THE ENCYCLICAL EPISTLE OF THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp
The following letter purports to have been written by the Church at Smyrna to the Church at Philomelium, and through that Church to the whole Christian world, in order to give a succinct account of the circumstances attending the martyrdom of Polycarp. It is the earliest of all the Martyria, and has generally been accounted both the most interesting and authentic. Not a few, however, deem it interpolated in several passages, and some refer it to a much later date than the middle of the second century, to which it has been commonly ascribed. We cannot tell how much it may owe to the writers (chap. xxii.) who successively transcribed it. Great part of it has been engrossed by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (iv. 15); and it is instructive to observe, that some of the most startling miraculous phenomena recorded in the text as it now stands, have no place in the narrative as given by that early historian of the Church. Much discussion has arisen respecting several particulars contained in this Martyrium; but into these disputes we do not enter, having it for our aim simply to present the reader with as faithful a translation as possible of this very interesting monument of Christian antiquity.
The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium, and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.
Chapter I.-Subject of Which We Write.
We have written to you, brethren, as to what relates to the martyrs, and especially to the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to the persecution, having, as it were, set a seal upon it by his martyrdom. For almost all the events that happened previously to this one, took place that the Lord might show us from above a martyrdom becoming the Gospel. For he waited to be delivered up, even as the Lord had done, that we also might become his followers, while we look not merely at what concerns ourselves but have regard also to our neighbors. For it is the part of a true and well-founded love, not only to wish one's self to be saved, but also all the brethren.
Chapter II.-The Wonderful Constancy of the Martyrs.
All the martyrdoms, then, were blessed and noble which took place according to the will of God. For it becomes us who profess greater piety than others, to ascribe the authority over all things to God. And truly, who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?-who, when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them. But they reached such a pitch of magnanimity, that not one of them let a sigh or a groan escape them; thus proving to us all that those holy martyrs of Christ, at the very time when they suffered such torments, were absent from the body, or rather, that the Lord then stood by them, and communed with them. And, looking to the grace of Christ, they despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by the suffering of a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure; things "which ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man," but were revealed by the Lord to them, inasmuch as they were no longer men, but had already become angels. And, in like manner, those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured dreadful tortures, being stretched out upon beds full of spikes, and subjected to various other kinds of torments, in order that, if it were possible, the tyrant might, by their lingering tortures, lead them to a denial of Christ.
Chapter III.-The Constancy of Germanicus. The Death of Polycarp is Demanded.
For the devil did indeed invent many things against them; but thanks be to God, he could not prevail over all. For the most noble Germanicus strengthened the timidity of others by his own patience, and fought heroically with the wild beasts. For, when the proconsul sought to persuade him, and urged him to take pity upon his age, he attracted the wild beast towards himself, and provoked it, being desirous to escape all the more quickly from an unrighteous and impious world. But upon this the whole multitude, marveling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians, cried out, "Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!"
Chapter IV.-Quintus the Apostate.
Now one named Quintus, a Phrygian, who was but lately come from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts, became afraid. This was the man who forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily for trial. Him the proconsul, after many entreaties, persuaded to swear and to offer sacrifice. Wherefore, brethren, we do not commend those who give themselves up to suffering, seeing the Gospel does not teach so to do.
Chapter V.-The Departure and Vision of Polycarp.
But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard that he was sought for, was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few friends, engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically," I must be burnt alive."
Chapter VI.-Polycarp is Betrayed by a Servant.
And when those who sought for him were at hand, he departed to another dwelling, whither his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they found him not, they seized upon two youths that were there, one of whom, being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that he should continue hid, since those that betrayed him were of his own household. The Irenarch then, whose office is the same as that of the Cleronomus, by name Herod, hastened to bring him into the stadium. This all happened that he might fulfill his special lot, being made a partaker of Christ, and that they who betrayed him might undergo the punishment of Judas himself.
Chapter VII.-Polycarp is Found by His Pursuers.
His pursuers then, along with horsemen, and taking the youth with them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation with their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber. And being come about evening to the place where he was, they found him lying down in the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place; but he refused, saying, "The will of God be done." So when he heard that they were come, he went down and spake with them. And as those that were present marveled at his age and constancy, some of them said. "Was so much effort made to capture such a venerable man? Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease for two full hours, to the astonishment of them that heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man.
