EarlyChurch.org.uk


Charles Bigg [1840-1908],
The Origins of Christianity.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909. Hbk. pp.99-114.


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CHAPTER X

IGNATIUS


THE Bithynian persecution was not the only one that occurred in the reign of Trajan. There was another at Antioch, the chief city of the East. It caused many executions, but did not last long. Ignatius heard at Troas very shortly after his own condemnation that ‘the Church which is in Antioch of Syria hath peace’, and requested the Philadelphians ‘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’.[1] Directly the storm was over the sun shone again, and everything went on as before. Within a week or two we see the Church assembling again for its Sunday worship, and listening to a sermon on the lessons to be drawn from its recent affliction. It is a curious proof of the utterly anomalous position of Christianity. Every now and then the authorities struck a blow as a fierce animal gives a bite, but they had no policy.

Unfortunately we have no knowledge of the catastrophe beyond that which is given in the Letters of Ignatius himself, the Martyrologies being mere romances. The date cannot be very precisely fixed. Bishop Lightfoot[2 ] places it within a few years of 110 A. D., before or after. If we might go down as low as 115 we might find a cause of the outbreak in the great earthquake which ravaged Antioch on December 13, when the Emperor Trajan was in the city superiutending the preparations for his second Parthian campaign, and nearly lost his life owing to the fall of the

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palace. On the other hand, there is some slight reason for regarding the Antiochene persecution as contemporaneous with that in Bithynia. In the company of Ignatius at Philippi we find two other martyrs, Zosimus and Rufus, who are mentioned by Polycarp, but not by Ignatius himself.’[3] It has been suggested, not without probability, by Dr. Zahn, that these were two of those Bithynian Christians who, being citizens, were sent by Pliny for trial at Rome. If this suggestion be accepted, we might infer that the attack upon the Church in Bithynia was prompted by what had happened at Antioch just before.

In any case, it is not difficult to see motives for this outbreak in the great Eastern city. The population of Antioch was notorious for its factious spirit; it was there that the nickname Christian had been invented; and men’s minds were at the time, possibly, excited by the imminence of the Parthian war which broke out in 113. Trajan himself entered Antioch on January 7, 114, and held his winter quarters there in 114-15 and 115-16. But it is not likely that he witnessed the persecution, or presided at the trial of Ignatius himself, for the Emperor was never in Antioch except for the winter, and, as Ignatius was tried in the month of July or August, he cannot have been brought before Trajan himself.

The Epistles of Ignatius have given rise to one of the most famous of literary controversies, now happily laid to rest, chiefly through the labours of our great Bishop Light-foot. They were highly popular, and, like many other non-canonical writings which found wide acceptance, were treated with great and what we should think unscrupulous freedom.

The seven genuine Epistles, to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, and to Polycarp, were known to Polycarp of Smyrna, a contemporary, quoted by Irenaeus, quoted with the name of the author by Origen, and quite familiar to Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century. Some time in the fourth or early fifth century they were seized upon by an unknown writer,

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probably the same who compiled the Constitutiones Apostolicae, freely interpolated, and increased to the number of thirteen. This collection is known as the Longer Recension. In the fourth century again a Syrian writer translated and abbreviated the seven Epistles; we possess his version of the Epistles to the Ephesians, Romans, and Polycarp, with a few fragments of the others. This is known as the Short or Curetonian text, because it was first given to the world by the eminent Syriac scholar Cureton in 1845. We have also an Armenian version of the fifth century, derived from the Syriac. In the thirteenth century there appeared in England a Latin translation of the seven Epistles which Ussher attributed with great probability to Robert Grosseteste, the famous Bishop of Lincoln. The Latin version was printed by Ussher in 1644, the Greek text of the six Epistles to the churches of Asia Minor by Isaac Voss in 1646, that of the Epistle to the Romans by Ruinart in 1689. The manifest differences between the three versions offered a most intricate problem for criticism, but a great part in the debate was played by theological prejudice. Protestant divines found it difficult to believe that monarchical episcopacy could have existed in the time of Trajan. But the seven Epistles are now generally accepted by scholars.

