St. Ignatius of Antioch and his letter to the church

St. Ignatius of Antioch


Saint Ignatius of Antioch, also known as Theophorus, was an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch, he was born in Syria and died in Rome between 98 and 117.  He was of Syrian origin who had converted from paganism, he went to Rome as a prisoner from Antioch, for he had been condemned to death. Ignatius is the child whom the Savior took in his arms (mark 9:35). There is a belief that he was among the auditors of the Apostle Saint John. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch and the immediate successor of Evodius (Eusebius, church history II.3.22). He wrote letters to the churches at Rome, Ephesus, Magnesia, and Tralles Brent and Allen (2007).

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St Ignatius of Antioch was born in Syria at the mid of the first century A.D, he was instructed alongside Saint Polycarp by the apostle Saint John. He became bishop of Antioch around the year 70 and took upon the leadership of a church formerly led by Peter before leaving for Rome. The last time he publicly bore witness to Christ was Rome’s Flavian Amphitheatre, and there he was killed by lions and his bones venerated in the year 107. He was born in the mid of the first century A.D and died in the year 107 Foster and Paul (2006, 487-495).

.Ignatius’s letter to the Church of Rome is the longest. The message speaks of the Christians in Rome as people of unique distinction and states the church is the first in the whole Christian he calls it a community of love. He desired to be a martyr, be a perfect disciple; this is, to share in the acts of Christ, to be with Christ in suffering, and do things Christ’s way. He always identified himself as an imperfect person. He believed by being a martyr, he would unite with Christ’s passion and would participate in the glory of Christ. He asked the church to pray for his energy and his stand. He had an obsession for martyrdom, and his fear was that his friend could obtain a pardon for him on the way to Rome. Barnard and Leslie (1963193-206).


Saint Ignatius’s letters had warnings against doctrines which did not seem right, false teachers and gentle or friendly reproof to maintain peace and order. He advises readers that their churches should not worry them that his words are brought about by pastoral solicitude.

He fought two groups, those who did not agree to the authority of the New Testament (Judaizers) and those who believed Christ suffered and died only in appearance. He always confirmed that the New Testament was a fulfillment of the Old Testament and affirmed the nature of Christ s human. Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection all played a role in the guarantee of everlasting life; he argues that if Christ died in appearance, then his readiness for the sacrifice of his own life for Christ would be in vain. He did not take up St. Paul’s antimony of flesh and spirit. To him, spirit is above flesh and not against it; what a spiritual person does in the flesh is also spiritual Barnard and Leslie (1963193-206).

The emperor Trajan made threats of persecution of the churches if Christians refused to worship the Roman gods as some of the nations had already done. Ignatius rebelled the orders, and that’s why he was sent to Rome to be devoured by the beasts.  The letters he wrote shows how the church was vulnerable in the second century. On his way to Rome, he knew his church in Antioch risked persecution, or the church would be divided without him. Division and unity is emphasized in his letters. The authority always worked against the unity of the church; the church also faced problems from the false teachers who sprout every day and were departing from the essential truth of Christianity. Some Docetists denied that Jesus was human and that he only seemed human, but he was not human, Saint Ignatius viewed this as an attack on Christianity and that if Christ did not suffer then our salvation was a lie. He urged Christians to remain united to their bishop Stoops and Robert (1987 161-178).


St Ignatius is an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch. On his route to Rome, where he was to face persecution, he wrote letters that form a central part of the collection, which was named the apostolic fathers. He is considered one of the three chief apostolic fathers together with pope Clement and Polycarp. In his letters, the topics addressed are; ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of the bishops. He converted to Christianity a young age, and he, along with his friend Polycarp are identified as the disciples of John, the apostle. He wrote about the themes of unity and division. He always admired being a martyr as he believed that would bring union between him and Christ.


Stoops, Robert F. “If I Suffer… Epistolary Authority in Ignatius of Antioch.” Harvard theological review 80, no. 2 (1987): 161-178.

Foster, Paul. “The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch (Part 1).” The Expository Times 117, no. 12 (2006): 487-495.

Isacson, Mikael. To each their own letter: structure, themes, and rhetorical strategies in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Almqvist & Wiksell International,, 2004.

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