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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Ignatius

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1. Life.-From the date of the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:23-29) onwards, i.e. from about a.d. 50, there is absolutely no evidence as to the history of the Church of Antioch. In the time of Origen and Julius Africanus, Ignatius was considered as the second of the Antiochene bishops. Between him and Theophilus († c. [Note: . circa, about.] 185) three bishops were usually placed-Hero, Cornelius, and Eros, of whom nothing was known but their names. Euodius was regarded as Ignatius’ predecessor (Harnack, Chronologie, i., Leipzig, 1897, p. 210). But as a matter of fact, as Lightfoot (Apostolic Fathers2, pt. ii. vol. ii., London, 1889, p. 471) says: ‘The dates of the first century, the accession of Euodius a.d. 42, and the accession of Ignatius a.d. 69, deserve no credit.’ The information to be gleaned from the Apost. Constit. vii. xlvi. 4 (ed. Funk, Paderborn, 1905), such as that Euodius was ordained bishop by St. Peter and Ignatius by St. Paul, does not seem to be of any greater value than the foregoing. St. John Chrysostom, in the panegyric which he pronounces at Antioch on St. Ignatius, supposes that Ignatius knew the apostles and received the laying on of hands from them (in S. Martyrem Ignatium, 1 and 2 [Migne, Patrologia Graeca, l. 587f.]). The Apost. Constit. and St. John Chrysostom represent the same legend in formation. The extent of Eusebius’ information (HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] iii. xxxvi. 2) was that St. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch and that Ignatius was his second successor, Euodius being the first. He depends for his knowledge on Origen (Hom. in Lucam, 6), and is in turn followed by Jerome (de Vir. illustr 16).

Apart from the fact that he was bishop of Antioch and the details furnished by his authentic letters, the history of Ignatius is absolutely unknown. Some critics have tried, with more zeal than discretion, to fill up the gaps in the history with conjectures, but these are quite worthless. For example, E. Bruston (Ignace d’Antioche, Paris, 1897, p. 112f.) advances the theory that Ignatius was neither Greek nor Syrian, but Roman, his proof being that Ignatius’ name is a Latin one (cf. Forcellini-De-Vit., Onomasticon, s.v. ‘Ignatius = Egnatius’), and that he has all the characteristics of the Roman mind, which is essentially practical! Von Dobschütz (Christian Life in the Primitive Church, Eng. translation , 1904, p. 235f.) says, with equal justification: ‘Ignatius is a genuine Syrian. His diction, which, for Greek, is almost intolerably affected, everywhere reveals the fiery rhythm of Syriac poetry with its wonderful richness of colouring and imagination.’

In the signature of each of his seven letters, Ignatius calls himself Ἰγνάτιος ὁ καὶ Θεοφόρος. On the analogy of expressions like Σαῦλος ὁ καί Παῦλος (Acts 13:9), we may suppose that Θεοφόρος is not an epithet but a proper name (Lightfoot, p. 22). Zahn (p. 3) compares it with Οὐέττιος Ἐπάγαθος in Eusebius, HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] v. i. 9. As to when and why Ignatius took the name of Θεοφόρος, we have to confess complete ignorance.

The author of the Passion of Ignatius, entitled the Martyrium Colbertinum (Funk, ii. 276), calls him a ‘disciple of the Apostle John’ and ‘a thoroughly apostolic man,’ but he gives no evidence for the truth of his statements. In his Letter to Polycarp (i. 1) Ignatius seems to say that he has just met Polycarp for the first time (Funk, Kirchengeschichtl. Abhandlungen, ii. [Paderborn, 1899] 340). As Polycarp was an Asiatic disciple of St. John, this would be a proof that Ignatius was not a co-disciple of his. Besides, Ignatius is absolutely silent on the subject of the Apostle John, which, had Ignatius known him, would be very puzzling, considering that Ignatius wrote a long letter to the Ephesians.

An attempt has been made to find in Romans, iv. 3, an indication that Ignatius was a slave. But the text has probably a spiritual and not a literal meaning (cf. Philadelphians, viii. 1; Lightfoot, p. 210). It is inconceivable that a slave should ever have been put at the head of a Christian community.

Ignatius was not a Roman citizen, since he was condemned to be thrown to the beasts. The modest expressions that Ignatius uses in speaking of himself suggest that he was not a Christian by birth, but became one later on. His previous life may have had some analogy with that of the Apostle Paul before his conversion. ‘But for myself I am ashamed to be called one of them [i.e. the Antiochene Christians]; for neither am I worthy, being the very last of them and an untimely birth’ (Romans, ix. 2).* [Note: The translations of the text of Ignatius are taken from Lightfoot.] There are similar protestations of humility in Eph. xxi. 2, Trall. xiii. 1, and Smyrn. xi 1.

Eusebius places the martyrdom of Ignatius in the time of Trajan (a.d. 98-117)-a wide choice of date to which no objection can be raised (Lightfoot, p. 469f.). There seems good reason, however, for deciding on the last years of Trajan’s reign as the most likely date (Harnack, Chronologie, i. 406).