Chapter VIII.-Polycarp is Brought into the City.
Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath. And the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes, both riding in a chariot, met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavored to persuade him, saying, "What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar, and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety? "But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, "I shall not do as you advise me." So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter words unto him, and cast him with violence out of the chariot, insomuch that, in getting down from the carriage, he dislocated his leg by the fall. But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.
Chapter IX.-Polycarp Refuses to Revile Christ.
Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, "Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!" No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, the proconsul sought to persuade him to deny Christ, saying, "Have respect to thy old age," and other similar things, according to their custom, such as, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists." But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, "Away with the Atheists." Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, "Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ; "Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour? "
Chapter X.-Polycarp Confesses Himself a Christian.
And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar," he answered, "Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them." The proconsul replied, "Persuade the people." But Polycarp said, "To thee I have thought it right to offer an account of my faith; for we are taught to give all due honor, which entails no injury upon ourselves, to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me."
Chapter XI.-No Threats Have Any Effect on Polycarp.
The proconsul then said to him, "I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent." But he answered, "Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous." But again the proconsul said to him, "I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent." But Polycarp said, "Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt."
Chapter XII.-Polycarp is Sentenced to Be Burned.
While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian." This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude both of the heathen and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable fury, and in a loud voice, "This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, and the over-thrower of our gods, he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice, or to worship the gods." Speaking thus, they cried out, and besought Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. But Philip answered that it was not lawful for him to do so, seeing the shows of wild beasts were already finished. Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, "I must be burnt alive."
Chapter XIII.-The Funeral Pile is Erected.
This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and faggots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it. And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals,-a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life, he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, "Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile."
Chapter XIV.-The Prayer of Polycarp.
They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram taken out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said, "O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption imparted by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before Thee as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as Thou, the ever-truthful God, hast fore-ordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen."
Chapter XV.-Polycarp is Not Injured by the Fire.
When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odor coming from the pile, as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.
Chapter XVI.-Polycarp is Pierced by a Dagger.
At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.
Chapter XVII.-The Christians are Refused Polycarp's Body.
But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive nature of his martyrdom, and considered the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, "lest," said he, "forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one." This he said at the suggestion and urgent persuasion of the Jews, who also watched us, as we sought to take him out of the fire, being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world, the blameless one for sinners, nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow-disciples!
Chapter XVIII.-The Body of Polycarp is Burned.
The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.
Chapter XIX.-Praise of the Martyr Polycarp.
This, then, is the account of the blessed Polycarp, who, being the twelfth that was martyred in Smyrna, reckoning those also of Philadelphia, yet occupies a place of his own in the memory of all men, insomuch that he is everywhere spoken of by the heathen themselves. He was not merely an illustrious teacher, but also a pre-eminent martyr, whose martyrdom all desire to imitate, as having been altogether consistent with the Gospel of Christ. For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous in heaven, rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.
Chapter XX.-This Epistle is to Be Transmitted to the Brethren.
Since, then, ye requested that we would at large make you acquainted with what really took place, we have for the present sent you this summary account through our brother Marcus. When, therefore, ye have yourselves read this Epistle, be pleased to send it to the brethren at a greater distance, that they also may glorify the Lord, who makes such choice of His own servants. To Him who is able to bring us all by His grace and goodness into his everlasting kingdom, through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, to Him be glory, and honor, and power, and majesty, for ever. Amen. Salute all the saints. They that are with us salute you, and Evarestus, who wrote this Epistle, with all his house.
Chapter XXI.-The Date of the Martyrdom.
Now, the blessed Polycarp suffered martyrdom on the second day of the month Xanthicus just begun, the seventh day before the Kalends of May, on the great Sabbath, at the eighth hour. He was taken by Herod, Philip the Trallian being high priest, Statius Quadratus being proconsul, but Jesus Christ being King for ever, to whom be glory, honor, majesty, and an everlasting throne, from generation to generation. Amen.
