Brandon's Notepad

December 28, 2017

Ignatius’ Roman Epistle

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Synopsis

Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr of the early Church, wrote to the Church in Rome, imploring that the faithful there not prevent his martyrdom.

Authorship

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, while imprisoned and in transport to Rome in about the year A.D. 108, wrote letters to several of the ancient Churches including the Christians in Rome. Full authenticity of the contents of these letters is not generally accepted; however, the most egregious embellishments can be identified and removed using copies of the letters from different ages and sources. The original letters and contemporary copies have been lost to antiquity.

Summary

Unlike his letters to the Churches in Asia, this letter is short and bears a simple message: don’t stop the Romans from killing me. It is clear from his salutatory introduction that he holds the Roman Christians in high esteem. He also suspects that they, out of brotherly love, will do anything they can to prevent his execution. Ignatius wishes to see the Lord and sees martyrdom as a direct path to this end.

Frankly, I find it difficult to glean much from this letter that could not be understood from reading the text itself. There is no hint of dogmatic beginnings or compelling exegesis to perform. Again the message is simple. The language, however, suffers from the disease of elegance, meaning that we modern readers have little patience for the flowery language employed, no matter how close to the original Greek the translator was able to render the English.

So, I feel that the best service I can provide at the moment is to do as I have done with other such writings and provide a more succinct rendition that may appeal to the current generation:

To the wonderful Christians in Rome,

[1]My prayers have been answered! I’m coming to see you as a prisoner and, God willing, to be executed in Rome. You who live there have ample opportunity to be martyred, but I had to go out of my way to make this happen. I’m just afraid that you, out of love, will prevent this from happening. [2]I may never have this opportunity again, so please, the best thing you could do for me is to just not say anything to anyone and let it happen. [3]Please do pray for an increase in my strength and resolve though. I would much rather be considered a true Christian after my death than to claim to be one and fall short. [4]Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, that my body be completely devoured so that no one must worry with my remains. [5]I hope the beasts attack quickly, and if they don’t attack me at all, I will provoke them! Bring it on! [6]Nothing in the world can profit me, for the world is death and Jesus is Life, and [7]I do not desire worldly food, but only the bread and drink of God, which is the flesh and blood of Christ. [8]I no longer want to live as man lives; pray that I obtain what I desire. [9]Pray also for the Church in Syria that I have humbly left behind. My soul praises you along with the other Churches that have met me with love along the way. [10]Tell those who have arrived before me that I am on my way. They are good people, so please show your hospitality to them.

Farewell!
Ignatius (a.k.a. Theophorus)
August 23rd

An Aside

If the letter above comes across as irreverent or even flippant, please know that this is not the intent. I’ve simply read with understanding Ignatius’ message and recast it in the words that might would be used by a modern English speaker. If anything, this is a reflection on our modern culture that devalues thoughtful personal correspondence and makes an idol of brevity. God only knows what Ignatius might’ve said if he had been limited to only 140 characters.

In all fairness, I am a modern English speaker too, and if I have misunderstood what Ignatius was trying to say, by all means, please bring it to my attention.


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