Of the life of Ignatius we know extremely little. He was Bishop of Antioch, after Euodius, second or third in the succession, according as we believe or do not believe that St. Peter was the first. The date of his birth and the date of his accession are matter of conjecture. The name by which he is generally known, Ignatius or Egnatius, is Italian, but he bore also another name, Theophorus, which probably means ‘prophet’. He speaks of himself as ‘one born out of due time',[4] a phrase borrowed from St. Paul, implying that he had been converted, probably after he had reached man’s estate. It has been inferred, partly from his own words,[5] partly from the fact that he was condemned to the beasts, that he was servile birth, and though the inference is not certain it may well be correct. Later tradition made him a disciple of St. Peter, or of St. Paul,

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or of St. John, but the authors of these statements were probably guided by the belief that this ‘apostolic man’ must have been personally connected with the original Apostles. Yet the statements are not chronologically impossible. If Ignatius was an old man at the time of his death, and was born, as some think, about 40 A. D., he may have known Peter and Paul, and even if he was not converted till middle age he must have heard much of St. John, although he may not have been, in the strict sense of the words, the Apostle’s disciple. In any case, he must have been acquainted with men who remembered the first foundation of the Church of Antioch. A tradition is recorded by the historian Socrates[6] to the effect that Ignatius once saw a vision of angels praising the Holy Trinity in antiphonal hymns, and established this practice as a custom of the Church in Antioch. But antiphonal singing, which existed, as we have seen, in the Church of Bithynia, was derived from Jewish usage.[7]

About 110 A. D. persecution broke out in Antioch. Ignatius was tried by the legate of Syria, and sentenced to be carried to Rome and there thrown to the beasts. Such sentences were not uncommon, but they required the permission of the Emperor, and the convicts selected for the purpose were stout young men or hunters who ‘could worthily be exhibited to the Roman people'.[8] We might conclude that Ignatius was not really an old man at the time of~ his martyrdom; and indeed the fervid, eager style of his writings seems to betoken an author whose blood still ran warm and strong.

At this point the martyr suddenly emerges into the full light of day. He was sent to Rome in charge of a detachment of ten soldiers – ‘leopards,’ he calls them, ‘who are

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made worse by benefits.’ These military escorts would allow their prisoners considerable indulgences for payment, and no doubt availed themselves of the opportunity to extort as much as they could. Ignatius was accompanied by friends, received deputations from churches, wrote long letters, and dispatched messengers. Every one of these concessions would be purchased by a heavy bribe. At first apparently the land route was taken, and the first place at which we know a halt to have been made was Philadelphia, where there was a church with which Ignatius was not fully satisfied. The next stoppage mentioned in the Epistles was at Smyrna, where he was entertained by Polycarp and the local church. Hither came representatives from various important communities, near, but not on the road by which he had travelled. From Ephesus came the Bishop Onesimus, a deacon named Burrhus, and three others; from Magnesia the Bishop Damas, two presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius, and a deacon, Zotion; from Tralles only the Bishop Polybius. From Smyrna Ignatius wrote four letters, three to the Ephesians, Magn~ians, and Trallians, to be carried home by the bishops whom he had s~en, and one to the Ro~ians, to apprise that church of his coming and of the exultation with which he looked forward to the crown of martyrdom. It is highly noticeable that he begs the Romans not to hinder his martyrdom. He must have been aware that there were personages of rank in that church whose petition on his behalf would not be wholly disregarded. A stay of some duration must have been made at Smyrna, or it would have been impossible thus to send on a messenger in advance, and accordingly we find that Ignatius mentions more persons by name in the Church of Polycarp than in any other. The Epistle to the Bomans is the only one that bears a date; it was written on August 24.[9]

The next important halt was made at Troas, where a ship had to be found. Here again Ignatius met friends - Philo, a Cilician deacon, and Rhaius Agathopus, a member of his

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own Syrian Church, who had followed in his track to minister to him in the Word of God, and to bring him the glad news that the Church of Antioch was again in peace. From Troas he wrote the three remaining letters, to Philadelphia and Smyrna, and to Polycarp; the last is the only one of his Epistles which bears a personal address. He loved and trusted Polyearp above others. He begs that messengers or letters may be sent to Antioch and to cities on the road to convey his last greeting. He himself had not time to write more, as a ship had been procured and was to set sail at once.

