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The Epistles of St. Ignatius


[Philadelphia, a city of Lydia, lay upon the great road which connected Northern Phrygia and Galatia with Sardis and touched the AEgaean at Smyrna. It does not appear to have attained any great importance, but from the number of its temples and festivals it received the name of 'little Athens.' This shows that it was a stronghold of the ancient religion. The first mention of the Christian Church there is in Rev. iii. 7-13. It probably dates from the stay of St. Paul at Ephesus (see Acts xix.). Already in Rev. iii. 9 the mention of the Jews occupies an important place, and there are traces of Judaistic error. But the Church as a whole receives high commendation (Rev. iii. 8, 10). In after days the city won great renown for its long resistance to the Turks, but it finally capitulated in 1390 A.D. The present city, Ala-Shehr, contains a considerable Christian population under a resident Greek bishop.
     Ignatius had passed through Philadelphia (cc. 1, 6, 7) and Smyrna on his way to Troas. Accordingly, whereas in writing to the Ephesians, Trallians, and Magnesians, he warns them generally against heresy, without directly charging them with it, in the present epistle he is dealing with the dangers actually existing in a Church with which he is personally acquainted.
     The heresy which he attacks is plainly Judaistic (cc. 6, 8, 9), of a strongly developed character. The false teachers had organized themselves apparently into a schism (cc. 3, 7). The traces of Docetism are only incidental (see inscr. and cc. 3, 8). They are not sufficient to justify the view that the heresy was current at Philadelphia (see Add. Note I). Nor is it necessary with Harnack (Expositor, March 1886, and Chronologie, pp. 389 n., 393 n.) to see in cc. 8, 9 traces of a third tendency. The passages most naturally refer to the Judaistic teachers. See notes.
     This epistle was one of the three epistles written from Troas. Ignatius had been joined at that place by two friends, who had followed his route and had stayed at Philadelphia. There they had been welcomed by the Church as a whole, but had in some way been slighted, probably by the heretical party, who also appear to have brought false charges against Ignatius (see cc. 6, 11). These incidents called forth the present letter.]

IGNATIUS, who is also Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and Jesus Christ which is at


Philadelphia in Asia,[1] to her who has received mercy and is established in godly concord and rejoices in the passion[2] of our Lord and in His resurrection without wavering, being fully persuaded in all mercy; her I salute in the blood of Jesus Christ; seeing that it is eternal and enduring joy, especially if they be at one with the bishop and with the presbyters who are with him, and with the deacons appointed according to the mind[3] of Jesus Christ; whom of His own will He established, confirming them by His Holy Spirit. 

I. For I perceived that this bishop of yours did not owe to himself or to the agency of men [4] his ministry, which pertains to the common good, nor does he hold it with vain glory, but in the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. For I have been amazed at his forbearance; who by his silence effects more than those who speak. For he is tuned in harmony[5] with the commandments as a lyre with its strings. Therefore my soul blesses his godly purpose, perceiving that it is virtuous and perfect, even his unruffled and quiet spirit, since he lives in all godly forbearance.[6]

II. As children therefore of truth flee division and false doctrines, and where the shepherd is there follow as

[1] i. e. in the Roman province of Asia. According to local divisions Philadelphia was in Lydia.
[2] Ignatius is continually dwelling on the Passion of Christ. It is possible that here, as Lightfoot suggests, his language is influenced by the remembrance of the Docetic denial of the Passion.
[3] The appointment of these deacons by the Church and its officers had been confirmed by the gift of the Holy Spirit, conveying to them the sanction of Christ Himself
[4] An echo of Gal. i. 1.
[5] The metaphor here is confused and difficult. Unless the text is corrupt, and we read in the last part of the sentence, 'as the strings with the lyre,' we must attribute the expression to the extreme haste of composition, which this epistle exhibits also in other parts.
[6] The words may also mean, 'in all forbearance inspired by a living God.'


sheep. For there are many wolves[1] who by specious professions lead captive with fatal pleasures the runners in God's course;[2] but while you continue in unity these shall have no place.

III. Abstain from evil herbs,[3] whose husbandman [4] is not Jesus Christ, because they are not the planting of the Father.[5] I say not this because I found division among you but rather sifting.[6] For as many as are of God and Jesus Christ, these are with the bishop. And as many as repent and enter the unity of the Church, they also shall belong to God, that they may be living according to Jesus Christ. Be not deceived, my brethren. If any one follow a man that causes schism, he does not inherit God's kingdom. If any man walks in strange opinions, he has no part in the passion. 

