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The Epistles of St. Ignatius


THE present translation of the epistles of St. Ignatius is intended to set before English readers, in an accessible form, the writings of one of the most important characters in the Church history of the period succeeding the age of the Apostles. In these epistles we have the key to the right understanding of the character of the Church at the beginning of the second century. The two facts to which they bear witness are, on the one hand, the significance of the Incarnation for Christians of that generation as the central truth of Christianity, and, on the other, the importance attached to the visible unity of the Church as expressed in the organization of the Christian societies under bishops, presbyters, and deacons. The striking personality of the writer of the epistles, and the controversy which has gathered round them, combine to make them one of the most interesting products of early Christian times.

Bishop Lightfoot's great work (Ignatius and Polycarp, 1885) has exhaustively treated of most of the critical questions which are connected with the text and the exposition of the epistles. The present writer has made that work his chief guide, and has rarely ventured, in the interpretation of passages, to depart from the views expressed in it.  On the nature of the heresies attacked in the epistles, however, he has adopted in the main the conclusions of Dr. Hort in his Judaistic Christianity. The articles on Ignatius by Dr. Harnack in the Expositor for 1885 and 1886, as well as the same writer's treatment of the epistles in his Chronologie der Altchristlichen Litteratur, have also been consulted. The notes of Zahn on the epistles have supplied much useful matter,




while for the external history of the period Professor Ramsay's Church in the Roman Empire has been found invaluable. In treating of the theology of Ignatius the writer has found much that is suggestive in the able monograph of Von der Goltz (Texte und Untersuchungen , Bd. xii.), although he has not always been able to subscribe to the author's conclusions. 

The writer is indebted to Dr. Swete, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, for much kind advice ungrudgingly given; to the committee of the S.P.C.K. for the interest they have shown in the work, and for some useful criticisms; to the Rev. W. L. E. Parsons, of Selwyn College, who has read through the translation, and to others. 


A few slight changes and additions have been made both in the introduction and in the notes; but in its main features the present edition is a reprint of the former. 


The call for a fresh edition of this little book, which is now set up in a new form, has rendered necessary a more thorough revision of the introduction and notes than was possible in preparing it for the second edition. In the eighteen years which have elapsed since its first appearance new light has been thrown on many of the questions dealt with. Several of the notes have been re-written and also certain sections of the introduction. A new Additional Note, in place of the original Add. Note 2, has been inserted, in which the question of the Christian Ministry has been more fully dealt with. On the other hand, a few curtailments have been made elsewhere. In other respects the present edition is a reprint of the earlier edition.

J. H. S.

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