Ignatius' Seven Letters


Ignatius- He was born sometime between 35 and 50 and died sometime between 98 and 117. According to Eusebius two centuries later, he was the third Bishop of Antioch but according to Theodoret (393-457) of Cyrrhus, Ignatius was the second Bishop of Antioch. Church tradition claims that he was a disciple of the Apostle John but that claim is impossible to prove or even make likely.

Ignatius wrote a half dozen letters to various churches sometime around 110 as he was being escorted by soldiers to be martyred at Rome. These letters were to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians and Smyrnaeans with another to Polycarp.

Not once does Ignatius mention John in his letters, either elder or apostle, though he is writing to and moving through the very vicinity of Ephesus where John is supposed (by Church tradition) to have lived and missionized only a few years before this. From Ephesus, Philadelphia was 70 miles, Smyrna was 40 miles and Magnesia was only 20 miles. Indeed, he even wrote to the Church at Ephesus, yet never mentioning John.

This is strong evidence that the apostle John was not anywhere around Ephesus during the years leading up to Ignatius time.

One of the most important subjects of which he wrote, was that which recognized the authority of the Bishop. He writes in his letter to the Ephesians,

Furthermore, the more anyone observes that the bishop is silent, the more one should fear him. For everyone whom the Master of the house sends to manage his own house we must welcome as we would the one who sent him. It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself. [6:1]

For when you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, it is evident to me that you are living not in accordance with human standards but in accordance with Jesus Christ, who died for us in order that by believing in his death you might escape death. [the letter to the Trallians, 2:1]

Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church. It is not permissible either to baptize or to hold a love feast without the bishop. But whatever he approves is also pleasing to God, in order that everything you do may be trustworthy and valid. [the letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8:2]

Because there was such a wide and diverse range of opinions and doctrines permeating the second century Church, many found it necessary confine the activities of the believers to a single authority. Thus the bishop was set up as the man of GOD in their respective community. This is all fine and understandable, howbeit, these are concepts strangely foreign to the writings found in the Christian Scriptures (the New Testament).

Ignatius intimates on a couple of occasions that the return of Christ had already been accomplished.

...how can we possibly live without him, whom even the prophets, who were his disciples in the Spirit, were expecting as their teacher? Because of this he for whom they rightly waited raised them from the dead when he came? [the letter to the Magnesians, 9:2]

It is proper, therefore, to avoid such people and not speak about them either privately or publicly. Do pay attention, however, to the prophets and especially to the gospel, in which the Passion has been made clear to us and the resurrection has been accomplished. [letter to the Smyrnaeans, 7:2]

What resurrection? Either Christ's personal resurrection or the general resurrection of the believers which Scripture purports to have occurred in A.D. 70.