Ignatius of Antioch

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Ignatius of Antioch
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{{short description|Early Christian writer, Patriarch of Antioch and martyr saint}}

Eusebius of Caesarea>Eusebius: c. 108 ADChronicle, from the Latin translation of Jerome, p. 276.Pervo: 135-140 ADBOOK, Pervo, Richard I., The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity,weblink Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press, 134-135, 978-0-8006-9659-7, Richard Pervo, Barnes: 140s AD{{Citation | last = Barnes | first = Timothy D. | title = The Date of Ignatius | journal = The Expository Times | volume = 120 | number = 3 | pages = 119–130 | date = December 2008 }}December 20 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)>20 December (Eastern Orthodox Church)24 Koiak (martyrdom - Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandriaweblink Epip (commemoration - Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria>Coptic Christianity]weblink October (Roman Catholic and Syrian Christianity)1 February (General Roman Calendar, 12th century–1969)|venerated_in=Catholic ChurchEastern Orthodox ChurchOriental OrthodoxyAssyrian Church of the EastAncient Church of the EastAnglican CommunionLutheranism|image=Hosios Loukas (south west chapel, south side) - Ignatios.jpg|imagesize=225px|caption=Fresco of St. Ignatius from Hosios Loukas Monastery, Boeotia, GreeceSyria (Roman province)>Province of Syria, Roman Empire|death_place=Rome, Roman Empire|titles=Bishop, martyr and Church Father|beatified_date=|beatified_place=|beatified_by=|canonized_date=Pre-congregation|canonized_place=|canonized_by=John the Apostle (said in later writings)|attributes=a bishop surrounded by lions or in chains|patronage=Church in eastern Mediterranean; Church in North AfricaBasilica of Basilica of San Clemente>San Clemente, Rome, Italy|suppressed_date=|issues=}}Ignatius of Antioch ({{IPAc-en|ɪ|g|ˈ|n|eɪ|ʃ|É™|s}}; Greek: Ἰγνάτιος Ἀντιοχείας, Ignátios Antiokheías; c. 50  â€“ c. 108/140),{{citation |author=David Hugh Farmer |url= |chapter=Ignatius of Antioch |title=The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints |location=New York |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=1987 |isbn=978-0-19-103673-6 |page=220}}{{citation |url= |title=Eucharistic Doctors: A Theological History |author=Owen F. Cummings |publisher=Paulist Press |year=2005 |isbn=978-0-8091-4243-9 |page=7}}{{citation |url= |title=Genesis 1-11 |page=193 |editor=Andrew Louth |publisher=InterVarsity Press |isbn=978-0-8308-9726-1 |year=2016}} also known as Ignatius Theophorus (, Ignátios ho Theophóros, lit. "the God-bearing") or Ignatius Nurono (lit. "The fire-bearer"), was an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch. En route to Rome, where he met his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote a series of letters. This correspondence now forms a central part of the later collection known as the Apostolic Fathers, of which he is considered one of the three chief ones together with Pope Clement I and Polycarp. His letters also serve as an example of early Christian theology. Important topics they address include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.


{{Ignatius of Antioch}}Nothing is known of Ignatius' life apart from what may be inferred internally from his letters, except from later (sometimes spurious) traditions. It is said Ignatius converted to ChristianityFoley, Leonard O.F.M., "St. Ignatius of Antioch", Saint of the Day, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media at a young age. Tradition identifies Ignatius, along with his friend Polycarp, as disciples of John the Apostle. Later in his life, Ignatius was chosen to serve as Bishop of Antioch; the fourth-century Church historian Eusebius writes that Ignatius succeeded Evodius.Historia Ecclesiastica, Book III Chapter 22 Theodoret of Cyrrhus claimed that St. Peter himself left directions that Ignatius be appointed to the episcopal see of Antioch."St. Ignatius of Antioch", Lives of Saints, John J. Crawley & Co.,Inc. Ignatius called himself Theophorus (God Bearer). A tradition arose that he was one of the children whom Jesus Christ took in his arms and blessed,The Martyrdom of Ignatius although if he was born around 50 AD, as supposed, then Christ had ascended approximately 20 years prior.


Ignatius' feast day was kept in his own Antioch on 17 October, the day on which he is now celebrated in the Catholic Church and generally in western Christianity, although from the 12th century until 1969 it was put at 1 February in the General Roman Calendar.Farmer, David . The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford University Press 2011 {{ISBN|978-0-19959660-7}}), p. 220Calendarium Romanum (Vatican City, 1969), p. 106In the Eastern Orthodox Church it is observed on 20 December."Synaxarion, December", Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America The Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria places it on the 24th of the Coptic Month of Koiak (which is also the 24 day of the fourth month of Tahisas in the Synaxarium of The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church), corresponding in three years out of every four to 20 December in the Julian Calendar, which currently falls on 2 January of the Gregorian Calendar.


