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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch
Ignatius (1), St. (called Theophorus ), Oct. 17, the 2nd bp. of Antioch (c. 70â€“ c. 107), between Evodius and Hero. He is sometimes reckoned the 3rd bishop, St. Peter being reckoned the first (Bosch, Pat. Ant. in Boll. Acta SS. Jul. iv. introd. p. 8; Le Quien, Or. Chr. ii. 700).
The question of the life and writings of Ignatius, including the connected subject of the Ep. of Polycarp to the Philippians, has been described by M. Renan as the most difficult in early Christian history next to that of the fourth gospel.
I. About 165 Lucian in his satire de Morte Peregrini relates (cc. 14â€“41) that Peregrinus was made a prisoner in Syria. The Christians of Asia Minor sent messengers and money to him according to their usual custom when persons were imprisoned for their faith. Peregrinus wrote letters to all the more important cities, forwarding these by messengers whom he appointed ( ἐχειροτόνησε ) and entitled νεκραγγέλους and νερτεροδρόμους . The coincidence of this story with that of Ignatius, as told afterwards by Eusebius, would be alone a strong evidence of connexion. The similarity of the expressions with the πρέπει χειροτονῆσαί τινα ὃς δυνήσεται θεοδρόμος καλεῖσθαι of ad Pol. vii. would, if the words stood alone, make it almost certain that Lucian was mimicking the words of the epistle. These two probabilities lead us to believe that the composition was by one acquainted with the story and even some of the letters of Ignatius. (Renan, i. 38; Zahn, i. 517; Pearson, i. 2; Denzinger, 85; Lightfoot, ii. See Authorities at the foot of this art.)
Theophilus, bp. of Antioch (fl. before 167), has a coincidence with Ignat. ad Eph. xix. 1, where the virginity of Mary is said to have been concealed from the devil. Irenaeus, c. 180 ( adv. Haer. iii. 3, 4), bears witness that Polycarp wrote to the Philippians, and (v. 28) mentions how a Christian martyr said, "I am the bread-corn of Christ, to be ground by the teeth of beasts that I may be found pure bread"â€”words found in Ignat. ad Rom. iv. 1. the passage of Irenaeus is quoted by Eusebius ( H. E. iii. 36) as a testimony to Ignatius. Origen, early in 3rd cent., Prol. in Cant. ( Op. ed. Delarue, iii. 30), writes, "I remember also that one of the saints, by name Ignatius, said of Christ, 'My love was crucified'"â€”words found in Ignat. ad Rom. vii. 2. Origen also ( Hom. in Luc. vol. iii. 938) says, "I find it well written in one of the epistles of a certain martyr, I mean Ignatius, 2nd bp. of Antioch after Peter, who in the persecution fought with beasts at Rome, that the virginity of Mary escaped the prince of this world" (Ignat. ad Eph. xix. 1).
Eusebius, early in 4th cent., gives a full account which explains these fragmentary allusions and quotations. In his Chronicle he twice names Ignatius as 2nd bp. of Antioch after the apostles; in one case adding that he was martyred. In his Ecclesiastical History , besides less important notices of our saint and of Polycarp, he relates (iii. 22, 37, 38, iv. 14, 15) how Ignatius, whom he calls very celebrated among the Christians, was sent from Syria to Rome to be cast to the beasts for Christ's sake. When journeying under guard through Asia he addressed to the cities near places of his sojourn exhortations and epistles. Thus in Smyrna, the city of Polycarp, he wrote to Ephesus, Magnesia, and Tralles. He wrote to the Romans, begging them not to impede his martyrdom. Of this epistle Eusebius appends Â§ v. at length. Then he tells how Ignatius, having left Smyrna and come to Troas, wrote thence to the Philadelphians and Smyrnaeans and to Polycarp. One sentence from Smyr . iii. Eusebius copies as containing a saying of Christ not otherwise handed down. The Apostolical Constitutions , in their uninterpolated form as known to us through the Syriac trans. of the Didascalia , in several places coincide very strikingly with the shorter Greek or 7 Vossian epistles. An epistle which passes under the name of Athanasius, and which if not by him is by a contemporary writer, quotes a passage from ad Eph. vii. 2, as written by Ignatius, who after the apostles was bp. of Antioch and a martyr of Christ. (See, as to the genuineness of this epistle, Cureton, lxviii.; Zahn, i. 578.) St. Basil (ed. Ben. ii. 598) quotes, without naming Ignatius, the familiar sentence from ad Eph. xix. 1, concerning Satan's ignorance of the virginity of Mary. St. Jerome's testimony is dependent on that of Eusebius. St. Chrysostom ( Op. vol. ii. 592) has a homily on St. Ignatius which relates that he was appointed by the apostles bp. of Antioch; was sent for to Rome in a time of persecution to be there judged; instructed and admonished with wonderful power all the cities on the way, and Rome itself when he arrived; was condemned and martyred in the Roman theatre crying, Ἐγὼ τῶν θηρίων ἐκείνων ὀναίμην; and his remains were transferred after death with great solemnity to Antioch. (Zahn [i. 33â€“49] does not believe that the genuine writings of Chrysostom shew that he was acquainted with the writings of Ignatius. But see the other side powerfully argued by Pearson, i. 9; Denzinger, 90; Lipsius, ii. 21.) Theodoret frequently cites the 7 Vossian epistles, and mentions Ignatius as ordained by St. Peter and made the food of beasts for the testimony of Christ. Severus, patriarch of Antioch (513â€“551), has a long catalogue of sayings from Ignatius, in which every one of the 7 epistles is laid under contribution. These are to be found in Syr. in Cureton, in Gk. in Zahn (ii. 352). Cureton furnishes also a large collection of Syriac fragments, in which passages taken from the 7 Vossian epistles are declared to have the force of canons in the church.
