Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch

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Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117) was among the Apostolic Fathers
Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers are a small number of Early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the second half of the first century and the first half of the second century. They are acknowledged as leaders in the early church, although their writings were not included in the New Testament...

, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle
John the Apostle
John the Apostle, John the Apostle, John the Apostle, (Aramaic Yoħanna, (c. 6 - c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, another of the Twelve Apostles...

. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology
Ecclesiology
Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.In its theological sense, ecclesiology...

, the sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

s, and the role of bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s.

Veneration


Ignatius' feast day is observed on 20 December in the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

. In the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, he is commemorated, according to its Synaxarium, on the 24th of the Coptic Month of Kiahk (which currently falls on January 2, but is equivalent to December 20 in the Gregorian Calendar due to the current 13-day Julian-Gregorian Calendar offset). His celebration is on 1 February in the General Roman Calendar of 1962
General Roman Calendar of 1962
This article lists the feast days of the General Roman Calendar as it was in 1962, following the reforms that Pope John XXIII introduced with his motu proprio Rubricarum instructum of 23 July 1960...

. Today Western Christianity
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

 follows the Syriac churches
Syriac Christianity
Syriac or Syrian Christianity , the Syriac-speaking Christians of Mesopotamia, comprises multiple Christian traditions of Eastern Christianity. With a history going back to the 1st Century AD, in modern times it is represented by denominations primarily in the Middle East and in Kerala, India....

 in keeping his feast on 17 October.

Early life


St. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 and St. Evodius
Evodius
Saint Evodius is a saint in the Christian Church and one of the first identifiable Christians.Very little is known of the life of St. Evodius. However, he was a pagan who converted to Christianity due to the apostolic work of Saint Peter. In the Book of Acts, one of the first communities to...

 (who died around AD 67). Eusebius records that St. Ignatius succeeded St. Evodius. Making his apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

 even more immediate, Theodoret
Theodoret
Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus was an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria . He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms...

 (Dial. Immutab., I, iv, 33a) reported that Peter himself appointed Ignatius to the see of Antioch.

Besides his Greek name, Ignatius, he also called himself Theophorus ("God Bearer"), and tradition says he was one of the children Jesus took in His arms and blessed. St. Ignatius is one of the Apostolic Fathers
Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers are a small number of Early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the second half of the first century and the first half of the second century. They are acknowledged as leaders in the early church, although their writings were not included in the New Testament...

 (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

). He based his authority on being a bishop of the Church, living his life in the imitation of Christ. It is believed that St. Ignatius, along with his friend Polycarp
Polycarp
Saint Polycarp was a 2nd century Christian bishop of Smyrna. According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, he died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him...

, with great probability were disciples of the Apostle St. John.

Martyrdom


Epistles attributed to St. Ignatius report his arrest by the authorities and travel to Rome:
Along the route he wrote six letters to the churches in the region and one to a fellow bishop.

He was sentenced to die in the Colosseum
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

, to be eaten by lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

s.

In his Chronicle, Eusebius gives the date of his death as AA 2124 (2124 years after Adam), which would amount to the 11th year of Trajan, i.e. 108 AD.

Letters


The seven letters considered to be authentic are:
  • To the Ephesians
    Ephesus
    Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

  • To the Magnesians
    Magnesia on the Maeander
    Magnesia or Magnesia on the Maeander was an ancient Greek city in Anatolia, considerable in size, at an important location commercially and strategically in the triangle of Priene, Ephesus and Tralles. The city was named Magnesia, after the Magnetes from Thessaly who settled the area along with...

  • Letter to the Trallians
    Letter to the Trallians
    The Letter to the Trallians was one of the epistles written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Tralles was a city in Anatolia that was destroyed by earthquake and then rebuilt as Aydin.The letter mentions the resurrection of Jesus in chapter :...

  • To the Romans
    Rome
    Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

  • To the Philadelphians
    Alasehir
    Alaşehir, in Antiquity and the Middle Ages known as Philadelphia , i.e. " brotherly love" is a town and district of Manisa Province in the Aegean region of Turkey. It is situated in the valley of the Kuzuçay , at the foot of the Bozdağ...

  • To the Smyrnaeans
    Letter to the Smyrnaeans
    The Letter to the Smyrnaeans was written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch around AD 110 to the Early Christians in Smyrna.It mentions the resurrection of Jesus:...

