Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistle to the Church of Smyrna [Part #2]

Detail from a painting showing Ignatius of Antioch being devoured by wild beasts in the arena at Rome. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ignatius_of_Antioch.jpg
Detail from a painting showing Ignatius of Antioch being devoured by wild beasts in the arena at Rome. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ignatius_of_Antioch.jpg

[Chapters 1—3] [Chapters 4—8] [Chapters 9—13]

Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1. Thanks to God for your faith

Chapter 2. Christ’s true passion

Chapter 3. Christ possessed a body after his resurrection

Chapter 4. Beware of these heretics

Chapter 5. Their dangerous errors

Chapter 6. Unbelievers in the blood of Christ shall be condemned

Chapter 7. Let us stand aloof from such heretics

Chapter 8. Let nothing be done without the bishop

Chapter 9. Honour the bishop

Chapter 10. Acknowledgment of their kindness

Chapter 11. Request to them to send a messenger to Antioch

Chapter 12. Salutations

Chapter 13. Conclusion

Chapter 4. Beware of these heretics

I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that you also hold the same opinions [as I do]. But I guard you beforehand from those beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but if possible, not even meet with; only you must pray to God for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance — which, however, will be very difficult. Yet Jesus Christ, who is our true life,[1] has the power of [effecting] this.

“But if these things were done by our Lord only in appearance, then I also am bound only in appearance. And why then have I also surrendered myself to death, to fire, to the sword, to the wild beasts? But in fact, he who is near to the sword is near to God; he that is among the wild beasts is in company with God: provided only that he is so in the name of Jesus Christ. I undergo all these things so that I may suffer together with him, he who became a perfect man inwardly strengthening me.”

Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, chapter 4

But if these things were done by our Lord only in appearance, then I also am bound only in appearance. And why [then] have I also surrendered myself to death, to fire, to the sword, to the wild beasts? But [in fact], he who is near to the sword is near to God; he that is among the wild beasts is in company with God: provided only that he is so in the name of Jesus Christ. I undergo all these things so that I may suffer together with him,[2] he who became a perfect man inwardly strengthening me.[3]

Chapter 5. Their dangerous errors

Some ignorantly[4] deny him — or rather have been denied by him — being the advocates of death rather than of the truth. These persons neither the prophets have persuaded, nor the Law of Moses, nor the gospel even to this day, nor the sufferings we have individually endured. For they also think the same thing regarding us.[5]

For what does anyone profit me, if he commends me but blasphemes my Lord, not confessing that he [truly] possessed a body?[6] But he who does not acknowledge this, has in fact altogether denied him, being enveloped in death.[7] I have not, however, thought it good to write the names of such persons, inasmuch as they are unbelievers. Indeed, far be it from me to make any mention of them, until they repent and return to [a true belief in] Christ’s Passion, which is our resurrection.

Chapter 6. Unbelievers in the blood of Christ shall be condemned

Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels,[8] and rulers both visible and invisible, if they do not believe in the blood of Christ, shall in consequence incur condemnation.[9] “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”[10]

Do not let [high] place puff anyone up: for the whole [of our calling] is faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred. But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come to us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; [no care] of the slave, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty.

Chapter 7. Let us stand aloof from such heretics

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer,[11] because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, and whom the Father, [out] of his goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes.[12] But it were better for them to treat it with respect,[13] so that they also might rise again.

It is right, therefore, that you should keep aloof from such persons, and not speak of[14] them either in private or in public, but [instead] give heed to the prophets, and above all to the gospel, in which the Passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully perfected. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.

Chapter 8. Let nothing be done without the bishop

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father; and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution[15] of God.

Let no man do anything connected with the church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper[16] 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 be also; 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.[17]

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This translation is © 2018 Graham Harter.

 

 

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[1] cf. 1 John 5:20

[2] cf. Romans 8:17

[3] cf. Philippians 4:13

[4] Or, “foolishly”

[5] i.e., As they imagine Christ to have suffered only in appearance, so they believe that we suffer in vain.

[6] Literally, “was a flesh-bearer”

[7] Literally, “being a death-bearer”

[8] Literally, “the glory of the angels”

[9] Literally, “judgement is to them”

[10] Matthew 19:12

[11] Theodoret, in quoting this passage, reads προφοράς, “offering.”

[12] Literally, “die disputing”

[13] Literally, “to love.” Some think there is here a reference to the agapae, or love-feasts (cf. Jude 12).

[14] The reading is περί in the one case, and μετά in the other, though the latter meaning seems preferable.

[15] Or, “command”

[16] Or, “firm”

[17] Or, “firm”

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