thesis, I will compare my proposed answers to the set of questions above to the answers found in the secondary literature. I will also show that this thesis is supported by other early Christian literature and that this thesis gives additional clarity and unity to Pol. Phil.

Explanation

Philippi was a Macedonian town with a strong Roman character. The Roman empire first settled veterans in Philippi between 42 and 30 BC. They were given land, and they and their descendants became the ruling class, administrators, and magistrates in Philippi.[13] As a Roman colony, Philippi enjoyed certain legal privileges that set it apart from other nearby cities in Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor.[14] The most important religion in Philippi was the Imperial cult.[15] “Given the town’s history, the citizens would have taken great pride in their citizenship.”[16]

The population of Philippi in the first century has been estimated to be between 9,000 and 15,000.[17] “At the time of Paul’s visit,” in the middle of the first century, “the population of the colony would have included a relatively privileged core of Roman veterans and their descendants; Greeks descended from the inhabitants of the earlier Hellenistic cities and from other Greek settlements in the area; Greeks involved in commerce who had migrated from Asia Minor; and native Thracians.”[18] Philippi was a primarily agricultural town.[19] Many of the Roman landowners would live in the town itself while they paid others to live and work on their farms around the town.[20]

Ignatius’ journey through Philippi was different than his journey through Asia Minor. Philippi was much smaller than the cities in Asia Minor.[21] Philippi’s strong Roman character was also unlike the previous cities. The journey through Philippi likely had a significant negative impact on the popular opinion of Christians, especially among Philippians who were proud of their Roman citizenship and devoted to the Imperial cult. Oakes is the first scholar to point out that Ignatius’ journey through a small town with a strong Roman character likely drew “negative attention” to the Philippian Christians and likely resulted in economic persecution.[22] Ignatius’ visit would give the citizens of Philippi a reason to look down on Christianity as an anti-Roman religion.

Maier raises another idea about the historical context. He argues that in the early second century, “wealthy members of the community were candidates for church leadership.”[23] Maier’s reasons are worth quoting at length:

“Because of the willingness of householders to welcome Christian travellers, to welcome the local community of faith into their homes, and their ability to manage their households well, apostles and teachers like Paul found in their well-to-do hosts not only a source for the financial patronage necessary for the continuation of the church, but also a pool of leaders well-qualified to provide a secure venue for meetings and to lead the community in their absence.”[24]

 

If Maier’s argument here is true, what does this say about Valens’ social status?[25] In addition, Valens is a Roman name, not a Greek name.[26] It cannot be said for certain, but it’s an intriguing possibility to consider that Valens may have been a wealthy descendant of the Roman veterans who settled Philippi and one who was associated with or part of the Roman elite in the town. The church at Philippi may have met at his house. He may have contributed to the support of poor members of the Philippian church.

With the preceding information, I would propose this historical context for Pol. Phil. On August 24, 115 AD, Ignatius left Smyrna. He arrived in Philippi on September 2.[27] Members of the Philippian church met with Ignatius. The citizens of Philippi had previously been viewing the Christians as odd and socially different, but they weren’t concerned about it as long as they were good citizens. After, however, seeing their joyous association with and great respect for an anti-Roman prisoner who had been sentenced to death, public opinion of Christians in Philippi took a nose dive, especially among the Roman elite. Ignatius left Philippi, accompanied by a few members of the Philippian church for the next ten days. Before they parted, Ignatius dictated a second letter to Polycarp.[28] The members of the Philippian church returned to Philippi on September 23.

In the weeks following Ignatius’ visit, Valens received serious social pressure to stop associating with the Christians.[29] Valens and his wife gave in to the pressure and denied the faith in order to preserve their wealth and social status. Other Christians in Philippi also faced economic consequences during these weeks. Some would have been merchants, just like Lydia, the first Philippian Christian.[30] It was not economically profitable to be identified as a Christian in the Philippian marketplace. Some were facing the same temptation as Valens, to deny Christ in order to stay in business. Others may have feared that worse persecution was on the horizon.

This is the situation that the church in Philippi was facing when it wrote to Polycarp. Since Ignatius passed through town, Christians in Philippi were suffering economically. The Philippian church wrote to Polycarp, informing him of this situation and asking him for advice: “What does righteousness look like in our situation?” Polycarp received this letter in early October, and then wrote Pol. Phil. addressing this situation.