We wish you, brethren, all happiness, while you walk according to the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with whom be glory to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of His holy elect, after whose example the blessed Polycarp suffered, following in whose steps may we too be found in the kingdom of Jesus Christ!
These things Caius transcribed from the copy of Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, having himself been intimate with Irenaeus. And I Socrates transcribed them at Corinth from the copy of Caius. Grace be with you all.
And I again, Pionius, wrote them from the previously written copy, having carefully searched into them, and the blessed Polycarp having manifested them to me through a revelation, even as I shall show in what follows. I have collected these things, when they had almost faded away through the lapse of time, that the Lord Jesus Christ may also gather me along with His elect into His heavenly kingdom, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The Words of Gad the Seer (con’d)
The Words of Gad the Seer contains 14 chapters dealing with King David and his prophet Gad. The nature of each of the chapters is different than the others, so one who has already read the first chapter, for example, cannot predict any other chapter in the book. The style is Biblical, in accordance with its heroes (some of whom are not mentioned in the Bible or elsewhere). Even when the author writes his own ideas, almost every word or phrase reflects biblical verse.
64 After these true things I had a divine vision, saying:
65 Set thy face eastward, northward, southward, and westward.
66 And whistle with your mouth as a bird whistles to its chicks and say: Four corners of the earth, listen to the word of the Lord.
67 Thus saith the Lord, who sits and dwells over the cherubs: Give, give, give, take out, take out, take out my seed that I have sown in you, for the time for the seed has come.
68 For yet a little while I shall collect my seed on my threshing-floor.
69 And the threshing-floor will be holy; an impure seed will not be found in it.
70 For before those days my seed was mixed with lentils, and barley, and spelt, beans, and gourd.
71 And in the end of days the sower shall be truth and the seed shall be truth and from the seed all the land will be blessed.
72 Be joyful and glad, remnant of Judea and rejected of Israel, for salvation is with the Lord.
73 As ye shall be a curse and blasphemy to all the families of the earth, so shall you be a blessing and grace for ever.
74 At that time no cursed or unholy people will be found among you
75 for everybody will join you in the covenant in the law, testimonies, statutes, and ordinances.
76 And you and they shall have one God one covenant one law one language, for all shall speak in the Jews language, the holy language.
77 Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee? A people saved by the Lord, for He shall go before you to fight your wars with your enemies.
78 Woe to you, O Edom, that sits in the land of Kittim in the north of the sea.
79 For your destroyers will emerge from a terrible nation not leaving you a remnant.
80 For you said: On high is my seat, and I have knowledge of the god of gods, for the Lord chose me instead of His holy people, for He loathed them.
81 And His former people, despised and rejected, did not know the Lord or His image.
82 Verily, we are wise and clever; we know the Lord and His law, we know His image and presence.
83 Therefore thus saith the Lord: because you rose so high to talk about god of gods you shall know that you shall perish in your cleverness.
84 For why would you put your confidence in man, in whose nostrils is his breath, which came up in a night, like a day-shadow that passes by, sitting him to sit beside God.
85 For it is not you whom I knew formerly, and where is the bill of divorce of My people, of which you have spoken “shame on them! “ read it to me!
86 Your corpses will fall among My people.
87 O Jealous Lord, come out, come out of your place and thrash Edom, consume them!
88 Come to Zerephath, come to Sepharad, come to Ashkenaz, come to Germany; They came and fell in the nethermost pit, in destruction and in the shadow of death, for your mouth failed you, and no one helps you.
89 At the end of days Michael the great prince shall stand up in war like a whirlwind against Samel the prince of the world to put him under his feet, in the wind of the Lord and it shall be eaten up; for the Lord hath spoken it.
90 At the end of days the robbed will overcome the robber, and the weak the strong, truly and in righteousness.
91 Your God is your savior, O Israel, with Him you will be saved, for He is a merciful God, He will not abandon you.
92 For thou shalt keep on doing all that I commanded you in the law of Moses My servant.
3 (verses 93-104) On Passover a Moabite shepherd asks King David to convert him. David does not know what to do, and he asks the Lord. Nathan the prophet answers in the name of God: 'Moabite male, not Moabite female'. The Moabite stays among David's shepherds and his daughter Sefira becomes a concubine to Solomon.
