The Smyrna Church Era -- Do You Know Who the Faithful in the Second Century Really Were?

Agora of Ancient Smyrna

Ancient Smyrna (Taken May 11, 2008).

By COGwriter

Smyrna is the second of the seven churches listed in the Book of Revelation. It was one of only two churches (the Philadelphia Church Era being the other) that received only praise and no correction from Jesus. The Smyrna Church became predominant by about A.D. 135 (the time of the second fall of Jerusalem), though its leadership began to develop a bit prior to this.

The Apostle John was the last of the original apostles to die. After the he died, Christians tended to mainly be led by leaders/bishops that originally had been ordained by the original apostles (as well as those ordained by those who had been ordained by the apostles). As time went on, nearly all ordained directly by the original apostles died.

What happened to affect Christianity after the original apostles died?

While apostates like Simon Magus and Cerinthus arose in the first century, others arose in the second century, during the time of the Smyrnaean church era.

After the second fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 135, and the end of the faithful line of bishops/overseers in Jerusalem (see The Ephesus Church Era) apostasy set in there (Marcus of Jerusalem: Apostolic successor or apostate?) and it became more universally recognized that the successor of the Apostle John was Polycarp of Smyrna.

Here is what John recorded that Jesus said to the Church in Smyrna:

8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."' (Revelation 2:8-11).

Notice that the Smyrna Church was a faithful church that had to deal with false Christians and that the Smyrna Church would have suffer persecution and a ten day tribulation. As this is a ten day (interpreted to be a ten year period) tribulation, this is not the great tribulation/day of the Lord as that period it lasts 3 1/2 years. Also notice the lack of any condemnation against the Smyrnaeans (most likely for their faithfulness and lack of compromise).

A sermon of related interest is also available: The Smyrna Church Era.

Roman Catholic and COG Comments

Here is something from The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Church of God in Smyrna:

Smyrna ... Christianity was preached to the inhabitants at an early date. As early as the year 93, there existed a Christian community directed by a bishop for whom St. John in the Apocalypse (i, II; ii, 8-11) has only words of praise … There were other Christians in the vicinity of the city and dependent on it to whom St. Polycarp wrote letters (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", V, xxiv). When Polycarp was martyred … the Church of Smyrna sent an encyclical concerning his death to the Church of Philomelium and others (Vailhe’ S. Transcribed by Lucia Tobin. Smyrna. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus, according to the Church of Rome, the Smyrna Church was faithful to the apostolic teachings.

Presuming that is the case, and the Apostle John was inspired to write something that supports that, the most faithful Christian church in the 21st century should be expected to have the same basic teachings and practices of the Church of God in Smyrna.

The old Worldwide Church of God published the following:

It is significant that after his release John trained Polycarp elder of Smyrna, a city near Ephesus in the province of Asia. And according to Revelation 2:8-11, Smyrna follows Ephesus! ...

At neighboring Smyrna, Polycarp presided over the Church of God for half a century after John's death. Polycarp stood up boldly for the truth while many fell away and began having fellowship with the Catholic bishops of Rome.

History relates that following the example of Peter, Paul and John, Polycarp wrote many letters to congregations and individuals, though all these have perished, save one in an edited version.

In old age ... Polycarp journeyed to Rome over the matter of Passover. His mission was not a success. The bishop of Rome, Anicetus, observed communion on Sunday. He would not be dissuaded.

The following year Polycarp was burned to death by a mob in Smyrna.

The name Smyrna means "bitter." And bitter, indeed, was the era of the Church that it symbolized! (Armstrong HW. The Church They Couldn't Destroy. Good News, December 1981)

Smyrna — "Faithful Unto Death." "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works. and tribulation, and poverty... " (verses 8-9).

Wait just a minute! Does Jesus Christ of Nazareth mean to say that a church that belongs to Him could actually be poverty stricken, and still be in His favor? Could anyone in the Church actually be impoverished if he (or she) is applying the book of Proverbs, if he is hard-working, if he is thrifty and equitable, if he is a good provider for his family, if he is laying up for his grandchildren? Wouldn't abject poverty automatically be irrefutable proof of obvious spiritual squalor as well?

Can't we grasp the fact that sometimes a people can be impoverished by corrupt government officials against their own will? Sometimes members of God's Church in past ages have been literally persecuted into a condition of poverty! ...

Here in Revelation 2:9, Jesus Christ of Nazareth lumps the terms "works, and tribulation, and poverty" all together in His commendation of the Church of God at Smyrna. ...

The closing verse in the letter to Smyrna is of especially vital significance to God's Church today. "He that hath an ear [has spiritual comprehension], let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches [plural, all seven], He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" (Rev. 2:11). (Everyone of the seven churches is told to listen and heed the messages to all seven — not just their personal one! Each one is also told to overcome!)

The time may well come in your lifetime and mine when true Christians will again be brutally martyred (mainly by mad religionists and political power brokers) for their beliefs. (Armstrong GT. What If You Had Lived in Laodicea? Good News, December 1976)

Yes, there are messages to the Church of God in Smyrna that are relevant to Christians today.

Cathoolic, Protestant, COG, and other scholars have noted that only Smyrna as well as the Philadelphia Church received praise without condemnation--though both were given warnings.

Now, this article will quote from documented teachings that the Smyrnaean Christians held.

In addition to being important from a church history perspective, the Smyrnean church helps us to understand how the early faithful understood the teachings of the Bible and the apostles. Since the New Testament was essentially written in Greek, and those in Asia Minor understood that language well, how they understood should help all of us understand what Christians really believed.

The faithful during the dominance of Smyrna (A.D. 135-450) really help show us what was "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The faith that Jesus (Revelation 3:11) and the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 1:13) said to hold fast to.

Polycarp was Appointed by the Apostles as Bishop of Smyrna

Statements from Papias that seemed to tie the Apostle John to Polycarp:

Now testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John, and a friend of Polycarp, in the fourth of his books. (Fragments of Papias, From the Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord)

Papias lived in the late first century until apparently the early second century A.D.

Irenaeus of Lyon c. 170 wrote:

I can describe the very place in which the Blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed ... his personal appearance ... and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words (Eusebius, Church History V.20.6).

Polycarp was the Bishop or overseer in Smyrna. He is unique among any claimed to be a direct successor to any of the apostles.

Polycarp is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that there was a letter written to him while he was alive. He is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have written any document that we still possess to this day (there is a letter claimed to have been written by Clement of Rome, however, it does not say that he wrote it, nor is Clement considered to be the direct successor of any apostle--the Roman Catholic Church claims that Linus was Peter's direct successor; there are also letters written by Ignatius of Antioch, but the two Antiochian Churches I am aware of claim that Evodius, not Ignatius, was Peter's direct successor). Polycarp is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have any document written about him within a few weeks of his death.

Polycarp is also the only possible successor to have a writing perhaps directed to him in the Bible. Some scholars believe that when John wrote to the "angel of the church Smyrna" that this actually was addressed to the leader of the church (the Greek term translated as "angel" can mean human representatives, e.g. Luke 7:24) who they feel was Polycarp. Polycarp was alive when John penned Revelation, reportedly knew the Apostle John, and the later letter from Ignatius confirms that he was the leader--bishop--of the church in Smyrna.

Many Catholic writers acknowledge Polycarp as to having been in charge of an apostolic see. Notice one:

Episcopal sees were dotted all over the world which ever after traced their line of bishops back to their apostolic founder. Timothy was placed at Ephesus, Titus in Crete, Polycarp in Smyrna. When St. John wrote his Apocalypse, he addressed himself to the bishops of the seven principal churches of Asia Minor, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, which were all metropolitan sees. (Paulist Fathers. Genesis of the Catholic Church. In Catholic World, part 2. Paulist Fathers, 1881. Original from the University of California, Digitized Feb 11, 2010, p. 185)

Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians contains a lot of information about what he believed and taught. There was also a letter written about his martyrdom by the Smyrnaeans (probably approve by Papirius) which gives some insight into him. He is also discussed in writing by such early writers as Ignatius who write an entire letter to him (circa A.D. 108), Irenaeus who claimed Polycarp was faithful (circa 170 A.D.), Polycrates who claimed that Polycarp was faithful (circa A.D. 190), Tertullian who claimed that the true Christian church could be traced through him (circa A.D. 200), and Eusebius who wrote that Polycarp was faithful to the apostolic traditions (circa A.D. 330).

John lists the church in Smyrna after the church in Ephesus in Revelation 1:11. Interestingly, a letter purportedly from Ignatius of Antioch (in the early 2nd century, perhaps A.D. 108-120) somewhat ties Smyrna in with Ephesus:

The Ephesians greet you from Smyrna, from where I am writing you. They … have refreshed me in every respect, together with Polycarp, the bishop of the Smyrnaeans (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4)

As this letter was written probably about 8-30 years after the Apostle John's death, this shows that Polycarp already held a leadership position in Smyrna in the early second century, hence it is historically logical that he was a successor to the Apostle John (also I have seen no historical evidence that shows anyone else would have a greater claim to this succession, including any in Rome, please see the article What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History?).

According to the so-called Apostolic Constitutions, the Apostles John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew taught the laying on of hands for clergy, including deacons (Apostolic Constitutions, Book VIII, Section 3, XVII-XXII; while the apostles did not write this book, some of the information in it appears consistent with apostolic practices, while other information is not).

Since the Apostles would have believed the Bible, the laying on of hands would have been their teaching (Acts 6:5-6, 8:17, 13:2-3, 19:6,17; 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:2). The Apostle Philip along with the Apostle John likely ordained and anointed Polycarp of Smyrna as Polycarp was from Asia Minor and was appointed by more than one apostle (cf. Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4).

The laying on of hands began in the New Testament church with the apostles with continued to successive church eras (see also the article: see Laying on of Hands).

Polycarp and Earlier Bishops?

Polycarp lived a long time according to what appears to be a c. third century document found and translated in the late 20th century known as the Harris Fragments:

Polycarp ... He was ... {an} old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age. He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle. (Weidman, Frederick W.  Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions.  University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43,44).

The following claim from the Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States is of interest:

Polycarp ... Appointed to be Bishop of the See of Smyrna by the Apostles themselves, at the age of 40, he provides us with an important link in our long historical chain of Orthodox tradition clasping together the Apostles and the Second Century Church. (Youssef HG, Bishop. St. Polycarp the Blessed Peacemaker. Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States. viewed 12/01/2012)

The above is of interest as it also supports the view that Polycarp lived to be an older age than many seem to believe.

Perhaps it may be of interest to mention that back in 1821, “Cler. Gloc.” wrote that Polycarp was placed in charge of the “See of Smyrna” for around seventy years, that he calculated that Polycarp probably lived around 100 years based upon other historical records, and that the idea Polycarp died at age 86 was a “misconception” (Gloc, C. Letter to the Remembrancer, August 1821. As shown in Scott W. Garden F. Mozely JB. The Christian remembrancer. Printed for F.C. & J. Rivington, 1821, p. 454).

Some consider that Polycarp was the apostolic successor in the See of Ephesus, while others use the term See of Smyrna. Note two Roman Catholic citations, followed by a Protestant one using the See of Smyrna term:

See of Smyrna … Polycarp … its first patron … particularly charged by the Apostles to instruct it … (Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, Volumes 4-5. Society for the Propagation of the Faith, 1841, p. 82)

Polycarp himself had learned from the Apostle John and others who had seen Jesus, and was appointed to the see of Smyrna by the Apostles themselves. (Mirus TV. Church Fathers: St. Polycarp and St. Papias., January 24, 2015)

... in the see of Smyrna — Kamerios , who had been made a Deacon by Polykarp (Cadoux CJ. Ancient Smyrna: A History of the City from the Earliest Times to 324 A.D. Blackwell publishing, 1938, p. 356)

(Camerius, spelled Kamerios above, died c. 220.)

Now perhaps it should be mentioned that it is possible that there were other bishops in Smyrna prior to Polycarp.

The spurious, apparently 3rd century document called the Apostolic Constitutions states:

Of Smyrna, Aristo the first; after whom Stratæas the son of Lois; and the third Ariston. ... These are the bishops who are entrusted by us with the parishes in the Lord; whose doctrine keep always in mind, and observe our words. (Apostolic Constitutions, Book VII, Section 4, XLVI)

Now, even though the document was not from the original Apostles, that does not prove that the above information must be false.

The Life of Polycarp (a likely altered document from the 3rd century) states:

TRACING my steps farther back and beginning with the visit of the blessed Paul to Smyrna … So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. … But after the departure of the Apostle, Strataeas succeeded to his teaching, and certain of those after him, whose names, so far as it is possible to discover who and what manner of men they were, I will set down. But for the present let us proceed at once to Polycarp.

One whose name was Bucolus being bishop in Smyrna at that time, there was … a little lad named Polycarp. (Pionius (Pseudo?), Life of Polycarp, Chapters 1-3.  Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889,  pp.488-506)

Because Lois was the grandmother of Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5) and Timothy was a church leader then (c. 58-66 A.D.), those four listed leaders, presuming they existed, may have been deceased by the time Polycarp was appointed. Polycarp was less than 20 years of age at that time (possibly as young as 4, if he was martyred in 158 A.D. and the visit from Paul was in 58 A.D.), hence we would expect Polycarp to have been made a bishop that early (cf. Numbers 1:2-3; 1 Timothy 3:1-6)--especially since he stated he served Jesus 86 years (which would have had him baptized at age 18).

It is probable until near the time that the Apostle John died, the idea of apostolic succession was not considered as a major issue. But, based on what information we have, Polycarp was designated in a manner that people believed he did have apostolic succession (see also Apostolic Succession).

Polycarp eventually visited Rome around A.D. 155. And when he did, he was an old man (around 103). It took months to get there from Smyrna at that time, and this would have been a physically difficult trip for Polycarp.

However, there were apparently so many heresies originating in Rome, that he felt that as the senior leader of the true Church, that he needed to personally try to deal with them. In the late 2nd century, the Catholic historian Irenaeus recorded that the Bishops of Rome had problems with them and that both John and Polycarp strongly renounced the Gnostic heretics:

Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too…Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus.

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna ... always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time -- a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles ... John, the disciple of the Lord…exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan" (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).

Notice that Irenaeus is claiming that Polycarp was appointed bishop (pastor/overseer) of the Church in Smyrna by the apostles in Asia (which would most likely have been John and Philip and perhaps some others). Notice that Irenaeus is claiming that there was a list of men who have succeeded Polycarp until the late 2nd centuryand that they held to the teaching of the apostles. Thus the only universally accepted apostle to “bishop” transfer of leadership for the 1st and 2nd centuries that continued until at least the end of the 2nd century was through Polycarp of Smyrna (for more information, please also see the article Apostolic Succession).

Valentinus, Cerinthus, and Marcion are considered by Catholics and others to have been Gnostic heretics, while Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus were bishops of Rome (though the first two may simply have been only elders). Thus these quotes from Irenaeus show that the Roman bishops did not have a higher leadership role than Polycarp of Smyrna had, because it apparently took the stature of the visiting Polycarp to turn many Romans away from the Gnostic heretics. Marcion was possibly the first heretic to attempt to do away with the Sabbath.

Valentinus of Rome, who Polycarp denounced, who is believed to have been the first major one affiliated with Christianity to teach the Trinitarian concept of three hypostasis or make any clear statement of ‘equality’ regarding three alleged persons of God. Montanus, who was also denounced by various Smyrnaean leaders also began to promote some trinitarian concepts as well.

Tertullian noted that the Church of Rome tolerated the Gnostic heretics Valentinus and Marcion for decades AFTER they were denounced by Polycarp:

Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago,—in the reign of Antoninus for the most part,—and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled (Tertullian. The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 30. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

Sadly, the Church of Rome was influenced by allowing those heretics to stay so long (Eleutherius did not expel them permanently until 20-35 years after Polycarp denounced them).

The historian E. Gibbon indicates that it was these Gnostics that led to a great influx of anti-law Gentiles into some form of Christianity and hence led to the formation of the large churches:

The Gnostics blended with the faith of Christ many sublime but obscure tenets, which they derived from oriental philosophy, and even from the religion of Zoroaster, concerning the eternity of matter, the existence of two principles, and the mysterious hierarchy of the invisible world. As soon as they launched out into that vast abyss, they delivered themselves to the guidance of a disordered imagination; and as the paths of error are various and infinite, the Gnostics were imperceptibly divided into more than fifty particular sects, of whom the most celebrated appear to have been the Basilidians, the Valentinians, the Marcionites, and, in a still later period, the Manichaeans. Each of these sects could boast of its bishops and congregations, of its doctors and martyrs; and, instead of the Four Gospels adopted by the church the heretics produced a multitude of histories in which the actions and discourses of Christ and of his apostles were adapted to their respective tenets. The success of the Gnostics was rapid and extensive. They covered Asia and Egypt, established themselves in Rome, and sometimes penetrated into the provinces of the West. For the most part they arose in the second century, flourished during the third, and were suppressed in the fourth or fifth, by the prevalence of more fashionable controversies, and by the superior ascendant of the reigning power. Though they constantly disturbed the peace, and frequently disgraced the name of religion, they contributed to assist rather than to retard the progress of Christianity. The Gentile converts, whose strongest objections and prejudices were directed against the law of Moses, could find admission into many Christian societies, which required not from their untutored mind any belief of an antecedent revelation (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788).

(Information on the false gospels--most of which seem to have been written between 130-195 A.D.--can be found in the article Lost Books of the Bible?)

Polycarp himself wrote that “many” (which likely included many in Rome and Alexandria as well as others with affiliation) were following vain/false forms of Christianity:

“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist,” and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning (Polycarp.  Letter to the Philippians, Chapter VII).