According to the Martyrium Colbertinum, ii. 1-2 (Funk, ii. 276), Ignatius appeared before Trajan in the 9th year of his reign (26 Jan. 106-26 Jan. 107), when the latter was passing through Antioch on a march against the Parthians (the war against the Parthians, however, only began in 112). He was condemned by the Emperor and sent to Rome, where he died on 20 Dec. 107, in the consulate of Sura and Senecio (vii. 1, p. 284). This date is debatable, for the oldest known reference to the ‘natale’ of Ignatius, found in the Syriac Martyrology published by Wright, fixes the anniversary as 17 Oct. (Bolland, AS [Note: S Acta Sanctorum (Bollandus).] , Nov. i. 1 [1894], p. lxii. [text restored by Duchesne]: καὶ ιζ, Ιγνάτιος ἐπίσκοπος Ἀντιοχείας ἐκ τῶν ἀρχαίων μαρτύρων). The place of the martyrdom is not mentioned. Wright’s Martyrology is certainly not later than the middle of the 4th cent., and appears to have been compiled in Antioch. This date (17 Oct.) is confirmed by St. John Chrysostom and other writers and documents (H. Quentin, Les Martyrologes historiques, Paris, 1908, p. 548). Lightfoot says (p. 434): ‘The only anniversary, which has any claims to consideration as the true day of the martyrdom, is October 17.’ If, then, the date of 20 Dec. for the martyrdom of Ignatius is not correct, no reliance can be placed on the date of the consulate of Sura and Senecio. The main part of the Martyrium Colbertinum belongs to the 5th or, at the earliest, the end of the 4th century. For its chronology it depends on Eusebius’ Chronicle, and even it gives no guarantee of absolute exactitude. All one can say is that Eusebius placed the martyrdom of Ignatius in the time of Trajan. Nothing more definite is given.

No historical value can be attached to the rest of the Martyrium Colbertinum, or to the Martyrium Vaticanum (which is independent of the foregoing and perhaps dates from the 5th cent.), or to the Latin, Armenian, or Greek texts where the two Martyria are combined (on this worthless hagiographic literature see Bardenhewer, Gesch. der altkirchl. Litt. i. pp. 143-145).

Apart from these documents, we have no information as to the circumstances in which the bishop of Antioch was imprisoned and then sent to Rome. But, if the martyrdom took place a.d. 110-117 we have the evidence of Trajan for this period, in his letter to Pliny (Pliny, Ep. xcviii.) defining the legal position of Christianity: Christianity is a religio illicita, but public action can be taken against Christians only by means of the delatio; ‘Puniendi sunt, si deferantur et arguantur.’ It may be supposed, then, that Ignatius was delatus to the Roman magistrates of Antioch.

In Eph. xxi. 2, he writes: ‘Pray for the church which is in Syria, whence I am led a prisoner to Rome-I who am the very last of the faithful there’; in Rom. ix. 1: ‘Remember in your prayers the church which is in Syria, which hath God for its shepherd in my stead. Jesus Christ alone shall be its bishop-He and your love.’ Some time after-i.e. on his arrival in Troas-Ignatius seems to have given up all anxiety about the Church of Antioch: ‘Seeing that in answer to your prayer and to the tender sympathy which ye have in Christ Jesus, it hath been reported to me that the church which is in Antioch of Syria hath peace, it is becoming for you as a church of God, to appoint a deacon to go thither as God’s ambassador, that he may congratulate them when they are assembled together, and may glorify the Name’ (Philad. x. 1). He writes to Polycarp: ‘Seeing that the church which is in Antioch of Syria hath peace, as it hath been reported to me, through your prayers, I myself also have been the more comforted since God hath banished my care’ (vii. 1). To the Smyrnaeans he is even more explicit: ‘It is meet that your church should appoint, for the honour of God, an ambassador of God that he may go as far as Syria and congratulate them because they are at peace, and have recovered their proper stature, and their proper bulk hath been restored to them’ (τὸ ἴδιον σωματεῖον; xi. 2); and he adds: ‘It seemed to me a fitting thing that ye should send one of your own people with a letter, that he might join with them in giving glory for the calm which by God’s will had overtaken them, and because they were already reaching a haven through your prayers’ (xi. 3). If it were a question of a persecution limited to Antioch, it would not be very clear how peace could have restored its stature to the Church of Antioch, i.e. its spiritual stature, in the sense of Eph. inscr.: εὐλογημένῃ ἐν μεγέθει. We are, then, led to suppose that it is not peace after persecution but peace after discord that is meant. With Ignatius gone, the Church of Antioch was left without a pastor, and the community (σωματεῖον) had become disunited and was in a state of schism. The insistence with which Ignatius speaks of the return of the repentant rebels to union with God and communion with the bishop (Philad. iii. 2, viii. 1, Smyrn. ix. 1) is perhaps the consequence of the painful experience he has just passed through in Antioch.

Ignatius, though arrested and condemned in Antioch, is sent to Rome. He knows that he is condemned to be thrown to the beasts (Rom. v. 1-2). In Rom. iv. 1, he begs the Christians of Rome not to intervene to rob him of the martyrdom he awaits, and it is thus obvious that he must have been tried and found guilty in Antioch. The fact of his being condemned in Antioch and yet undergoing his sentence in Rome is not unique. Rome gathered victims from all the ends of the earth to take part in the cruel games of her amphi-theatre.

In Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians, we find that Ignatius, on his arrival in Philippi in Macedonia, was no longer alone but in the same convoy as other Christians in chains (Phil. i. 1, ix. 1, xiii. 2). The journey from Antioch to Rome was made partly by land and partly by sea (Rom. v. 1); Ignatius was in chains, and a squad of ten soldiers guarded him night and day and spared him no ill-treatment (Rom. v. 1; cf. Passio Sanctœ Perpetuœ, iii. 6: ‘… concussurae militum’).

The first town we know of Ignatius’ passing through is Philadelphia in proconsular Asia (Philad. vii. 1). Of the itinerary he followed between Antioch and that town we know nothing.

