1. He acknowledges the coming of their bishop. 5. Commends
them for their subjection to their bishop, priests, and deacons;
and exhorts them to continue it. 15. He is afraid even of his
overly great desire to suffer, lest it should be prejudicial to
1. Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the holy
church which is at Tralles in Asia: beloved of God the Father of
Jesus Christ, elect and worthy of God, having peace through the
flesh and blood and passion and resurrection of our hope Jesus
Christ, I salute in its fullness. Continuing in the apostolic
character, I wish all joy and happiness to it.
2. I have heard of your blameless and constant disposition
through patience, which not only appears in your outward manner
of life, but is naturally rooted and grounded in you.
A variant reading is "which you have not according
to use, but according to possession."
3. So Polybius your bishop has declared to me. By the will
of God and Jesus Christ he came to me at Smyrna, and so rejoiced
together with me in my bonds for Jesus Christ that in effect I
saw your whole church in him.
4. After I received his testimony of your good will towards
me for God's sake, I discovered you to be the followers of God,
just as I had already heard.
5. Because as you are subject to your bishop as to Jesus
Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but
according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that believing in
his death, you might escape death.
6. As you are subject to your bishop, it is therefore
necessary you should do nothing without your bishop; also be
subject to your presbyters, as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ
our hope, in whom if we walk, we shall be found in him.
That is, do nothing in the church without the
approval of the bishop and the presbytery (priests).
7. The deacons also, as being the ministers of the
mysteries of Jesus Christ, must by all means please you. For
they are not the ministers of meat and drink, but of the church
of God. For that reason they must avoid all offenses, as they
would avoid fire.
Deacons as "ministers of the mysteries" means they
assisted the bishop and presbytery by administering the
prepared bread and wine to the people in the Eucharist.
Compare with: "Likewise [must] the deacons [be]
grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not
greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the
faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first
be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon,
being [found] blameless. Even so [must their] wives
[be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all
things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife,
ruling their children and their own houses well. For
they that have used the office of a deacon well
purchase to themselves a good degree, and great
boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1
8. In the same manner let us reverence the deacons as we do
Jesus Christ, and the bishop as a father, like Jesus Christ the
Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the Sanhedrin of God and
college of the Apostles.
9. Without these there is no church. Concerning all which
I am persuaded that you think after the very same manner; for I
have received, and even now have the pattern of your love with me
in your bishop.
"Without these there is no church" means without
these a church is not called, commissioned, or properly
constituted. This is the unanimous position of the
10. Whose very look is instructive and whose mildness
powerful, whom I am persuaded the very atheists themselves cannot
Again, Ignatius is impressed with the quality of
the bishops who greet him on his journey to Rome. The
instructive look of Polybius can be translated "his
habit of body is great instruction."
11. But because I have a love towards you, I will not write
any more sharply to you about this matter, though I very well
might; but now I have done so with the fear that being a
condemned man, I should seem to prescribe to you as an Apostle.
12. I understand many things in God, but I measure myself
for fear that I should perish in my boasting.
13. For now I ought to fear more and not pay attention to
those that would puff me up.
See New Testament warnings about being puffed up,
or inflated by flattery: 1 Corinthians 4:6, 7, 18, 19,
8:1, 13:4; Colossians 2:18.
14. For they that speak to praise me, chasten me.
15. For I indeed desire to suffer, but I cannot tell
whether I am worthy so to do.
16. And this desire, though it does not appear to others,
yet to myself it is for that very reason the more violent. I
have, therefore, need of moderation, by which the prince of this
world is destroyed.
The prince of this world is Satan.
17. Am I not able to write to you of heavenly things? But
I fear I could harm you who are yet but babes in Christ (excuse
me this concern), because if you are not able to receive them,
you might be choked by them.
Recent converts were referred to as babes in
Christ. Compare with: "And I, brethren, could not
speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal,
[even as] unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with
milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able
[to bear it], neither yet now are ye able." (1
Corinthians 3:1); "As newborn babes, desire the sincere
milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye
have tasted that the Lord [is] gracious." (1 Peter 2:2,
18. For even I myself, although I am in bonds, yet am not
therefore able to understand heavenly things:
19. Such as the places of the angels, and the several
companies of them under their respective princes, or of things
visible and invisible, for of these I am still learning.
20. For many things are lacking to us, so that we do not
come short of God.
That is, because we know so little, we must rely
on God. Compare with: "If any of you lack wisdom, let
him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and
upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James
1:5); "Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge
among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his
works with meekness of wisdom." (James 3:13)
1. He warns them against heretics, 4. exhorts them to humility
and unity, 10. briefly sets before them the true doctrine
1. I exhort you therefore, or rather not I, but the love of
Jesus Christ, that you use none but Christian nourishment, and
abstain from pasture which is of another kind: I mean heresy.