4 (verses 105-120) A story that praises the nature of King David, the wise judge.
5 (verses 121-130) Before a battle between the Philistines and Israel, the Lord speaks to Gad to tell David not to be frightened. That night a fiery vehicle descends from heaven and smites the Philistines.
6 (verses 131-141) God sends Gad to tell David not to boast of his strength. David admits that all of his strength comes from God. God is satisfied with David's answer and for that reason He decides that He will help the House of David forever.
7 (verses 142-177) David counts the children of Israel. This is a recension which combines 2 Sam 24:1-25 with 1 Chr 21:1-30. Both Biblical known texts, together with some 'additions', appear to be integral chapter in the book.
8 (verses 178-198) God reveals himself to David, telling him he should speak to his people. David gathers the people and preaches to them concerning the Lord's names and titles. David urges his people not only to listen to the Torah but to fulfill it as well.
9 (verses 199-226) Hiram, King of Tyre, asks David to send him messengers to teach him Torah. David answers that Hiram ought to fear the Lord and to fulfill the commandments of the children of Noah. A list of God's attributes is given, and the children of Israel are described as sealed with Shaddai. Hiram and his servants believe in Israel's election and praise Israel. God hears Hiram and sends Gad to tell David that Hiram and his people will prepare His house.
10 (verses 227-249) A praise to the Lord. This is Psa 145 with a different superscription than in the Masoretic text and it includes the missing Nun verse, different from any known version. The verse says, “FALLEN: All Your enemies fell down, O LORD, and all their strength was swallowed up.”
11 (verses 250-265) A praise to the Lord. This is Psa 144 with a different superscription than in the Masoretic text, and other minor differences.
12 (verses 266-285) Before David dies he urges his people to adhere to God that it will be good for them forever.
13 (verses 286-353) Except for the first four verses that belong to the former chapter, King David is dead and Solomon becomes King, it is a long story where Tamar, King David's daughter, plays the role of a heroine. This is a kind of addition to 2 Sam 13. After Tamar was raped, she ran to Geshur and later on one of the King's servants tried to rape her. Tamar kills her attacker and she comes back to Jerusalem, praised and blessed by King Solomon.
14 (verses 354-375) A revelation. Gad sees the Lord on His throne judging His people on the first day of the year. An angel brings forward three books in which everyone's deeds are written. The Satan wants to prosecute Israel, but he is silenced by one of the angels. The revelation contains all kinds of details and the Seer does not understand all of them. The revelation and the book end with a blessing by the Seer while an angel answers: 'Amen, Amen'.
The Words of Gad the Seer which is being dealt with here is not the one that was in existence in Biblical times and which was apparently lost. A book with the same name was composed in one of the early centuries of this era, but was noticed only at the end of the 18th century. When the book itself appeared, it was thought a medieval work, assumed to be of little value.
Contemplating the different proofs to its date of composition shows that despite the proofs for its lateness, they are outweighed by evidence of its early date. Nevertheless, if one insists on seeing the book in hand as 'only' a late work, still its importance is unquestionable. Its great value lies in showing the modern scholar some of the techniques of the editors of the Biblical narrative. It presents apocalyptic visions, and assuming the book gives us only the missing verse in Psa 145 - that would be enough. Further importance can be seen in the contribution of this book to the development of the Hebrew language in the first centuries of this era: 'Biblical' Hebrew on the one hand, and philosophical Hebrew on the other, a period from which almost all our Hebrew is Talmudic, except Sefer haRazim. Above all, this book might enhance our understanding of the Book of Revelation, the literature of that period in general, and the history of the Jews of Cochin would not be the lesser for it.
THE MARTYRDOM OF CYPRIAN AND JUSTA
From the Ethiopic
The Story of Cyprian and Justa, or Justina, has long been known and has been published in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Arabic. The Ethiopic text of Cyprian and Justina preserved in three British Museum manuscripts represents only the Martyrdom.
The conflict and martyrdom of the holy Cyprian and of the holy Justa; while the word of the prophets is being fulfilled in these days and the word of our Lord Jesus Christ about the seed of wheat and tares, how they grew, and how Novatus was put to shame and conquered by faith, and how the people were scattered and the wolf.