In the first century, Jude was inspired to write:

3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)

So, while Christians were extorted to contend for the original faith, and not change it, some had started to change it in the first century. And by the second century, Polycarp referred to "many" that had false doctrines.

Notice also the following:

Polycarp in his letter To the Philippians . . . invites his recipients to abandon the vanity of the multitude and their false doctrines (τάς ψευδιδασκαλίας), to return to the word that was transmitted from the beginning … (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015).

This 'many/multitude' ended up being a confederation of many in Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Asia Minor that developed by the mid-late third century. Though there remained faithful Christians that would not be part of this.

Smyrna Christians Taught the Ten Commandments

Polycarp wrote:

But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter II. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

"But the love of money is the root of all evils." Knowing, therefore, that "as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out," let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God. Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter IV. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

Knowing, then, that "God is not mocked," we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory ...For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since "every lust warreth against the spirit; " and "neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God," nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter V. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

I exhort you, therefore, that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste and truthful. "Abstain from every form of evil." For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others ? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord ? (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter XI. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

In the above, Polycarp referred to at least seven commandments (numbers 1,2,3,5,7,9,10). And probably nine (6,8), related to murder (plus Polycarp said not to repay "blow for blow") and stealing (and he wrote against the "love of money" which can lead to stealing).

Furthermore, since in Polycarp's area, when reporting his martyrdom, the Smyrnaeans referred to Friday as the "day of preparation" and mentioned "the great Sabbath", it is obvious that the fourth commandment about the Sabbath was also kept. Also, he kept the Sabbath according to certain sources, such as the Life of Polycarp.


The first part of second century witnessed major separation between Jews and Christians. Before 100 A.D., the majority of Christians were of Jewish origins; they held worship services in synagogues, respected some Jewish alimentation ordinances as “kosher eating” , kept major Jewish annual feasts and observed Jewish Ten Commandments, resting on Sabbath.  In summary, Christians were generally seen as another Jewish sect. ...

Polycarp ... disciple of John the Apostle and bishop of  Smyrna in the second century was esteemed to be Sabbathkeeper. In the letter The Martyrdom of Polycarp by the Smyrnaeans, his disciples wrote following: “on the day of the preparation, at the hour of dinner, there came out pursuers and horsemen” later concluding that Polycarp was killed “on the day of the great Sabbath”.

The use of these two expressions (“day of the  preparation” and “the day of the great Sabbath”) indicates that Christians in Smyrna were still keeping the Sabbath around 156 A.D. (the approximate date of Polycarp's martyrdom).

Another evidence from the mid second century of continuant Sabbath observance comes from the apocryphal work Acts of John where seventh-day Sabbath is mentioned as being a true “Lord's day”. ...

Theophilus of Antioch, (130- 185 AD) considered a saint by both Catholic and Orthodox Christians, was known to attack the use of icons, immortality of soul and quoted Sabbath as being the Seventh-day appointed by God in the fourth commandment. (Zivadinovic D. REVISED and CORRECTED "SABBATH in the EAST. "Andrews University, c. 2019)

Theophilus of Antioch called the Ten Commandments the "ten heads." Here is some of what he wrote about them later in the second century:

And on the sixth day God finished His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He rested from all His works which God began to create...Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the "Sabbath," is translated into Greek the "Seventh" (έβδομάς), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation...God having thus completed the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are in them, on the sixth day, rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapters XI, XII, XIX. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885, pp. 99,102).

Now we also confess that God exists, but that He is one, the creator, and maker, and fashioner of this universe; and we know that all things are arranged by His providence, but by Him alone. And we have learned a holy law; but we have as lawgiver Him who is really God, who teaches us to act righteously, and to be pious, and to do good. And concerning piety He says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I am the LORD thy God." And of doing good He said: "Honour thy father and thy mother; that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long in the land which I the LORD God give thee." Again, concerning righteousness: "Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his beast of burden, nor any of his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbour's...Of this divine law, then, Moses, who also was God's servant, was made the minister both to all the world, and chiefly to the Hebrews...Of this great and wonderful law, which tends to all righteousness, the ten heads are such as we have already rehearsed (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book III, Chapter IX. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

So, Theophilus endorsed all of the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath command.

Even though they tend to consider that Polycarp and Theophilus were Christian saints, various modern Protestant scholars teach against the Ten Commandments (see Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants).

Yet, the true Christians in the early faithful Church of God in Smyrna and elsewhere believed that they were not done away but still needed to be kept (for more details, check out the free online booklet The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast).

Polycarp and His Followers Did Not Accept the Authority of Roman Bishops

Irenaeus noted that Polycarp would not accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome (who was then Anicetus) as Polycarp would not change from teachings that he learned from John and the other apostles regarding observance of Passover on the 14th of Nisan (the Roman Bishop preferred the Sunday after the correct date):

And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points…For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect; so that they parted in peace one from the other, maintaining peace with the whole Church, both those who did observe [this custom] and those who did not Irenaeus. (FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc.).

Apparently Anicetus conceded enough (such as about Polycarp’s position on that and probably about Marcion—who Anicetus agreed was a heretic) that no recorded major ‘blowup’ between the two survived. It appears that Anicetus, tried to satisfy Polycarp to some degree, and tried to appear not to be a complete heretic.

But were the churches in Asia Minor and Rome truly in peace after that?

The Catholic monk Epiphanius wrote:

For long ago, even from the earliest days, the Passover was celebrated at different times in the church…In the time of Polycarp and Victor, the east was at odds with the west and they would not accept letters of commendation from each other (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verse 9,7. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p.411).

It appears likely that Polycarp, when he returned to Asia Minor, would have told the Christians there that he was successful in turning some away from heretics such as Marcion and Valentinus. He probably was so disgusted by his Roman experience that he let those in Asia Minor know that they should not receive doctrine or other instruction from any in Rome--he also specifically would not change Passover observance to Sunday. This seems to be confirmed by Polycrates' writings a few decades later.

What these writings in this section show is that the aged Polycarp went to Rome to primarily deal with Gnostic heretics that claimed to be Christian. It was Polycarp, and no "bishop of Rome", who was successful in turning Christians away from these heretics. It was Polycarp, and no Roman bishop, who was the faithful "heretic fighter" in the second century.

Notice that Epiphanius even admits that the church used to observe the 14th when he wrote:

Audians ... they choose to celebrate the Passover with the Jews--that is they contentiously celebrate the Passover at the same time as the Jews are holding their Festival of Unleavened Bread. And indeed that this used to be the church's custom (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 8,11; 9,2. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 420-421).

Audians ... they tell churchmen ... and say, "You abandoned the fathers' Paschal rite in Constantine's time from deference to the emperor, and changed the day to suit the emperor." (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 8,11; 9,2,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 420-421).

Epiphanius claimed that Constantine made his decision "for the unity of the church" (Ibid, 9,5). He claimed that there was quarelling over the date of Passover since "after the time of the circumsized bishops" (Ibid, 9,9)--that is the first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem. Here is the quote as published in Brill:

(4) And there were altogether fifteen bishops from the circumcision. And at that time, when the circumsized bishops were consecrated in Jerusalem, it was essential that the whole world followed them, so that there would be one accord and agreement, the celebration of one festival. (5) Hence their concern [was] to bring people's minds into accord for the unity of the church.

<But> since <the festival> could not be celebrated <in this way> for such a long time, by God;s good pleasure <a correction> was made in the time of Constantine. (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 10,4,5. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p. 422)

So, Epiphanius basically is admitting that the early Christians kept Passover on the 14th, but he has the audacity to claim that God decided a change/correction needed to be made and supposedly had the pagan sun-god worshiping Emperor Constantine do it.

That was absurd and the faithful realized that. Those who went aling with the unbiblical change certainly were not following Jude's admonition to stick with the original faith (cf. Jude 3).

Anyway, since Constantine's declarations did not stop everyone from properly observing Passover, a later Roman Emperor after he became a baptized "Christian" decreed the death penalty:

Edicts of Theodosius against the heretics, A.D. 380-394...Theodosius...decreed the death of the offender; and the same capital punishment was inflicted on the Audians, or Quartodecimans, who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime of celebrating on an improper day the festival (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Chapter XXVII. ca. 1776-1788).

The various enactments against heretics are contained in the Code of Theodosius (16. tit. 5. s. 6—23 ; and the commentary of Gothofredus): the Eunomians, whose guilt consisted in denying any resemblance between the two sub- tances, and who were accordingly Anomoeans, were also deprived of the power of testamentary disposition, and of taking by testamentary gift: they seem, in fact, to have been deprived of all the rights of citizens. The Manichaean heresy was punishable with death; and the same penalty threatened the Audians or the Quartodecimans, who celebrated the festival of Easter on the wrong day. To the reign of Theodosius belonged the glory or the infamy of establishing Inquisitors of Faith, who seem to have been specially enjoined to look after the crime of the Quartodecimans (Smith W. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology : Oarses-Zygia. J. Murray, 1890 Item notes: v. 3 Original from Harvard University Digitized Jul 8, 2008, p. 1064).

Is killing those that followed the example of Jesus and John to observe the Passover on the 14th instead of Sunday a sign of a true Christian leader or a sign of a supporter of antichrist? Notice that the office of the "Inquisitors" was actually first formed to deal with people who kept Passover on the original biblical date--did you know that the date of Passover was considered to be that important?

But that happened to various ones at the time of Smyrna and Pergamos. We in the Continuing Church of God still keep Passover when the apostles and the faithful in Smyrna did.

It should also be understood that the Smyrnaean Christians kept the seventh day Sabbath while Rome was adding Sunday. According to the letter The Martyrdom of Polycarp by the Smyrnaeans, "on the day of the preparation, at the hour of dinner, there came out pursuers and horsemen" and the Polycarp was killed "on the day of the great Sabbath" (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Verses 7.1 & 8.1. Charles H. Hoole's 1885 translation. © 2001 Peter Kirby).

The use of these two expressions "day of the preparation" and "the day of the great Sabbath" shows that those in Smyrna (a Gentile filled area) were still keeping the Sabbath around 156 A.D. (the approximate date of Polycarp's martyrdom).

Regarding the second century church in Asia Minor, the German historian W. Bauer wrote:

Asian Jewish Christianity received in turn the knowledge that henceforth the "church" would be open without hesitation to the Jewish influence mediated by Christians, coming not only from the apocalyptic traditions, but also from the synagogue with its practices concerning worship, which led to the appropriation of the Jewish passover observance. Even the observance of the sabbath by Christians appears to have found some favor in Asia...we find that in postapolstolic times, in the period of the formation of ecclesiastical structure, the Jewish Christians in these regions come into prominence (Bauer W. Kraft RA, Krodel G, editors. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 2nd edition. Sigler Press, Mifflintown (PA), 1996, pp.87-89).

Sabbath-keeping in Asia Minor was publicly still going on to at least 364 A.D. or else the Eastern Church would not have convened a Council in Laodicea to excommunicate any who rested on the seventh day that year:

CANON XXIX. CHRISTIANS must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ (THE COMPLETE CANONS OF THE SYNOD OF LAODICEA IN PHRYGIA PACATIANA).

In spite of this declaration, seventh-day Sabbath-keeping by the faithful continued after that (please section on the Nazarenes below).

The Church of God in Smyrna was the Original Catholic Church

While most people would say that the Church of Rome was the original "catholic church," that is actually not accurate.

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia and other early sources, it was the Church of God in Smyrna that was first referred to as the "catholic church." Here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia itself teaches:

The combination "the Catholic Church" (he katholike ekklesia) is found for the first time in the letter of St. Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written about the year 110. The words run: "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be, even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal [katholike] Church." However, in view of the context, some difference of opinion prevails as to the precise connotation of the italicized the beginning of the fourth century it seems to have almost entirely supplanted the primitive and more general meaning...The reference (c. 155) to "the bishop of the catholic church in Smyrna" (Letter on the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, xvi), a phrase which necessarily presupposes a more technical use of the word, is due, some critics think, to interpolation...(Thurston H. Catholic. Transcribed by Gordon A. Jenness. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Here is the first time the term "catholic church" is used and is from a letter written by Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans around 110 AD:

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father, and of the beloved Jesus Christ, which has through mercy obtained every kind of gift, which is filled with faith and love, and is deficient in no gift, most worthy of God, and adorned with holiness: the Church which is at Smyrna, in Asia, wishes abundance of happiness, through the immaculate Spirit and word of God...

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles...

Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church ...(Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 0.0., 8.1, 8.2).

The "bishop" he was referring to was Polycarp, for, as was reported earlier, Polycarp was appointed the "bishop of the Church in Smyrna". Thus, the first time that the term "catholic church" is used, it is in a letter to those in Smyrna.

Of course, Ignatius knew that Polycarp was then bishop of Smyrna because also around 110 A.D. he wrote:

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus , to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans , or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [ wishes ] abundance of happiness (Ignatius. Letter to Polycarp, 0.0.).

Hence, Ignatius knew that Polycarp was the bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans, that they were part of the Church of God, and being under Christ made them part of the catholic (universal) church.

The second time the term "catholic church" seems to be found in ancient writings is in a letter written about 156 A.D.:

...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 (The Smyrnaeans. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 16.2).

Thus, it was Polycarp's church--the Smyrnaean Church of God--that truly was the original "catholic church". Note: I have used lower case for the term "catholic church" in the translations because the term, according to most scholars, was used more of as a description than a title, But the fact is that the expression "catholic church" was originally directed to the Church of God in Smyrna.

In time, the term "catholic church" was later taken by the Church of Rome and those in Alexandria, even though those churches do not hold to many of the doctrines and practices that the Smyrnaean Church of God under Polycarp's leadership held. For a time, it seems that the term "catholic church" meant a church professing Christ that was not part of the movements of Simon Magus, Marcion, or Montanus, and various overt Gnostics.

The other term that the Smyrnaeans referred to themselves as was the "Church of God":

The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna…(The Smyrnaeans. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 0.0. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>)

So, Church of God was clearly a proper term for them as that is how they described themselves. And they also were the original "catholic church."

Since they kept the Sabbath, Passover on the 14th, etc., the mainstream has tended to think they were too Jewish. Yet, notice the following admission:

The widespread notion that Jewish Christianity separated itself from the "great church" and subsequently led a cloistered existence as a sect (cf. above,242 n. 3) must be revised. It is much more probable that ... Jewish Christianity was the sole representative of Christianity and the problem of its relationship to the "great church" had not yet arisen. (Bastianelli M. Orthodoxy and heresy in earliest Christianity. Appendix 1: On the Problem of Jewish Christianity, 1971)

Apostolic Succession of Leaders in Smyrna

Polycarp was probably the most influential of the early leaders in Smyrna sometime after the Apostle John died. Furthermore, history records that there were a lot of early leaders in the Smyrna Church, and many were martyred. The information below shows approximately when many of those leaders died (and not all of them were necessary in "succession" to each other), and also has article links to many of them:

Polycarp died circa 155-157 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Thraseas died circa 160 (oversaw the churches from Eumenia, but died in Smyrna)
Sagaris died circa 166-167 (died in Laodicea of Asia Minor)
Papirius died circa 170 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Melito died circa 170-180 (oversaw churches from Sardis of Asia Minor)
Apollinaris died circa 195 (oversaw churches in Hierapolis)
Polycrates died circa 200 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Apollonius of Ephesus died circa 210 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Camerius of Smyrna through death circa 220 (possibly oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor).
Eudaemon of Smyrna through his compromise with the pagans seems to have been a successor that lost the 'mantle' of succession while alive.
Pionius of Smyrna through death circa 250 (was faithful during the time of a leader, Eudaemon of Smyrna)

Whether referred to as Smyrnaeans or the See of Ephesus, the early leaders in the list shown above clearly held Church of God doctrines that were later condemned by the Greco-Roman churches (and often called an anathema to Protestant ones). Available evidence strongly suggests that the above leaders were all Church of God--in all cases, only God knows for sure (some additional notes are in the article Timelines).

[There is basically no information about Camerius of Smyrna, other than he is listed as bishop of Smyrna prior to the mid-third century in sources like the 27th chapter of Pionius' The Life of Polycarp (an incomplete book, which seems to have been corrupted by the 4th century). After Polycrates and Apollonius, the official history (with Eusebius the main writer) says almost nothing about the true church in Ephesus, though a compromised church from there develops importance in the fourth century (and for a while, it claimed "apostolic succession." I have not been able to locate a legitimate list of its 3rd century bishops beyond what is shown above). Although historian F. Arundell has listed 70 so-called "bishops of Ephesus" (Arundell Francis V. Discoveries in Asia minor: including a description of the ruins of several ancient cities and especially Antioch of Pisidia : in two volumes, Volume 2. Bentley, 1834. Original from the Bavarian State Library. Digitized Feb 9, 2010, pp. 272-273), he failed to name most of the early ones (though he did list Timothy, the Apostle John, Polycrates, and Apollonius) and has a gap of over 100 years after Apollonius (and it need to be understood that during this gap, there was so much apostacy, that those he listed after Apollonius were not faithful Christians). Many have listed Timothy in lists of Ephesus succession along with Polycrates and Apollonius, yet although Timothy was in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:1-3), he would not have been above the Apostle John (though historians like F. Arundell places the Apostle John after Timothy in a list of "the bishops of Ephesus". F. Arundell lists Timothy as 1, John as 2, Polycrates as 8, Apollonius as 9, then with the year 357 lists Menophanteus as 10, which is a major gap, plus Menophanteus differed to greatly from the second century ones (it needs to be understood that during this gap, there was so much apostasy in the region, that those listed as bishops in Asia Minor by the Greco-Romans after c. 240-264 were not truly faithful Christians). It is also possible that many of the leaders above, while part of the Smyrna church era, were considered to be part of the See of Ephesus--Polycarp is one who was one who has been so suggested, "Polycarp, the successor of St . John in the see of Ephesus" (Wall JC. The first Christians of Britain. Talbot & Co., 1927. Original from the University of California, Digitized Sep 25, 2007, p. 34)--but Polycarp did not seem to be prominent over much of true Christendom until Jerusalem was taken over in 135 A.D. and the faithful were dispersed. Perhaps it should be added that Pionius of Smyrna was faithful when killed c. 250 A.D., but the claimed bishop there at that time (Eudaemon/Euctemon) was not. Although Eudaemon/Euctemon looked to many to have the 'mantle' of succession, spiritually Pionus appears to have had it at that time--though it could be been elsewhere.]

