He testifies his desire to see, and his hopes of suffering for
Christ, 5. which he earnest entreats them not to prevent, 10.
but to pray for him, that God would strengthen him to the combat.
1. Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the church
which has obtained mercy from the majesty of the Most High
Father, and his only begotten Son Jesus Christ: beloved and
illuminated through the will of him who wills all things which
are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, which also
presides in the place of the region of the Romans, worthy of God;
most decent, most blessed, most praised, most worthy to obtain
what it desires; most pure, most charitable, called by the name
of Christ and the Father, and which I salute in the name of Jesus
Christ as being united both in flesh and spirit to all his
commands and filled with the grace of God, all joy in Jesus
Christ our God.
2. Because I have at last obtained through my prayers to
God to see your faces, which I much desired to do, being bound in
Jesus Christ, I hope before long to salute you, if it will be the
will of God to grant me to attain to the end I long for.
3. For the beginning is well arranged, if I shall but have
grace, without hindrance, to receive what is appointed for me.
4. But I fear your love will do me an injury. For it is
easy for you to do what you please, but it will be hard for me to
attain to God if you defend me.
While in Smyrna, he heard that there were powerful
influences in Rome working to procure a remission of
his punishment. At once he writes to Rome warning
those who loved him to desist.
5. But I would not want you to please men, but God whom
also you do please. For neither shall I in the future have such
an opportunity of going to God, nor will you, if you will now be
silent, ever be entitled to a better work. For if you will be
silent in my behalf, I shall be made partaker of God.
6. But if you will love my body, I shall have my course
again to run. For this reason, you cannot do me a greater
kindness than to suffer me to be sacrificed to God, now that the
altar is already prepared.
7. So when you will be gathered together in love, you may
give thanks to the Father through Christ Jesus that he has
brought to you a bishop of Syria from the east to the west.
8. For it is good for me to depart from the world to God so
that I may rise again to him.
9. You have never envied anyone; you have taught otherwise.
I therefore do not want you to do those things yourselves, which
in your instructions you have proscribed to others.
10. Only pray for me, that God would give me both inward
and outward strength so that I may not only be called a
Christian, but be discovered to be one.
11. For if I shall demonstrate myself to be a Christian, I
may then deservedly be called one, and be thought faithful when I
shall no longer appear to the world.
12. Nothing is good that is seen.
So reads the Latin copy. But the Greek copy says:
"nothing that is seen is eternal" or, "the things which
are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen
are eternal." Compare with: "While we look not at the
things which are seen, but at the things which are not
seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but
the things which are not seen [are] eternal." (2
13. For even our God, Jesus Christ, now that he is in the
Father, does so much the more appear.
14. A Christian is not a work of opinion, but of greatness
of mind, especially when he is hated by the world.
Compare with: "Blessed are ye, when [men] shall
revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all
manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your
reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets
which were before you." (Matthew 5:11, 12); "If the
world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it
hated] you." (John 15:18); "Marvel not, my brethren, if
the world hate you." (1 John 3:13)
He expresses his great desire and determination to suffer
1. I write to the churches, and signify to them all, that I
am willing to die for God, unless you hinder me.
2. I ask you not to show an unseasonable good will towards
me. Permit me to be food to the wild beasts, by whom I shall
attain to God.
3. For I am the wheat of God, and I shall be ground by the
teeth of the wild beasts, so that I may be found the pure bread
Those who write on the lives and martyrdoms of the
saints often quote this verse by Ignatius.
4. Rather encourage the beasts that they may become my
sepulchre and may leave nothing of my body, so that being dead I
may not be troublesome to any.
5. Then shall I be truly the disciple of Jesus Christ, when
the world will not see so much as my body. Pray therefore to
Christ for me that by these means I may be made the sacrifice of
6. I do not, as Peter and Paul, command you. They were
Apostles, I a condemned man; they were free, but I am even to
this day a servant:
7. But if I shall suffer, I shall then become the freeman
of Jesus Christ, and shall rise free in him. And now, being in
bonds, I learn not to desire anything worldly or vain thing.
8. From Syria even to Rome, I fight with beasts both by sea
and land, both night and day, bound to ten leopards, that is to
say, to such a band of soldiers who, though treated with all
manner of kindness, are the worse for it.
9. But I am instructed even more by their injuries; yet am
I not therefore justified.
10. May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me,
which also I wish may exercise all their fierceness upon me.
11. And whom for that end I will encourage, that they may
be sure to devour me, and not serve me as they have done some,
whom out of fear they have not touched. But, and if they will
not do it willingly, I will provoke them to it.
