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The Epistles of St. Ignatius




ALL the epistles, with the exception of those to the Romans and to Polycarp, contain warnings against heresy. In the epistles to the Magnesians and Philadelphians Ignatius deals with a Judaistic error, which showed itself in a return to the ceremonialism of the Jewish law and in a setting up of the authority of the Old Testament against the Gospel (Magn. 8, 9, 10; Philad. 6, 8, 9). The epistle to the Philadelphians exhibits the more developed form of this tendency. In the epistles to the Trallians and Smyrnaeans Ignatius opposes a Docetic error which denied the reality of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and maintained that our Lord's body was a mere phantom. Cf. esp. Trall. 9, 10; Smyrn. 1, 2, 3. We see the more developed form of this tendency in the epistle to the Smyrnaeans. In both cases the false teaching had led finally to schism (Philad. 2, 3, 7; Smyrn. 6, 8, 9). From some references to Docetism in the epistles to the Magnesians and Philadelphians (Magn. 8, 9, 11; Philad. inscr., 3 (end), 4, 5) Lightfoot assumes that the two errors co-existed in some form of Docetic Judaism, which Ignatius attacks from different sides in the different epistles. This is also the view of Lipsius and Zahn, but it has been challenged by Hort (Judaistic Christianity, pp. 181-187) and Harnack (Expositor, March 1886, and Chronologie, pp. 389 n., 393). An intermediate view is held by Von der Goltz, Texte u. Unters., Bd. xii. 3.

There are no references to Judaism in the epistles to


the Ephesians, Trallians, and Smyrnaeans (unless we regard as such the references to the prophets and the law of Moses in Smyrn. 5, 7).  There the error is simply Docetic. The reference in Magn. 8 to 'strange doctrines' and 'ancient fables' probably refers to Rabbinical fables rather than to Gnostic myths (see notes on the passage).  In Magn. 9 and Philad. inscr. there are apparently references to Docetism.  In the former of the two passages, after speaking of 'our life' as having 'its rising through Him and His death,' Ignatius adds a parenthetical clause beginning, 'which fact some deny.'  The parenthesis, however, forms no part of his argument. In the second passage Ignatius speaks of the Philadelphian Church as 'rejoicing in the passion of our Lord and in His resurrection,' where his language may contain, as Lightfoot thinks, an allusion to the Docetic denial of the Passion.  But in any case neither passage contains more than an incidental reference to errors which were prominent in the writer's thoughts at the time. In Magn. 11, after the conclusion of the attack on the Judaistic teachers contained in cc. 8-10, Ignatius bids them 'be fully convinced of the birth and passion and resurrection, which came to pass in the time of the government of Pontius Pilate—events which truly and certainly were brought to pass by Jesus Christ.'  But the words do not necessarily form a part of the attack contained in cc. 8-10.  Ignatius may be merely thinking of the dangers to which other churches were exposed, and warning the Magnesians beforehand against them. But the most valuable piece of evidence is the epistle to the Philadelphians. Ignatius had visited this Church, and in addressing it he plainly refers to actually existing errors, of which he had personal experience. Here, if anywhere, we might expect to find traces of a mixture of Judaism and Docetism. Yet besides the passage which we have already quoted the only passages appealed to by Lightfoot are cc. 3 (end), 4, 5. 

In the first of these Ignatius says, 'If any man walks in strange opinions, he has no part in the Passion.'  In the second he bids them partake of one Eucharist, as


there is one flesh of Christ. Both these passages may quite easily refer to the separatist tendencies of heresy generally, as cutting men off from the unity of the Church and the benefits of the Passion of Christ.  In c. 5 Ignatius speaks of himself as 'taking refuge in the Gospel as the flesh of Jesus.'  Here again the allusion is too slight to convey any distinct controversial sense.  Had Ignatius been confronted with a form of heresy which combined Judaic and Docetic features, it is difficult to believe that his language would have been so vague and indirect.