II. We possess also a multitude of Acts of the martyrdom of St. Ignatius, which, if we could accept them, would supply very particular accounts of his life and death. Of these Ussher published 3 in whole or part: one in Lat. from two related MSS.; another in Lat. from the Cottonian library; a third in Gk. from a MS. at Oxford. The Bollandists published a Latin martyrdom in the Acta SS. for Feb. 1; Cotelerius a Gk. one by Symeon Metaphrastes. Ruinart, and afterwards Jacobson ( Pat. Ap. ii.), printed a Gk. MS. from the Colbertine collection (MS, Colb.); J. S. Assemani found a Syriac one which may be the same as that partly printed by Cureton (i.). Aucher, and afterwards Petermann (p. 496), published an Armenian one. Dressel printed a Gk. version of the 10th cent. (MS. Vat.). The 9 are reducible to 5, possessing each a certain independence. But of these MS. Colb. and MS. Vat. are by far the most valuable, being completely independent, while the remaining versions are mixtures of these two.
MS. Colb. (see Zahn, ii. p. 301) relates the condemnation of Ignatius by Trajan in Antioch, and incorporates the Ep. to the Romans. This MS. bears marks of interpolation, and its chief value lies in its incorporation of the Ep. to the Romans. The other epistles the author of the MS. has not read carefully. We conclude that this martyrdom, written in the 4th cent., assumed its present form after the first half of the 5th.
MS. Vat. (Zahn, ii. 307) omits all judicial proceedings in Antioch. Ignatius is sent for by Trajan to Rome, as a teacher dangerous to the state; an argument takes place before the senate between the emperor and the saint; the lions kill him, but leave the body untouched, and it remains as a sacred deposit at Rome. Thus MS. Vat. seems to have arisen on the basis of an account of the journey and death of the saint, extant at the end of the 4th cent. On the whole, the martyrdoms are late and untrustworthy compositions, wholly useless as materials for determining the question of the epistles; we are thrown back on Eusebius.
III. Eusebius in the Chronicle (ed. SchÃ¶ne, ii. 152, I58, 162) omits (contrary to his custom) the durations of the episcopates of Antioch. We can, therefore, place Ignatius's death any time between Ab. 2123, Traj. 10, and 2132, Traj. 19. In H. E. iii. 22, Eusebius, in a general way, makes the episcopates of Symeon and Ignatius contemporary with the first years of Trajan and the last of St. John and (iii. 36) with Polycarp and Papias. We may date his epistles, journey, and death in any year from 105; to 117. Funk fixes it at 107.
In 1878 Harnack published a tract (Die Zeit des Ign. Leipz.) impugning the tradition that Ignatius was martyred under Trajan. The argument rests upon the acts of the martyrdom being proved by Zahn, with the general assent of all his critics, to be untrustworthy; the date of the saint's death thus resting wholly on the testimony of Eusebius, who shews that he had no data except the untrustworthy information of Julius Africanus (Harnack, pp. 66 sqq.). But it is very improbable that Eusebius had no tradition save through Africanus, or the latter no tradition save four names.
The theory of Volkmar; which the author of Supernatural Religion (i. 268) regarded as "demonstrated," was that the martyrdom of Ignatius happened not in Rome but in Antioch, upon Dec. 20, 115 (on which day his feast was kept), in consequence of the excitement produced by an earthquake a week previously; but it is now known from the ancient Syriac Menologion, published by Wright ( Journ. Sac. Lit. Jan. 1866, p. 45), that the feast was originally kept not upon Dec. 20, but upon Oct. 17. (Zahn, i. 33, and Lightfoot, ii. 352, note Â§, are to be corrected in accordance with this discovery.)
The other details in the martyrdoms and elsewhere are but expansions from hints supposed to be found in the letters, of which we find an instance in the long dialogue between Ignatius and Trajan upon the name Θεοφόρος . There is no reason to suspect the genuineness of this addition to the saint's name. It is given untranslated in the 4th cent. Syriac version. The interpolator found it in his copy, for it stands in all his epistles except that to Polycarp and in all the MSS. of the shorter translation, both Greek and Latin. The 4th-cent. writers, regarding it as a title of honour, do not quote it; in the 6th it came to be regarded as a name.