IV. Therefore give heed to keep one Eucharist.[7] For there is one flesh [8] of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup unto union with His blood. There is one altar,[9] as

[1] This recalls Matt. vii. 15. Cf. John x. 12. Acts xx. 29.
[2] The favourite Pauline metaphor. Cf. Gal. v. 7, 1 Cor. ix. sq.
[3] Cf. Trall. 6.
[4] Cf. John xv. 1, 1 Cor. iii. 9.
[5] Cf. Matt. xv. 13, and see Trall. 11.
[6] The Philadelphians had separated themselves from these heretics. Hence Ignatius will not use the word 'division,' which might imply censure, but uses instead, 'sifting,' literally 'filtering.' Cf. Rom. inscr.
[7] Cf. Smyrn.8. With the exception of the reference in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, c. 9, these passages of Ignatius are the earliest certain instances of the name 'Eucharist' applied to the Holy Communion. In Clement of Rome, c. 41, however, the verb ευχαριστειν, 'to give thanks,' is used of the public service of the Church, and probably refers to the Eucharist.
[8] Cf. 1 Cor. x. 16, 17, which probably suggested this language.
[9] θυσιαστηριον. See Magn. 7 (note). As we have seen, in that passage the word means probably 'the court of the altar,' a sense which it plainly bears in Eph. 5 and Trall. 7. The idea was suggested by the arrangements of the Jewish tabernacle and temple. This may be the sense in Rev. xi. 1, as it is in Clement of Rome, c. 41. The common idea underlying all these passages is 'a place of sacrifice,' or 'a sanctuary.' In the present passage the 'sanctuary'


there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants; that whatsoever you do, you may do according unto God. 

V. My brethren, my soul is wholly poured out in love for you. And because I rejoice exceedingly, I put you on your guard, yet not I, but Jesus Christ, whose prisoner I am: and therefore I fear the more, since I am not yet perfected. But your prayer unto God shall perfect me, that I may attain unto that lot,[1] in which I have obtained mercy, because I took refuge in the Gospel as the flesh [2] of Jesus, and the Apostles[3] as the presbytery of the

is the Christian assembly gathered round the Eucharist, and forming the counterpart of the congregation of Israel. There is no certain and undisputed instance of the use of the word 'altar' to denote the Holy Table before Irenaeus (iv. 18. 6). 'The idea of the whole transaction of the Supper as a sacrifice is plainly found in the Didache (c. 14), in Ignatius, and, above all, in Justin (l. 65 f.).' —Harnack {Hist. of Dogma, Eng. tr. I. 209). The passage from the Didache (or Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles) urges that the celebration of the Eucharist should begin with a confession of sin, 'that our sacrifice may be pure.' Alike in the Didache and in Justin Martyr we find the prophecy Malachi i. 11 quoted and applied to the Eucharist.  Similarly Clement of Rome (cc. 40-44) compares the bishops and deacons with the Priests and Levites of the Old Testament, and mentions as the chief duty of the former 'to offer the gifts.'  In addition to the prayers and thanksgivings (Smyrn. 6, Eph. 13, cf. Didache 9), the alms (cf. Polyc. Phil. 4), and oblations of bread and wine (cf. Clement, cited supra), which were regarded as sacrifices, the association of these with the commemoration of Christ's sacrifice and 'the gift of God' in the Sacrament (Smyrn. 7, cf. Eph. 20), constituted the Christian sacrifice or thankoffering (Eucharist). See Justin, Trypho 41, and Irenaeus, iv. 17. 5.
[1] That is, martyrdom. Cf. Trall. 12.
[2] Cf. Trall. 8, note. The outward manifestations of Christ in His Incarnation is the substance of the Gospel.  Zahn suggests the further thought that after the Ascension the preaching of the Gospel took the place of the earthly manifestation of the Lord.
[3] The 'Gospel' and the 'Apostles' plainly refer to the authorities on which Ignatius bases his faith. Some have seen in the words an allusion to two distinct collections of writings, i. e. our four Gospels and the collection of the Apostolic epistles.  From the fact that Polycarp in his one short epistle quotes nine out of the thirteen


Church. And the prophets morever we love,[1] because they too looked forward to the Gospel in their preaching, and hoped in Him and waited for Him; in Whom also they believed and were saved[2] in the unity of Jesus Christ, for they were worthy of our love and admiration, being holy men, testified of by Jesus Christ and enrolled together in the Gospel of our common hope.