Circumstances of martyrdom

Instead of being executed in his home town of Antioch, Ignatius was escorted to Rome by a company of ten Roman soldiers:Scholars consider Ignatius' transport to Rome unusual, since those persecuted as Christians would be expected to be punished locally. Steven Davies has pointed out that "no other examples exist from the Flavian age of any prisoners except citizens or prisoners of war being brought to Rome for execution."JOURNAL, Davies, Stevan L., The Predicament of Ignatius of Antioch, Vigiliae Christianae, 30, 3, 1976, 175-180,weblink If Ignatius were a Roman citizen, he could have appealed to the emperor, but then he would usually have been beheaded rather than tortured. Furthermore, the epistles of Ignatius state that he was put in chains during the journey to Rome, but it was illegal under Roman law for a citizen to be put in bonds during an appeal to the emperor. Finally, given Ignatius' strong desire to be martyred, it seems unlikely that he would choose to appeal a death sentence, even if he had the option to do so. All things considered, it is very unlikely that Ignatius was traveling to Rome in order to appeal his sentence.{{rp|175-176}}One theory has been put forward by Allen Brent, who argues that Ignatius was transferred to Rome at the request of the emperor in order to provide entertainment to the masses by being killed in the Colosseum. Brent insists, contrary to some other scholars, that "it was normal practice to transport condemned criminals from the provinces in order to offer spectator sport in the Colosseum at Rome."BOOK, Brent, Allen, Allen Brent, Ignatius of Antioch: A Martyr Bishop and the Origin of Episcopacy, T&T Clark International, New York, 9780567032003,weblink {{rp|15}}Steven Davies, by contrast, rejects the idea that Ignatius was transported to Rome as a donation to the games at the Colosseum. He reasons that "if Ignatius was in some way a donation by the Imperial Governor of Syria to the games at Rome, a single prisoner seems a rather miserly gift."{{rp|176}} Instead, Davies proposes that Ignatius may have been indicted by a legate, or representative, of the governor of Syria while the governor was away temporarily, and sent to Rome for trial and execution. Under Roman law, only the governor of a province or the emperor himself could impose capital punishment, so the legate would have faced the choice of imprisoning Ignatius in Antioch or sending him to Rome. Davies postulates that the legate may have decided to send Ignatius to Rome so as to minimize any further dissension among the Antiochene Christians.{{rp|177-178}}On the other hand, Christine Trevett has called Davies' suggestion "entirely hypothetical" and concludes that no fully satisfactory solution to the problem can be found, writing, "I tend to take the bishop at his word when he says he is a condemned man. But the question remains, why is he going to Rome? The truth is that we do not know."JOURNAL, Trevett, Christine, Ignatius 'To the Romans' and 1 Clement LIV-LVI, Vigiliae Christianae, 43, 1, 1989, 35-52,weblink

Route of travel to Rome

During the journey to Rome, Ignatius and his entourage of soldiers made a number of lengthy stops in Asia Minor, deviating from the most direct land route from Antioch to Rome.{{rp|176}} Scholars generally agree on the following reconstruction of Ignatius' route of travel:
  1. Ignatius first traveled from Antioch, in the province of Syria, to Asia Minor. It is uncertain whether he traveled by sea or by land.
  2. He was then taken to Smyrna, via a route that bypassed the cities of Magnesia, Tralles, and Ephesus, but likely passed through Philadelphia (cf. Ign. Phil. 7).
  3. Ignatius then traveled to Troas, where he boarded a ship bound for Neapolis in Macedonia (cf. Ign. Pol. 8).
  4. He then passed through the city of Philippi (cf. Pol. Phil. 9).
  5. After this, he took some land or sea route to Rome.BOOK, Jefford, Clayton N., The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament, 2006, Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI,weblink 978-1-4412-4177-1,
During the journey, the soldiers seem to have allowed Ignatius to meet with entire congregations of Christians while in chains, at least while he was in Philadelphia (cf. Ign. Phil. 7), and numerous Christian visitors and messengers were allowed to meet with him on a one-on-one basis. These messengers allowed Ignatius to send six letters to nearby churches, and one to Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna.{{rp|176}}These aspects of Ignatius' martyrdom are also regarded by scholars as unusual. It is generally expected that a prisoner would be transported on the most direct, cost-effective route to their destination. Since travel by land in the Roman Empire was between five and fifty-two times more expensive than travel by sea,WEB,weblink Travel in the Roman World, Cioffi, Robert L., 2016-03-07, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford, 2019-07-03, Roads were by far the costliest means of transporting goods and traveling; according to calculations made by applying the ORBIS model to data from Diocletian’s Edict on Maximum Prices of 301 CE, transportation by wagon cost between five and fifty-two times more than travel by boat for equivalent distances..., and Antioch was a major port city, the most efficient route would likely have been entirely by sea. Steven Davies argues that Ignatius' circuitous route to Rome can only be explained by positing that he was not the main purpose of the soldiers' trip, and that the various stops in Asia Minor were for other state business. He suggests that such a scenario would also explain the relative freedom that Ignatius was given to meet with other Christians during the journey.{{rp|177}}