Thus the language of the epistles does not require us to suppose that a form of Docetic Judaism was generally current in the churches.  Both Docetic and Judaistic influences were undoubtedly present to the mind of Ignatius when he wrote his epistles. But whether in any particular church the one or the other, or both in combination, were found, depends upon the internal evidence of each epistle. From what we know of the foreign influences which had invaded the Jews of the Dispersion in the first and second centuries, it is not a priori unlikely that such a combination might exist, but it would require much stronger language than that of the passages Magn. 9, 11; Philad. 3, 8; Smyrn. 5, 7, to demonstrate its presence in the three churches addressed in those epistles. It is only natural to suppose that the memory of the dangers arising from both forms of error would colour the thought and language of Ignatius at the time, even when he was writing to churches not directly in danger. The remaining epistles show no trace of a combination of the two errors.

The Docetic heresy arose out of the oriental mystical spirit, which found a difficulty in believing in the contact of the Supreme God with matter. There are traces of a similar heresy in the false teaching alluded to in 1 John iv. 3, 2 John 7, and in Polycarp's epistle to the Philippians (c. 7). The Johannine epistles, however, probably have in view the teaching of Cerinthus, which was not properly Docetic. The Docetism attacked in the present epistles was 'thorough-going.'


It was applied to the whole earthly life of our Lord from the Birth to the Resurrection.

This is a sign of early date, as Docetism tended to become modified as time went on. This 'thorough-going' Docetism finds a parallel in the teaching of Saturnilus, who was a contemporary and fellow-citizen of Ignatius. The epistles contain no traces of the features of the later Gnostic systems of Valentinus, Basilides, and Marcion.

The Jewish or Ebionite heresy was a development of the Pharisaic Judaism, of which we see the beginnings in the teaching attacked by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians. It appears, however, that circumcision was no longer insisted on, for in Philad. 6 we read, 'It is better to hear Christianity from one who is circumcised, than to hear Judaism from an uncircumcised man.' This is in accordance with what we know of the later development of this heresy.

Both forms of heresy were dishonouring to the Person of Christ. Docetism denied the reality of His Manhood.  Ebionism started from an imperfect conception of His Person, and ended by denying His Divinity.  Both alike found a stumbling-block in the Passion, with its teaching of a Divine sufferer and a crucified Messiah. Both heresies in their developed form (see above) resulted in separatism, and gave occasion to an emphatic assertion by Ignatius of the unity of the Church. 


THE statement in the Introduction, § iv. pp. 32 f., that in the New Testament and the early sub-apostolic writers the words 'bishop' and 'presbyter' are applied to the same person represents a fact which did not escape the notice of Church writers in ancient times. One attempt to explain the transfer of the name 'bishop' to the single monarchical ruler of the Ignatian epistles and


later times is that of Theodore of Mopsuestia in the fifth century. According to this writer the Church officers who are now called bishops were formerly called apostles, and ruled not single churches, but whole provinces. He represents St. Paul as appointing Timothy to rule the province of Asia and Titus to rule over Crete. But when the original Apostles passed away, their successors, recognizing that they fell far short of them in the character of their gifts and in other ways, shrank from retaining the name 'apostle,' and chose instead the name of 'bishop,' reserving the word 'presbyter' to the inferior office which now bears that name.  As bishops were multiplied, not only were they appointed to particular towns and provinces, but each locality came to have its own bishop.[1] This theory is criticized by Bishop Lightfoot (Philippians, p. 195 f.)  The Apostles, whether we use the term of the Twelve and St. Paul, or in the wider sense of the original founders of Churches, held no localized office. They were missionaries and moved about from place to place. Moreover the statement of Theodore that episcopacy spread from the provincial area to the smaller localities is not borne out by facts. The epistles of Ignatius prove the contrary, and show that the bishop's office was not in any sense 'diocesan.'  The germ of truth contained in Theodore's statement is the fact that the missionary Apostles of the first days exercised a general supervision over the churches which they founded, and that the supreme power of this general and itinerant ministry came eventually into the hands of the single 'bishop' who belonged to the local ministry.[2]

In modern times discussion has largely turned on the relationship between this general ministry of the first Apostles and the local ministry of presbyters (or presbyter-bishops) and deacons which preceded the threefold ministry as we see it in Ignatius.