Most of the leaders in the list I put together above wrote letters or treatises that survive until this day (and many of them are cited in the articles show below in the Doctrine section). We in the Continuing Church of God would call the list of successors Smyrnaeans, partially because of the time that Polycarp arose in prominence. However, the Greek Orthodox have claimed these leaders as part of the Patriarch of Ephesus, despite the fact that the Greek Orthodox do not hold to many of the teachings these early leaders had (see also Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God).

Some who claim to be Greek Orthodox have sometimes also referred to this church as the Smyrnaean Orthodox Church (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Ephesus, of All Asiana, and the Americas. viewed 02/20/15). But the leaders of original church in this region held Church of God, not Greek Orthodox doctrines. By the fourth century, those who held to the original doctrines tended to be called Nazarenes by Greco-Roman supporting authors.

It should be noted that there were also faithful leaders in Antioch until the death of Serapion in the early 3rd century.

For more information, please also see the article Apostolic Succession.

Thraseas a Martyr and Heresy Fighter

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, Thraseas was an anti-Montantist:

...the martyr-Bishop Thraseas, another adversary of Montanism (Grey F.W. Transcribed by Paul-Dominique Masiclat, O.P. Apollonius of Ephesus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Of the Montanists, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

the date of Thraseas is therefore about 160, and the origin of Montanism must be yet earlier...We hear of no false doctrines at first...St. Jerome's account, written in 384...describes them as Sabellians in their idea of the Trinity (Chapman J. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Montanists. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

One of the so-called Montanist Oracles was:

"I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) 01/31/06).

This is one of the first references to a trinitarian view of the Godhead (the other earliest one was from the heretic Valentinus). The paraclete is a term used to signify the Holy Spirit (it is from the Greek term parakletos).

Since the true Church of God is binitarian, it is logical that any affiliated with it would have opposed any trinitarian teachings. Roman leaders seemed to be tolerant of the Montanists until sometime after Thraseas and others in Asia Minor condemned them (Rome finally condemned the Montanists decades later, but not for this doctrine).

Even scholars like the Catholic Mauricio Saavedra Monroy recognize that Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch made binitarian statements:

As for the binitarian confessional formula, which confesses the Father and the Son, we likewise find examples in Polycarp and Ignatius. (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 292)

Eusebius records that Smyrna-era Church of God leaders such as bishops Apollinaris of Hierapolis, Serapion of Antioch, and Apollonius of Ephesus, opposed the Montanist heresies:

This same Apollonius states in the same work that, at the time of his writing, it was the fortieth year since Montanus had begun his pretended prophecy...

Serapion, who, as report says, succeeded Maximinus at that time as bishop of the church of Antioch, mentions the works of Apolinarius against the above-mentioned heresy. And he alludes to him in a private letter to Caricus and Pontius, in which he himself exposes the same heresy, and adds the following words:

"That you may see that the doings of this lying band of the new prophecy, so called, are an abomination to all the brotherhood throughout the world, I have sent you writings of the most blessed Claudius Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia." In the same letter of Serapion the signatures of several bishops are found, one of whom subscribes himself as follows: "I, Aurelius Cyrenius, a witness, pray for your health." And another in this manner: "Aelius Publius Julius, bishop of Debeltum, a colony of Thrace. As God liveth in the heavens, the blessed Sotas in Anchialus desired to cast the demon out of Priscilla, but the hypocrites did not permit him" (Eusebius Book V, Chapters 18-19).

This clearly shows that Serapion of Antioch was clearly in fellowship with Church of God leaders in Asia Minor. Hence, he and others in Antioch would also be taking Passover on the 14th, etc. Furthermore notice:

For we, brethren, receive both Peter and the rest of the apostles as Christ Himself. But those writings which are falsely inscribed with their name, we as experienced persons reject, knowing that no such writings have been handed down to us. When, indeed, I came to see you, I supposed that all were in accord with the orthodox faith (Serapion of Antioch. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From the book concerning the Gospel of Peter--Eusebius Church History VI,12. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors; American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby).

So, while Serapion was in fellowship with the Smyrnaeans in Asia Minor, he was NOT with those who accepted the falsely named "Gospel of Peter." Since people like Origen of Alexandria did, this shows that the true Smyrnaean Christians were not in fellowship with people like Origen of Alexandria in the early third century.

Furthermore, Serapion when warned about a growing "lying band" (or as Roberts & Donaldson translated it "lying confederacy"), this was a reference to from Serapion to the workings of Montanus.

At that time, the Church of Rome and those in Alexandria had not yet denounced Montanus, but tended to support him (Tertullian remained a supporter). Thus, Serapion was warning against the rise of the Greco-Roman confederation that was forming--a confederacy that included the predominant group in Jerusalem (see also Marcus of Jerusalem: Apostolic successor or apostate?).

Serapion was one of many to recognize that in the second/third centuries there were two groups that claimed Christianity--and while Montanus was eventually denounced by that confederacy, that group ended up accepting "Gregory the Wonderworker" and accepting more and more false doctrines (see also Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries?).

This 'confederacy' came about by the influence of several sources. Irenaeus has been pointed to as being an early promoter of the "universal church" that certain others later also pushed (Pagels E. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. Vintage, reprint 2004, pp. 323-324). Essentially there is a view that "orthodox Christianity is really the product of a late second-century, church father, Irenaeus" (Bock DL. The Missing Gospels. Thomas Nelson, 2006, pp. xxi-xxii). While some, like Dr. Darrell Bock deny that is true (Bock p. xxii), the reality is that Irenaeus affected the course of history when he chose the Greco-Roman confederation over the Church of God.

Furthermore, defenders of 'orthodoxy,' including for example Dr. Bock and the 19th century theologian Adolf Hilgenfeld, essentially point to writings from those we in the Continuing Church of God would consider to be apostates, such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Hippolytus of Rome as being instrumental in developing what they consider to be Christianity after the writings of people like Polycarp (Bock, pp. 10-11). While acting like those writers were mainly defining original Christianity, the reality is that they were pushing a deviant version that the Greco-Romans later corrupted even further.

Consider the following from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

..."The Shepherd" (Poimen, Pastor), a work which had great authority in ancient times and was ranked with Holy Scripture. Eusebius tells us that it was publicly read in the churches, and that while some denied it to be canonical, others "considered it most necessary". St. Athanasius speaks of it...St. Irenæus and Tertullian (in his Catholic days) cite the "Shepherd" as Scripture. Clement of Alexandria constantly quotes it with reverence, and so does Origen, who held that the author was the Hermas mentioned by St. Paul, Romans 16:14. He says the work seems to him to be very useful, and Divinely inspired; yet he repeatedly apologizes, when he has occasion to quote it, on the ground that "many people despise it". (Chapman. J. Transcribed by Don Ross. Hermas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

It should be despised. No one can read The Shepherd of Hermas and think that it is on par with scripture--it is simply too bizarre. Irenaeus, however, was apparently the first known leader to do so. Irenaeus may have deferred to it as many believe that it was written by the brother of the Roman "bishop" Pius.

Yet, it is clear that the early writers that many theologians respect even now, relied on non-canonical sources for their views. That at least partially explains why these writers were so far off.

Anyway, in time, the allegorical confederacy grew. It also gained much power in the third and fourth centuries--and finally received the blessing of the pagan Emperor Constantine.

Melito: Opposed to Traditions with Idols, Yet Endorsed the Millennium

The Church of God leader (who is considered to be a saint by the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics) Bishop/Pastor Melito of Sardis took a strong stand against violating the commandment against idolatry as he wrote:

Who is this God? He who is Himself truth, and His word truth. And what is truth? That which is not fashioned, nor made, nor represented by art: that is, which has never been brought into existence, and is on that account called truth. If, therefore, a man worship that which is made with hands, it is not the truth that he worships, nor yet the word of truth..."There are, however, persons who say: It is for the honour of God that we make the image: in order, that is, that we may worship the God who is concealed from our view. But they are unaware that God is in every country, and in every place, and is never absent, and that there is not anything done and He knoweth it not. Yet thou, despicable man! within whom He is, and without whom He is, and above whom He is, hast nevertheless gone and bought thee wood from the carpenter's, and it is carved and made into an image insulting to God. To this thou offerest sacrifice, and knowest not that the all-seeing eye seeth thee, and that the word of truth reproves thee, and says to thee: How can the unseen God be sculptured? Nay, it is the likeness of thyself that thou makest and worshippest. Because the wood has been sculptured, hast thou not the insight to perceive that it is still wood, or that the stone is still stone? The gold also the workman: taketh according to its weight in the balance. And when thou hast had it made into an image, why dose thou weigh it? Therefore thou art a lover of gold, and not a lover of God...

For there are some men who are unable to rise from their mother earth, and therefore also do they make them gods. from the earth their mother; and they are condemned by the judgments of truth, forasmuch as they apply the name of Him who is unchangeable to those objects which are subject to change, and shrink not from calling those things gods which have been made by the hands of man, and dare to make an image of God whom they have not seen (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. A DISCOURSE WHICH WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTONINUS CAESAR, AND HE EXHORTED THE SAID CAESAR TO ACQUAINT HIMSELF WITH GOD, AND SHOWED TO HIM THE WAY OF TRUTH. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. 9/04/05).

He also wrote:

We are not those who pay homage to stones, that are without sensation; but of the only God, who is before all and over all, and, moreover, we are worshippers of His Christ, who is veritably God the Word existing before all time (From the apology addressed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Verse III. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. 9/10/05).

An article of possible interest may be What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons?

Melito also took a strong stand against relying on the teachings of fathers (also called Tradition) above the truth:

Again, there are persons who say: Whatsoever our fathers have bequeathed to us, that we reverence. Therefore, of course, it is, that those whose fathers have bequeathed them poverty strive to become rich! and those whose fathers did not instruct them, desire to be instructed, and to learn that which their fathers knew not! And why, forsooth, do the children of the blind see, and the children of the lame walk? Nay, it is not well for a man to follow his predecessors, if they be those whose course was evil; but rather that we should turn from that path of theirs, lest that which befell our predecessors should bring disaster upon us also. Wherefore, inquire whether thy father's course was good: and, if so, do thou also follow in his steps; but, if thy father's course was very evil, let thine be good, and so let it be with thy children after thee. Be grieved also for thy father because his course is evil, so long as thy grief may avail to help him. But, as for thy children, speak to them thus: There is a God, the Father of all, who never came into being, neither was ever made, and by whose will all things subsist...

And then shall those who have not known God, and those who have made them idols, bemoan themselves, when they shall see those idols of theirs being burnt up, together with themselves, and nothing shall be found to help them (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. A DISCOURSE WHICH WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTONINUS CAESAR, AND HE EXHORTED THE SAID CAESAR TO ACQUAINT HIMSELF WITH GOD, AND SHOWED TO HIM THE WAY OF TRUTH. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. 9/04/05).

Notice that Melito clearly condemned those who made idols and apply the name of God to them. Notice that he also taught that believing they are acceptable because of the traditions of fathers is in error.

Melito of Sardis also taught the millennium (Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964). Here is more information about Melito's views:

... and in the surrounding areas of Ephesus, Melito of Sardis, a well-known bishop and his followers defended millennialism. He undoubtedly borrowed some of his theories from his compatriot, Papias and relied on the Apocalypse. (Gry L. Le millenarisme dans ses origines et son developpement. Alphonse Picard, Paris, 1904, p. 81. Translated into English by Gisele Gaudet, March 2015.)

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

...a large number of Christians of the post-Apostolic era, particularly in Asia Minor, yielded so far to Jewish apocalyptic as to put a literal meaning into these descriptions of St. John's Apocalypse; the result was that millenarianism spread and gained staunch advocates not only among the heretics but among the Catholic Christians as well...Papias of Hierapolis, a disciple of St. John, appeared as an advocate of millenarianism. He claimed to have received his doctrine from contemporaries of the Apostles...A witness for the continued belief in millenarianism in the province of Asia is St. Melito, Bishop of Sardes in the second century (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Millennium and Millenarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Yet, notice what groups taught for and against the millennium:

...the millennarianism of the Jewish Christians...for which the reputation of John (Apoc. xx. 4-6; xxi.) and his peculiar followers, afforded a warrant--this millennarianism became the general belief of the time, and met with almost no other opposition than that given by the Gnostics...The thousand years' reign was represented as the great Sabbath which should begin vегу soon, or as others supposed, after the lapse of the six thousand years of the world's age, with the first resurrection, and should afford great joys to the righteous. Till then the souls of the departed were kept in the underworld, and the opinion that they should be taken up to heaven immediately after death, was considered a gnostic heresy (Gieseler, Johann Karl Ludwig. A Text-book of Church History. Translated by Samuel Davidson, John Winstanley Hull, Mary A. Robinson. Harper & brothers, 1857, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Feb 17, 2006, pp. 166-167).

Notice that it was Gnostics that taught against the millennium.

It should also be mentioned that, Marcion, a second century heretic who was denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna, who was against the law was one of the first believed to propose teaching against the millennium.

The millennial belief was so widespread that early professors of Christ sometimes marked aspects of their funerals with one or more millennial symbols--not crosses (crosses were a later development that the truly faithful did not adopt).

Perhaps it should be mentioned that ancient artifacts showing verions of “+” (ibid, pp. 298-299) or “YO (=Ω), YT, YX” (Saller SJ, Testa E. The archaeological setting of the shrine of Bethphage; Issue 1 of Smaller series. Franciscan Press, 1961.  Franciscan Press, 1961. Original from the University of Michigan, DigitizedFeb 12, 2009, p. 108), and “Σ” (Ibid, p. 113) also were sometimes used as a symbol of the pre-millennial resurrection of the saints (Revelation 20:4-6)—this resurrection was, and still should be, a chief hope of Christians (Acts 23:6; 1 Corinthians 15:12-23).

Although some have pointed to the letter “X” or other symbols on certain Christian documents and/or artifacts as a sign for the cross and/or proof of the early widespread acceptance of crosses, notice what Catholic priest and scholar B. Bagatti discovered:

The doctrine of millenarianism, being widespread, left many iconographical traces. As a sign of millenarianism, also called chiliasm, we find the Greek letter X, initial for the word chilioi (thousand)…Studying funeral monuments we find ourselves face to face with very many signs which lead us to millenarian iconographic repertoire. (Bagatti, From the Church of the Circumcision, pp. 297, 298 )

It would seem that the use of millennial symbols related to funerals possibly was partially inspired by the following passages of scripture:

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:12-25)

I presume that the symbols were to show that the deceased had faith that Jesus was raised, that Jesus would return and reign, and that Jesus would raise the deceased.

The palm tree (partially because it is mentioned in Revelation 7:9), trefoil, and other plants were also used sometimes as millennial symbols (Bagatti, From the Church of the Circumcision, pp. 296-300; Palm tree is mentioned as a connection between heaven and earth for “Jewish-Christians” in Saller, p. 95. The millenarianism view, as historian Philip Schaff noted, was widespread (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Volume 2. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, p. 381; 1884 version, p. 614).

The millennial belief was part of the true Christian faith--yet Rome and Constantinople now try to deny it. So much so, that it is the ONLY DOCTRINE in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church that it links to the Antichrist. Not only do they no longer teach millenarianism, the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox condemn this belief. Notice the following two accounts:

676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism... (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995).

Though some Ancient Church Fathers of the first three centuries AD had Chiliast leanings, the Orthodox Church formally denounced Chiliasm at the Second Ecumenical Council, in 381 (Orthodox Christian Beliefs and Practices. © 2006-2007 Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. 08/18/07).

In other words, Orthodox Church scholars know that early Christian leaders, which it calls, "Ancient Church Fathers" taught chiliasm (called millenarianism in Latin), yet it CHANGED that teaching in a church council. More information can be found in the article Did The Early Church Millenarianism? And Roman Catholic scholars now condemn it as a teaching of Antichrist. Yet, both consider that a leading second century advocate of it, Melito of Sardis, was a faithful saint.

The early faithful Smynraean Christians taught it and we in the Continuing Church of God still do (see Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?).

Polycrates and Passover and Unitarianism

From a Church of God perspective, Polycrates was perhaps the most important Christian leader at the end of the second century. The Catholic historian Eusebius tells of a problem that the Roman Church had involving Polycrates and those in Asia Minor:

A QUESTION of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour's passover...But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world...But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapters 23,25).

Here is what Eusebius records that Polycrates wrote,

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘ We ought to obey God rather than man’…I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book 5, Chapter XXIV., 2005, p. 115).

Note that Polycrates:

1) Claimed to be a follower of the teachings passed on from the Apostle John
2) Claimed that he was being faithful to the teachings of the Gospel
3) Relied on the position that teachings from the Bible were above those of Roman-accepted tradition
4) Claimed that he was being faithful to the teachings passed down to him
5) Was then the spokesperson for many in Asia Minor
6) Claimed he and his predecessors observed the time of unleavened bread
7) Refused to accept the authority of Roman tradition over the Bible
8) Refused to accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome
9) Claimed that his life was to be governed by Jesus and not opinions of men

These are positions that true Christians would have taken. (An article of interest may be Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings).

