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The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians


4. He mentions the arrival of Damas, their bishop, and others, 6. whom he exhorts them to reverence, notwithstanding he was a young man.
1. Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the blessed by the grace of God the Father in Jesus Christ our Savior, in whom I salute the church which is at Magnesia near the Maeander, and wish it all joy in God the Father and in Jesus Christ.

Numerous churches sent delegates to meet Ignatius at various stages on his way to martyrdom at Rome. The location of the church at Magnesia is unknown, but "near the Maeander" signifies the Meander (Menderes) River in Asia Minor. It was such a twisting, convoluted stream, doubling back on itself so often that it is the origin of our verb "to meander," meaning to take a winding course, to wander idly and aimlessly, etc.

2. When I heard of your well-ordered love and charity in God, I was full of joy and desired very much to speak to you in the faith of Jesus Christ.
3. For having been thought worthy to obtain a most excellent name, in the bonds which I carry about, I salute the churches and wish them a union both of the body and spirit of Jesus Christ, our eternal life, as also of faith and charity to which nothing is preferred; but especially of Jesus and the Father, in whom if we undergo all the injuries of the prince of this present world, and escape, we shall enjoy God.

"Having been thought worthy to obtain a most excellent name" can be translated "having been granted a name carrying a great deal of divinity in it," referring to his ecclesiastic honorific "Theophorus."

4. Seeing then I have been judged worthy to see you, by Damas your most excellent bishop, and by your very worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apolonius, and by my fellow-servant Sotio, the deacon;
5. In whom I rejoice because he is subject to his bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ, I determined to write to you.
6. It will be right for you also not to treat your bishop too familiarly upon the account of his youth, but to yield all reverence to him in accordance with the power of God the Father, as also I perceive that your holy presbyters do, not considering his age, which indeed to appearance is young, but as proper to those who are prudent in God, submitting to him, or rather not to him, but to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the bishop of us all.

Ignatius is favorably impressed by all the delegations sent to meet him. Compare his exhortation to the Magnesias church with Paul's to young Timothy: "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)

7. It will therefore be appropriate for you to obey your bishop in all sincerity, in honor of him whose pleasure it is that you should do.
8. Because he that does not do so, deceives not the bishop whom he sees, but affronts him that is invisible. For whatever of this kind is done, it reflects not upon man, but upon God, who knows the secrets of our hearts.
9. It is therefore fitting that we should not only be called Christians, but be so.
10. As some call indeed their governor a bishop, but yet do all things without him.
11. But I can never think that such as these have a good conscience, seeing that they are not gathered together firmly according to God's commandment.


1. Since all must die, 4. he exhorts them to live orderly and in unity.
1. Seeing then all things have an end, these two together are set before us, death and life; and every one shall depart to his appropriate place.
2. For as there are two sorts of coins, the one of God, the other of the world, and each of these has its proper inscription engraved upon it, so also it is here.

Compare with: "Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in [his] talk.... Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any [man]: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, [ye] hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose [is] this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they had heard [these words], they marveled, and left him, and went their way." Matthew 22:15-22)

3. The unbelievers are of this world, but the faithful, through charity, have the character of God the Father by Jesus Christ. If we are not readily disposed to die after the semblance of his passion, his life is not in us.
4. Therefore, as I have in the persons before mentioned seen all of you in faith and charity, I exhort you that you study to do all things in a divine concord:
5. Your bishop presiding in the place of God, your presbyters in the place of the council of the Apostles, and your deacons most dear to me being entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was the Father before all ages and appeared in the end to us.

Compare with: "...but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Hebrews 9:26)

6. So taking the same holy course, see that you all reverence one another, and let no one look upon his neighbor after the flesh, but all of you mutually love each other in Jesus Christ.
7. Let there be nothing that may be able to make a division among you, but be united to your bishop and those who preside over you to be your pattern and direction in the way to immortality.
8. As therefore the Lord, although united to him, did nothing without the Father, neither by himself nor yet by his Apostles, so neither should you do anything without your bishop and presbyters:

Compare with: "I and [my] Father are one" (John 10:30); "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I [am] in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:10-13);

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." (John 17:21,22)

9. Neither endeavor to let anything appear rational to yourselves apart;
10. But, being come together into the same place, have one common prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope; and be one in charity and in joy undefiled.

"Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:3-6)

11. There is one Lord Jesus Christ, compared to whom nothing is better. So come all together as to one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who proceeded from one Father, and exists in one, and is returned to one.

Compare with: "I come forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father." (John 16:28)


1. He cautions them against false opinions, 4. especially those of the Judaizing Christians.
1. Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables which are unprofitable. For if we still continue to live according to the Jewish law, we confess ourselves not to have received grace. For even the most holy prophets lived in accordance with Christ Jesus.

The phrase "strange doctrines" used here does not mean utterly false teachings, but the Greek word is "heterodox," meaning the false mixed with the true ("orthodox"). Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians to refute those who mixed the Jewish law with Christian grace.