The holy Cyprian was famous in all lands because he wrote many books, and many who were gone astray he gathered to himself from the wiles of the evil wolf, the serpent of old, envying him his people. And Eutolmius was count of the region of the East when Cyprian the teacher of the Christians was setting aside the glory of the gods and was healing everyone, with a virgin whose name was Justa, and they were disturbing everyone with the books, and their doings were heard of in the region of the East and in every place. And Eutolmius was wroth and he ordered that they cast them into chains and guard them closely and bring them to the city of Damascvis.
And when they had brought them, then Eutolmius asked them saying, Tell me, Cyprian, art thou the teacher of the Christians, who didst aforetime lead many astray by thy sorcery by the might of the gods? But now by the sorcery of him who was crucified thou dost bring error and dost disturb the ears of men, and dost advance and exalt him who was crucified above the living gods. And the holy Cyprian spoke and said to him. Most wretched man, why hast thou adorned thyself with insolence, and dost thou speak also with pride in the sorceries of demons? For I also once, when I was, with you, equipped with sorcery and with the wisdom of the pagans, since I was blind, slew many and made many commit fornication, and from all this Christ saved me by the hand of his holy virgin.
And there was a good scholar, of the house of Claudius, who loved this virgin, and he was not pleasing to her. And then he promised her a marriage that was according to law, and he has been unable until now to persuade her. And he came unto me and besought me to heal him of the madness of his love. But I, since I believed the books of sorceries, sent a demon to her, and she withstood him with the sign of Christ. And a third time I sent the chief of the demons, and he too returned conquered by that sign. And therefore I desired to know the power of this sign, and I adjured that demon, while angels burned him. And he told it all, that he was the discoverer of evil and of every work of wickedness. And then I came to myself.
Then I wrote this to him that was bishop before me, and I brought the books of sorcery unto him while all the honorable men of the city were present, and I burned them with fire. And now I beseech thee to leave the other superstition and to return unto the Lord, and the Lord shall be praised. And then thou shalt know the invincibleness of the power of Christ. And Eutolmius was exceedingly incensed, and he did not dispute his opinion with him, and he commanded them to hang him up and comb him, and to take turns in beating that blessed virgin also with hard thongs of leather. And the holy virgin said, Praised art thou, O Lord, because when I was unworthy also and when I was a stranger once thou didst make me thine according to thy will to be beaten for thy name's sake.
And the soldiers tired themselves out in beating her, while that holy virgin also glorified God. And he ordered them to stop. And then the holy Cyprian spoke. While they were combing him exceeding much, he had not even said anything, but then the blessed Cyprian spoke and said to Eutolmius, Why dost thou exalt thyself, tyrant, against God? And thou art deceitful toward the hope of Christ and alien from the kingdom of heaven, into which I desire to enter, that it may be mine on account of this torture. And Eutolmius spoke saying, If thou seekest the kingdom of heaven, thou shalt suffer every kind of torture, even greater than this. And he ordered them to lead him and cast him into prison. And he ordered them to put the holy virgin in the house of Teratina. And when she came into that house the whole of the house shone with the grace of Christ.
And after a few days again he ordered them to bring them, and when they came he said to the holy Cyprian, Do not for the sake of a mortal man foolishly consent to die. And the holy Cyprian said to him. That death which is for God, for those that love him secures life eternal. And when he heard this he took counsel and meditated, and he ordered them to heat a frying-pan and to cast into it pitch and fat and wax, and to cast the blessed one into it, with the holy virgin. And the flame did not touch them. And the blessed Cyprian entered first into the frying pan. And the blessed one entered in her turn, and the evil serpent of old cast fear into her heart. And she came and stood by it. And the blessed Cyprian said to her. Come, in the endurance of Christ, thou that hast opened the gate of heaven, and hast made me to see the glory of Christ. And how art thou now conquered, who didst confound the demons and didst hold their chief as nothing, by putting on the sign of Christ?