Date of martyrdom

Due to the sparse and fragmentary nature of the documentation of Ignatius' life and martyrdom, the date of his death is subject to a significant amount of uncertainty. Tradition places the martyrdom of Ignatius in the reign of Trajan, who was emperor of Rome from 98 to 117 AD. But the earliest source for this Trajanic date is the 4th century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, who is widely regarded by modern scholars as an unreliable source for chronological information regarding the early church. Eusebius had an ideological interest in dating church leaders as early as possible, and ensuring that there were no gaps in succession between the original apostles of Jesus and the leaders of the church in his day. Unfortunately, the epistles attributed to Ignatius provide no clear indication as to their date.While many scholars accept the traditional dating of Ignatius' martyrdom under Trajan, others have argued for a somewhat later date. Richard Pervo dated Ignatius' death to 135-140 AD. British classicist Timothy Barnes has argued for a date in the 140s AD, on the grounds that Ignatius seems to have quoted a work of the Gnostic Ptolemy in one of his epistles, who only became active in the 130s.

Death and aftermath

Ignatius himself wrote that he would be thrown to the beasts, and in the fourth century Eusebius reports tradition that this came to pass,{{ws|BOOK, Eusebius, 313, 1890, s:Nicene and Post-Nicene Fath, McGiffert, Arthur Cushman, Roberts, Alexander, Donaldson, James, Coxe, Arthur Cleveland, Schaff, Philip, Wace, Henry, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. I, }} which is then repeated by Jerome, who is the first to explicitly mention "lions." John Chrysostom is the first to allude to the Colosseum as the place of Ignatius' martyrdom.NEWS,weblink Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Sailors, Timothy B., 13 January 2017, Contemporary scholars are uncertain that any of these authors had sources other than Ignatius' own writings.BOOK, Arnold, B.J., Justification in the Second Century, De Gruyter, Studies of the Bible and Its Reception (SBR), 2017, 978-3-11-047823-5,weblink 15 April 2018, 38, According to a medieval Christian text titled Martyrium Ignatii, Ignatius' remains were carried back to Antioch by his companions after his martyrdom.Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. (Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds.) (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) The sixth-century writings of Evagrius Scholasticus state that the reputed remains of Ignatius were moved by the Emperor Theodosius II to the Tychaeum, or Temple of Tyche, which had been converted into a church dedicated to Ignatius.BOOK, Evagrius Scholasticus, Chapter XVI: Translation Of The Remains Of Ignatius, 593, Ecclesiastical History, E., Walford, 1846,weblink In 637 the relics were transferred to the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome.{{citation needed|date=April 2018}}

The Martyrium Ignatii

There is a purported eye-witness account of his martyrdom, named the Martyrium Ignatii. It is presented as being an eye-witness account for the church of Antioch, attributed to Ignatius' companions, Philo of Cilicia, deacon at Tarsus, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian.Although James Ussher regarded it as genuine, the authenticity of the account has been seriously questioned. If there is any genuine nucleus of the Martyrium, it has been so greatly expanded with interpolations that no part of it is without questions. Its most reliable manuscript is the 10th-century Codex Colbertinus (Paris), in which the Martyrium closes the collection. The Martyrium presents the confrontation of the bishop Ignatius with Trajan at Antioch, a familiar trope of Acta of the martyrs, and many details of the long, partly overland voyage to Rome. The Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria says that he was thrown to the wild beasts that devoured him and rent him to pieces."Synaxarium: The Martyrdom of St. Ignatius, and Patriarch of Antioch", Coptic Orthodox Church Network


