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1. Of ANTIOCH, one of the Apostolical Fathers; called also THEOPHORUS, or DEIFER ( Θεοφόρος), a title explained by Ignatius himself in his conversation with the emperor Trajan to mean " one that has Christ in his heart." Some of the Greeks, interpreting the epithet passively "borne or carried of God," supposed that Ignatius was the little child whom our Lord took in his arms when he rebuked the ambitious contentions of his disciples (Mark, 9.36, &c.); but this story, whatever currency it may have obtained, is unsupported by any early testimony, and is in fact contradicted by Chrysostom. who incidentally states (In S. Ignat. Homilia) that Ignatius never saw Jesus Christ. Jerome indeed, in one place (De Viris Illust. 100.16) states that Ignatius had seen Christ; but he did not correctly understand the text of Eusebius, from whom the passage is translated. By the Syriac writers, the expression has been understood to mean, " wearing," or " clad with God."

Abulpharagius (Historia Dynastiarum. Dynast. vii. p. 75, ed. Pocock, Oxon. 1663) had been understood to assert that Ignatius was a native of Nura, which was conjectured to be either Nura in Sardinia or Nora in Cappadocia. But the late researches of Mr. Cureton have shown that the words used had no reference to the place of his birth.

Ignatius conversed (according to Chrysostom), with the apostles. Some accounts make him a disciple of Peter; but according to the better authority of the Martyrium Ignatii (100.3), he was, together with Polycarp, a hearer of John. This would lead to the conclusion that Ephesus or its neighbourhood was the place of his residence. He was appointed bishop of the church at Antioch, Chrysostom says, by the choice of the apostles, and was ordained by the laying on of their hands. Theodoret especially mentions Peter as the apostle who laid hands on him. (Orat. ad Manachos Euphratesiae, Opp. vol. iv. p. 1312, ed. Schulz.) But these statements are hardly consistent with the account of Eusebius (Chron. Pars II. interp. Hieron), that his ordination took place A. D. 69, when Peter and several of the apostles were already dead. He is said to have succeeded Evodius, whose ordination is placed in A. D. 44. As in the apostolic age a plurality of bishops existed in some at least of the first churches, e. g. Ephesus and Philippi (comp. Acts, 20.17, 28 ; Philip. 1.1), and as the church at Antioch was from the first a large and important church, it is not impossible that Ignatius may have been made bishop before the death of Evodius, and may therefore have been ordained by Peter or some other of the apostles.

Of the episcopate of Ignatius we know little. He appears to have been over-earnest in insisting upon the prerogatives of the clergy, especially the bishops. The Martyrium Ignatii represents him as anxious for the stedfastness of his flock during the persecution said to have taken place in Domitian's reign; and incessant in watching and prayer, and in instructing his people, fearing lest the more ignorant and timid among them should fall away. On the cessation of the persecution he rejoiced at the little injury the church at Antioch had sustained.

When the emperor Trajan, elated with his victories over the Dacians and other nations on the Danubian frontier, began to persecute the church, the anxiety of Ignatius was renewed; and, eager to avert the violence of persecution from his flock, and to obtain the crown of martyrdom for himself, he offered himself as a victim, and was brought before the emperor, then at Antioch on his way to the eastern frontier to attack the Armenians and Parthians. The conference between the emperor and the bishop is given in the Martyrium Ignatii ; it ended by the emperor passing sentence on Ignatius that he should be taken to Rome, and there thrown to wild beasts. He was led to Rome by a long and tedious route, but was allowed to have communication with his fellow-Christians at the places at which he stopped. He was thrown to the wild beasts in the Roman amphitheatre, at the feast distinguished as τρισκαιδεκάτη, " the feast of the thirteenth " (i. e. the thirteenth before the kalends of January, or 20th Dec. according to our computation), one of the days of the Opalia, which made part of the great festival of the Saturnalia. (Dict. of Antiq. s. v. Saturnalia.) Such parts of him as remained were collected by his sorrowing friends, and were taken back to Antioch, where in Jerome's time they were resting in the cemetery outside the gate toward Daphne. From thence they were removed, by the Emperor Theodosius II. to the church of St. Ignatius (previously known as the Tychaeum, or Temple of Fortune), in the city of Antioch. (Evagr. H. E. 1.16.) Their subsequent removals are uncertain. The martyrdom of St. Ignatius is commemorated by the Romish church on the 1st of Feb.; by the Greek church on the 20th December, the correct anniversary of his martyrdom.

