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§ 164. Ignatius of Antioch.


I. The Epistles.

W. Cureton: The Ancient Syriac Version of the Epistles of S. Ignatius to S. Polycarp, the Ephesians, and the Romans. With transl. and notes. Lond. and Berl., 1845. Also in Lightfoot II. 659–676.

C. C. J. Bunsen: Die 3 ächten u. die 4unächten Briefe des Ignatiusvon Ant. Hergestellter u. verqleichender Text mit Anmerkk. Hamb., 1847.

W. Cureton: Corpus Ignatianum: a complete collection of the Ignatian Epistles, genuine, interpolated, and spurious; together with numerous extracts from them as quoted by Eccles. writers down to the tenth century; in Syriac, Greek, and Latin, an Engl. transl. of the Syriac text, copious notes, and introd. Lond. and Berl., 1849.

J. H. Petermann: S. Ignatii quae feruntur Epistolae, una cum ejusdem martyrio, collatis edd. Graecis, versionibusque Syriaca, Armeniaca, Latinis. Lips., 1849.

Theod. Zahn: Ignatii et Polycarpi Epistulae, Martyria, Fragmenta. Lips. 1876 (the second part of Patrum Apostolorum Opera, ed. Gebhardt, Harnack and Zahn). This is the best critical ed. of the shorter Greek text. Funk admits its superiority ("non hesitans dico, textum quem exhibuit Zahn, prioribus longe praestare." Prol., p. lxxv.).

Fr. Xav. Funk: Opera Patrum Apost., vol. I. Tub., 1878.

J. B. Lightfoot: The Apost. Fathers. P. II. vol. I. and II. Lond. l885. English translations of all the Epistles of Ignatius (Syriac, and Greek in both recensions) by Roberts, Donaldson, and Crombie, in Clark’s "Ante-Nicene Library, (1867), and by Lightfoot (1885).

Earlier Engl. translations by Whiston (1711) and Clementson (1827).

German translations by M. I. Wocher (1829) and Jos. Nirschl (Die Briefe des heil. Ign. und sein Martyrium, 1870).

II. The Martyria.

Acta Martyrii S. Ignatii (Μαρτύρριον τοῦ ἁγίου ἱερομάρτυρος Ἰγνατίου τοῦ θεοφόρου), ed. by Ussher (from two Latin copies, 1647), Cotelier (Greek, 1672), Ruinart (1689), Grabe, Ittig, Smith, Gallandi, Jacobson, Hefele, Dressel, Cureton, Mösinger, Petermann, Zahn (pp. 301 sqq.), (Funk (I. 254–265; II. 218–275), and Lightfoot (II. 473–536). A Syriac version was edited by Cureton (Corpus Ignat. 222–225, 252–255), and more fully by Mösinger (Supplementum Corporis Ignat., 1872). An Armenian Martyr. was edited by Petermann, 1849. The Martyrium Colbertinum (from the codex Colbertinus in Paris) has seven chapters. There are several later and discordant recensions, with many interpolations. The Acts of Ignatius profess to be written by two of his deacons and travelling companions; but they were unknown to Eusebius, they contradict the Epistles, they abound in unhistorical statements, and the various versions conflict with each other. Hence recent Protestant critics reject them; and even the latest Roman Catholic editor admits that they must have been written after the second century. Probably not before the fifth. Comp. the investigation of Zahn, Ign. v. Ant., p. 1–74; Funk, Proleg. p. lxxix. sqq., and Lightfoot, II. 363–536.

The patristic statements concerning Ignatius are collected by Cureton, Bunsen, Petermann, Zahn, p. 326–381, and Lightfoot, I. 127–221.

Critical Discussions.

Joh. Dallaeus (Daillé): De scriptis quae sub Dionysii Areopagitae et Ignatii nominibus circumferuntur, libri duo. Genev., 1666. Against the genuineness.

