Ignatius of Antioch
c.35 - c.107


IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH. The only sources from which any information can be drawn about this celebrated person are the epistles circulating under his name. Eusebius knows nothing more of him than what can be extracted from the epistles, with the exception of a few short notices by lrenaeus (Adv. Haeres., V. 28, 4) and by Origen (prologue to the Canticles, and in Horn. 6, on Luke), which he also knows. But the list he gives of the bishops of Antioch is doubtful with respect to its chronology. Compare A. HARNACK: Die Zeit des Ignatius, Leipzig, 1878. He places Ignatius as the second bishop after Peter. As nobody knew any thing about the intervening Euodius, he gradually dropped out of attention, and a new tradition formed, placing Ignatius immediately after Peter (Chrysostom, the Paschal Chronicle, Theodoret). Between these two traditions the Const. Ap. (VII. 46) tries to mediate by making Peter consecrate, first Euodius, and then Ignatius. What tradition else has preserved concerning Ignatius - the story that he was the child spoken of in Matt. xviii. 5, and other fictions by Simeon Metaphrastes and Vincentius - is completely worthless. Nor are the various Acta Martyrii of any historical value. We have two which are completely independent of each other. I. Martyrium Colbertinurn, first published by Ussher, 1647, in a barbarous but literal translation, then in a Greek version by Ruinart, in Act. Mart., 1689, and finally in a Syriac translation by Mosinger, in Supplern. Corp. Ign., Innsbruck, 1872. II. Martyriurn Vaticanum, edited by Dressel, in Patr. Apost., p. 368. The Latin Vita Ignatii, in Act. Sand. Feb., I., 29, the Armenian Martyrium edited by Petermann, and the Vita, by Symeon Metaphrastes, may be considered as mere compilations from the two first mentioned. This whole literature has been collected and edited by Zahn, in Patr. Ap. Oper., Leipzig, 1876 [F. X. Funk, Op. Patr. Ap., Tubingen, 1881, and J. B. Lightfoot, London, 1885]. But all these Ada Martyrii are spurious: they contradict the epistles; they swarm with unhistorical statements; they were not known to any old writer, not even to Eusebius; they date, probably, from the fifth century. Thus the epistles are the only source of information left to us. They claim to have been written by Ignatius, on his journey from Antioch (where he had been condemned to death) to Rome, where he was to suffer the punishment of being torn to pieces by wild beasts.

The total number of epistles bearing the name of Ignatius is fifteen, but they are of very different date and worth. Seven of them, namely, those Ad Ephesios, Magnesios, Trallianos, Romanos, Philadelphenos, Srnyrnaeos, and Polycarpum, are extant in a double Greek version, - a shorter and a longer. The latter contains five more epistles; namely, those Ad Mariam Cassobolitam, Tarsenses, Antiochenos, Heronem, and Philippenses: and finally we have three more epistles, but only in a Latin translation; namely, two Ad S. Joannem, and one Ad S. Mariam Virginem, to which is added a Responsio B. Mariae V. ad Ignatium. The three last-mentioned letters were probably originally written in Latin, and are completely worthless. They are found in ZAHN I. c. Of the shorter Greek version, G[1], we have two manuscripts, - Codex Mediceo-Laurentianus, and Codex Casanatensis, of which, however, the latter is a transcription of the former. There also exist a Latin translation, first published by Ussher, 1644, a Syriac translation, extant only in fragments, and a complete Armenian translation of the Syriac translation, published by the Armenian Bishop Menas of Constantinople, 1783. The epistle Ad Romanos is also found in the Codex Colbertinus, and has been published by Mosinger l. c. The whole shorter version was first published by Ussher in Latin, 1644, and then in Greek by Isaac Vossius. Later editions are very numerous, the best by Zahn l. c. Of the longer Greek version, G[2], containing twelve epistles, there exist nine manuscripts, and a Latin translation. The above-mentioned Armenian translation also contains the five additional epistles of the longer version. The whole longer version was first edited by Pacaeus, 1557, then by And. Gessner, 1559, and afterwards often, best by Zahn l. c. Lately the three epistles Ad Ephesios, Smyrnaeos, and Polycarpum, have been discovered in a version still shorter than G[1] This version, however, exists only in a Syriac translation. It has been published by Cureton, The Ancient Syriac Version of the Epistles of S. Ignatius, London, 1845, and still better in Corpus Ignatianum, Berlin, 1849. A very rich collection of materials belonging to the subject, especially of Oriental versions, is found in PETERMANN: S.Ignatii Epistolae, Leipzig, 1849.

