Unus Deus – Ignatius

Ignatius usually gets a  bludgeoning from various people and groups that I deal with personally, but in the end I hold that he was a solid ‘modalist’ although that word would have been foreign to him. He invented the word ‘apostolic’ which is horribly misused by Rome and oneness people. He also was among the first (if not they first) to use the term ‘catholic‘ in describing the Church, but this is not the big C Catholic that we know of today, but instead the universal Church, both Jew and Gentile, Living and Dead.

His famous quote,

Where the bishop is, there let the people gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church.

Expresses the unity of the Church, not a name or collective center such as Rome. After all, Alexandria would occupy the seat of papal authority long before Rome would. I have included a portion of Ignatius’ works, and a word of caution. One has to be cautious in discarding all of history because they are used and interpreted by the Trinitarians.

The Epistles of Ignatius (c35-110)

I have chosen to include several passages from different Epistles composed by this Bishop of Antioch, but I do so with caution. We know assuredly that this man lived and wrote extensively. We know fully that he was a Bishop of Antioch and that he was martyred for the Faith around 107 by the Romans. History, however, has given us several representations of his works. Along with most scholars, I have used only the shorter versions in which to extract doctrine. Many scholars will speak to the fact that it is plain one or the other of these versions (Shorter and Longer) exhibits a corrupt text, and scholars have for the most part agreed to accept the shorter form as representing the genuine letters of Ignatius, but that theory is not without its faults. I will hold to that theory, but with the rider that interpolations are known to have occurred.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians


Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father and Jesus Christ, our God: Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and His undefiled grace.

Chapter I

Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God, ye have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you.


Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. “Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Chapter XIX

Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians

Chapter XV

The Ephesians from Smyrna (whence I also write to you), who are here for the glory of God, as ye also are, who have in all things refreshed me, salute you, along with Polycarp, the bishop of the Smyrnæans. The rest of the Churches, in honour of Jesus Christ, also salute you. Fare ye well in the harmony of God, ye who have obtained the inseparable Spirit, who is Jesus Christ.

Epistle to the Trallians

Chapter VII

Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons. And this will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in intimate union with 766 Literally, “unseparated from.” Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles. He that is within the altar is pure, but 767 This clause is inserted from the ancient Latin version. he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, 768 The text has “deacon.” such a man is not pure in his conscience.

Epistle to the Romans


Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that willeth all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the region of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed holy, 819 Or, “most holy.” and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father, which I also salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father: to those who are united, both according to the flesh and spirit, to every one of His commandments; who are filled inseparably with the grace of God, and are purified from every strange taint, abundance of happiness unblameably, in Jesus Christ our God.

Chapter III

For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is in 840 Or, “in.” the Father, is all the more revealed . Christianity is not a thing 841 Literally, “work.” of silence only, but also of greatness.

Epistle to the Church at Smyrna

Chapter I

I Glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom

Chapter X

Ye have done well in receiving Philo and Pheus Agathopus as servants of Christ our God who have followed me for the sake of GOd, and who give thanks to the Lord in your behalf, because ye have in every way refreshed them. None of these things shall be lost to you.

I look forward to the comments (wink, wink) as I find it freeing to interpret history in the light of modalism and a rigid and non-developing doctrine.

Interpolations can be easily indentified in the longer text with the addition of titles and the correcting on ‘Christological concerns, i.e. Ignatius’ unqualified declaration that Christ is God.

God-bearer, indicating the indwelling of the Spirit

The Greek is το πατρς κα ησο Χριστο το θεο, indicating Christ is God. The longer versions reads ‘God the Father, and of our Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour

Cf Acts 20.28

Clear statement as to the Ignatius’ theology of the nature of God

It is either that Christ is the inseparable Spirit or God

The longer version reads only ‘of Christ’.

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30 Replies to “Unus Deus – Ignatius”

  1. Here’s a section of the appendix to my thesis on Fr. John Romanides’ writings. I comment on each of his writings in this interminable appendix, which is a book in and of itself, but anyway, here’s the section on what is, in my opinion, the very best article about St Ignatius. See original article on http://www.romanity.org, of course. The section breaks off abruptly, because I haven’t finished it yet.

