Ignatius of Antioch
The Letters of Ignatius
Born about the time of Christ's death, Ignatius is a major witness to the faith of the sub-apostolic generation. Most of what we know about him is from the account of his martyrdom, though there are several admiring references to him by other patristic writers. Polycarp mentions Ignatius in his Epistle to the Philippians (chap. 9 and 13); Origen quotes a passage from the Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, and again cites the Ignatian Epistle to the Ephesians.
From the letters themselves we learn how Ignatius voluntarily presented himself before Trajan at Antioch, when that emperor was on his way to fight against the Parthians and Armenians (A.D. 107); and on professing himself a Christian, Ignatius was condemned to execution in Rome itself. On his prison voyage to Rome, he had a stopover in Smyrna, of which Polycarp was bishop, and there wrote his Epistles to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, and the Romans. From Smyrna he came to Troas, and while staying there he wrote to the Philadelphians, the Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp. He was brought overland across Macedonia, then by ship from Epirus to Italy, and finally rached Rome, where he was executed in December of that same year, 107.
No less than fifteen Epistles bearing the name of Ignatius are extant: Two to the Apostle John, and one each to the Virgin Mary, to Mary of Cassobelae, to the Tarsians, to the Antiochians, to Hero of Antioch, to the Philippians; to the Ephesians, to the Magnesians, to the Trallians, to the Romans, to the Philadelphians, to the Smyrnaeans, and to Polycarp. It is virtually certain that the first eight of these professedly Ignatian letters are the pious productions of a later hand. The other seven are in all probability authentic.
Irenaeus of Lyon, writing half a century after Ignatius' martyrdom, quotes his famous phrase from his Epistle to the Romans, about being wheat, ground by the teeth of savage beasts, to become pure flour for the sacrifice. Without naming Ignatius, Irenaeus calls him "a certain man of ours" (Adv. Haer., Bk. 5, ch. 28). Jerome wrote admiringly of him in De Viris Illustrissimis, how, when Ignatius had been condemned to the wild beasts and heard the lions roaring, in his zeal for martyrdom he said "I am the grain of Christ. I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may be found the bread of the world." Ignatius was put to death the eleventh year of Trajan and the remains of his body lie in Antioch outside the Daphne gate in the cemetery."
Longer and shorter versions of these epistles are found in the Manuscript tradition. The shorter recension, found only in Greek in the Codex Mediceus Laurentianus 57,7, is much the earlier (from the 2nd century) – and is generally held to be the authentic version. In the 4th century, the original collection was revised and interpolated with new material. After its publication in A.D. 1489, this longer edition was widely accepted, until scholarly opinion opted for the shorter as the more genuine text. In our version, the shorter version is used.
I have become acquainted with your name, much-beloved in God, which you have acquired by the habit of righteousness, according to the faith and love in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God, you have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you. For, on hearing that I came bound from Syria for the common name and hope, trusting through your prayers to be permitted to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by martyrdom I may indeed become the disciple of him "who gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God," (you hastened to see me). I received, therefore, your whole multitude in the name of God, through Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love, and your bishop in the flesh, whom I beg you by Jesus Christ to love, and that you would all seek to be like him. And blessed be he who has granted to you, being worthy, to obtain such an excellent bishop.
As to my fellow-servant Burrhus, your deacon in regard to God and blessed in all things, I beg that he may continue longer, both for your honour and that of your bishop. And Crocus also, worthy both of God and you, whom I have received as the manifestation of your love, has in all things refreshed me, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ shall also refresh him; together with Onesimus, and Burrhus, and Euplus, and Fronto, by means of whom, I have, as to love, beheld all of you. May I always have joy of you, if indeed I be worthy of it. It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience "you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing," and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified. As to our fellow-servant Burrhus, your deacon in regard to God and blessed in all things, I pray that he may continue blameless for the honour of the Church, and of your most blessed bishop. Crocus also, worthy both of God and you, whom we have received as the manifestation of your love to us, has in all things refreshed me, and "has not been ashamed of my chain," as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will also refresh him; together with Onesimus, and Burrhus, and Euplus, and Fronto, by means of whom I have, as to love, beheld all of you. May I always have joy of you, if indeed I be worthy of it. It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience "you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing," and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified.
I do not issue orders to you, as if I were some great person. For though I am bound for his name, I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I begin to be a disciple, and I speak to you as my fellow-servants. For it was needful for me to have been admonished by you in faith, exhortation, patience, and patience. But inasmuch as love allows me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken on me first to exhort you that you would run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ does all things according to the will of the Father, as he himself declares in a certain place, "I do always those things that please him." Therefore we ought also to live according to the will of God in Christ, and to imitate him as Paul did. For, he says, "Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ."
Therefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And you should, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that he may both hear you, and perceive by your actions that you are indeed the members of his Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in blameless unity, that so you may always enjoy communion with God. Therefore it is fitting that you also should run together in accordance with the will of the bishop who by God's appointment rules over you. Which thing you indeed of yourselves do, being instructed by the Spirit. For your justly-renowned presbytery, being worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. So, being joined together in concord and harmonious love, of which Jesus Christ is the Captain and Guardian, let you, man by man, become but one choir; so that, agreeing together in concord, and obtaining a perfect unity with God, you may indeed be one in harmonious feeling with God the Father, and his beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord. For, he says, "Grant to them, Holy Father, that as I and you are one, they also may be one in us." It is therefore profitable that you, being joined together with God in a faultless unity, should be the followers of the example of Christ, of whom also you are members.
For if I, in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop – I mean not merely humanly, but on a spiritual plane – how much more do I reckon you fortunate, who so depend on him as the Church does on the Lord Jesus, and the Lord does on God and his Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if anyone be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power that Christ stands in the middle of them, how much more will the prayer of the bishop and of the whole Church, ascending up in harmony to God, prevail for the granting of all their petitions in Christ! He, therefore, that separates himself from such, and does not meet in the society where sacrifices are offered, and with "the Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven," is a wolf in sheep's clothing, while he presents a mild outward appearance. Let you, beloved, be careful to be subject to the bishop, and the presbyters and the deacons. For he that is subject to these is obedient to Christ, who has appointed them; but he that is disobedient to these is disobedient to Christ Jesus. And "he that obeys not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." For he that yields not obedience to his superiors is self-confident, quarrelsome, and proud. But" God," says (the Scripture) "resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble;" and, "The proud have greatly transgressed." The Lord also says to the priests, "He that hears you, hears me; and he that hears me, hears the Father that sent me. He that despises you, despises me; and he that despises me, despises him that sent me."
Now the more anyone sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive everyone whom the Master of the house sends to be over his household, as we would do him that sent him. It is clear, therefore, that we should regard the bishop as we would the Lord himself. And indeed Onesimus himself greatly commends your good order in God, that you all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you. Nor, indeed, do you listen to anyone rather than to Jesus Christ speaking in truth. And you are, as Paul wrote to you, "one body and one spirit, because you have also been called in one hope of the faith. Such, then, are you, having been taught by such instructors, Paul the Christ-bearer, and Timothy the most faithful.