After Philadelphia we find him in Smyrna, where Polycarp is bishop. Later he thanks the Smyrnaeans effusively for the welcome they gave him and his two companions Philo and Rheus Agathopus (Smyrn. ix. 2, x. 1). In Smyrna he made a comparatively long stay-time enough to get to know the Smyrnaean families he greets at the end of his letter (xiii. 1, 2). While he was in Smyrna the neighbouring churches sent deputations to greet him and console him in his imprisonment. From Smyrna itself Ignatius writes a letter of thanks to each of the churches who had sent delegates: the first is the Epistle to the Ephesians, the second the Letter to the Church of Magnesia on the Maeander, the third the Epistle to the Trallians. From Smyrna, too, Ignatius sends his Letter to the Romans, which alone bears a date-the ninth day before the Kalends of September, i.e. 24 Aug. (Rom. x. 3).

The zeal of the neighbouring churches to greet Ignatius is very remarkable. ‘For when ye heard that I was on my way from Syria, in bonds for the sake of the common Name and hope … ye were eager to visit me,’ writes Ignatius to the Ephesians (i. 2). The Ephesians sent their bishop, Onesimus (i. 3), their deacon, Burrhus (ii. 1), and several other Christians-Crocus, Euplus, Fronto, etc. (ib.). The Magnesians sent their bishop, Damas, the presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and their deacon Zotion (ii.). At the end of his Epistle to the Magnesians, Ignatius writes: ‘The Ephesians from Smyrna salute you, from whence also I write to you. They are here with me for the glory of God, as also are ye; and they have comforted me in all things, together with Polycarp, bishop of the Smyrnaeans. Yea, and all the other churches salute you …’ (xv.). The Trallians sent their bishop, Polybius (i. 1). To them Ignatius writes: ‘I salute you from Smyrna, together with the churches of God that are present with me; men who refreshed me in all ways both in flesh and in spirit’ (xii. 1). The way in which these three Asian churches vied with each other to pay court to Ignatius leads us to believe that other churches probably followed suit: ‘I write to all the churches, and I bid all men know, that of my own free will I die for God …’ (Rom. iv. 1); and again: ‘My spirit saluteth you, and the love of the churches which received me in the name of Jesus Christ, not as a mere wayfarer: for even those churches which did not lie on my route after the flesh went before me from city to city’ (ix. 3).

The Epistle to the Romans is not a reply to a direct deputation sent to Ignatius by the Church of Rome. Ignatius has been informed of the Romans’ feelings towards him and of their design to snatch him from martyrdom if possible, and he forestalls them by begging them to do nothing. He sends them the letter by the hands of Ephesians who have apparently told him of the Romans’ plans (x. 1), and who have means of transporting the letter to Rome. Ignatius uses this means, although he knows that Antiochene devotees have gone straight to Rome. He says of them: ‘As touching those who went before me from Syria to Rome unto the glory of God, I believe that ye have received instructions; whom also apprise that I am near’ (x. 2).

From Smyrna, Ignatius and his guard Journey to Troas, probably by sea. From there Ignatius dispatches three letters: the first to the Church of Philadelphia (‘The love of the brethren which are in Troas saluteth you,’ xi. 2); the second to the Smyrnaeans; and the third to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In the last letter Ignatius apologizes for not being able to write to all the churches, the reason being that he has just been suddenly ordered to embark at once for Neapolis in Macedonia, the port for Philippi.

Before leaving Troas, Ignatius receives comforting news of his beloved Church of Antioch. He suggests that Polycarp should depute one of the Smyrnaeans to go to Antioch to show the love that the Church of Smyrna bears to the Church of Syria (vii. 2). ‘I salute him that shall be appointed to go to Syria,’ he writes. ‘Grace shall be with him always, and with Polycarp who sendeth him’ (viii. 2). He begs Polycarp to write to the churches lying between Smyrna and Antioch, enjoining them to send messengers or letters to the Church of Antioch as a token of their love (viii. 1). He writes to the same effect to the Philadelphians. ‘As a church of God’ they ought to elect a deacon and commission him to carry their congratulations to the devotees assembled together at Antioch and to glorify ‘the Name’ with them. If they do this, they will be following the example of several churches, some of whom have sent a bishop, and some presbyters or deacons (x. 1-2).

From Neapolis Ignatius is taken to Philippi. A few details of this journey may be gleaned from Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians, written in reply to a letter sent from the Philippians to Polycarp (iii. 1): ‘Ye wrote to me, both ye yourselves and Ignatius, asking that if any one should go to Syria he might carry thither the letters from you. And this I will do, if I get a fit opportunity, either I myself, or he whom I shall send to be ambassador on your behalf also’ (xiii. 1). From this passage we may infer that Ignatius wrote to Polycarp during his stay in Philippi; and that the Philippians wrote to the Church of Antioch at the same time as to Polycarp. The Philippians had given Ignatius a hearty welcome, and Polycarp commends them for having ‘received the followers of the true Love and escorted them on their way … those men encircled in saintly bonds which are the diadems of them that be truly chosen of God and our Lord’ (1:1).

By the time Polycarp wrote this letter, Ignatius had left Philippi and was en route for Rome: ‘Moreover, concerning Ignatius himself and those that were with him, if ye have any sure tidings, certify us’ (13:2). It would be difficult to believe that this request for news of Ignatius could by any possibility be later than the receipt of the tidings of his death. It is true that in another passage Polycarp commends the patience of ‘the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus,’ and compares it with that of St. Paul and the other apostles, adding: ‘all these ran not in vain … they are in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered’ (9:1, 2); but it is not unlikely that the last phrase refers only to St. Paul and the other apostles. On this hypothesis, then, Polycarp would not know the fate of Ignatius, Zosimus, and Rufus till after the dispatch of his letter to the Philippians.

From the time he left Philippi we know nothing further of Ignatius. Origen says that he fought against the boasts in Rome during the persecution. Eusebius (HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] iii. xxxvi. 3) repeats this statement, and adds that in Rome Ignatius became ‘food for the beasts.’ In this he was certainly influenced by Ignatius’ letter to the Romans (‘I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts,’ 4:1). This Epistle is the sole extant reference to the martyrdom of Ignatius. Even in Rome itself there seems to have been no note made of the incident.