*J. Pearson: Vindiciae Ignatianae. Cambr., 1672. Also in Cleric. ed. of the Patres Apost. II. 250–440, and in Migne’s Patrol. Gr., Tom. V. Republished with annotations by E. Churton, in the Anglo-Cath. Library, Oxf., 1852, 2 vols.

*R. Rothe: Anfänge der christl. Kirche. Wittenb., 1837. I., p. 715 sqq. For the shorter Greek recension.

Baron von Bunsen (at that time Prussian ambassador in England): Ignatiusvon Ant. u. seine Zeit. 7 Sendschreiben an Dr. Neander. Hamb., 1847. For the Syriac version.

Baur: Die Ignatianischen Briefe u. ihr neuster Kritiker. Tüb., 1848. Against Bunsen and against the genuineness of all recensions.

Denzinger. (R.C.):Ueber die Aechtheit des bisherigen Textes der Ignatian. Briefe. Würzb., 1849.

*G. Uhlhorn: Das Verhältniss der syrischen Recension der Ignatian. Br. zu der kürzeren griechischen. Leipz., 1851 (in the "Zeitschr. für Hist. Theol."); and his article "Ignatius" in Herzog’s Theol. Encykl., vol. vi. (1856), p. 623 sqq., and in the second ed., vol. vi. 688–694. For the shorter Greek recension.

Thiersch: Kirche im Apost. Zeitalter. Frankf. u. Erl., 1852, p. 320 sqq.

Lipsius: Ueber die Aechtheit der syr. Recens. der Ignat. Br. Leipz., 1856 (in Niedner’s "Zeitschr. für Hist. Theol."). For the Syriac version. But he afterwards changed his view in Hilgenfeld’s "Zeitschrift f. wiss. Theol." 1874, p. 211.

Vaucher: Recherches critiques sur les lettres d’gnace d’Antioche. Genève, 1856.

Merx: Meletemata Ignatiana. Hal. 1861.

*Theod. Zahn: Ignatiusvon Antiochien. Gotha, 1873. (631 pages.) For the short Greek recension. The best vindication. Comp. the Proleg. to his ed., 1876.

Renan: Les Évangiles (1877), ch. xxii. 485–498, and the introduction, p. x sqq. Comp. also his notice of Zahn in the "Journal des Savants" for 1874. Against the genuineness of all Ep. except Romans. See in reply Zahn, Proleg. p. x.

F. X. Funk: Die Echtheit der Ignatianischen Briefe. Tübingen 1883.

Lightfoot: St. Paul’s Ep. to the Philippians (Lond. 1873), Excurs. on the Chr. Ministry, p. 208–911, and 232–236. "The short Greek of the Ignatian letters is probably corrupt or spurious: but from internal evidence this recension can hardly have been made later than the middle of the second century." (p. 210). On p. 232, note, he expressed his preference with Lipsius for the short Syriac text. But since then he has changed his mind in favor of the short Greek recension. See his S. Ignatius and S. Polycarp, London, 1885, Vol. I., 315–414. He repeats and reinforces Zahn’s arguments.

Canon R. Travers Smith: St. Ignatius in Smith and Wace III. (1882), 209–223. For the short Greek recensiona.

On the chronology:

Jos. Nirschl: Das Todesjahr des Ignatiusv. A. und die drei oriental. Feldzüge des Kaisers Trajan (1869); Adolf Harnack: Die Zeit des Ignatiusund die Chronologie der Antiochenischen Bischöfe bis Tyrannus (Leipzig, 1878); and Wiessler: Die Christenverfolgungen der Caesaren (Gütersloh, 1878), p. 125 sqq.

On the theology of Ignatius, comp. the relevant sections in Möhler, Hilgenfeld, Zahn (422–494), Nirschl, and Sprinzl.