But some most worthless persons are in the habit of carrying about the name (of Jesus Christ) in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, and hold opinions contrary to the doctrine of Christ, to their own destruction, and that of those who give credit to them, whom you must avoid as you would wild beasts. For "the righteous man who avoids them is saved for ever; but the destruction of the wicked is sudden, and a subject of rejoicing." For "they are dumb dogs, that cannot bark," raving mad, and biting secretly, against whom you must be on your guard, since they labour under an incurable disease. But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the Virgin. For "the Word was made flesh." Although incorporeal, he was in the body; although impassible, he was in a passible body; although immortal, he was in a mortal body; although life, he became subject to corruption, that he might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.
So do not let anyone deceive you, as indeed you are not deceived, inasmuch as you are wholly devoted to God. For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, you are certainly living in accordance with God's will. I am far inferior to you, and require to be sanctified by your Church of Ephesus, so renowned throughout the world. People who are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor people who are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But even those things which you do according to the flesh are spiritual; for you do all things in Jesus Christ. So do not let anyone deceive you, as indeed you are not deceived; for you are wholly devoted to God. For when there is no evil desire within you, which might defile and torment you, then you are living according to the will of God, and belong to Christ. Cast out whatever defiles you, most holy Church of the Ephesians, which is so famous and celebrated throughout the world. People who are carnal cannot do those spiritual things, nor people who are spiritual the things which are carnal; just as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But you, full of the Holy Spirit, do nothing according to the flesh, but all things according to the Spirit. You are complete in Christ Jesus, "who is the Saviour of all, and especially of those who believe."
Nevertheless, I have heard of some people of false doctrine from her who have visited you, whom you did not allow to sow among you, but blocked your ears, not to hear what was sown by them, as being stones of the Father's temple, prepared for the building by God the Father, and lifted up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God. You, therefore, as well as all your fellow-travellers, are God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ, in whom I too rejoice at being allowed, by means of this Epistle, to converse and rejoice with you, because in your Christian life you love nothing but God only. Still, I have heard of some who have passed in among you, holding the wicked doctrine of the strange and evil spirit; to whom you did not allow entrance to sow their weeds, but stopped your ears so as not to accept the error proclaimed by them, being persuaded that that spirit which deceives the people does not speak the things of Christ, but his own, for he is a lying spirit. But the Holy Spirit does not speak his own things, but those of Christ, and not from himself, but from the Lord; even as the Lord also announced to us the things that he received from the Father. For he says, "the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father's, who sent me." And he says of the Holy Spirit, "He shall not speak of himself, but whatever things he shall hear from me." And he says of himself to the Father, "I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work which you gave me; I have made known your name to men." And of the Holy Spirit, "He shall glorify me, for he receives of what is mine." But the spirit of deceit preaches himself, and speaks his own things, for he seeks to please himself. He glorifies himself, for he is full of arrogance. He is lying, fraudulent, soothing, flattering, treacherous, rhapsodical, trifling, inharmonious, verbose, sordid, and timorous. From his power Jesus Christ will deliver you, who has founded you on the rock, as chosen stones, well fitted for the divine edifice of the Father…
And you must pray without ceasing on behalf of others, for in them there is hope of repentance so that they may reach God. See then, that they be instructed by your actions, if in no other way. Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in face of their boasting: to their blasphemies reply with your prayers; in face of their error, be steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, show your gentleness. While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (who was ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but you may remain holy and sober in Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in spirit. …
The last times are upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and revere the patience of God, that it may not end by condemning us. For let us either fear the wrath to come, or respect the grace which is now shown – one of these two. Only (in one way or another) let us be found in Christ Jesus to the true life. Apart from him, let nothing attract you, for whom I carry these chains, these spiritual jewels, by which may I rise through your prayers, in which I pray that I may always have a place, that I may share in the lot of the Christians of Ephesus, who have always been of the same mind with the apostles through the power of Jesus Christ….
I know both who I am, and to whom I write. I am a condemned man, you have been the objects of mercy; I am subject to danger, you are established in safety. You are the persons through whom those pass that are cut off for the sake of God. You are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall reach God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.
I am one handed over, the least of all those who have been cut off for the sake of Christ, "from the blood of righteous Abel" to the blood of Ignatius. You are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, who was "a chosen vessel;" at whose feet may I be found, and at the feet of the rest of the saints, when I shall reach Jesus Christ, who is always mindful of you in his prayers.
Be careful to come together often to give thanks to God, and show out his praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction he aims at is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all conflict, in heaven and earth, is brought to an end…
None of these things is hidden from you, if you perfectly hold that faith and love towards Christ Jesus which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two, being inseparably connected, are from God, while all other things required for a holy life follow from them. Nobody who professes the faith sins; nor does one who loves hate anyone. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those who call themselves Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For what is now needed is not mere claiming, but that one be found to continue in the power of faith to the end…
It is better for a person to be silent and be (true), than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is one Teacher, who spoke and it was done; and even those things which he did in silence are worthy of the Father. He who holds the word of Jesus is truly able to hear even his very silence, that he may be perfect, and may do as he speaks, and be recognised even in his silence. Nothing is hidden from God, for our very secrets are near to him. Let us therefore do all things as people who have him dwelling in us, that we may be his temples, and may he be in us as our God, which indeed he is, and will manifest himself in our sight. Therefore it is just that we love him….
Make no mistake, my brethren. Whoever breaks up families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If those who do this bodily have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts by wicked doctrine the divine faith, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such a defiled person shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall everyone that listens to him...
The Lord allowed the ointment to be poured upon his head, so as to breathe immortality into his Church. Don't be anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has truly sent to us?
Let my death be counted as nothing, for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those who do not believe, but to us it is salvation and eternal life. "Where is the wise man? Where the disputer?" Where is the boasting of people who are named prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptised, that by his passion he might purify the water…
Now the Virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three renowned mysteries, which were worked in silence, but have been revealed to us. How, then, was he made known to the world? A star shone out in heaven brighter than all that were before it; its light was inexpressible, and its newness struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And agitation was felt about the source of this new and unique spectacle. By this every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God himself being made known in human form that eternal life might be renewed. Then what God had prepared began to take place. From now on all things were in a state of flux, because he planned the abolition of death.