From Jerome we learn that Ignatius was buried in Antioch: ‘Reliquiae corporis eius in Antiochia iacent extra portam Daphniticam in cœmeterio’ (de Vir. illustr. 16). This was written in a.d. 392, and, as far as we know, Jerome did not take his information from any written source, but probably speaks de visu.

‘In his panegyric on Ignatius pronounced in Antioch (386-97), St. John Chrysostom celebrates the triumphal return of the martyr to his episcopal city, and the honours that were paid him by the cities on the route [Patr. Graeca, 1. 594]. The orator no doubt takes his clue from spectacles of the same nature seen for some years previously in different centres of the Eastern Empire. It is quite evident that the remains of the holy martyr could not have been brought back in this way in the very thick of the persecution’ (H. Delehaye, Les Origines du culte des martyrs, Brussels, 1912, p. 69; so also Lightfoot, p. 431f.).

In the time of Theodosius II. (408-450), Ignatius’ remains (or bones believed to be his) were transferred from the cemetery extra muros to the ancient Temple of Fortune, now turned into a basilica (Euagrius, HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] i. 16 [ed. Bidez-Parmentier, London, 1899, p. 25f.]).

The whole question of the transference of Ignatius’ bones from Rome to Antioch is a difficult one. Delehaye writes: ‘It is difficult to come to any finding on the question of the reality of the transference of St. Ignatius’ remains from Rome and of the period when this took place’ (loc. cit.). If St. Ignatius suffered martyrdom in Rome, and if, as Euagrius says, ‘he met his death in the amphitheatre of Rome, finding his tomb in the bellies of the wild beasts in fulfilment of his own wish,’ one may suppose that nothing remained of his body. In Romans 4:2 he wrote: ‘Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my sepulchre and may leave no part of my body behind.’ Of course one may always agree with Euagrius that at least Ignatius’ ‘tougher hones’ were saved.

As to the time of the transference, if it did take place, we are equally at sea. By the end of the 4th cent., as we have seen above, public opinion was quite decided that Ignatius’ remains were in cœmeterio in Antioch. But the transference of the remains in the 2nd or 3rd cent. would be an anachronism, and in the 4th cent. some note would undoubtedly have been taken of the fact. We must conclude, then, that, if the remains of Ignatius preserved in Antioch are authentic, it is quite possible that Ignatius did not suffer martyrdom in Rome at all, but returned to Antioch and died there. The existence of his tomb in Antioch is more probable on this supposition than on the hypothesis of the transference of his remains from Rome to Antioch.

2. Manuscripts and YSS of the Epistles.-The words of Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians (13:2) are the earliest evidence of a collection of Ignatius’ letters: ‘The letters of Ignatius which were sent to us by him, and others as many as we had by us, we send unto you, according as ye gave charge; the which are subjoined to this letter; from which ye will be able to gain great advantage. For they comprise faith and endurance and every kind of edification, which pertaineth unto out Lord.’ Eusebius (HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] 3:36) apparently knows of a collection of seven of Ignatius’ letters, with Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, which is identical with our present group of letters, even down to the order in which the Epistles me given: Eph., Magn., Trall., Rom., Philad., Polyc., Smyrn., and Polycarp’s Philippians.

This original collection of letters fell into the hands of a forger, who made interpolations in the text of the. authentic Epistles and also manufactured six additional letters-Mary of Cassobola (there is a Cilician town called Castabala, possibly the same as Cassobola) to Ignatius, Ignatius to Mary of Cassobola, to the Tarsians, to the Philippians, to the Antiochenes, and to Hero the Deacon. We have thus an Ignatian collection of thirteen letters. The identification of the forger with the unknown compiler of the Apostolic Constitutions is atheory highly favoured by Funk. He regards him as having been a Syrian Christian of the beginning of the 5th cent., probably belonging to an Apollinarist order, and he even finds in his work points of contact with Theodore of Mopsuestia (Patr. apostol. opera, ii. pp. ix-xiii, and Kirchengeschichtl. Abhandlungen, ii. [Paderborn, 1899], pp. 347-359).

Three other spurious letters of Ignatius may be passed over quickly-one supposed to be addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the Virgin’s reply, and two addressed to the Apostle John. The oldest witness to these three Latin letters is Denis of Chartreux († 1471); the oldest manuscript of them dates from the 12th century. These Epistles are usually regarded as forgeries of Latin provenance and of the Middle Ages.

In 1845, Cureton published Eph., Magn., and Rom. in a Syriac version, which comprises the three authentic Epistles in an abridged form. Cureton put forward the hypothesis that the Syriac text represents all that is authentically Ignatian, and that consequently Trall., Philad., Polyc., and Smyrn. are spurious compositions. This theory was accepted for some time by quite a number of critics, but it has now been abandoned: the three Syriac letters are nothing more nor less than an abridgment of the three Greek Epistles. (These apocryphal texts maybe found in the editions of Zahn, Lightfoot, and Funk.)

We may now turn our undivided attention to the Greek collection of the seven authentic letters.

