The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians
The following was written by Ignatius of Antioch, an early Christian writer, to the Magnesians, an ancient Greek city in Ionia. It is believed to have been written around 100 AD.
Note: As with any apocryphal writing, Christians must take care to recognize historical writings regarding Christianity may have ulterior motives and thus, can contradict our biblical texts. They are presented here for research purposes.
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Magnesia by the Maeander, a church blessed with the grace of God the Father through Jesus Christ our Savior, in whom I salute her. Heartiest greetings and good wishes to her in God the Father and in Jesus Christ.
1. When I learned of your well-ordered God-inspired love, I was jubilant and decided to have a chat with you in the spirit of the faith in Jesus Christ. I am privileged to bear a name radiant with divine splendor, and so in the chains which I carry about on me, I sing the praises of the Churches and pray for union in their midst, a union based on the flesh and spirit of Jesus Christ, our enduring life; a union based on faith and love–the greatest blessing; and, most especially, a union with Jesus and the Father. If in this union we patiently endure all the abuse of the Prince of this world and escape unscathed, we shall happily make our way to God.
2. Now, then, it has been my privilege to have a glimpse of you all in the person of Damas, your bishop and a man of, and in the persons of your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and of my fellow servant, the deacon Zotion. Would that I might enjoy the latter’s company! He is obedient to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbyters as to the law of Jesus Christ.
3. But for you, too, it is fitting not to take advantage of the bishop’s youth, but rather, because he embodies the authority of God the Father, to show him every mark of respect–and your presbyters, so I learn, are doing just that: they do not seek to profit by his youthfulness, which strikes the bodily eye; no, they are wise in God and therefore defer to him–or, rather, not to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of all men. SO, then, for the honor of Him who has deigned to choose us, it is proper to obey without any hypocrisy. It is not really that a man deceives this particular bishop who is visible, but tries to overreach Him who is invisible. When this happens, his reckoning is not with man, but with God who knows what is secret.
4. The proper thing, then, is not merely to be styled Christians, but also to be such–just as there are those who style a man bishop, but completely disregard him in their conduct. Such persons do not seem to me to have a good conscience, inasmuch as they do not assemble in the fixed order prescribed by him.
5. Now, as all things have an end, and those two issues, death and life, are set before us at one and the same time, so each man is bound to go to his own place. It is the same as with two coinages, the one of God, the other of the world; and each of them has its own stamp impressed upon it: the unbelievers bear the stamp of this world, while the believers, animated by love, bear the stamp of God the Father through Jesus Christ, whose life is not in us unless we are ready of our own accord to die in order to share in His Passion.
6. Since, then, in the persons mentioned before I have with the eyes of the faith looked upon your whole community and have come to love it, I exhort you to strive to do all things in harmony with God: the bishop is to preside in the place of God, while the presbyters are to function as the council of the Apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who before time began was with the Father and has at last appeared. Conform yourselves, then–all of you– to God’s ways, and respect one another, and let no one regard his neighbor with the eyes of the flesh, but love one another at all times in Jesus Christ. Let there be nothing among you tending to divide you, but be united with the bishop and those who preside–serving at once as a pattern and as a lesson of incorruptibility.
7. Just as the Lord, therefore, being one with the Father, did nothing without Him, either by Himself, or through the Apostles, so neither must you undertake anything without the bishop and the presbyters; nor must you attempt to convince yourselves that anything you do on your own account is acceptable. No; at your meetings there must be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope in love, in joy that is flawless, that is Jesus Christ, who stands supreme. Come together, all of you, as to one temple and one altar, to one Jesus Christ–to Him who came forth from one Father and yet remained with, and returned to, one.
8. Do not he led astray by those erroneous teachings and ancient fables which are utterly worthless. Indeed, if at this date we still conform to Judaism, then we own that we have not received grace. Why, the Prophets, those men so very near to God, lived in conformity with Christ Jesus. This, too, was the reason why they were persecuted, inspired as they were by His grace to bring full conviction to an unbelieving world that there is one God, who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ, His Son–who, being His Word, came forth out of the silence into the world and won the full approval of Him whose Ambassador He was.
9. Consequently, if the people who were given to obsolete practices faced the hope of a new life, and if these no longer observe the Sabbath, but regulate their calendar by the Lord’s Day, the day, too, on which our Life rose by His power and through the medium of His death–though some deny this; and if to this mystery we owe our faith and because of it submit to sufferings to prove ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Teacher: how, then, can we possibly live apart from Him of whom, by the working of the Spirit, even the Prophets were disciples and to whom they looked forward as their Teacher? And so He, for whom they rightly waited, came and raised them from the dead.
10. Let us not, then, be insensible to His loving kindness. Certainly, if He were to imitate our way of acting, we should be done for instantly. We must, therefore, prove ourselves His disciples and learn to live like Christians. Assuredly whoever is called by a name other than this, is not of God. Hence, put away the deteriorated leaven, a leaven stale and sour, and turn to the new leaven, that is, Jesus Christ. Be salted in Him to keep any among you from being spoiled, for by your odor you will be tested. It is absurd to have Jesus Christ on the lips, and at the same time live like a Jew. No; Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism believed in Christianity, and in its bosom was assembled everyone professing faith in God.
11. Now this, dearly beloved, I do not write as though I had learned that any of you were men of that description, but because, as one who is not your superior, I merely wish to warn you betimes not to yield to the bait of false doctrine, but to believe most steadfastly in the birth, the Passion, and the Resurrection, which took place during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. Facts these are, real and established by Jesus Christ, our hope. May God grant that none of you may relinquish it!
12. May you be my joy in all respects, if indeed I deserve it! For, though I am in chains, compared with one of you who are free, I am nothing. I know that you are not conceited, for you have Jesus Christ in you. What is more, I know that when I praise you, you blush, just as the Scripture says: The just man is his own accuser.
13. Be zealous, therefore, to stand squarely on the decrees of the Lord and the Apostles, that in all things whatsoever you may prosper, in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in the Son and the Father and the Spirit, in the beginning and the end, together with your most reverend bishop and with your presbytery–that fittingly woven spiritual crown! –and with your deacons, men of God. Submit to the bishop and to each other’s rights, just as did Jesus Christ in the flesh to the Father, and as the Apostles did to Christ and the Father and the Spirit, so that there may be oneness both of flesh and of spirit.
14. Knowing that you are steeped in God, I am exhorting you but briefly. Remember me in your prayers that I may happily make my way to God. Remember, too, the Church in Syria, of which I am an unworthy member. Yes, I do stand in need of your God-inspired prayer and your love. Thus the Church in Syria will be privileged through your Church to be quickened with refreshing dew.
15. The Ephesians at Smyrna–the place from which I am writing to you–send their greetings. Like yourselves, they have come here for the glory of God. They have revived my spirits in every way, as does Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna. The rest of the Churches, too, beg to be remembered in honor of Jesus Christ. Farewell–you who, being of one mind with God, possess an unflinching spirit–which is to be like Jesus Christ.