The tradition that Ignatius was martyred at Rome can be traced higher than the records of Eusebius and Origen. The designation of world-famed, which Eusebius gives him, shews the general tradition; and the words of Origen are to the same effect. The testimony of Irenaeus which Eusebius adduces as perfectly agreeing with the tradition known to him, dates but 70 years after the fact. True, these expressions come from writers who knew the epistles; but the mere existence of the epistles at such a date, even if they were spurious, would be sufficient proof of the existence of the tradition; and it is impossible that such a story should have arisen so soon after Trajan, if it had contradicted known facts or prevalent customs of his reign.
Eusebius clearly wrote with the collection of letters before him, and knew of no other collection besides the 7 he mentions. These he arranges according to place and time of writing, gives his quotation from Romans as out of "the Epistles," and cites Irenaeus's quotation from Ignatius, as proof of that writer's knowledge of them, although Irenaeus did not mention the author's name.
IV. The gradual presentation of the various Ignatian documents to the modern world is related in the introduction to Cureton's Corpus Ignatianum and is briefly as follows. Late in the 15th and in the beginning of the 16th cents. 12 epistles, purporting to be by Ignatius, were given to the world, first in Latin translations, then in the original Greek, together with three others manifestly spurious, which existed in Latin alone. The epistles which bear non-Eusebian titles were soon suspected of spuriousness, and it was proved that the text of the Eusebian, as then known, was interpolated. Ussher first restored the genuine text by means of a Latin translation which he discovered, and his arguments (except as to his doubt whether Ignatius wrote separately to Polycarp) were confirmed by Vossius's publication of the Medicean MS. Thenceforward we have had the longer and the shorter (or Vossian) recensions, the former containing the 7 Eusebian epistles in a longer text and also epistles of Mary of Castabala to Ignatius, with his reply, of Ignatius to the Tarsians, Philippians, Antiochenes, and Hero, his successor; the Vossian comprising only the Eusebian letters and those in a shorter text. The longer recension has had few defenders, while the shorter had many and early assailants, moved especially by its support of episcopacy. Of these DaillÃ© was perhaps the ablest, but he was sufficiently answered by bp. Pearson. The genuineness of the longer recension as a whole is now generally denied, the time and method of its interpolations and additions being the only points for consideration.
Cureton in 1839 transcribed from Syriac MSS. in the Brit. Mus. a fragment of the martyrdom of Ignatius and of the Ep. to the Romans therein contained. In 1847 he discovered, among Syriac MSS. acquired in the meantime, three epistles of Ignatius, viz. to Polycarp, to the Ephesians, and to the Romans, transcribed in the 6th or 7th cent. These epistles are in a form considerably shorter even than the shorter recension of the earlier time. Cureton believed this the sole genuine text, and argued the point very ably, but with a confidence which in its contrast with the present state of belief should be a warning to all who are tempted to be too positive on this difficult controversy. Many scholars at the time accepted the Curetonian theory, and Bunsen wrote a voluminous work in its defence. The Armenian version, first printed, though very incorrectly, in 1783, is mentioned by Cureton, who failed to perceive the effect its testimony was to have upon his own argument. The correct publication and due estimate of the Armenian version are due to Petermann. According to him, it was rendered out of Syriac in the 5th cent., and agrees with Ussher's Latin MS. in that, while it contains several post-Eusebian epistles united with the Eusebian, the latter are free from any systematic interpolations such as are in the longer recension.
V. Date of the Longer Recension. â€”The latest ancient writer who cites only the Eusebian epistles in the uninterpolated text is the monk Antonius in the early part of the 7th cent. (Cureton, p. 176; Zahn, ii. 350). Severus of Antioch, 6th cent. (Cureton, 212; Zahn, 352) cites all the Eusebian epistles in a text free from interpolations.
We cannot doubt that in Ussher's MS. and in the Armenian translation we have (minute textual criticism apart) the 7 epistles as the Fathers from Eusebius to Severus of Antioch and as the interpolator had them. The arguments of Ussher upon this point remain unanswered. But the Armenian, with the Syriac translation from which it sprang, brings back the composition of the six additional epistles to a.d. 400 at latest; and these are undoubtedly the work of the same hand which interpolated the others. On the other hand, the interpolation cannot have been before 325, or Eusebius would have cited or alluded to it; moreover, it shews undoubted marks of dependence on his history. The period of the interpolator is thus fixed at the latter part of the 4th cent. His doctrine, as Ussher shewed (p. 221), is stark Arianism.
Several names in Pseudo-Ignatius are borrowed from the period a.d. 360 to 380 (Philost. iii. 15; Theod. i. 5, v. 7; Socr. iii. 25, iv. 12). The titles of the new letters are also easily accounted for in the same period. Pseudo-Ignatius interests himself against the Quartodecimans; proving that they must have been still strong when he wrote, which was not the case at the conclusion of the 4th cent. These oppositions point to the period 360â€“380. Thus all historical indications point to the 2nd half of the 4th cent. as the date of the interpolations.