The authenticity of these Epistles was for long a matter of keen controversy. At first only the Latin collection comprising the Epistles to the Apostle John and the Virgin Mary, or the three apocryphal letters published in Paris in 1495, were known. Three years later (1498) Lefèvre d’Etaples published in Latin the collection comprising the thirteen spurious or interpolated letters, the Greek text of which was printed at Dillingen in 1557. This collection was speedily recognized to be unauthentic, but, though the Magdeburg Centuriators repudiated the thirteen letters en bloc, Baronius and Bellarmin defended them en bloc. The Protestant Scultetus, in his Medullae theologiae patrum syntagma (Neustadt, 1609) was of opinion that only the seven letters attested by Eusebius were authentic. In 1646 Vossius published the authentic Greek text of six of the seven letters, the Greek text of the seventh-the Letter to the Romans-being published by Ruinart in 1689. But it was a long time before the authenticity of these seven letters was generally accepted. It would be useless to retrace the history of this painful controversy with its tedious conflict of confessional (Saumaise, Blondel, Daillé) or pseudo-critical (Baur, Hilgenfeld, Lipsius) prejudices, which was finally terminated by Zahn’s Ignatius von Antiochien (Gotha, 1873) and F. X. Funk’s Die Echtheit der ignatianischen Briefe (Tübingen, 1883). E. Bruston’s objections and conjectures (Ignace d’Antioche) were never taken seriously, nor were those of D. Völter (Die ignatianischen Briefe, Tübingen, 1892). See, however, M. Rackl, Christologie des heiligen Ignatius von Antiochien, Freiburg i. B., 1914, pp. 11-86.

A reply to the difficulties raised by the opponents of the authenticity of the letters will be found in J. Réville’s Les Origines de l’épiscopat (pp. 442-81) and in E. Hennecke’s Handbuch zu den neutest. Apokryphen (Tübingen, 1904, p. 191f.). Difficulties naturally exist, writes R. Knopf, but they are not to be weighed against ‘the uninventible form of these writings, the originality of the man which seems to speak forth from the pulsing lines, and the wealth of personal references which entwine the letters’ (Das nachapostolische Zeitalter, Tübingen, 1905, p. 37; cf. O. Stählin, Christl. griech. Litt., Munich, 1914, p. 975).

The seven Epistles of Ignatius are attested, as we have said, first by the Epistle of Polycarp, and then, at the beginning of the 4th cent., by Eusebius. Between these two witnesses we may insert Irenaeus (adv. Haer. v. xxviii. 4), who does not name Ignatius but cites his Letter to the Romans: ‘Quemadmodum quidam de nostris dixit, propter martyrium in Deum adiudicatus ad bestias, “quoniam frumentum sum Christi et per dentes bestiarum molor ut mundus panis inveniar.” ’ Harnack thinks that Clement of Alexandria is so closely dependent on Ignatius that he must have read him (cf. Paedag, i. vi. 38, ii. viii. 63, Excerpt. Theod. 74 with Trall. viii. 1, Eph. 17:1, 19:2); so also Origen (de Orat. 20 = Romans 3:3; Hom. vi. in Luc. = Eph. 19:1; in Cant. Cantic. prolog. = Romans 7:2). Harnack ignores all doubtful witnesses like Melito, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Tertullian, the Lyons Martyrs, and the Acts of St. Perpetua. We shall pass over all attestations later than Eusebius (see Harnack, Die Ueberlieferung der altchristl. Litteratur, Leipzig, 1893, pp. 79-86).

The question whether Lucian the satirist, in lines 169-170 of his de Morte Peregrini, was thinking of Ignatius or even had direct knowledge of his letters is a point on which one hesitates to decide. Funk (Patr. apostol. i. pp. lx-lxi) and Réville (Origines de l’épiscopat, Paris, 1895, p. 448f.) incline to an affirmative view, while Harnack (Ueberlieferung, p. 79) remains doubtful.

Smyrn. iii. 3-xii. 1 is preserved in the Papyrus-kodex 10581 (5th cent.) of Berlin (see C. Schmidt and W. Schubart, Altchristl. Texte, Berlin, 1910, pp. 3-12). The Greek text of all the authentic letters except the Epistle to the Romans is given in the Codex Laurentianus, lvii. 7 (11th cent.), fol. [Note: folio.] 242-252, which was used by Vossius for the editio princeps. The manuscript G. V. 14 (16th cent.) in the Casanate Library is a copy of the Laurentianus. The letter to the Romans is given in the Paris gr. 1491 (10th cent.), which was used by Ruinart. The separation of the Letter to the Romans from the six other authentic letters is perhaps due to the fact that the first collection of Ignatius’ letters was made in Asia-witness what Polycarp says in his Philippians-and thus did not contain the Epistle to the Romans (so Harnack, Ueberlieferung, p. 76.).

The Latin version published by Ussher (Oxford, 1644) was the work of Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln (13th cent.); it was translated from an excellent Greek manuscript now lost, and is an extremely close rendering of the original. Ussher had at his disposal two Latin Manuscripts -one the lost Codex Montacutianus and the other the existing Codex Caiensis, 395 of Cambridge (15th cent.). Grosseteste’s version comprises the first six authentic letters and the Martyrium Colbertinum, including the Letter to the Romans.

We also possess the seven letters in an Armenian translation possibly dating from the 5th cent., and some fragments of a Syriac translation which formed the basis for the Armenian rendering. Lightfoot and Harnack think that the Syriac collection of Eph., Magn., and Rom. in an abridged form published by Cureton is an excerpt from this Syriac translation of the seven authentic letters.

3. Ecclesiastical position

(1) Church organization.-If one had to prove that the Christianity of the beginning of the 2nd cent. was a city-religion one would find ample material in the letters of Ignatius. The visible unity is the Church, and each church bears the name of the city where it is established: ‘the church which is in Ephesus of Asia,’ ‘the church which is in Magnesia on the Maeander,’ ‘the holy church which is in Tralles of Asia,’ ‘the church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ which is in Philadelphia of Asia,’ ‘the church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ the Beloved … which is in Smyrna of Asia’-so Ignatius styles the churches in the inscriptions of his letters.

