Friday, November 23, 2012

How Are There 'Sabellianisms' in Ignatius?

In my last post I carried out an examination of only one Ignatian letter - the shorter, more original so-called 'short text' against the often times much longer so-called 'long text' of the letter of Ignatius to the Magnesians and I am sure that even the densest reader can divine the purpose of the numerous alterations. The editor of the long text was trying to rid the text of 'Sabellianisms' i.e. signs that the original author believed in an absolute 'monarchy' (i.e. 'one rule,' 'one ruler') in heaven. The reason this is significant of course is because of our discovery in the oldest Syriac chronicles of a council held at the northern Galatian city of Ancyra against a noted proponent of this 'monarchist' doctrine - Sabellius.

Now I defy anyone to explain how it is that the Sabellian doctrines got 'added' to the short texts of Ignatius. The issue becomes far more problematic when we see Polycarp's signature basically adorning the bottom of each letter. Did a heretic get a hold of this canon of letters and then 'add' the Sabellian material - or was it the association of Polycarp? Or, as I would argue, that it was neither. Polycarp was probably a 'Sabellian' if not Sabellius himself.

 Yet there is an even thornier issue which emerges when we identify Sabellianism as early as Ignatius. If 'the fiery one' was the third bishop of Antioch, a strange coincidence emerges with respect to the person identified as the third bishop of Alexandria. While Eusebius records the name of this individual as 'Avilius' the record is the furthest thing from clear with Milieus, Milius, Avilius, Abilius and Sabellius all witnessing the original form of the obscure name.

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