As you know, we are studying Church History. Before we move on to the ‘please, dear emperor, accept us’ I thought we’d take a break and study —
Ignatius of Antioch
This week, we are getting into the early 2nd century where we will encounter the need for Christians to establish themselves as a state religion in the Roman Empire. Contrary to what you’ve may have heard, Rome did not really care about your personal religion. What they respected was ‘hollowed antiquity.’ This is why the Jews could get away with not worshipping Jove or the other gods and goddess. Because they could show by their Scriptures just how ancient they were.
In come the Christians whom the Jews said weren’t really Jews. That means the Christians were new — or, in the eyes of the Romans, atheists. They were suspect. So, for the next few centuries, we will encounter intellectuals who sought to present the Christian faith as ancient and politically supportive of the Empire while maintaining certain independent positions previously afforded only to the Jews.
Before that, we must encounter Ignatius of Antioch. His letters survive in (generally) two forms — the longer and the shorter. Many scholars see the shorter versions of the epistles as the more authentic (some settle for what they call a middle recension) so we will only quote from them.
Ignatius is best remembered, perhaps, for inventing two words — apostolic and catholic.
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the holy Church which is at Tralles, in Asia, beloved of God, the Father of Jesus Christ, elect, and worthy of God, possessing peace through the flesh, and blood, and passion of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, through our rising again to Him, which also I salute in its fulness, and in the apostolical character, and wish abundance of happiness.
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. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
As regards to this, we might better read it church universal, or, universal church. Why is this designation important? I would point to one reason — Ignatius understood ecumenical missions better than most today. He was a bishop of a long-standing Asian (note, this is according to Roman geography) church going to Rome to be executed. Later, the Asian Churches and Rome would have severe disagreements — and these disagreements are still manifest today in the Great Schism. For Ignatius, however, the Church is founded on Christ, so regardless of other differences, if Christ is present (and no doubt, present in the Eucharist), then it is the Church.
Other things to note from Ignatius — he has established a hierarchy that is far more reaching than the Roman one we saw in Clement. While the Church is founded on Christ, the Bishop/Elder/Overseer is who brings Christ to the Table.
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God
One final thing Ignatius provides for us is an early view on the nature of the bread and the wine,
Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Let not [high] place puff any one up: for that which is worth all is3 faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred. But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty.
The discussion this week will focus on Ignatius. Some of the questions to consider as you read Ignatius are
Who is Jesus Christ to Ignatius?
Why did he feel the need to be martyred and not otherwise rescued (or his freedom purchased)
What does ‘catholic’ mean?
Can we find his view of the Eucharist anywhere today?
Can we find his view of the Church Government anywhere today?
And of course, does this matter to our faith, in this modern world, right here, right now while the world is waking up from history?
 Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe; vol. 1; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 166.
 Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, 190.
I am preparing some notes on a future writing project and came across this.
In Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4), he commends a certain amount of unity so that “man by man” the Church will become a choir. This was to create a unity of sound so that the Father would hear and accept the works as befitting the Son.
The Mishnah (Ar. 2:6) states that, in Jerusalem’s Second Temple, “There were never fewer than twelve Levites standing on the platform [as a choir] but there was no limit on the maximum number of singers.” The singing of the Levitical choir was a constant accessory to the sacrificial ritual.
Ignatius compares the connection between the presbytery to the bishop as the strings are connected in a harp.
The Levitical choir also included singers and musicians who played on trumpets, harps, lyres, and cymbals. They sang the festive Hallel songs of thanksgiving. Everyone who had entered with their Passover offering, also joined in and sang along. When we finished the Hallel, we would start all over again!
In chapter 9, Ignatius calls Christians “God-bearers, Christ-bearers, Temple-bearers.” Of course, just before this, he calls the Christians “stones of the Temple.”
Thus far, there is the well-known passage in Barnabas, a lot in 1 Clement, something in Mathetes, and now at least something in Ignatius.
I’m going to go ahead and file this under Publications with the hopes that before too long, I get a contract from the publisher I’ve sent it too.
They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again.
