Among the most important chronological questions of Christianity in the second century is the date of St. Polycarp’s martyrdom. Turner scours the evidence to determine a precise date, based on comparison between the Roman and Asiatic calendars and other historical references. This dating in turn helps to date Irenaeus and St. John.
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The seemingly minute issue of the precise year and day of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp belies the importance of the matter. Polycarp is of pivotal importance to the dating of a succession of three salient figures of the early centuries of Christianity: St. John, Polycarp, and Irenaeus. Overlapping John and Irenaeus, Polycarp becomes the lynchpin of the chronology of Christianity in the second century. Turner deftly addresses this issue making use of Roman and Asiatic calendars, feast days, historical rulers, and an express statement by Irenaeus. Reference is made in an appendix to a paschal homily printed in St. Chrysostom’s works, but belonging to the fourth century, and passages from ancient writers using side-by-side calendars of the Roman and Asiatic varieties.
Cuthbert Hamilton Turner (1860-1930) was Regius Professor at Oxford University. He was a noted historian of the early church, producing important works in the field.