Bishop Lightfoot in his essay on 'The Christian Ministry' (Philippians, pp. 181 f.) starts with the repre-

[1] Theodore Mops., Comm. in 1 Tim. iii. 8.
[2] Cf. Turner, Camb. Medieval History, 1 145.


sentation in Acts of the Twelve as the 'sole directors and administrators of the Church.'  Owing to the increasing burden of work, the less important functions were soon delegated to others.  First came the appointment of the Seven (Acts vi.) in whose office he sees a correspondence with the later diaconate, though the name 'deacon' is not used).[1]  The next stage, the appearance of the office of presbyters, first comes to light (Acts xi. 30) in close connection with the persecution of Herod, which appears to have led to the dispersion of the Twelve. Henceforth we read of presbyters as directing the affairs of the Church at Jerusalem. The office may have been created on the analogy of the 'elders' of the Jewish synagogue.  But, once created, it extended to other regions, and Paul and Barnabas are represented on their first missionary journey as establishing presbyters in the churches which they founded (Acts xiv. 23). The term 'bishop' first appears in connection with Gentile Churches, and then as a synonym for 'presbyter.'  Whether it was adopted from the analogy of the similar title applied to the directors of Greek religious and social clubs (as Dr. Hatch supposed) cannot be determined. But the name is applied in one passage (Acts xx. 28) to those who have previously been spoken of as 'presbyters' (the 'elders' of Ephesus, see v. 17), while elsewhere (Phil. i.1) 'bishops' are spoken of, along with 'deacons,' in a way that suggests that presbyters are referred to. Similarly in the Pastoral Epistles Lightfoot urges that the same identification is to be made (see Tit. i. 5, 7; 1 Tim. iii. 1-7). Presbyters appear in 1 Pet. v. 5 and also in James v. 14. The same terminology appears when we pass outside the New Testament to the sub-apostolic period.  In Clement of Rome and the Didache we read of 'bishops and deacons' (Clement, ad Cor. 42, Didache 15)—though the former uses 'bishop' and 'presbyter' as convertible terms (cp. ad Cor. 44)—and in Polycarp (ad Philipp. 5, 6) 'presbyters and deacons.' On the strength of this

[1] The words διακονειν and διακονια ('serve,' 'ministration') are, however, used in this connection. See Acts vi. 1, 2.


evidence Lightfoot holds that the local churches were under the direction of presbyter-bishops, whose function was to rule and teach, and that the monarchical episcopate was developed out of this subordinate office. In the position of St. James at Jerusalem (see esp. Acts xxi. 18, cf. Introd. p. 33) he sees the pattern and precedent of this later development; and in the activity of St. John at Ephesus, according to the tradition preserved by Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian (see note on Trall. 7), he would see one of the main agencies in extending an organization which had been adopted in the mother church of Jerusalem.

The discovery of the Didache (or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), published by Bryennios in 1883, subsequent to the appearance of Lightfoot's essay, led to a fresh review of the history of the ministry. In this work, side by side with the local ministry of 'bishops and deacons,' we find itinerant apostles, prophets, and teachers, who visit the churches. The apostle is to be received as the Lord, but may not stay more than three days. Provision is made for prophets and teachers who wish to settle down in the community. The prophet when speaking in the spirit is to be above criticism. He is allowed to use extempore prayer when 'giving thanks,' and first-fruits are to be assigned to him, for, says the writer, 'they (the prophets) are your high-priests.'  At the same time bishops and deacons, whom they are bidden to elect for themselves, are not to be despised, but are to be held in honour along with the prophets and teachers, whose ministry they also exercise.  In this itinerant ministry of apostles, prophets, and teachers Harnack[1] sees a survival of an earlier teaching ministry, which owed its position, not to appointment by the Church, but to a special gift of inspiration, which enabled its possessors to 'speak the word of God,' and he contrasts this earlier 'charismatic'[2] ministry, to

