Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The dating of the Martyrdom of Polycarp /

Η χρονολόγηση του Μαρτυρίου Πολυκάρπου

Polycarp miraculously extinguishing the fire burning the city of Smyrna /
Ο Πολύκαρπος σβήνει θαυματουργικά τη φωτιά που έκαιγε την Σμύρνη

«There may be nothing in this essay that categorically proves that the martyrdom of Polycarp could not have been written in the second century. The second-century dating, however, is anchored by the assumption that the text is an eyewitness report. This assumption is itself rooted in scholarly assumptions about the historicity of martyr acts and intertextuality in early Christian literature. When, as we have seen, authenticity is put aside the dating of the text becomes uncertain. While it is possible that the text is a deeply theological second-century version of events, a number of elements – the rhetorical use of first-person reports, the legal incongruities, the Biblical parallelism, the use of the term ‘Catholic Church’, the behavior of Quintus, the apologia for the absence of relics, the inventio-styled epilogues, the concern about the status of the martyrs, and the lack of early witnesses to the account – suggest that the text was composed later, perhaps in the first half of third century.

Given that the text is only gently polemical there is no one narrative feature that can empower us to suggest a firm date. As it stands, however, the text can hardly be viewed as “authentic” or as consonant with secondcentury forms of Christianity and it is thus necessary to exercise some caution with respect to the date. It is likely that traditions about the death of Polycarp circulated and grew before the composition of the account, in which case there may be elements in it that arise out of either oral traditions or an earlier second-century version of the account. None of this means, however, that the extant text was composed in the second century. Unless we divide the account into multiple compositional layers, the dating of MPol must be able to account for the historical inaccuracies and late interests of the work. When these are taken into consideration, it seems much more likely that the version of MPol that we possess was composed in the third century. It is possible, perhaps even probable, that the author of MPol had some form of literary material at his disposal. If such documentation existed, the author’s use of it far outstrips conventional understandings of ‘editing’ or ‘redacting’. We should treat MPol as a third-century composition that may have been redacted in the fourth century. As unsatisfying as this conclusion remains, it is critically important for historians of martyrdom in particular and historians of Christianity in general to recognize the difficulties in dating this text.»

* Candida R. Moss,
«On the Dating of Polycarp: Rethinking the Place of the Martyrdom of Polycarp in the History of Christianity»
Περί της Χρονολόγησης του Πολυκάρπου: Επανεξέταση του Μαρτυρίου Πολυκάρπου στην Ιστορία του Χριστιανισμού»], *
Early Christianity, Vol./Τόμ. 1, Nο/Αρ. 4, November/Νοέμβριος 2010, Mohr Siebeck,
pp./σσ. 573, 574.
[English/Αγγλικά, PDF]

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