Polycarp: “Away with the atheists”

“Away with the atheists” the Pro-Counsel pressed him to say. By “atheists,” they meant Polycarp himself with all his fellow Christians. After all, they did reject the many Greco Roman gods of the day. Cleverly, Polycarp turns the phrase onto his accusers (because of their rejection of Christ). Then, upon being further pressed to swear by the genius of Caesar and revile Christ, Polycarp instead gives testimony of the faithfulness of Christ and of his own devotion to him as “King.”

…Now when Polycarp entered into the arena there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” And no one saw the speaker, but our friends who were there heard the voice. And next he was brought forward, and there was a great uproar of those who heard that Polycarp had been arrested. Therefore when he was brought forward the Pro-Consul asked him if he were Polycarp, and when he admitted it he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age,” and so forth, as they are accustomed to say: “Swear by the genius of Caesar, repent, say: `Away with the Atheists'”; but Polycarp, with a stern countenance looked on all the crowd of lawless heathen in the arena, and waving his hand at them, he groaned and looked up to heaven and said: “Away with the Atheists.” But when the Pro-Consul pressed him and said: “Take the oath and I let you go, revile Christ,” Polycarp said: “For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”…

Read full account here.

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