Defense

Hartog and others have said that the Philippians wrote to Polycarp asking for advice on what to do with Valens.[31] Berding points out that Pol. Phil. is not clear about whether they mentioned Valens in their letter.[32] Holmes suggests that Polycarp may have heard about Valens’ sin from the letter carrier.[33] Berding and Holmes make more sense here. Pol. Phil. isn’t telling them what to do with Valens, it’s teaching them how to live righteously in the face of economic persecution.

Likewise, scholars present a variety of views regarding the relationship between Valens’s sin and the purpose of Pol. Phil. Berding and others hold that Valens’ sin is not related to the main purpose of Pol. Phil.[34] Holmes leaves the connection as a possibility.[35] Maier argues that Valens’ sin caused social chaos among the Christian community in Philippi, so the purpose of Pol. Phil. is to urge all to conform to a pattern of purity in order to maintain peace and order.[36] Hartog sees a strong connection between Valens’ sin and the purpose of Pol. Phil., though he argues that Polycarp is concerned more with the response of the Philippian community than Valens’ sin itself.[37] None of these views interact with the possibility that the purpose of Pol. Phil. was to encourage the Philippian church to endure economic persecution and Valens was an example of one who did not endure.

In his discussion of Valens’ sin, Polycarp wrote, “I warn you, therefore: avoid love of money.”[38] Consequently, most scholars have seen some kind of connection between Valens’ sin and the warnings throughout Pol. Phil. to avoid the love of money.[39] Berding and others see it as a lesson to the Philippians to learn to avoid the love of money through Valens’ bad example.[40] Charles E. Hill suggests that is because Polycarp’s own church in Smyrna was dealing with greed.[41] Hartog argues that Polycarp is repeating his admonition to avoid the love of money, not because he thinks it’s a sin that the other Philippian Christians are in danger of falling into, but because he wants to demonstrate to the angry Philippians that he takes Valens’ sin seriously.[42] Roman Garrison suggests that Polycarp wrote against the love of money because almsgiving was necessary “for the redemption of post-baptismal sin.”[43]

Another major theme throughout Polycarp’s epistle is that of endurance.[44] Hartog is the only scholar that has written about the importance of this theme. His view is that the Philippian church was suffering financially because Valens stole from them, and they need to endure by continuing to give to the poor.[45] With both this theme and the theme of the love of money, there is little secondary literature that addresses the possible connection between these themes in Pol. Phil. and a situation in Philippi involving economic persecution.

When it comes to identifying Valens’ sin specifically, some scholars simply say he sinned.[46] Berding, Holmes, and others take the most common view, saying that it is some kind of sin involving money without being any more specific.[47] Hartog and others argue that the most likely explanation is that Valens stole from the church funds.[48] Another explanation that has been proposed is that Valens’ sin involved not giving to the poor.[49]

James Donaldson argued that the most likely explanation was that Valens was guilty of adultery, and his wife had told lies to protect the character of her husband.[50] Peter Meinhold suggested that Valens sinned by accepting a monetary gift from the heretic Marcion.[51] Neither Donaldson’s nor Meinhold’s explanations have found any contemporary supporters.

Maier considers several possible explanations of Valens’ sin. He “has succumbed to avarice.”[52] It may have been his own money or the church’s money that he sinned with.[53] He may not have been caring for the church’s poor.[54] He concludes that Valens’ sin “is best interpreted by placing it in a social setting in which well-to-do presbyters continue to enjoy and secure prosperity by retaining socio-economic links within pagan society. On this view, Polycarp’s reference to Valens’ avarice is that the presbyter has strayed too close to the world.”[55] Berding considers Maier’s explanation to be a legitimate possibility, though Hartog rejects it.[56]

There is one scholar who presented a different view of Valens’ sin. After showing that Ignatius’ journey through Philippi would have likely resulted in economic persecution for Philippian Christians, Oakes briefly mentions Valens’ sin and remarks, “One possibility about Valens is that he had compromised his Christianity to escape economic suffering.”[57]

For most of the possible explanations given for the sin of Valens in the secondary literature, a common assumption is that a sin committed because of the love of money was likely a sin committed with money. This is not necessarily so. Polycarp himself wrote that “the love of money is the beginning of all troubles,”[58] echoing the Pauline teaching that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”[59] We can see this by briefly surveying other references in early Christian literature to sins caused by the love of money. One kind of evil caused by the love of money is stealing from the church funds, in the example of Judas.[60] Another is teachers asking for money selfishly.[61] Another is unwillingness to give to the poor, in the example of the rich young ruler.[62] Another is taking advantage of the poor.[63] Finally, there is the evil of apostasy in the face of persecution. Demas left Paul because he was “in love with this present world.”[64] This phrase is also echoed in Pol. Phil.[65] A few decades after Valens sinned, certain rich Christians were described this way: “These are the ones who have faith, but also have the riches of this world. Whenever persecution comes, they deny their Lord because of their riches and their business affairs.”[66] This is likely an apt description of the sin of Valens and his wife.

