Ignatius of Antioch: Who Was He?

Ignatius of Antioch is a patron saint of the catholic church, but also an “anti-Nicene” church father. (I’ve wondered how he could be both?) He is often referred to along with the likes of Polycarp, Clement, and Justin Martyr. But if you’re not a Catholic, you might not even know who they are. And what does that have to do with you?

A Bit About Ignatius

Well, Ignatius lived prior to the year 100 AD. Accounts vary, his death date occurred between 107 and 110 AD. Martyred for the faith. The Apostles educated him in the Gospel. Thanks to, primarily John, but also Peter and Paul. According to historical accounts, he was the second Bishop in Antioch, ordained by Peter.

You will find Ignatius mentioned in the writings of Origen, Eusebius, St. Jerome, Socrates, and many others. His martyrdom occurred in Rome, thrown to hungry lions who devoured him nearly whole, for crimes not clearly mentioned in historical documents. It is known, though, that in those days, Christians were often thrown to the lions.

Christians, in fact, were so hated that in times of great societal distress, such as famines or droughts, the first call would be that Christians should be thrown to the lions. They considered this a reasonable way to lessen the effects of having little food. To do away with those they thought unworthy to live was a great benefit to whichever city they happened to be in.

The Writings of Ignatius

Ignatius wrote many epistles, but the seven most widely accepted across denominational lines as being both relevant and historically accurate are as follows:

  • Epistle to the Ephesians
  • Epistle to the Magnesians
  • Epistle to the Trallians
  • Epistle to the Romans
  • Epistle to the Philadelphians
  • Epistle to the Smyrnaeans
  • Epistle to Polycarp

From His Epistle to the Ephesians

Ignatius, also called Theophorus…wished the church at Ephesus in Asia all joy in Jesus Christ.

As imitators of God, you have been given new life by the blood of God to complete the task that corresponds to your character. You hastened to see me when you heard that for the sake of our common name and expectation I was led away in chains from Syria and that I hope through your prayer to obtain the favor of fighting with the wild beasts in Rome so that I may attain to discipleship.

It is fitting, therefore, that in every way you glorify Jesus Christ who has glorified you. Be firmly joined together in unanimous obedience, obeying the overseer and the body of elders, and be made holy in all things. Your deserving body of elders, worthy of God, is attuned to the overseer as the strings are to a lyre! Therefore the song of Jesus Christ resounds in your unity and in your harmonious love. Yes, all of you should become one choir so that in perfect harmony, taking your keynote from God in unity, you may with one voice sing praises to the Father through Jesus Christ so that he may hear you and recognize you by your good deeds as members of his son.

Certain people with wicked thoughts at the back of their minds are in the habit of flaunting the Name while they practice other things unworthy of God. These you must shun like wild beasts. Mad dogs they are, bitten treacherously. You must be on your guard against them, for they are hard to cure. There is only one physician: he who is flesh and in spirit alike, begotten and unbegotten, is God come into the flesh, he who in death is true life, who sprang from Mary and from God, who first suffered and then did not suffer pain anymore, Jesus Christ our Lord!

You are stones for the Father’s temple, prepared for the house-building of God the Father. You are raised high up by the hoist of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, while the Holy Spirit is your rope. Your faith is your windlass. Love is the path that leads up to God. You are all traveling companions, God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holy things, in everything adorned with the words of Jesus Christ.

Let us be eager to become imitators of the Lord. Who could have suffered more than he? Who could have been so robbed, who so despised?

The last times are here. Let us feel shame at last! Let us fear God’s patience lest it become judgment upon us! Either let us fear the future wrath or let us love the grace this given now, one or the other. Let us be found only in Christ Jesus so that we live the true life!

Be eager, then, in coming together as often as possible for God’s Meal of Thanksgiving and for his praises, for if you meet frequently, Satan’s powers are broken; what threatens you from him is dashed to pieces on the unity of your faith. There is nothing better than the peace by which all warfare waged by heavenly and earthly powers is abolished.

Of all these things none is hidden from you if you are single-hearted and if you direct your faith and love toward Jesus Christ. These are the beginning and the end of life: the beginning is faith, the end is love. The two bound together in unity are God. Everything else that belongs to goodness follows from these. No one who professes faith sins, and anyone who possesses love does not hate. The tree is known by its fruit. Those who profess to belong to Christ will be recognized by their actions. However, what matters now is not a mere professing of faith. Now, the crucial thing is whether a man is found in the power of faith to the end. He who truly possesses the word of Jesus can even hear his silence speak. In this way shall he be perfect: he will act in accordance with his words and will be known even by his silence.

Our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary of the seed of David and yet of the Holy Spirit according to God’s plan of salvation. He was born and baptized so that through his suffering he would purify the water. From that time on every evil spell was exposed, all bonds of evil vanished, and ignorance was removed. The ancient kingdom was shattered. God revealed himself in human form to bring the newness of eternal life! Now began that which had been prepared by God. From now on everything came into motion, for now the destruction of death was taken in hand.

In Closing…

While I consider no other Scriptures to be God-breathed and inerrant, I do believe that if we were to sift back through some of these historical writings, we might find some interesting bits of information. In fact, that’s exactly what we should do.

For instance, I am in no wise in the same league with those who penned the Scriptures. But I do hope that something in my writings will point you towards Him, encourage you, build you up, or make you think. Just because a writing is not necessarily a part of the Scriptures does not mean we cannot glean a bit of historical relevance from it.

Even the Apocrypha was a part of the original King James Version of the Bible. However, it was removed because it contains certain doctrines that are not comparable to the Holy Scriptures, and thus cannot be considered God-breathed or applicable. You can read more about that HERE.

In the future, I do hope to share more from many of the historical accounts I am studying through. And I hope that you are blessed by them.


6 Comments

  1. Does the link work? All I get is a blue spinning wheelie thingy……or is my supposed LTE connection just too slow??

    1. Author

      Which link? The one for Ignatius in my post? I will recheck it, sir, thank you for letting me know!!

      1. Author

        I did check, and the links are working. One of them points to an archive (dot) org page. Sometimes they load slowly. If that’s the one, let me know and I’ll see if I can’t forward you a pdf file.

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