Polycrates of Ephesus.

A Christian bishop.


Attributed text(s).
Epistle to Victor.

Available text(s).
On site (present page in Greek, English).

Related text(s).
None.

Useful links.
Ephesus in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Polycrates at Early Christian Writings.

Polycrates was a Christian bishop of Ephesus who flourished late in century II.

Eusebius, History of the Church 3.31.1-3:

Παυλου μεν ουν και Πετρου της τελευτης ο τε χρονος και ο τροπος και προς ετι της μετα την απαλλαγην του βιου των σκηνωματων αυτων καταθεσεως ο χωρος ηδη προτερον ημιν δεδηλωται. του δε Ιωαννου τα μεν του χρονου ηδη πως ειρηται, το δε γε του σκηνωματος αυτου χωριον εξ επιστολης Πολυκρατους, της δ εν Εφεσω παροικιας επισκοπος ουτος ην, επιδεικνυται, ην Ουικτορι Ρωμαιων επισκοπω γραφων, ομου τε αυτου και Φιλιππου μνημονευει του αποστολου των τε τουτου θυγατερων ωδε πως·

So both the time and the manner of the death of Paul and Peter, as well as the place where their corpses were placed after their departure from this life, have been already shown by us. And the time of the death of John has already been given, but the place of his corpse is shown from an epistle of Polycrates, and he was bishop of the parish in Ephesus, which was written to Victor, bishop of Rome, in which [epistle] he mentions him and Philip the apostle and the daughters of the latter, suchwise:

Και γαρ κατα την Ασιαν μεγαλα στοιχεια κεκοιμηται, ατινα αναστησεται τη εσχατη ημερα της παρουσιας του κυριου, εν η ερχεται μετα δοξης εξ ουρανου και αναζητησει παντας τους αγιους, Φιλιππον των δωδεκα αποστολων, ος κεκοιμηται εν Ιεραπολει, και δυο θυγατερας αυτου γεγηρακυιαι παρθενοι, και η ετερα αυτου θυγατηρ εν αγιω πνευματι πολιτευσαμενη εν Εφεσω αναπαυεται· ετι δε και Ιωαννης, ο επι το στηθος του κυριου αναπεσων, ος εγενηθη ιυρευς το πεταλον πεφορεκως και μαρτυς και διδασκαλος, ουτος εν Εφεσω κεκοιμηται.

For in Asia also great luminaries have fallen asleep, which shall resurrect on the last day of the advent of the Lord, in which he is coming with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints, such as Philip of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two daughters who grew old as virgins, and the other daughter who conducted herself in the holy spirit and rests in Ephesus; and there was also John, who rested upon the breast of the Lord, who became a priest who wore the plate, both martyr and teacher; he sleeps in Ephesus.

Eusebius, History of the Church 5.22[.1]:

Δεκατω γε μην της Κομοδου βασιλειας ετει δεκα προς τρισιν ετεσιν την επισκοπην λελειτουργηκοτα Ελευθερον διαδεχεται Βικτωρ· εν ω και Ιουλιανου δεκατον ετος αποπλησαντος, των κατ Αλεξανδρειαν παροικιων την λειτουργιαν εγχειριζεται Δημητριος· καθους και της Αντιοχεων εκκλησιας ογδοος απο των αποστολων ο προσθεν ηδη δεδηλωμενος ετι τοτε Σεραπιων επισκοπος εγνωριζετο. Καισαρειας δε της Παλαιστινων ηγειτο Θεοφιλος, και Ναρκισσος δε ομοιως, ου και προσθεν ο λογος μνημην εποιησατο, της εν Ιεροσολυμοις εκκλησιας ετι τοτε την λειτουργιαν ειχεν, Κορινθου δε της καθ Ελλαδα κατα τους αυτους επισκοπος ην Βακχυλλος και της εν Εφεσω παροικιας Πολυκρατης. και αλλοι δ, ως γε εικος, επι τουτοις μυριοι κατα τουσδε διεπρεπον, ων γε μην εγγραφος η της πιστεως εις ημας κατηλθεν ορθοδοξια, τουτους εικοτως ονομαστι κατελεξαμεν.

It was in the tenth year of the reign of Commodus that Victor succeeded Eleutherus, the latter having held the episcopate for thirteen years. In the same year, after Julian had completed his tenth year, Demetrius received the charge of the parishes at Alexandria. At this time the abovementioned Serapion, the eighth from the apostles, was still well known as bishop of the church at Antioch. Theophilus presided at Caesarea in Palestine; and Narcissus, whom we have mentioned before, still had charge of the church at Jerusalem. Bacchylus at the same time was bishop of Corinth in Greece, and Polycrates of the parish of Ephesus. And besides these a multitude of others, as is likely, were then prominent. But we have given the names of these alone, the soundness of whose faith has come down to us in writing.