I. Life of Ignatius.

Ignatius, surnamed Theophorus,12261226    θεοφόρος–ϊ,–ͅϊ" bearer of God."The titles of the Epistles call him Ἰγνάτιος ὁ καὶ θεοφόρος, adding simply the Greek to the Latin name. The Martyrium Ignatii, c. 2, makes him explain the term, in answer to a question of Trajan, as meaning " one who has Christ in his breast."The still later legend (in Symeon Metaphrastes and the Menaea Graeca), by changing the accent. (θεόφορος, Theophorus), gives the name the passive meaning, "one carried by God." because Ignatius was the child whom Christ took up in his arms and set before his disciples as a pattern of humilit y (Matt. 18:2). So the Acta Sanctorum, 1 Febr. I. 28. The Syrians called him Nurono, the Fiery, in allusion to his Latin name from Ignis.226 stood at the head of the Church of Antioch at the close of the first century and the beginning of the second, and was thus contemporaneous with Clement of Rome and Simeon of Jerusalem. The church of Antioch was the mother-church of Gentile Christianity; and the city was the second city of the Roman empire. Great numbers of Christians and a host of heretical tendencies were collected there, and pushed the development of doctrine and organization with great rapidity.

As in the case of Rome, tradition differs concerning the first episcopal succession of Antioch, making Ignatius either the second or the first bishop of this church after Peter, and calling him now a disciple of Peter, now of Paul, now of John. The Apostolic Constitutions intimate that Evodius and Ignatius presided contemporaneously over that church, the first being ordained by Peter, the second by Paul.12271227    Ap. Const. VI I. 46: Ἀντιοχείας Εὐόδιος μὲν ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ Πέτρου, Ἱγνάτιος δὲ ὑπὸ Παύλου κεχειροτόνηται. According to Eusebius (Chron., ed. Schoene II., p. 158) and Jerome, Ignatius was " Antiochiae secundus episcopus."Comp. Zahn, Ign v. A., p. 56 sqq., and Harnack, Die Zeit des Ign., p. 11 sq.227 Baronius and others suppose the one to have been the bishop of the Jewish, the other of the Gentile converts. Thiersch endeavors to reconcile the conflicting statements by the hypothesis, that Peter appointed Evodius presbyter, Paul Ignatius, and John subsequently ordained Ignatius bishop. But Ignatius himself and Eusebius say nothing of his apostolic discipleship; while the testimony of Jerome and the Martyrium Colbertinum that he and Polycarp were fellow-disciples of St. John, is contradicted by the Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, according to which he did not know Polycarp till he came to Smyrna on his way to Rome.12281228    Comp. Zahn, p. 402, who rejects this tradition as altogether groundless: Es fehlt bei Ignatiusauch jede leiseste Spur davon, dass er noch aus apostolischem Mund die Predigt gehört habe."He calls himself five times the least among the Antiochian Christians, and not worthy to be one of their number. From this, Zahn infers that he was converted late in life from determined hostility to enthusiastic devotion, like Paul (Comp. 1 Cor. 15:8-10).228 According to later story, Ignatius was the first patron of sacred music, and introduced the antiphony in Antioch.

But his peculiar glory, in the eyes of the ancient church, was his martyrdom. The minute account of it, in the various versions of the Martyrium S. Ignatii, contains many embellishments of pious fraud and fancy; but the fact itself is confirmed by general tradition. Ignatius himself says, in his Epistle to the Romans, according to the Syriac version: "From Syria to Rome I fight with wild beasts, on water and on land, by day and by night, chained to ten leopards [soldiers],12291229    Ὅ ἐστι στρατιωτῶν τάγμα is added here for explanation by the two Greek versions, and by Eusebius also, H. E. III. 36.229 made worse by signs of kindness. Yet their wickednesses do me good as a disciple; but not on this account am I justified. Would that I might be glad of the beasts made ready for me. And I pray that they may be found ready for me. Nay, I will fawn upon them, that they may devour me quickly, and not, as they have done with some, refuse to touch me from fear. Yea, and if they will not voluntarily do it, I will bring them to it by force."