How dost thou now let thyself be deceived by the sting of the adversary? And then making the sign of the cross she entered into the frying-pan. And they were both of them refreshed as with the dew of Hermon. And the blessed Cyprian said, Glory be to God in heaven, and peace on earth. For when Satan fell from heaven peace was wrought in it all, and from the time when Christ came into the world darkness was ordained for Satan, and by the power of the sign of his cross he forgives his servants, and he cast Satan down to his abode in Gehenna. And for this I praise thee, O Lord God of the fathers, and by thy mercy I pass through this torture for thy name's sake, that this our offering of sacrifice also may be fragrant with good odor. And when Eutolmivis heard this, he said, I will overcome the madness of your folly. And Athenus his friend who presided with him said to Eutolmius, Your excellency bids me ascend into the heat of this frying-pan in the name of our gods, and we will conquer this so-called might of Christ. And Eutolmius gave him permission, and Atheniis drew near unto the frying-pan and said. Great is the god Herakles and the father of the gods Asklepius who gives life unto men. And when he drew near unto the frying-pan, the fire found him, and his belly was rent asunder and his bowels gushed out. And Cyprian was serene, praising God with the holy virgin. And when Eutolmius saw this, he said, I fear that the might of Christ is unconquerable, and he has made me sad, for Christ has slain me my excellent friend.
And he called Terentinus his kinsman and said to him, What shall I do to these robbers? And Terentinus said to him, Beware of these holy ones and contend not with these holy ones, because the might of the Christians is unconquerable; but send them unto the king and tell him about them. And Eutolmius wrote thus saying: To Caesar the great, lord of the earth, Diocletian, greeting. In accordance with the statute of thy kingdom, I have arrested Cyprian, the teacher of the Christians, with a virgin whose name is Justa, of the region of the East. And behold in the report of his case thou shalt hear the punishments and torture with which I punished them, and they did not obey. And behold I have sent them unto thine authority. And when the king read, he wondered at the way the blessed ones had been tortured, and he deliberated with his friends about torturing them again. And they said to him. Not so, it is well that we let them be and assail not power that is invincible. And he said, Inasmuch as Cyprian, teacher of Antioch, and the virgin Justa have chosen for themselves the vain teaching of the Christians and have not desired life, but have preferred death, these shall suffer by the sword and shall die.
And they led away the holy one with the virgin to a river named Galius, in the land of Nicomedia, and he asked that they wait for them two hours for prayer. And he made mention of all the churches that were in the world and of all the servants of Christ. And he set the virgin at his right hand and sealed her with the sign of Christ, and he prayed that they crown her first, and it was done. And he said, Praise unto Christ. And there was a man whose name was Theoktistus, who had come from the country, and he saluted the holy one. And there was looking on a councillor of King Diocletian, and straightway he ordered them to cut off his head. And after him they beheaded the holy Cyprian also. And he ordered them to give their bodies to the dogs to eat.
And for many days, even for six of them, they guarded their bodies, cast forth without to the wild beasts. And against them faithful and good and righteous men, hearing that the holy ones had been crowned, because he was also a man of their own land, even a Roman, lying in wait for them six days, day and night, and deceived all those who were guarding them and took away the bodies of the holy ones which were more precious than gold and gems, and they brought honor to the country of Rome. And when the faithful heard the manner of their conflict, with faithful believers they brought them unto Rufina, a prophetess, of the family of Carolinus, and she took the bones of the holy ones and put them in a good place, the name of which was Esphoru Qaladaphoru, that all who come unto their bones may glorify God and our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
This was done in the reign of Diocletian and Maxiraian, in a city of the region of Nicomedia, on the fourth day before the Kalends of October on the fifth day of the month Dius, which is in Greek the month Ater and in Ethiopic the month Hedar — but for us, while Christ is our king for ever and ever. Amen.
On him who writes it, and on our father John who has it written, and on him who reads it, and on him who interprets it, and on him who hears it, may God have mercy upon us all together in the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
The martyrdom of the holy Cyprian and of the holy Justa is finished. May their blessing be with the soul of their lover lyasii and his son, our king lyo'as, and their mother, our queen Walatta Giyorgis and with their handmaiden Walatta Shelase, for ever and ever. Amen.