The Christology of the Martyrdom of Polycarp: Martyrdom as Both Imitation of Christ and Election by Christ

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Abstract

The Martyrdom of Polycarp narrates a martyrdom ‘according to the Gospel’. Numerous facets of the text echo the passion materials of the Gospels, and Polycarp is directly said to imitate Christ. Various scholars have discussed the imitatio Christi theme within the work. Such an approach focuses upon Christ as an exemplar of suffering to be imitated, through specific events of similar suffering. But the Christology of the Martyrdom of Polycarp is far richer than this focus alone. Jesus Christ is also the Son, Savior, eternal high priest, teacher, elector, king, and alternative to Caesar. As the sovereign , he actively coordinates events and chooses martyrs from among his servants.

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