If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be his will, I shall, in a second little work I plan to write to you, further clarify for you the mystery I have begun to treat, about the new man, Jesus Christ, in his faith and in his love, in his suffering and in his resurrection. All the more if the Lord makes known to me that you assemble together through grace, all in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, our antidote against dying, and makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ
May my life be offered for yours and theirs whom, for the honour of God, you have sent to Smyrna; which is why I write to you, thanking the Lord, and loving Polycarp just as I do you. Remember me, as Jesus Christ also remembered you. And pray for the Church in Syria, from where I am being led bound to Rome. Though I am the least of the faithful there, I have been found worthy to be chosen to declare the honour of God. Farewell in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, the hope we share. My life be for yours and theirs whom, for the honour of God, you have sent to Smyrna; from where also I write to you, giving thanks to the Lord, and loving Polycarp even as I do you. Remember me, as Jesus Christ also remembers you, who is blessed for evermore. Pray you for the Church of Antioch which is in Syria, from where I am led bound to Rome, being the last of the faithful that are there, who yet have been thought worthy to carry these chains to the honour of God. Fare you well in God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, our common hope, and in the Holy Spirit. Fare you well. Amen. Grace (be with you).
Having been informed of your godly love, so well-ordered, I rejoiced greatly, and determined to commune with you in the faith of Jesus Christ. For as one who has been thought worthy of the most honourable of all names, in those chains which I bear about, I commend the churches, in which I pray for a union both of the flesh and spirit of Jesus Christ, the constant source of our life, and of faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred, but especially of Jesus and the Father, in whom, if we endure all the assaults of the prince of this world, and escape them, we shall enjoy God. "He is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able."
Since, then, I have had the privilege of seeing you, through Damas your most worthy bishop, and through your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and through my fellow-servant the deacon Sotio, whose friendship may I ever enjoy, inasmuch as he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the Law of Jesus Christ, (I now write to you).
Now it becomes you also not to despise the age of your bishop, but to yield him all reverence, according to the will of God the Father, as I have known even holy presbyters do, not having regard to the manifest youth (of their bishop), but to his knowledge in God; inasmuch as "not the ancient are (necessarily) wise, nor do the aged understand prudence; but there is a spirit in men." For Daniel the wise, at twelve years of age, became possessed of the divine Spirit, and convicted the elders, who in vain carried their grey hairs, of being false accusers, and of lusting after the beauty of another man's wife. Samuel also, when he was but a little child, reproved Eli, who was ninety years old, for giving honour to his sons rather than to God. Similarly, Jeremiah also received this message from God, "Do not say, I am a child." Solomon too, and Josiah, (exemplified the same thing.) The former, being made king at twelve years of age, gave that terrible and difficult judgment in the case of the two women concerning their children. The latter, coming to the throne when eight years old cast down the altars and temples (of the idols), and burned down the groves, for they were dedicated to demons, and not to God. And he slew the false priests, as the corrupters and deceivers of men, and not the worshippers of the Deity. Therefore youth is not to be despised when it is devoted to God. But he is to be despised who is of a wicked mind, although he be old, and full of wicked days. Timothy the Christ-bearer was young, but hear what his teacher writes to him: "Let no man despise try youth, but be an example of the believers in word and in conduct." It is becoming, therefore, that you also should be obedient to your bishop, and contradict him in nothing; for it is a fearful thing to contradict any such person. For no one does (by such conduct) deceive him that is visible, but does (in reality) seek to mock him that is invisible, who, however, cannot be mocked by anyone. And every such act has respect not to man, but to God. For God says to Samuel, "They have not mocked you, but me." And Moses declares, "For their murmuring is not against us, but against the Lord God." No one of those has, (in fact), remained unpunished, who rose up against their superiors. For Dathan and Abiram did not speak against the law, but against Moses, and were cast down alive into Hades. Korah also, and the two hundred and fifty who conspired with him against Aaron, were destroyed by fire. Absalom, again, who had slain his brother, became suspended on a tree, and had his evil-designing heart thrust through with darts. In like manner was Abeddadan beheaded for the same reason. Uzziah, when he presumed to oppose the priests and the priesthood, was smitten with leprosy. Saul also was dishonoured, because he did not wait for Samuel the high priest. It behoves you, therefore, also to reverence your superiors.
It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality. For it is not the being called so, but the being really so, that renders a person blessed. To people who indeed talk of the bishop, but do all things without him, will he who is the true and first bishop, and the only high priest by nature, declare, "Why call you me Lord, and do not the things which I say?" For such persons seem to me not possessed of a good conscience, but to be simply dissemblers and hypocrites.
Seeing, then, all things have an end, these two things are simultaneously set before us – death and life; and everyone shall go to his own place. For as there are two kinds of coins, the one of God, the other of the world, and each of these has its special character stamped on it, (so is it also here.) The unbelieving are of this world; but the believing have, in love, the character of God the Father by Jesus Christ, by whom, if we are not in readiness to die into his passion, his life is not in us. Seeing, then, all things have an end, and there is set before us life on our observance (of God's precepts), but death as the result of disobedience, and everyone, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life. For I remark, that two different characters are found among men – the one true coin, the other spurious. The truly devout man is the right kind of coin, stamped by God himself. The ungodly man, again, is false coin, unlawful, spurious, counterfeit, performed not by God, but by the devil. I do not mean to say that there are two different human natures, but that there is one humanity, sometimes belonging to God, and sometimes to the devil. If anyone is truly religious, he is a person of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a person of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice. The unbelieving bear the image of the prince of wickedness. The believing possess the image of their Prince, God the Father, and Jesus Christ, through whom, if we are not in readiness to die for the truth into his passion, his life is not in us.
Since therefore I have, in the persons before mentioned, beheld the whole multitude of you in faith and love, I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ. He, being begotten by the Father before the beginning of time, was God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and remains the same for ever; for "of his kingdom there shall be no end," says Daniel the prophet. Let us all therefore love one another in harmony, and let no one look on his neighbour according to the flesh, but in Christ Jesus. Let nothing exist among you which may divide you; but be united with your bishop, being through him subject to God in Christ.
As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to him, neither by himself nor by the apostles, so neither should you do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Let you therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came out from one Father, and is with and has gone to one.
Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. For the divinest prophets lived according to Christ Jesus. On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by his grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has made known himself by Jesus Christ his Son, who is his eternal Word, not proceeding out from silence, and who in all things pleased him that sent him.