The Acts of his martyrdom relate more minutely, that Ignatius was brought before the Emperor Trajan at Antioch in the ninth year of his reign (107–108), was condemned to death as a Christian, was transported in chains to Rome, was there thrown to lions in the Coliseum for the amusement of the people, and that his remains were carried back to Antioch as an invaluable treasure.12301230    θησαυρὸς ἄτιμος Mart. c. 6.230 The transportation may be accounted for as designed to cool the zeal of the bishop, to terrify other Christians on the way, and to prevent an outbreak of fanaticism in the church of Antioch.12311231    Lucian, in his satire on the Death of Peregrinus, represents this Cynic philosopher as a hyocritical bishop and confessor, who while in prison received and sent message, and was the centre of attention and correspondence among the credulous and good-natured Christians in Syria and Asia Minor. The coincidence is so striking that Zahn and Renan agree in the inference that Lucian knew the story of Ignatius, and intended to mimic him in the person of Peregrinus Proteus, as he mimicked the martyrdom of Polycarp. See Renan, Les évangiles, p. 430 sq.231 But the chronological part of the statement makes difficulty. So far as we know, from coins and other ancient documents, Trajan did not come to Antioch on his Parthian expedition till the year 114 or 115. We must therefore either place the martyrdom later,12321232    Grabe proposes to read, in the Martyr. c, 2, δεκάτῳ ἐννάτῳ ἕτει, for ἐννάτῳ which would give the year 116. Tillemont and others escape the difficulty by suppossing, without good reason, a double Parthian expedition of Trajan, one in 107 and another in 115 or 116. Comp. Francke: Zur Geschichte Trajan’s. 1837, p. 253 sqq., and Büdinger, Untersuchungen zur röm. Kaisergesch. I. 153 sqq. Nirschl assumes even three oriental expeditions of TraJan. Wieseley and Frank defend the traditional date (107); Harnack puts the martyrdom down to the reIgn of Hadrian or Antoninus Pius, but without solid reasons Zahn (p. 58) leaves it indefinite between 107 and 116, Lightf. between 110 and 118,232 or suppose, what is much more probable, that Ignatius did not appear before the emperor himself at all, but before his governor.12331233    So Uhlhorn, Zahn (248 sq.), Funk (XLVII.). Comp. Lightfoot (II. 390).233 Eusebius, Chrysostom, and other ancient witnesses say nothing of an imperial judgment, and the Epistle to the Romans rather implies that Ignatius was not condemned by the emperor at all; for otherwise it would have been useless for him to forbid them to intercede in his behalf. An appeal was possible from a lower tribunal, but not from the emperor’s.

II. His Letters.

On his journey to Rome, Bishop Ignatius, as a prisoner of Jesus Christ, wrote seven epistles to various churches, mostly in Asia Minor. Eusebius and Jerome put them in the following order: (1) To the Ephesians; (2) to the Magnesians; (3) to the Trallians; (4) to the Romans; (5) to the Philadelphians; (6) to the Smyrneans; (7) to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. The first four were composed in Smyrna; the other three later in Troas. These seven epistles, in connection with a number of other decidedly spurious epistles of Ignatius, have come down to us in two Greek versions, a longer and a shorter. The shorter is unquestionably to be preferred to the longer, which abounds with later interpolations. Besides these, to increase the confusion of controversy, a Syriac translation has been made known in 1845, which contains only three of the former epistles—those to Polycarp, to the Ephesians, and to the Romans—and these in a much shorter form. This version is regarded by some as an exact transfer of the original; by others, with greater probability, as a mere extract from it for practical and ascetic purposes.