[1] See Prolegomena to edition of Didache in Texte u. Untersuchungen (1884), and Constitution and Law of the Church in the first two centuries (E. tr. 1910).
[2] This use of the term 'charismatic' is criticized by Dean


which he attributes the most important influence in the direction of the early church, with the purely administrative local ministry of presbyters (or bishops) and deacons, who derived their appointment from the community. As the older charismatic ministry declined or fell into disrepute (the Didache contains warnings against 'false prophets'), the local ministry stepped into its place and exercised many of its functions. This theory has recently been discussed by the Dean of Wells (Dr. Armitage Robinson) in the volume of essays on The Early History of the Church and Ministry (pp. 59 ff.). He criticizes Harnack for reading back into the New Testament the conditions implied in the Didache, and for the use which he makes in support of his theory of such passages as 1 Cor. xii. 28, Eph. iv. 11 (which refer to functions rather than offices), and he denies that prophets and teachers in the New Testament stand out (along with apostles) as a definite official class, superior to the local presbyters, and exercising a ministry to the universal church. The conditions in the Didache, on the contrary, point to a stage at which the gift of prophecy, which in the Acts and Epistles is represented as a personal endowment, has become the badge of a professional class, with the attendant dangers of self-exaltation and deception. With Lightfoot it is reasonable to see in the 'helps' and 'governments' of 1 Cor. xii. 28, and the 'pastors and teachers' of Eph. iv. 11, an allusion to the permanent ministry of the Church, even though this is overshadowed by the more conspicuous gifts which were needed for the conversion of unbelievers and the founding of churches. These humbler offices had, too, their own charisma, or gift of the Holy Spirit, as we see from Acts xx. 28 and the language of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim. iv. 14; 2 Tim. i. 6).

Later discussions have somewhat modified Lightfoot's statement that the terms ' presbyter' and ' bishop' were

Robinson, Essays on Early History of Church and Ministry, edited by Dr. Swete (1918).


synonymous.  Dr. Hort (Christian Ecclesia, pp. 190 ff.) maintained that the word 'bishop' was not a mere synonym, but denoted a function exercised by the presbyter—the function of 'oversight.'  More recent scholars [1] have maintained a distinction between the presbyter and the 'bishop.'   According to this view the word 'elders' ('presbyters') is used in our early sources in a more general and in a more particular sense. On the one hand, there is a wider class of 'elders' who are contrasted with the younger members of the community (1 Tim. v. 1; 1 Pet. v. 5; cf. Tit. ii. 2-6).  On the other hand, there are 'elders' who rule (1 Tim. v. 17), and who are probably to be identified with the 'rulers' of Rom. xii. 28, 1 Thess. v. 12, Heb. xiii. 7.  These latter have an official status; and they are appointed (cf. Acts xiv. 23, Tit. i. 5, Clement of Rome, ad Cor. 54). In the Church of Jerusalem they appear to have acted as an advisory and ruling council (Acts xi. 30, xv. 4, xxi. 18). Some of them at least exercised pastoral duties (1 Pet. v. 2) and were occupied in the ministry of the word and teaching (1 Tim. v. 17; Heb. xiii. 7).  These facts explain their position in the Ignatian epistles, where they appear as a 'council' associated with the bishop.

According to this view 'bishops' would be selected from, and appointed by, the official presbyters to execute certain functions. The evidence of our sources suggests that these functions were threefold: (i) the representation of the local church in its external relations with other churches. Of this we have an illustration in the position occupied by Clement of Rome, who writes to the Corinthians to protest against the wrongful dismissal of some presbyters as a violation of church order. Similarly Hermas (Vis. ii. 4) is instructed to send one copy of his book to Clement, who is to 'send it to the foreign cities, for this is his duty.'