2. And for this cause they were persecuted, being inspired by his grace to convince the unbelievers and disobedient that there is one God who has revealed himself by Jesus Christ his Son, who is his eternal word, not coming forth from silence, who in all things pleased him that sent him.
3. If they who were brought up in these ancient laws nevertheless came to the newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but keeping the Lord's day in which also our life is sprung up by him, and through his death, whom yet some deny:
4. (By which mystery we have been brought to believe and therefore wait that we may be established as disciples of Jesus Christ, our only master:)
5. How shall we be able to live differently without him whose disciples the very prophets were and by the Spirit expected him as their master?
6. And therefore he, whom they justly waited for, came and raised them up from the dead.

A reference to the dead who were raised at the death of Jesus; see Matthew 27:52.

7. Let us not then be insensible of his goodness, for if he had dealt with us according to our works, we would not now have being.
8. After having become his disciples, let us learn to live according to the rules of Christianity, for whoever is called by any other name besides this is not of God.
9. Lay aside therefore the old and sour and evil leaven, and be changed into the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ.

Leaven is yeast or fermenting dough from a previous baking used to make dough rise. The word is used figuratively to mean a tempering or modifying quality or thing, to spread through, to spread. Compare with: "...The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven..." (Matthew 13:33); "Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." (Matthew 16:6); "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (Galatians 5:9); "Your glorying [is] not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

The Israelites were to remove the leaven from their houses in preparation for Passover (Exodus 12:1- 30). Christ, crucified and risen, is the Church's Lamb, or Passover, fulfilled in the Eucharist.

10. Be salted by him, for fear that anyone among you should be corrupted; for by your flavor you shall be judged.

Because it is necessary for life, has preservative powers and gives flavor, salt had sacrificial significance (Leviticus 2:13, Ezra 6:9, Ezekiel 43:24). It symbolized the making of a covenant (Leviticus 2:13; see also Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5). To eat salt with somebody meant to be bound together in loyalty. As the salt of the earth, Christians are preservers of God's covenant and give proper flavor to society.

Compare its symbolism in the New Testament: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men." (Matthew 5:13); "...every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt [is] good: but if the salt have lost his saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another." (Mark 9:49, 50); "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." (Colossians 4:6)

11. It is absurd to name Jesus Christ and then to Judaize. For the Christian religion does not embrace the Jewish, but the Jewish the Christian, so every tongue that believed might be gathered together to God.
12. These things, my beloved, I write to you, not that I know of any among you that have fallen under such error, but as one lesser than you, I am desirous to forewarn you that you not fall into the barbed traps of false doctrine.
13. But that you be fully instructed in the birth, and suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our hope, which were most truly and certainly accomplished in the time of the government of Pontius Pilate, and from which God forbid that any among you should be turned aside.


1. He commends their faith and piety; exhorts them to persevere; 10. desires their prayers for himself and the church at Antioch.
1. May I therefore be joyful of you in all things, if I shall be worthy of it. For though I am bound, yet I am not worthy to be compared to one of you that are at liberty.
2. I know that you are not puffed up, for you have Jesus Christ in yourselves.
3. And especially when I commend you, I know that you are ashamed, as it is written, The just man condemns himself.

The intended reference is unclear, for the exact sentence "the just man condemns himself" is not found in the Bible. Ignatius seems to be paraphrasing his thought, and in this context "condemn" can mean denounce, rebuke, criticize, or censure. He may be saying he knows his compliments embarrass them, for they are humble and therefore aware of their shortcomings.

Compare with: "But let a man examine himself.... For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." (1 Corinthians 11:28, 31)

4. Study therefore to be authenticated in the doctrine of our Lord and his Apostles, so that whatever you do from the beginning to the end, you may prosper both in body and spirit, in faith and charity, in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Holy Spirit.

Compare with: "Till I come, give attendance to reading..." (1 Timothy 4:13); "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

5. Together with your most worthy bishop, and the well- wrought spiritual crown of your presbytery and deacons, which are in accordance with God.
6. Be subject to your bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and as the Apostles were both to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, so that you may be a unity both bodily and spiritually.
7. Knowing you to be full of God, I have only briefly exhorted you.
8. Be mindful of me in your prayers, so I may attain to God, and for the church in Syria, from which I am not worthy to be called.

The often repeated phrase "attain to God" may also be translated "find God" or "enjoy God."

9. For I stand in need of your joint prayers in God, and of your charity, that you may think the church in Syria worthy to be nourished by your church.
10. The Ephesians who came to Smyrna on my account salute you, from which place I write to you. They are present here to the glory of God, just as you are. They have in all things refreshed me, together with Polycarp, the bishop of the Smyrnaeans.
11. The rest of the churches, in honor of Jesus Christ, salute you.
12. Farewell, and be strengthened in the concord of God, possessing his inseparable spirit, which is Jesus Christ.