The year of Ignatius's death has been much disputed. Many of the best writers (following the Martyrium Ignatii), place it in A. D. 107; but others contend for a later date; some as late as A. D. 116.



On his way from Antioch to Rome, Ignatius is said to have written seven epistles. These are enumerated both by Eusebius (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 3.46) and Jerome (De Viris Illustr 100.16). The fact of his having written letters, though without specifying either the number or the parties to whom they are addressed, is attested by his contemporary, Polycarp (ad Philipp. 100.13. Vers. Lat.), who collected several and sent them to the Philippians, and some quotations from him are found in Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres. 5.28) and Origen (Proleg. in Cantic. Canticor. and Homil. VI. in Lucam). There are, however, at present extant fifteen epistles ascribed to Ignatius. Seven of these are considered to be genuine ; namely, 1. Πρὸς Ἐφέσιους, Ad Ephesios; 2. Μαγνησιεῦσιν, Ad Magnesianos; 3. Τραλλιανοῖς, Ad Trallianos; 4. Πρὸς Ρ̓ωμαίους, Ad Romansos; 5. Φιλαδελφεῦσιν, Ad Philadelphenos; 6. Σμυρναίοις, ad Smyrneos; and, 7. Πρὸς Πολύκαρπον, Ad Polycarpum. The titles of these epistles agree with the enumeration of Eusebius and Jerome. There are found two recensions of them,--a longer, now regarded as an interpolated one, and a shorter form, which is considered as tolerably uncorrupted. Two ancient Latin versions are extant, corresponding in a great degree to the two forms or recensions of the Greek text : the larger, known as the common (vulgata) version; the other first discovered and published by Archbishop Usher. Many of the interpolations found in the larger form are of passages of the New Testament.

Five other epistles, though extant in Greek, are regarded as spurious; namely, 8. Πρὸς Μαρίαν εἰς Νεάπολιν τὴν πρὸς τῷ Ζαρβῷ, or Πρὸς Μαρίαν Κασσοβολίτην, or ἐκ Κασσοβήλων, or Κασταβαλῖτιν, or ἐκ Κασταβάλων, Ad Mariam, Neupolim, quae est ad Zarbun, or Ad Mariam Cassobolitaim, variously written (Castabaliiam, or Castabalensem, or ex Cossobelis, or Chassaobolorum, or Chasabolorum, or Castabalorum. 9. Πρὸς τοὺς ἐν Ταρσῷ, Ad Tarsenses ; 10. Πρὸς Ἀντωχεῖς, Ad Antionchenos ; 11. Πρὸς Ἥρωνα, διάκονον Ἀντιοχείας Ad Heronem Diaconum Antionchiae ; 12. Πρὸς Φιλιππησίους, Ad Philippenses. Some copies add to the title of this epistle the words Περὶ Βαπτίσματος, De Baptismate ; an addition which by no means correctly describes the contents. Of four of these spurious epistles two ancient Latin versions are extant, the common version and that published by Usher; of that to the Philippians, there is only one version (viz. the common). The epistle to Polycarp in the common Latin version is defective; containing only about one third of what is in the Greek text. There is also extant, both in the Greek and in the two Latin versions, an epistle of Mary of Cassobelae (called also Προσήλυτος, Proselyta) to Ignatius, to which his letter professes to be an answer.

The remaining three epistles ascribed to Ignatius are found only in Latin : they are very short, and have long been given up as spurious : they are, 13. S. Joanni Evangelistae ; 14. Ad Eundem ; and, 15, Beatae Virgini. With these is found a letter of the Virgin to Ignatius, Beata Virgo Ignatio, professing to be an answer to his letter. This also is given up as spurious. The whole, indeed, of the Epistles, the first seven as well as the rest, have been vehemently assailed, and by some eminent scholars; but the above statement is in accordance with the general opinion of the learned.