If, therefore, people who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death – whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master – how shall we be able to live apart from him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for him as their Teacher? And therefore he whom they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead. If, then, people who were conversant with the ancient Scriptures came to newness of hope, expecting the coming of Christ, as the Lord teaches us when he says, "If you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, for he wrote of me;" and again, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad; for before Abraham was, I am;" how shall we be able to live without him? The prophets were his servants, and foresaw him by the Spirit, and waited for him as their Teacher, and expected him as their Lord and Saviour, saying, "He will come and save us." Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat." For say the (holy) oracles, "In the sweat of your face shall you eat your bread." But let everyone of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days (of the week). Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, "To the end, for the eighth day," on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, whom the children of perdition, the enemies of the Saviour, deny, "whose God is their belly, who mind earthly things," who are "lovers of pleasure, and not lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." These make merchandise of Christ, corrupting his word, and giving up Jesus to sale: they are corrupters of women, and covetous of other men's possessions, swallowing up wealth insatiably; from whom may you be delivered by the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Let us not, therefore, be insensible to his kindness. For were he to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be. Therefore, having become his disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. For whosoever is called by any other name besides this, is not of God. Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the sour leaven, and be changed into the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ. Be salted in him, for fear that anyone among you should be corrupted, since by your savour you shall be convicted. It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity, that so every tongue which believes might be gathered together to God. Let us not, therefore, be insensible to his kindness. For were he to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be. For "if you, Lord, shall mark iniquities,, Lord, who shall stand?" Let us therefore prove ourselves worthy of that name which we have received. For whosoever is called by any other name besides this, he is not of God; for he has not received the prophecy which speaks so concerning us: "The people shall be called by a new name, which the Lord shall name them, and shall be a holy people." This was first fulfilled in Syria; for "the disciples were called Christians at Antioch," when Paul and Peter were laying the foundations of the Church. Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the corrupt leaven, and be changed into the new leaven of grace. Abide in Christ, that the stranger may not have dominion over you. It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism. For Christ is one, in whom every nation that believes, and every tongue that confesses, is gathered to God. And people who were of a stony heart have become the children of Abraham, the friend of God; and in his seed all those have been blessed who were ordained to eternal life in Christ.
These things (I address to you), my beloved, not that I know any of you to be in such a state; but, as less than any of you, I desire to guard you beforehand, that you fall not on the hooks of vain doctrine, but that you reach full assurance in regard to the birth, and passion, and resurrection which took place in the time of the government of Pontius Pilate, being truly and certainly accomplished by Jesus Christ, who is our hope, from which may no one of you ever be turned aside.
May I enjoy you in all respects, if indeed I be worthy! For though I am bound, I am not worthy to be compared to any of you that are at liberty. I know that you are not puffed up, for you have Jesus Christ in yourselves. And all the more when I commend you, I know that you cherish modesty of spirit; as it is written, "The righteous man accuses himself."
Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, that so all things, whatever you do, may prosper both in the flesh and spirit; in faith and love; in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit; in the beginning and in the end; with your most admirable bishop, and the well-compacted spiritual crown of your presbytery, and the deacons who are according to God. Be subject to the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and the apostles to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit; that so there may be a union both fleshly and spiritual.
Knowing as I do that you are full of God, I have but briefly exhorted you. Be mindful of me in your prayers, that I may reach God; and of the Church which is in Syria, from where I am not worthy to derive my name: for I stand in need of your united prayer in God, and your love, that the Church which is in Syria may be "deemed worthy of being refreshed by your Church.
The Ephesians from Smyrna (from where I also write to you), who are here for the glory of God, as you also are, who have in all things refreshed me, salute you, along with Polycarp, the bishop of the Smyrnaeans. The rest of the churches, in honour of Jesus Christ, also salute you. Fare you well in the harmony of God, you who have obtained the inseparable Spirit, who is Jesus Christ.
I know that you possess an irreproachable and sincere mind in patience, and that not only in present practice, but according to inherent nature, as Polybius your bishop has shown me, who has come to Smyrna by the will of God and Jesus Christ, and so sympathized in the joy which I, who am bound in Christ Jesus, possess, that I beheld your whole multitude in him. Having therefore received through him the testimony of your good-will, according to God, I gloried to find you, as I knew you were, the followers of God.
For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not in merely human fashion, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in his death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall (at last) be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being (the ministers) of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation (against them), as they would do fire.
Similarly, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the Sanhedrin of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church. Concerning all this, I am persuaded that you are of the same opinion. For I have received the manifestations of your love, and still have it with me, in your bishop, whose very appearance is highly instructive, and his meekness of itself a power; whom I imagine even the ungodly must reverence, seeing they are also pleased that I do not spare myself. But shall I, when permitted to write on this point, reach such a height of self-esteem, that though being a condemned man, I should issue commands to you as if I were an apostle? And let you reverence them as Christ Jesus, of whose place they are the keepers, even as the bishop is the representative of the Father of all things, and the presbyters are the Sanhedrin of God, and assembly of the apostles of Christ. Apart from these there is no elect Church, no congregation of holy ones, no assembly of saints. I am persuaded that you also are of this opinion. For I have received the manifestation of your love, and still have it with me, in your bishop, whose very appearance is highly instructive, and his meekness of itself a power; whom I imagine even the ungodly must reverence. Loving you as I do, I avoid writing in any severer strain to you, that I may not seem harsh to any, or wanting (in tenderness). I am indeed bound for the sake of Christ, but I am not yet worthy of Christ. But when I am perfected, perhaps I shall then become so. I do not issue orders like an apostle.
I have great knowledge in God, but I restrain myself, for fear that, I should perish through boasting. For now it is needful for me to be the more fearful; and not give heed to those who puff me up. For people who speak to me (in the way of commendation) scourge me. For I do indeed desire to suffer, but I do not know if I be worthy to do so. For this longing, though it is not manifest to many, all the more vehemently assails me. I therefore have need of meekness, by which the prince of this world is brought down. But I measure myself, that I may not perish through boasting: but it is good to glory in the Lord. And even though I were established in things pertaining to God, yet then would it befit me to be the more fearful, and not give heed to people who vainly puff me up. For those who commend me scourge me. (I do indeed desire to suffer), but I do not know if I be worthy to do so. For the envy of the wicked one is not visible to many, but it wars against me. I therefore have need of meekness, by which the devil, the prince of this world, is brought down.
Am I unable to write to you of heavenly things? But I fear to do so, for fear that I should inflict injury on you who are but babes (in Christ). Pardon me in this respect, for fear that, as not being able to receive (such doctrines), you should be strangled by them. For even I, though I am bound (for Christ), yet am not on that account able to understand heavenly things, and the places of the angels, and their gatherings under their respective princes, things visible and invisible. Without reference to such abstruse subjects, I am still but a learner (in other respects); for many things are wanting to us, that we come not short of God.
I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, beg you that you use Christian nourishment only, and abstain from herbage of a different kind; I mean heresy. For those (that are given to this) mix up Jesus Christ with their own poison, speaking things which are unworthy of credit, like those who administer a deadly drug in sweet wine, which he who is ignorant of does greedily take, with a fatal pleasure leading to his own death. I therefore, yet not l, out the love of Jesus Christ, "beg you that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment." For there are some vain talkers and deceivers, not Christians, but Christ-betrayers, bearing about the name of Christ in deceit, and "corrupting the word" of the Gospel; while they intermix the poison of their deceit with their persuasive talk, as if they mingled aconite with sweet wine, that so he who drinks, being deceived in his taste by the very great sweetness of the draught, may incautiously meet with his death. One of the ancients gives us this advice, "Let no man be called good who mixes good with evil." For they speak of Christ, not that they may preach Christ, but that they may reject Christ; and they speak of the law, not that they may establish the law, but that they may proclaim things contrary to it. For they alienate Christ from the Father, and the Law from Christ. They also calumniate his being born of the Virgin; they are ashamed of his cross; they deny his passion; and they do not believe his resurrection. They introduce God as a Being unknown; they suppose Christ to be unbegotten; and as to the Spirit, they do not admit that he exists. Some of them say that the Son is a mere man, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are but the same person, and that the creation is the work of God, not by Christ, but by some other strange power.
Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons. And this will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles. He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a person is not pure in his conscience. Be on your guard, (therefore, against such persons, that you admit not of a snare for your own souls. And act so that your life shall be without offence to all men, for fear that you become as "a snare on a watch-tower, and as a net which is spread out." For "he that does not heal himself in his own works, is the brother of him that destroys himself." If, therefore, you also put away conceit, arrogance, disdain, and haughtiness, it will be your privilege to be inseparably united to God, for "He is near to those who fear him." And he says, "Upon whom will I look, but on him that is humble and quiet, and that trembles at my words?" And let you also reverence your bishop as Christ himself, according as the blessed apostles have enjoined you. He that is within the altar is pure, therefore also he is obedient to the bishop and presbyters: but he that is without is one who does anything apart from the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons. Such a person is defiled in his conscience, and is worse than an infidel. For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a person to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ of God? And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counselors and assessors of the bishop? And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry to him [Christ], as the holy Stephen did to the blessed James, Timothy and Linus to Paul, Anecletus and Clement to Peter? He, therefore, that will not yield obedience to such, must be one utterly without God, an impious man who despises Christ, and depreciates his appointments.
Not that I know there is anything of this kind among you; but I put you on your guard, inasmuch as I love you greatly, and foresee the snares of the devil. Therefore, clothing yourselves with meekness, be renewed in faith, that is the flesh of the Lord, and in love, that is the blood of Jesus Christ. Let no one of you cherish any grudge against his neighbour. Give no occasion to the Gentiles, for fear that by means of a few foolish men the whole multitude (of those who believe) in God be evil spoken of. For, "Woe to him by whose vanity my name is blasphemed among any." Now I write these things to you, not that I know there are any such persons among you; no, indeed I hope that God will never permit any such report to reach my ears, he "who spared not his Son for the sake of his holy Church." But foreseeing the snares of the wicked one, I arm you beforehand by my admonitions, as my beloved and faithful children in Christ, furnishing you with the means of protection against the deadly disease of unruly men, by which let you flee from the disease (referred to) by the good-will of Christ our Lord. Let you therefore, clothing yourselves with meekness, become the imitators of his sufferings, and of his love, with which he loved us when he gave himself a ransom for us, that he might cleanse us by his blood from our old ungodliness, and bestow life on us when we were almost on the point of perishing through the depravity that was in us. Let no one of you, therefore, cherish any grudge against his neighbour. For says our Lord, "Forgive, and it shall be forgiven to you." Give no occasion to the Gentiles, for fear that "by means of a few foolish men the word and doctrine (of Christ.) be blasphemed." For says the prophet, as in the person of God, "Woe to him by whom my name is blasphemed among the Gentiles."
Stop your ears, therefore, when anyone speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and ate and drank. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; he was truly crucified, and (truly) died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, his Father giving him life, even as after the same manner his Father will so raise up us who believe in him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life.
But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, that he only seemed to suffer (they themselves only seeming to exist), then why am I in chains? Why do I long to be exposed to the wild beasts? Do I therefore die in vain? Am I not then guilty of falsehood against (the cross of) the Lord?
Flee, therefore, those evil offshoots (of Satan), which produce death-bearing fruit, of which if anyone tastes, he instantly dies. For these men are not the planting of the Father. For if they were, they would appear as branches of the cross, and their fruit would be incorruptible. By it he calls you through his passion, as being his members. The head, therefore, cannot be born by itself, without its members; God, who is (the Saviour) himself, having promised their union.
I salute you from Smyrna, together with the churches of God which are with me, who have refreshed me in all things, both in the flesh and in the spirit. My chains, which I carry about with me for the sake of Jesus Christ (praying that I may reach God), exhort you. Continue in harmony among yourselves, and in prayer with one another; for it becomes everyone of you, and especially the presbyters, to refresh the bishop, to the honour-our of the Father, of Jesus Christ, and of the apostles. I beg you in love to hear me, that I may not, by having written, be a testimony against you. And let you also pray for me, who have need of your love, along with the mercy of God, that I may be worthy of the lot for which I am destined, and that I may not be found reprobate. I salute you from Smyrna, together with the churches of God which are with me, whose rulers have refreshed me in every respect, both in the flesh and in the spirit. My chains, which I carry about with me for the sake of Jesus Christ (praying that I may reach God), exhort you. Continue in harmony among yourselves, and in supplication; for it becomes everyone of you, and especially the presbyters, to refresh the bishop, to the honour of the Father, and to the honour of Jesus Christ and of the apostles. I beg you in love to hear me, that I may not, by having so written, be a testimony against you. And let you also pray for me, who have need of your love, along with the mercy of God, that I may be thought worthy to attain the lot for which I am now designed, and that I may not be found reprobate.
The love of the Smyrnaeans and Ephesians salutes you. Remember in your prayers the Church which is in Syria, from which also I am not worthy to receive my appellation, being the last of them. Fare you well in Jesus Christ, while you continue subject to the bishop, as to the command (of God), and similarly to the presbytery. And let you, every man, love one another with an undivided heart. Let my spirit be sanctified by yours, not only now, but also when I shall reach God. For I am as yet exposed to danger. But the Father is faithful in Jesus Christ to fulfill both my petitions and yours: in whom may you be found irreproachable. The love of the Smyrnaeans and Ephesians salutes you. Remember our Church which is in Syria, from which I am not worthy to receive my appellation, being the last of those of that place. Fare you well in the Lord Jesus Christ, while you continue subject to the bishop, and similarly to the presbyters and to the deacons. And let you, every man, love one another with an undivided heart. My spirit salutes you, not only now, but also when I shall have attained to God; for I am as yet exposed to danger. But the Father of Jesus Christ is faithful to fulfill both my petitions and yours: in whom may we be found without spot. May I have joy of you in the Lord.
Ignatius, who is (also called) Theophorus, to the Church which has received grace through the greatness of the Father Most High; to her who presides in the place of the region of the Romans, who is worthy of God, and worthy of life, and happiness, and praise, and memory, and is worthy of prosperity, and presides in love, and is perfected in the Law of Christ irreproachable: (wishes) abundance of peace.