(2) Closely connected with the previous function is the administration of the finances of the Church. This would be necessary in view of the duty of providing

[1] See, e.g., Bernard, Pastoral Epp. pp. lvi ff;  Harnack, Constitution and Law of the Church, pp. 67 f., 69 f.


hospitality for those who came from other churches, and of supervising the charities of the Church.  Hence we find the injunction that the bishop be 'given to hospitality' (1 Tim. iii. 2; Tit. i. 8), while in Justin (Ap. i, 67) the money collected for orphans and widows is to be deposited with 'the president.'

(3) Lastly, there is the connection of the bishop with the worship of the Church, centring in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus in the Didache (c. 15) the election of 'bishops and deacons' is referred to in connexion with the Eucharist, and in Clement of Rome (c. 44) the 'offering of the gifts' (i. e. in the Eucharist) is spoken of as a function of the bishop's office (cf. Ignatius, Smyrn. 8).

In the matters of finance and worship we find the deacons closely associated with the 'bishop,' and similar qualifications are required of them both (cf. 1 Tim. iii. 3, 8; Didache 15).  Deacons are closely associated with the 'president' in Justin's account of the Eucharist (Ap. i. 65, 67).  The position of the Seven in Acts vi. 1-6 is an early indication of a similar function with regard to finance.

According to this view, while all bishops would be presbyters, all presbyters would not necessarily be bishops, as the latter, though chosen from the former, had functions of their own, though we cannot always sharply distinguish between the duties fulfilled by each. Teaching and the ministry of the word are assigned to both presbyters and bishops (1 Tim. v. 17 ; 1 Tim. iii. 2); in the Didache (c. 15) bishops and deacons are said to 'minister the ministry of prophets and teachers'; and Hermas (Vis. iii. 5) similarly connects bishops and deacons with apostles and teachers.

The distinction between bishops and presbyters which has been drawn above does not, however, alter the fact that there were several 'bishops ' in each local church. The stages by which the single bishop came to be supreme in the local church are hidden from us. The development was not uniform in all churches. When the Apostles, who had exercised a general supervision


over the churches founded by them passed away, the colleges of ruling presbyters established by them in the various churches would feel the need of a president, who could act as an executive official, as the presiding minister at the Eucharist, and as the representative of the church in its external relations.

Ignatius nowhere speaks of the bishops as 'succeeding to' the Apostles.  The idea, however, of a 'succession' in the ministry and the belief that the Apostles had provided for it are found in Clement of Rome (ad Cor. 44).[1]  Ignatius, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of the bishop as the centre of unity in the local church (Smyrn. 8), while the unity of the church universal finds its organ of expression in 'the bishops established in the furthest quarters,' who are 'in the mind of Jesus Christ,' as Jesus Christ is 'the Mind of the Father' (Eph. 3).

Thus the local ministry, established in the first instance by the missionary apostles of early days, though obscured for a time by the more striking and exceptional endowments of missionary prophets and teachers, when these had passed away, gathered into itself the permanent powers of the apostolate, and in the episcopate provided the Church with an organ for the expression of the unity of the whole.


THE story of the martyrdom of Ignatius is current in five different forms.

1. The Antiochene Acts, current in Greek, Latin, and Syriac.
2. The Roman Acts, current in Greek and Coptic.
3. The Bollandist Acts (Latin).
4. The Armenian Acts.
5. The Acts of Symeon the Metaphrast (Greek).

[1] On the history of the idea of 'apostolic succession' see the essay by C. H. Turner in Essays on the Early History of the Church and Ministry (edited by Dr. Swete), pp. 95 ff.


Of these the last three forms show their dependence upon (1) and (2), the narratives of which they combine in various ways. On the other hand the Antiochene and Roman Acts are plainly independent. Hence our attention may be confined to them.