The Church of Antioch is called ‘the church which is in Antioch of Syria’ (Philad. x. l, Smyrn. xi. 1), but it is also spoken of as ‘the church which is in Syria’ (Magn. xiv., Eph. 21:2, Romans 9:1). Ignatius calls himself ‘bishop from Syria’ (Romans 2:2). This has been taken as an indication that Ignatius was bishop not only of Antioch but of the whole province of Syria, Syria being understood as including several lesser churches and several lesser bishops (K. Lübeck, Reichseinteilung und kirchliche Hierarchie des Orients, Münster, 1901, p. 43; Harnack, Mission und Ausbreitung, Leipzig, 1902, i. 384). The text of Philad. x. 2, which speaks of ‘the churches which are nearest’ (αἱ ἔγγιστα ἐκκλησίαι), does not say which city they are near; they may be churches of Asia or even of Cilicia (H. de Genouillac, L’Eglise chrétienne au temps de saint Ignace d’Antioche, Paris, 1907, p. 67f.). Even if it were proved that Syria contained other churches than Antioch, e.g. the churches of Apamia or Berœa, the bishop of Antioch might still have considered himself emphatically the bishop of Syria, without being in any sense a metropolitan. To speak of a metropolitan bishop in the time of Ignatius is an anachronism.

The Christian community bearing the name of the church of such and such a city is not a purely mystical body, but a visible unity having frequent assemblies. ‘Let meetings (συναγωγαί) be held more frequently,’ Ignatius writes to Polycarp (4:2, 3). ‘Seek out all men by name.… Let slaves not desire to be set free at the public cost’ (ἀπὸ τοῦ κοινοῦ ἐλευθεροῦσθαι; note the expression τὸ κοινόν, a synonym for the local church [Philad. i. 1]. If the community can buy out slaves, it must have a common purse). In the Letter to the Smyrnaeans (6:2), the heretics are reproached for acting contrary to the Spirit of God: ‘They have no care for love (ἀγάπης), none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the afflicted, none for the prisoner, none for the hungry or thirsty.’ In these words we have a résumé of the gospel of love, and an indication of the practical assistance rendered by every Christian community to those in need. Ignatius begs Polycarp to call together the faithful into a sort of deliberative assembly (συμβούλιον) to elect (χειροτονῆσαι) a messenger to go to Antioch (vii. 2; cf. Philad. x. 1 and Smyrn. xi. 2). The church assembles ἐπὶ τὸ αὑτό, ‘in one place’: not to come ἐπὶ τὸ αὑτό is to show pride and to stand self-condemned (Ephesians 5:2): to come ἐπὶ τὸ αὑτό is to cast down the powers of Satan (13:1). The faithful must give the Gentiles (ἔθνεσιν) no occasion to calumniate God’s people (τὸ ἐν θεῷ πλῆθος, Trall. viii. 2); they must abide in concord and in common prayer (xii. 2); they must flee evil arts (κακοτεχνίας); women must be ‘content with their husbands in flesh and in spirit’ (Polyc. v. 1). If a Christian desires to abide in chastity to the honour of the flesh of the Lord, he may do so, but on condition that he does it without pride (v. 2; this is a somewhat remarkable recommendation, as it is a repudiation of the Encratite conception of the Christian life). Each church has its widows, whom it has to care for (Polyc. iv. 1; Smyrn. xiii. I). Ignatius recommends that those who marry-male or female-should not enter into wedlock without the consent of the bishop, for marriage should be ‘after the Lord and not after concupiscence’ (Polyc. v. 2).

Each church has a bishop at its head; this is true not only of Antioch, but also of Ephesus (Ephesians 1:3), Magnesia (Magn. ii.), Tralles (Trall. i. 1), Philadelphia (Philad. i. 1), and Smyrna (Smyrn. xii. 1). Next to the bishop there is a πρεσβυτέριον or group of πρεσβύτεροι: so at Ephesus (Eph. 4:1, 20:2), Magnesia (Magn. ii., xiii. 1), Tralles (Trall. ii. 2, xiii. 2), Philadelphia (Philad. vii. 1), and Smyrna (Smyrn. xii. 2). Under the presbyters, there are deacons (Ephesians 2:1, Magn. ii., Trall. ii. 3, iii. 1, vii. 2, Philad., subscr., vii. 1, x. 1, Smyrn. viii. 1, xii. 2).

The Epistles are a perpetual appeal to unity on the part of the Christian community by submission to the deacons, the presbytery, and the bishop. Ignatius writes to the Ephesians: ‘I have received your whole multitude (πολυπληθίαν ὑμῶν) in the person of Onesimus’ (Ephesians 1:3). They will be sanctified if they submit to their bishop and presbytery (2:2), if they and their bishop have but one thought, if their presbytery is united to the bishop as ‘its strings to a lyre’ (4:1). The bishop is to be regarded as the steward, whom the proprietor (οἰκοδεσπότης) has entrusted with the management of his house (οἰκονομίαν); and even as the Master Himself (vi. 1). In Magn. (ii.) Ignatius commends Zotion the Deacon for submitting ‘to the bishop as unto the grace of God and to the presbytery as unto the law of Jesus Christ.’ The presbyters, again, are subject to their bishop, however young he may be (iii. 1). The bishop is but the visible bishop; above him is the invisible Bishop, God the Father, the universal Bishop (ὁ πάντων ἐπίσκοπος, iii. 1, 2). The bishop presides, and thus takes the place of God; the presbyters represent the council (συνέδριον) of the apostles; the deacons are entrusted with the diaconate of Jesus Christ (vi. 1: ‘a service under Jesus Christ’ [Lightfoot, ii. 120]). The Magnesians are to continue in union with their revered bishop, and ‘with the fitly wreathed spiritual circlet of the presbytery, and with the deacons who walk after God’ (xiii. 1). The same advice is found again in Trall. (2:1-2, 3:1, 12:2, 13:2), (Philad. (2:1, 3:2, 7:1), and Smyrn. (8:1, 12:2).