Through prayer to God I have obtained the privilege of seeing your most worthy faces, and have even been granted more than I requested; for I hope as a prisoner in Christ Jesus to salute you, if indeed it be the will of God that I be thought worthy of attaining to the end. For the beginning has been well ordered, if I may obtain grace to cling to my lot without hindrance to the end. For I am afraid of your love, for fear that it should do me an injury. For it is easy for you to accomplish what you please; but it is difficult for me to reach God, if you spare me.
For it is not my desire to act towards you as a man-pleaser, but as pleasing God, just as also you please him. For neither shall I ever have such (another) opportunity of attaining to God; nor will you, if you shall now be silent, ever be entitled to the honour of a better work. For if you are silent concerning me, I shall become God's; but if you show your love to my flesh, I shall again have to run my race. Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favour on me than that I be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared; that, being gathered together in love, you may sing praise to the Father, through Christ Jesus, that God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be sent for from the east to the west. It is good to set from the world to God, that I may rise again to him.
You have never envied anyone; you have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed (by your conduct), which in your instructions you impose (on others). Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but (truly) will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one. For if I be truly found (a Christian), I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. Nothing visible is eternal. "For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." For our God, Jesus Christ, Bow that he is with the Father, is all the more revealed (in his glory). Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of (manifest) greatness.
I write to the churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless you hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to reach God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep (in death), I may be no trouble to anyone. Then shall I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. Request Christ for me, that by these instruments I may be found a sacrifice (to God). I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments to you. They were apostles; I am but a condemned man: they were free, while I am, until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freedman of Jesus, and shall rise again emancipated in him. And now, being a prisoner, I learn not to desire anything worldly or vain.
From Syria even to Rome I fight with beasts, both by land and sea, both by night and day, being bound to ten leopards, I mean a band of soldiers, who, even when they receive benefits, show themselves all the worse. I am the more instructed by their injuries; "yet am I not thereby justified." May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray they may be found eager to rush on me, which also I will entice to devour me speedily, and not deal with me as with some, whom, out of fear, they have not touched. But if they be unwilling to assail me, I will compel them to do so. Pardon me - I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple. And let no one, of things visible or invisible, envy me that I should reach Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearing, breaking, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shattering of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come on me: only let me reach Jesus Christ.
All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die on behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. "For what shall a person be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?" him I seek, who died for us: him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not you give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone there, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If anyone has him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am bound.
The prince of this world would wish to carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God. Let none of you, therefore, who are (in Rome) help him; rather be on my side, that is, on the side of God. Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet set your desires on the world. Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you; nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be persuaded to listen to me, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you. For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me desiring to be fed; but there is within me a water that lives and speaks, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father. I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire His blood, which is love incorruptible.
I no longer wish to live in merely human fashion, and my desire shall be fulfilled if you consent. Be willing, then, that you also may have your desires fulfilled. I request you in this brief letter; give heed to me. Jesus Christ will reveal these things to you, (so that you shall know) that I speak truly. He is the mouth altogether free from falsehood, by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray you for me, that I may attain (the object of my desire). I have not written to you according to the flesh, but according to the will of God. If I shall suffer, you have wished (well) to me; but if I am rejected, you have hated me.
Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria, which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it, and your love (will also regard it). But as for me, I am ashamed to be counted one of them; for indeed I am not worthy, as being the very last of them, and one born out of due time. But I have obtained mercy to be somebody, if I shall reach God. My spirit salutes you, and the love of the churches that have received me in the name of Jesus Christ, and not as a mere passer-by. For even those churches which were not near to me in the way, I mean according to the flesh, have gone before me, city by city, (to meet me.)
Now I write these things to you from Smyrna by the Ephesians, who are deservedly most happy. There is also with me, along with many others, Crocus, one much beloved by me. As to those who have gone before me from Syria to Rome for the glory of God, I believe that you are acquainted with them; to whom, (then), let you make known that I am at hand. For they are all worthy, both of God and of you; and it is becoming that you should refresh them in all things. I have written these things to you, on the day before the ninth of the Kalends of September (that is, on the twenty-third day of August). Fare you well to the end, in the patience of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Your bishop, I know, obtained his ministry for the commity, not by his own efforts, neither by men, nor through vainglory, but by the love of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. At his meekness I am struck with admiration, and by his silence is able to accomplish more than those who vainly talk. For he is in harmony with the commandments just as the harp is with its strings. Therefore my soul declares his mind towards God a happy one, knowing it to be virtuous and perfect, and that his stability as well as freedom from all anger follows the example of the infinite meekness of the living God.
Therefore, as children of light and truth, flee from division and wicked doctrines; but where the shepherd is, there let you as sheep follow. For there are many wolves that appear worthy of credit, who, by means of a pernicious pleasure, carry captives those who are running towards God; but in your unity they shall have no place.
Avoid those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but extraordinary purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If anyone walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion (of Christ).
Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup, showing the unity of his blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatever you do, you may do it as God wants.
I have confidence in you in the Lord, that you will be of no other mind. Therefore I write boldly to your love, which is worthy of God, and exhort you to have but one faith, and one (kind of) preaching, and one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ; and his blood which was shed for us is one; one loaf also is broken to all (the communicants), and one cup is distributed among them all: there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants. Since, also, there is but one unbegotten Being, God, even the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God, the Word and man; and one Comforter, the Spirit of truth; and also one preaching, and one faith, and one baptism; and one Church which the holy apostles established from one end of the earth to the other by the blood of Christ, and by their own sweat and toil; you ought also, therefore, as "a special people, and a holy nation," to perform all things with harmony in Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands in the fear of God; and you virgins, to Christ in purity, not counting marriage an abomination, but desiring that which is better, not despising wedlock, but for the sake of meditating on the law. Children, obey your parents, and show affection for them, as co-workers with God for your birth. Servants, be subject to your masters in God, that you may be the freed-men of Christ. Husbands, love your wives, as fellow-servants of God, as your own body, as the partners of your life, and your co-operators in the procreation of children. Virgins, have Christ alone before your eyes, and his Father in your prayers, being enlightened by the Spirit. May I have pleasure in your purity, as that of Elijah, or as of Joshua the son of Nun, Melchizedek, or Elisha, or Jeremiah, or John the Baptist, the beloved disciple, Timothy, Titus, Evodius, or Clement, who departed this life in (perfect) chastity, Not, however, that I blame the other saints for entering into the married state, of which I have just spoken. For I pray that, being found worthy of God, I may be found at their feet in the kingdom, at the feet of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; or of Joseph, and Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets; as of Peter, and Paul, and others of the apostles who were married men. For they entered into these marriages not to merely gratify appetite, but with a view to the propagation of mankind. Fathers, "bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;" and teach them the holy Scriptures, and also trades, that they may not indulge in idleness. Now (the Scripture) says, "A righteous father educates (his children) well; his heart shall rejoice in a wise son." Masters, be gentle towards your servants, as holy Job has taught you; for there is one nature, and one family of mankind. For "in Christ there is neither bond nor free." Let governors be obedient to Caesar; soldiers to those who command them; deacons to the presbyters, as to high-priests; the presbyters, and deacons, and the rest of the clergy, together with all the people, and the soldiers, and the governors, and Caesar (himself), to the bishop; then, the bishop to Christ, just as Christ to the Father. And so unity is preserved throughout. Let not the widows be wanderers about, nor fond of dainties, nor gadders from house to house; but let them be like Judith, noted for her seriousness; and like Anna, eminent for her sobriety. I do not ordain these things as an apostle: for "who am I, or what is my father's house," that I should pretend to be equal in honour to them? But as your "fellow-soldier," I hold the position of one who admonishes you.