Eamon Duffy, a Catholic scholar and a member of the Pontifical Historical Commission claims that although Eusebius seemingly implies that Victor called for some significant synods, everyone responded to Victor, and then he attempted to excommunicate those in Asia Minor (though was stopped from doing so by Irenaeus per Eusebius.  Church History.  Book V, Chapter 24, verses 11,18, p. 115), this is probably not what happened (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, pp. 15-16).

E. Duffy also wrote:

Victor was not brawling randomly around the Mediterranean spoiling for a fight, but trying to impose uniformity of practice on all the churches in his own city, as part of a more general quest for internal unity and order. The churches of proconsular Asia may well have protested the condemnation of a custom…but Victor’s excommunication was aimed at Asian congregations in Rome, not broadside at churches over whom he which had no direct jurisdiction. (Duffy, pp. 15-16)

While Victor apparently hoped that Asia Minor would go along with him, obviously as Polycrates wrote, Asia Minor would not. And Eamon Duffy is correct that his Roman church did NOT have any jurisdiction over the Churches of God in Asia Minor. More on Passover can be found in the article Passover and the Early Church.

Instead of indicating any real superiority of the Church of Rome, Polycrates’ letter clearly supports the view that the Church of God in Asia Minor towards the end of the 2nd century considered the Bible, and not Rome, as authoritative.

The Elders of Smyrna Denounced a View that is Now Basically Trinitarian

Apparently during Polycrates' time a unitarian form of something like the trinitarian heresy appeared.

As could be expected, the heretic was put out of the church by the leaders there. Hippolytus of Rome later reported what happened as follows:

1. Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, (and) lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died. You see what pride of heart and what a strange inflated spirit had insinuated themselves into him. Froth his other actions, then, the proof is already given us that he spoke not with a pure spirit; for he who blasphemes against the Holy Ghost is cast out from the holy inheritance. He alleged that he was himself Moses, and that Aaron was his brother. When the blessed presbyters heard this, they summoned him before the Church, and examined him. But he denied at first that he held such opinions. Afterwards, however, taking shelter among some, and having gathered round him some others who had embraced the same error, he wished thereafter to uphold his dogma openly as correct. And the blessed presbyters called him again before them, and examined him. But he stood out against them, saying, "What evil, then, am I doing in glorifying Christ? "And the presbyters replied to him, "We too know in truth one God; we know Christ; we know that the Son suffered even as He suffered, and died even as He died, and rose again on the third day, and is at the right hand of the Father, and comes to judge the living and the dead. And these things which we have learned we allege." Then, after examining him, they expelled him from the Church. And he was carried to such a pitch of pride, that he established a school.

2. Now they seek to exhibit the foundation for their dogma by citing the word in the law, "I am the God of your fathers: you shall have no other gods beside me; " and again in another passage, "I am the first," He says, "and the last; and beside me there is none other." Thus they say they prove that God is one...

3...See, brethren, what a rash and audacious dogma they have introduced, when they say without shame, the Father is Himself Christ, Himself the Son, Himself was born, Himself suffered, Himself raised Himself. But it is not so. The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated...For it is right, in the first place, to expound the truth that the Father is one God, "of whom is every family," "by whom are all things, of whom are all things, and we in Him."...

12..."In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however (Hippolytus. Against the Heresy of One Noetus. Circa 220 AD).

Since those in Asia Minor were binitarians and not unitarians nor trinitarians, this condemnation of the teachings of Noetus makes sense. It is also consistent with the fact that early church history clearly shows that the leaders in Asia Minor tended to condemn heresies often decades before those in Rome did (and sadly, the Church of Rome sometimes adopted parts of their heresies). (As mentioned previously, they condemned the trinitarian leaning Valentinus and Montanus well before the Romans did.)

Notice that the elders/presbyters of Smyra disfellowshipped someone who claimed that the Father became incarnate as the Son. That is a view that is very close to what many trinitarians hold to. They say that the Father and Son are the same substance. The idea that the Father and Son were the same, but simply a different manifestation, was denounced by the church leadership in Smyrna. This is believed to have occurred in the late second century (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 295).

African Bishop Nepos

During the time of the Smyrnaean era, influence of the Gnostic allegorizers spread and affected people who were not in the true Church of God like Clement and Origen of Alexandria (see What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?).

But the Smyrneans took a different approach.

19th century church historian J.F. Hurst noted the following (bolding mine):

The school of Asia Minor consisted less in a formal educational centre than in a group of theological writers and teachers. The whole region had been a scene of active theological thought since Paul's day. In the second century it leaned towards a literal and Judaistic type of Christianity...It opposed Gnosticism and suppressed Montanism. Polycarp, Papias, Melito of Sardis…were its leaders in its first period… (Hurst JF. Short history of the Christian church.  Harper, 1892.  Original from Harvard University. Digitized Oct 26, 2007, p. 37)

Thus, the influence of the Judeo-Christian region of Asia Minor, and sticking to the Bible over allegory, has long been known.

Leaders such as the African bishop/pastor named Nepos of Arsinoe as well as Lucian of Antioich also denounced allegorical Greco-Roman opponents.

Nepos, thus, stood for the millennium.

Here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

An Egyptian bishop, Nepos, taught the Chiliastic error that there would be a reign of Christ upon earth for a thousand years, a period of corporal delights; he founded this doctrine upon the Apocalypse in a book entitled "Refutation of the Allegorizers" (Chapman, John. "Dionysius of Alexandria." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 14 Aug. 2008 <>.).

A nineteenth century anti-millennial scholar named Giovanni Battista Pagani went as far as to write the following about Nepos and those who supported the millennium:

…all those  who teach a millennium framed according to Jewish ideas, saying that during the millennium, Mosaic law will be restored…These are called Judaical Millenarians, not as being Jews, but as having invented and upheld a millennium according to Jewish taste.  The principal authors of this error were Nepos, an African Bishop, against whom St. Dionysius wrote his two books on Promises; and Apollinaris, whom St. Epiphanius confound in his work against heresies (Pagani, Giovanni Battista. Published by Charles Dolman, 1855. Original from Oxford University. Digitized Aug 15, 2006, pp. 252-253).

It should be of interest to note that neither Nepos nor Apollinaris of Laodicea were Jews, but were condemned for having a religion that had “Jewish” beliefs. 

The following from Dionysius clearly shows that Nepos was still respected after he died (Nepos died prior to Dionysius’ mid-third century writing of the following) and really did not refute him from a biblical perspective:

But as they produce a certain composition by Nepos, on which they insist very strongly, as if it demonstrated incontestably that there will be a (temporal) reign of Christ upon the earth, I have to say, that in many other respects I accept the opinion of Nepos, and love him at once for his faith, and his laboriousness, and his patient study in the Scriptures, as also for his great efforts in psalmody, by which even now many of the brethren are delighted. I hold the man, too, in deep respect still more, inasmuch as he has gone to his rest before us. Nevertheless the truth is to be prized and reverenced above all things else. And while it is indeed proper to praise and approve ungrudgingly anything that is said aright, it is no less proper to examine and correct anything which may appear to have been written unsoundly. If he had been present then himself, and had been stating his opinions orally, it would have been sufficient to discuss the question together without the use of writing, and to endeavour to convince the opponents, and carry them along by interrogation and reply. But the work is published, and is, as it seems to some, of a very persuasive character; and there are unquestionably some teachers, who hold that the law and the prophets are of no importance, and who decline to follow the Gospels, and who depreciate the epistles of the apostles, and who have also made large promises  regarding the doctrine of this composition, as though it were some great and hidden mystery, and who, at the same time, do not allow that our simpler brethren have any sublime and elevated conceptions either of our Lord's appearing in His glory and His true divinity, or of our own resurrection from the dead, and of our being gathered together to Him, and assimilated to Him, but, on the contrary, endeavour to lead them to hope  for things which are trivial and corruptible, and only such as what we find at present in the kingdom of God. And since this is the case, it becomes necessary for us to discuss this subject with our brother Nepos just as if he were present (Dionysius of Alexandria. From the Two Books on the Promises. Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight. Viewed 8/14/08).

In other words, Nepos knew his Bible, but did not hold to the same position that allegorists like Dionysius of Alexandria held.  But those who held to Judaeo-Christian beliefs, while slightly chastised, simply were almost never condemned by the early allegorists (see also What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?).

Smyrnaean Leaders Denounced Heresies

The leaders in Smyrna/Asia Minor denounced heresies.

Table of Early Heretics/Heresies Denounced by Smyrnaean Leaders



Heretic/Heresy Denounced by Smyrnaean Leaders

Tolerated by Rome Until

Marcion, Montanus, Valentinus

A different gospel.

Polycarp, Melito, Thraseas, and Theophilus.

Variations of the different gospels have been accepted by essentially all of the Greco-Roman faiths.


Allegory,  improper tradition, improper festivals, and   improper apparitions sometimes sources of doctrine.

Apostle John in Ephesus. Also by Melito of Sardis and others.

Variations adopted by Greco-Roman faiths.


Sabbath done away.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp and later by Theophilus.

Rome tolerates anti-Sabbath teaching to this day.


Ten Com- mandments done away.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp and later by Theophilus.

Exceptions to the Ten Command -ments accepted to this day. This is the part of what Paul called the "mystery of lawlessness" of 2 Thessa-lonians 2:7.


Jesus not coming for millennial reign.

c. 170 A.D. by Melito. Later by Nepos.

c. 180 Marcion excommunicat-ed, but heresy later accepted.


God is three hypostases.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp.

Still accepted; adopted by Council in 381.

Valentinus and Anicetus

Traditions in conflict with the Bible can be source of doctrine.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp; c. 170 A.D. by Melito.

c. 180 A.D. Valentinus was excommunicat-ed, but heresy still accepted.

Anicetus, Victor, and other early Roman leaders

Passover is on Sunday.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp;
c. 195 A.D. by Polycrates.

Still accepted.


False prophecies.

c. 157 A.D. by Thraseas and later others, like Apollonius.

c.206-218 A.D. Montanists finally denounced.


God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

c. 157 A.D. by Thraseas and others.

Later adopted and now still accepted.

Tradition originated in the “Gospel of James” circa 120-200 A.D.

Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus or Mary is a perpetual virgin.

c. 200 by some in Asia Minor and Jewish-Christians.

Adopted as the 5th General Council of Constantinople in 553 granted “perpetual virgin” title to Mary. Now a Catholic dogma.


Father is same as Son.

c. 200 by Smyrna presbyters.

c. 220 A.D. finally denounced; though a  version still accepted.

“Gospel of Peter”

Considering false gospel as scripture.

c. 200 by Serapion of Antioch.

Probably into 4th century.

Platonic-Gnostic and pagan sources, including Justin Martyr claiming Plato.

Cross is a Christian religious symbol of signing and/or veneration.

c. 4th-7th centuries by Paulicians of Armenia and Asia Minor.  It could have been denounced prior, but the practice was not so widespread in Asia Minor earlier.

This heresy started to appear in the 2nd century and was essentially finally formally adopted at a council in 843.

Note: All of those listed as Heretics are considered heretics to this day by the Church of Rome.

Although Greco-Roman supporting leaders outside of Asia Minor/Antioch sometimes denounced these particular heretics, their churches often ended up adopting portions of their heresies. There were other heresies introduced in the 2nd to 4th centuries that were never accepted by the faithful Quartodeciman successors to the 2nd century Asia Minor leaders, as they did not teach the Jewish apocrypha, special dress for the clergy, clerical celibacy, immortal souls going to heaven, baptism by sprinkling, unclean meat consumption, military service for Christians, a mystic Eucharist, or a winter holiday somewhat coinciding with Saturnalia/Mithra ceremonies, etc. Even certain Catholic/Orthodox “saints” in the first few centuries originally condemned many of those particular doctrines. Variations of such teachings are now accepted by the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics.

Historical evidence shows that leaders in Asia Minor denounced heresies generally before Rome did. And sadly, Rome adopted and/or later accepted some version of many of these denounced heresies.

Would the leaders of the true Church be more likely to tolerate or denounce heretics? The answer should be obvious (and to those it is not, recall that Jesus, Peter, Paul, Jude, John and others denounced false religious leaders in the New Testament). 

Tertullian Teaches that the Smyrnaeans May Be the True Church

Tertullian was once a Catholic theologian who lived during Polycrates’ time. Regarding the identity of the true church, Tertullian wrote:

The real question is, 'To whom does the Faith belong? Whose are the Scriptures? By whom, through whom, when and to whom has been handed down the discipline by which we are Christians? The answer is plain: Christ sent His apostles, who founded churches in each city, from which the others have borrowed the tradition of the Faith and the seed of doctrine and daily borrow in order to become churches; so that they also are Apostolic in that they are the offspring of the Apostolic churches' (Tertullian. Liber de praescriptione haereticorum, circa 208 A.D. As quoted in Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

To further answer those questions, Tertullian then concluded that there were only two possibilities at the time (around 200 A.D.) as he wrote,

Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this (ibid.).

Tertullian essentially claimed no other group could prove they were the church started by the apostles. Note that he specifically mentioned the Smyrnaeans who traced themselves through John and Polycarp.

Tertullian, and others like Irenaeus (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses. Book III, Chapter 4, Verses 1,3) apparently felt that since the Gnostic heretics had no direct link to Christ or the Apostles, they should not be given any credibility in terms of being the true Church with the true Christian faith. Thus by Tertullian's time, it was apparent that there were just two possible ways that the true faith could have been preserved:

1) Through a succession of bishops that were based in Rome who allegedly received authority from Peter--a concept without biblical support as Rome is never biblically discussed in that manner.

2) Through a faithfulness of the teachings of the Church of God as taught by Christ and the apostles (like John from Ephesus) and those who later continued with those teachings (like Polycarp from Smyrna)--a concept supported by Revelation 1:11; 2:1-15; and Ephesians 4.

Since the two churches Tertullian described did not believe the same things in many significant ways, only one of these options could be valid.

Tertullian’s use of the term "Smyrnaeans" is interesting as this probably was not referring simply to those in Smyrna proper (as it was essentially destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 178, just after Melito's martyrdom, though it was somewhat rebuilt then), but those who followed the teachings of the Bible, John, and Polycarp.

Interestingly, during Tertullian’s time, in a response to the letter from Polycrates, the then bishop of Rome (Victor) attempted to excommunicate churches for keeping Passover on the 14th and not switching to Sunday (though Victor later rescinded that after other church leaders objected--more on this is in the article Passover and the Early Church). Tertullian would have known this and that perhaps why he listed the Romans and the Smyrnaeans as the only possible groups with possible apostolic ties.

Notice also the following:

Despite all the propaganda, early (second century) Christian tradition was able to make only two claims of apostolic succession: that of Polycarp of Smyrna and Clement of Rome. (Tobin P.N. The Apostolic Succession: Polycarp and Clement. © 2003. accessed 12/28/15)

More on claims of apostolic succession can be found in the article Apostolic Succession.

But the Church of God in Smyrna had it and its spiritual successors still do.

Smyrna Era Leaders

For those interested in named Church of God ‘succession’ from the original apostles, this chapter includes lists of succession of leaders from the 1st through as late as the 4th centuries.

We in the CCOG do not view our ‘succession lists’ the same way that those in the Roman or Eastern Orthodox Catholic churches view theirs. We believe that we are the true spiritual descendants of the apostles and this is not dependent upon a bishop to bishop transfer, but a true holding of teachings in a little flock--Luke 12:32 and a laying on of hands succession.

Anyway, here is a list

c. 31 - c. 64-68 Apostle Peter
c. 67 - c. 98-102 Apostle John
c. 100 - c. 157 Polycarp of Smyrna
c. 157 – c. 160 Thraseas of Smyrna
c. 160 – c. 167 Sagaris of Laodicea
c. 167 – c. 170 Papirius of Smyrna
c. 170 – c. 180 Melito of Sardis
c. 180 – c. 200 Polycrates of Ephesus
c. 200 – c. 220 Camerius of Smyrna
c. 220 – c. 254 Nepos of Arsinoe
c. 254 – c. 270 Unnamed Antiochian
c. 270 - 312 Lucian of Antioch
c. 313 - 380 Unnamed Antiochian (s)

c. 380 – 450 This is part of the beginning of the 1260 years in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6)—The leader would be someone in the minority of groups called Paulicians, Nazarenes, and/or Cathari.

* The reason we have "unnamed Antiochian(s)" is that it is that there were those in Antioch who were not part of the Greco-Roman churches who kept the seventh-day Sabbath and the biblical holy days before and after Lucian. These COG doctrines in Antioch are supported by homilies by John Chrysostom against people there into the late 4th century (Harkins PW. Discourses Against Judaizing Christians (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 68). Catholic University of America Press, pp. xxxvii-xliv). Scholars of various sorts have concluded that his homilies against the Jews were really against "Judaizing Christians" in Antioch (Hadjioannou T. PAUL AND THE LAW IN JOHN CHRYSOSTOM AND MODERN SCHOLARSHIP. Submitted to the Faculty of Divinity University of Glasgow for the Ph. D Degree. June 2005, pp. iv, 258-308). Furthermore, scholars do admit that the Passover was kept by the Antiochians until the 325 Council of Nicea and that there remained groups with Judeo-Christian practices, like the Sabbath afterwards (Rouwhorst G. “Jewish Liturgical Traditions in Early Syriac Christianity.” Vigiliae Christianae, vol. 51, no. 1, 1997, pp. 72–93; Yarag J. From Nisibis to Xi'an: The Church of the East in Late Antique Eurasia. Oxford Handbooks Online, 2012). That said, an Antiochian named Mar Posi may have been a leader from there around the time of Lucian, who ended up being taken to Persia in the 320s/330s, where he was eventually martyred (Yarag J. From Nisibis to Xi'an: The Church of the East in Late Antique Eurasia. Oxford Handbooks Online, 2012)

Some possible names for the period 313 - 380 include Asterius (d. 341) and Ufilas (d. 383)--but one or both of them may have been too attached to the Greco-Roman confederation and may not have been Church of God. That said, an Antiochian named Mar Posi may have been a leader from there around the time of Lucian, who ended up being taken to Persia in the 320s/330s, where he was eventually martyred (Yarag J. From Nisibis to Xi'an: The Church of the East in Late Antique Eurasia. Oxford Handbooks Online, 2012). There, were, however others, but we have not been able to locate their names.

