Wednesday, September 28, 2005

HFH Patristics Reading Group: Ignatius of Antioch

We should now all have finished the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts on "old" threads; not everybody can read at the same pace, given the competing demands on our attention.

For those who have recently joined in this reading group, both members of Holy Family Homeschoolers and other friends, our guide text is Quasten's Patrology, Vol. 1 (you don't have to buy it to follow along, but it's worth the investment). We've read the Didache and St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians, and are now moving on to the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch. All readings are linked on-line; just click on the name of the writing.

Linked texts are in the public domain, usually because they're quite old, and may therefore be less easily readable than a modern translation. There are several excellent translations about, available from bookstore or library.

Now this is a discussion group, and if the number of people who have told me, privately, that they're reading along were reflected in the number of comments, the discussion would be quite lively. Remember, there are no stupid comments; there are only empty comments boxes.

Now, on with Ignatius....

Epistle to the Ephesians

As Quasten treats the Ignatian letters all at once, I will post Quasten's observations on the letters generally as well as various comments on the particular letters.

Quasten on St. Ignatius: "Ignatius, second bishop of Antioch, an inimitable personality, was sentenced during Trajan's reign (98-117) to be devoured by wild beasts. He was ordered from Syria to Rome to suffer his martyrdom. On the way to the Eternal City he composed seven epistles.... These letters are a welcome enlightenment as to internal conditions of early Christian communities. They give us a glimpse, too, into the very heart of the great bishop-martyr and breathe forth a profound religious enthusiasm that catches us up and fires us."

On the Eucharist: "The Church is called 'the place of sacrifice' (Eph. 5,2).... Ignatius calls the Eucharist, 'the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death, and everlasting life in Jesus Christ' (Eph. 20,2).

On the bishops: "[T]he bishop constantly admonishes his flock to peace and unity, which can only be attained through solidarity with the hierarchy" (see Eph. 4).

On the inhabitation of Christ: "The Pauline idea of God's immanence in the human soul is a favorite theme of St. Ignatius. The divinity of Christ dwells in the souls of Christians as in a temple (Eph. 15, 3).... Ignatius is so thoroughly permeated and inspired by the consciousness of this immanence that he coins new words in the cultural vein of his time. He calls Christians Theophoroi, Xristophoroi, naophoroi. 'And thus you all are fellow travellers, God-bearers and temple-bearers, Christ-bearers' (Eph. 9,2)."

Next (for those who like to read ahead): Epistle to the Magnesians

Update: Friend-of-this-blog Amy reminds us that there are two "versions" of the Ignatian letters: the originals ("short recension"), and interpolated versions from the fourth century ("long recension"). I'm linking us to the short recension, but if you like a bit of compare-and-contrast, you can see the long recension here.


Anonymous amy said...

There a two quotes from this letter which I particuarly love.

"There is one Physician who is both flesh and spirit, born and not born, who is God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first able to suffer and then unable to suffer, Jesus Christ our Lord."

"The virginity of Mary, her giving birth, and also the death of the Lord, were hidden from the prince of this world:- three mysteries loudly proclaimed, but wrought in the silence of God."

I first read this epistle in the Jurgen's translation where these quotes stand out as little gems, not particularly connected to any preceding line of thought.
When I linked to the public domain translation, however, I had trouble finding these quotes. I soon realized that the text I was reading on the web (I'm not sure whose translation it is) was in fact a different document.

This made me curious, so I went back to my notes in Jurgens and learned that Ignatius' epistle to the Ephesians survived in three forms - the long recension (our internet linked translation), the short recension (my Jurgens translation), and the Syriac abridgement.

Apparently scholars knew only of the long recension until the short version was discovered in the 17th century. Once it was discovered, the short recension became regarded as the authentic original. The long recension is now considered to be a fourth century interpolation.

But I wonder... Who would go back and make up all those names? Would Ignatius really drop his beautiful theological gems out of nowhere and leave them sitting in the text like Zen contemplations?

I know if I were copying the letter for personal use what I would include.

1. Obey your bishop.

2. The bit about one Physician

3. The three mysteries

4. The Eucahrist as the "medicne of
immortality, the antidote against death."

6:25 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...


Thanks for the history on the short and long recensions. I should have mentioned the history of the text from the outset. I'm a little confused, though. The link is to the short recension; and Jurgens translates passages only from the short recension.

Jurgens doesn't give a complete translation of any patristic texts; his purpose is only to translate patristic passages "as have special theological and historical significance, and which are most frequently referred to by theological authors of the present day" (from the foreword). Chapter and verse numbers are given in square brackets above each passage so that it can be found quickly in the text.

Is that why it looked like you were looking at a difference document?

7:28 PM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

"... different document." I meant to say.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous amy said...

Ahhh, so I've been reading the "Jurgens abridgements" all along. That makes a lot of sense. Perhaps I should read my introductory notes more closely.

5:48 AM  

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