Eusebius, History of the Church 5.24.1-8:

Των δε επι της Ασιας επισκοπων το παλαι προτερον αυτοις παραδοθεν διαφυλαττειν εθος χρηναι διισχυριζομενων ηγειτο Πολυκρατης, ος και αυτος εν η προς Βικτορα και την Ρωμαιων εκκλησιαν διετυπωσατο γραφη την εις αυτον ελθουσαν παραδοσιν εκτιθεται δια τουτων·

But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him:

Ημεις ουν αραδιουργητον αγομεν την ημεραν, μητε προστιθεντες μητε αφαιρουμενοι. και γαρ κατα την Ασιαν μεγαλα στοιχεια κεκοιμηται, ατινα αναστησεται τη ημερα της παρουσιας του κυριου, εν η ερχεται μετα δοξης εξ ουρανου και αναζητησει παντας τους αγιους, Φιλιππον των δωδεκα αποστολων, ος κεκοιμηται εν Ιεραπολει, και δυο θυγατερας αυτου γεγηρακυιαι παρθενοι, και η ετερα αυτου θυγατηρ εν αγιω πνευματι πολιτευσαμενη εν Εφεσω αναπαυεται· ετι δε και Ιωαννης, ο επι το στηθος του κυριου αναπεσων, ος εγενηθη ιυρευς το πεταλον πεφορεκως και μαρτυς και διδασκαλος.

We observe the exact day; neither adding nor taking away. For in Asia also great luminaries have fallen asleep, which shall resurrect on the day of the advent of the Lord, in which he is coming with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints, such as Philip of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two daughters who grew old as virgins, and the other daughter who conducted herself in the holy spirit and rests in Ephesus; and there was also John, who rested upon the breast of the Lord, who became a priest who wore the plate, both martyr and teacher.

Ουτος εν Εφεσω κεκοιμηται.

He sleeps in Ephesus.

Ετι δε και Πολυκαρπος εν Σμυρνη, και επισκοπος και μαρτυς· και Θρασεας, και επισκοπος και μαρτυς απο Ευμενειας, ος εν Σμυρνη κεκοιμηται.

And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was both bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, both bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna.

Τι δε δει λεγειν Σαγαριν επισκοπον και μαρτυρα, ος εν Λαοδικεια κεκοιμηται, ετι δε και Παπιριον τον μακαριον και Μελιτωνα τον ευνουχον τον εν αγιω πνευματι παντα πολιτευσαμενον, ος κειται εν Σαρδεσιν περιμενων την απο των ουρανων επισκοπην εν η εκ νεκρων αναστησεται;

Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris, who fell asleep in Laodicea, and the blessed Papirius, and Melito, the eunuch who lived altogether in the holy spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead?

Ουτοι παντες ετηρησαν την ημεραν της τεσσαρεσκαιδεκατης του πασχα κατα το ευαγγελιον, μηδεν παρεκβαινοντες, αλλα κατα τον κανονα της πιστεως ακολουθουντες· ετι δε καγω ο μικροτερος παντων υμων Πολυκρατης, κατα παραδοσιν των συγγενων μου, οις και παρηκολουθησα τισιν αυτων. επτα μεν ησαν συγγενεις μου επισκοποι, εγω δε ογδοος· και παντοτε την ημεραν ηγαγον οι συγγενεις μου οταν ο λαος ηρνυεν την ζυμην.

All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven.

Εγω ουν, αδελφοι, εξηκοντα πεντε ετη εχων εν κυριω και συμβεβληκως τοις απο της οικουμενης αδελφοις και πασαν αγιαν γραφην διεληλυθως, ου πτυρομαι επι τοις καταπλησσομενοις· οι γαρ εμου μειζονες ειρηκασι· Πειθαρχειν δει θεω μαλλον η ανθρωποις.

I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every holy scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said: We ought to obey God rather than man.*

* Refer to Acts 5.29.

Τουτοις επιφερει περι των γραφοντι συμπαροντων αυτω και ομοδοξουντων επισκοπων ταυτα λεγων· Εδυναμην δε των επισκοπων των συμπαροντων μνημονευσαι, ους υμεις ηξιωσατε μετακληθηναι υπ εμου και μετεκαλεσαμην· ων τα ονοματα, εαν γραφω, πολλα πληθη εισιν. οι δε ειδοτες τον μικρον μου ανθρωπον συνηυδοκησαν τη επιστολη, ειδοτες οτι εικη πολιας ουκ ηνεγκα, αλλ εν Χριστω Ιησου παντοτε πεπολιτευμαι.