It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion |of Christ¦ has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils. (ISm 7:1-2 APE)
None of these things is hid from you, if ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus10 which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two, being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man [truly] making a profession of faith sinneth; nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end. (To the Ephesians 14)
And from Cyprian –
Through the presumption of thsoe who beguile with false promises of salvation, the true hope of salvation is destroyed – Cyprian, To the Lapsed, 34
I especially enjoyed Payton’s summation of the Reformation Doctrine of Sola Fide, which is wholly different than the easy beliefism touted by so many today. And yet, so many of these ‘just walk the isle’ style preachers believe that they can lay claim to Luther, Zwingli, Bucer and Calvin, when it seems, at least through Payton’s eyes, that these men believed that one had to start with faith and go on to sanctification by works. As Wesley said, religion is not solitary and as Payton points out, faith alone is not the Gospel.
Our assignment this week for the Church History Intro class is on Constantine, essentially. Of course, again, one my academic loves is this time period. There are heroes here, and villains. Athanasius, Marcellus, and Arius. You can decide which is which…
Anyway, this is part of Arius’ writings. Thought I might share.
1. …And so God Himself, as he really is, is inexpressible to all.
He alone has no equal, no one similar, and no one of the same glory.
We call him unbegotten, in contrast to him who by nature is begotten.
We praise him as without beginning in contrast to him who has a beginning.
We worship him as timeless, in contrast to him who in time has come to exist.
6. He who is without beginning made the Son a beginning of created things.
He produced him as a son for himself by begetting him.
He [the son] has none of the distinct characteristics of God’s own being
For he is not equal to, nor is he of the same being as him.
10. God is wise, for he himself is the teacher of Wisdom –
Sufficient proof that God is invisible to all:
He is is invisible both to things which were made through the Son, and also to the Son himself.
16. So there is a Triad, not in equal glories.
Their beings are not mixed together among themselves.
As far as their glories, one infinitely more glorious than the other.
The Father in his essence is foreign to the Son, because he exists without beginning.
20. Understand that the Monad [eternally] was; but the Dyad was not before it came into existence.
It immediately follows that, although the Son did not exist, the Father was still God.
Hence the Son, not being [eternal] came into existence by the Father’s will,
He is the Only-begotten God, and this one is alien from [all] others
[Williams suggests a section on the Holy Spirit may have been omitted here (p. 310).]
24. Wisdom came to be Wisdom by the will of the Wise God.
Hence he is conceived in innumerable aspects. He is Spirit,
Power, Wisdom, God’s glory, Truth, Image, and Word.
Understand that he is also conceived of as Radiance and Light.
The one who is superior is able to beget one equal to the Son,
But not someone more important, or superior, or greater.
At God’s will the Son has the greatness and qualities that he has.
His existence from when and from whom and from then — are all from God.
He, though strong God, praises in part his superior .
33. In brief, God is inexpressible to the Son.
For he is in himself what he is, that is, indescribable,
So that the son does not comprehend any of these things or have the understanding to explain them.
For it is impossible for him to fathom the Father, who is by himself.
For the Son himself does not even know his own essence,
For being Son, his existence is most certainly at the will of the Father.
39. What reasoning allows, that he who is from the Father
should comprehend and know his own parent?
For clearly that which has a beginning is not able to conceive of
or grasp the existence of that which has no beginning.
Translation by AJW
To that, I simply refer to Ignatius (Ephesians 7.2)
There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both begotten and unbegotten; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1Ti 4:10 NLT)
I want to follow the same method which I used with John 12.32.
From the start, this verse appeared in Ignatius’ greeting to the church at Philippi, attached to the Lord Jesus Christ:
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God which is at Philippi, which has obtained mercy in faith, and patience, and love unfeigned: Mercy and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, “who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.”