On account of the great importance which the epistles of Ignatius have for the older church history, the question about their genuineness gave rise to a very lively debate, the more as a preliminary question about the authenticity of the versions had to be settled in advance. The history of the debate falls into three periods. The first period ends with the discovery of the shorter version, G[1]; and its principal result was the general recognition of the spuriousness of those three epistles Ad S. Joannern and S. Mariam Virginem, which exist only in a Latin translation: even Baronius gave them up. With respect to the remaining twelve epistles, most Roman-Catholic theologians (Hartung, Baronius, Bellarmin) accepted them; while most Protestant theologians (the Magdeburg Centuries, Calvin) rejected them. Among the former, however, Martialis Mastraeus acknowledged that the text was interpolated; and among the latter Nic. Vedelius recognized the only seven epistles mentioned by Eusebius. With the publication of the shorter version, G[1], the second period opens. The version G[1] was soon generally accepted as authentic, and the version G[2] rejected as interpolated; and lately Zahn has fixed the date of this inter-


polation to the latter half of the second century (Ignatius von Antiochia, Gotha, 1873). The question of the authenticity of the text thus settled, the question of the authorship was again taken up. The five epistles not mentioned by Eusebius, and not contained in the shorter version (Ad Mariam Cassobolitam, Tarsenses, A Antiochenos Heronem, and Philippenses), were immediately excluded as spurious. With respect to the remaining seven epistles, the question was answered in the affirmative by Rothe, Huther, Dusterdieck, and others; in the negative, especially by Baur, who fixes their date at the middle of the second century. The third period begins with the discovery of the shortest Syrian version, S, of the three epistles Ad Romanos, Ephesios, and Polycarpum. Cureton, who first edited this version, asserted without hesitation that the original and genuine epistles of Ignatius had now been found; that the versions G[1] and G[2] were nothing but interpolations and expansions in support of a later state of ecclesiastical development; that the four epistles Ad Magnesios, Smyrnaeos, Philadelphenos, and Trallianos, were mere fictitious compositions, etc. Bunsen exerted himself much to introduce these views in Germany (D. drei echten u. vier unechten Briefe d.Ignatius, Hamburg, 1847, and Ignatius von Antiochien u. s. Zeit, Hamburg, 1847). They found also many adherents (Ritschl, Weiss, Bohringer, and Lipsius); but they met with still stronger opposition, both among those who rejected the Ignatian epistles in any version, such as Baur (Die ignatianischen Briefe und ihr neuester Kritiker, Tubingen, 1848), and among those who accepted them in version G[1], such as Denzinger (Ueber d. Aechtheit d. bisherigen Textes d. ignatianischen Briefe, Wurzburg, 1849), Uhihorn (Zeitschrift f. d. hist. Theol., 1855, I.-II.), Petermann, Merx (Meletemata Ignatiana, 1861), and Zahn. In the course of the debate, conclusive evidence was produced, partly from a logical analysis of the contents of the epistles, partly from a comparison of the various Syrian translations, that S is nothing more than an extract from G[1]. Some of the stanchest champions of S, as, for instance, Lipsius and Lightfoot, fell off; and the whole period passed off as an episode, leaving the debate at the old dilemma: either we have the genuine epistles of Ignatius in the version G[1], or we have no epistles at all by Ignatius, but only spurious compositions bearing his name.