Zahn conjectures the interpolator to have been Acacius, the scholar, biographer, and successor of Eusebius at Caesarea, who, as Sozomen (iv. 23) informs us, was regarded as heir to the learning as well as the position of that divine. The roughness of the known character of Acacius (c. 360) agrees with the abusiveness of Pseudo- Ignatius.
Different Syriac translations of Greek works give similar citations from Ignatius in somewhat varying language; probably because the authors cited from memory an existing Syriac version. Zahn contends that the Armenian version came from the one Syriac translation in the 5th cent., and from it the extracts were taken, perhaps somewhat later, which Cureton mistook for the original epistles. The connexion in which Cureton's epistles were found is that of a series of extracts from Fathers whose remaining works are not to be supposed rendered doubtful by their absence from this Syriac MS., and Petermann (xxi.) has corrected Bunsen's supposition that the concluding words of the MS. imply that the epistles of Ignatius, as known to the writer, were all comprised in what he copied. Zahn (pp. 199, 200) compares the Syriac extracts numbered i. and ii. in Corp. Ignat., taken as they were, beyond doubt, from the existing Syriac translation, with S. Cur. ( i.e. Cureton's Syriac Epp. ); and apparently succeeds in making out that the same translator, whose work is presented in a fragmentary form in S. Cur., meets us in these extracts. E.g. the expression θηριομαχεῖν , and many other peculiar words, are similarly rendered; though no. i. seems sometimes to preserve better the text from which it was copied. We might cull from S. Cur. itself certain proofs that it was not the original. Moreover, there are certain passages in it which are plainly not complete in themselves. It is surely a quite sufficient motive to suppose that the epitomator intended to make one of those selections of the best parts of a good work, which in all ages have been practised upon the most eminent writers without disrespect. Hefele (see Denzinger, pp. 8, 196) thinks he can discern the practical ascetic purpose of the selection, and we observe that very naturally the abbreviator begins each epistle with a design of taking all that is most edifying; but his resolution or his space fails him before the end, when he abridges far more than at the beginning. His form of Ephesians has alone an uniform character of epitome from the first; but a number of personal names plainly fit to be omitted come very early. Denzinger powerfully urges (pp. 77 seq.) the certainty that the Monophysites would have complained when the seven epistles were quoted against them had these been spurious, and he and Uhlhorn have fully shewn how entirely the epitomator is committed to any doctrines in the shorter recension which can be found difficult. What a useless and objectless task then would any one have in interpolating and extending Cureton's three into the seven! Upon the whole case we can pronounce with much confidence that the Curetonian theory is never likely to revive.
VI. The Ep. to the Romans differs from the other six Eusebian letters in being used by some authors who use no others and omitted by some who cite the others. Zahn suggests that it did not at first belong to the collection, but was propounded by itself, with or without a martyrdom. This seems supported by the fact that it escaped the interpolations which the other epistles suffered at the hand, probably, of Acacius.
VII. The circumstances of the journey and martyrdom of Ignatius, gathered from the seven epistles and from that of Polycarp, are as follows: He suffers under a merely local persecution. It is in progress at Antioch while he is in Smyrna, whence he writes to the Romans, Ephesians, Magnesians, and Trallians. But Rome, Magnesia (xii.), and Ephesus (xii.) are at peace, and in Troas he learns that peace is restored to the church in Antioch. Of the local causes of this Antiochene persecution we are ignorant, but it is not in the least difficult to credit. The imagined meeting of the emperor and the saint is not found in the epistles; it is "the world" under whose enmity the church is there said to suffer. All now recognize that, according to the testimony of the letters, Ignatius has been condemned in Antioch to death, and journeys with death by exposure to the beasts as the settled fate before him. He deprecates interposition of the church at Rome (quite powerful enough at the end of the 1st cent. to be conceivably successful in such a movement) for the remission of a sentence already delivered. The supposition of Hilgenfeld (i. 200) that prayer to God for his martyrdom, or abstinence from prayer against it, is what he asks of the Romans seems quite inadmissible, and we could not conceive him so assured of the approach of death if the sentence had not been already pronounced. The right of appeal to the emperor was recognized, and could be made without the consent of the criminal, but not if the sentence had proceeded from the emperor himself. Thus the Colbertine Martyrdom, which makes Trajan the judge at Antioch, contradicts the epistles no less than the Vatican which puts off the process to Rome. MS. Colb. brings Ignatius by sea to Smyrna; but Eusebius, who had read the epistles, supposes the journey to be by land, and he is clearly right. The journey "by land and sea" (ad Rom. v.) may easily refer to a voyage from Seleucia to some Cilician port, and thence by road. The ordinary way from Antioch to Ephesus was by land, and Ignatius calls the messenger to be sent by the Smyrnaeans to Antioch θεοδρόμος ( Pol. vii.). Ignatius did not, as was usual, pass through Magnesia and Ephesus, but left the great road at Sardis and came by Laodicea, Hierapolis, Philadelphia, and perhaps Colossae, as he had certainly visited Philadelphia and met there the false teachers from Ephesus (Zahn, 258 seq. also 266 seq.). The churches written to were not chosen at random, but were those which had shewn their love by sending messengers to him. The replies were thus, primarily, letters of thanks, quite naturally extending into admonitions.