2. For they who are heretics, while they seem worthy of
belief, confound together the doctrine of Jesus Christ with their
3. As men give a deadly potion mixed with sweet wine so
that with treacherous pleasure he who drinks of it, sweetly
drinks in his own death.
Verses 2 and 3 give a perfect analysis of all
heresies as some truth mixed with a little, but
spiritually fatal, falsehood.
4. Therefore guard yourselves against such persons. And
that you will do if you are not puffed up, but continue
inseparable from Jesus Christ our God, and from your bishop, and
from the commands of the Apostles.
5. He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is
without, that is, that does anything without the bishop, the
presbyters, and deacons, is not pure in his conscience.
6. Not that I know there is anything of this nature among
you; but I forearm you, as being greatly beloved by me,
foreseeing the snares of the devil.
7. Put on meekness and renew yourselves in faith, that is,
the flesh of the Lord, and in charity, that is, the blood of
See "be clothed with humility," 1 Peter 5:5.
8. Let no man have any grudge against his neighbor. Give
no occasion to the Gentiles, for fear that by means of a few
foolish men, the whole congregation of God will be evil spoken
Compare with: "And when ye stand praying, forgive,
if ye have aught against any: that your Father also
which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
(Mark 11:25); "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the
altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath
aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the
altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy
brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew
5:23, 24); note the difference between these two
verses: one speaks of our grudge against someone, and
the other of someone's grudge against us.
"Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to
the Gentiles, nor to the church of God." (1 Corinthians
9. For woe to that man through whose vanity my name is
blasphemed by any.
Compare with: "For the name of God is blasphemed
among the Gentiles through you, as it is written."
(Romans 2:24); "...my name continually every day [is]
blasphemed" (Isaiah 52:5; the Septuagint reads: "On
account of you my name is continually blasphemed among
the Gentiles"). "...the foolish people have blasphemed
thy name" (Psalm 74:18)"...for mine holy name's sake,
which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye
went." (Ezekiel 36:22)
10. Stop up your ears therefore, as often as anyone speaks
contrary to Jesus Christ, who was of the race of David and of the
11. Who was truly born and did eat and drink, was truly
persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and dead,
and both those in heaven on earth were spectators of it.
12. Who was also truly raised from the dead by his Father,
after the same manner as he will also raise up us who believe in
him by Christ Jesus, without whom we have no true life.
13. But if, as some who are atheists, that is to say
infidels, pretend that he only seemed to suffer, (they themselves
only seeming to exist) why then am I bound? Why do I desire to
fight with beasts? Therefore I would die in vain; therefore I
will not speak falsely against the Lord.
Ignatius is not beating the air when he emphasizes
that Jesus truly was born, truly ate and drank, truly
suffered, truly died, and truly rose again: some
heresies suggested these events only appeared to
happen, that Jesus was a sort of phantasm, etc.
Ignatius sarcastically points out that their view of
reality was such that they believed all things, even
themselves, were illusory.
14. Flee therefore these evil plants which bring forth
deadly fruit, of which if anyone taste, he shall presently die.
15. For these are not the plants of the Father; for if they
were, they would appear to be the branches of the cross, and
their fruit would be incorruptible; it is through his passion he
invites you who are members of him.
16. For the head cannot be without its members, God having
promised a union, that is, with himself.
For the Church as the body of Christ with many
members and him as its head, see Romans 12:5; 1
Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:22, 23, 4:12;
Colossians 1:24, 2:19.
He again exhorts them to unity and desires their prayers for
himself and for his church at Antioch.
1. I salute you from Smyrna, together with the churches of
God that are present with me, who have refreshed me in all
things, both in the flesh and in the spirit.
2. My bonds, which I carry about me for the sake of Christ,
(beseeching him that I may attain to God) exhort you, that you
continue in concord among yourselves, and in prayer with one
3. For it is appropriate for every one of you, especially
the presbyters, to refresh the bishop, to the honor of the Father
of Jesus Christ and of the Apostles.
4. I beseech you, that you hearken to me in love, that I
may not by those things which I write, rise up in witness against
5. Pray also for me, who through the mercy of God stand in
need of your prayers, that I may be worthy of the portion which I
am about to obtain, and that I be not found a reprobate.
He asks for their prayers, not to be delivered
from martyrdom, but to fulfill it.
6. The love of those who are at Smyrna and Ephesus salute
you. Remember in your prayers the church of Syria, from which I
am not worthy to be called, being one of the least of it.
7. Farewell in Jesus Christ. Be subject to your bishop as
to the command of God, and likewise to the presbytery.
8. Love everyone his brother with an unfeigned heart. My
soul be your expiation, not only now, but when I shall have
attained to God; for I am yet under danger.
Apparently the only "danger" he feared was to
waver in faith and fall short of sharing Christ's
9. But the Father is faithful in Jesus Christ to fulfil
both mine and your petition, in whom may you be found unblamable.