The Church of God in Smyrna Kept the Holy Days

Much of what we know about those in the Smyrna Church era was written by those who were opposed to them. And we know that the other Holy Days were kept by them, because this was specifically preached against during the time of Smyrna's predominance. The Martyrdom of Polycarp teaches that Polycarp was martyred on the Day of the Great Sabbath.

Certain scholars, like Adolphus Hilgenfeld have concluded that the Great Sabbath Polycarp was killed was on the First Day of Unleavened Bread:

Hilgenfeld ... adopts the day given by the Paschale Chronicle, vii Kal. April. ..., so that Polycarp must have suffered on the 15th Nisan, i.e. on the First Day of Unleavened Bread. (Lightfoot JB. S. Ignatius. S. Polycarp: Revised Texts with Instructions, Notes, Dissertations, and Translations, Volume 1, 2nd edition. Macmillan, 1889. Original from the University of California Digitized Feb 1, 2012, p. 45)

Bucher... further calculates that in A.D. 169, March 26 coincided with Nisan 15, the First Day of Unleavened Bread. ... In like manner, Ussher... adopts 169 as the year of the martyrdom and accepts the day as given in the Paschale Chronicle. (Ibid, p. 702)

There is also further confirmation about the fact that those in Smyrna kept the same holy days in the third century. Notice something related to the elder (and claimed Roman Catholic saint) Pionius of Smyrna in the mid-third century:

2. On the second day of the sixth month, on the occasion of a great Sabbath, and on the anniversary of the blessed martyr Polycarp, while the persecution of Decius was still on, there were arrested the presbyter Pionius...

3. It was Saturday and after they had prayed and taken the sacred bread with water, Polemon the temple verger came in on them with his men in order to seek out the Christians and drag them off to offer sacrifice and to taste forbidden meats. "Surely you are aware," said the verger, "of the emperor' edict commanding us to sacrifice to the gods." "We are aware," said Pionius, "of the commandments of God ordering us to worship him alone."

Polemon said: "Come then to the market-place; there you will change your minds."

Sabina and Asclepiades said: "We obey the living God." He led them off then without restraint and as they walked along everyone saw that they were wearing their chains, and such a crowd rushed up in haste as it were for a strange sight, that they jostled one another. As they came into the forum, by the eastern Stoa and the double gate, all the forum and the upper storeys of the porches were crowded with Greeks, Jews, and women. They were on holiday because it was a great Sabbath. They drew near, looking towards the tribunal steps and the voting urns. (The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions, Chapters 2,3. Text from H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford, 1972), 137-167. accessed 07/25/15)

Note: The "sixth month" appears to a reference to the modern month of March. While The Catholic Encylopedia claims Pionius was arrested on 23 February 250 and killed on 12 March, since it is not possible to have any great Sabbaths that early in the year, then Pionius was not killed until at least 2 1/2 weeks later than that. It would likely have been 4 April 250 or 10 April 250 (the first and last Days of Unleavened Bread, respectively, that year).

Oddly, one source went so far as to assert that Polycarp could not have been killed during the Days of Unleavened Bread as that would be supportive of the view that he and others in his area kept the seventh-day Sabbath and not Sunday (George M. Faith & philosophy of Christianity. Gyan Publishing House, 2009, p. 104)--but of course the Smyrnaeans did keep the seventh-day Sabbath. Furthermore, the report about Pionius further supports that--the Jews kept the Days of Unleavened Bread as what would be considered as a 'holiday.'

Evidence shows the Days of Unleavened Bread were being kept in the second and third centuries by those trying to be faithful in Asia Minor. This observance was confirmed by Polycrates, who also showed that Passover on the 14th was kept from the time of the apostles through his time--and he wrote in the late second century. It is reasonable to conclude that some of the Jews would have been "on holiday" for the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Notice the following:

...after Jerusalem was rebuilt as a Roman city named Aelia Capitolina — to obliterate any associations with the Jews — and Hadrian was succeeded by a much milder emperor named Antoninus Pius (138-161 A.D.), the Judeo-Christians drifted back to Mt. Zion.

Their adherence to Jewish customs, especially circumcision and observance of Jewish holy days, naturally alienated them from the church of the gentiles. The fissure became a gaping canyon with the strongly anti-Judaic positions taken by the Byzantine church after the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.).

Though recognizing the authenticity of the place, the gentile Christians looked with suspicion and almost contempt at the synagogue of the Judeo-Christians on Mt. Zion, considering their way of life outdated...

Jerusalem in 381 A.D. Gregory reported that the very place that was the first to receive the Holy Spirit was now in turmoil, and that a counter-altar had been set up. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis also declared that Mt. Zion, which was once a privileged he height, had now been "cut off" (as heretical) from the rest of the church. This was the situation during the second half of the fourth century A.D. To fend off gentile influence, both pagan and Byzantine (that is, gentile Christian), the Judeo-Christians of Mt. Zion built a wall around their ancient sanctuary. It was this kind of ghetto wall that the Bordeaux Pilgrim referred to when he visited Mt. Zion in 333 A.D. He entered and exited through a wall, he reported (Pixner B. Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion. Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 1990).

So in other words, not only were there apparently faithful Christians in Jerusalem in the second through fourth centuries, they built a wall to keep distant from the Greco-Roman Christians. And they were essentially condemned by the Greco-Romans at Nicea and later.

The Byzantine saint John Chrysostom preached the following in A.D. 387:

The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now...If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, our are lies...Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them? He did not say this or that festival, but all of them together. (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. 12/10/05).

The wicked and unclean fast of the Jews is now at our doors. Thought it is a fast, do not wonder that I have called it unclean...But now that the devil summons your wives to the feast of the Trumpets and they turn a ready ear to this call, you do not restrain them. You let them entangle themselves in accusations of ungodliness, you let them be dragged off into licentious ways. (John Chrysostom. Homily II Against the Jews I:1; III:4. Preached at Antioch, Syria on Sunday, September 5, 387 A.D.).

So also the Law fixed the feast of Tabernacles (John Chrysostom. Homily IV Against the Jews IV:3. Catholic Christians of Antioch Turning to Sabbath and The New Moon Day and Other Holy Days. 387 A.D.).

John Chrysostom preached against the Fall holy days, because some who professed Christ in Asia Minor were observing them (various scholars point to Antioch, which is just near the southern edge of Asia Minor, as a main location). It is interesting to note that he must have realized that the second century church kept Passover the same time as the Jews did (this was even true in the early second century in Rome). And that the Catholic Church still kept something that they called Pentecost.

Thus by preaching what he did, John Chrysostom is preaching against his own church as the Roman and Orthodox Catholics claimed to keep both Passover (though on a different date, and with a different name) and Pentecost--as both of those festivals would be part of "all of them together" (more on the holy days can be found in the article ).

Furthermore, it should be noted that John Chrysostom had a tendency to be anti-Semitic and inaccurate. During the time of Smyrna, he also taught:

But do not be surprised that I called the Jews pitiable. They really are pitiable and miserable (I:II:1).

So the godlessness of the Jews and the pagans is on a par. But the Jews practice a deceit which is more dangerous (I:VI:4).

Do you see that demons dwell in their souls and that these demons are more dangerous than the ones of old? (I:VI:7).

Since it is against the Jews that I wish to draw up my battle line, let me extend my instruction further. Let me show that, by fasting now, the Jews dishonor the law and trample underfoot God's commands because they are always doing everything contrary to his decrees. When God wished them to fast, they got fat and flabby (VI:IV:2).

Indeed, the fasting of the Jews, which is more disgraceful than any drunkenness, is over and gone (VIII:I:5).

In speaking about this feast of the Passover, the Law says to them something such as this: "You will not be able to keep the Passover in any of the cities which the Lord your God gives to you." The Law bids them keep the feast on the fourteenth day of the first month and in the city of Jerusalem. The Law also narrowed down the time and place for the observance of Pentecost, when it commanded them to celebrate the feast after seven weeks, and again, when it stated: "In the place which the Lord your God chooses." So also the Law fixed the feast of Tabernacles. (4) Now let us see which of the two, time or place, is more necessary, even though neither the one nor the other has the power to save. Must we scorn the place but observe the time? Or should we scorn the time and keep the place? What I mean is something such as this. The Law commanded that the Passover be held in the first month and in Jerusalem, at a prescribed time and in a prescribed place...But the Passover comes to an end on the twenty-first of that month. If they began the feast on the fourteenth day of the first month and then continued it for seven days, they then come to the twenty-first ...the Law said they must not observe those rituals outside Jerusalem (John Chrysostom. Homily IV Against the Jews IV:3-4,V:4,5. Catholic Christians of Antioch. Turning to Sabbath and The New Moon Day and Other Holy Days. 387 A.D.).

Although he is correct that the Bible specifies the dates of the Holy Days, John Chrysostom is incorrect that Jerusalem is the only place.

That is never taught in the law.

To the contrary, the Jews were not even in Jerusalem when God listed the holy days in the books of Exodus and Leviticus (Jerusalem was not taken by the children of Israel until after the death of Joshua, see Judges 1:1-8).

During the time of Smyrna, there were those who kept all of the biblical Holy Days (those listed in Leviticus 23)--and they followed the practice of the Apostles John and Philip who clearly kept Passover in Asia Minor (see also Should You Observe God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?).

The Plan for Eternity

Polycarp of Smyrna wrote:

Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 6)

He teaches ... for the fruit of the eternal reward. (Polycarp, Fragments from Victor of Capua, section 4)

Simlarly, Melito of Sardis wrote:

He has given thee a mind endowed with freedom; He has set before thee objects in great number, that thou on thy part mayest distinguish the nature of each thing and choose for thyself that which is good; (Melito. A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, p. 755)

One reason to do what is good is to make things better.

48. But man, who is by nature capable of receiving good and evil as soil of the earth is capable of receiving seeds from both sides, welcomed the hostile and greedy counselor, and by having touched that tree transgressed the command, and disobeyed God. (Melito. The Homily On the Passover by Melito, line 68)

Melito also wrote:

This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever. (Melito. The Homily On the Passover by Melito, line 68)

Yes, the Smynaeans understood that God's plan was to make things better for eternity (see also Why Did God Make People? Why Did God Make Anything?).

Pionius Taught the Resurrection and that Samuel was Not Raised by the Witch

Notice something the Pionius of Smyrna taught:

13. "I understand also that the Jews have been inviting some of you to their synagogues. Beware lest you fall into a greater, more deliberate sin, lest anyone commit the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Do not become with them rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrha, whose hands are tainted with blood. We did not slay our prophets nor did we betray Christ and crucify him. But why need I say much to you? Recall what you have heard; and now put into practice what you have learned. For you have also heard that the Jews say: Christ was a man, and he died a criminal. But let them tell us, what other criminal has filled the entire world with his disciples ? What other criminal had his disciples and others with them to die for the name of their master? By what other criminal' name for so many years were devils expelled, are still expelled now, and will be in future? And so it is with all the other wonders that are done in the Catholic Church. What these people forget is that this criminal departed from life at his own choice. Again, they assert that Christ performed necromancy or spirit-divination with the cross. Yet what Scripture in their possession or in ours says this of Christ? Did any good man ever say this? Are not those who say this wicked men? How then can you believe the words of the wicked rather than those of the good?

14. "For my part, this lie that is repeated now as though it were recent, I have heard uttered by Jewish people since I was a child. It is written that Saul inquired of a diviner, and that he said to the woman who was performing the necromancy, Bring up for me Samuel (1 Sam 28:11), the prophet. And the woman saw a man rising up wrapped in a robe, and Saul recognized that it was Samuel, and put to him the questions that he wanted.

"Well, then, was the diviner able to bring up Samuel or not? If they say she was, then they admit that wickedness has more power than righteousness, and then they are accursed. If they say that she did not, then they should not assert it of Christ the Lord. But the explanation of this story is as follows. How was this wicked diviner, herself a demon, able to bring up the soul of the holy prophet that was resting in the bosom of Abraham ? For the lesser is commanded by the greater. Surely then Samuel was not brought back, as these suppose? Of course not. The truth is somewhat as follows. Whenever anyone revolts from God he is followed by the rebel angels, and demonic ministers assist him with every sort of drug, magician, priest, and wizard. And no wonder: for the Apostle says: Even Satan disguises himself us an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness? (2 Cor 11:14-15). Indeed, even the Antichrist will appear as Christ. So then Samuel was not brought up from the grave; but rather demons from Hell disguised themselves as Samuel and thus appeared to the diviner and to the faithless Saul. The Scriptures themselves will show you this. For Samuel in the apparition says to Saul: You too shall be with me today. How is it possible that the idolatrous Saul is found together with Samuel? Rather is it clear that he is with the wicked demons who have deceived him and have become his masters. Hence it cannot have been Samuel. But if it is impossible to bring back the soul of the holy prophet, how is it possible to see rising from the earth Jesus Christ who is in heaven, whom the disciples saw being taken up, and they died because they would not deny him.

"And if you are unable to maintain this against them, tell them: However it may be, we are stronger than you, who committcd fornication and worshipped idols without being forced to. Do not yield to them in despair, my brethren, but cleave to Christ by repentance; for he is merciful in receiving you back as his children." ...

20.   As Pionius was silent, hanging in torture he was asked: "Will you sacrifice?"

"No," he answered.

Once more he was tortured by his fingernails and the question was put: "Change your mind. Why have you lost your senses?"

"I have not lost my senses," he answered; "rather I am afraid of the living God."

The proconsul said: "Many others have offered sacrifice, and they are now alive and of sound mind."

"I will not sacrifice," was the answer.

The proconsul said: "Under questioning reflect within yourself and change your mind."

"No," he answered.

"Why do you rush towards death?" he was asked.

"I am not rushing towards death", he answered, "but towards life."

Quintillian the proconsul said: "You accomplish very little hastening towards your death. For those who enlist to fight the beasts for a trifling bit of money despise death. You are merely one of those. Seeing you are eager for death, you shall be burnt alive."

The sentence was then read in Latin from a tablet: "Whereas Pionius has admitted that he is a Christian, we hereby sentence him to be burnt alive."

21.  Hastily he went to the amphitheatre because of the zeal of his faith, and he gladly removed his clothes as the prison-keeper stood by. Then reaIizing the holiness and dignity of his own body, he was filled with great joy; and looking up to heaven he gave thanks to God who had preserved him so; then he stretched himself out on the gibbet and allowed the soldier to hammer in the nails. When Pionius had been nailed down the public executioner said to him once again: "Change your mind and the nails will be taken out."

But he answered: "I felt that they are in to stay."

Then after a moment's reflection he said: "I am hurrying that I may awake all the more quickly, manifesting the resurrection from the dead." (The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions, Chapters 13, 14, 20, & 21. Text from H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford, 1972), 137-167. accessed 10/17/15)

We in the Continuing Church of God do believe that Jesus was raised by God, that God did not raise Samuel, and that Christians await the resurrection of the dead. Most in the Greco-Roman churches currently have a different view (see also Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?).

Doctrines Held by the Smyrnaeans

Since the Smyrna portion of the early church was the post-apostolic period, the faithful ones during that time obviously believed the teachings of the apostles and writings in the New Testament.

Here are summaries some of the doctrines held during the time of the Smyrna Church:

Baptism was by immersion and only for adults.
The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor.
A Binitarian view was obviously held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.
Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.
Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.
Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings.
Church governance was properly hierarchical.
Church services were not like ritualistic like modern "mass" that many attend.
Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental.
Easter was not observed by the apostolic church.
The Fall Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.
The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians.
Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians.
Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.
Idols were taught against, including the use of the cross.
Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.
Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.
The Kingdom of God was preached.
Lent was not observed.
Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth) was taught by the early Christians.
Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.
Passover was kept on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second Century Christians in Asia Minor.
Pentecost was kept on Sunday by certain Jews and was observed then by professing Christians.
The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians
The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.
Salvation was believed to be offered to the chosen now by the early Church, with others being called later, though not all that taught that (or other doctrines) practiced "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians.
The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians. And they were numbered the way that the genuine Church of God and the Eastern Orthodox Church still number them) which differs from the numbering used by the Roman Catholic Church or the Lutheran Church).
Tithes and Offerings were given to support the ministry, the churches, the needy, and evangelical travels and proclamation.
Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians but was never supposed to supercede the Bible.
The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians.
Unclean Meats were eaten by the early allegorists, but not by true Christians.
The Virgin Birth was acknowledged by all true ante-Nicene Christians.

It should be clear to all that although the Greco-Roman-Protestant churches have a few of the doctrines of the Smyrnaeans, that they hold many significant doctrines that clearly are in conflict with those of the Smyrnean era. In the 21st century, the church that most closely has the practices and teachings of the Church of God during the Smyrna era of the church is the Continuing Church of God.

