The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrneans: Long Version

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The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrneans: Long Version

See also The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrneans: Short Version


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The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans: Long Version

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the most high Father, and His beloved Son Jesus Christ, which has through mercy obtained every kind of gift, which is filled with faith and love, and is deficient in no gift, most worthy of God, and adorned with holiness:[1] the Church which is at Smyrna, in Asia, wishes abundance of happiness, through the immaculate Spirit and word of God.


Chapter I.—Thanks to God for your faith.

I Glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by Him has given you such wisdom. For I have observed that ye are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if ye 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, in very truth, with respect to our Lord Jesus Christ, that He was the Son of God, “the first-born of every creature,”[2] God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and was of the seed of David according to the flesh,[3] by the Virgin Mary; was baptized by John, that all righteousness might be fulfilled[4] by Him; that He lived a life of holiness without sin, and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed [to the cross] for us in His flesh. From whom we also derive our being,[5] from His divinely-blessed passion, that He might set up a standard for the ages, through His resurrection, to all His holy and faithful [followers], whether among Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of His Church.


Chapter II.—Christ’s true passion.

Now, He suffered all these things for us; and He suffered them really, and not in appearance only, even as also He truly rose again. But not, as some of the unbelievers, who are ashamed of the formation of man, and the cross, and death itself, affirm, that in appearance only, and not in truth, He took a body of the Virgin, and suffered only in appearance, forgetting, as they do, Him who said, “The Word was made flesh;”[6] and again, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up;”[7] and once more, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me.”[8] The Word therefore did dwell in flesh, for “Wisdom built herself an house.”[9] The Word raised up again His own temple on the third day, when it had been destroyed by the Jews fighting against Christ. The Word, when His flesh was lifted up, after the manner of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, drew all men to Himself for their eternal salvation. [10]


Chapter III.—Christ was possessed of a body after His resurrection.

And I know that He was possessed of a body not only in His being born and crucified, but I also know that He was so after His resurrection, and 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.”[11] “For a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.”[12] And He says to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger into the print of the nails, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side;”[13] and immediately they believed that He was Christ. Wherefore Thomas also says to Him, “My Lord, and my God.”[14] And on this account also did they despise death, for it were too little to say, indignities and stripes. Nor was this all; but also after He had shown Himself to them, that He had risen indeed, and not in appearance only, He both ate and drank with them during forty entire days. And thus was He, with the flesh, received up in their sight unto Him that sent Him, being with that same flesh to come again, accompanied by glory and power. For, say the [holy] oracles, “This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen Him go unto heaven.”[15] But if they say that He will come at the end of the world without a body, how shall those “see Him that pierced Him,”[16] and when they recognize Him, “mourn for themselves?”[17] For incorporeal beings have neither form nor figure, nor the aspect[18] of an animal possessed of shape, because their nature is in itself simple.


Chapter IV.—Beware of these heretics.

I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that ye also hold the same opinions [as I do]. But I guard you beforehand from these beasts in the shape of men, from whom you must not only turn away, but even flee from them. Only you must pray for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance. For if the Lord were in the body in appearance only, and were crucified in appearance only, then am I also bound in appearance only. And why have I also surrendered myself to death, to fire, to the sword, to the wild beasts? But, [in fact,] I endure all things for Christ, not in appearance only, but in reality, that I may suffer together with Him, while He Himself inwardly strengthens me; for of myself I have no such ability.


Chapter V.—Their dangerous errors.

Some have ignorantly denied Him, and advocate falsehood rather than the truth. These persons neither have the prophecies persuaded, nor the law of Moses, nor the Gospel even to this day, nor the sufferings we have individually endured. For they think also the same thing regarding us. For what does it profit, if any one commends me, but blasphemes my Lord, not owning Him to be God incarnate?[19] He that does not confess this, has in fact altogether denied Him, being enveloped in death. I have not, however, thought good to write the names of such persons, inasmuch as they are unbelievers; and far be it from me to make any mention of them, until they repent.