The question therefore lies between the shorter Greek copy and the Syriac version. The preponderance of testimony is for the former, in which the letters are no loose patch-work, but were produced each under its own impulse, were known to Eusebius (probably even to Polycarp),12341234    Polycarp writes to the Philippians (ch. 13), that he had sent them the Epistles of Ignatius (τὰς ἐπιστολὰσ Ἰγνατίου, τὰς πεμφθείσας ἡμῖν ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἄλλας... ἐπεμψαμεν ὑμῖν). Zahn and Funk maintain that this sylloge Polycarpiana consisted of six epistles, and excluded that to the Romans. (Ussher excluded the Ep. to Polycarp). Irenaeus quotes a passage from the Epistle to the Romans, Adv. Haer. V. 28, § 4. Origen speaks of several letters of Ignatius, and quotes a passage from Romans and another from Ephesians, Prol. in Cant. Cantic. and Hom. VI. in Luc. (III. 30 and 938, Delarue). Zahn (p. 513) finds also traces of Ignatius in Clement of Alexandria and Lucian’s book De Morte Peregrini, which was written soon after the martyrdom of Polycarp.234 and agree also with the Armenian version of the fifth century, as compared by Petermann. The three Syriac epistles, however, though they lack some of the strongest passages on episcopacy and on the divinity of Christ, contain the outlines of the same life-picture, and especially the same fervid enthusiasm for martyrdom, as the seven Greek epistles.

III. His Character and Position in history.

Ignatius stands out in history as the ideal of a catholic martyr, and as the earliest advocate of the hierarchical principle in both its good and its evil points. As a writer, he is remarkable for originality, freshness and force of ideas, and for terse, sparkling and sententious style; but in apostolic simplicity and soundness, he is inferior to Clement and Polycarp, and presents a stronger contrast to the epistles of the New Testament. Clement shows the calmness, dignity and governmental wisdom of the Roman character. Ignatius glows with the fire and impetuosity of the Greek and Syrian temper which carries him beyond the bounds of sobriety. He was a very uncommon man, and made a powerful impression upon his age. He is the incarnation, as it were, of the three closely connected ideas: the glory of martyrdom, the omnipotence of episcopacy, and the hatred of heresy and schism. Hierarchical pride and humility, Christian charity and churchly exclusiveness are typically represented in Ignatius.

As he appears personally in his epistles, his most beautiful and venerable trait is his glowing love for Christ as God incarnate, and his enthusiasm for martyrdom. If great patriots thought it sweet to die for their country, he thought it sweeter and more honorable to die for Christ, and by his blood to fertilize the soil for the growth of His Church. "I would rather die for Christ," says he, "than rule the whole earth." "It is glorious to go down in the world, in order to go up into God." He beseeches the Romans: "Leave me to the beasts, that I may by them be made partaker of God. I am a grain of the wheat of God, and I would be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread of God. Rather fawn upon the beasts, that they may be to me a grave, and leave nothing of my body, that, when I sleep, I may not be burdensome to any one. Then will I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world can no longer even see my body. Pray the Lord for me, that through these instruments I may be found a sacrifice to God."12351235    Ad Rom. c. 2, according to the Syriac text; c. 4, in the Greek.235 And further on: "Fire, and cross, and exposure to beasts, scattering of the bones, hewing of the limbs, crushing of the whole body, wicked torments of the devil, may come upon me, if they only make me partaker of Jesus Christ.... My love is crucified, and there is no fire in me, which loves earthly stuff.... I rejoice not in the food of perishableness, nor in the pleasures of this life. The bread of God would I have, which is the flesh of Christ; and for drink I wish his blood, which is imperishable love."12361236    Ch. 4 (Syr.), or 5-7 (Gr.).236

