Friday, October 23, 2009

Recommended Book: Ignatius of Antioch: A New Translation and Theological Commentary by Kenneth J. Howell

I bought this book last week while I was in Michigan, and read the whole thing on my flight from Houston to Pittsburgh last night. This is a wonderful translation of St. Ignatius of Antioch's seven letters. Professor Howell begins with several chapters summarizing the life of Ignatius as well as the theological content of his letters.

Martyred during the reign of emperor Trajan (before A.D. 117), St. Ignatius (b. ca. 50 AD) was, along with St. Polycarp (A.D. 69-155), a disciple of St. John the Apostle. So, what you get in this book is a glimpse of the church in its earliest days by someone very close to an Apostle. And what you discover are views of the Eucharist as well as church unity and government that are Catholic, albeit not as developed as what one finds in two or three centuries in the future (but that is also true of Christology and Trinitarian theology). For example, you find in St. Ignatius a view of the Eucharist that connects the denial of the Real Presence (that the bread and wine are the actual body and blood of Christ) with the heresy of Docetism. And you also find a hierarchical view of church government that includes bishops, a presbytery (which was later called "the priesthood"), and a diaconate.

You can get the book here.

1 comment:

lojahw said...

Cardinal Newman’s and others’ assertions notwithstanding, the Trinitarian faith has always been confessed by true Christians since the first century. The fourth century Nicene Creed merely restated what the Scriptures, the church fathers, and the Apostles’ Creed had already proclaimed. To be “deep in history” is to affirm this, as Ignatius of Antioch (Philadelphians, 6), the Didache, Justin Martyr (Apology 1.61), Melito (Fragment 6, on the two natures of Christ), Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.10), and Tertullian (Prescription against Heretics, 13), to name a few, so eloquently expressed in the first hundred years following the writing of the New Testament Scriptures.

Take, for example, this ca. AD 105 confession of Ignatius of Antioch (To the Philadelphians, 6): If any one preaches the one God of the law and the prophets, but denies Christ to be the Son of God, he is a liar, even as also is his father the devil… If any one confesses Christ Jesus the Lord, but denies the God of the law and of the prophets, saying that the Father of Christ is not the Maker of heaven and earth, he has not continued in the truth any more than his father the devil, and is a disciple of Simon Magus, not of the Holy Spirit. If any one says there is one God, and also confesses Christ Jesus, but thinks the Lord to be a mere man, and not the only-begotten God, and Wisdom, and the Word of God, and deems Him to consist merely of a soul and body, such an one is a serpent… If any one confesses the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and praises the creation, but calls the incarnation merely an appearance, and is ashamed of the passion, such an one has denied the faith…