From Troas to Neapolis his journey was continued by sea, and thence by land to Philippi. Here two other martyrs, Zosimus and Rufus, were delivered into the charge of his escort. The Philippians showed to Ignatius the same love and generosity which they had shown in the old days to St. Paul, regarding the chains of the martyrs as diadems of the truly elect. By his desire they wrote to Polyearp begging him to forward their letter to Antioch, begging him also to send them copies of such letters of Ignatius as he possessed.

Here the curtain falls as suddenly as it rose. No doubt he perished, as he expected and desired, in the Roman arena, probably on October 17.’[10] Towards the end of the fourth century his grave was shown in a cemetery outside the Daphne Gate of Antioch. It is not perhaps wholly impossible that his mangled remains had been collected and conveyed back to the city which had been the scene of his labours. But it was a credulous age, when relics of the martyrs were too easily discovered.[11]

As we read the Letters of Ignatius the first and most important characteristic which impresses us is his exalted enthusiasm. Like Paul, like Cyprian, he was a prophet who had ‘many deep thoughts in God’, and could ‘comprehend heavenly things, and the arrays of the angels, and

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the musterings of the principalities, things visible and things invisible’. He strove not to overvalue the grace, because he knew that it might lead to boasting, and was afraid that his revelations might do harm to babes.’[12] By ‘babes’ he means, as St. Paul does, those whose understanding was not yet enlightened, the simpler brethren. They showed their simplicity by demurring to the authority of the bishop. At Philadelphia, where the church was distracted by strange teaching, by some kind of Gnostic Judaism, the Spirit fell upon Ignatius, and he ‘spake with a loud voice, with God’s own voice, Give ye heed to the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons…. But He in whom I am bound is my witness that I learned it not from flesh of man. It was the preaching of the Spirit who spake on this wise, Do nothing without the bishop, keep your flesh as a temple of God, cherish union, shun divisions, be imitators of Jesus Christ as He Himself was also of His Father.’[13] So highly did Ignatius prize the grace of prophecy that he exhorts Polycarp to seek after it with all diligence. ‘Ask,’ he writes, ‘for larger wisdom than thou hast…. As for the invisible things, pray thou that they may be revealed unto thee, that thou mayest be lacking in nothing, but mayest abound in every spiritual gift.’[14] Polycarp confesses that he had not as yet received this special inspiration, and could only understand the plain teaching of Scripture. Yet he hoped that the Philippians to whom he was writing were more favoured. ‘I am persuaded,’ he says, ‘that ye are well trained in the sacred writings and nothing is hidden from you. But to myself this is not granted.’[15] It may be observed that to Polycarp prophecy does not mean the same thing as to Ignatius. To the latter, as to Rermas, it is a Voice conveying an immediate revelation; to the former, as to Origen, it is an interpretative power, which discovers beneath the literal sense of Scripture mysteries which are not visible to the eye of mere common sense. But neither Ignatius nor Polycarp appears to have the slightest acquaintance with the official prophet described in the Didache.

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Where there is prophecy in the ecstatic sense there must always be a highly wrought enthusiasm and a strongly emotional temperament. With these qualities is often combined an autocratic will. In all these points Ignatius strongly resembles Cyprian.

It is in the Epistles of Ignatius’[16] that we find the phrase ‘My Love is crucified’, in which Eros,'darling,’ the word of passionate sexual affection, is for the first time applied to the believer’s sentiment towards his Lord. In. the third century Origen was shocked by this misuse of language, which was peculiarly repugnant to the intellectual devotion of the Alexandrines. He ended by adopting the term, because it was sanctioned by the use of a distinguished martyr, and because it appeared to furnish a key to the interpretation of the Song of Songs. Nevertheless the use of Eros never became familiar to the Eastern Church. The Latin Amor, a word of much wider and much less sensuous meaning, became common enough. It would have been well if the Ignatian sentimentality, exaggerated as it may be, had prevailed. The early Christians were too much inclined to regard their Lord and Judge with fear, and the cult of the saints would have been kept within reasonable bounds, if they had allowed themselves to dwell with more affection upon the humanity of Jesus.

