I am participating in the group Read the Fathers, so in order to help me maintain this discipline I will be sharing my favorite quotes and reflections every Saturday:
Bishop as Representative of Church:
“Since therefore I have been permitted to see you in the person of Damas, your godly bishop, and the worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius, and my fellow-servant, the deacon Zotion, of whom may I have joy, because he is subject unto the bishop as unto the grace of God, and to the presbytery as unto the law of Jesus Christ.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians II)
Sabbath Replaced by “Lord’s Day”:
“If therefore those who lived in ancient observances attained unto newness of hope no longer keeping the Sabbath, but living a life ruled by the Lord’s day, whereon our life too had its rising through Him and His death—which some deny, a mystery through which we have received the power to believe, and therefore we endure, that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Teacher—how shall we be able to live apart from Him?” Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians II)
“It is outrageous to utter the name of Jesus Christ and live in Judaism. For Christianity believed not in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity, in which people of every tongue believed and were gathered unto God.”
Unity with the Bishop and Trinitarian Language:
“…that in everything which you do, you may be prospered in flesh and spirit, by faith and love, in the Son and Father and in the Spirit, in the beginning and in the end, along with your bishop who is worthy of all honor, and the fitly-woven spiritual coronal of your presbytery, and the deacons who are according to the mind of God. Submit yourselves to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ [was subject] to the Father [after the flesh], and the Apostles to Christ and the Father, that there may be union both of flesh and spirit.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians XII)
Living unto the Bishop as to Jesus Christ:
“For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians II)
Christ in History:
“Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and did eat and drink. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified, and [truly] died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians IX)
Not Merely Called a Christian:
“Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but [truly] will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one. For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans III)
Better to Die:
“It is better for me to die in behalf ofJesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans VI)
“I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans VII)
Schism and the Kingdom:
“If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians III)
Jesus is Better:
“The priestsindeed are good, but the High Priest is better; to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been trusted with the secrets of God. He is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, and the apostles, and the Church. All these have for their object the attaining to the unity of God. But the Gospel possesses something transcendent [above the former dispensation], viz., the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, His passion and resurrection. For the beloved prophets announced Him,but the Gospel is the perfection of immortality.All these things are good together, if you believe in love.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians IX)
Confession about Christ:
“For I have observed that ye are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if ye were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit, and are established in love through the blood of Christ, being fully persuaded with respect to our Lord, that He was truly of the seed of David according to the flesh, and the Son of God according to the will and power of God; that He was truly born of a virgin, was baptized by John, in order that all righteousness might be fulfilledby Him; and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed [to the cross] for us in His flesh. Of this fruit we are by His divinely-blessed passion, that He might set up a standard for all ages, through His resurrection, to all His holy and faithful [followers], whether among Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of His Church.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrneans I)
The Resurrection is Physical:
“Now, He suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be [Christians]. And as they believe, so shall it happen unto them, when they shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits. For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.” And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors. And after his resurrection He did eat and drink with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrneans II-III)
Lack of Love Described:
“They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty.They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrneans VI-VII)
Follow the Bishop:
“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institutionof God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honors the bishop has been honored by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for ye are worthy. Ye have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. Ye have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while ye endure all things, ye shall attain unto Him.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrneans VIII-IX)
- Ignatius‘ Epistle the the Magnesians continues to advocate for the office of the Bishop. As early as these writings are dated I have been forced to wrestle with his claims, especially as someone who is part of the “low-church” tradition. It seems to a “Bishop” is something like a Sr. Pastor over the church of a city with “Presbyters” functioning as secondary leaders. So I don’t know that this has me convinced that I need to run to the nearest Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican church tomorrow to become a member, but it does have me thinking.
- This epistle seems to advocate a clean break between the Judaism from which Christianity derives. Judaism is depicted as existing to point toward Christianity, but now incompatible with being a Christian.
- In Epistle to the Trallians Ignatius argues that to live unto the Bishop is to live unto Jesus Christ, and if the Bishop is not present then the congregation should submit to the Presbyters or the Deacons (slightly below the Presbyters it seems). Ignatius warns against heresy and heretical teachers.
- In Epistle to the Romans is Ignatius’ farewell to this church prior to martyrdom. He encourages the church to maintain focus on and dedication to Jesus.
- Jesus as the object through which God the Father is worshipped is interesting. Jesus is like the “idol” or “image” of the Most High God. Ignatius writes,
“Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favor upon me than that I be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared; that, being gathered together in love, ye may sing praise to the Father, through Christ Jesus, that God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be sent for from the east unto the west. It is good to set from the world unto God, that I may rise again to Him.” (Epistle to the Romans II)
- In Epistle to the Philadelphians Ignatius exalts the Bishop, the unity of the church, and orthodox doctrine. Chapter VI makes it seem that some where trying to convert Christians (back?) to Judaism. A most interesting statement is made in VIII:
“When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved. But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.”
Is this the response given to Ignatius when he proclaims the Gospel? Are some saying that if it is not found in Scripture (Old Testament) that it is meaningless? Is he appealing to a Christocentric reading as superior? This seems to be the case and the context appears to be conflict with Judaism, see IX.
- In Epistle to the Smyrneans warns against heretics, especially those who deny the resurrection, and those who persecute believers. As usual, Ignatius emphasizes loyalty to the local Bishop as a means by which the church can define unity and orthodoxy.
- The Epistle to Polycarp is a letter between Bishops, Ignatius to Polycarp. This letter is one of exhortation. I think it frames Ignatius’ comments about Bishops quite well. In other letters he commands loyalty to the Bishop as to Christ. In this epistle he advocates for Polycarp to love the church like Christ. This is an important exchange to consider. There are some interesting statements about social order in this epistle. Ignatius encourages the care of widows, advocates the respect of slaves but does not encourage slaves to seek freedom, says that marriages should be approved by the Bishop, and so forth.
- The Epistle to the Tarsians is attributed to Ignatius, but likely spurious. It warns against Christological heresies including the denial that he was crucified, that he died, that he was the “Son of the Creator”, that he was God, that he was more than a man, that he resurrected, that there will be a resurrection, and that Christians should live in holiness. Paul is references as an authority in defense of orthodox positions. There are many quotations from what would be the NT, seemingly aimed to show that the doctrines advocated by the author are based on the teaching of the apostles.