It should be pointed out that people such as Polycarp knew not only the apostles, but also knew koine Greel better than modern scholars do. This is important because the doctrines of the faithful in Smyrna show HOW EARLY CHRISTIANS UNDERSTOOD THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE ORIGINAL CHRISTIAN FAITH.

The real Christians of the Smyrna era had the original faith.

Nazarenes and Paulicians

In the latter portion of the third century and even into the fourth century, many Smyrnaeans (especially those with a Jewish heritage) in the Asia Minor area were known as Nazarenes and some were known as Paulicians.

The Bible records that the Apostle Paul was considered to be the head of the Nazarenes (for more on the Nazarenes, please see the article Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?):

1...Paul...5 For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).

It may be interesting to note that according to something from a 2nd/3rd century document (that was probably altered in places in the 4th century), titled The Life of Polycarp, shows that the Apostle Paul endorsed keeping the  Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost to those in Smyrna:

In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians...but named the days of unleavened bread, the Passover, and the Pentecost, thus ratifying the Gospel (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).

Thus, the "apostle to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13), taught Gentile Christians in Asia Minor (specifically in Smyrna) to keep the Holy Days. Days many now consider to be Jewish and not Christian--but apparently Paul considered them important for all Christians to keep (see also 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 where he told the Gentiles in Corinth to keep them as well). Strataeas (per Monroy, Mauricio Saavedra. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 190) is the same as Thraseas mentioned earlier as a heretic fighter. That would have made him fairly old by the time he died, but as Polycarp lived to be over 100 (see, for example, the Harris Fragments, cited in Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter), this is not out-of-the question.

Around the time of Paul's probably death, according to a report from the Catholic historian and Bishop Eusebius, Christians in Jerusalem fled to Pella because they were divinely warned:

But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come thither from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men. (Eusebius. Church History, Book III, Chapter 5. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Samuel Bacchiocchi wrote that:

Nazarenes were the direct descendants of the Christian community of Jerusalem which migrated to Pella prior to the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem (Bacchiocchi S. The Sabbath in the New Testament. Biblical Perspectives, Berrien Springs (MI), 1985, pp.90-91).

It should be noted that the Nazarenes were the true Christians, and that those that Epiphanius usually referred to as Christians were those affiliated with the Roman and Eastern Orthodox faiths--a faith that by Epiphanius' day had changed much from apostolic Christianity. The fourth century Catholic historian Epiphanius wrote of this group from the time of 69/70 A.D. until his day, and he starts out with an interesting admission:

All Christians were called Nazarenes once ... They were so-called followers of the apostles ... they dedicate themselves to the law…However, everyone called the Christians Nazarenes as I said before. This appears from the accusation against Paul ... [Acts 24:5] ... For they use not only the New Testament but also the Old…For they also accept the resurrection of the dead and that everything has origin in God…Only in this respect they differ from the Jews and Christians: with the Jews they do not agree because of their belief in Christ, with the Christians because they are trained in the Law, in circumcision, the Sabbath and the other things ... This heresy of the Nazarenes exists in Beroea in the neighborhood of Coele Syria and the Decapolis in the region of Pella and in Basanitis in the so-called Kokabe, Chochabe in Hebrew. For from there it took its beginning after the exodus from Jerusalem and to go away since it would undergo a siege. Because of this advice they lived in Perea after having moved to that place as I said. There the Nazarene heresy had its beginning (Epiphanius.  Panarion 29 as cited in Pritz, Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 30-35).

So Epiphanius states that the remnant who fled to Pella from Jerusalem, while professing Christ, believed the entire Bible, kept the Sabbath, and had other practices that he considered to be Jewish. Hence, here is a historical admission that the original church did keep the Sabbath and that for several centuries were often referred to as Nazarenes. But instead of embracing original Christianity, Epiphanius calls it an early “heresy”.

Interestingly, binitarianism was the belief of the main form of Christianity until the early third century. It mainly declined in overall popularity as the separation between true Christians (often referred to by scholars as Nazarenes and Jewish Christians) and what became the Greco-Orthodox churches widened. In the first two centuries, both true Christians and those that were more Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox in their views were binitarian. People in those three groups are often referred to by scholars as "proto-orthodox":

..."Nazarene" Christianity, had a view of Jesus fully compatible with the beliefs favored by the proto-orthodox (indeed, they could be considered part of the circles that made up proto-orthodox Christianity of the time). Pritz contended that this Nazarene Christianity was the dominant form of Christianity in the first and second centuries...the devotional stance toward Jesus that characterized most of the Jewish Christians of the first and second centuries seems to have been congruent with proto-orthodox devotion to Jesus...the proto-orthodox "binitarian" pattern of devotion. (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 560-561,618).

However, as the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox became less like original Christianity, they also adopted a different (a trinitarian) view of the Godhead. "Nazarene" Christianity completely separated from Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox "Christianity" by the end of the third century, with most of the separation occurring in the second century.

In the mid-fourth century, the Catholic Bishop of Constantia (Salamis) Epiphanius reported (two different English versions/translations) below,

The Nazarenes do not differ in any essential thing from them [i.e. Jews], since they practice the customs and doctrines prescribed in the Jewish law, except they believe in Christ. They believe in the resurrection of the dead and that the universe was created by God. They preach that God is one and that Jesus is his Son. They are very learned in the Hebrew language. They read the law . . Therefore they differ both from the Jews and from the Christians; from the former, because they believe in Christ; from the true Christians because they fulfill till now Jewish rites as the circumcision, the Sabbath, and others (Epiphanius. Adversus haereses, 29:7. As quoted in Bacchiocchi S. From Sabbath to Sunday. Imprimatur, Romae, die 16 Iunii 1975, R.P. Herve' Carrier. Thirteenth printing, 1993. p.157).

Nazarenes ...They not only {read} the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do. For unlike the previous sectarians, they do not repudiate the legislation, the prophets, and the books Jews call "Writings." They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion--except for their belief in Christ, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that God is one, and that his Son is Jesus Christ...They are different from Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Christ, but since they are still fettered by the Law-circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest--they are not in accord with Christians (Epiphanius 29:7,1-5; Williams 1987: 117-118).

Note that the Nazarenes differed from the Jews and the majority of professing Christians. The Nazarenes were seventh-day Sabbath-keeping Christians who believed in obeying the law of God.

Since Epiphanius was of the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox form of Christianity, he did not consider the Nazarenes to be his type of true Christians. But the simple fact is that the Nazarene form of Christianity was the correct form and the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox was not faithful to the original apostolic teachings (more information on that can be found in the article Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Churches of God).

It may be of interest to note that a more recent Catholic scholar and historian basically has admitted that the Nazarenes held Christian doctrines, but that they would not go along with the decisions of the Councils of Greco-Roman churches:

... the Nazarenes did not differ much in faith from the gentile Christians...

St. Epiphanius, speaking of the Nazarenes...they observed the Sabbath, and they celebrated Easter on the 14th...

They live in the city of Boroea (Aleppo), in Coelo-Syria, in the Decapolis near Pella and in Batanea in the place they call Cochabe and in Hebrew Kocabe. There name Nazarene comes from Nazareth "which today is a village in which the house of Joseph (Jesus) was educated".

...they observe the Sabbath, but have no animal sacrifices...

St. Jerome, writing..."Nazarenes. They believe in Christ, Son of God, born of the Virgin..."

In conclusion, regarding the Nazarenes, both St. Epiphanius and St. Jerome have nothing to condemn them for except the observance of customs forbidden by the Councils (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision.  Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, pp.31,34,35).

And since those councils basically wanted to enforce Sunday instead of the biblical Sabbath, Easter Sunday as a replacement for the biblical Passover, and define Catholics as those that believe in a trinity (a concept that was only held by second century heretics such as Valentinus), it should be clear to all that the "Nazarenes", therefore were faithful to the earliest teachings of the true Church. It was the Councils that often made changes (the early church was not trinitarian--for proof, please see the article Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning).

The historian Philip Schaff noted:

A portion of the Jewish Christians, however, adhered even after the destruction of Jerusalem, to the national customs of their fathers, and propagated themselves in some churches of Syria down to the end of the fourth century, under the name of Nazarenes; a name perhaps originally given in contempt by the Jews to all Christians as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  They united the observance of the Mosaic ritual law with their belief in the Messiahship and divinity of Jesus, used the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, deeply mourned the unbelief of their brethren, and hoped for their future conversion in a body and for a millennial reign of Christ on the earth. But they indulged no antipathy to the apostle Paul...They were, therefore, not heretics, but stunted separatist Christians; they stopped at the obsolete position of a narrow and anxious Jewish Christianity, and shrank to an insignificant sect. Jerome says of them, that, wishing to be Jews and Christians alike, they were neither one nor the other (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998).

They were a small church, not dominant as far as the world was concerned. But appear to have been part of the true church. And they were considered separated from those who did not believe as they did. In spite of the beliefs of the Roman Church, they still believed in Millenarianism and the Sabbath.

Consider that in the third century an elder named Pionius of Smyrna, who claimed to be part of the Catholic (not Roman Catholic) Church, refused to eat unclean meat:

3. It was Saturday and after they had prayed and taken the sacred bread with water, Polemon the temple verger came in on them with his men in order to seek out the Christians and drag them off to offer sacrifice and to taste forbidden meats. “Surely you are aware,” said the verger, “of the emperor’ edict commanding us to sacrifice to the gods.” “We are aware,” said Pionius, “of the commandments of God ordering us to worship him alone.”

Polemon said: “Come then to the market-place; there you will change your minds.”

Sabina and Asclepiades said: “We obey the living God.” He led them off then without restraint and as they walked along everyone saw that they were wearing their chains, and such a crowd rushed up in haste as it were for a strange sight, that they jostled one another. As they came into the forum, by the eastern Stoa and the double gate, all the forum and the upper storeys of the porches were crowded with Greeks, Jews, and women. They were on holiday because it was a great Sabbath. They drew near, looking towards the tribunal steps and the voting urns.

6. There was a lawyer by the name of Alexander, a wicked man, who spoke: “Listen to us, Pionius.”

“You should be concerned,” said Pionius, “to listen to me. What you know, I know; but what I know, you are ignorant of.” Alexander was minded to make sport of him, for he said to him ironically: “Why are you wearing these chains?” “First of all,” said Pionius, “so that though we are passing through your city, we mlght not be suspected of having come to eat forbidden foods…

9. Then he interrogated him for the sake of the record, while a notary took everything down. “What is your name?” he asked him.

“Pionius,” was the answer. “Are you a Christian?” asked Polemon

“Yes,” said Pionius.

Polemon the verger said: “What church do you belong to?”

“The Catholic Church,” was the answer; “with Christ there is no other.” (The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions, Chapters 3,6, & 9. Text from H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford, 1972), 137-167. accessed 07/25/15)

This was NOT the Roman Catholic Church. The term 'catholic' meant universal, and in Pionius' day seemed to be used like we use the term "true" church today.

While some associated with the Greco-Romans, like Justin, apparently ate unclean meat, Pionius (who seems to have had a connection to Polycarp of Smyrna) did not. (As far as the ‘Catholic Church’ goes, it was not until the late 4th century that the Church of Rome and its Eastern Orthodox confederation had it for its exclusive legal use because of a decree of the Emperor Theodosius related to the Council of Constantinople he called for in 381.) I should also add that the Church of Rome considers that the presbyter Pionius was a saint, hence the fact that he did not even wish to be accused of eating it in the mid-third century should show that those that considered themselves faithful Christians did NOT eat biblically unclean meats in the third century. There is also proof in the fourth century that the faithful did not eat unclean meats then either (for details see The New Testament Church, History, and Unclean Meats).

Around 404 A.D., Jerome noted in a letter to Augustine, that he did not consider that the Roman Catholics should fellowship with Sabbath-keeping Christians who abstained from unclean meats and observed Passover on the 14th:

Again I say: Since you are a bishop, a teacher in the Churches of Christ, if you would prove what you assert, receive any Jew who, after having become a Christian, circumcises any son that may be born to him, observes the Jewish Sabbath, abstains from meats which God has created to be used with thanksgiving, and on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month slays a paschal lamb; and when you have done this, or rather, have refused to do it (for I know that you are a Christian, and will not be guilty of a profane action). (Jerome. Translated by J.G. Cunningham, M.A. From Jerome to Augustine (A.D. 404); LETTER 75 (AUGUSTINE) OR 112 (JEROME), Verse 15. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series One, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1887. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

(This is also consistent with the essentially same sentiment from Justin in the second century--please article Justin Martyr: Saint, Heretic or Apostate?).

In the same letter Jerome also noted:

...the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e....keeping the Jewish Sabbath…there exists a sect among… the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, born of , the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy. If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches of Christ what they have been accustomed to practise in the synagogues of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become Christians, but they will make us Jews. (Jerome. Translated by J.G. Cunningham, M.A. From Jerome to Augustine (A.D. 404); LETTER 75 (AUGUSTINE) OR 112 (JEROME), Verse 13. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series One, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1887. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Note that Jerome means within Asia Minor when he refers to “the synagogues of the East”. Also note that this group is condemned by the Pharisees. Why? Well in addition to the fact that they believed in Christ, they did not keep the traditions of the Pharisees--the Judaic practices (see also the article Ignatius and the Sabbath). Jerome was fearful that accepting them as Christians would doom the Roman version of "Christianity"! (For more on the Nazarenes, please see the article Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?)

But it was not just Jewish Christians keeping the Sabbath as Sozomen reported in the mid-5th Century,

The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria (Sozomen. THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF SOZOMEN. Comprising a History of the Church, from a.d. 323 to a.d. 425. Book VII, Chapter XIX. Translated from the Greek. Revised by Chester D. Hartranft, Hartford Theological Seminary UNDER THE EDITORIAL SUPERVISION OF PHILIP SCHAFF, D.D., LL.D., AND HENRY WACE, D.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Seminary, New York. Principal of King's College, London. T&T CLARK, EDINBURGH, circa 1846).

The "people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere" is most likely referring to those in Asia Minor (that is where Constantinople was), and perhaps areas in Europe and the Middle East.

Noted historian K.S. Latourette wrote, “for centuries even many Gentile Christians also observed the seventh day, or Sabbath” (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.198).

And Sabbath-keeping has existed throughout history (even Roberts and Donaldson refer to it in the 1800s) and is still observed today.

The True Church of God Was Not Only In Asia Minor

The true church was not limited to Asia Minor or near Jerusalem. True churches were spread throughout many lands, such as northern Italy, France, Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Antioch, and elsewhere.

And where did those churches come from? Well, logically, they not come from Rome, but from the Smyrnaeans (the prior Church era) in Asia Minor and Palestine. According to A.N. Dugger, Dr. T.V. Moore noted:

"The type of Christianity which first was favored, then raised to leadership by Constantine was that of the Roman Papacy. But this was not the type of Christianity that first penetrated Syria, northern Italy, southern France, and Great Britain. The ancient records of the first believers in Christ in those parts, disclose a Christianity which is not Roman but apostolic. These lands were first penetrated by missionaries, not from Rome, but from Palestine and Asia Minor. And the Greek New Testament, the Received Text, they brought with them, or its translation, was of the type from which the Protestant Bibles, as the King James in the English, and the Lutheran in German, were translated." -- Dr. T. V. Moore, The Culdee Church, chapters 3 and 4, and Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 25, 26 (As cited in Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, pp. 90-91).

Early Smyrna Persecutions

Notice something from Theophilus of Antioch (who probably was part of the Church of God) perhaps written about 180 A.D.:

Consider, therefore, whether those who teach such things can possibly live indifferently, and be commingled in unlawful intercourse, or, most impious of all, eat human flesh, especially when we are forbidden so much as to witness shows of gladiators, lest we become partakers and abettors of murders. But neither may we see the other spectacles, lest our eyes and ears be defiled, participating in the utterances there sung. Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book III, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition)

So, true Christians did not believe that they were to fight nor even watch the violent sports that were popular in the second century.

Despite this, those in Smyrna underwent various persecutions.

Perhaps the first one was when compromisers led by a non-Jew named Marcus seems to have made a deal with the Roman authorities (see Marcus of Jerusalem: Apostolic successor or apostate? and Persecutions by Church and State). After a Jewish revolt (132-135), Emperor Hadrian's forces retook Jerusalem and he renamed it Ælia Capitolina. Hadrian also wanted to eliminate Jewish practices in his renamed city under threat of force. Basically, the Christians who would not compromise on the Sabbath, Passover, etc. were persecuted, while those who claimed Christ, but compromised, were not.

One of the next religious persecutions, which was largely ignored by the Smyrnaeans in Asia Minor, was when the Roman Bishop Victor made negative remarks towards them against observance of the biblical Passover on the 14th of Nisan. But that mostly affected those who were in Rome:

Victor, who acted throughout the entire matter as the head of Catholic Christendom, now called upon the bishops of the province of Asia to abandon their custom and to accept the universally prevailing practice of always celebrating Easter on Sunday. In case they would not do this he declared they would be excluded from the fellowship of the Church...

In Rome itself, where Pope Victor naturally enforced the observance of Easter on Sunday by all Christians in the capital, an Oriental named Blastus, with a few followers, opposed the pope and brought about a schism, which, however, did not grow in importance (Eusebius, loc. cit., B, xx) (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Pope St. Victor I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But this shows that there were some, even in Rome, who would not switch Passover to Sunday. It also demonstrates that the Roman bishop was NOT considered to have pre-eminence among the Smyrnaeans in Asia Minor.

