Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna were two of the greatest leaders of Christianity in the first half of the second century. Both suffered martyrdom: Ignatius in Rome during the reign of Trajan, and Polycarp in Smyrna some time in the mid-century. The letters of Ignatius advance the teachings of Christ and the apostles on such important subjects as church unity, the Eucharist, and the governmental structure of the church. The Martyrdom of Polycarp represents one of the earliest and most inspiring accounts of a Christian martyr that we possess. Their combined writings provide a unique window on the faith, life and practice of Christians in the second century. Careful reading of these writings demonstrates the unique place that the early fathers of the church hold in establishing the foundations of historic Christianity. Their relevance for contemporary ecumenical discussions is beyond dispute.
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