There are some features of Pol. Phil that fit well with a setting where the Philippian church is facing economic persecution after Ignatius’ visit. The first thing Polycarp wrote is that he rejoiced with them because they welcomed Ignatius.[67] The themes of love of money and endurance throughout Pol. Phil. fit this context.[68] Polycarp described the endurance of Christ, Ignatius, Paul, and other martyrs who endured persecution, and he said they were examples to be imitated by the Philippian Christians.[69] Those three chapters immediately precede the mention of the sin of Valens.[70] Polycarp wrote that the Philippians should pray for those who persecute and hate them.[71] At the end of Pol. Phil., Polycarp wrote that the Philippians “will be able to receive great benefit” from Ignatius’ epistles, “for they deal with faith and patient endurance.”[72] Pol. Phil. deals with both Ignatius’ journey through Philippi and Valens’ sin. By seeing the two events as related to each other, Pol. Phil. gains a certain unity throughout. This is absent in every other explanation that regards Ignatius’ journey and Valens’ sin as merely coincidental, with both happening around the same time and being addressed in the same letter.[73]

Conclusion

Based on the historical setting of Philippi, the significance of Ignatius’ arrival, and the social status of Valens, a possible context for Pol. Phil. can be proposed in which the church in Philippi is facing economic persecution. Valens likely denied the faith in order to avoid persecution, and others in the church were tempted to do the same. This explanation of the sin of Valens and the setting for Pol. Phil. is at least as reasonable as any of the other explanations that have been proposed. It fits well with other early Christian writings and consistently makes sense of Pol. Phil. Therefore, this interpretation of Valens’ sin is worth seriously considering when interpreting Polycarp’s epistle.

 

Bibliography

 

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———. Polycarp and the New Testament: The Occasion, Rhetoric, Theme, and Unity of the Epistle to the Philippians and its Allusions to New Testament Literature. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002.

 

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[1]. Scholars place the date of this meeting in the years 108–117 AD. I have used the year 115 in order to coincide with the earthquake in Antioch during Trajan’s visit. For the discussion of the dating of Ignatius’ journey, see Paul A. Hartog, Polycarp and the New Testament: The Occasion, Rhetoric, Theme, and Unity of the Epistle to the Philippians and its Allusions to New Testament Literature (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 58–60. I have also chosen to refer to Polycarp as a presbyter and Ignatius as a bishop based on the terms they use for church leadership in their respective epistles.

[2]. For Polycarp’s prior relationship with the church at Philippi, see Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 78–81.

[3]. In this paper, I have abbreviated Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians as Pol. Phil. in accordance with the standards of the SBL.

[4]. “In the letter, Polycarp addresses the Philippians’ request for a discussion of ‘righteousness’ (3.1–10.3) and the problem of Valens, an avaricious presbyter (11.1–4). A major interpretive question is the relationship (or lack thereof) between these two main issues and the extensive exhortation.” Michael W. Holmes, ed., The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 2007), 274. See also Michael W. Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians,” The Expository Times 118, no. 2 (2006): 56.

[5]. Some earlier scholarship has considered the warning against heresy in 7.1 to be a major purpose of Pol. Phil. A discussion of all the relevant literature on that warning would be outside the scope of this paper; rather, I will be focusing here on the sin of Valens.

[6]. Kenneth Berding, Polycarp and Paul: An Analysis of Their Literary and Theological Relationship in Light of Polycarp’s Use of Biblical and Extra-Biblical Literature (Leiden: Brill, 2002); Kenneth Berding, “John or Paul? Who Was Polycarp’s Mentor?” Tyndale Bulletin 59, no. 1 (2008): 135–143; Kenneth Berding, “Polycarp’s Use of 1 Clement: An Assumption Reconsidered,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 127–139.