During the time of Serapion, the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus unleashed persecution that was severe towards those in Antioch. Serapion and Septimius Severus apparently both died in 211. While Serapion of Antioch may have been part of the true church (he was just outside of Asia Minor, and would have probably been a Syrian), it does not appear that Serapion was succeeded by one who was faithful to Church of God teachings.

Clement of Alexander (third century) wrote a treatise titled "Against the Judaizers, which he dedicated to Alexander, the bishop" (see Eusebius, Church History, VI, 13,3) of Cappadocia, who then went to Jerusalem. Both this Alexander of Jerusalem and Clement of Alexandria often mixed pagan practices with their forms of Christianity. Eusebius records (Church History, Book VI, Chapter 11, Verses 4-5) that Alexander praised the "successor" to Serapion:

But, on the death of Serapion, Asclepiades . . . succeeded to the episcopate of the church at Antioch. Alexander alludes to his appointment, writing thus to the church at Antioch:

"Alexander, a servant and prisoner of Jesus Christ, to the blessed church of Antioch, greeting in the Lord. The Lord has made my bonds during the time of my imprisonment light and easy, since I learned that, by the Divine Providence, Asclepiades, who in regard to the true faith is eminently qualified, has undertaken the bishopric of your holy church at Antioch."

Since the "successor" to Serapion, Asclepiades, received a letter of approval from Alexander of Jerusalem who was an allegorizer and against various biblical practices for Christians, it is reasonable to conclude that Asclepiades was NOT in the true Church of God as. Thus, this is probably a leadership change to the type of person that the allegorizers liked. Apparently not all in Antioch accepted the changes, but the bulk did.

And by 250 A.D., those in Syria observed both the Sabbath and the Lord's day (see The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad-- a practice not shown to exist in Syria in the second century).

Roman Emperors themselves persecuted those of Smyrna and elsewhere, with perhaps the first notable one being under the reigns of Decius and Gallus.

Pionius of Smyrna was persecuted and killed. Around 250 A.D., Pionius of Smyrna after he was arrested, he asked:

To whom have we done wrong? Have we perchance murdered someone? Or, do we persecute anyone? Or have we obliged anyone to venerate idols? (Martyrdom of Pionius as translated in Monroy, Mauricio Saavedra. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 155)

He asked those questions knowing full well that real Christians had not done any of those things. Notice also:

Smith says of the Church at this period:

"About one hundred and twenty years after the Church of God at Pella was permitted to become again established at Jerusalem, under the leadership of Mark, an imperial edict was issued from Decius, the Roman emperor, and the Church was again exposed to great calamities. The venerable bishops of Jerusalem and Antioch died in prison, and many true followers were scourged to death, many sacrificed to wild beasts, some burned, and others perished by the sword. The Lord interfered, it seems, by sudden death coming upon the emperor Decius, but Gallus his successor, continued in the path of his predecessor. In two years, however, Gallus fell at the hand of one of his own soldiers, thus the year 253 closed this brief but terrible period of violence to the Church." -- Hugh Smith's History.

After this, we no longer clearly see any of the true Smyrna leaders in the "succession lists" that the Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic Church refer to in Asia Minor or Antioch. This was due to scattering, apostasy, and later Roman and Orthodox influence.

Around this time, the Roman Church acknowledges that there was a leader in Smyrna named:

Eudaemon (250), who apostatized during the persecution of Decius (Vailhe’ S. Transcribed by Lucia Tobin. Smyrna. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But after Eudaemon, I have seen no listed bishops of Smyrna. From what I have been able to tell Eudaemon recanted Christianity under pressure of being killed (Sweeny Silver S. Footprints in Parchment: Rome Versus Christianity 30-313 Ad. AuthorHouse, 2013, p. 97).

Furthermore, after Polycrates and Apollonius, the official history (with Eusebius the main writer) says almost nothing about the true church in Ephesus, though a compromised church from there develops importance in the fourth century.

Note the following where Eusebius lists just about everywhere in the empire except Asia Minor circa 255:

AT that time Xystus was still presiding over the church of Rome, and Demetrianus, successor of Fabius, over the church of Antioch, and Firmilianus over that of Caesarea in Cappadocia; and besides these, Gregory and his brother Athenodorus, friends of Origen, were presiding over the churches in Pontus; and Theoctistus of Caesarea in Palestine having died, Domnus received the episcopate there. He held it but a short time, and Theotecnus, our contemporary, succeeded him. He also was a member of Origen's school. But in Jerusalem, after the death of Mazabanes, Hymenaeus, who has been celebrated among us for a great many years, succeeded to his seat (Eusebius. Church History, VII, Chapter 14).

It is my belief that this lack of coverage by Eusebius is intentional. The Catholic Encyclopedia indirectly confirms this when it stated,

We have no information concerning the further course of the matter under Victor I so far as it regards the bishops of Asia. All that is known is that in the course of the third century the Roman practice in the observance of Easter became gradually universal (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Pope St. Victor I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

One Protestant source noted:

To this is to be added the fact that Melito was a chiliast...Eusebius is the first to give us an idea of the number and variety of his writings, and he does little more than mention the titles, a fact to be explained only by his lack of sympathy with Melito’s views. The time at which Melito lived is indicated with sufficient exactness by the fact that he wrote his Apology during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but after the death of his brother Lucius, i.e. after 169 (see below, note 21); and that when Polycrates wrote his epistle to Victor of Rome, he had been dead already some years...Of the dates of his episcopacy, and of his predecessors and successors in the see of Sardis, we know nothing.

   In addition to the works mentioned in this chapter by Eusebius, who does not pretend to give a full list, we find in Anastasius Sinaita’s Hodegos seu dux viæ c. aceph. fragments from two other works entitled είς τό π€θος and περί σαρκώσεως χριστού (the latter directed against Marcion), which cannot be identified with any mentioned by Eusebius (see Harnack, I. 1, p. 254). (NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. SECOND SERIES TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH WITH PROLEGOMENA AND EXPLANATORY NOTES. VOLUMES I–VII. UNDER THE EDITORIAL SUPERVISION OF PHILIP SCHAFF, D.D., LL.D. AND HENRY WACE, D.D., Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine. Melito and the Circumstances which he records. Schaff, Philip (1819-1893) Print Basis: New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890. Note 1276).

Eusebius certainly could have written more, but seems to have shied away from highlighting much that was different than the religion that his emperor liked. Thus, I feel that the lack of coverage was intentional as Eusebius had more writings from Melito than perhaps any other second century writer--therefore the lack of coverage and information clearly was not coincidental.

Philip Schaff noted:

Lucian of Antioch...Eusebius twice mentions him and his glorious martyrdom, but is silent about his theological opinions (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Lucian of Antioch (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected, and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.)

In another place, The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

Of the lost works of Tertullian the most important was the defence of the Montanist manner of prophesying, "De ecstasi", in six books, with a seventh book against Apollonius (Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Furthermore, Eusebius had lots of written materials from Melito, hence could have provided more detailed information if he wished. Notice the following:

The most famous of the three bishops, and the one whose literary title is best established, is Melito, bishop of Sardis in Lydia. Very little is known of his life. He was well known already under Antoninus Pius (138-161) and reached the apogee of his fame under Marcus Aurelius (161-180). Eusebius has given us the titles of about twenty of his works, among which are two books On Easter {actually titled On Passover in Eusebius}, others On the Church, On Sunday, On Baptism, On Prophecy, On the Apocalypse of John, On the Corporeity of God, etc., and a book entitled The Key. Anastasius Sinaita mentions two more, On the Passion (of our Lord) and On the Incarnation of Christ. Besides the citations of Eusebius and Anastasius, there remain of all these works only a few Greek and Syriac fragments, and even their authenticity is not always sure. This is all the more to be regretted as it seems that Melito was representative of the Asiatic school, to which he belonged (Tixeront, J. D.D. A Handbook of Patrology. Translated by S. A. Raemers, M.A., Ph.D. Authorized Translation, based upon the fourth French edition. English Edition, 1920. Published in St. Louis, Mo, by B. Herder Book Co. p. 82).

Additionally, Eusebius had a lot of information on Theophilus of Antioch, yet listed nothing from Theophilus' letter against the heretic Marcion. Since both Melito and Theophilus wrote letters against Marcion that were still preserved in the 4th century, but since Eusebius failed to go into details about them AND the fact that these preserved letters no longer exist (yet others from that same time period do), I strongly believe that this censoring of information has been intentional--and this partially explains why most know almost nothing about what happened to the true church after the death of the original apostles.

I suspect that full coverage of Asia Minor and/or Lucian would have disclosed significant doctrinal differences from Rome that his emperor (Constantine), who liked Sunday, would not have cared to learn. I also suspect that many of Melito's (and others) writings were destroyed as they highlighted major differences in practices between the early true Christians in Asia Minor compared to those who later were part of a Greco-Roman confederation there and elsewhere.

And I suspect that Tertullian's book against Apollonius would have highlighted doctrine that the Roman Church changed that the Smyrnaeans adhered to.

The Romans, Paul of Samosata, and Paulicians

The area of Asia Minor was also afflicted by Bishop Gregory of Neocaeseria. Around 244 A.D. Gregory (died roughly 270 A.D.) seems to have been the first to have claimed to have seen an apparition of Mary (Apparitions of the Past: A Statistical Study. The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio. viewed 12/23/10).

This apparition allegedly appeared to him before he became a bishop. Gregory is also known as “Gregory the Wonder Worker” and Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus (wonder worker) had been trained by allegorist Origen in Alexandria:

“He was believed to have been gifted with a power of working miracles, which he was constantly exercising…the demons were subject to him…he could cast his cloak over a man, and cause his death…he could bring the presiding demons back to their shrine” (Roberts A, Donaldson J.  Ante-Nicene Christian Library. Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Edited by Alexander Roberts, and James Donaldson. Volume 20: The Works of Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Archelaus. Syriac documents attribute.  Originally 1871, modern printing by, 2006, p. 3).

He apparently was scarily impressive. He also pushed some doctrines that the Smyrneans did not have (e.g. Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?, Origin of the Marian Dogmas, and Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?) that ultimately became accepted by the Greco-Roman churches (see Gregory the Wonder Worker). Because of Gregory’s power over demons and other “wonders” was apparently accepted, it seems that his enchantments and/or sorceries (cf. Isaiah 47:5-12) may have greatly assisted the Greco-Roman faction essentially eliminating the organized faithful in Asia Minor. Gregory may have been a factor in the Marian cults that began to rise up around that time. And he was a factor in making changes involving increased Roman influence in Antioch (Roberts, p. 3).

By the time of the persecution by Decius (249-251) most of the true believers had left Antioch and Asia Minor.

Shortly after that persecution ended, Dionysius of Alexandria (248-265 A.D.) writes that this is basically when the areas of Asia Minor (which he mainly calls the East below) ceased being part of the Church of God, but became in unity with Rome and Alexandria.

Notice that Dionysius reported that "the churches of the East" had been divided (from Rome and Alexandria) prior to this time:

But know now, my brethren, that all the churches throughout the East and beyond, which formerly were divided, have become united. And all the bishops everywhere are of one mind, and rejoice greatly in the peace which has come beyond expectation. Thus Demetrianus in Antioch, Theoctistus in Cæsarea, Mazabanes in Ælia, Marinus in Tyre (Alexander having fallen asleep), Heliodorus in Laodicea (Thelymidres being dead), Helenus in Tarsus, and all the churches of Cilicia, Firmilianus, and all Cappadocia. I have named only the more illustrious bishops, that I may not make my epistle too long and my words too burdensome (Cited in Eusebius. Church History, Book VII, Chapter V, Verse I).

So, by the time that Dionysius of Alexandria (248-265 A.D.) wrote the above, those considered to be the primary leaders in Asia Minor were no longer those with original Christian doctrines, but instead were part of the Greco-Roman confederation. A confederation that included many in Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and by the mid-late third century, many in Asia Minor.

In the early-mid third century, Paul of Samosata, came to be considered to be a bishop in Antioch (part of the East, but normally considered to have been in Syria, hence not actually part of Asia Minor). But he was accused of immoral behavior and became considered a problem by the Alexandrians and Romans, who held several synods to investigate him (including one or more involving Gregory the Wonder Worker, see Roberts A, Donaldson J, Volume 20, p. 3). This increased Roman influence.

Actually, in Antioch with the successor to Paul of Samosata, we see for the first time, a bishop outside of Italy that was apparently installed because of direction from the Church in Rome (note that Dionysius of Rome, below, is not Dionysius of Alexandria even though they were contemporaries):

A letter written by Malchion in the name of the synod and addressed to Pope Dionysius of Rome, Maximus of Alexandria, and all the bishops and clergy throughout the world, has been preserved by Eusebius in part; a few fragments only remain of the shorthand report of the disputation.

The letter accuses Paul of acquiring great wealth by illicit means, of showing haughtiness and worldliness, of having set up for himself a lofty pulpit in the church, and of insulting those who did not applaud him and wave their handkerchiefs, and so forth. He had caused scandal by admitting women to live in his house, and had permitted the same to his clergy. Paul could not be driven from his see until the emperor Aurelian took possession of Antioch in 272. Even then he refused to vacate the house belonging to the church. An appeal was made to Aurelian, and the pagan emperor, who was at this time favourable to Christians, decided most justly, says Eusebius (vii, 30, 19), that the house should be given up to those to whom the bishops in Italy and the city of Rome should write (Chapmen J. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Paul of Samosata. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Here is more from a related account:

In the church struggle over Paul of Samosata, Lucian held aloof from both parties. When it appeared as if neither side would win, appeal was made to the pagan emperor Aurelian. The party led by the bishops of Rome and Alexandria could well bow its head with shame that the aid of a heathen emperor was invoked to settle a controversy over the divine Son of God. Most astonishing to relate, the emperor declined to judge the case and commanded (A.D. 270) that it should be submitted to the judgment of the bishops of Italy and Rome (Wilkinson BG. Truth Triumphant, ca. 1890. Reprint: Teach Services, Brushton (NY) 1994, p. 48).

Notice that it was because of a pagan emperor that Rome got to chose a bishop for Antioch. I speculate that those that did not accept the Italian appointed leader were later branded "Paulicians" in an attempt to discredit them. However, some that were called "Paulicians" apparently held to the true doctrines of the true Church.

Notice also:

The Paulicians ...  They called their four original founders apostles and prophets, titles given also in the KEY OF TRUTH to the elect one. (Blackwell D. A HANDBOOK OF CHURCH HISTORY. A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Ambassador College Graduate School of Theology, April 1973, pp. 19, 28)

So, prophets were one of the titles some held then. For more on prophets, check out the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.

(Note: There are several theories, even according the Roman Church, where the name "Paulicians" may have came from--but it needs to be pointed out that the "Paulicians" who were in the true Church of God were not actual followers of Paul of Samosata, as he had a some non-Church of God doctrines. More about them can be found in the article Who Were the Paulicians?)

Also notice what else was happening in Antioch at the time:

Lucian of Antioch...Though he cannot be accused of having shared the theological views of Paul of Samosata, he fell under suspicion at the time of Paul's condemnation, and was compelled to sever his communion with the Church...

The opposition to the allegorizing tendencies of the Alexandrines centred in him. He rejected this system entirely and propounded a system of literal interpretation...(Healy P.J. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. Lucian of Antioch. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

It is not clear that Lucian was ever part of the Roman Catholic Church. It should be noted that it was Origen of Alexandria who pushed the idea of allegorizing scripture (an article of related interest may be What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?) that became influential. Apparently Lucian, who opposed that allegorizing view, was at that time not considered to be part of the Roman Church. He probably was labeled as a Paulician.

There were binitarians (sometimes called Semi-Arians) "Paulicians" in the area of Antioch who also kept the seventh-day Sabbath in the Lucian's time (late third century). While I am not certain if Lucian was or was not in the Church of God, he and others in his area were Semi-Arian, rejected using allegory as the primary way of interpreting the Bible, and since they were considered practicing Judaism, they would have kept the Sabbath. Notice a condemnation by a Roman Catholic Cardinal as well as some other limited information:

Lucian, who schismatized or was excommunicated on his deposition, held heretical tenets of a diametrically opposite nature, that is, such as were afterwards called Semi-Arian...I would rather direct the reader's attention to the particular form which the Antiochene corruptions seem to have assumed, viz., that of Judaism... (Cardinal Newman, John Henry. The Arians of the Fourth Century. Longmans, Green, & Co., New York, 1908, pp. 7,9) .

Dr. Williston Walker thus describes:

With Antioch of this period is to be associated the foundation of a school of theology by Lucian, of whom little is known of biographical detail, save that he was a presbyter, held aloof from the party in Antioch which opposed and overcame Paul of Samosata, taught there from c. 275 to 303, and died a martyr's death in 312.... Like Origen, he busied himself with textual and exegetical labors on the Scriptures, but had little liking for the allegorizing methods of the great Alexandrian. A simpler, more grammatical and historical method of treatment both of text and doctrine characterized his teaching (as quoted in Wilkinson BG. Truth Triumphant, ca. 1890. Reprint: Teach Services, Brushton (NY) 1994).

Perhaps it should be pointed out that the third century and even into the fourth century, most of those in Asia Minor held a Semi-Arian/Binitarian view of the Godhead (see Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning).

Polycarp and Melito clearly were binitarian, as were the other true Church of God leaders during the time of Smyrna--even many of the Greco-Roman leaders were as well (for documented proof, check out the article Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning). Church of God leaders were NOT allegorists!

Pope Benedict XVI praised the allegorical Origen (bolding mine):

In our meditations on the great figures of the ancient Church, today we will get to know one of the most outstanding. Origen of Alexandria is one of the key people for the development of Christian thought. He draws on the teachings he inherited from Clement of Alexandria, whom we reflected upon last Wednesday, and brings them forward in a totally innovative way, creating an irreversible turn in Christian thought.