From these and similar passages, however, we perceive also that his martyr-spirit exceeds the limits of the genuine apostolic soberness and resignation, which is equally willing to depart or to remain according to the Lord’s good pleasure.12371237    Comp. Phil. 1:23, 24, and Matt. 26:39.237 It degenerates into boisterous impatience and morbid fanaticism. It resembles the lurid torch rather than the clear calm light. There mingles also in all his extravagant professions of humility and entire unworthiness a refined spiritual pride and self-commendation. And, finally, there is something offensive in the tone of his epistle to Polycarp, in which he addresses that venerable bishop and apostolic disciple, who at that time must have already entered upon the years of ripe manhood, not as a colleague and brother, but rather as a pupil, with exhortations and warnings, such as: "Strive after more knowledge than thou hast." "Be wise as the serpents." "Be more zealous than thou art." "Flee the arts of the devil."12381238    Τὰς κακοτεχνίας φεῦγε, according to all the MSS., even the Syriac. Bunsen proposes to read κακοτέχνους, in the sense of seductive women, coquettes, instead of κακοτεχνίας . But this, besides being a mere conjecture, would not materially soften the warning.238 This last injunction goes even beyond that of Paul to Timothy: "Flee youthful lusts,"12391239    2 Tim. ii. 22.239 and can hardly be justified by it. Thus, not only in force and depth of teaching, but also in life and suffering, there is a significant difference between an apostolic and a post-apostolic martyr.

The doctrinal and churchly views of the Ignatian epistles are framed on a peculiar combination and somewhat materialistic apprehension of John’s doctrine of the incarnation, and Paul’s idea of the church as the body of Jesus Christ. In the "catholic church"—an expression introduced by him—that is, the episcopal orthodox organization of his day, the author sees, as it were, the continuation of the mystery of the incarnation, on the reality of which he laid great emphasis against the Docetists; and in every bishop, a visible representative of Christ, and a personal centre of ecclesiastical unity, which he presses home upon his readers with the greatest solicitude and almost passionate zeal. He thus applies those ideas of the apostles directly to the outward organization, and makes them subservient to the principle and institution of the growing hierarchy. Here lies the chief importance of these epistles; and the cause of their high repute with catholics and prelatists,12401240    Such Roman Catholic writers as Nirschl and Sprinzl find the whole theology and church polity of Rome in Ignatius. Episcopalians admire him for his advocacy of episcopacy; but he proves too little and too much for them; too little because Ignatius knows nothing of a diocesan, but only of a congregational episcopacy; too much because he requires absolute obedience to the bishop as the representative of Christ himself, while the Presbyters represent the apostles. Moreover the Ignatian episcopacy is free from the sacerdotal idea which came in later with Cyprian, but is intimated in Clement of Rome.240 and their unpopularity with anti-episcopalians, and modern critics of the more radical school.12411241    Calvin, who, however, knew only the spurious and worthless longer recension, calls the Ignatian Epistles abominable trash (Inst. I. 1, c. 13, § 29); Dr. W. D. Killen, who ought to know better, from strong anti-prelatic feeling, speaks of Ignatius, even according to the shorter Syriac recension, as an "anti-evangelical formalist, a puerile boaster, a mystic dreamer and crazy fanatic." (Ancient Church, 1859, p. 414). Neander is far more moderate, yet cannot conceive that a martyr so near the apostolic age should have nothing more important to say than "such things about obedience to the bishops ") Ch. H. I.192, note, Bost, ed.). Baur and the Tübingen critics reject the entire Ignatian literature as a forgery. Rothe on the other hand is favorably impressed with the martyr-enthusiasm of the Epistles, and Zahn (an orthodox Lutheran) thinks the Ignatian epistles in the shorter (Greek recension worthy of a comparison with the epistles of St. Paul (p. 400).241

It is remarkable that the idea of the episcopal hierarchy which we have developed in another chapter, should be first clearly and boldly brought out, not by the contemporary Roman bishop Clement,12421242    Still less by the apostle Peter, the alleged first Pope of Rome; on the contrary, he enters a solemn protest against hierarchical tendencies for all time to come, 1 Pet. 5:14.242 but by a bishop of the Eastern church; though it was transplanted by him to the soil of Rome, and there sealed with his martyr blood. Equally noticeable is the circumstance, that these oldest documents of the hierarchy soon became so interpolated, curtailed, and mutilated by pious fraud, that it is today almost impossible to discover with certainty the genuine Ignatius of history under the hyper- and pseudo-Ignatius of tradition.

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