The Roman Acts are the longer of the two forms, and exhibit a more developed legendary character than we find in the Antiochene Acts. According to the account which they contain, the trial before Trajan took place at Rome in the presence of the Senate. A long dialogue ensues between Trajan and Ignatius, in which the Senate occasionally intervenes. Trajan at first makes overtures to his prisoner and promises to appoint him high-priest of Zeus and give him a share in his kingdom, if he will abjure Christianity and sacrifice to the gods. As this proves unavailing, he threatens him with various forms of torture. On his part Ignatius heaps ridicule on the heathen gods and vindicates Christianity. After torture has proved unavailing, Trajan orders him to be left in prison without food for three days and then to be cast to the wild beasts. On the third day Trajan, attended by the Senate and the prefect, proceeds to the amphitheatre, where a great concourse is assembled. The endurance of the martyr excites the Emperor's wonder, and as he is still obdurate, the final sentence is carried out, and the wild beasts are let loose upon him. The beasts, however, only crushed him to death, without touching his flesh, 'so that his reliques might be a means of protection to the great city of the Romans, in which Peter also was crucified and Paul was beheaded and Onesimus was perfected ' (c. 10).

Trajan is amazed at the circumstances of the martyr's death, and receiving about the same time letters from Pliny the governor with reference to the Christians, he issues a decree ordering that the Christians should not be sought out, but only punished when found. At the same time he permits the burial of the martyr's reliques. 'Then,' we read, 'the brethren in Rome, to whom also he had sent word that they should not sue for his deliverance from martyrdom and so rob him of the hope 


which he cherished, took his body and laid it where it was possible for them to gather together and praise God and His Christ for the perfecting of the holy bishop and martyr Ignatius. For "the memory of the righteous is highly praised." ' [1]

The Acts conclude with a quotation of the references made to Ignatius and Irenaeus and Polycarp.

The work is plainly a romance and cannot be shown even to be based on earlier documents.

'The exaggerated tortures inflicted on the saint, the length and character of the discourses attributed to him and the strange overtures made to him by the Emperor, all alike are fatal to the credit of the narrative.'[2]

The date of these Acts can only be inferred within rough limits. The writer shows traces of acquaintance with, and dependence on, the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. He appears also to have known the interpolated version of the Ignatian Epistles, which, as we have seen, probably belongs to the latter half of the fourth century.

The story of Ignatius, as contained in these Acts, is made use of by Latin martyrologists of the ninth century, not however in its original form, but in combination with the narrative of the Antiochene Acts.  Hence Lightfoot thinks they may have been written at some period during the fifth or sixth centuries.

As to the place of writing, the fact that Greek appears to be the original language of the work shows that they do not come from the Roman Church, where Greek had ceased to be spoken long before this time. Lightfoot adduces several indications in favour of Alexandria in Egypt as their birthplace. The mention of the month Panemus (which belongs to the Alexandrian reckoning), the attack made by Ignatius on animal worship, and lastly the fact that these Acts alone were translated into Coptic, favours Lightfoot's conclusion. The relations of Alexandria and Rome, and the prominence of Rome in the narrative, may account for the circulation of these Acts in the West.

[1] c. 11
[2] Lightfoot, vol. ii. p. 377. 


The Antiochene Acts stand on a somewhat higher level. Their genuineness has been maintained by Ussher and Pearson as well as by many modern writers.  In these Acts the centre of interest is mainly Antioch, where the trial takes place, and where the reliques are finally deposited.