He was a true teacher; this is how his students nostalgically remembered him: not only as a brilliant theologian, but as an exemplary witness of the doctrine he taught...

In substance, he grounded theology in the explanations of the Scriptures; or we could also say that his theology is the perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis. In truth, the characterizing mark of Origen's doctrine seems to reside in his incessant invitation to pass from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in the knowledge of God.

And this "allegoristic" approach, wrote von Balthasar, coincides precisely "with the development of Christian dogma carried out by the teachings of the doctors of the Church," who -- in one way or another -- accepted the "lesson" of Origen. In this way, Tradition and the magisterium, foundation and guarantee of theological research, reach the point of being "Scripture in act" (cf. "Origene: il mondo, Cristo e la Chiesa," tr. it., Milano 1972, p. 43). (Benedict XVI. Homily On Origen of Alexandria. Vatican City. Zenit - April 25, 2007).

The allegorist approach coincides with the takeover of the more public leadership positions of the church in Antioch and Asia Minor by the universal allegorists, which we now know as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Like Origen, Satan preferred to misinterpret the word of God (see Genesis 3:1-5).

Would not those that follow the Satanic Origen system be those that Christ condemned who claimed to be part of the church "but are a synagogue of Satan"?

Isn't teaching that traditions of men is on a par with scripture blaspheme?

Jesus did prophesy that blasphemous "a synagogue of Satan" would become a problem during the time of Smyrna, and sadly this did happen as many of those in Rome, Antioch, and even Asia Minor accepted the allegorical method of biblical interpretation that seems to have had its origins in Alexandria (even from the first century, though it was of little consequence outside of Alexandria until the second and third centuries).

Later Smyrna Era Persecutions

Towards the end of the Smyrna era, Constantine became emperor. He decreed circa March 7, 321:

"Let all judges, the people of cities, and those employed in all trades, remain quiet on the Holy Day of Sunday. Persons residing in the country, however, can freely and lawfully proceed with the cultivation of the fields; as it frequently happens that the sowing of grain or the planting of vines cannot be deferred to a more suitable day, and by making concessions to Heaven the advantage of the time may be lost." (Code of Justinian, Book III, Title XII, III. THE JUSTINIAN CODE FROM THE CORPUS JURIS CIVILIS. Translated from the original Latin by Samuel P. Scott. Central Trust Company, Cincinnati, 1932).

This was followed by the famous Council of Nicea, which took place in 325 A.D. This council decided that Sunday was to be the day of worship and that Passover was to be observed on Sunday (and that eventually became what is known as Easter):

...the emperor...convened a council of 318 the city of Nicea...They passed certain ecclesiastical canons at the council besides, and at the same time decreed in regard to the Passover that there must be one unanimous concord on the celebration of God's holy and supremely excellent day. For it was variously observed by people... (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472). A Sunday date was selected, instead of Nisan 14 (which can fall on any day of the week).

According to Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, the Eastern Orthodox saint and Roman emperor Constantine in the fourth century stated:

Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.

The way that Jesus, who was Jewish, taught differently was love. Jesus never taught to have ‘nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd.’ Roman Catholics refer to Constantine as ‘Constantine the Great,’ but he obviously held anti-semitic views.

After various church councils, those in the Church of God who kept the Sabbath were considered to be heretics and outcasts and had to flee in the wilderness (Revelation 12 teaches that the church would flee into the wilderness for 1260 years).

The Emperor authorized persecution. Around 332, Constantine issued what is known as the Edict Against the Heretics:
Victor Constantinus, Maximus Augustus, to the heretics. “Understand now, by this present statute, ye Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, ye who are called Cataphrygians, and all ye who devise and support heresies by means of your private assemblies, with what a tissue of falsehood and vanity, with what destructive and venomous errors, your doctrines are inseparably interwoven; so that through you the healthy soul is stricken with disease, and the living becomes the prey of everlasting death. Ye haters and enemies of truth and life, in league with destruction! All your counsels are opposed to the truth, but familiar with deeds of baseness; full of absurdities and fictions: and by these ye frame falsehoods, oppress the innocent, and withhold the light from them that believe. Ever trespassing under the mask of godliness, ye fill all things with defilement: ye pierce the pure and guileless conscience with deadly wounds, while ye withdraw, one may almost say, the very light of day from the eyes of men. But why should I particularize, when to speak of your criminality as it deserves demands more time and leisure than I can give? For so long and unmeasured is the catalogue of your offenses, so hateful and altogether atrocious are they, that a single day would not suffice to recount them all. And, indeed, it is well to turn one’s ears and eyes from such a subject, lest by a description of each particular evil, the pure sincerity and freshness of one’s own faith be impaired. Why then do I still bear with such abounding evil; especially since this protracted clemency is the cause that some who were sound are become tainted with this pestilent disease? Why not at once strike, as it were, at the root of so great a mischief by a public manifestation of displeasure? (Chapter LXIV.—Constantine’s Edict against the Heretics. This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College).

Some of those referred to as Paulians (Paulicians) and Cataphrygians were part of the true Church of God. And like some other persecutions, it included those truly in the Church of God and those not in the true church. Herod, when he tried to kill Jesus, persecuted an entire nation, killed many babies, but Jesus' family fled the persecution and He survived. Constantine's tactics seem similar. Because Emperor Constantine called for and oversaw the Council of Nicea in 325 which endorsed Sunday, it makes sense that any “Paulicians” that kept the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) would engender his wrath (more on the Paulicians, including their objection to symbols adopted during the time of Constantine, like the cross, can be found in the articles Who Were the Paulicians? and The Pergamos Church Era).

Emperor Constantine did not care for those who held to original Church of God doctrines during the Smyrna era.

Constantine apparently liked unclean food so much that he persecuted those who would not eat it. Here is a report from a source with Middle East ties:

Constantine called a gathering of Christian monks with a view to the formulation of obligatory religious beliefs. However, some of them disagreed with this text. There was a scission and the symbol of faith which had been formulated was not regarded as valid.

Thereupon, three hundred and eighteen men gathered in Nicaea and formulated a symbol of faith, which was accepted and made obligatory by Constantine. People who dissented from it were killed and professions of faith differing from it suppressed.

In this way people who professed the religion of Christ came to do all that is reprehensible; they worshipped the cross, observed the Roman religious rites and ate pork. Those who did not eat it were killed (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, pp. 31-32)

Here is a report from a Roman Catholic scholar about matters in Jerusalem:

That there existed strife between the different branches of the faithful can easily be gathered from the expression of the anonymous pilgrim of Bordeaux in 333, who says that the three basilicas were erected by the gentile Christians “at the command of Constantine”, that is by force, and from the late account of Eutychius (PG 111,1012-1013) that, just at this time, the faithful while they were leaving the church on Easter day, were forced to eat pork under the pain of death. We know how the Judaeo-Christians refused this in order not to transgress the Mosaic law to which they held there were bound (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 13-14).

More persecution was thrust upon the remaining Smyrnaeans after the baptism of the Emperor Theodosius:

Baptism and orthodox edicts of Theodosius, A.D. 380, February the emperor ascended from the holy font, still glowing with the warm feelings of regeneration, he dictated a solemn edict, which proclaimed his own faith, and prescribed the religion of his subjects.

"It is our pleasure (such is the Imperial style) that all the nations which are governed by our clemency and moderation should steadfastly adhere to the religion which was taught by St. Peter to the Romans, which faithful tradition has preserved, and which is now professed by the pontiff Damasus, and by Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the discipline of the apostles, and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe the sole deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, under an equal majesty and a pious Trinity. We authorise the followers of this doctrine to assume the title of Catholic Christians; and as we judge that all others are extravagant madmen, we brand them with the infamous name of Heretics, and declare that their conventicles shall no longer usurp the respectable appellation of churches. Besides the condemnation of Divine justice, they must expect to suffer the severe penalties, which our authority, guided by heavenly wisdom, shall think proper to inflict upon them."

Edicts of Theodosius against the heretics, A.D. 380-394...In the space of fifteen years he promulgated at least fifteen severe edicts against the heretics, more especially against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity; and to deprive them of every hope of escape, he sternly enacted that, if any laws or rescripts should be alleged in their favour, the judges should consider them as the illegal productions either of fraud or forgery. The penal statutes were directed against the ministers, the assemblies, and the persons of the heretics...Their religious meetings, whether public or secret, by day or by night, in cities or in the country, were equally proscribed by the edicts of Theodosius; and the building, or ground, which had been used for that illegal purpose, was forfeited to the Imperial domain....Theodosius was satisfied with his own justice, when he decreed that, as the Eunomians distinguished the nature of the Son from that of the Father, they should be incapable of making their wills, or of receiving any advantage from testamentary donations. The guilt of the Manichaean heresy was esteemed of such magnitude that it could be expiated only by the death of the offender; and the same capital punishment was inflicted on the Audians, or Quartodecimans, who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime of celebrating on an improper day the festival (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Chapter XXVII. ca. 1776-1788).

Sadly, Theodosius did not know that the religion of Peter did not teach a trinity, did teach that the Son was different from the Father, and did keep Passover on the 14th and not on Easter Sunday. But by this time, trinity and Easter were required to be believed to be part of the Greco-Roman Catholic faith.

How could a Roman Catholic leader inflict the death penalty on those that held to the original Passover date of the original catholic church and also say that only those who did not accept the teachings of the original catholic church (the Church of God in Smyrna) could use the descriptive term "Catholic Christian"? Truly, the truth is stranger than fiction.

There were binitarians (sometimes called Semi-Arians) Paulicians in Armenia who also kept the seventh-day Sabbath in the late fourth century and they were persecuted:

Eustathius was succeeded by Erius, a priest, and semi-Arian...Erius also condemned fasts, stated feasts, prayers for the dead, and the celebration of Easter; he urged a purer morality and a stricter observance of the Sabbath. He had many followers, whose numbers were augmented by one of Paul of Samosota, from whom they were called Paulicians. Notwithstanding the opposition of the prelates, who invoked the secular arm to prevent the defection of their spiritual subjects, the tenets of this sect struck deep root in Armenia and many of its eastern provinces, and finally the great body of Christians in the former country, withdrew from the Episcopal communion, and publicly espoused the sentiments of the Paulicians...The bishops of Syria, Pontus, and Cappadocia, complained of the defection of their spiritual flocks...induced the Grecian emperors to commence, and continue for nearly two centuries, the most terrible persecutions against the Paulicians (Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, pp. 20-23).

Even The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledged that the Roman and Orthodox Churches got the emperors to persecute those who did not accept what became beliefs of mainstream "Christianity":

When Constantine had taken upon himself the office of lay bishop, episcopus externus, and put the secular arm at the service of the Church, the laws against heretics became more and more rigorous. Under the purely ecclesiastical discipline no temporal punishment could be inflicted on the obstinate heretic, except the damage which might arise to his personal dignity through being deprived of all intercourse with his former brethren. But under the Christian emperors rigorous measures were enforced against the goods and persons of heretics. From the time of Constantine to Theodosius...Theodosius is said to be the first who pronounced heresy a capital crime; this law was passed in 382 (Wilhelm J. Transcribed by Mary Ann Grelinger. Heresy. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But of course, if these emperors were truly Christian, they would not have killed and persecuted those faithful to apostolic teachings, nor endorsed carnal warfare (please see the article on Military Service and the Churches of God).

These persecutions were not unexpected as they were biblically prophesied. Recall that Jesus told the Church in Smyrna:

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer (Revelation 3:10).

But this did not stop the Smyrnaeans. But it did ensure that true Christianity would remain outside of the mainstream of those that professed Christ.

The historian Bart Ehrman noted:

By the early fourth century, Christianity had almost completely separated from Judaism, the religion of Jesus and his apostles...By early fourth century, non-Jewish Christianity had become a major world religion (Ehrman B. From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity, Part 2. The Teaching Company, Chantilly (VA), 2004, p. 47).

In the latter portion of the third century and even into the fourth century, many Smyrnaeans (especially those with a Jewish heritage) in the Asia Minor area were known as Nazarenes (those who practiced the true, so-called Jewish, form of Christianity) and some were known as Paulicians.

Unlike later eras, such as Pergamos and Thyatira, those in Smyrna did not compromise and received no condemnation in the message to them recorded in the Book of Revelation.

Ancient Smyrna

As far as anicient Smyrna goes, notice the following:


   Smyrna was the next city and church of importance in the province of Asia, and was the nearest to Ephesus, being about forty miles to the north.

   Smyrna is synonymous with myrrh, which was an aromatic substance used sometimes as a healing ointment but more especially for embalming the dead. According to Psalms 45:8 and Canticles 3:6, myrrh seems to have been the special perfume of Christ as King and Bridegroom. One of the chief ingredients of myrrh was made by crushing and bleeding a plant of the same name. This thorny plant, or tree, grows about eight or nine feet high, and is found in Arabia and to some extent in Palestine. It is very bitter to the taste but has a fragrant odor, and the more the plant is crushed and bruised the greater the fragrance. The name Smyrna, therefore, indicates suffering and persecution which prove a blessing. Smyrna, therefore, indicates suffering and persecution which prove a blessing. Smyrna would be crushed by cruel persecutions, but as a result of her sufferings would be anointed for a death and burial that would end in a resurrection and renewal of life.

   Mount Pagus is a conical-shaped mound more than five hundred feet high, and was located in the center of the ancient city. Its summit was crowned with a shrine dedicated to Nemesis, a Greek goddess who was supposed to be a form of Artemis. Because of its splendor and its garland of magnificent buildings, this hilltop was also known as The Crown of Smyrna. Circling the base of the mount "like a necklace on a statue" was one of the finest streets of the ancient world, called The Street of Gold. When Apollonius visited the city he advised the proud citizens to prefer a crown of splendid men rather than a crown of beautiful buildings. The city itself was sometimes called The Crown of Ionia. This historical background gives significance to the promise of Jesus, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." The promise had a forceful and peculiar meaning to the suffering members of the church of Smyrna.

   All through her long and eventful history the city of Smyrna has suffered from besieging armies, massacres, earthquakes, fires, and plagues. About 600 B.C. the Lydians captured and almost completely destroyed the city. It lay in partial ruins for four hundred years. It was crushed almost to death but was rebuilt by the Greeks and again became a flourishing city. It was restored to life and prosperity. The city was destroyed by a terrible earthquake in A.D. 178, only eighty years after the church received the Apocalypse. It was again crushed to death but was destined to recover, for it was "the city of life." The city was restored to more than its former beauty and glory by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. There has seldom been a period of two years without an earthquake. The city was almost completely destroyed by a severe quake in 1688, when the earth opened and swallowed up five thousand people. In 1758 a plague almost depopulated the city, and in 1922 the Turks captured and partially destroyed the modern Smyrna.

   Smyrna is the only one of the seven cities of Asia which retains anything of its ancient standing. It is today the largest city of Asia Minor, and is the commercial center of the Levant. The present name under Turkish rule is Izmir.

   Smyrna was the home of Polycarp and the scene of his martyrdom in A.D. 168.

(Bunch, Taylor G. The Seven Epistles of Christ. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1947 as cited in The Seven Cities of Asia Minor, Ambassador College Study Guide, pre-1987, pp. 4-5)

My wife and I have visited this area. Photos of Izmir/Smyrna can be found accessed from the article Joyce's Photo's of Smyrna.

Conclusions about the Smyrna Church Era

There was a Church in Asia Minor, composed of Smyrnaeans, who, even early Catholic writers suggest, were faithful to the teachings of the original apostles. They were the original "catholic church"--though the church that is now prominently known for using that name no longer holds to many of the doctrines and practices of the Smyrna Church.

The Smyrnaeans denounced heresies, including Gnostic ones. Heresies that often were later adopted by the Greco-Roman-Protestant faiths.

Furthermore. the real Smyrnaeans remained faithful even under periods of intense persecution--including persecutions by the Church of Rome that took their descriptive name and supported killing people who held to the doctrines of the original catholic church--the Church of God in Smryna.

Towards the end of His direct message to the Church in Smyrna, Jesus said "you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death" (Revelation 2:10). The ten year persecution from 303-313 A.D., unleashed by Roman Emperor Diocletian, resulted in many deaths, as well as many true Christians leaving Asia Minor and relocating to places like Armenia. Sadly, over time, Asia Minor and Antioch became full of those who preferred allegory and tradition over the Bible. But the faithful in Smyrna never did.

Since the Smyrna church was only one of two that never received any condemnation from Christ, should not all true Christians attempt to follow its examples and practices?

Many of those practices, which are referred to in this article, differ greatly from the large groups that claim Christianity.

Which of those do you wish to follow?

In the Book of Revelation, the Church of Smyrna was followed by the Church of Pergamos.

The area of Smyrna is now a major Turkish city called Izmir. Photos of Izmir/Smyrna can be found accessed from the article Joyce's Photo's of Smyrna.

In the 21st century, the church that most closely has the practices and teachings of the Church of God during the Smyrna era of the church is the Continuing Church of God.

A sermon of related interest is also available: The Smyrna Church Era.

Previous Church was Ephesus                                                                         Next Church is Pergamos

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B. Thiel, Ph.D. The Smyrna Church Era. (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/20112012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020 /2023 0124

The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 from 31 A.D. to present
The Ephesus Church Era predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D.
The Smyrna Church Era predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D.
The Pergamos Church Era predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D.
The Thyatira Church Era predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D.
The Sardis Church Era predominant circa 1600A.D. to circa 1933 A.D.
The Philadelphia Church Era predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D.
The Laodicean Church Era predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from 31 A.D. to the 21st century.