Genesis 24:1-32 and Early Church Writings [Polycarp to Philippians] Introduction through 2

Genesis 24:1-32 – Abraham is now a very old man. He asks his oldest servant, “the man in charge of his household” (24:2) to take and oath “by putting [his] hand under [his] thigh” (24:2) and swearing that he “will not allow [his] son [Isaac] to marry one of these local Canaanite women” (24:3). He wants his steward to find a woman from the house of Abraham’s father in Haran. He makes it clear he does not want Isaac to travel there EVER. The steward is to go there on his own and find the right woman. The steward swears he will do as asked.


The steward travels a long distance to the northern parts of Mesopotamia. He arrives at a well outside the town and prays to the Lord to show him the woman he has been sent to find by having her respond to his request for a drink of water by saying “’Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’ – let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master” (24:14).


Before he is finished with his prayer, a young woman named Rebekah comes out with a water jug on her shoulder. She is “very beautiful and old enough to be married, but she was still a virgin” (24:16). She does all the right things, says what the Lord has told the steward she would say.


The woman is Abraham’s nephew’s daughter, Rebekah (Rivka).  She runs home and tells her family everything. Her brother Laban, goes out to meet the man. He asks him to come to their house to stay. They offer him generous hospitality.



The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians [c. mid-2nd century) – Introduction through Book 2


Introduction from the Ethereal Library Edition and from the Penguin Edition (1987):

Polycarp (69-155 AD) was born later than Ignatius (35 or 50 to 98-117 AD) and lived to a much later age (86 or so) but his epistle is usually made a kind of preface for the letters of Ignatius; we will look at the letters of Ignatius after reading Polycarp. They were both pupils of the apostle John.


Polycarp [Bishop of Smyrna--seaport town on west coast of Anatolia] was a teacher of Irenaeus, and Irenaeus often spoke of the conversations Polycarp had had with the apostle John and with “others who had seen the Lord.” The church of the Philippians to which he is writing here was the first church in Europe


The manuscript scholars have worked with is not perfect in any of the Greek manuscripts, which contain it. But Eusebius had a Latin copy of the text – not as good as the Greek version.


Polycarp was a Christian from early childhood. He was appalled by the distortions of the faith brought by the Gnostics, and according to Eusebius, told a story about John the Apostle being so horrified by the presence of Cerinthus, an early Gnostic, in a public bath-house in Ephesus, he told everyone to flee from the place (Early Christian Writings. 115). Polycarp traveled to Rome to consult with the Bishop there – Anicetus (Pope ca. 154) – over a disagreement that existed as to when Easter was to be observed: on the Jewish Passover or the Roman custom of always celebrating it on a Sunday. They agreed to disagree (115).



Chapter 1

“I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied . . . those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and . . . the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. . . .” This is a reference to Ignatius and prisoners who were with him on their way to Rome.


“In Him, endurance went so far as to face even death for our sins; but God overruled the pangs of the grave, and raised Him up to life again. Though you never saw Him for yourselves, yet you believe in Him in a glory of joy beyond all words . . . knowing that it is by His grace you are saved, not of your own doing but by the will of God through Jesus Christ” (119).


Chapter 2

“So gird up your loins now and serve God in fear and sincerity” (119). Avoid the useless sophistries of the pagans, the myths of the Jews and the “theosophy” of the Gnostics (124). Put your trust in Him who raised Jesus Christ from the grave. “All things in heaven and earth have been made subject to Him; everything that breathes pays Him homage” (120).


“He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also, if we do His will and live by His commandments, and cherish the things He cherished – if . . . we keep ourselves from wrongdoing, overreaching, penny-pinching, tale-telling, and prevaricating, and bear in mind the words of our Lord in His teaching, Judge not, that you be not judged; forgive, and you will be forgiven; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; for whatever you measure out to other people will be measured back again to yourselves” (119-120).


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