Monday, November 26, 2012

Intimations from Ignatius's Text that Contemporary Christians Doubted His References to Contemporary Heresies

Yes, anyone that has ever read the letters of Ignatius knows the refrain 'do nothing without the bishop.'  Over and over again the letters testify that Ignatius was a strong proponent of a centralized ecclesiastical structure and against numerous 'heresies' which are said to roam the earth like theological boogeymen. Nevertheless, as a skeptic whose suspicion is inevitably raised by the 'he doth protest too much' maxim, I couldn't help but notice this buried in the Letter to the Philadelphians:

"For, when I was among you, I cried, I spoke with a loud voice: Give heed to the bishop, and to the presbytery and deacons. Now, some suspected me of having spoken thus, as knowing beforehand the division caused by some among you (Oἱ δὲ ὑποπτεύσαντές με ὡς προειδότα τὸν μερισμόν τινων λέγειν ταῦτα)  But he is my witness, in whom I am bound, that I knew nothing from human flesh. But the spirit preached, saying these things: Do nothing apart from the bishop; keep your flesh as the temple of God; love unity; flee divisions; become imitators of Jesus Christ, as he also is of his father.."

The idea here is that it seems suspicious to some that many of the heresies mentioned by Ignatius only appeared in the greater Church after the time of Trajan (cf. Clement, Irenaeus), the time Ignatius was allegedly writing.

Of course, as we have already noted, the reality was that the heretical references were added by Irenaeus and his circle in an age long after the time of Trajan.  The same suspicion should also hold true for the presence of these same heretics in the writings of Justin.

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