God protected Daniel in the lion's den (Daniel
6:19-22) and Thecla from being devoured by wild beasts
(see The Acts of Paul and Thecla); others had faith
that "stopped the mouths of lions" (Hebrews 11:33), but
Ignatius does not want to be delivered. He so much
desires to be martyred by the teeth and claws of the
beasts, he will encourage and provoke them if
During and immediately after the severest Roman
persecutions, leaders of the early Church agreed on
several policy principles. It was expected that
clergymen should face death bravely when it was
inescapable, but they also were enjoined as a duty to
avoid it if possible, as the fearless Paul had done:
"In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept
the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to
apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I
let down by the wall, and escaped his hands." (2
Corinthians 11:32, 33)
With a compassionate concession to human weakness,
however, repentant members of the laity who recanted
their faith under torture or the threat of impending
death were accepted back into the full fellowship of
the church after a period of penance.
The Church has never condoned voluntary self-
destruction, and Ignatius was altogether too eager to
suffer and die. Perhaps this alone would disqualify
this Epistle from the Canon.
Nonetheless, his life was so exemplary, his faith
so bright, and his bravery so invincible that his
example has inspired the faithful for two thousand
years. Tertullian (A.D. 160-240) wrote (in his
Apologeticus, 50) that the "Blood of the martyrs is the
seed of the Church," and he was thinking of men like
Ignatius. Faced with people who were immune to threats
and feared neither death nor its methods, it is little
wonder the Roman Empire perished and Christendom
12. Pardon me in this matter, but I know what is profitable
for me. Now I begin to be a disciple. Nor will anything move
me, whether visible or invisible, so that I may attain to Jesus
Compare with: "And whosoever doth not bear his
cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke
14:27); "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor
life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor
depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ
Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38, 39)
13. Let fire and the cross, let the rage of wild beasts,
let breaking of bones and tearing of members, let the shattering
in pieces of the whole body, and all the wicked torments of the
devil come upon me, only may I enjoy Jesus Christ.
14. All the pleasures of the world, and the kingdoms of
this age, will profit me nothing; I would rather die for Jesus
Christ, than rule to the utmost ends of the earth. Him I seek
who died for us; him I desire who rose again for us. This is the
gain that is laid up for me.
15. Pardon me, my brethren, you will not hinder me from
living. Nor seeing I desire to go to God, may you separate me
from him for the sake of this world, nor reduce me by any of the
desires of it. Allow me to enter into pure light, where being
come, I shall be indeed the servant of God.
16. Permit me to imitate the passion of my God. If anyone
has him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let
him have compassion on me, as knowing what things constrain me.
He further expresses his desire to suffer.
1. The prince of this world would gladly carry me away and
corrupt my resolution towards my God. Let none of you therefore
help him, but rather join with me, that is, with God.
2. Do not speak with Jesus Christ, and yet covet the world.
Let not any envy dwell with you. No, not though I myself when I
shall come to you, should exhort you to it; do not listen to me,
but rather believe what I now write to you.
3. For though I am alive at the writing of this, yet my
desire is to die. My love is crucified, and the fire that is
within me does not desire any water, but being alive and
springing within me, says: Come to the Father.
The Greek copy reads: "And there is not any fire
within me that loves matter, but living and speaking
water saying within me, Come to the Father."
4. I take no pleasure in the food of corruption, nor in the
pleasures of this life.
5. I desire the bread of God that is the flesh of Jesus
Christ, of the seed of David, and the drink that I long for is
his blood, which is incorruptible love and perpetual life.
6. I have no desire to live any longer after the manner of
men, and neither shall I, if you consent. Be therefore willing
that you yourselves also may be pleasing to God. I exhort you in
a short letter; I pray you will believe me.
7. Jesus Christ will show you that I speak truly. My mouth
is without deceit, and the Father has truly spoken by it. Pray
therefore for me to accomplish what I desire.
8. I have not written to you after the flesh, but according
to the will of God. If I shall suffer, you have loved me; but if
I shall be rejected, you have hated me as unworthy to suffer.
9. Remember in your prayers the church of Syria, which now
enjoys God for its shepherd instead of me. Let only Jesus Christ
and your charity oversee it.
10. But I am even ashamed to be reckoned as one of them:
For neither am I worthy, being the least among them, and as one
born out of due season. But through mercy I have obtained to be
somebody, if I shall get to God.
For Paul's use of the phrase "born out of due
season," see 1 Corinthians 15:8.
11. My spirit salutes you and the charity of the churches
that have received me in the name of Jesus Christ and not as a
passerby. For even they that were not near to me in the way,
have gone before me to the next city to meet me.
12. These things I write to you from Smyrna, by the most
worthy members of the church of Ephesus.
13. There is now with me, together with many others,
Crocus, most beloved by me. As for those which are come from
Syria and are gone before me to Rome to the glory of God, I
suppose you are not ignorant of them.
14. You will therefore signify to them that I draw near,
for they are all worthy both of God and of you, so it is proper
for you to refresh them in all things.
15. This I have written to you the day before the ninth of
the calends of September. Be strong to the end in the patience
of Jesus Christ.
The "calends of September" means the end of