VI. If any man in his interpretation[3] set forth Judaism unto you, hear him not. For it is better to hear Christianity from one who is circumcised than to hear Judaism from an uncircumcised man.[4] But if both speak not of Jesus Christ, I reckon them to be tombstones and graves of the dead,[5] whereon are inscribed merely names of men. Flee therefore the malicious arts and snares of the prince of this world,[6] lest being worn out by his suggestions you grow weak in love. But meet together, all of you, with an


epistles of St. Paul we may conclude that he possessed a collection of these epistles. In the time of Justin (circa 150 A.D.) we learn that gospels were read at the Sunday Eucharist. We should be assuming, however, too much in saying that in the time of Ignatius the collection of the four gospels had acquired a fixed authority side by side with that of the old Testament prophets, and distinct from the Apostolic epistles. The words are probably a more general expression for the Gospel as publicly taught and set forth in the writings, whether gospels or epistles, of the Apostles.
[1] Probably Ignatius has in mind the Judaizers who set up the authority of the Old Testament books and priesthood (cf. c. 9) against the Gospel. He may be replying to some charge laid against the teaching of the Church as disparaging the Old Testament. For his treatment of the prophets cf. Magn. 8 (notes).
[2] Cf. Magn. 9 (notes).
[3] That is, the interpretation of the Old Testament and especially the prophets. The allusion is to the interpretations of the Judaizers.
[4] The uncircumcised man is a Gentile Christian who has a tendency to Judaistic practices. Among such practices circumcision was evidently at this time not included. This corresponds with what we know of the later developments of Ebionism.
[5] Cf. Matt, xxiii. 27. Harnack sees in the following words a reference to Rev. iii. 12.
[6] Cf. Eph. 17 (note).


undivided heart.  I thank my God that I have a good conscience in regard to you, and no man can boast that either in secret or openly I have been burdensome to any one [1] in things great or small. Yea, and for all among whom I have spoken I pray that my words may not prove to be a witness against them.

VII. For even if after the flesh some wished to lead me astray, yet the Spirit is not deceived since it is from God. For it knoweth whence it cometh and whither it goeth,[2] and it convicts the things which are in secret. I cried aloud, when I was among you,[3] I spake with a loud voice, with the voice of God, 'Give heed unto the bishop and the presbytery and deacons.'  But they suspected[4] that I said this because I knew beforehand the division caused by some;[5] yet He is my witness, Whose prisoner I am, that I learned it not from human flesh. But it was the Spirit[6] Who kept preaching in these words: 'Do nothing without the bishop. Keep your flesh as a shrine of God. Love union. Flee divisions. Become followers of Jesus Christ as He also was of the Father.'

[1] Cf. 2 Cor. xi. 9, xii. 16, 1 Thess. ii. 6. Probably Ignatius is meeting some charge made against himself in reference to his conduct while at Philadelphia. The charge may refer to overbearing conduct. How he came to know of such charges is explained in c. 11.
[2] In addition to John iii. 8, there are parallels to the expression 'knoweth not whence . . . goeth' in John viii. 14, ix. 29, xii. 35, 1 John ii. 11, and other passages. On the affinities of thought and language between the Epistles of Ignatius and the Fourth Gospel see Introd. p. 29.
[3] On the route of Ignatius, see Introd. § 3.
[4] The text is in some confusion. Lightfoot's reading has been adopted.
[5] The Judaistic party had plainly organized themselves into a schism. Cf. c. 3.
[6] Ignatius here speaks of himself as the recipient of a spiritual revelation. The gift of prophecy had not yet died out. Similarly Polycarp is called 'an apostolic and prophetic teacher' {Mart. Polyc. 16).


VIII. I therefore have done my own part as a man perfectly established in union. But where there is division and wrath, God dwells not. Therefore the Lord forgives all that repent, if on their repentance they turn to the unity of God and the council of the bishop. I believe in the grace of Jesus Christ, Who shall loose from off you every bond.[1] Moreover, I entreat you, act not in any matter in the spirit of faction, but as disciples of Christ. For I have heard some saying, 'Except I find it in the archives [2] I believe it not in the Gospel.' And when I said to them, 'It is written,'[3] they answered me, 'That is the question in dispute.'  But my archives[4] are Jesus Christ; the inviolable