We find him in the enjoyment of much freedom on his journey, though chained to a soldier. In Philadelphia he preaches, not in a church, but in a large assembly of Christians; in Smyrna he has intercourse with the Christians there and with messengers of other churches. He has much speech with the bishops concerning the state of the churches. That of Ephesus he treats with special respect, and anticipates writing a second letter (ad Eph. xx.); that of Tralles he addresses in a markedly different manner ( ad. Tr. 2, 12). He must, therefore, have had lime in Smyrna to acquaint himself with the condition of the neighbouring churches. If the writing of epistles under the circumstances of his captivity should cause surprise, it must be remembered that they are only short letters, not books. The expression βιβλίδιον , which in Eph 20 he applies to his intended second missive, is often applied to letters. He dictated to a Christian, and thus might, as Pearson remarks, have finished one of the shorter letters in an hour, the longest in three. Perpetua and Saturus wrote in prison narratives as long as the epistles of Ignatius (Acta SS. Perp. et Fel. Ruinart). A ten days' sojourn would amply meet the necessities of the case; and there is nothing in the treatment to which the letters witness inconsistent with that used to other Christian prisoners, e.g. St. Paul. The numberless libelli pacis , written by martyrs in prison, and the celebrations of the holy mysteries there with their friends, shew that the liberty given Ignatius was not extraordinary; especially as the word εὐεργετούμενοι which he applies to his guard points, doubtless, to money given them by the Christians. Ignatius is always eager to know more Christians and to interest them in each other. The news of the cessation of persecution in Antioch stirs him to urge Polycarp to take an interest in that church. The great idea of the Catholic church is at work in him. He does not deny that his request that messengers should be sent to Antioch is an unusual one, but dwells upon the great benefit which will result ( Pol. 7; Sm. 11; Phil. 10). But when Polycarp, a few weeks or months afterwards, writes to the Philippians, the messenger had not yet been sent. Ignatius had but lately passed through Philippi, by the Via Egnatia to Neapolis. The Philippians immediately after wrote to Polycarp, and forwarded a message to the Antiochenes, expecting to be in time to catch the messenger for Antioch before his departure. Ignatius had plainly been suggesting the same thoughts to them as to Polycarp; and this would be plainer still if the reading in Eus. H. E. iii. 36, 14 ( ἐγράψατέ μοι καί ὑμεῖς καί Ἰγνάτιος ) were more sure, and thus a second letter had been received by Polycarp from Ignatius. But this second epistle, if written, has been lost. Polycarp wrote immediately after receiving the epistle of the Philippians. He speaks of the death of Ignatius, knowing that the sentence in Antioch made it certain; probably knowing also the date of the games at which he was to die. But he is not acquainted with any particulars, since he asks for news concerning the martyr and those with him (Ep. Pol. xiii.), and at the request of the Philippians forwards all the epistles of Ignatius to which he had access, viz. those to the Asiatic churches; but not all that he knew to have been written.
VIII. The chief difficulty in accepting the epistles as genuine has always arisen from the form of church government which they record as existing and support with great emphasis. They display the threefold ministry established in Asia Minor and Syria, and the terms Ἐπίσκοπος and πρεσβύτερος are applied to perfectly distinct ordersâ€”a state of things and use of language which are argued to be wholly incompatible with a date early in the 2nd cent. Hence DaillÃ© derived his "palmary argument" (c. xxvi., answered by Pears. ii. 13).
It is noteworthy that the testimony of the epistles on this point extends no further than the localities named. To the Romans Ignatius only once names the office of a bishop, and that in reference to himself; and in Polycarp's Ep. to the Philippians there is no mention of any bishop, while the deacons and presbyters are addressed at considerable length. The standpoint of the epistles is perfectly consistent with the supposition that episcopacy existing from the times of the apostles in Asia Minor and Syria and believed by the Christians there to be a divinely ordained institution, made its way gradually into other parts of the church, and that those who most valued it might yet know that it did not exist in churches to which they wrote, or not be assured that it did, and might feel it no part of their duty to enter upon a controversy concerning it.
Zahn fairly observes that there is no attempt, even in those epistles where obedience to the bishop is most urged, to recommend it in opposition to other forms of church government. Not only is the supposition that Ignatius was introducing episcopacy utterly out of the question, but none of the epistles bear the slightest trace of any recent introduction of it in the places in which it exists. The presbyterate is everywhere identified with the episcopate in its claims to obedience, and those who resist the one resist the other. It is extremely hard to reconcile these characteristics with the supposition that the letters were forged to introduce the rule of bishops or to uplift it to an unprecedented position in order to resist the assaults of heresy.
A good deal of uncertainty remains as to the relations which the smaller congregations outside the limits of the cities held in the Ignatian church order to the bishops of the cities. No provision appears for episcopal rule over country congregations whose pastors are not in the "presbytery"â€”an uncommon expression in antiquity, but used 13 times by Ignatius.