[7]. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT; Paul A. Hartog, “The Opponents of Polycarp, Philippians, and 1 John,” in Trajectories Through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, ed. by Andrew F. Gregory & Christopher M. Tuckett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 375–391.

[8]. Michael W. Holmes, “A Note on the Text of Polycarp Philippians 11.3,” Vigiliae Christianae 51, no. 2 (May 1997): 207–210; Michael W. Holmes, “Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians and the Writings that Later Formed the New Testament,” in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, ed. by Andrew F. Gregory & Christopher M. Tuckett (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 187–227; Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians,” 53–63; Michael W. Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Epistle to the Philippians,” in The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers, ed. by Paul Foster (London: T&T Clark, 2007), 108–125; Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 272–279.

[9]. Foster, Writings, xii.

[10]. Allen Brent, “Ignatius and Polycarp: The Transformation of New Testament Traditions in the Context of Mystery Cults,” in Trajectories, by Gregory & Tuckett, 325–349.

[11]. Clayton N. Jefford, “Household Codes and Conflict in the Early Church,” in Studia Patristica, Vol. 31, ed. by Elizabeth A. Livingstone (Leuven: Peeters, 1997), 121–127.

[12]. Harry O. Maier, “Purity and Danger in Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians: The Sin of Valens in Social Perspective,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 1, no. 3 (Fall 1993): 229–247; Peter Oakes, “Leadership and Suffering in the Letters of Polycarp and Paul to the Philippians,” in Trajectories, by Gregory & Tuckett, 353–373.

[13]. Chaido Koukouli-Chrysantaki, “Colonia Iulia Augusta Philippensis,” in Philippi at the Time of Paul and after His Death, ed. by Charalambos Bakirtzis & Helmut Koester (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 1998), 23.

[14]. “[Octavian] rebuilt Philippi as a military outpost, populated it with Roman soldiers, made it a colony, and even gave it the ius italicum, that is, the legal character of a Roman territory in Italy which was the very highest honor ever bestowed on a provincial city. In practical terms this means that there would be no poll or land taxes in Philippi, and colonists could purchase, own, or transfer property plus engage in civil law suits.” Ben Witherington, III, Friendship and Finances in Philippi: The Letter of Paul to the Philippians (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity, 1994), 21.

[15]. Craig Steven de Vos, Church and Community Conflicts: The Relationships of the Thessalonian, Corinthian, and PhilippianChurches with Their Wider Civic Communities (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 249.

[16]. Ibid., 251.

[17]. Ibid., 239. De Vos gives a population estimate of 9,000–11,500. Oakes gives a population estimate of 10,000–15,000 in “Leadership and Suffering,” 355.

[18]. David Noel Freedman, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 5:315.

[19]. Oakes, “Leadership and Suffering,” 355.

[20]. De Vos, Church and Community Conflicts, 240. The preceding paragraph is a description of Philippi in the middle of the first century. There was no indication in the literature on Philippi that there would have been any significant difference in its population and demographics between Paul’s day (50–60 AD) and Polycarp’s day (115 AD).

[21]. Ibid., 87. De Vos gives first century population estimates of 75,000 for Smyrna and 200,000 for Ephesus.

[22]. Oakes, “Leadership and Suffering,” 365–366.

[23]. Harry O. Maier, The Social Setting of the Ministry as Reflected in the Writings of Hermas, Clement, and Ignatius (Waterloo, ON: Wilfried Laurier University Press, 1991), 147. In this book, Maier argues that Polycarp was wealthy based on the statements in the account of his martyrdom regarding houses and slaves (Mart. Pol. 5.1–7.1).

[24]. Maier, “Purity and Danger,” 233.

[25]. “Given the fact that Valens was a presbyter of a community established by Paul, and that evidence from Pauline communities roughly contemporary with Polycarp’s letter indicates that the pattern initiated by Paul probably continued into the second century, it is reasonable to argue that a similar leadership arrangement was in place at Philippi when Polycarp wrote his letter.” Ibid., 237.

[26]. Oakes, “Leadership and Suffering,” 355. “Valens was a common name in Philippi.” Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 86. Of the five names associated with the church in Philippi in the New Testament, four (Lydia, Epaphroditus, Euodia, and Syntyche) are Greek names. “Of those cited in [Paul’s] letter, only Clement (4:3) has a Roman name. We know nothing about him except that he has some sort of leadership role in the church.” De Vos, Church and Community Conflicts, 255.

