We turn in our reading of the patristics to Ignatius, who evidently wrote these letters on his march to Rome to be martyred — sometime during Trajan’s reign. We don’t know much about Ignatius until these letters and in the middle of his trip — somewhere around Philippi — the story of his life is lost. The tradition is that he died in Rome.
In our series on the patristic writings, we use the text Michael Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers.
Today we begin a two part series on Ignatius to the Magnesians, a city on the Meander River and north of Ephesus and south of Pergamon.
Again, Ignatius is the “image-bearer.”
Mag. 1:0 THE LETTER OF IGNATIUS TO THE MAGNESIANS
Ignatius the Image-bearer to the church at Magnesia on the Maeander, which has been blessed through the grace of God the Father in Christ Jesus our Savior, in whom I greet her and wish her heartiest greetings in God the Father and in Jesus Christ.
He wants his flesh/body to cooperate with his spirit.
Mag. 1:1 When I learned how well ordered your love toward God is, I rejoiced and resolved to address you in the faith of Jesus Christ. 2 For inasmuch as I have been judged worthy to bear a most godly name, in these chains that I bear I sing the praises of the churches, and I pray that in them there may be a union of flesh and spirit that comes from Jesus Christ, our never-failing life, and of faith and love, to which nothing is preferable, and—what is more important—of Jesus and the Father. 3 In him we will reach God, if we patiently endure all the abuse of the ruler of this age and escape.
Again, we hear about the bishop, this time Damas, and about elders, and about deacons. He speaks again about operating within the order of the bishop.
Mag. 2:1 Inasmuch as I was found worthy to see you in the persons of Damas, your godly bishop, and your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and my fellow servant [=fellow slave], the deacon Zotion—may I enjoy his company, because he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the council of presbyters as to the law of Jesus Christ.
Damas is young, but to be respected because he is “wise in God,” or “prudent in God.” Such orderliness is directed toward God.
A consistent Christian, then, for Ignatius is one who lives in the order of the bishop.
Mag. 3:1 Indeed, it is right for you also not to take advantage of the youthfulness of your bishop but to give him all the respect due him in accordance with the power of God the Father, just as I know that the holy presbyters likewise have not taken advantage of his youthful appearance but defer to him as one who is wise in God; yet not really to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of all. 2 For the honor, therefore, of the one who loved you it is right to be obedient without any hypocrisy, for it is not so much a matter of deceiving this bishop who is seen but of cheating the one who is unseen. In such a case he must reckon not with the flesh but with God, who knows our secrets.
Mag. 4:1 It is right, therefore, that we not just be called Christians, but that we actually be Christians, unlike some who call a man bishop but do everything without regard for him. Such people do not appear to me to act in good conscience, inasmuch as they do not validly meet together in accordance with the commandment.
He turns to a major patristic theme: ethics. There are two options, two ways, two characters (stamps), and the Christian must “voluntary choose”:
Mag. 5:1 Seeing then that all things have an end, two things together lie before us, death and life, and everyone will go to his own place. 2 For just as there are two coinages, the one of God and the other of the world, and each of them has its own stamp impressed upon it, so the unbelievers bear the stamp of this world, but the faithful in love bear the stamp of God the Father through Jesus Christ, whose life is not in us unless we voluntarily choose to die into his suffering.
Back to listening to the order of the bishop, who represents God, and the elders, who represent the apostles. Relations are to be seen in relation to God in Christ.
Mag. 6:1 Since, therefore, in the persons mentioned above I have by faith seen and loved the whole congregation, I have this advice: Be eager to do everything in godly harmony, the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles and the deacons, who are especially dear to me, since they have been entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who before the ages was with the Father and appeared at the end of time. 2 Let all, therefore, accept the same attitude as God and respect one another, and let no one regard his neighbor in merely human terms, but in Jesus Christ love one another always. Let there be nothing among you that is capable of dividing you, but be united with the bishop and with those who lead, as an example and lesson of incorruptibility.
Once again, the centrality of the bishop is affirmed as also are the elders. Unity is unity with the bishop and elders.
Mag. 7:1 Therefore as the Lord did nothing without the Father, either by himself or through the apostles (for he was united with him), so you must not do anything without the bishop and the presbyters. Do not attempt to convince yourselves that anything done apart from the others is right, but, gathering together, let there be one prayer, one petition, one mind, one hope, with love and blameless joy, which is Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is better. 2 Let all of you run together as to one temple of God, as to one altar, to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father and remained with the One and returned to the One.