The Letters, Saint Ignatius Of Antioch Video
On his way to martyrdom in Rome, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch (then in Syria; now Antakya, Turkey) wrote letters to the Church in several cities of the Empire. Seven of these letters survive.
Ignatius of Antioch (ancient Greek: Ἰγνάτιος Ἀντιοχείας, Ignátios Antiokheías) (c. 35 – c. 107), also known as Ignatius Theophorus (Ιγνάτιος ὁ Θεοφόρος, Ignátios ho Theophóros, lit. “the God-bearing”), 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. His letters also serve as an example of early Christian theology. Important topics they address include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops. In speaking of the authority of the church, he was the first to use the phrase “catholic church” in writing, which is still in use to this day.
The following seven letters preserved under the name of Ignatius are generally considered authentic as they were mentioned by the historian Eusebius in the first half of the fourth century.
Seven Authentic Letters:
The Letter to the Ephesians,
The Letter to the Magnesians,
The Letter to the Trallians,
The Letter to the Romans,
The Letter to the Philadelphians,
The Letter to the Smyrnaeans,
The Letter to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.
Writing in 1886, Dr. William P. Killen regarded all the Ignatian epistles, beginning with that to the Romans, as having been pseudepigraphically composed in the early 3rd century. His reasons included their episcopal emphasis, which is otherwise unknown before the reign of Callistus, the Bishop of Rome around 220. Most scholars, however, accept at least the two Ignatian epistles which were referenced by Origen, and believe that by the 5th century, this collection had been enlarged by spurious letters. The original text of six of the seven authentic 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), while the letter to the Romans is found in the Codex Colbertinus. Some of the original letters were, at one point, believed to had been changed with interpolations.
The oldest is known as the “Long Recension” which dates from the latter part of the fourth century. These were created to posthumously enlist Ignatius as an unwitting witness in theological disputes of that age, but that position was vigorously combated by several British and German critics, including the Catholics Denzinger and Hefele, who defended the genuineness of the entire seven epistles. At the same time, the purported eye-witness account of his martyrdom is also thought to be a forgery from around the same time. A detailed but spurious account of Ignatius’ arrest and his travails and martyrdom is the material of the Martyrium Ignatii which is presented as being an eyewitness account for the church of Antioch, and attributed to Ignatius’ companions, Philo of Cilicia, deacon at Tarsus, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian.
Although James Ussher regarded it as genuine, 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.
Ignatius’s letters proved to be important testimony to the development of Christian theology, since the number of extant writings from this period of Church history is very small. They 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 Cor 1:18, in his letter to the Ephesians: “Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal.” – Letter to the Ephesians 18, Roberts and Donaldson translation.