The duties the epistles ascribe to bishops are very similar to those which St. Paul (Acts 20 ) lays upon presbyters. Only in one place (Pol. 5) do they speak of the preaching of the bishop; and it is not peculiar to him, but common with the. presbyters. The deacons have duties wholly distinct, concerned with the meat and drink given to the poor and with the distribution of the mysteries of the Eucharist. But the presbyters are very closely united with the bishop. They are not his vicars, but his συνέδριον ( Phil. 8; Pol. 7), and yet the bishop is by no means a mere president of the college of presbyters. Zahn shews that even though the development of episcopacy were thought to have taken place through the elevation of one of a college to a presidency in those parts where it did not exist in the end of the 1st cent., it would still be impossible to hold this of Asia. The youth of many of the earliest Asiatic bishops puts this theory entirely out of the question there. Whatever development is implied in the passage from the state of things represented in I. Pet. and I. Tim. to organized episcopacy, took place, according to the testimony of all records both of Scripture and tradition, in the 30 years between the death of St. Paul and the time of Domitian, had Asia Minor for its centre, and was conducted under the influence of St. John and apostolic men from Palestine, in which country Jerusalem offers the records of a succession of bishops more trustworthy perhaps than that of any other see. Now the Syrian churches were from the first in closest union with Palestine. Thus all the most undoubted records of episcopacy in the sub-apostolic age centre in the very quarters in which our epistles exhibit it, a weighty coincidence in determining their authenticity.
It is certainly somewhat startling to those accustomed to regard bishops as the successors of the apostles that Ignatius everywhere speaks of the position of the apostles as corresponding to that of the existing presbyters, while the prototype of the bishop is not the apostles, but the Lord Himself. It would be hasty, however, to infer that Ignatius denied that the office and authority of the apostles was represented and historically succeeded by that of the bishops. The state of things visibly displayed when the Lord and His apostles were on earth is for Ignatius the type of church order for all time. (See Bp. Harold Browne, The Strife and the Victory , 1872, p. 62.) If, however, the epistles had been forged to support episcopacy, they would not have omitted an argument of such weight as the apostolical authority and succession.
The duty of submission is with Ignatius the first call upon each member of the church, and exhortations to personal holiness go hand in hand with admonitions to unity and obedience. The word ὑποτάσσεσθαι denotes the duty of all, not (be it marked) towards the bishop alone, but towards authority in all its steps ( Mgn. 13 and 7). But the bishop represents the principle of unity in the church.
Sprintzl ingeniously argues (p. 67) that the supremacy of the bp. of Rome is taught by Ignatius, on the ground that, first, he teaches the supremacy of the Roman church over others (Rom. prooem. ), and secondly, the supremacy of the bishop in every church. But the explanation of the passage in Romans is very doubtful, and the marked omission of any mention of the bp. of Rome seems inconsistent with any supremacy apart from the natural position of his church.
The emphatic terms in which these letters propose the bishop as the representative of Christ have always presented a stumbling-block to many minds even apart from the question of date. But before we pronounce these expressions exaggerated we must remember that obedience to the bishop is valued by the writer for the sake of unity while unity is for him the only fence against the heresy to which small and disunited bodies are subject (Php_4:8; Mgn. 1 etc). Identification of the position of the church ruler with that of the Lord would be more easy to a writer of an age very close to Christ than to one of later date. When the divine nature of the Lord and His elevation in heaven came through lapse of time to overshadow the remembrance of His life on earth it seemed a superhuman claim on the part of any office to say that it represented Him. But it would naturally be otherwise when the recollection of His human intercourse with men was fresh; for why should not men represent one so truly man? Thus the strong expressions may really be a mark of early date.
IX. In Sm. 8 is first found the phrase Catholic churchâ€”an expression pronounced by Lipsius (iii.) to prove of itself the later date of the epistles. Such a decision is very precarious, even if, with Lipsius, we reject the testimony of the Martyrdom of Polycarp to the use of the expression. Sprintzl remarks that the phrase "Where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic church" naturally follows upon the preceding statement of the relation of the bishop to the particular church: what the bishop is to it, that Christ is to the Catholic church at large. Thus to Ignatius the church of each place is a miniature of the church at large ( Sm. 8) and its unity is guarded by all the sanctions of the Christian faith. The one faith is, in the epistles, the bond of the church. "The gospel" is that which the apostles proclaimed ( Phil. 5); not the four written gospels, but the substance of the message of salvation.
We find in the epistles the germ of the great ideas of worship afterwards developed in the church. The altar-idea and the temple-idea as applied to the church are there (Ephesians 5; Mgn. 7; Philippians 4 ). The Eucharist holds its commanding place (Romans 7; Philippians 4 , and probably Ephesians 5 ), though what its rites were at this early period is hard to answer from the letters. Ἀγάπη ( Sm. 8) is applied to the Eucharist, and ἀγαπᾶν ( Sm. 7 ) means to celebrate it. In Ignatian phraseology Εὐχαριστία is used where the blessing of Holy Communion is denoted, Ἀγάπη means the whole service of which the consecration is only a moment. In Sm. 7 those who speak against the gifts of God are plainly those who deny τὴν εὐχαριστίαν σάρκα εἶναι τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ . Christians observed the Lord's Day, not the Jewish Sabbath (Mgn. 8, 9).