Out of this intense and heartfelt devotion arises quite naturally a burning desire for the martyr’s crown. Ignatius is not merely content to suffer if it is the Lord’s will, but springs forward with rapture to embrace his fiery trial. (‘Let me be given to the wild beasts,’ he writes to the Romans, ‘for through them I can attain unto God. I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread. Rather entice the wild beasts that they may become my sepulchre, and leave no part of my body behind, so that I may not, when I fall asleep, be burdensome to any one. Then shall I be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not so much as see my body.’ Ignatius declares that if the beasts should be sluggish and unwilling to spring upon him he

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will himself provoke them. This he says had happened already, when or where we know not, but our knowledge of these terrible scenes is exceedingly defective.

It is the death-song of a highly-strung, delicate spirit, bracing itself with unconquerable resolution to dare the utmost in the cause of Christ. Many men and many women in all the churches were filled with the same divine intoxication. The world was against them, and they defied the world.

The martyr spirit inclines naturally to autocracy, and this trait also is strongly marked in the character of Ignatius. Unity in faith and discipline is the condition of the Church’s life. There must be one prayer in common, one supplication, one mind, one hope in love and in joy unblameable,’[17] one Eucharist, one altar,[18] one temple.[19] All this rests upon the mystic unity of the Catholic Church[20] with Jesus Christ and of Jesus Christ with the Father.[21] The bishop is one indispensable link in this chain, being the image of Christ. Beneath him stand the presbyters, the image of the Apostles, who are ‘attuned to the bishop as the chords to the lyre’; beneath them the deacons, and beneath them again the laity, the chorus, which, being harmonious in concord and taking the key-note of God, sings with one voice through Jesus Christ unto the Father. Thus the Father hears them, and acknowledges them by their good deeds to be members of His Son.[22] Without the bishop and the presbyters there is not even the name of a church.[23] Nothing must be done without the bishop. Without his presence or sanction baptism cannot be administered, the Eucharist is not valid, the Agape may not be held. Marriage should not be concluded without the bishop’s consent, and if any member of the community were minded to live a life of celibacy the resolve should remain a secret between him or her and the bishop. No such language had been used in the Church before, or at any rate it is not in any previous document

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now extant, and nothing was added to it afterwards. It is true that the bishop was not an absolute despot.[23] The law is above him, and he shares his claim to obedience with priests and even deacons. We may find the same limitation in Cyprian and the Didascalia. Indeed always the bishop is regarded not as a tyrant, but rather as a Homeric or constitutional king. There was no formal check upon a resolute bishop, but any departure from orthodoxy was curbed by remonstrance and, if necessary, by active interference from other bishops; and in all matters of internal administration it was necessary for the bishop to carry the general sense of his Church along with him.

In all the Asiatic towns mentioned by Ignatius in his Epistles he found bishops like himself. But Pliny does not mention any chief of the Church in Bithynia, and Ignatius himself does not mention a bishop in the Church of Rome.[25] There may have been an interregnum in the city. The list and chronology of the early Popes is very uncertain, but Euaristus is said to have succeeded in 112, which may have been the very year in which Ignatius wrote. But the silence of Pliny is remarkable. He would be anxious to lay hold of the leader of the Christians, and the delator would be equally anxious to point him out. At least so we should have thought. But Pliny’s mind was fixed on the one point of the alleged moral enormities. He does not mention bishops or presbyters or deacons, and in fact did not inquire into the organization of the Church at all.

Ignatius speaks in the strongest terms of the authority of (the bishop, clearly distinguishes the bishop from the presbyter, and clearly also does not allow the prophet, as such, any place in the hierarchy. But his statements are not so precise as to answer all the questions suggested by the almost contemporary Epistle of Clement. If we ask whether Episcopacy was at this time universal, he replies that it was. Bishops, he says, are settled in the furthest parts of the earth.[26]

‘If we ask whether Episcopacy was at the time an innovation,

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be replies that it was not. There were some who resisted the authority of the bishop, both in discipline and in doctrine; they disputed his ruling, as many have done since, but did not question his rule.[27] There can be no doubt that Ignatius regarded Episcopacy in some sense as original and as divinely ordered. But the crucial question whether the bishop was at this time constituted by a special rite of ordination administered only by other bishops, he does not touch.