After describing the government of the Church at Antioch by Ignatius, 'the disciple of the Apostle John, a man in every way of apostolic life,' the narrative proceeds to describe the visit of Trajan to Antioch, in the ninth year of his reign, after his victory over the Scythians and Dacians, and his resolve to complete his conquests by subduing the Christians.  Ignatius is brought before him, and the following dialogue takes place. 'Who art thou, possessed of a devil, that art so ready to disobey our commands, and to persuade others also to come to a miserable death?'  Ignatius said, 'No man calleth him that carries God within him devil-possessed, for the devils keep far from the servants of God. But if, because I am burdensome to these, thou callest me a wretch toward devils, I agree. For because I have Christ, a heavenly king, I overthrow their plots.'  Trajan said,  'And who is he that beareth God?'  Ignatius answered, 'He that hath Christ in his breast.'  Trajan said, 'Dost thou then think that we have not gods in our hearts, forasmuch as we use them as allies against our enemies?'  Ignatius said,  'Thou art in error in calling the devils of the nations gods. For there is one God, Who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them, and there is one Christ Jesus, His only begotten Son, Whose friendship may I enjoy.'  Trajan said, 'Meanest thou him that was crucified under Pontius Pilate?'  Ignatius said, 'I mean Him that hath crucified sin and the deviser thereof, and hath condemned all wickedness of devils to be trampled under foot of them that bear Him in their hearts.'  Trajan said, 'Dost thou then bear Christ within thyself?' Ignatius said, 'Yea, for it is written, I will dwell in them and walk in them.' Trajan thereupon sentences him to be taken to Rome and to be thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre.


The route is next described. Ignatius sails from Seleucia to Smyrna, where he visits Polycarp, the bishop, his fellow-student and disciple under John. The Churches of Asia send their bishops, presbyters, and deacons to welcome him, and men flock to him to receive a blessing from him. Then follows the letter to the Romans and the account of his fears lest he should be respited.  From Smyrna he sails to Troas and Neapolis, thence through Philippi across Macedonia and Epirus to Epidamnus, where he takes ship to Portus. He had desired, we are told, to land at Puteoli, that he might tread in the footsteps of St. Paul, but unfavourable winds prevent this. Having set out from Portus, he is met by the brethren, whom he addresses at length, and after having prayed to the Son of God for the peace and love of the churches, he is conducted into the amphitheatre. It was the great 'thirteenth day,' and the sports were drawing to a close. Only the tougher parts of his reliques were left, and so his prayer was fulfilled, that he might not be burdensome to any of the brethren (Rom. 4). The bones were carried back to Antioch and laid in a sarcophagus as 'a priceless treasure to the holy Church.'  On the night of his martyrdom he appears to several of his companions.  To some he appears standing over them and embracing them, others see him praying over them, others again see him 'dripping with sweat, as one that had come out of great toil and standing by the Lord with great boldness and unspeakable glory.'

Like the Roman Acts, this narrative betrays its spurious character. In the first place the journey by sea from Seleucia is inconsistent with the genuine letters, which plainly indicate an overland route, as was seen by Eusebius (H. E. iii. 36) and the compiler of the Roman Acts (c. 1). The visit of Trajan to Antioch 'in the ninth year of his reign' is unknown to history, while the expedition to Parthia, for which he is said in the Acts to have been preparing, did not take place till several years later.  The account of the reliques reads like the language of one writing in a later age. Moreover the Acts are not quoted before the end of the sixth century. As we have


seen, Eusebius contradicts their account of the journey, nor does he mention the interview with Trajan.  Chrysostom in his oration on Ignatius nowhere alludes to the story of the Acts.  The earliest historian who shows any acquaintance with them is Evagrius, who wrote at the close of the sixth century.

There are, however, a few incidents in the latter part of the journey which, it has been thought, may be based upon some true traditions. Ignatius's desire to land at Puteoli, in order to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul, and the disappointment of his wish, are thought by Lightfoot to exhibit an 'air of truthfulness, or at least of verisimilitude.'

So, too, the appearances of Ignatius to his friends on the night of the martyrdom offer, it is urged, parallels to incidents in other genuine narratives. But against the view that a contemporary letter of the saint's companions has been incorporated into the narrative, Lightfoot himself urges the objection that it is improbable that such a document should not have come to light before the fifth or sixth century.

We are thus thrown back upon the letters themselves for the information which we seek about their author, and the traditions of later ages in this case add nothing that is reliable to our knowledge.

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