X. As to the theology of the epistles, there have been great differences of opinion. The more significant theological statements are uncontroversial, though called out by heresies to which the writer opposes his conception of the nature of Christ. The originality and reality of the revelation in Christ is the great point with him. Hence follows the unreasonableness of Judaizing, which he sometimes presses in terms apparently inconsistent with the recognition of Jewish Christians as really believers. But probably, like St. Paul, he is treating the question from the Gentile standpoint alone. Prophets and the law are worthy of all honour in Christ; πάντα ὁμοῦ καλά ἐστιν ἐὰν ἐν ἀγάπῃ πιστεύητε . The prophets were Christians in spirit, and Christ raised them from the dead (Mgn. 9). They were believers in Christ; yea, even the angels must believe in His blood ( Sm. 6). But for this practical and real salvation finding its expression in history the heretics would substitute a shadowy representation of religious notions in a merely apparent and unreal life of Christ. Therefore we find Ignatius constantly adding the word ἀληθῶς to his records of the acts of Christ ( Sm. 3, 4; Tr. 10). Ἐν σαρκί is an equivalent phrase. The Blood is named with or instead of the Flesh to shew that the Lord had in death the same bodily constitution as in life, of which the faithful partake in the Eucharist. Being real flesh, Christ was the New Man, and the revelation of God in the earth ( Eph. 18). He is an eternal Person, but He is God's Son, as born of Mary and of God. When the writer speaks of an outcoming of Christ from God, he means the Incarnation, and not anything previous. Though he uses the epithet ἀΐδιος with Λόγος , yet he does not seem to mean that it is as Λόγος that the Lord is eternal. It is as incarnate and as man that He is the Logos of God. His twofold nature furnishes the explanation of the opposite attributes ascribed to Him ( Eph. 7; Pol. 3). Baur and Lipsius have discovered Patripassianism in the last-quoted passage. But this accusation is inconsistent with all the rest of the epistles, and seems, indeed, to have been since abandoned by Lipsius. In opposition to Baur's assertion that except in one suspected place there is no mention of Christ as Son of God, Zahn finds himself able to enumerate 29 such cases. The epistles lay vast stress upon the Godhead of the Lord; it is because of this that His birth is the entrance of the New Man, and His death the resurrection of the faithful. To them He stands in a personal and practical relation, which makes Him their God. His present invisible relation to them involves an increase of the activity of His Godhead, and of its revelation to men ( ad Romans 3; ad Eph. 15); but He was always God. Therefore Ignatius can speak of the blood and of the suffering of God ( Ephesians 1; Romans 6 ). The τρία μυστήρια κραυγῆς , the three mysteries loudest in proclamation of truth to those who can hear, are the Incarnation, Birth, and Death of Christ, hid in their real significance from the devil and from the unbelieving. The terms Son and Λόγος are not applied to express the relations of the Divine Persons. Ignatius is content to maintain on the one hand the unity of God, on the other the eternal personality of Christ.
XI. The question what special heresies are denounced in the epistles possesses, in relation to their date, an importance scarcely below that of episcopacy. All, except Romans, contain warnings against heresy, and the exhortations to unity and submission to authority derive their urgency from this danger. It was long a question whether two forms of heresy, Judaic and Docetic, or only one, Judaeo-docetic, were aimed at. But already in 1856, despite the arguments of Hilgenfeld (i. 230), it appeared to Lipsius (i. 31) that the question was decided in the latter sense. The heretics were wandering teachers, ever seeking proselytes (Eph. 7), and all the denunciations of heresy are directed against that mixture of Judaism with Gnosticism, represented by some whom Ignatius met in his journey ( Mgn. 8, 10, 11; Tr. 9; Sm. 1). The idea of Ritschl ( Entst. der altk. Kirche , p. 580) that they were Montanist teachers met with little favour.
Cureton and others have thought to find direct allusions to the teaching of Valentinus in the epistles (but see Pearson II. vi.). But the allusion Λόγος ἀπὸ Σιγῆς προελθών ( Mgn. 8) is not applicable to Valentinus.
Basilides is probably early enough, and disciples of his might have been wandering in Asia Minor; Cerinthus too was of this age. I. and II. John contain warnings against Docetism, which Polycarp (Ep. 7) applies to the heretics of his own time, which was also that of Ignatius. Of all the heretics whom Bunsen and others have supposed the epistles to denounce, Saturninus alone can be proved to have held the doctrines they condemn.
