IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, SAINT (c. 35-107)
Bishop of Antioch who wrote important letters to other churchmen on his way to martyrdom in Rome (feast day: 17 October in the West, 20 December in the East). Eusebius reports in his Historia ecclesiastica (III.36, 2-11) that Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was brought to Rome from Syria as a prisoner in the time of Trajan (98-117) and was there delivered to the wild beasts because of his faith in Christ. While staying in Smyrna on his way to Rome, he wrote letters to Ephesus, Magnesia on the Meander, Tralles, and Rome, and then from Troas to Philadelphia, to the church in Smyrna, and in particular to its bishop, POLYCARP.
Eusebius quotes sections from the letters. Finally he draws attention to evidence in Irenaeus of Lyons and Polycarp of Smyrna regarding Ignatius (III.36, 12-15). Among other things, he quotes the following passage from the epistle of Polycarp to the church at Philippi, through which Ignatius had passed as a prisoner: “The letters of Ignatius, which he has sent us, and all the others in our possession, we are sending to you in accordance with your desire. They are enclosed with this letter” (Eusebius, III.36, 15; Polycarp, To the Philippians 13.2). Thus, shortly after they were written, the epistles of Ignatius began to be collected.
More letters in the name of Ignatius have come down to us in manuscript form than Eusebius mentions. This raises the so-called Ignatian question, about the authenticity of the letters. There are three forms of transmission: a long, a medium, and a short. The so-called Longer Recension, transmitted in Greek and in an eighth (?)- century Latin translation, contains in a long version the seven letters mentioned in Eusebius together with six other letters (only five in Latin).
The Medium Recension, the so-called mixed collection, transmitted in Greek, Armenian, Coptic, and in a thirteenth-century Latin translation, includes a shorter text of the seven letters mentioned in Eusebius and five or six of the letters not found there. There is a Short Recension, preserved only in Syriac, of the three letters to the Ephesians, the Romans, and Polycarp of Smyrna. It was recognized at the end of the nineteenth century as an excerpt from the mixed collection. Since then the consensus has held that the seven letters mentioned in Eusebius in the mixed version are authentic letters of Ignatius. These seven letters were expanded by additions around A.D. 380. The interpolator added the six inauthentic letters.
In 1952, L.-T. Lefort edited the Coptic fragments of two codices, A and B, with letters of Ignatius. E. Lucchesi discovered a further folio belonging to Codex B: Cod. Paris Copt. 12919, fol. 79. As the parts in double transmission show, Codex A and Codex B represent two independent translations. The inferred or transmitted sequence of the letters in Codex A is as follows: [1.] to Hero, [2.] to the Smyrnans, [3.] to Polycarp, [4.] to the Ephesians, [5.]?, [6.] to the Trallians, [7.] to the Philadelphians, [8.] to the Romans. As numbers 2-4 and 6-8 correspond precisely to the Armenian collection, but the letter to the Magnesians stands between the letters to the Ephesians and to the Trallians, Lefort supposes the same sequence for Codex A. Thus in the gap for number 5 the letter to the Magnesians must once have stood.
The Coptic collection of Codex A begins with the inauthentic epistle to Hero. Then come the seven authentic letters. The Armenian collection has these seven letters first, followed by the six inauthentic ones, with that to Hero in the penultimate position. Since Codex A breaks off in the middle of the epistle to the Romans, we can only speculate as to what more was in it. Lefort has inferred the following as the sequence for the part of Codex B that can be checked: Polycarp, the Antiochenes, Hero, Ephesians, Romans.
This is the order of Recension G2 L2 (cf. F. X. Funk and F. Diekamp, Patres apostolici [2nd ed., Tübingen, 1913], Vol. 2, xvii). Following this sequence the epistle to the Philadelphians (3,3-6,1 on the folio edited by Lucchesi) might have stood in the seventh position, followed by the letters to the Smyrnans and to Polycarp. Both Coptic translations are testimonies to the mixed version (called the short version by Lefort).
Lefort adds to his edition of the epistles of Ignatius the Sahidic and Bohairic versions of the “Roman Martyrdom” of Ignatius (as opposed to the “Antiochene Martyrdom” or Martyrium Colbertinum). The Greek original could have come into existence in the fifth century (cf. Bardenhewer, 1902, Vol. 1, pp. 143-145). The appended Laus or Oratio Heronis is a eulogistic and petitionary prayer addressed to Ignatius (cf. Bardenhewer, 1902, p. 126).
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