  • To Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna
    Polycarp
    Saint Polycarp was a 2nd century Christian bishop of Smyrna. According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, he died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him...



By the 5th century, this authentic collection had been enlarged by spurious letters, and some of the original letters had been changed with interpolations, created to posthumously enlist Ignatius as an unwitting witness in theological disputes of that age, while 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 as if written by Ignatius' companions, Philo of Cilicia, deacon at Tarsus, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian. Though James Ussher
James Ussher
James Ussher was Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland between 1625–56...

 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
Codex Colbertinus
Codex Colbertinus, designated by 6 or c, is a Latin manuscript of the Bible. Its version of the four Gospels and Book of Acts follows the Vetus Latina, while the rest of the New Testament follows the Vulgate. It was written in the 11th or 12th century, probably in southern France.The Latin text of...

(Paris), in which the Martyrium closes the collection. The Martyrium presents the confrontation of the bishop Ignatius with Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 at Antioch, a familiar trope
Trope (literature)
A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning...

 of Acta of the martyrs, and many details of the long, partly overland voyage to Rome. The Synaxarium
Synaxarium
Synaxarion, Synexarion, pl. Synaxaria —Latin: Synaxarium, Synexarium—the name given in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches to a compilation of hagiographies corresponding roughly to the martyrology of the Roman Church.There are two kinds of synaxaria:*Simple...

 of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria says that he was thrown to the wild beasts that devoured him and rendered him into pieces.

After Ignatius' martyrdom in the Flavian Amphitheatre
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

, his remains were honorably carried back to Antioch by his companions, and were first interred outside the city gates, then removed by the Emperor Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 to the Tychaeum, or Temple of Tyche
Tyche
In ancient Greek city cults, Tyche was the presiding tutelary deity that governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny....

 which was converted into a church dedicated to Ignatius. In 637 the relics were translated to the Church of St Clement in Rome.

The letters of Ignatius have proved to be important testimony to the development of Christian theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, 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 sentence
Run-on sentence
A run-on sentence is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses are joined without appropriate punctuation or conjunction. It is generally considered a stylistic error, though it is occasionally used in literature and may be used as a rhetorical device...

s and an unsystematic succession of thought. Ignatius is the earliest known Christian writer to emphasize loyalty
Loyalty
Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause There are many aspects to...

 to a single bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 in each city (or diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

) who is assisted by both presbyter
Presbyter
Presbyter in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, then a synonym of episkopos...

s possibly elders and deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

s. Earlier writings only mention either bishops or presbyters, and give the impression that there was usually more than one bishop per congregation. For instance, while the offices of bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

, presbyter and deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

 appear apostolic in origin, the titles of "bishop" and "presbyter" could be used interchangeably.
Ignatius is known to have taught the deity of Christ:
Ignatius stressed the value of the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, calling it a "medicine of immortality" (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20:2). The very strong desire for bloody martyrdom in the arena, which Ignatius expresses rather graphically in places, may seem quite odd to the modern reader. An examination of his theology of soteriology
Soteriology
The branch of Christian theology that deals with salvation and redemption is called Soteriology. It is derived from the Greek sōtērion + English -logy....

 shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus to bravely face martyrdom .

Ignatius is claimed to be the first known Christian writer to argue in favor of Christianity's replacement of the Sabbath
Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

 with the Lord's Day
Lord's Day
Lord's Day is a Christian name for Sunday, the day of communal worship. It is observed by most Christians as the weekly memorial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is said in the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament to have been witnessed alive from the dead early on the first day of...

:
He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning "universal", "complete" and "whole" to describe the church, writing:
It is from the word katholikos ("according to the whole") that the word catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word catholic, he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation Catholic Church with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the 1st century.

On the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:
Saint Ignatius's most famous quotation, however, comes from his letter to the Romans:

Letters of Pseudo-Ignatius


Epistles attributed to Saint Ignatius but of spurious origin include:
  • Epistle to the Tarsians
  • Epistle to the Antiochians
  • Epistle to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch
  • Epistle to the Philippians
  • The Epistle of Maria the Proselyte to Ignatius
  • Epistle to Mary at Neapolis, Zarbus
  • First Epistle to St. John
  • Second Epistle to St. John
  • The Epistle of Ignatius to the Virgin Mary

External links