"Polycarp's Cups: The Function of Imitation in the Martyrdom of Polycarp"
Wed, September 15, 2010 • 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM • BUR 436A
A talk by L. Stephanie Cobb (Hofstra University)
Presented by the Workshop on Late Antiquity
While scholars have long acknowledged that the author of the Martyrdom of Polycarp employs a pronounced imitatio Christi motif, the literary presence and function of allusions to Socrates’ death have been underappreciated. In addition to the narrative emphasis on the divine sign, there are many other similarities between the accounts of Socrates’ and Polycarp’s deaths. This paper demonstrates that the imitation of Christ is hermeneutically significant when read in light of the imitation of Socrates: the author of the Martyrdom of Polycarp reconceptualizes Jesus’ death by his implicit allusions to Socrates. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, therefore, serves as an apology for Jesus’ death, specifically, and for Christian beliefs generally.
L. Stephanie Cobb is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Hofstra University. Her research focuses on the social function of early Christian martyr texts. Her book Dying To Be Men: Gender and Language in Early Christian Martyr Texts (Columbia 2008) situates the gendered rhetoric of the earliest Christian martyr acts within contests concerning masculinity and virtue among various in- and out-groups. At Hofstra, Cobb teaches courses on early Christianity, ranging from New Testament courses, to studies of women, to topical courses on orthodoxy and heresy. She holds a BA in Religion and Archaeology from Baylor University, a MAR in Biblical Studies from Yale Divinity School, and a PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.