There is another remarkable but obscure point. Ignatius speaks of himself[28] as ‘the Bishop of Syria’. Does this simply mean, as Dr. Lightfoot thinks, ‘the Syrian bishop,’ that is to say the Bishop of Antioch; or does it mean that Ignatius claimed jurisdiction over all churches in the province of Syria? The latter explanation can very well be supported. The bishop may have been originally called Apostle, may have supervised a large district, as was the case with Timothy and Titus—may have had his abode in the chief town of the province; and thus the institution of Episcopacy may have spread, as Theodore of Mopsuestia believed, from above downwards. On. the other hand, Ignatius tells us of bishops in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Magnesia,[29] Tralles, and Philadelphia, which were mostly in the one province of Asia, and all lay pretty close together. We might infer from this that every large town and every considerable church had a bishop, and thus support the opinion of Jerome that the bishop was originally the chief presbyter, and that episcopacy spread from below upwards.

It is impossible to draw any certain conclusion from these facts. It may be true that even in the country of Ignatius the principal officer of the church was only a dean. But it is clear that in the cities mentioned in the Epistles he is already distinguished sharply from the presbyters by the title of bishop, and that his authority is being strongly affirmed and enhanced.

Upon the bishop Ignatius relies for the suppression of divisions in the Church. There were 'heresies' among the

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Asiatics, 'deadly poison'[30] which led to separation.[31] They were partly Docetism, partly Judaism; apparently these two aberrations were blended together in the same web. Ignatius seems to have come into collision with these sectaries first at Philadelphia. Some of them came to see him in that town, and his address was roughly interrupted by the exclamation, ‘If I find it not in the archives, I believe it not in the Gospel.’ He answered, 'It is written,’ to which they retorted, ‘That is the question.’[31] What a scene! Think of this delicate enthusiast on his way to the wild beasts, standing there bound by a chain to his soldier guard, while he poured out his soul in a last pathetic address, and these dry controversialists who thought this the auspicious time for a wrangle. By ‘archives’ may be meant either the Old Testament or the authentic copies of the Gospels. The precise point at issue is probably defined in the words which Ignatius adds: ‘But as for me, my archives are Jesus Christ; the inviolable (or unviolated) archives are His Cross and Death and Resurrection and faith through Him.’ The reality of the death of Christ was denied, either as not having been clearly prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, or as not being expressly stated in the original text of the Gospels. Both St. Luke[33] and St. John[34] appear to have found this strange belief, that the sufferings and indeed the whole human life of our Lord were phantasmal, current in their own time, and endeavoured to correct it. But it was adopted by many of the Gnostics, and existed in England among certain of the sectaries in the time of the Civil War. Either these Philadelphian dissenters did not read the Gospels of Luke and John, or they asserted that they had been tampered with, or they managed to explain away the texts in question, as Marcion did at a later time.[35]

It followed naturally that they disregarded Sunday, the day of the Resurrection[36] further, that they kept aloof from the Eucharist ‘because they allow not that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ’.[37] But further, they kept the Sabbath, retained the ‘vile leaven’, and prac-

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tised Judaism.[38] What more may have been covered by their ‘strange doctrines and antiquated fables’[39] we cannot say.

Ignatius maintains, on the other hand, that if the reality of our Lord’s body and bodily suffering is destroyed the faith is wholly overthrown. ‘Be ye fully persuaded concerning the birth and the Passion and the Resurrection, which took place in the time of the governorship of Pontius Pilate.[40] ‘Be ye deaf therefore when any man speaketh unto you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died.’[41]

Were these Judaic docetists disciples of those these teachers ‘which say that they are Jews and are not’, whom St. John had found in Smyrna and in Philadelphia[42]? or of those who denied ‘that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh’[43]? At any rate, they were nearly allied to them. The Asiatic churches were the hot-bed of wild fancies even in the time of St. Paul. Nowhere was the strong hand of a sensible bishop more - needed than. in that district.