A decision in the matter has not yet been reached, though it may not be so very far off. The objections to the genuineness of the epistles are: (1) That the fact on which they rest is unhistorical. When, however, the fact is read oot of the epistles themselves, and not, as Baur did, out of the spurious Acta Martyrii, it fits in very well with the actual state of affairs. That Christians suffered martyrdom under Trajan is well known; and it need cause no hesitation that Ignatius was condemned ad bestias by the governor of Antioch, as instances of such condemnations occur even in Hermas, and soon after become very frequent. Nor is it strange that he should be brought to Rome to he executed. The law forbidding the governor to send convicts from one province to another dates from the tune of Severus and Antoninus; and the law regulating the transferrence of such prisoners to Rome is still later. The route of the journey has nothing improbable about it, as little as the circumstance, that, on the road, Ignatius was at liberty to converse with the congregations, and write letters. Similar instances occur in Lucian (De morte peregrini), amid in the acts of Perpetua and Felicitas. The whole situation, finally, presupposed by the Epistle Ad Romanos, the anxiety of Ignatius that the Romans might take some step in order to secure his liberation, is easily explained by the legal right which any one concerned had to appeal in behalf of another, even against his will. (2) When next it has been said (by Baur) that the character of Ignatius, such as it appears in the epistles, looks more like a fiction than a reality, that his forced humility and strained heroism are downright offensive, etc., the mere subjectivity of this objection, and consequently its insufficiency as an argument, is proved by the circumstance that others (e.g., Rothe) find a strong evidence of the genuineness of the epistles’ in the picture they give of the character of Ignatius. (3) Of much more weight is the objection that the heresies attacked in the epistles belong to a later period than the beginning of the second century. It has been doubted whether time epistles speak of two distinct heresies, - a gnostico-docetic and a judaizing, - or only of one, combining both these elements; and it has been asserted that such a combination would be an impossibility. But we know too little of the earlier stages of Gnosticism to make such an assertion; and a cautious criticism must, no doubt, arrive at the conclusion that the epistles were written before Gnosticism reached that form under which it presents itself between 130 and 140. A decision with respect to the genuineness of the epistles cannot be reached from this point; and, should from some other point an irrefragable evidence of their genuineness be produced, we should have to change our ideas of the historical development of Gnosticism. (4) It has also been alleged that the church constitution mirrored by the epistles, especially the episcopacy, belongs to a later time. It is true that the epistles distinguish sharply between the bishop, the presbyter, and the deacon; that they represent the episcopate as superior to the presbytery; that they never weary of extolling the bishop, and exhorting the faithful to rally around him as the visible representative of the unity of the congregation, etc. But, though the epistles doubtless show an advance beyond Clemens Romanus and Hermas, they certainly fall behind Irenaeus. Ignatius knows nothing about an apostolical establishment of the episcopate, nor does he connect with it those ideas of a priesthood which afterwards were borrowed from the Old Testament. The episcopate is to him an office in the congregation, not an office in the church. The bishop is to him not the successor of the apostles, nor is he the bearer of the doctrinal tradition. To sum up the whole, though not every difficulty presented by the above objections can be said to have been successfully solved, the collective mass of internal evidence against the genuineness of the epistles would, nevertheless, be insufficient to counterbalance the testimony in its favor of one single external witness; amid there is such a testi-


mony in the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians. He who will prove the epistles of Ignatius to be spurious must begin by proving the Epistle of Polycarp to be spurious, or at least very heavily interpolated; but such an undertaking will hardly ever succeed. [Besides the works already mentioned, see J. NIRSCHL Die Theologie des heiligen Ignatius, Mainz, 1880.]

G. Uhlhorn, "IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH," Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn., Vol. 2. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.1058-1060.

Primary Sources

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On-line Resource Ignatius of Antioch (Christian Classic Ethereal Library)
Book or monograph John Chrysostom, In S. Ignatium Martyrem.
Book or monograph Eusebius, Church History 3.22; 3.36.
Book or monograph J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, part 2, Vols. 1-3. London: Macmillan, 1889.

