Who are some of the early church fathers that may have known one of the Apostles?

One of these men was actually mentioned in the book of Revelation

In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are addressed to 7 churches in the area of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  This will not be a detailed study on Revelation but will discuss some of those mentioned in Revelation or relating to churches addressed in the book.   In chapter 2, a man named Antipas was said to have been martyred for his faith, he lived in the city of Pergamum. ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells’ Revelation 2:13.  So we can deduce certain things about Antipas, and then I will give you some of the info from the internet about him.

Things we can know for certain about Antipas:

  • He was a faithful witness about the Gospel and Jesus
  • He was killed or martyred for his faith in Jesus
  • According to Jesus (who was giving the info to John) Satan dwelt and his throne was in the city of Pergamum (whatever that means)

Things we can assume from the passage:

  • Antipas was the bishop or pastor of the church in Pergamum (because he was mentioned by name)
  • Antipas was not only willing to die but in fact did die for not compromising on the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Antipas was a friend of John the Apostle
  • Antipas was martyred before AD 100 (that’s when John the Apostle died, and many scholars believe Revelation was written around AD 95, so he would have had to be killed before that, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian).

What is interesting is this statement about Antipas is the only statement about him that exists in all of the letters of antiquity.  Nothing else is known about him, yet he was significant enough for John to call him by name.  As will be discussed later, a second man, named Polycarp, was a contemporary of John and Antipas and much was written about him from several authors of the time (Tertullian and Irenaeus, among others), yet nothing else was written about Antipas.

**Maybe a point of application is that most people who are faithful to Jesus will not be noticed in a letter or named in a document, but God keeps track and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.**

A man who is not mentioned in Revelation but certainly was around at the time of it’s writing

Polycarp is a person that we do have some info about and so know a little about his life, yet is not mentioned in the book of Revelation (so it is sort of the reverse of Antipas).

Our sources on the life of Polycarp and his contribution to Christianity are varied.  The early church father Tertullian (AD 160 ish to 200 ish, from the area of Carthage, North Africa) mentions Polycarp in one of his many writings.  Another Apostolic Father, Irenaeus (AD 130 ish to 200 ish, in Lyons, France) also writes a little about this early Christian leader.

Some of the things that are important about Polycarp are:

  • He was the bishop (pastor) of the church in Smyrna, possibly at the time that John wrote the book of Revelation.
  • He wrote a letter (similar to those written by Paul, Peter, John, James, etc.) to the church in Phillipi.
  • He was a disciple of the Apostle John.
  • Because of the letter to the Philippians, we can know some about his early Christianity in general and Polycarp’s theology in particular.

Similar to Antipas is the way Polycarp died – he was martyred for spreading and standing firm in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Here is the statement we have from antiquity about his martyrdom, this is called ‘The Martyrdom of Polycarp’:   said  . . . the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

We can learn much from both these men: one mentioned in the Bible (so he is significant) and yet nothing else is known of him (most followers of Jesus will fade away into obscurity almost unknown to anyone but God Himself); and the other is not mentioned in scripture, yet is know throughout history for his dedication and exemplary sacrifice for his Lord and Savior.

Go and live a life worthy of these men, and especially their Savior.


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