It should be noticed that the difficulty of these teachers ~ does not appear to have arisen out of the divinity of our Lord; the humanity was the stumbling-block. ‘The Oriental mind,’ says Bishop Lightfoot, ‘in its most serious moods was prone to regard matter as the source of evil.’[44] So indeed at this time was the Western mind. Further, we may observe that all the elements of the later developed Gnosticism were already in existence. Docetism clearly was there; Dualism, the belief in two gods, one good and the other evil, is found in the essays of Plutarch and the cults of Isis and Mithra. For chains or ‘genealogies’ of superhuman beings who bridge over the gulf between God and man, we need not look further than the demons.

The real harm of Docetism is that it turns not only the life of Jesus but that of the believer also into semblance. If the body of our Lord was not real nothing is real.[45]

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Docetism sweeps away the whole of the Economy, or dispensation, or plan of salvation. All the Epistle of Ignatius are occasional, and directed against this particular form of error. Hence he does not treat exactly of what later Fathers called Theology, the doctrine of the divine Nature, except in so far as he speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as cooperating in Redemption.

What, then, is the Economy? ‘There is One God, who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word that proceeded from silence, who in all things was well pleasing to Him that sent Him.’[46] The Son is ‘generate and ingenerate, God in man, Son of Mary, and Son of God, first passible and then impassible’,[47] the Eternal, the Invisible, who became visible for our sake.(48) Christ is generally ‘our God’, ‘my God,’ that is to say the God of the Christian, and so close is the union of the two Natures that Ignatius does not shrink from speaking of ‘the blood of God’.[49] ‘Hidden from the prince of this world were the virginity of Mary and her child-bearing, and likewise also the death of our Lord - three mysteries of crying which were wrought in the silence of God.’[50] The Silence which is broken by the sudden utterance of the Word is the eternal counsel of God; it is opposed to the ‘cry’ Revelation. Ignatius intended to write to the Ephesians a second epistle, in which he meant to enter more fully into this Economy relating to the ‘new man Jesus Christ, which consisteth in faith towards Him and love towards Him’. Probably he was prevented from doing so by the sudden order to go on board ship at Troas; but there are passages enough to show us what he would have said. By his Birth, Baptism, and Passion, Christ 'cleansed the water'.[51] From the Passion and the Resurrection spring Life, Unity, Love, and Joy. By imitating the Passion of our God we become true disciples.[52]

There is no logic and no speculation in Ignatius. He was no metaphysician, and is wrapped up in the practical religious thought of Redemption; but the whole creed can be found in his Epistles without difficulty. Like most prophets, he

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quotes very little from Scripture. His own voice is the voice of God,’[53] a word of God.[54] There are, however, a very large number of references to the Bible. The Old Testament was little in his mind; the New Testament, including the Gospel of St. John, he very probably knew throughout.[55] But his favourite author was St. Paul, whom he read, we may say, with the eyes of St. John. Once he quotes, though not by name, an apocryphal document.[56]

The Eucharist in the Church of Antioch was already distinct from the Agape,(57) and Ignatius constantly seems to refer to it. But it is difficult to fix a precise sense upon his highly metaphorical language.

Thus he repeatedly speaks of the altar, but always in an unusual and figurative sense. ‘If any one,’ he says, ‘be not within the altar he lacketh the bread. For, if the prayer of one and another hath so great force, how much more that of the bishop and of the whole church. Whosoever therefore cometh not to the congregation, he doth thereby show his pride, and hath separated himself.’(58) Here the altar of sacrifice may possibly mean the Cross; the baptized and obedient community are ‘within’, on the safe side of that pledge of their salvation; while the unbaptized and disobedient are ‘without’ it.(59) Elsewhere ‘the one altar’ is ‘the one Jesus Christ.’[60] Here also the inference is drawn that the faithful ought to ‘hasten to come together’.