[1] Cf. Is. lviii. 6, which is quoted by several early Christian writers. The bond refers probably, as Lightfoot says, to the power of evil generally.
[2] The Greek text and the Latin version read in place of 'archives' a word which may be translated either 'ancient writings' or 'ancient writers.' But as the word 'archives' occurs twice below it should probably be read in this place also.  The word originally means 'a place where records are kept,' and then came to be used of the documents themselves. The reference here is to a collection of ancient authoritative records, i. e. the Old Testament, which these writers set up as an authority against the Gospel, and with which they required the Gospel to agree. Others, however, understand 'archives' to mean the original copies of the Gospel, with which is contrasted the traditional Gospel as preached and taught.  These teachers would then be represented as claiming that the Gospel had been falsified, and we should translate, 'Except I find it in the archives, that is, in the (written) Gospel, I do not believe it.'  This rendering, however, gives an unjustifiable sense to the word 'Gospel' and does not suit the argument of the chapter so well.
[2] Ignatius claims that the points in question are found in the Old Testament. The allusion is doubtless to the Cross, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which were a stumbling-block alike to Judaizers and to those who held Docetic views. A similar appeal to the Old Testament had been made in the first age of the Church. Cf. Luke xxiv. 26, 46; Acts xvii. 3.
[4] Ignatius, though above he has claimed that the Old Testament witnesses to Christ, here maintains that the relation of Christ to the teachers of the Old Covenant is not one of dependence. He is Himself the supreme authority, and His Passion and Resurrection


archives are His Cross and Death and Resurrection, and the faith which is through Him. In these I desire to be justified through your prayer.

IX.. Good [l] indeed are the priests, but better is the High-Priest,[2] Who has been entrusted with the Holy of Holies, for He alone has been entrusted with the secret things of God. He is Himself the Door[3] of the Father, through which enter in Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the Prophets and the Apostles and the Church. All these combine in the unity of God.[4]  But the Gospel has a surpassing gift—even the coming of the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, His Passion, His Resurrection.  For the Prophets, who are dear to us, in their preaching looked forward to Him.  But the Gospel is the crown of incorruption. All things alike are good, if you believe by love.

X. Seeing that, in accordance with your prayer and the tender love which you have in Christ Jesus, it has been reported to me[5] that the Church which is at 

authenticate His mission. Cf. Magn. 8, 10 with notes. Below in c. 9 he further maintains that Christ is the Door through Whom the men of the Old Covenant must find entrance to God.
[1] Here, as in the previous chapter, Ignatius is making concessions to the Judaizers. He grants the excellence of the Old Covenant, but maintains the superiority of the Gospel, which centres in Jesus Christ.
[2] This word and the passage which follows seem to show that Ignatius is reproducing the ideas of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is also quoted by Clement of Rome, c. 36. Cf. especially Heb. ix., x.
[3] An allusion to John x. 9. Cf. also Rev. iii. 8, and Clem. Rom. 48.  Similarly in the Shepherd of Hermas (S. ix. 4, 12, 15), in the building of the Church, the gate through which the stones are carried is the Son of God, and among the stones built into the fabric are some which represent the righteous men and prophets of old.
[4] The Old Covenant finds its true place in the Divine unity of revelation, which receives its crowning expression in the Incarnation.
[5] The tidings would be brought by the persons mentioned in c. 11.


Antioch in Syria is at peace, it is fitting that you, as a Church of God, should appoint[1] a deacon to journey thither as an ambassador of God, to rejoice with them when they are met together, and to glorify the Name. Blessed in Jesus Christ is he who shall be deemed worthy of such a ministry. You too shall be glorified. Moreover, if you desire it, it is not impossible for you to do this for God's Name; even as the churches which lie nearest have sent bishops, and others presbyters and deacons.

XI. Concerning Philo, the deacon from Cilicia, a man well reported of, who even now is ministering for me in the word of God,[2] together with Rhaius Agathopus, an elect man, who accompanies me from Syria, having bidden farewell to the ordinary life of men; who also bear witness unto you—I too thank God for you, that you received them, as the Lord shall receive you. May they who treated them dishonourably be ransomed by the grace of Jesus Christ.  The love of the brethren who are at Troas salutes you, whence also I write unto you by the hand of Burrhus,[3] who was sent with me by them of Ephesus and Smyrna to do me honour. They shall receive honour from the Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom they hope in flesh, soul, spirit, by faith, love, concord.  Farewell in Jesus Christ, our common Hope.

[1] Cf. similar directions in Smyrn. II, Polyc. 7.
[2] Or, as Zahn, 'ministering to me in the cause of God.'
[3] So Lightfoot. But Burrhus may have been the bearer of the epistle. See note on Rom. 10.

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