My brethren, I am strong in loving you; and rejoicing exceedingly (over you), I seek to secure your safety. Yet it is not I, but Jesus Christ, for whose sake being now in chains I fear the more, inasmuch as I am not yet perfect. But your prayer to God shall make me perfect, that I may reach that portion which through mercy has been allotted me, while I flee to the Gospel as to the flesh of Jesus, and to the apostles as to the presbytery of the Church. And let us also love the prophets, because they too have proclaimed the Gospel, and placed their hope in him, and waited for him; in whom also believing, they were saved, through union to Jesus Christ, being holy men, worthy of love and admiration, having had witness borne to them by Jesus Christ, and being reckoned along with in the Gospel of the common hope.
But if anyone preach the Jewish law to you, do not listen to him. For it is better to listen to Christian doctrine from a man who has been circumcised, than to Judaism from one uncircumcised. But if either of such persons do not speak concerning Jesus Christ, they are in my judgment but as monuments and sepulchres of the dead, on which are written only the names of men. Flee therefore the wicked devices and snares of the prince of this world, for fear that at any time being conquered by his artifices, you grow weak in your love. But be all joined together with an undivided heart. And I thank my God that I have a good conscience in respect to you, and that no one has it in his power to boast, either privately or publicly, that I have burdened anyone either in much or in little. And I wish for all among whom I have spoken, that they may not possess that for a testimony against them.
For though some would nave deceived me according to the flesh, yet the Spirit, as being from God, is not deceived. For it knows both from where it comes and where it goes, and detects the secrets (of the heart). For, when I was among you, I cried, I spoke with a loud voice: Give heed to the bishop, and to the presbytery and deacons. Now, some suspected me of having spoken so, as knowing beforehand the division caused by some among you. But he is my witness, for whose sake I am in chains, that I got no intelligence from any man. But the Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, just as he is of his Father.
I therefore did what belonged to me, as a man devoted to unity. For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all those who repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop. I trust (as to you) in the grace of Jesus Christ, who shall free you from every bond. And I exhort you to do nothing out of strife, but according to the doctrine of Christ. When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved. But to me Jesus Christ has replaced all that is ancient: his cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.
The priests indeed are good, but the high priest is better; to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been trusted with the secrets of God. He is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, and the apostles, and the Church. All these have for their object the attaining to the unity of God. But the Gospel possesses something transcendent (above the former dispensation), that is, the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, his passion and resurrection. For the beloved prophets announced him, but the Gospel is the perfection of immortality. All these things are good together, if you believe in love.
Since, according to your prayers, and the compassion which you feel in Christ Jesus, it is reported to me that the church at Antioch in Syria possesses peace, it will become you, as a church of God, to elect a deacon to act as your godly ambassador to them, that he may rejoice along with them in their assembly, and glorify the holy name. Blessed is the one in Jesus Christ, who shall be deemed worthy of such a ministry; and you too shall be glorified. And if you are willing, it is not beyond your power to do this, for God's sake; as also the nearest churches have sent, in some cases bishops, and in others presbyters and deacons.
Now, as to Philo the deacon, of Cilicia, a man of reputation, who still ministers to me in the word of God, along with Rheus Agathopus, an elect man, who has followed me from Syria, not regarding his life, - these bear witness in your behalf; and I myself give thanks to God for you, that you have received them, just as the Lord you. But may those who dishonoured them be forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ! The love of the brethren at Troas salutes you; from where also I write to you by Burrhus, who was sent along with me by the Ephesians and Smyrnaeans, to show their respect. May the Lord Jesus Christ honour them, in whom they hope, in flesh, and soul, and faith, and love, and concord! Fare you well in Christ Jesus, our common hope.
I glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom. For I have observed that you are perfected in an immovable faith, as if you were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit, and are established in love through the blood of Christ, being fully persuaded with respect to our Lord, that he was truly of the seed of David according to the flesh, and the Son of God according to the will and power of God; that he was truly born of a virgin, was baptised by John, in order that all righteousness might be fulfilled by him; and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed (to the cross) for us in his flesh. Of this fruit we are by his divinely-blessed passion, that he might set up a standard for all ages, through his resurrection, to all his holy and faithful (followers), whether among Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of his Church.
Now, he suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And he suffered truly, just as also he truly raised up himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that he only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be (Christians). And as they believe, so shall it happen to them, when they shall be rid of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits.
For I know that after his resurrection also he was still retained flesh, and I believe that he is so now. When, for instance, he came to those who were with Peter, he said to them, "Lay hold, handle me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit." And immediately they touched him, and believed, being convinced both by his flesh and spirit. For this reason also they despised death, and became its conquerors. And after his resurrection he ate and drank with them, as retaining flesh, although spiritually he was united to the Father.
I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that you hold the same opinions as I. But be forewarned against those beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not welcome, but, if it be possible, not even meet with; only you must pray to God for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance, which will be very difficult. Yet Jesus Christ, who is our true life, has the power for this. But if these things were done by our Lord in appearance only, then am I also only chained in appearance. And why have I 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 who is among the wild beasts is in company with God; provided only he be so in the name of Jesus Christ. I undergo all these things that I may suffer together with him, he who became a perfect man inwardly strengthening me.
Some ignorantly deny him, or rather have been denied by him, promoting death rather than truth. Such persons could be persuaded neither by the prophets, nor the Law of Moses, nor the Gospel even to this day, nor the sufferings we have personally endured. And they think also the same thing regarding us. For what does anyone profit me, if he commends me, but blasphemes my Lord, not confessing that he truly had a body? But he who does not acknowledge this, has in fact altogether denied him, and is shrouded in death. I have not, however, thought it right to name such persons, inasmuch as they are unbelievers. Yes, far be it from me to make any mention of them, until they repent and return to the truth of Christ's passion, which is our resurrection.
Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they do not believe in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Let not (high) place puff anyone up: for that which is worth all is a 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; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty.
