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 135 A.D. (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.

After the second fall of Jerusalem in 135 A.D., 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:

"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: "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. 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. 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 as 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).

It is also of interest to note that Roman Catholic writers acknowledge that the Smyrna Church was faithful to the apostolic teachings. Here is one such writing from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

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).

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. And he 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).

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 108 A.D.), Irenaeus who claimed Polycarp was faithful (circa 170 A.D.), Polycrates who claimed that Polycarp was faithful (circa 190 A.D.), Tertullian who claimed that the true Christian church could be traced through him (circa 200 A.D.), and Eusebius who wrote that Polycarp was faithful to the apostolic traditions (circa 330 A.D.).

John lists the church in Smyrna after the church in Ephesus in Revelation 1:11. Interestingly, a letter purportedly from Ignatius (in the early 2nd Century, perhaps 108-120 A.D.) 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 8-20 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?).

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. http://suscopts.org/resources/literature/174/st-polycarp-the-beloved-peacemaker/ viewed 12/01/2012)

Polycarp eventually visited Rome around 155 A.D.. 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 affiliated with Christianity to teach the Trinitarian concept of three hypostasis or make any clear statement of ‘equality’ regarding three alleged persons of God.

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).

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.

Furthermore, in Polycarp's day, 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 word...by 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.

The term "catholic church" was later taken by the Church of Rome, even though that church does not hold to many of the doctrines and practices that the Smyrnaean Church of God under Polycarp's leadership held.

The Smyrnaeans also referred to themselves as part of 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. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0102.htm>)

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".

Apostolic Succession of Leaders in Smyrna

Polycarp was probably the most influential of the early leaders in Smyrna. 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 155-156 (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)
*Theophilus of Antioch died circa 182 (oversaw churches in Antioch)
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)
*Serapion of Antioch died circa 211 (oversaw churches in Antioch)
*Camerius of Smyrna died circa 220 (possibly oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor).

* There may be insufficient evidence to declare that these individuals were part of the true Church of God, but available evidence suggests that they probably were--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.

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).

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) http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Philosophy%20and%20Religion/rel_241/texts/montanism.html 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).

Eusebius records that 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).

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. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25).

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).

Furthermore, apparently during Polycrates' time a unitarian form of something like the trinitarian heresy appeared. And as could be expected, he was put out of the church by the leaders there. Hippolytus 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.)

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 178 A.D., 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 Polycrates and his churches for keeping Passover on the 14th and not switching to Sunday (though Victor later rescinded that after other church leaders objected)
. 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.

The Church of God in Smyrna Kept the Holy Days and Had 'Judeo-Christian Practices'

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.

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 387 A.D.:

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. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html 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. 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 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".

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).

But the point is that some during the time of Smyrna, there were those who apparently kept all of the biblical Holy Days (those listed in Leviticus 23).

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 has long been known.

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:

The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor--the Smyrnaeans had it as the above articles demonstrate.
Baptism was by immersion.
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.
Deification of Christians (which begins after the first resurrection) was taught by the early leaders of the Church.
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.
Mary was the mother of Jesus, was blessed (Luke 1:28) and called blessed (Luke 1:48), but was not prayed to, etc. by true early Christians.
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.
Purgatory was not taught by the original apostolic church.
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 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.
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.
The Virgin Birth was acknowledged by all true ante-Nicene Christians.

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).

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.

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. 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

Those in Smyrna underwent various persecutions.

One of the first religious ones, 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 wrote a treatise titled "Against the Judaizers, which he dedicated to Alexander, the bishop" (see Eusebius, Church History, VI, 13,3) of Cappadocia. Both 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 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. 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, with perhaps the first notable one being under the reigns of Decius and Gallus.

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. Nor do I know if Eudaemon recanted Christianity, or simply fled the persecution.

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. http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/aprgraph.html 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 Elibron.com, 2006, p. 3). He apparently was scarily impressive. 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.

Around this time, 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.

(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 this condemnation by a Roman Catholic Cardinal:

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) .

It was also during the third century that Gregory of Neocaesarea was educated by the heretic Origen and then became an important, though heretical, bishop in North-east Asia Minor until his death circa 270-275. As indicated earlier, by this time, the leaders of the true Church of God were no longer recognized as true Christians by those who were part of the Roman and Alexandrian churches.

Pope Benedict XVI recently praised 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). 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).

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 28...as 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.

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 now uses that name no longer holds to many of the doctrines and practices of the Smyrna Church.

But 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 .

Previous Church was Ephesus                                                                         Next Church is Pergamos

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B. Thiel, Ph.D. The Smyrna Church Era www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/20112012/2013/2014 0321

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 2014.