The ecclesiology of Ignatius does not regard union and discipline merely as a means of sanctification but as the condition of Christianity. Some call their chief ‘bishop,’ but ‘in everything act apart from him,’ and ‘do not assemble themselves together lawfully according to commandment’ (μὴ βεβαίως κατʼ ἐντολὴν συναθροίζεσθαι, Magn. iv.). ‘Neither do ye anything without the bishop and the presbyters’ (vii. 1). Apart from the bishop, the presbytery, and the deacons, ‘there is not even the name of a church’ (χωρὶς τούτων ἐκκλησία οὐ καλεῖται, Trall, iii. 1). Similar declarations may be found in Philad. (iii. 2). To the Smyrnaeans Ignatius writes (viii. 1-2): ‘Let no man do aught of things pertaining to the Church apart from the bishop. Let that be held a valid (βεβαία) eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it. Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people (πλῆθος) be.… It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love-feast’ (ἀγάπη; i.e. ‘eucharist’). The Letter to Polycarp contains a still more striking piece of advice: ‘Please the Captain in whose army ye serve, from whom also ye will receive your pay. Let none of you be found a deserter’ (vi. 2).

A. Michiels (L’Origine de l’épiscopat, Louvain, 1900, pp. 396-98) has tried to show that Ignatius regards this three-grade hierarchy-‘and notably the episcopate’-as of Divine institution. But Ignatius does not look at the problem from this point of view at all. He regards the Church as a sort of extension of the gospel by the apostles: ‘I take refuge in the gospel as the flesh of Jesus and in the Apostles as the presbytery of the Church’ (Philad. v. 1). The Church is the visible realization of salvation: ‘For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ, they are with the bishop; and as many as shall repent and enter into the unity of the Church, these also shall be of God, that they may be living after Jesus Christ’ (iii. 2). And ‘if any man followeth one that maketh a schism (σχίζοντι), he doth not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walketh in strange doctrine (ἐν ἀλλοτρίᾳ γνώμῃ περιπατεῖ) he hath no fellowship with the passion’ (iii. 3). This is equivalent to saying that union with the local church, under the authority of the bishop, is the sine qua non for justification by the blood of Christ, for inheriting the Kingdom of God, and for life after Jesus Christ. Union with the Church is thus not a matter of ecclesiastical law or of individual choice, but one condition of salvation. If this is the view taken by Ignatius, how could he help believing that the visible and hierarchical Church was instituted by the will of God? ‘He has an intensely clear perception that the mind of God for man’s salvation has expressed itself not in any mere doctrine but in a divinely instituted society with a divinely authorized hierarchy. This is the mind of God … so clearly that he who would … run in harmony with the divine purpose must perforce have merged his individuality in the fellowship of the Church and submitted his wilfulness to her government’ (C. Gore, The Ministry of the Christian Church2, London, 1888-89, p. 299).

J. Réville (Les Origines de l‘épiscopat, pp. 508-519) is very firm on the authenticity of the Ignatian letters, but sets himself the task of minimizing the witness they bear to the three-grade hierarchy and principally to the monarchical episcopate. First of all he holds that this episcopate took its rise in Asia, and that in the time of Ignatius it did not exist or scarcely existed outside Asia; he concedes, however, that Antioch had a monarchical episcopate. Let us say at the very beginning that nowhere-not even in his Letter to the Romans-does Ignatius lead us to think that the monarchical episcopate was found only in Syria or Asia: he even suggests that such an episcopate exists everywhere, when he says to the Ephesians: ‘Even as the bishops that are settled in the farthest parts of the earth are in the mind of Jesus Christ’ (οἱ ἐπίσκοποι οἱ κατὰ τὰ πέρατα ὁρισθέντες, Ephesians 3:2; for the meaning of κατὰ τὰ πέρατα, cf. Romans 6:1 : τὰ πέρατα τοῦ κόσμου). Réville is wrong in saying that ‘the monarchical episcopate makes its entry into the history of the Church at the beginning of the 2nd cent.,’ for in Ignatius’ letters it is already an established institution. And even supposing Ignatius ‘gives us his ideal rather than the ecclesiastic reality of his time,’ this ideal is merely the submission, union, and perfect conformity of all to the bishop in each church; it is not the existence of a single bishop, for that is already an accomplished fact in each church. ‘Ignatius’ testimony presents us with the monarchical episcopate as firmly rooted, completely beyond dispute.… He speaks of the bishops as established in the farthest parts of the earth. He knows of no non-episcopal area’ (Gore, op. cit., p. 300f.). Harnack’s conclusions on this point are hesitating (Entstehung und Entwickelung der Kirchenverfassung, Leipzig, 1910, pp. 60-63).

Each church has common worship. ‘If the prayer of one and another hath so great force, how much more that of the bishop and of the whole Church?’ (Ephesians 5:2). The assembly is above all a gathering together for prayer, ‘for thanksgiving to God and for his glory’ (συνέρχεσθαι εἰς εὐχαριστίαν θεοῦ καὶ εἰς δόξαν, xiii. 1), prayer for all men that they may find God (x. 1), for the other churches (xxi. 2), or for any private individual (xx. 1). In the assembly there is to be but one prayer, one supplication, one mind in common (Magn. vii. 1). ‘And do ye, each and all, form yourselves into a chorus (χορὸς γίνεσθε) that being harmonious in concord and taking the keynote of God (χρῶμα θεοῦ) ye may in unison (σύμφωνοι) sing with one voice’ (ᾄδητε ἐν φωνῇ μιᾷ, Ephesians 4:2; this metaphor is to be understood of the unanimity of the Christians in each church, but it presupposes also the use of singing in Christian assemblies). The bishop presides at the assembly (Smyrn. viii. 1-2); it is he who sits in the chief place (προκαθημένου, Magn. vi. 1).