They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of his goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death by their disputes; it would be better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. You should keep away from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to 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 proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils. They are ashamed of the cross; they mock at the passion; they make a jest of the resurrection. They are the offspring of that spirit who is the author of all evil, who led Adam, by means of his wife, to break the commandment, who slew Abel by the hands of Cain, who fought against Job, who was the accuser of Joshua the son of Josedech, who sought to "sift the faith" of the apostles, who stirred up the multitude of the Jews against the Lord, who also now works in the children of disobedience; from whom the Lord Jesus Christ will deliver us, who prayed that the faith of the apostles might not fail, not because he was unable of himself to preserve it, but because he rejoiced in the pre-eminence of the Father. Therefore, flee from all abominable heresies, and those who cause schisms, as the beginning of evils.
See that you all follow the bishop, just as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being instituted by God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is (administered) either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation also be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptise or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatever he approves of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. See that you all follow the bishop, just as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles. Let you also reverence the deacons, as those who carry out their God-given task.
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness (of conduct), and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, serves the devil. May you have plenty of all things through grace, for you are worthy. As you have refreshed me in all things, may Jesus Christ refresh you. You have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, and since you endure all things for his sake, you shall reach him.
You were good to receive Philo and Rheus Agathopus as servants of Christ our God, who have followed me for God's sake, and who give thanks to the Lord in your behalf, because you have in every way refreshed them. None of these things shall be lost to you. May my spirit be for you, and my chains, which you have not despised or been ashamed of; nor shall Jesus Christ, our perfect hope, be ashamed of you. You have done well in receiving Philo, and Gaius, and Agathopus, who, being the servants of Christ, have followed me for God's sake, and who greatly bless the Lord in your behalf, because you have in every way refreshed them. None of those things which you have done to them shall be passed by without being reckoned to you. "The Lord grant" to you "that you may find mercy of the Lord in that day!" May my spirit be for you, and my chains, which you have not despised or been ashamed of. Therefore, neither shall Jesus Christ, our perfect hope, be ashamed of you.
Your prayer has been reported to the Church which is at Antioch in Syria. Coming bound with chains, from that place most acceptable to God, I salute you all; I who am not worthy to be called from there, inasmuch as I am the least of them. Still, according to the will of God, I have been deemed worthy of it, not in my own eyes but by the grace of God, which I wish may be perfectly given to me. Through your prayers may I attain to God. In order, therefore, that your work may be complete both on earth and in heaven, it is fitting that, in God's honour, your Church should elect some worthy delegate; and let him travel to Syria, and congratulate them for being restored to peace, and to their proper greatness, and that their constitution has been re-established among them. As persons who are perfect, you should also aim at those things which are perfect. For when you are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you.
The love of the brethren at Troas salutes you; from where also I write to you by Burrhus, whom you sent with me, together with the Ephesians, your brethren, and who has in all things refreshed me. And I would wish that all may imitate him, as being a pattern of a minister of God. Grace will reward him in all things. I salute your most worthy bishop, and your very venerable presbytery, and your deacons, my fellow-servants, and all of you individually, as well as generally, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in his flesh and blood, in his passion and resurrection, both corporeal and spiritual, in union with God and you. Grace, mercy, peace, and patience, be with you for evermore!
I salute the families of my brethren, with their wives and children, and those who are ever virgins, and the widows. Be strong, I pray, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Philo, my fellow-servant, who is with me, greets you. I salute the house of Tavias, and pray that it may be confirmed in faith and love, both corporeal and spiritual. I salute Alce; my well-beloved, and the incomparable Daphnus, and Eutecnus, and all by name. Fare you well in the grace of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and divine and sacred wisdom.
Having obtained good proof that your mind is fixed in God as on an immovable rock, I loudly glorify (his name) that I have been thought worthy (to behold) your blameless face, which may I ever enjoy in God! I beg you, by the grace with which you are clothed, to press forward in your course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Maintain your position with all care, both in the flesh and spirit. Have a regard to preserve unity, than which nothing is better. Bear with all, even as the Lord does with you. Support all in love, as also you do. Give yourself to prayer without ceasing. Implore additional understanding to what you already have. Be watchful, possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to everyone separately, as God enables you. Bear the infirmities of all, as being a perfect athlete (in the Christian life): where the labour is great, the gain is all the more.
If you love the good disciples, no thanks are due to you on that account; but rather seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome. Every kind of wound is not healed with the same plaster. Mitigate violent attacks by gentle applications. Be in all things "wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove." For this purpose you are composed of both flesh and spirit, that you may deal tenderly with those (evils) that present themselves visibly before you. And as respects those who are not seen, pray that (God) would reveal them to you, in order that you may be wanting in nothing, but may abound in every gift. The times call for you, as pilots do for the winds, and as on tossed with tempest seeks for the haven, so that both you (and those under your care) may reach God. Be sober as an athlete of God: the prize set before you is immortality and eternal life, of which you are also persuaded. In all things may my soul be for yours, and my chains also, which you have loved.
Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for God's sake, that he also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.
Let not widows be neglected. Let you Be, under the Lord, their protector and friend. Let nothing be done without your consent; neither let you do anything without the approval of God, which indeed you do not, inasmuch as you are steadfast. Let your assembling together be of frequent occurrence: seek after all by name. Do not despise either male or female slaves, yet neither let them be puffed up with conceit, but rather let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they my obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not long to be set free (from slavery) at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires.
Flee evil ways; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In the same way also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, just as the Lord the Church. If anyone can continue in a state of purity, to the honour of him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckon himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honour of God.
Listen to the bishop, that God also may listen to you. May my life be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, the presbyters and deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; bear the struggle together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please him under whom you fight, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your actions be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense. Be patient, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!
Seeing that the church at Antioch in Syria is, as report has informed me, at peace, through your prayers, I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may reach God, so that, through your prayers, I may be found a disciple. It is fitting, Polycarp, most blessed in God, to assemble a solemn council, and elect one whom you greatly love, and know to be an active man, who may be designated the messenger of God; and give him this honour of going to Syria, and glorify your ever active love to the praise of Christ. A Christian has not power over himself, but must always be ready for the service of God. Now, this work is both God's and yours, when you have completed it to his glory. For I trust that, through grace, you are prepared for every good work pertaining to God. Knowing, therefore, your energetic love of the truth, I have exhorted you by this brief Epistle.
Inasmuch as I have not been able to write to all the churches, because I must suddenly sail from Troas to Neapolis, as the will (of the emperor) enjoins, (I beg that) you, as being acquainted with the purpose of God, will write to the adjacent churches, that they also may act in the same way, such as are able to do so sending messengers, and the others transmitting letters through those persons who are sent by you, that you may be glorified by a work which shall be remembered for ever, as indeed you are worthy to be. I salute all by name, and in particular the wife of Epitropus, with all her house and children. I salute Attalus, my beloved. I salute him who shall be deemed worthy to go (from you) into Syria. Grace shall be with him for ever, and with Polycarp that sends him. I pray for your happiness for ever in our God, Jesus Christ, by whom continue you in the unity and under the protection of God, I salute Alce, my much beloved. Fare you well in the Lord.