Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Ignatius of Antioch
birth_date=c. 50
death_date=c. 110
feast_day=Western and Syrian Christianity: October 17
General Roman Calendar, 12th century to 1969: February 1
Eastern Orthodox Church: December 20

caption=Icon of the martyrdom Saint Ignatius
titles=Bishop and Martyr; Patriarch; Theophorus
attributes=a bishop surrounded by lions or in chains
patronage=Church in eastern Mediterranean; Church in North Africa
major_shrine=Relics are in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

Saint Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) (ca. 35-110) [See "Ignatius" in "The Westminster Dictionary of Church History", ed. Jerald Brauer (Philadelphia:Westminster, 1971) and also David Hugh Farmer, "Ignatius of Antioch" in "The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints" (New York:Oxford University Press, 1987).] was the third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch and possibly a student of the Apostle John. 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. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

St. Ignatius' feast day is observed on December 20 in Eastern Christianity. In Western Christianity it is celebrated on October 17 (its traditional feast day in the Orthodox faiths), but on February 1 by those who follow the General Roman Calendar of 1962.

Ignatius, along with Clement of Rome and Polycarp of Smyrna, is one of the chief Apostolic Fathers, early Christian authors who knew the apostles personally and were taught and usually ordained by them as bishops.

Early life

St. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter and St. Evodius, who died around AD 67. Eusebius ("Historia Ecclesiastica", II.iii.22) records that St. Ignatius succeeded St. Evodius. Making his apostolic succession even more immediate, Theodoret ("Dial. Immutab.", I, iv, 33a) reported that Peter himself appointed Ignatius to the see of Antioch.

Besides his Latin 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 may have been a disciple of the Apostle John. [The Martyrdom of Ignatius]

St. Ignatius is one of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers). He based his authority on being a bishop of the Church, living his life in the imitation of Christ.


St. Ignatius was arrested by the authorities and transported to Rome under trying conditions:

He was sentenced to die in the Colosseum. The Roman authorities hoped to make an example of him and thus discourage Christianity from spreading, but his journey to Rome instead offered him the opportunity to meet with and teach Christians along his route, and he wrote six letters to the churches in the region and one to a fellow bishop.


The seven letters considered to be authentic are:

* To the Ephesians
* To the Magnesians
* Letter to the Trallians
* To the Romans
* To the Philadelphians
* To the Smyrnaeans
* To Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna

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 Bishop Ussher 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 (Paris), in which the "Martyrium" closes the collection. The "Martyrium" presents the confrontation of the bishop Ignatius with Trajan at Antioch, a familiar trope of "Acta" of the martyrs, and many details of the long, partly overland voyage to Rome.

After St. Ignatius' martyrdom in the Flavian Amphitheatre, 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 to the Tychaeum, or Temple of Tyche which was converted into a Catholic church dedicated to Ignatius. In 637 the relics were translated to the Church of St Clement in Rome.

The letters of St. Ignatius have proved to be important testimony to the development of Catholic theology, 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 sentences and an unsystematic succession of thought. Ignatius is one of the earliest Catholic writers to re-emphasize loyalty to a single bishop in each city (or diocese) who is assisted by both presbyters (priests, a.k.a. elders) and deacons. 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 three offices of bishop, priest (presbyter) and deacon appear apostolic in origin, sometimes the titles of "bishop" and "presbyter" could be used for both offices.

St. Ignatius stressed the value of the Eucharist, 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 shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus to bravely face martyrdom.

St. Ignatius is claimed to be the first known Christian writer to argue in favor of Christianity's replacement of the Sabbath with the Lord's Day:

He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word "katholikos" (καθολικός), meaning "universal," to describe the church, writing:

It is from the word "katholikos" that the word "catholic" 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 first century.

On the Eucharist, Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:

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


* [http://www.bennozuiddam.com/Ignatius.pdf Holy Letters and Syllables, the function and character of Scripture Authority in the writings of St Ignatius "(Contains biography Ignatius as well. Doctoral thesis University of the Orange Free State 1997, Dutch, pdf)"]

External links

* [http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ignatius.html Early Christian writings: "On-line texts of St. Ignatius' letters"]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07644a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Ignatius of Antioch"]
* [http://mb-soft.com/believe/txv/ignatiu8.htm The Short Syriac Version]
* [http://www.romanity.org/htm/rom.11.en.the_ecclesiology_of_st._ignatius_of_antioch.01.htm The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch] by Fr. John S. Romanides
* [http://www.ntcanon.org/Ignatius.shtml Saint Ignatius]
* [http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/20_10_0030-0100-_Ignatius_Antiochensis,_Sanctus.html Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Graeca with analytical indexes]

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