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The Church of Smyrna

History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community


Mauricio Saavedra

This book deals with the theology of the Church of Smyrna from its foundation up to the Council of Nicaea in 325. The author provides a critical historical evaluation of the documentary sources and certain aspects particularly deserving of discussion. He makes a meticulous study of the history of the city, its gods and institutions, the set-up of the Jewish and Christian communities and the response of the latter to the imperial cult. Finally, he undertakes a detailed analysis both of the reception of the Hebrew Scriptures and the apostolic traditions, as well as examining the gradual historical process of the shaping of orthodoxy and the identity of the community in the light of the organisation of its ecclesial ministries, its sacramental life and the cult of its martyrs.
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In this third part we propose, in the first four chapters, to study the presence and use made of Scripture in the sources presented in the first part, especially those concerning the period prior to the establishment of the canon and full acceptance of the Old Testament as patrimony of the church, that is to say, up to the end of the second century. So that, we will first of all study the use and valorisation of the Hebrew Scriptures that Ignatius, Polycarp, and the author of the Martyrdom of Polycarp made of it. After that, we will study the reception of the tradition of the apostles that these same authors made apparent in their writings, in particular the reception of the Pauline, synoptic and Johannine traditions.

For this undertaking, we will analyse the corpus Ignatianum in general, bearing in mind that Ignatius wrote letters to various communities from Smyrna. This rough mix of Scripture and Tradition which Ignatius worked into his letters, must have been taken over and guarded like a treasure by the community of Smyrna, as proven by the fact that it was this community which kept the letters of Ignatius and made copies of them, for the benefit of later generations.

As a fundamental point, we will analyse Polycarp’s letter To the Philippians in this third part, which is undoubtedly an all-important text since besides being the only one we still have of the bishop of Smyrna, it was written...

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