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Title: 'And He Saw His Pillow Being Consumed by Fire' (Martyrium Polycarpi 5,2)
Subtitle: A Proposal of Interpretation
Author(s): KOZLOWSKI, Jan M.
Journal: Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses
Volume: 85    Issue: 1   Date: 2009   
Pages: 147-158
DOI: 10.2143/ETL.85.1.2040701

Abstract :
Martyrium Polycarpi is a text whose aim is to illustrate, on the example of the attitude of the Smyrnean bishop Polycarp, the concept of the 'martyrdom in accordance with the Gospel', according to which, during the persecution, one should flee the persecutors until the moment when God reveals if the martyr’s death is prepared. In Martyrium Polycarpi 5,2, fleeing Polycarp receives a vision in which God reveals to him his will. In this vision Polycarp sees his pillow as it is being burnt. Why is it that by a symbol of a burning pillow God revealed to Polycarp that he should stop searching for a worldly shelter and prepare himself to the martyr’s death? The answer to this question constitutes the purpose of the present paper. Since the text of Martyrium Polycarpi itself does not provide sufficient criteria to answer this question, we must refer to other texts: Onirocriticon of Artemidorus of Daldis, an apocryphon called Harris Fragments on Polycarp, Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In the light of these texts it seems that the burning pillow symbolizes, besides the announcement of the martyr’s death (Onirocriticon, Harris Fragments on Polycarp), an appeal to stop searching for a shelter (reference to Matt 8,19-20) as well as the trust that Polycarp has in the will of God (reference to Mark 4,38), the last parallel being closely connected with the fact that in the pyre, Polycarp’s body does not burn.

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