Just as a side note here, Ignatius is writing in the early 2nd century, about 110. This helps us in two areas. First, in authorship and dating of 1st Timothy, it should help to nail down that 1st Timothy was known in Asia Minor widely enough to have the most important church leader of the time, which as a bishop of Antioch followed in Peter’s footsteps, to use it and to use it expecting no controversy. Remember, this is a congregation to which Paul wrote as well and now the blessed Polycarp, a disciple of John, was leading. Secondly, it helps to show Ignatius’ Christianity was one which used not only Petrine and Johannine writings, but Pauline as well and doing so without controversy. Tertullian accused his opponents of using this verse, and others, in such as way as to ‘effeminate’ others, while pandering to God. The Latin writers was not one to shy away from a fight, but this seems to be a case in which he didn’t want people imitating the Scriptures:
“But,” say they, “God is ‘good,’ and ‘most good,’7 and ‘pitiful-hearted,’ and ‘a pitier,’ and ‘abundant in pitiful-heartedness,’8 which He holds ‘dearer than all sacrifice,’9 ‘not thinking the sinner’s death of so much worth as his repentance’,10 ‘a Saviour of all men, most of all of believers.’11 And so it will be becoming for ‘the sons of God’12 too to be ‘pitiful-hearted’13 and ‘peacemakers;’14 ‘giving in their turn just as Christ withal hath given to us;’1 ‘not judging, that we be not judged.’2 For ‘to his own lord a man standeth or falleth; who art thou, to judge another’s servant?’3 ‘Remit, and remission shall be made to thee.’”4 Such and so great futilities of theirs wherewith they flatter God and pander to themselves, effeminating rather than invigorating discipline, with how cogent and contrary (arguments) are we for our part able to rebut,—(arguments) which set before us warningly the “severity”5 of God, and provoke our own constancy? (Tertullian: Part Fourth: On Modesty)
Origen uses it against the ancient opponent, Celsus:
But since he has represented those whom he regards as worms, viz., the Christians, as saying that “God, having abandoned the heavenly regions, and despising this great earth, takes up His abode amongst us alone, and to us alone makes His announcements, and ceases not His messages and inquiries as to how we may become His associates for ever,” we have to answer that he attributes to us words which we never uttered, seeing we both read and know that God loves all existing things, and loathes2 nothing which He has made, for He would not have created anything in hatred. We have, moreover, read the declaration: “And Thou sparest all things, because they are Thine, O lover of souls. For Thine incorruptible Spirit is in all. And therefore those also who have fallen away for a little time Thou rebukest, and admonishest, reminding them of their sins.”3 How can we assert that “God, leaving the regions of heaven, and the whole world, and despising this great earth, takes up His abode amongst us only,” when we have found that all thoughtful persons must say in their prayers, that “the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord,”4 and that “the mercy of the Lord is upon all flesh;”5 and that God, being good, “maketh His sun to arise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth His rain upon the just and the unjust;”6 and that He encourages us to a similar course of action, in order that we may become His sons, and teaches us to extend the benefits which we enjoy, so far as in our power, to all men? For He Himself is said to be the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe;7 and His Christ to be the “propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”8 And this, then, is our answer to the allegations of Celsus. Certain other statements, in keeping with the character of the Jews, might be made by some of that nation, but certainly not by the Christians, who have been taught that “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;”9 and although “scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”1 But now is Jesus declared to have come for the sake of sinners in all parts of the world (that they may forsake their sin, and entrust themselves to God), being called also, agreeably to an ancient custom of these Scriptures, the “Christ of God.” (Origen: Origen Against Celsus)
In a letter to a contemporary, Origen writes,
If any one sin, we read,2 “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for those of the whole world,” since He is the Saviour of all men,3 especially of them that believe, who4 blotted out the written bond that was against us by His own blood, and took it out of the way, so that not even a trace, not even of our blotted-out sins, might still be found, and nailed it to His cross; who having put off from Himself the principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphing over them by His cross. And we are taught to rejoice when we suffer afflictions in the world, knowing the ground of our rejoicing to be this, that the world has been conquered and has manifestly been subjected to its conqueror. Hence all the nations, released from their former rulers, serve Him, because He5 saved the poor from his tyrant by His own passion, and the needy who had no helper. This Saviour, then, having humbled the calumniator by humbling Himself, abides with the visible sun before His illustrious church, tropically called the moon, from generation to generation. And having by His passion destroyed His enemies,
To the same friend, Origen writes about the use in scripture of the phrase ‘of the world.’ Some were using it to mean just the Church, but Origen attempts to write against it, saying,