Chapter VI—Unbelievers in the blood of Christ shall be condemned.

Let no man deceive himself. Unless he believes that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and shall confess His cross and passion, and the blood which He shed for the salvation of the world, he shall not obtain eternal life, whether he be a king, or a priest, or a ruler, or a private person, a master or a servant, a man or a woman. “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”[20] Let no man’s place, or dignity, or riches, puff him up; and let no man’s low condition or poverty abase him. For the chief points are faith towards God, hope towards Christ, the enjoyment of those good things for which we look, and love towards God and our neighbor. For, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself.”[21] And the Lord says, “This is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.”[22] And again, “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”[23] Do ye, therefore, notice those who preach other doctrines, how they affirm that the Father of Christ cannot be known, and how they exhibit enmity and deceit in their dealings with one another. They have no regard for love; they despise the good things we expect hereafter; they regard present things as if they were durable; they ridicule him that is in affliction; they laugh at him that is in bonds.


Chapter VII.—Let us stand aloof from such heretics.

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,[24] by means of his wife, to transgress the commandment, who slew Abel by the hands of Cain, who fought against Job, who was the accuser of Joshua[25] the son of Josedech, who sought to “sift the faith”[26] of the apostles, who stirred up the multitude of the Jews against the Lord, who also now “worketh in the children of disobedience;[27] from whom the Lord Jesus Christ will deliver us, who prayed that the faith of the apostles might not fail,[28] not because He was not able of Himself to preserve it, but because He rejoiced in the pre-eminence of the Father. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and neither in private nor in public to talk with[29] them; but to give heed to the law, and the prophets, and to those who have preached to you the word of salvation. But flee from all abominable heresies, and those that cause schisms, as the beginning of evils.


Chapter VIII.—Let nothing be done without the bishop.

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out [through their office] the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper[30] Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord’s might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast.[31] But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid.


Chapter IX.—Honor the bishop.

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. For “in Hades there is no one who can confess his sins.”[32] For “behold the man, and his work is before him.”[33] And [the Scripture saith], “My son, honor thou God and the king.”[34] And say I, Honor thou God indeed, as the Author and Lord of all things, but the bishop as the high-priest, who bears the image of God—of God, inasmuch as he is a ruler, and of Christ, in his capacity of a priest. After Him, we must also honor the king. For there is no one superior to God, or even like to Him, among all the beings that exist. Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. Nor, again, is there any one among rulers to be compared with the king, who secures peace and good order to those over whom he rules. He who honors the bishop shall be honored by God, even as he that dishonors him shall be punished by God. For if he that rises up against kings is justly held worthy of punishment, inasmuch as he dissolves public order, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy,[35] who presumes to do anything without the bishop, thus both destroying the [Church’s] unity, and throwing its order into confusion? For the priesthood is the very highest point of all good things among men, against which whosoever is mad enough to strive, dishonors not man, but God, and Christ Jesus, the First-born, and the only High Priest, by nature, of the Father. Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father. As ye, brethren, have refreshed me, so will Jesus Christ refresh you. Ye have loved me when absent, as well as when present. God will recompense you, for whose sake ye have shown such kindness towards His prisoner. For even if I am not worthy of it, yet your zeal [to help me] is an admirable[36] thing. For “he who honors a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward.”[37] It is manifest also, that he who honors a prisoner of Jesus Christ shall receive the reward of the martyrs.


Chapter X.—Acknowledgment of their kindness.

Ye have done well in receiving Philo, and Gaius, and Agathopus, who, being the servants[38] of Christ, have followed me for the sake of God, and who greatly bless the Lord in your behalf, because ye have in every way refreshed them. None of those things which ye have done to them shall be passed by without being reckoned unto you. “The Lord grant” to you “that ye may find mercy of the Lord in that day!”[39] May my spirit be for you,[40] and my bonds, which ye have not despised or been ashamed of. Wherefore, neither shall Jesus Christ, our perfect hope, be ashamed of you.