    D. “The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch”

    Fr. John finds in St. Ignatius an ecclesial Christology that maintains the nexus of, on the one hand, 1) Eucharist, 2) clergy, and 3) life in Christ; and on the other hand, 1) asceticism and 2) demonology:
    Christology is the positive aspect of the Church, but is conditioned by biblical demonology, which is the key negative factor which determines both Christology and Ecclesiology, both of which are incomprehensible without an adequate understanding of the work and methods of Satan.
    This notion that the Church has a twofold nature in no way limits the Cross’s victory over Satan, but recognizes as necessary man’s concrete, ascetic acceptance of the divine gift of power over death and the Devil: “. . .[T]hus the Church, although already the body of Christ, is continuously becoming what she is.” It is interesting to note that, even though Fr. John incorporates many of N. Afanasiev’s emphases into his theology, he never espouses a “Eucharistic Ecclesiology” which would emphasize sacraments to the exclusion of asceticism. Instead, Fr. John sees the Eucharist as a “manifestation” of the Church members’ “unity of love with each other in the life-giving nature of Christ.” For Fr. John, sacramentology becomes magical when separated from an asceticism predicated upon the defeat of the power of Satan: “Participation of the love of God in union with each other. . .can be weakened and even destroyed by man’s inattention to the ways of Satan.” Here Fr. John gives due attention to the individual Christian whose heart, through “intense warfare against Satan” becomes a Temple of God who shares in the selfless love of Christ, though this participation in Christ remains “Sarkocentric” , and thus cannot be achieved outside of “looking to the Blood of God” in the Eucharistic assembly.
    St. Ignatius’s ethical teachings are Christocentric in that they uphold the ontological basis of morality: Moral evil is Satanic opposition to union with God in Christ. Moral good is actual union with God in His Uncreated Energies which are given to man through Christ’s actual flesh and blood. Christ’s deified material body bestows the gift of divine power for the defeat of the power of Satan. This power is not magical, but is rather a weapon that must be wielded by Christians in a concrete local community that is continuously being established in selfless love through asceticism and the sacraments. Though each person must take up his own Cross and wage war against Satan, this struggle within man’s heart and members can succeed only as a communal achievement, since many become one in the unity of love in Christ. Real non-utilitarian, non-individualistic love in the body of Christ “seeks not its own”: “This love is such that Christ ‘pleased not himself’ (Rom. 15:3) but ‘died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves’ (II Cor. 5:15).”
    The significance of martyrdom in the Christology of the early Church writers cannot be overstated, according to Fr. John. In an early sermon entitled “La vie dans le Christ”, we find Fr. John commenting at great length on the overcoming of the fear of death and Satan as a prerequisite for membership in the Church:
    The biblical and patristic tradition is unanimous on one point: The one who is a living member of the Body of Christ is one who is dead to the power of death and who lives in the renewal of the Spirit of life. For this very reason, those who denied Christ during persecution, even after hours of torture, were considered excommunicated. Once a Christian died with Christ in baptism, he was expected to be ready to die anytime in the name of Christ. “Whoever denies me before men I will deny also before my Father in heaven” (Mat. 10:33).
    Martyrdom is here closely associated with the overcoming of death through union with the body of Christ, and Fr. John finds view in St. Ignatius of Antioch, who says of those who died for the Faith: “. . .they touched Him and believed, being supported by both His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, for they were found above death” (Smyr. 3). On the basis of the presuppositions of Orthodox martyrdom, Fr. John dismisses Western scholars who diagnose St. Ignatius with “eschatological enthusiasm” or “psychopathic disturbances.” Obviously, St. Ignatius wished that other Christians not hinder him from martyrdom because his (or their) dwelling upon any possibility of escaping death would mean ceasing to love “nothing but God only” : “The prince of this world would fain carry me away (or capture me), and corrupt my disposition (or opinion) toward god. Let none of you, therefore, who are in Rome help him” (Ign. Rom. 7). Thus, Fr. John’s article shows that St. Ignatius’ view of the body of Christ keeps in focus the. . .

  2. James, thanks for the comment and information. I have recently begun to study the ‘Church Fathers’ (Apostolic and otherwise) and have come to enjoy Ignatius, although it seems that his writings have faced the most corruption over the centuries.

    What changed between Ignatius and Cyprian by way of readmitting traditors?

  3. JL,

    I have a question, perhaps you can provide me with your logic here.