File:Ignatius of Antioch.jpg|thumb|300px|Painting of Ignatius of Antioch from the Menologion of Basil IIMenologion of Basil IIThe following seven epistles preserved under the name of Ignatius are generally considered authentic, since they were mentioned by the historian Eusebius in the first half of the fourth century.Seven original epistles:


The text of these epistles is known in three different recensions, or editions: the Short Recension, found in a Syriac manuscript; the Middle Recension, found in Greek and Latin manuscripts; and the Long Recension, found in Latin manuscripts.{{rp|120-121}}For some time, it was believed that the Long Recension was the only extant version of the Ignatian epistles, but around 1628 a Latin translation of the Middle Recension was discovered by Archbishop James Ussher, who published it in 1646. For around a quarter of a century after this, it was debated which recension represented the original text of the epistles. But ever since John Pearson's strong defense of the authenticity of the Middle Recension in the late 17th century, there has been a scholarly consensus that the Middle Recension is the original version of the text.{{rp|121}} The Long Recension is the product of a fourth-century Arian Christian, who interpolated the Middle Recension epistles in order to posthumously enlist Ignatius as an unwitting witness in theological disputes of that age. This individual also forged the six spurious epistles attributed to Ignatius (see {{section link||Pseudo-Ignatius}} below).JOURNAL, Trobisch, David, David Trobisch, Who Published the New Testament?, Free Inquiry, Council for Secular Humanism, Amherst, NY, 28, Dec. 2007/Jan. 2008, 30-33,weblink Manuscripts representing the Short Recension of the Ignatian epistles were discovered and published by William Cureton in the mid-19th century. For a brief period, there was a scholarly debate on the question of whether the Short Recension was earlier and more original than the Middle Recension. But by the end of the 19th century, Theodor Zahn and J. B. Lightfoot had established a scholarly consensus that the Short Recension is merely a summary of the text of the Middle Recension, and was therefore composed later.{{rp|121}}


Ever since the Protestant Reformation, the authenticity of all the Ignatian epistles has come under intense scrutiny. John Calvin called the epistles "rubbish published under Ignatius’ name."{{rp|119}} Protestants have tended to want to deny the authenticity of the epistles because they seem to attest to the existence of a monarchical episcopate in the second century.In 1886, Presbyterian minister and church historian William Dool Killen published an essay extensively arguing that none of the epistles attributed to Ignatius are authentic. Instead, he argued that Callixtus, bishop of Rome, forged the letters around AD 220 to garner support for a monarchical episcopate, modeling the renowned Saint Ignatius after his own life to give precedent for his own authority.KILLEN, William Dool, 1886, The Ignatian epistles entirely spurious: A reply to the Right Rev. Dr. Lightfoot, Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark,weblink {{rp|137}} Killen contrasted this episcopal polity with the presbyterian polity in the writings of Polycarp.{{rp|127}}Some doubts about the authenticity of the original letters continued into the 20th century. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the scholars Robert Joly, Reinhard Hübner, Markus Vinzent, and Thomas Lenchner argued forcefully that the epistles of the Middle Recension were forgeries written during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD). Around the same time, the scholar Joseph Ruis-Camps published a study arguing that the Middle Recension letters were pseudepigraphically composed based on an original, smaller, authentic corpus of four letters (Romans, Magnesians, Trallians, and Ephesians). These publications stirred up tremendous, heated controversy in the scholarly community at the time.{{rp|122}}Today, however, most scholars accept the authenticity of the seven original epistles.{{rp|121ff}} The original text of six of the seven original letters are found in the Codex Mediceo Laurentianus written in Greek in the 11th century (which also contains the pseudepigraphical letters of the Long Recension, except that to the Philippians),BOOK, Koester, H., Introduction to the New Testament: History, culture, and religion of the Hellenistic age, Walter de Gruyter, Einführung in das Neue Testament, 1995, 978-3-11-014693-6,weblink 58, while the letter to the Romans is found in the Codex Colbertinus.O'Connor, John Bonaventure. "St. Ignatius of Antioch." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 15 Feb. 2016

Style and structure

Ignatius's letters bear signs of being written in great haste and without a proper plan, such as run-on sentences and an unsystematic succession of thought. Ignatius modeled his writings after Paul, Peter, and John, and even quoted or paraphrased their own works freely, such as when he quoted 1 Corinthians 1:18, in his letter to the Ephesians:}}