Secondary Sources

Article in Journal or Book C.P.Hammond Bammel, "Ignatian Problems," Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 33 (1982): 62-97.
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On-line Resource Charles Bigg [1840-1908], The Origins of Christianity. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909. Hbk. pp.99-114.
Article in Journal or Book Anthony J. Blasi, "Marginalization and Martyrdom: Social Context of Ignatius of Antioch," Listening 32.1 (1997): 68-74.
Article in Journal or Book Richard A. Bower, "The Meaning of Epitugchano in the Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch," Vigiliae Christianae 28.1 (1974): 1-14.
Article in Journal or Book Allen Brent, "History and Eschatological Mysticism in Ignatius of Antioch," Ephemerides theologicae Lovaniensis 65 (1989): 309-29.
Article in Journal or Book Allen Brent, "The Ignatian Epistles and the Threefold Ecclesiastical Order," Journal of Religious History 17.1 (1992): 18-32.
Article in Journal or Book Allen Brent, "Ignatius of Antioch and the Imperial Cult," Vigiliae Christianae 52.1 (1998): 30-58.
Article in Journal or Book Allen Brent, "The Enigma of Ignatius of Antioch," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 57.3 (2006): 429-456.
Book or monograph Virginia Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960. pp. xiv + 293.
Book or monograph F.L. Cross, The Early Christian Fathers. Studies in Theology 1. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1960. Hbk. pp.15-18.
Article in Journal or Book Stevan L. Davies,"The Predicament of Ignatius of Antioch," Vigiliae Christianae 30.3 (1976): 175-180.
Article in Journal or Book P. Donahue, "Jewish Christianity in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch," Vigiliae Christianae 32 (1978): 81-93.
On-line Resource Church, God, and Martyrdom, in Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Martyr (Martin Eastwood) View in PDF format pdf
Article in Journal or Book Paul Foster, "The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch (Part 1) ," The Expository Times Vol. 117.12 (2006): 487-495. [Abstract]
Article in Journal or Book Paul Foster, "The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch (Part 2) ," The Expository Times Vol. 118.1 (2006): 2-11. [Abstract]
On-line Resource Ignatius of Antioch (Peter Kirby)
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Article in Journal or Book P.J. Donahue, "Jewish Christianity in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch," Vigiliae Christianae 32.2 (1978): 81-93.
On-line Resource Edward Fudge, "The Eschatology of Ignatius of Antioch: Christocentric and Historical," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 15.4 (Fall 1972): 231-237.View in PDF format pdf
Article in Journal or Book Michael D. Goulder, "'Ignatius', 'Docetists,'" Verbum caro 53.1 (1999): 16-30.
Article in Journal or Book A.A.K. Graham, "Ignatius of Antioch," Expository Times 80.4 (1969): 100-104.
On-line Resource Michael A.G. Haykin, "'Come to the Father': Ignatius of Antioch and his calling to be a martyr," Themelios 32.3 (May 2007): 26-39.View in PDF format pdf
On-line Resource Daniel Hoffman, "The Authority of Scripture and Apostolic Doctrine in Ignatius of Antioch," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28.1 (March 1985): 71-79. View in PDF format pdf
On-line Resource Ruben Ioan Ivan, "The Connection Between Salvation, Martyrdom and Suffering According to St. Ignatius of Antioch," Kairos Evangelical Journal of Theology 7.2 (Nov. 2013): 167-182. View in PDF format pdf
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Article in Journal or Book John E. Lawyer, "Eucharist and Martyrdom in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch," Anglican Theological Review 73.3 (1991): 280-296.
Article in Journal or Book Harry O. Maier, "The Charismatic Authority of Ignatius of Antioch: A Sociological Analysis," Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 18.2 (1989): 185-199.
Article in Journal or Book Harry O. Maier, "The Charismatic Authority of Ignatius of Antioch: A Sociological Analysis," Theology Digest 37.3 (1990): 235-240.
Article in Journal or Book Einar Molland, "The Heretics Combatted by Ignatius of Antioch," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 5.1 (1954): 1-6.
Article in Journal or Book Herbert Mursurillo, "Ignatius of Antioch: Gnostic or Essene," Theological Studies 22 (1961): 103-110.
Article in Journal or Book F.W. Norris, "Ignatius, Polocarp and 1 Clement. Walter Bauer Reconsidered," Vigiliae Christianae 30 (1976): 23-44.