Chapter XI.—Request to them to send a messenger to Antioch.

Your prayers have reached to the Church of Antioch, and it is at peace. Coming from that place bound, I salute all; I who am not worthy to be styled from thence, inasmuch as I am the least of them. Nevertheless, according to the will of God, I have been thought worthy [of this honor], not that I have any sense[41] [of having deserved it], but by the grace of God, which I wish may be perfectly given to me, that through your prayers I may attain to God. In order, therefore, that your work may be complete both on earth and in heaven, it is fitting that, for the honor of God, your Church should elect some worthy delegate;[42] so that he, journeying into Syria, may congratulate them that they are [now] at peace, and are restored to their proper greatness, and that their proper constitution[43] has been re-established among them. What appears to me proper to be done is this, that you should send some one of your number with an epistle, so that, in company with them, he may rejoice over the tranquility which, according to the will of God, they have obtained, and because that, through your prayers, I have secured Christ as a safe harbor. As persons who are perfect, ye should also aim at[44] those things which are perfect. For when ye are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you.


Chapter XII.—Salutations.

The love of your brethren at Troas salutes you; whence also I write to you by Burgus, whom ye sent with me, together with the Ephesians, your brethren, and who has in all things refreshed me. And I would that all may imitate him, as being a pattern of a minister of God. The grace of the Lord will reward him in all things. I salute your most worthy bishop Polycarp, and your venerable presbytery, and your Christ-bearing deacons, my fellow-servants, and all of you individually, as well as generally, in the name of Christ Jesus, 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 in Christ for evermore!


Chapter XIII.—Conclusion.

I salute the families of my brethren, with their wives and children, and those that are ever virgins, and the widows. Be ye strong, I pray, in the power of the Holy Ghost. 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,[45] and the incomparable Daphnus, and Eutecnus, and all by name. Fare ye well in the grace of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and divine and sacred wisdom.




  1. Literally, “holy-bearing.”
  2. Col. i. 15.
  3. Rom. i. 3.
  4. Matt. iii. 15.
  5. Literally, “we are.”
  6. John i. 14.
  7. John ii. 19.
  8. John xii. 32.
  9. Prov. ix. 1.
  10. Num. xxi. 9; John iii. 14.
  11. Literally, “demon.” According to Jerome, this quotation is from the Gospel of the Nazarenes. Comp. Luke xxiv. 39.
  12. Luke xxiv. 39.
  13. John xx. 27.
  14. John xx. 28.
  15. Acts i. 11.
  16. Rev. i. 7.
  17. Zech. xii. 10.
  18. Or, “mark.”
  19. Literally, “a flesh-bearer.”
  20. Matt. xix. 12.
  21. Deut. vi. 5.
  22. John xvii. 31.
  23. John xiii. 34; Matt. xxii. 40.
  24. Literally, “drove Adam out of.”
  25. Zech. iii. 1.
  26. Luke xxii. 31.
  27. Eph. ii. 2.
  28. Luke xxii. 32.
  29. The reading is peri in the one case, and meta in the other, though the latter meaning seems preferable. Most of the mss. of the longer recension read peri, as in the shorter.
  30. Or, “firm.”
  31. Some refer the words to the Lord’s Supper.
  32. Ps. vi. 5.
  33. Isa. lxii. 11.
  34. Prov. xxiv. 21.
  35. Comp. Heb. x. 29.
  36. Or, “great.”
  37. Matt. x. 41.
  38. Or, “deacons.”
  39. 2 Tim. i. 18.
  40. Comp. Epistle of Ignatius to Ephesians, chap. xxi.; to Polycarp, chap. ii. vi.
  41. Or, “from any conscience.”
  42. Literally, “God-ambassador.”
  43. Literally, “body.”
  44. Or, “think of.”
  45. Literally, “the name desired of me.”
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