Editions (1)

The extent and celebrity of the controversy respecting these writings, and the importance of the letters in their bearing on the much-disputed question of primitive church government, require some notice to be taken of the discussion. In A. D. 1495 the three Latin epistles and the letter of the Virgin were printed at Paris, subjoined to the Vita et Processus S. Thomae Cantuarensis Martyris super Libertate Ecclesiastica. In A. D. 1498, three years after the appearance of these letters, another collection, edited by Jacobus Faber of Etaples (Stapulensis), was printed at Paris in folio, containing the common Latin version of eleven letters, that to Mary of Cassobelae not being among them. They were published with some of the works ascribed to Dionysius Areopagita and an epistle of Polycarp. These eleven epistles were reprinted at Venice, A. D. 1502, Paris, A. D. 1515, Basel, 1520, and Strasburg, 1527. In 1516, the preceding fourteen epistles, with the addition of the letter to Mary of Cassobelae, were edited by Symphorianus Champerius of Lyons, and published at Paris in 4to. with seven letters of St. Antony, commonly called the Great. The whole of the letters ascribed to Ignatius were now before the public in Latin, nor does their genuineness appear to have been as yet suspected. They were repeatedly reprinted in the course of the sixteenth century. In A. D. 1557 the twelve epistles of Ignatius in Greek were published by Valentinus Paceus or Pacaeus in 8vo. at Dillingen in Suabia on the Danube, from an Augsburg MS. They were reprinted at Paris, A. D. 1558 with critical emendations. The same twelve Greek epistles from another MS. from the library of Gaspar a Nydpryck, were published by Andreas Gesner with a Latin version by Joannes Brunnerus, fol. Zurich, 1559. In these editions the Greek text of the seven epistles was given in the larger form, the shorter form, both in Greek and Latin, being as yet undiscovered.

The genuineness of these remains was new called into question, the acuteness of criticism being apparently increased by a distaste for the contents of the Epistles. The authors of the Centuriae Magdeburgenses were the first to express their doubts, though with caution and moderation. Calvin, in his Institutiones, 1.3, declared that " nothing could be more silly than the stuff (naeniae) which had been brought out under the name of Ignatius ; which rendered the impudence of those persons more insufferable who had set themselves to deceive people by such phantoms (larvae)." It has been observed, however, that the parts which incurred Calvin's reprehension were the supposititious epistles, or the parts since found to be interpolated in the larger form of the genuine ones. The controversy grew warm : the Romish writers and the Episcopalians commonly contending for the genuineness of at least a part of the Epistles, and some of the Presbyterians denying it. The three epistles not extant in Greek were the first given up; but the rest were stoutly contended for. Several however distinguished between the seven enumerated by Eusebius and the rest; and some contended that even those which were genuine were interpolated. While the controversy was in this state, Vedelius, a professor at Geneva, published an edition (S. Ignatii quae extant Omnia, 4to. Geneva, 1623), in which the seven genuine were arranged apart from the other five epistles. He marked also in the genuine epistles the parts which he regarded as interpolations. His conjectures, however, were not happy.

In 1644 appeared the edition by Archbishop Usher (4to. Oxford) of the Epistles of Polycarp and Ignatius. This edition contained, 1. Polycarpiana Epistolarum Ignatianarum Sylloge (Polycarp's Collection of the Epistles of Ignatius), containing Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians, and six of the genuine epistles of Ignatius (that to Polycarp being referred by Usher to the next class) in the longer form, with the common Latin version printed in parallel columns. The interpolated portions, so far as they were ascertainable by the aid of an old Latin version of the shorter form, of which Usher had obtained two MSS. in England, and which he was the first to publish, were distinguished by being printed in red. This recension, however, by no means restored the text to its original purity, as may be seen by the most cursory comparison of Usher's text with that of Cotelerius and Le Clerc. The edition of Usher further contained, 2. Epistolae B. Ignatio adscriptae a Mediae Aetais Graecis Sex (Six Epistles ascribed to St. Ignatius by the Greeks of the Middle Age). The Epistle of Polycarp was included in this class, with the five spurious epistles extant in Greek. The common Latin version was also printed with these in parallel columns; and the three epistles which are extant only in Latin were subjoined. 3. A Latin version of eleven epistles (that to the Philippians being omitted) from the two MSS. obtained by Usher, and now first printed. This version is quite different from the common one, and very ancient. It corresponds, in the main, to the shorter text of the genuine Epistles.