[27]. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 155.

[28]. “Phil 1 does not state how far members of the Philippian assembly escorted the Ignatian entourage. We do know that the Ephesian churches sent Burrhus, who accompanied Ignatius as far as Troas (150 miles). Burrhus most likely acted as Ignatius’ amanuensis and letter carrier. Similarly, a few Philippian members may have accompanied Ignatius along the Egnatian Way even as far as Dyrrhacium (370 miles), though about half that distance may seem more reasonable. Perhaps along the way or at the end of their accompaniment, Ignatius may have dictated another letter to Polycarp, asking him to carry a Philippian congratulatory note to Antioch (implied in Phil 13).” Ibid., 116.

[29]. I would imagine it was along these lines: “You know, Valens, we like you. You’re a good guy. We have a lot of respect for your grandfather and what he did for the emperor. But would he have ever associated with people like the Christians? They’re clearly un-Roman, and we know you’re better than that. You’re a loyal citizen, aren’t you? Anyway, we’ve been talking with several other members of the council, and if you want to keep your position in this town, your association with the Christians needs to end.”

[30]. Acts 16:14.

[31]. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 86. For others, see Angelo Di Berardino, ed., Encyclopedia of the Early Church, tr. by Adrian Walford (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 2:701; Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 451–452; Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 340; Freedman, Anchor Bible Dictionary, 5:391; Cyril C. Richardson, ed., Early Christian Fathers (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1953), 122–123; Burnett Hillman Streeter, The Primitive Church: Studied with Special Reference to the Origins of the Christian Ministry (New York: Macmillan, 1929), 284; Frederick W. Weidmann, Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to the Literary Traditions (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999), 4.

[32]. Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 24. See also Siegmar Döpp and Wilhelm Geerlings, eds., Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, tr. by Matthew O’Connell (New York: Crossroad, 2000), 494.

[33]. “They may have raised the matter of Valens (an avaricious presbyter) on their own initiative as well (alternatively, however, it is possible that Polycarp learned of this matter via the letter carrier). Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians,” 56.

[34]. Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 25–26; Clayton N. Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 78. “P.N. Harrison exemplifies a traditional approach which generally (a) sees no connection between the two issues, and (b) thinks that the problem of ‘heresy’ (which Harrison argued was sparked by Marcion) is the major problem.” Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians,” 56.

[35]. Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians,” 56. See also Döpp and Geerlings, Dictionary, 494.

[36]. Maier, “Purity and Danger,” 246. It is unfortunate that Maier follows up his intriguing suggestion about the social status of Valens with post-modern concepts of “social space” (246) and “self-definition” (247), concepts that are certainly foreign to the second century thinking of Polycarp and the recipients of his letter.

[37]. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 87, 137.

[38]. Pol. Phil. 11.1.

[39]. For uses of φιλαργυρία, see Pol. Phil. 2.2, 4.1, 4.3, 5.2, 6.1.

[40]. Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 26. For others, see Ehrman, NT: Historical Introduction, 451–452; Frederic W. Farrar, Lives of the Fathers: Sketches of Church History in Biography (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1907), 1:87; Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers, 80.

[41]. Charles E. Hill, “The Epistula Apostolorum: An Asian Tract from the Time of Polycarp,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 7, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 31.

[42]. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 139.

[43]. Roman Garrison, “The Love of Money in Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians,” in The Graeco-Roman Context of Early Christian Literature (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 79.

[44]. For uses of ὑπομονή, see Pol. Phil. 8.2, 9.1, 12.2, 13.2; for uses of ὑπομένω, see Pol. Phil. 1.2, 8.1.

[45]. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 143.

[46]. Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York: Garland, 1990), 742; John Lawson, A Theological and Historical Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers (New York: Macmillan, 1961), 164.

[47]. Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 25, 181; Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 274. For others, see L.W. Barnard, “The Problem of St. Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians,” in Studies in the Apostolic Fathers and Their Background (New York: Schocken, 1966), 34; Di Berardino, Encyclopedia of the Early Church, 2:701; Farrar, Lives of the Fathers, 1:87; Hill, “Epistula Apostolorum,” 31; Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers, 80; Claudio Moreschini and Enrico Norelli, Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History, tr. by Matthew J. O’Connell (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 1:110; Richardson, Early Christian Fathers, 122–123.

