Category Archives: Ignatius of Antioch

Sunday School – Ignatius of Antioch

English: Ignatius of Antioch, ortodox icon.
English: Ignatius of Antioch, ortodox icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.[1]


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.[2]

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[3]

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.[4]

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?

[1] 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.

[2] Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, 190.

[3] ibid, 189.

[4] ibid,  188–89.

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Sounds of the Levitical Choir in Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistles to the Ephesians

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.

Guess what:

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.

Guess what:

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.

Friday with the Fathers: Ignatius and the Eucharist

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)

Ignatius of Antioch and Cyprian on the false demand of a profession of faith

Portrait of Ulrich Zwingli after his death 1531
Image via Wikipedia

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

(HT – James R. Payton’s, Getting the Reformation Wrong

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.

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Arius’s Thalia

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.

From here,

We have reproduced William Bright’s text of On the Councils 15, (The Historical Writings of St. Athanasius according to the Benedictine Text, Oxford: Clarendon, 1881, pp. 259-60). When compared to Opitz’ more recent edition of the text, we found that our text varies only in punctuation, capitalization, and one variant reading (χρόνῳ for χρόνοις, line 5)

Αὐτὸς γοῦν ὁ Θεὸς καθό ἐστιν, ἄῤῥητος ἅπασιν ὑπάρχει.
Ἴσον, οὐδὲ ὅμοιον, οὐχ ὁμόδοξον ἔχει μόνος οὗτος.
Ἀγέννητον δὲ αὐτόν φαμεν διὰ τὸν τὴν φύσιν γεννητόν,
τοῦτον ἄναρχον ἀνυμνοῦμεν διὰ τὸν ἀρχὴν ἔχοντα,
ἀΐδιον δὲ αὐτὸν σέβομεν διὰ τὸν ἐν χρόνῷ γεγαότα.
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.
Ἀρχὴν τὸν Υἱὸν ἔθηκε τῶν γενητῶν ὁ ἄναρχος,
καὶ ἤνεγκεν εἰς Υἱὸν ἑαυτῷ τόνδε τεκνοποιήσας,
Ἴδιον οὐδὲν ἔχει τοῦ Θεοῦ καθ’ ὑπόστασιν ἰδιότητος·
οὐδὲ γάρ ἐστιν ἴσος, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ὁμοούσιος αὐτῷ.
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.
Σοφὸς δέ ἐστιν ὁ Θεός, ὅτι τῆς σοφίας διδάσκαλος αὐτός.
Ἱκανὴ δὲ ἀπόδειξις, ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς ἀόρατος ἅπασι,
τοῖς τε διὰ Υἱοῦ καὶ αὐτῷ τῷ Υἱῷ ἀόρατος ὁ αὐτός.
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.
Ῥητῶς δὲ λέξω, πῶς τῷ Υἱῷ ὁρᾶται ὁ ἀόρατος,
Τῇ δυνάμει ᾗ δύναται ὁ Θεὸς ἰδεῖν ἰδίοις τε μέτροις
ὑπομένει ὁ Υἱὸς ἰδεῖν τὸν Πατέρα, ὡς θέμις ἐστίν.
13. I will say specifically how the invisible is seen by the Son:
by that power by which God is able to see, each according to his own measure,
the Son can bear to see the Father, as is determined
Ἤγουν Τριάς ἐστι δόξαις οὐχ ὁμοίαις·
ἀνεπίμικτοι ἑαυταῖς εἰσιν αἱ ὑποστάσεις αὐτῶν,
μία τῆς μιᾶς ἐνδοξοτέρα δόξαις ἐπ’ ἄπειρον.
Ξένος τοῦ Υἱοῦ κατ’ οὐσίαν ὁ Πατήρ, ὅτι ἄναρχος ὑπάρχει.
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.
Σύνες ὅτι ἡ μονὰς ἦν· ἡ δυὰς δὲ οὐκ ἦν, πρὶν ὑπάρξῃ.
Αὐτίκα γοῦν, Υἱοῦ μὴ ὄντος, ὁ Πατὴρ Θεός ἐστι.
Λοιπὸν ὁ Υἱὸς οὐκ ὢν (ὑπῆρξε δὲ θελήσει πατρῴᾳ),
μονογενὴς Θεός ἐστι, καὶ ἑκατέρων ἀλλότριος οὗτος.
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).]
Ἡ Σοφία σοφία ὑπῆρξε σοφοῦ Θεοῦ θελήσει.
Ἐπινοεῖται γοῦν μυρίαις ὅσαις ἐπινοίαις Πνεῦμα,
δύναμις, σοφία, δόξα Θεοῦ, ἀλήθειά τε καὶ εἰκὼν καὶ Λόγος οὗτος.
Σύνες, ὅτι καὶ ἀπαύγασμα καὶ φῶς ἐπινοεῖται.
Ἴσον μὲν τοῦ Υἱοῦ γεννᾷν δυνατός ἐστιν ὁ κρείττων·
διαφορώτερον δὲ, ἢ κρείττονα, ἢ μείζονα, οὐχί.
Θεοῦ θελήσει ὁ Υἱὸς ἡλίκος καὶ ὅσος ἐστίν,
ἐξ ὅτε καὶ ἀφ’ οὗ, καὶ ἀπὸ τότε ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑπέστη,
ἰσχυρὸς Θεὸς ὢν, τὸν κρείττονα ἐκ μέρους ὑμνεῖ.
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 .
Συνελόντι εἰπεῖν τῷ Υἱῷ ὁ Θεὸς ἄρρητος ὑπάρχει,
ἔστι γὰρ ἑαυτῷ ὅ ἐστι, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ἄλεκτος·
ὥστε οὐδὲν τῶν λεγομένων κατά τε κατάληψιν συνίει ἐξειπεῖν ὁ Υἱός.
Ἀδύνατα γὰρ αὐτῷ τὸν Πατέρα τε ἐξιχνιάσαι, ὅς ἐστιν ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ.
Αὐτὸς γὰρ ὁ Υἱὸς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ οὐσίαν οὐκ οἶδεν,
Υἱὸς γὰρ ὢν, θελήσει Πατρὸς ὑπῆρξεν ἀληθῶς.
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.
Τίς γοῦν λόγος συγχωρεῖ τὸν ἐκ Πατρὸς ὄντα
αὐτὸν τὸν γεννήσαντα γνῶναι ἐν καταλήψει;
δῆλον γὰρ, ὅτι τὸ ἀρχὴν ἔχον, τὸν ἄναρχον, ὡς ἔστιν,
ἐμπερινοῆσαι ἢ ἐμπεριδράξασθαι, οὐχ οἷόν τέ ἐστιν.
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.

εἷς ἰατρός ἐστιν σαρκικός τε καὶ πνευματικός γεννητὸς καὶ ἀγέννητος ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ θεός ἐν θανάτῳ ζωὴ ἀληθινή καὶ ἐκ Μαρίας καὶ ἐκ θεοῦ πρῶτον παθητὸς καὶ τότε ἀπαθής Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν

Anyone else want to contend with Ignatius?