The work of Usher contains also a valuable introduction and notes to the Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp, the Apostolical Constitutions, and the Canons ascribed to Clement of Rome. In 1646 the Epistles of Ignatius were published by Isaac Vossius (4 to. Amsterdam), from a MS. in the Medicean Library at Florence. The MS., which is not accurately written, and is mutilated at the end, is valuable as the only one containing the shorter recension of the genuine Epistles : it wants, however, that to the Romans, which was given by Vossius in the longer form, as in the former editions. The five spurious epistles, and that of Mary of Cassobelae to Ignatius, from the Medicean MS., the text of which differs materially from that previously published ; the three Latin Epistles, Usher's Latin version of the eleven Greek Epistles, and the common version of that to the Philippians, were all given by Vossius. In 1647 Usher published his Appendix Ignatiana, containing the Greek text of the seven Epistles, and two Latin versions of the Martyrum Ignatii. He gave the Medicean text of six of the Epistles; that to the Romans was the common text with the interpolations expunged, as determined by a collation of the epistle as given in the Martyrium, both in the Greek of Symeon Metaphrastes and the Latin versions published by Usher. The text of Ignatius was thus settled on the basis of MS. authority, except in the case of the Epistle to the Romans, and that was afterwards published by Le Clerc from a manuscript in the Colbertine Library.

After the controversy had been carried on for some time, and great progress had been made towards the settlement of the text, the most formidable attack on the genuineness of the Epistles was made by Daillé (Dallaeus), one of the most eminent of the French Protestants, in his work De Scriptis quae sub Dionysii Areopagitae et Ignatii Antiocheni circmferuntur Libri duo, 4to. Geneva, 1666. The works of Ignatius form the subject of the second book. This attack of Daillé called forth the Vindiciae Ignatianae of Bishop Pearson, 4to. Cambridge, 1672, which may be considered as having exhausted the controversy. The subsequent contributions to the discussion do not require notice. The genuineness and substantial integrity of the seven epistles in the shorter form may be considered as now generally recognised.


The Epistles of Ignatius are characterised by simplicity of thought and by piety. His eagerness to obtain the crown of martyrdom has been censured ; and his zeal in enforcing the claims of the bishops and clergy to reverence and obedience is very great. Perhaps this characteristic, which has quickened the suspicions of, or objections to, the genuineness of the Epistles, may be rather regarded as an argument that they were written while those claims were by no means generally admitted. His zeal in enforcing them is an indication of their being disputed, as men do not contend for what no one denies. The Greek style of Ignatius is by no means good, which is accounted for by the circumstance of Greek not being his vernacular tongue.

Editions (2)

The most complete and valuable edition of Ignatius is that contained in the Patres Apostolici of Cotelerius, the second edition of which by Le Clerc (2 vols. fol. Amsterdam. 1724) contains the two recensions of the genuine epistles, all the spurious epistles (Greek and Latin), with the epistles of Mary of Cassobelae and of the Virgin; the two ancient Latin versions (the common one and Usher's), the Martyrium Ignatii, the Dissertationes (i. e. the Introduction) of Usher, the Vindiciae of Pearson, a Dissertatio de Ignatianis Epistolis, by Le Clerc, and variorum notes.

A useful edition of the genuine Epistles with those of Clement of Rome and Polycarp, and the Martyria of Ignatius and Polycarp, was published by Jacobson (2 vols. 8vo. Oxford, 1838).


There are versions in several of the languages of modern Europe; including two English translations, an old one by Archbishop Wake, and a modern one by Clementson (8vo. 1827). Wake's translation has been repeatedly published.

Ebed-jesu, the Syrian, speaks of Ignatius as having written De Re Fidei et Canones, but he is supposed to refer to his Epistles (Assemani, Bibl. Orient. vol. iii. p. ii. p. 16, 17). There is also a Syriac liturgy ascribed to Ignatius, of which a Latin version is given by Renaudot (Liturg. Orientales, vol. ii. p. 215, &c.), who declares it to be spurious.