Ignatius is known to have taught the deity of Christ: Also in the interpolated text of the 4th Century Long Recension:He stressed the value of the Eucharist, calling it a "medicine of immortality" (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20:2). The very strong desire for bloody martyrdom in the arena, which Ignatius expresses rather graphically in places, may seem quite odd to the modern reader. An examination of his theology of soteriology shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus to bravely face martyrdom.Cobb, L. Stephanie. Dying To Be Men: Gender and Language in Early Christian Martyr Texts, page 3 (Columbia University Press, 2008); {{ISBN|978-0-231-14498-8}}Ignatius is claimed to be the first known Christian writer to argue in favor of Christianity's replacement of the Sabbath with the Lord's Day:


Ignatius is the earliest known Christian writer to emphasize loyalty to a single bishop in each city (or diocese) who is assisted by both presbyters (elders) and deacons. Earlier writings only mention either bishops or presbyters.For instance, his writings on bishops, presbyters and deacons:He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning "universal", "complete" and "whole" to describe the church, writing:It is from the word katholikos ("according to the whole") that the word catholic comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word catholic, he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation Catholic Church with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the First century. On the Eucharist, he wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:In his letter addressed to the Christians of Rome, he entreats to do nothing to prevent his martyrdom.

Parallels with Peregrinus Proteus

Several scholars have noted that there are striking similarities between Ignatius and the Christian-turned-Cynic philosopher Peregrinus Proteus,BOOK, Schoedel, William R., A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, 279, Koester, Helmut, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1985, 0-8006-6016-1,weblink as described in Lucian's famous satire The Passing of Peregrinus:
  • Both Ignatius and Peregrinus show a morbid eagerness to die.
  • Both characters are, or have been, Christians.
  • Both are imprisoned by Roman authorities.
  • Upon the arrest of both prisoners, Christians from all over Asia Minor come to visit them and bring them gifts (cf. Peregr. 12-13).
  • Both prisoners sent letters to several Greek cities shortly before their deaths as "testaments, counsels, and laws", appointing "couriers" and "ambassadors" for the purpose.
It is generally believed that these parallels are the result of Lucian intentionally copying traits from Ignatius and applying them to his satire of Peregrinus.{{rp|73}} If the dependence of Lucian on the Ignatian epistles is accepted, then this places an upper limit on the date of the epistles: around the 160s AD, just before The Passing of Peregrinus was written.In 1892, Daniel Völter sought to explain the parallels by proposing that the Ignatian epistles were in fact written by Peregrinus, and later edited to conceal their provenance, but this speculative theory has failed to make a significant impact on the academic community.BOOK, Harrison, Pearcy N., 1936, Polycarp's Two Epistles to the Philippians,weblink Cambridge University Press, 68-69,


Epistles attributed to Saint Ignatius but of spurious origin (their author is often called Pseudo-Ignatius in English) include:"Spurious Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch" at
  • Epistle to the Tarsians;
  • Epistle to the Antiochians;
  • Epistle to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch;
  • Epistle to the Philippians;
  • The Epistle of Maria the Proselyte to Ignatius;
  • Epistle to Mary at Neapolis, Zarbus;
  • First Epistle to St. John;
  • Second Epistle to St. John;
  • The Epistle of Ignatius to the Virgin Mary.

See also





Further reading

  • BOOK, Brent, Allen, Ignatius of Antioch and the Second Sophistic: a study of an early Christian transformation of Pagan culture, 2006, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 3-16-148794-X,
  • JOURNAL, De Ste. Croix, G.E.M., G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted?, Past and Present, November 1963, 26, 10.1093/past/26.1.6,
  • BOOK, Ignatius of Antioch, The Apostolic Fathers, 2003, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Letters of Ignatius, Bart D. Ehrman, trans,
  • BOOK, Frend, W.H., Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus, 1965, Blackwell, Oxford,
  • BOOK, Ignatius of Antioch, The Apostolic Fathers, 1912–1913, Heinemann, London, The Epistles of St. Ignatius, Kirsopp Lake, trans,
  • BOOK, Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch, 1946, Westminster, MD, Newman Bookshop, James E. Kleist, trans,
  • BOOK, Lane Fox, Robin, Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, 2006, Penguin, London, 0-14-102295-7,
  • BOOK, Löhr, Hermut, The Apostolic Fathers. An Introduction, 2010, Baylor University Press, Waco (TX), The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, Wilhelm Pratscher, ed., 91–115, 978-1-60258-308-5,
  • BOOK, Thurston, Herbert, Attwater, Donald, Butler's Lives of the Saints, 1956, Christian Classics, Westminster, MD,
  • BOOK, Vall, Gregory, Learning Christ: Ignatius of Antioch and the Mystery of Redemption, 2013, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 978-0-8132-2158-8,

External links

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