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The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans


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 Corinthians 4:18)

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 martyrdom.

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 of Christ.

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 God.
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 necessary.

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 survived.

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 Christ.

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 August.