The Martyrium Ignatii, which is our chief authority for the circumstances of Ignatius' death, professes to be written by eye-witnesses, the companions of his voyage to Rome, supposed to be Philo, a deacon of Tarsus or some other church in Cilicia, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian, who are mentioned in the Epistles of Ignatius (Ad Philadelph. 100.11; Ad Smyrneos, 100.13). Usher adds to them a third person, Gaius, but on what authority we know not, and Gallandius adds Crocus mentioned by Ignatius (Ad Romanos, 100.10). The account, with many interpolations, is incorporated in the work of Symeon Metaphrastes (A. D. 20, Dec.), and a Latin translation from him is given by Surius, De Probatis Sanctor. Vitis, and in the Acta Sanctorum, under the date of the 1st of Feb. The Martyrium was first printed in Latin by archbishop Usher, who gave two distinct versions from different MSS. The Greek text was first printed by Ruinart in his Acta Martyrum Sincera (4to. Paris, 1689) from a MS. in the Colbertine library, and in a revised edition in Le Clerc's Cotelerius. It is given by Jacobson and by most of the later editors of the Epistles. Its genuineness is generally recognised; but it is thought to be interpolated. See the remarks of Grabe quoted by Jacobson at the end of the Martyrium. A considerable fragment of an ancient Syriac version of the Martyrium of Ignatius is published by Mr. Cureton.

Syriac Version of the Epistles

A recent discovery promises to reopen the question, as to the integrity of the shorter epistles. Several writers, including Beausobre, Lardner, and Priestly, had expressed their suspicion or conviction, that there were in them interpolations, more or less considerable. An ancient Syriac version of the epistles to Polycarp, to the Romans, and to the Ephesians, recently discovered, gives reason to believe that the interpolations are very considerable. This version was discovered among the MSS. of the library of the Syriac convent of the desert of Nitria, in Egypt, which has been lately purchased by the trustees of the British Museum. These epistles have been published by the Rev. W. Cureton, of the British Museum (The Ancient Syriac Version of the Epistles of St. Ignatius, &c., by William Cureton, M. A. 8vo. London. 1845), from two MSS., of which one, containing the epistle to Polycarp, is assigned by him to the sixth century; the other, containing the other two epistles, belongs, in his judgment, to the seventh or eighth century. The Syriac Epistle to Polycarp contains scarcely anything of c. vii. and vii, which, in the Greek text, form the close of the epistle. The Epistle to the Ephesians omits, with some trifling exceptions, c ii.-vii., xi.-xxi. ; beside the greater part of c. ix.; the omitted portion forming two-thirds of the Epistle in Greek. The Epistle to the Romans omits considerable portions of c. i.-iii., nearly the whole of c. vi.-viii., the greater part of c. ix., and the whole of c. x. The conclusion of the Epistle to the Romans in Syriac consists of what appears in the Greek as c. iv.-v. of the Epistle to the Trallians. Mr. Cureton gives an English version, interpaged with the Syriac text, and subjoins the Greek text conformed to the Syriac, the parts expunged being printed at the foot of the page. In a valuable preface he reviews the history of the Greek text of the Epistles, gives an interesting account of the fruitless endeavours made in the seventeenth century, by Mr. Huntington, chaplain at Aleppo, (afterwards Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and Bishop of Raphoe), to discover the Syriac version, and the more recent and successful efforts. He discusses the question whether the Syriac text is to be preferred to the Greek, and argues strongly for its superiority. The interpolations, several of which enforce clerical and episcopal authority, while others support the deity of Jesus Christ, he considers to be subsequent to and intended to bear upon the Arian [ARIUS] and Aerian [AERIUS] controversies.

Further Information

Pearson, Usher, Jacobson, ll. cc. ; Lardner, Credibility ; Fabric. Bibl. Gr. vol. 7.32. &c.; Galland, Biblioth. Patrum, vol. i. Proleg. 100.7, 8; Cave, Hist. Litt. vol. i. p. 41, ed. Oxford, 1740; Oudin, de Scriptoribus Eccles. vol. i. cod. 71; Ceillier, Auteurs Sacrés, vol. i. p. 620.)

The name of Ignatius was borne by several of the later patriarchs of Antioch. (See the Hist. Chronol. Patriarch. Antioch. prefixed to the Acta Sanctorum Julii, vol. iv.; and Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. xiv. p. 38, &c., ed. vet.

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