Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers

By Andrew F. Gregory; Christopher M. Tuckett | Go to book overview

17
Leadership and Suffering in the Letters of
Polycarp and Paul to the Philippians

Peter Oakes

A comparison of the letters that Paul and Polycarp sent to Philippi suggests some new directions in the study of Polycarp’s letter. Two key points of comparison between the letters concern leadership and suffering. Paul and Polycarp present somewhat different models of leadership in the two letters. This difference maps rather well on to the difference in style between the letters, especially in the impression of a certain diffidence on the part of Polycarp. Something has also changed in the leadership of the Philippian church. The

of Paul’s day have disappeared. In a context in which Ignatius is a central figure, the issue of episcopal oversight is a crucial one. We will explore the way in which Polycarp’s presentation of leadership may be linked with the issues involved in a bishop writing a letter of advice to a bishopless church.

Suffering is present in the context of the letters of both Paul and Polycarp. In Paul’s letter it forms a central theme. Consideration of the use of

and in Polycarp’s letter suggests that suffering is also a central theme there. Economic suffering is likely to have been an important factor in the Philippian church in both Paul’s day and Polycarp’s day. This suggests that concern about in Polycarp’s letter could be linked with the issue of suffering.

Several of the above issues are affected by views on the nature of Polycarp’s prior contact with the Philippians. The main evidence for this depends on the Latin of the first sentence of chapter 14, which Lightfoot describes as nonsensical. Freshly accessible evidence allows us to overturn Lightfoot’s assertion and to translate the sentence in a way that affirms prior face-toface contact between Polycarp and the Philippians. This will be handled in an Appendix.

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