Ignatius of Antioch



“I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way.”







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Little is known of the life of Ignatius of Antioch except what may be gathered from the letters bearing his name. Irenæus quotes him as a martyr who was condemned to be thrown to the beasts; Origen quotes him once, and in the sixth homily on Luke mentions him as the successor of Peter in the bishopric of Antioch, giving the same account of his death as Irenæus. Eusebius knows no independent facts, and the chronology of the lists of the bishops of Antioch which he gives is doubtful. He too calls him the second bishop; though the Apostolic Constitutions combine two traditions by making Peter appoint first Euodius, the immediate predecessor of Ignatius, and then Ignatius. Purely legendary are the assertions that Ignatius was the child mentioned in Matt. 28:4, and that he was a disciple of John or of Peter. The Acta Martyrii relating to him must also be abandoned as historical sources. Two independent accounts exist, the Martyrium Colberlinum (first published by Ussher in a Latin version, 1647, then by Ruinart in Greek, 1689), which is identical with the Syriac version given in part by Cureton and in full by Mosinger (1872); and the Martyrium Valicanum, published by Dressel from a Vatican manuscript, after Umber had given a slightly different text from one at Oxford. Besides these there are three others formed by a combination of the two; but the authenticity of even the Colbertinum, which has the best claim, is now seldom defended. This result has been reached on the basis of contradictions between it and the letters, of its frequent unhistorical statements, and of the fact that it was not known to any ancient writer. It cannot have been composed earlier than the fifth century. The one source is therefore the epistles, which purport to have been written during the journey of Ignatius from Antioch to Rome to suffer martyrdom.