So also ‘the bread’, or ‘the bread of God’, seems to be generally used as a symbol of unity, as it is by St. Paul.[61] Thus he says, ‘Be ye careful therefore to observe one eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup of union in His blood).’[62] He sometimes uses language which seems to imply a Real Presence in the elements. The judaizing Docetists ‘abstain from eucharist and prayer because they allow that the eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ’[63]; but again we read that faith is the Flesh of our Lord, while love is His Blood[64]; or again, that

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the Gospel is the flesh of Jesus.[65] We may be justified in ranking Ignatius with the Symbolists, who were very numerous in the early Church. In the passage already quoted the special gift of the sacrament is the unity of love. In another place[66] he ascribes to it another virtue, ‘breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote, that we should not die, but live for ever in Jesus Christ.’ Here Ignatius is thinking of the Gospel of St. John, and his words should be interpreted by the rule which our Lord there lays down: ‘It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.’ What Ignatius here says should not be regarded as equivalent to the teaching of Irenaeus in certain passages,[67] where the latter Father speaks of the Eucharist as the means by which the flesh is changed into the glorified body of the Resurrection. The immortality of which Ignatius is speaking is the spiritual life of the blessed in the Kingdom of Christ


[1] Phil. 10.

[2] Ign. Vol. I, p. 30.

[3] Polycarp, Phil. 9.

[4] Rom. 9.

[5] Rom. 4.

[6] H.E. vi. ad fin.

[7] There are differences as to the date even amongst those who accept the Epistles as genuine. ilarnack places them in the last years of Trajan (110-17), or possibly a few years later (Chron. 1. 406). Lightfoot did not absolutely deny that they may be later than the date which he assigned, though he thought it improbable (ii. 469). The chief difficulty arises out of the chronology of Polycarp.

[8] Dig. 48. 19, 31, cited by Mommsen, Strafrecht, p. 926.

[9] If this date is correct, Ignatius cannot have been tried before Trajan who died early in August: see Schiller, Geschichte d. Rimischen Kaiserzejt, pp.561-2.

[10] Lightfoot, ii. 416.

[11] This seems to have been the day on which Irenaeus was originally commemorated by the Greek Church. Afterwards the festival was shifted to Deqember 20. The Latins keep it on February 1.

[12] Trall. 4, 5.

[13] Phil. 7.

[14] Polyc. 1.

[15] Ep. Pol. 12.

[16] Rom. 7.

[17] Magn. 7.

[18] Phil. 4.

[19] Magn. 7.

[20] This famous phrase, ‘Catholic Church,’ appears for the first time in Ignatius, Smyr. 8. In the Martyrium Polycarpi, in the Salutation, we have ‘holy and Catholic church’.

[21] Eph. 5.

[22] Eph. 4.

[23] Trall. 3.

[24] See passages in Lightfoot, i, p. 382.

[25] Polycarp mentions no bishop at Philippi.

[26] Eph. 3.

[27] Magn. 4.

[28] Rom. 2.

[29] In Mommsen’s map ad Meandrum is put in Caria, not in Asia – at a later date Magnesia was in Asia. See note in Lightfoor, Magn. 1.

[30] Trall. 6

[31] Smyr. 6.

[32] Phil. 8.

[33] xxiv. 39.

[34] xx. 27.

[35] See Lightfoot, i. 366.

[36] Magn. 7.

[37] Smyr. 6.

[38] Magn. 9. 10.

[39] Magn. 8.

[40] Magn. 11.

[41] Trall. 9.

[42] Apoc. ii. 9; iii. 9.

[43] 1 John iv. 3.

[44] i. 365.

[45] Trall. 10.

[46] Magn. 8.

[47] Eph. 7.

[48] Polyc. 3.

[49] Eph. 1.

[50] Eph. 19.

[51] Eph. 18.

[52] Trall. 5.

[53] Phil. 7.

[54] Rom. 2.

[55] See list of places in Lightfoot’s Index, ii.

[56] Smyr. 3.

[57] Smyr. 8, but Lightfoot does not allow this; see his note upon the passage.

[58] Eph. 5.

[59] Trall. 7.

[60] Magn. 7.

[61] 1 Cor. x. 17.

[62] Phil. 4.

[63] Smyr. 6.

[64] Trall. 8.

[65] Phil. 5.

[66] Eph. 20.

[67] iv. 18. 5; v. 2. 3.

 


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