[48]. “Perhaps this section is evidence that Valens stole from the common church funds.” Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 143. “Lightfoot, Glimm, and Koester maintain that it involved stealing from the church’s common fund.” Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 86–87. For others, see Bart D. Ehrman, ed., The Apostolic Fathers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 1:325; Ehrman, NT: Historical Introduction, 451–452; Ehrman, NT: A Reader, 340; Freedman, Anchor Bible Dictionary, 5:391; and Garrison, “Love of Money,” 79.

[49]. “Harrison, Bauer, and Paulsen argue that the greed entailed Valens’ hoarding of his own wealth.” Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 86.

[50]. James Donaldson, A Critical History of Christian Literature and Doctrine from the Death of the Apostles to the Nicene Council (London: Macmillan, 1864), 1:185–186. Hartog points out the difficulty of this explanation and how it doesn’t work with the theme of avoiding the love of money throughout Pol. Phil. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 86.

[51]. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 107; Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians,” 56. This explanation is dependent on the two-letter hypothesis, the view that Phil was originally two separate letters, the first sent shortly after Ignatius left Philippi and the second sent around 20 years later. Hartog and Holmes both reject the two-letter hypothesis. Hartog devotes chapter 10 of his work to arguing for the unity of the epistle. Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 148–169. Holmes argues for the unity of the epistle. Holmes, “Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Philippians,” 60–62. Berding accepts the two-letter hypothesis, but he dates the second letter within a couple years of the first letter, not decades later. Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 15–17. Barnard popularized the two-letter hypothesis with an earlier dating for the second letter. Barnard, “Problem,” 31–39. When Holmes reviewed Berding’s book, he spoke negatively of “Berding’s uncritical acceptance of Harrison’s two-letter hypothesis, whose foundation is nothing more than a set of psychologizing assumptions.” Michael W. Holmes, review of Polycarp and Paul: An Analysis of Their Literary and Theological Relationship in Light of Polycarp’s Use of Biblical and Extra-Biblical Literature, by Kenneth Berding, Journal of Early Christian Studies 12, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 121.

[52]. Maier, “Purity and Danger,” 229.

[53]. Ibid., 237.

[54]. Ibid.

[55]. Ibid., 238.

[56]. “It should be noted that this scenario makes adequate sense of the text (as a sub-theme), but so do other scenarios such as a situation where Valens pilfered the community purse.” Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 26. For Hartog’s discussion of Maier’s view, see Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 106–107.

[57]. Oakes, “Leadership and Suffering,” 369.

[58]. Pol. Phil. 4.1.

[59]. 1 Tim. 6:10. Berding, Hartog, and Holmes all agree that Polycarp is here echoing the language of 1 Tim. 6:10 intentionally. Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 67; Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 179; Holmes, “Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians,” 215–216.

[60]. John 12:6.

[61]. Did. 11.6, 11.12.

[62]. Matt. 19:16–30; Mark 10:17–31; Luke 18:18–30.

[63]. James 5:4–5.

[64]. 2 Tim. 4:10.

[65]. Pol. Phil. 9.2. Berding, Hartog, and Holmes all agree that Polycarp is here echoing the language of 2 Tim. 4:10 intentionally, though it is not as strong as the 1 Tim. 6:10 reference. Berding, Polycarp & Paul, 100; Hartog, Polycarp & the NT, 179; Holmes, “Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians,” 217–218.

[66]. Herm. 14.5. Herm. originated in Rome. The ways in which Philippi was modeled after the city of Rome could lead one to think that the kinds of economic persecution in one would be similar to the kinds of economic persecution in the other.

[67]. Pol. Phil. 1.1. Garrison views this as Polycarp commending the Philippian Christians for their hospitality rather than Polycarp commending the Philippians for receiving Ignatius and consequently receiving economic persecution as a consequence. Garrison, “Love of Money,” 76–77.

[68]. See notes 39 and 44 above.

[69]. Pol. Phil. 8.1–10.3. The naming of Paul in 9.1 is noteworthy because of an early church tradition that Paul’s final imprisonment and martyrdom was in Philippi, not Rome. See Charalambos and Koester, Philippi, and the geographic references in 2 Tim. 4.

[70]. Pol. Phil. 11.1–4.

[71]. Pol. Phil. 12.3.

[72]. Pol. Phil. 13.2.

[73]. As is evident in this paragraph, my thesis is dependent on the unity of Pol. Phil. and a rejection of the two-letter hypothesis.

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About Nate Milne

Historical Theology student at Westminster Seminary California.
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