On-line Resource H.P.V. Nunn, "The Epistles of Ignatius," The Evangelical Quarterly 18.4 (Oct. 1946): 262-272.View in PDF format pdf [All reasonable efforts have been made to contact the copyright holder of this article without success. If you hold the rights, please contact me]
Article in Journal or Book Alvyn Pettersen, "Sending Heretics to Coventry? Ignatius of Antioch on Reverencing Silent Bishops," Vigiliae Christianae 44.4 (1990): 335-350.
Article in Journal or Book Alvyn Pettersen, "The Laity - Bishop's Pawn? Ignatius of Antioch on the Obedient Christian," Scottish Journal of Theology 44.1 (1991): 39-56.
Article in Journal or Book H. Reisenfeld, "Reflections on the Style and the Theology of St. Ignatius of Antioch," Studia Patristica 4 (1961): 312-22.
Article in Journal or Book Nicolae Roddy, "The Campaign for Catholicity in the Letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch," Coptic Church Review 12.2 (1991): 49-57.
Article in Journal or Book John S. Romanides, "The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 7 (1961): 53-77.
On-line Resource Issa. A. Saliba, "The Bishop of Antioch and the Heretics," The Evangelical Quarterly 54.2 (Apr.-June 1982): 65-76.View in PDF format pdf [Reproduced by permission of the current copyright holder]
Article in Journal or Book William R. Schoedel, "Ignatius and the Archives," Harvard Theological Review 71 (1978): 97-106.
Book or monograph Schoedel: Ignatius of AntiochWilliam R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0800660161. pp.305. {CBD} {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book G.R. Snyder, "The Historical Jesus in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch," Biblical Research 8 (1963): 3-12.
Article in Journal or Book Julian Stead, "St. Ignatius of Antioch, Unifier of Christians," Downside Review 89.297 (1971): 269-273.
Article in Journal or Book Cullen I.K. Story, "The Text of Ignatius' Letter to the Trallians 12.3," Vigiliae Christianae 33 (1979): 319-23.
Article in Journal or Book Cullen I.K. Story, "The Christology of Ignatius of Antioch," Evangelical Quarterly 56.3 (1984): 173-182.
Article in Journal or Book Cullen I.K. Story, "Ignatius to the Romans 2:1c," Vigiliae Christianae 47.3 (1993): 226-233.
Article in Journal or Book Robert F. Stoops, "If I Suffer... Epistolary Authority in Ignatius of Antioch," Harvard Theological Review 80.2 (1987): 161-178.
Article in Journal or Book Dale L. Sullivan, "Establishing Orthodoxy: The Letters of Ignatius of Antioch as Epideictic Rhetoric," Journal of Communication and Religion 15.2 (1992): 71-86.
Article in Journal or Book Jerry L. Sumney, "Those Who 'Ignorantly Deny Him': The Opponents of Ignatius of Antioch," Journal of Early Christian Studies 1.4 (1993): 345-365.
Article in Journal or Book W.M. Swartley, "The Imitatio Christi in the Ignatian Letters," Vigiliae Christianae 27 (1973): 81-103.
Article in Journal or Book E.J. Tinsley, "The imatatio Christi in the mysticism of St. Ignatius of Antioch," Studia Patristica 1 (1957).
Article in Journal or Book Christine Trevett, "Prophecy and Anti-Episcopal Activity: A Third Error Combatted by Ignatius?" Journal of Ecclesiastical History 34 (1983): 1-18.
Article in Journal or Book Christine Trevett, "Anomaly and Consistency: Josep Rius-Camps on Ignatius and Matthew," Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984): 165-71.
Article in Journal or Book Christine Trevett, "Apocalypse, Ignatius, Montanism: Seeking the Seeds," Vigiliae Christianae 43 (1989): 313-38.
Article in Journal or Book Christine Trevett, "The Other Letters to the Churches of Asia: Apocalypse and Ignatius of Antioch," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 37 (1989): 117-35.
Book or monograph Christine Trevett, A Study of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria and Asia. Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. Pbk. ISBN: 0773494952. pp.264. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book Paul W. Walaskay, "Ignatius of Antioch The Synthesis of Astral Mysticism, Rational Theology, and Christian Witness," Religion in Life 48.3 (1979): 309-322.
Article in Journal or Book Donald F. Winslow, "The Idea of Redemption in the Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 11 (1965): 119-131.
Article in Journal or Book Robin Darling Young, "Ignatius of Antioch, Attaining the Father," Journal: Communio: International Catholic Review 26.2 (1999): 333-342.


Book or monograph Robert M. Grant, Ignatius of Antioch. Camden: Nelson, 1966.
On-line Resource Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (James E. Kiefer)

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