Ignatius does not tell us the procedure for the election of a deacon, presbyter, or bishop, but three times over (Philad. x. 1, Smyrn. xi. 2, Polyc. vii. 2) the word χειροτονεῖν is used to express the method by which the assembly elects an ambassador to go to some distant church; it is not a far cry to suppose that the members of the hierarchy were elected in the same way by the general vote. But Ignatius believes that God ratifies this choice and the one elected is the elect of God; he congratulates the bishop of Philadelphia on having been invested with ‘the ministry which pertaineth to the common weal (τὴν διακονίαν τὴν εἰς τὸ κοινόν), not of himself or through men, nor yet for vain glory, but in the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Philad. i.; this is not an allusion to party factions, as Réville maintains, but an echo of St. Paul [Galatians 1:1] and an assimilation of the episcopate to the apostolate).

Nowhere in Ignatius’ Epistles is there any mention of Christians credited with personal charismata, nor is there any word of local or itinerant prophets such as we find in the apostolic period (C. H. Turner, Studies in Early Church History, Oxford, 1912, p. 22f.). The bishop, according to Ignatius, has the sole right of speaking in the name of the Spirit. As von Dobschütz says: ‘It is interesting to see how in this quite Catholicminded bishop [Ignatius], who thinks only of the great of the Old Testament past as prophets, there yet speaks to the Churches of Asia Minor a “minister of the spirit” (θεοφόρος), living wholly in ecstasy and revelations (Eph. 21., Trall. v., Philad. vii., Polyc. ii.)’ (Dobschütz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church, p. 238).

Baptism is mentioned (Polyc. 6:2) as a compact as binding as the relation of soldier to militia. No baptism may take place without the bishop (Smyrn. viii. 2). The Eucharist may not be celebrated without the bishop: ‘Let that he held a valid eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it’ (viii. 1). The one to whom the Eucharist is committed is someone lower than the bishop: apparently a presbyter. To celebrate the Eucharist is called ἀγάπην ποιεῖν (viii. 2). Mention is made of it again in Eph. 20:2: ‘… that ye may obey the bishop and the presbytery without distraction of mind; breaking one bread (ἕνα ἄρτον κλῶντες), which is the medicine of immortality (φάρμακον ἀθανασίας) and the antidote that we should not die but live for over in Jesus Christ.’

In the Letter to the Philadelphians, again, we find: ‘Be careful therefore to observe one eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup unto union in His blood …)’ (iv.). The text or Smyrn. vi. 2-vii. 1 is less clear: the heretics ‘abstain from eucharist (thanksgiving) and prayer, because they allow not that the eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ.… They therefore that gainsay the good gift of God (δωρεᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ) perish by their questionings.’ By δωρεᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ Ignatius means the Incarnation; ‘the “gift of God” is the redemption of man through the incarnation and death of Christ’ (Lightfoot, ii. 307). To talk of the Eucharist being ‘the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ’ is a very direct expression of eucharistic realism, but it may have a secondary meaning and be used as a metaphor to designate the presence of Christ in the Church (C. Gore, The Body of Christ, London, 1901, p. 292f.). The ministry of the deacons stands in close relation with the celebration of the Eucharist. They are ‘deacons of the mysteries of Jesus Christ’; they are not ‘deacons of meats and drinks but servants of the Church of God’ (Trall. ii. 3), διάκονοι μυστηρίων Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ might he taken to refer to the eucharistic liturgy, but this interpretation is extremely conjectural, and ‘mystery’ probably means ‘faith’ (cf. Romans 7:3, where the terms ἄρτος and πόμα, σάρξ and αἷμα refer to Christ in heaven).

(2) The false teachers.-The unity in each church is contrasted with the divisions among heretics. Onesimus, bishop of Ephesus, praises his flock for their orderly conduct (ἐν θεῷ εὐταξίαν), for ‘living according to truth,’ and letting no heresy ‘have a home among them’ (οὐδεμία αἵρεσις κατοικεῖ, Ephesians 6:2). Ignatius, too, congratulates the Ephesians on the fact that there has never been any dispute among them (μηδεμία ἕρις), and that they have always ‘lived after God’ (viii. 1). But there are false teachers, men who bear the Christian name and yet act in a manner unworthy of God. These men are to be ‘shunned as wild-beasts; for they are mad dogs, biting by stealth’ (vii. 1). Ignatius praises the Ephesians for not allowing them to sow bad seed among them and for stopping their ears so as not to hear them (ix. 1). Woe to him who ‘through evil doctrine corrupts the faith of God,’ for he ‘shall go into unquenchable fire; and in like manner also shall he that hearkeneth unto him’ (xvi. 2).

In his Letter to the Magnesians Ignatius gives some more definite characteristics of these false teachers. He seems to make a distinction between (1) ἑτεροδοξίαι and (2) μυθεύματα παλαιὰ ἀνωφελῆ (Magn. viii. 1). But this antithesis is probably purely verbal, μυθεύματα being the equivalent of ἑτεροδοξίαι, and both terms recalling 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7, Titus 1:14. So ἀνθφελής is probably an echo of Titus 3:9 and παλαιά possibly of 1 Corinthians 5:7, Ignatius thus making use of St. Paul’s language to designate the errors of his time. In the same Epistle Ignatius adds: ‘For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace’-an expression which might be taken as meaning that the μυθεύματα are Judaistic errors, but this would be an abuse of the term ἰουδαϊσμός, which is also taken from St. Paul (Galatians 1:13), and is diverted from its proper sense to signify here life without the grace of redemption. The Magnesians are to

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ignatius'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/i/ignatius.html. 1906-1918.

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