He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows: I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus.

Jerome, On Famous Men 45:

Polycrates, Ephesiorum episcopus, cum caeteris episcopis Asiae, qui iuxta quamdam veterem consuetudinem cum Iudaeis decima quarta luna pascha celebrabant, scripsit adversus Victorem, episcopum Romanum, epistolam synodicam, in qua docet, se apostoli Ioannis, et veterum auctoritatem sequi, de qua haec pauca excerpsimus: Nos igitur inviolabilem celebramus diem, neque addentes aliquid, neque dementes. etenim in Asia elementa maxima dormierunt, quae resurgent in die domini, quando venturus est de coelis in maiestate sua, suscitaturus omnes sanctos. Philippum loquor de duodecim apostolis, qui dormivit Hierapoli, et duas filias eius, quae virgines senuerunt, et aliam eius filiam, quae spiritu sancto plena in Epheso occubuit. sed et Ioannes, qui super pectus domini recubuit, et pontifex eius auream laminam in fronte portans, martyr et doctor in Epheso dormivit: et Polycarpus, episcopus et martyr, Smyrnae cubat. Thraseas quoque episcopus et martyr de Eumenia in eadem Smyrna requiescit. quid necesse est Sagaris episcopi et martyris recordari, qui in Laodicea soporatur, et Papirii beati, et Melitonis in sancto Spiritu eunuchi, qui semper domino serviens, positus est in Sardis, et exspectat in adventu eius resurrectionem? hi omnes observaverunt paschae diem decima quarta luna, ab evangelica traditione in nullam partem declinantes, et ecclesiasticum sequentes canonem. ego quoque minimus omnium vestrum Polycrates, secundum doctrinam propinquorum meorum, quos et secutus sum: septem siquidem fuerunt propinqui mei episcopi, et ego octavus: semper pascha celebravi, quando populus Iudaeorum azyma faciebat. itaque, fratres, sexaginta quinque annos aetatis meae natus in domino, et a multis ex toto orbe fratribus eruditus, peragrata omni scriptura, non formidabo eos qui nobis minantur. dixerunt enim maiores mei: Obedire deo magis oportet, quam hominibus. haec propterea posui ut ingenium et auctoritatem viri ex parvo opusculo demonstrarem. floruit temporibus Severi principis, eadem aetate qua Narcissus Hierosolymae.

Polycrates, bishop of the Ephesians with other bishops of Asia who in accordance with some ancient custom celebrated the Passover with the Jews on the fourteenth of the month, wrote a synodical letter against Victor bishop of Rome in which he says that he follows the authority of the apostle John and of the ancients. From this we make the following brief quotations: We therefore celebrate the day according to usage, inviolably, neither adding anything to nor taking anything from it, for in Asia lie the remains of the greatest saints of those who shall rise again on the day of the Lord, when he shall come in majesty from heaven and shall quicken all the saints; I mean Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps at Hierapolis, and his two daughters, who were virgins until their death, and another daughter of his who died at Ephesus full of the holy spirit. And John too, who lay on the breast of our Lord and was his high priest, carrying the golden frontlet on his forehead, both martyr and doctor, fell asleep at Ephesus; and Polycarp, bishop and martyr, died at Smyrna. Thraseas of Eumenia also, bishop and martyr, rests in the same Smyrna. What need is there of mentioning Sagaris, bishop and martyr, who sleeps in Laodicea, and the blessed Papyrus and Melito, eunuch in the holy spirit, who, ever serving the Lord, was laid to rest in Sardis and there awaits his resurrection at the advent of Christ? These all observed the day of the Passover on the fourteenth of the month, in no way departing from the evangelical tradition and following the ecclesiastical canon. I also, Polycrates, the least of all your servants, according to the doctrine of my relatives which I also have followed, for there were seven of my relatives bishops indeed and I the eighth, have always celebrated the Passover when the Jewish people celebrated the putting away of the leaven. And so brethren, being sixty-five years old in the Lord and instructed by many brethren from all parts of the world, and having searched all the scriptures, I will not fear those who threaten us, for my predecessors said: It is fitting to obey God rather than men. I quote this to show through a small example the genius and authority of the man. He flourished in the reign of the emperor Severus in the same period as Narcissus of Jerusalem.