NB: Little of this literature has spiritual value, The value of this literature is elsewhere. A great deal of mythology circulates about the events of these years, and is sometimes used to concoct libels on the Christians. It is the task of some of those engaged in apologetic’s to look up the slanders and obtain the facts. A collection of the primary data such as this is of immediate service in this task. It is also interesting of itself, and those interested in finding out the facts of history for themselves will find it useful to have this data on hand. Roger Pearse
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Irenaeus in Adv. Haer. 3:3,4 mentions several other letters of Polycarp which have not come down to us. In his note against this passage an early editor, François Feuardent (Feuardentius; 1539-1610) in his 1596 edition1. I am unsure whether the note appeared in any preceding edition of the text by Feuardent; such editions begin in 1575. published certain extracts which he had discovered in a medieval catena as fragments of these lost letters.
His description is as follows:
After this heading follow the fragments in Latin which follow, but with the introductory sentence:
At the end of the fragments, Feuardent adds the following:
Lightfoot adds that no such publication of the Catena ever took place, and the manuscript of it is now lost.4. J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers. S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp. vol. 3, pt. 2. London and New York (1889). p.420 f. All this information comes from Lightfoot’s detailed preface. … Continue reading The fragments have been reprinted since in various later writers, some of whom presume wrongly that the catena was compiled by Victor of Capua.
Cardinal Pitra located a manuscript of the Expositio in Heptateuchum of John the Deacon.5. Spicilegium Solesm. vol. 1, p. 266 ff, Paris (1852). The manuscript is Paris ms. 838 (Sangermanensis 60). John wrote a biography of Gregory the Great and lived in the 9th century, but he refers to a Responsiones written by Victor of Capua. Pitra found two fragments, which he proposed to add to Feuardent’s fragments. The first is a comment on Gen. 2:7, introduced by
This must relate to the heading given by Feuardentius, where ‘Victor episcopus Capuae ex responsione capitulorum‘ is a corruption (or misreading of an abbreviation) for Victor episcopus Capuae ex responsione capitulo […], and likewise indicates a (missing) chapter number in Victor’s book. The extracts, then, were written in the Catena by someone who had read Victor’s book, and seen that it contained material ascribed to Polycarp. The compiler of the catena is unknown; Pitra suggests that it too may have been written by John the Deacon, as the only person known to have seen Victor’s book.
Victor’s epitaph is extant and shows that he died in A.D. 554, having held the see for 13 years.
The authenticity of the extracts, found in a catena where names tend to drift from one entry to another, is doubtful. The manuscript is lost and we are anyway dependent on a quotation of a quotation for the name of Polycarp, which may be mistaken. The portion beginning ‘Legitur et in dolio…’ in fragment 2 seems unlike a comment by Polycarp, who must have known John’s life for himself, and is presumably an addition by the catena writer or Victor. The contents of fragment 3 have also suggested a later date to some.
John Chapman, John the Presbyter and the Fourth Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1911), 101 n.2, made the following conjecture:
UPDATE (2015): Stephen C. Carlson writes: “The Pseudo-Polycarp fragments that I had translated from Lightfoot and donated to your web site had been attributed–successfully in my opinion–by Harnack back in 1921 to a certain Latinius Drepanius Pacatus who wrote the a Latin response to Porphyry in the early 5th century. Harnack’s argument can be found conveniently here.
Written by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2006. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
|↑1||1. I am unsure whether the note appeared in any preceding edition of the text by Feuardent; such editions begin in 1575.|
|↑2||2. Lit. ‘four evangelists’.|
|↑3||3. Or ‘headings’ or ‘(biblical) questions’.|
|↑4||4. J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers. S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp. vol. 3, pt. 2. London and New York (1889). p.420 f. All this information comes from Lightfoot’s detailed preface. The translations are by Roger Pearse.|
|↑5||5. Spicilegium Solesm. vol. 1, p. 266 ff, Paris (1852). The manuscript is Paris ms. 838 (Sangermanensis 60).|