XII. From the epistles, as Hilgenfeld (i. 225â€“226) truly remarks, different critics, according to their bias, have derived in some cases the very highest, and in some the very poorest, notion of the writer's character. The letters are indeed more characteristic than any we have between St. Paul and the great Fathers of the 4th cent.; but they give no record of the writer's surroundings or of his ways in his diocese when the times were quiet. His name is Latin; his style very Semitic. He had not seen the Lord or the apostles, and was not, as MS. Colb. makes him, a fellow-pupil with Polycarp of St. John. It is perhaps somewhat precarious to infer with Zahn, from his strong terms of self-reproach (Eph. 21; Mgn. 14), that he had led an un-Christian or anti-Christian life in early years. His longing for death is extreme, but is really for life under another and better form. We do not know that he courted martyrdom before his judges, since we only meet him after he has been condemned and is well used to the idea. All his exhortations have the one burden and object, closer union with Christ. He bids others seek, and seeks himself, that union in permanence and perfection which the Holy Eucharist gives here in part. He does not imagine death in itself to have any value ( Romans 4; Tr. 3, 4; Eph. 12; Sm . 4). The prayers he asks are not for his death, but for his due preparation (Eph. 21; Mgn. 14; Tr. 12, 13). For an interesting summary of the moral aspect of the Ignatian epistles in respect to the personality of the writer and to the ideal which his teaching presents, see Sprintzl, pp. 244 sqq.
XIII. The great majority of critics, whether adverse to the genuineness of the epistles or not, have recognized that the seven epistles professing to be of Ignatius, as shewn by the individuality of the author there displayed, and the one of Polycarp, form an indivisible whole. Romans, indeed, is the brightest and most interesting of the letters. This is because its chief subject is his personal eagerness for martyrdom; he is writing to the place where he expects to suffer, and to people who can help or hinder his object.
The Ep. of Polycarp contains a witness for the whole body of epistles, which (if it be genuine) renders almost all others superfluous; since it mentions letters written to Smyrna by Ignatius, and by Polycarp collected and sent to Philippi; and intimates the existence of others. Thus those who believe the Ignatian letters to be a production late in the 2nd cent. are forced to consider the Ep. of Polycarp a fraud also, in whole or in part. For its satisfactory defence see Lightfoot, Cont. Rev. 1875. With it we may consider the genuineness of the Ignatian epistles proved. For a forger late in the 2nd cent., it would have been impossible to avoid mentioning Polycarp's connexion with the apostles, or alluding to the epistles to the seven Asiatic churches in Revelation; they are never mentioned. In all historical fictions of antiquity, reiterated pains are taken to make the facts to be maintained understood. In Ignatius they are hard to reach; the writer is not thinking of readers who have all to learn from him. Lastly, no ancient fiction has succeeded in individualizing character to the degree here displayed; e.g. in the picture of the false teachers. The improbabilities on which the author of Supernatural Religion , and even, though less decidedly, Hilgenfeld (17), rely to prove the whole story an undoubted fabrication, are recognized by M. Renan as established facts, even though he does not believe that the epistles we possess are those to which the story refers. Finally, by the great work of Bp. Lightfoot the genuineness of the seven Vossian epistles may be regarded as completely established. The Epp. of Ignatius in the longer and shorter recensions and the Syr. version were in Patr. Apost. ed. G. Jacobson (Clar. Press); and a trans. of the Epp. together with the Martyrdom and spurious Epp. are in the Ante-Nic. Lib.
Authorities. â€”Ussher, Dissertatio de Ig. et Pol. (1644), in Works by Elrington, vii. 87â€“295; Joannis Dallaei, de Scriptis quae sub Dion. Areop. et Ig. Ant. nominibus circumferuntur , lib. ii. (Genev. 1666); Pearson, Vindiciae Ignatianae (ed. nov. Oxf. 1852); Zahn, i. Ignatius von Antiochien , p. 629 (Gotha, 1873), ii. Patrum Apostolicorum Opera , fasc. ii. (Lips. 1876); Hilgenfeld, i. Die apostolischen VÃ¤ter (Halle, 1853), ii. in his Zeitsch. 1874, pp. 96 seq.; Lightfoot, i. in Phil. pp. 208â€“210, ii. in Cont. Rev. (Feb. 1875); Petermann, S. Ign. Ep. (Lips. 1849); Harnack, Die Zeit des Ignatius (Leipz. 1878); Cureton, Corpus Ignatianum (Lond. 1849); Denzinger, Ueber die Aechtheit der Ign. Briefe (WÃ¼rzburg, 1849); Renan, i. Les Evangiles (Paris, 1877), ii. in Journal des Savants (1874); Uhlhorn, i. in Zeitschraft fÃ¼r hist. Theol. (1851, 283), ii. in Herzogs Encyc.; Funk, Op. Pat. Ap. (ed. 5, TÃ¼bing. 1878).
Cureton (Corp. Ign. ) or (better still, except for Syriac scholars) Zahn (ii.) will furnish the student with all the documents and ancient testimonies. The special treatise of Zahn on Ignatius is, as Bp. Lightfoot remarks, little known in England, and is of an exhaustive character. The reader will understand that, while we have not hesitated to dissent from it where necessary, we have freely availed ourselves of its pages. The Epistles of Ignatius have been pub. in a cheap trans. by J. R. Srawley (S.P.C.K. 2 vols.)
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Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hwd/i/ignatius-bishop-of-antioch.html. 1911.
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