Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 98-117)

Fed to lions during the reign of Trajan (AD 98-117). Wrote 6 letters en route to Rome.

• First to use the word Christianismos (Christianity, Ign.Rom 3:3; Magn.10:3)
• Opposed Docetism (Trallians 9;11-2; Smyr.1-3)
• First to stress the concept of “monepiscopacy” (or monarchical episcopacy): a single bishop in a given city presides over the 3-fold ministry of (i) bishop (ii) presbyters (iii) deacons
o The bishop presides in the place of God (Magn.6:1; Tral.3:1)
o Submission to bishop is necessary to achieve henosis (“unity,” Ign.Eph.5:1).
o Even when a bishop is youthful as at Magnesia (Magn.3:1) or is silent as at Ephesus (Ign.Eph.5:1) or at Philadelphia (Philad.1:1), they are not to be despised, for silence is a characteristic of God Himself.

• First to use the word katholikos (“universal”) of the church (Smyr 8:2) “Set on unity” (Philad.8:1). Urges Polycarp (1:2) “care for unity your concern for there is nothing better”.
• First to maintain that either the bishop or his authorized representative has to be present for a Eucharist to be valid (Smyr.8:1). He called the gathering of Christians to celebrate it the pharmakon athanasias, “the medicine of immortality” (Eph.20:2). He also began the association of the Eucharist with the concept of a sacrificial altar, thusiasterion (Magn.17:2; Philad.4:1)
• He begged the Romans not to prevent his martyrdom (Ign.Rom.1:2, 2:1). He proclaimed: “Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread of Christ.” (Ign.Rom.4:1).

We are informed of his martyrdom in Rome in the reign of Trajan (c. A.D. 108) by Polycarp, Ireneaeus, Eusebius, and Jerome. Later legendary accounts from the 4th and 5th centuries (the Martyrium Colbertinum and Antiochenum) relate that his bones were collected and brought bak to Antioch. These relics were later brought back to Rome in the 6th or 7th century.

John D. Woodbridge (ed), Great Leaders of the Christian Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988)