The reader will do well to consider what was said above and illustrated from various quarters on the question what is meant in Scripture by the word “world”; and I think it proper to repeat this. I am aware that a certain scholar understands by the world the Church alone, since the Church is the adornment of the world,1 and is said to be the light of the world. “You,” he says,2 “are the light of the world.” Now, the adornment of the world is the Church, Christ being her adornment, who is the first light of the world. We must consider if Christ is said to be the light of the same world as His disciples. When Christ is the light of the world, perhaps it is meant that He is the light of the Church, but when His disciples are the light of the world, perhaps they are the light of others who call on the Lord, others in addition to the Church, as Paul says on this point in the beginning of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, where he writes, “To the Church of God, with all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Should any one consider that the Church is called the light of the world, meaning thereby of the rest of the race of men, including unbelievers, this may be true if the assertion is taken prophetically and theologically; but if it is to be taken of the present, we remind him that the light of a thing illuminates that thing, and would ask him to show how the remainder of the race is illuminated by the Church’s presence in the world. If those who hold the view in question cannot show this, then let them consider if our interpretation is not a sound one, that the light is the Church, and the world those others who call on the Name. The words which follow the above in Matthew will point out to the careful enquirer the proper interpretation. “You,” it is said, “are the salt of the earth,” the rest of mankind being conceived as the earth, and believers are their salt; it is because they believe that the earth is preserved. For the end will come if the salt loses its savour, and ceases to salt and preserve the earth, since it is clear that if iniquity is multiplied and love waxes cold upon the earth,3 as the Saviour Himself uttered an expression of doubt as to those who would witness His coming, saying,4 “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith upon the earth?” then the end of the age will come. Supposing, then, the Church to be called the world, since the Saviour’s light shines on it–we have to ask in connection with the text, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” whether the world here is to be taken intellectually of the Church, and the taking away of sin is limited to the Church. In that case what are we to make of the saying of the same disciple with regard to the Saviour, as the propitiation for sin? “If any man sin,” we read, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world?” Paul’s dictum appears to me to be to the same effect, when he says,5 “Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful.” Again, Heracleon, dealing with our passage, declares, without any proof or any citation of witnesses to that effect, that the words, “Lamb of God,” are spoken by John as a prophet, but the words, “who taketh away the sin of the world,” by John as more than a prophet. The former expression he considers to be used of His body, but the latter of Him who was in that body, because the lamb is an imperfect member of the genus sheep; the same being true of the body as compared with the dweller in it. Had he meant to attribute perfection to the body he would have spoken of a ram as about to be sacrificed. After the careful discussions given above, I do not think it necessary to enter into repetitions on this passage, or to controvert Heracleon’s careless utterances. One point only may be noted, that as the world was scarcely able to contain Him who had emptied Himself, it required a lamb and not a ram, that its sin might be taken away.
Gregory of Nyssa writes,
If, then, every good thing and every good name, depending on that power and purpose which is without beginning, is brought to perfection in the power of the Spirit through the Only-begotten God, without mark of time or distinction (since there is no delay, existent or conceived, in the motion of the Divine will from the Father, through the Son, to the Spirit): and if Godhead also is one of the good names and concepts, it would not be proper to divide the name into a plurality, since the unity existing in the action prevents plural enumeration. And as the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe3 , is spoken of by the Apostle as one, and no one from this phrase argues either that the Son does not save them who believe, or that salvation is given to those who receive it without the intervention of the Spirit; but God who is over all, is the Saviour of all, while the Son works salvation by means of the grace of the Spirit, and yet they are not on this account called in Scripture three Saviours (although salvation is confessed to proceed from the Holy Trinity): so neither are they called three Gods, according to the signification assigned to the term “Godhead,” even though the aforesaid appellation attaches to the Holy Trinity.
Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom ye did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them, as being stones4 of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross,5 making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God. Ye, therefore, as well as all your fellow-travellers, are God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ, in whom also I exult that I have been thought worthy, by means of this Epistle, to converse and rejoice with you, because with respect to your Christian life6 ye love nothing but God only. – Ephesians 9