    In Ignatius to the Magnesians Chap XV you have a version that reads “ye who have obtained the inseparable Spirit, who is Jesus Christ.” What scholarship or evidence did you use to support your decision to accept this text over the one below?

    The Ephesians from Smyrna (whence I also write to you), who are here for the glory of God, as ye also are, who have in all things refreshed me, salute you, as does also Polycarp. The rest of the Churches, in honour of Jesus Christ, also salute you. Fare ye well in harmony, ye who have obtained the inseparable Spirit, in Christ Jesus, by the will of God.

  4. Have you therefore decided to rule out all longer recensions? Sarcasm is not needed.

    Tell me, in a phrase what is your eschatology.

  5. My question regarding the longer was to find out if you have made any exceptions to what you accept. My question regarding your eschatology is twofold; I am unaware of what the average oneness person believes so far as the subject and most eschatalogical doctrines have been developed, and most held today are relativley new. Belief in a recent eschatalogical doctrine would certainly be a detractor to your anti-development view on doctrine in general.

    What is your take on Magnesians 6.1?

    From what I have studied thus far, it seems as though what you have posted on this page is somewhat selective (I have only examined Ignatius to date).

  6. No I did not think that the “persons” mentioned had anything to do with our current topic. I am not an idiot. I asked your take on the chapter because of the clear distinction of the Father and Jesus Christ in the text, and also the pre-existence of Christ that is spoken of. Here is the excerpt to which I was referring:

    “and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed. ”

    “Eschatology, as a whole, is not doctrine. ”
    I asked what your eschatology was. This is your reply? I see. Let me be more specific then. Is the doctrine of the second coming of Christ a biblical doctrine in your view? Whether or not people thought Revelation was special revelation (pardon the word play) is irrelevant. The book is scripture. Care to argue otherwise? All doctrines can be “hashed over” but that does not give any less credence to the fact that end times theology does have it’s doctrines. A doctrine is a precept or belief. A Christian doctrine is a belief based on the bible. Therefore any belief held as a principal that is derived from scripture is a doctrine.

    In Ignatius to the Romans, chap III, you chose this translation: “For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is in the Father”

    What lead to your decision to use the word “in,” as opposed to “with?” Was it convient subjective reasoning, or something else? In considering his other writings, the use of “in” in this context seems highly unlikely.

  7. “John was saying that the Logos was God and God the Logos.”

    Now now JL. What did you forget in that sentence?
    καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν

    How bout that emphasis too!
    οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.

    The Monogenes Theos was in the beginning. If we used your wooden literalism, the Word could only refer to the preincarnate idea of the Son, wisdom held by the Father and yet to be revealed as the person of the Son. However if that were true this would be impossible; “which we have seen with our eyes.”

    Ὃ ἦν ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν, περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς

    καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν καὶ ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν

    ὃ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπαγγέλλομεν καὶ ὑμῖν, ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς κοινωνίαν ἔχητε μεθ’ ἡμῶν. καὶ ἡ κοινωνία δὲ ἡ ἡμετέρα μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

  8. numero uno: you can’t have fellowship with a person that does not exist. “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Well, maybe you can, but not most.

    “Show me where it says ‘monogenes theos’ was in the beginning”

    My pleasure.

    John 1:2 He was in the beginning with God.
    οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν
    See that? That is a personal pronoun. Now pay attention to this:

    “He is the Logos from the very beginning, but when the Logos was manifested – He became the Son”

    John 1:9-13 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

    Notice anything? “He” has not yet become flesh in this text. So if we are to assume that John 1:1 is speaking of an impersonal idea within the mind of the Eternal Almighty, we must too carry that assumption here as well. Try that. It is senseless. The point is this; the entirity of the context is to be considered, not simply a concrete order of the text.

    John equates the Monogenes and the Word. The same personal pronoun is used. There is an absolute emphasis on the distinction between the Word and God, hence verse 2. The Logos is eternal, verse one cleary defines that (agreed?). The word “with” used in “the Word was with God” is pros. The word describes actual interaction. Get a lexicon and a dictionary.

    Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν

    If we took these two statements completely out of context we could absolutley draw the conclusion that there are two eternal individuals. Not an idea and one individual, but two real individuals.

    Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος

    We see the eternality of the Word confirmed in the above. Combined with the remaining two fragments we get the Spirit inspired masterpiece that rules out the possibility of a unitarian god.

    The Word is eternal, The Word activley accompanied God eternally, The Word is what God is; eternally.

    Pros ton theon in this context rules out the possibility of the Logos being anything but an individual, not an idea. Now let me qoute someone far more intelligent than I.

    And the Word was God (kai theos en ho logos). By exact and careful language John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho theos en ho logos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article. The subject is made plain by the article (ho logos) and the predicate without it (theos) just as in John 4:24 pneuma ho theos can only mean “God is spirit,” not “spirit is God.” So in 1 John 4:16 ho theos agape estin can only mean “God is love,” not “love is God” as a so-called Christian scientist would confusedly say. For the article with the predicate see Robertson, Grammar, pp. 767f. So in John 1:14 ho Logos sarx egeneto, “the Word became flesh,” not “the flesh became Word.” Luther argues that here John disposes of Arianism also because the Logos was eternally God, fellowship of the Father and Son, what Origen called the Eternal Generation of the Son (each necessary to the other). Thus in the Trinity we see personal fellowship on an equality.
    – Dr. A. Robertson

  9. “then you have just made them His attributes”

    That is quite a jump. The Logos is not an attribute He is a person. The Spirit is not an attribute, He is also a Person. Jesus is all of the attributes of God, an exact reflection of the Father.

    “and denied that they are individual Gods”

    I didn’t claim they are individual Gods. God is indivisible. You can’t have the Son without the Father. You can’t have the Father without the Son. You can’t have the Spirit without both. Yet you can’t have the Father and Son without the Spirit. The Son is the wisdom of God, in that you are right; He is the perfect image of God, and in so being, God’s image is God. Perfect and distinct.

    Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

    Whose word upholds the universe? The Son, who is the image of God. (Col 1:15)

    What is the definition of the word “pros?”

  10. No, you imply ownership and a denile of individuality. Not me. The Logos is the Monogenes Theos. Not simply the mind of God. Your view of Christ is so deficient.

    The Logos is the reflection of the Father. The Logos is the wisdom or knowledge that God has of Himself. This idea or reflection is so perfect it(He) is Himself, but yet at the same time He is distinct because it is not Himself.

    1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

    Can you send your spirit somewhere? You see spirit can refer to many things. I could say, you have a spirit of rebellion against the clear teaching of the bible. Or that the Spirit hovers over the deep. Or I could say that the spirit of America is alive and well. Don’t confuse meanings. God is a spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Holy Spirit. You have no text that even comes close to supporting that. Who is it that the Spirit intercedes too? How can you grieve the Spirit, or blaspheme the Spirit distinctly, while not blaspheming the Father? Also, don’t forget the Spirit is all-present and all-knowing. The Spirit is fully God.

    I am not the one making the Father and the Spirit distinct. The Spirit Himself is, through the inspiration of the word. John 14 makes the distinction clear. You act as though the personalities that are displayed by each memeber of the Godhead mean nothing. The love shared, the communication back and forth, the distinct roles played in submissive servitude. Think about this, if the Father is the Holy Spirit, that is the Spirit is some kind of manifestation of the Father, why bother with all of the sending and asking? Why the distinct naming? I suppose too you think that the Logos never had a will of His own? Why the secret prayer? Why would God go through such massive efforts to demonstrate the distinction if the reality was that these modes or manifestations are really emanating from a unitarian god, who (wink wink) likes to pretend he has a son? You deny the diety of the Son of God. Why was Peter’s confession so important? Heres why: because Son of God meant that God eternally had a Son and that Son of God is the I am in flesh.

  11. Blaspheme I did not. You can blaspheme all three, my point was the particularity of the Spirit in regards to the unpardonable sin. I have grown tired with your insults and aggressive attitude. Phil 2 speaks of a pre-existing Son, as does John 17:5, and John 1. The biblical focus is on relationship and often times the humility of Christ in submission to the Father. This would loose it’s meaning if the Son was not God. Nuff said. Modalism by anyother name is simply modalism. Good luck with your hobby of watching men dance.

  12. I will create a post just for your blasphemous concept of the Logos. Your fantasy of modalism dominating the patristics is bunk. Do yourself a favor and examine the repentence of RE McAlister.

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