Ignatius of Antioch: One of the Pioneers of Contradictory belief system of Trinitarian Christianity

· Christianity

In logical terms Jesus cannot be man and God at the same time. Like a man cannot be a rock or an apple, at the same time; men, rocks and apples are different things!

Humans and God are different things, but the paradoxical Christian affirmation is called a mystery because you cannot logically explain how Jesus can be both things at once. This is why the rational and insightful Christian theologians label the Christian dogma as mysteries for you cannot logically understand them. Either you adamantly stick to them in the name of faith or you trade them for some other better theology!

Ignatius of Antioch is one of the pioneers of these paradoxical views, to argue with Ebionites on the one hand and Marcionites on the other hand as the Christian doctrines were being born, in the first two centuries after Jesus crucifixion. Ignatius writes, “There is one physician who is both fleshly and spiritual, he is born and unborn, he is God come in the flesh, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond suffering, Jesus Christ our Lord!” He does not explain how Jesus could be both things at once, both mortal and immortal, both human and Divine, both born and unborn, but, over the centuries as these dogma have been indoctrinated into billions of minds, the naive now find these ideas common place and take them for granted.

Ref: After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers

Teaching company course, taught By Professor Bart D. Ehrman, M.Div., Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary.

It is not the business of any Christian writer or preacher to dilute Christianity to suit the general educated public. The doctrine of the incarnation was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, and so will it always be, for the doctrine not only transcends reason; it the paradox par excellence; and it can be affirmed only by faith, with passionate inwardness and interest. The substitution of reason for faith means the death of Christianity.  (Soren Kierkgaard)

Given the contradictory formulation of the belief system by St. Ignatius and indoctrination of these ideas by the Church over centuries, it has become difficult for many Christians to make a distinction between mystery and a paradox or a contradiction.  Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the prior international leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, explians the distinction, in his book, Christianity a journey from fact to fiction: 

It is acceptable for a person to believe in something not fully understandable to him because of some irrefutable evidence in its favour. For example, many people do not understand the phenomena which collectively make it possible to create radio transmission and receptor sets, and also the transmission of electrical audio video pulses that are converted to televised pictures and sound. Yet even the most unlettered person would have to believe in the reality of radio and television. Similarly, most of us do not understand how computers work, yet very few in this contemporary age would dare to deny the existence of computers simply for this reason. Such cases may be classified as mysteries but there is no question of denying their existence or deriding those who believe in them, provided of course, that they are fully backed up and supported by irrefutable evidence.

We also accept that a much more lenient attitude can be and is exercised regarding many mysteries which exist in the form of religious dogmas. A very large number of human beings believe in such dogmas without being able to understand or to explain them. They seem to inherit such doctrines through generations and acquire a ‘taken for granted’ attitude towards them. But when the elements of contradiction and paradox find their way into religious dogmas, no excuse in their favour can be accepted on the plea that belief in perplexing mysteries also provides justification for believing in paradoxes. It is here that the problem becomes complicated. I can believe in something that I do not understand, but I cannot believe in something that is contradictory in itself, nor I hope, can any other person in his senses. For instance, I cannot understand how a watch is made, that is all right, but I have no right to believe that a watch is simultaneously a live barking and kicking dog. This is not a mysterious dogma but simply a glaring contradiction.

When there is any contradiction between two or more attributes of God or when there are inconsistencies between the word of God and the act of God, then the limits of mystery are transgressed by a large margin and one finds oneself drifting out of the sphere of mystery and into a world of fantasy. When so proved, it is but natural to expect that the believers in contradictions should make amends in their beliefs and accordingly, effect a reform in their faith. Unfortunately however, in our dialogues with some Christian ministers, we find them tenaciously holding the view that belief in Jesus as a god and simultaneously as a man is not contradictory. Nor does it appear contradictory to them that one person can be three persons simultaneously without there being the slightest difference in their character. They insist that to believe in one God and also to believe in a three pronged godhead, of God, the Holy Ghost and the Son, is not a paradox but simply a mystery. They shut their eyes to the contradictions in their claim that God remains a single entity despite the fact that the person of God, ‘The Father’, is distinctly different from the person of Jesus, ‘The Son’, and the Holy Ghost. When we point out to them in amazement that we are talking of three persons, and not about different aspects, moods and attributes of a single person, and that God being ‘One in Three’ and ‘Three in One’ is certainly not a mystery but a glaring contradiction, they would nod their heads in sympathy with us and politely ask us to step into contradictions operating in another area of discussion. They require us to first believe in the unbelievable and then to progress from there, to develop a faith in contradictions, or mysteries as they would much rather call them. A non-Christian therefore cannot understand the contradictions of Christian dogmas and to understand what he cannot believe in, he must believe without understanding. This is the world of Christian fantasy into which we non-Christians are advised to enter. But this magic flying carpet of fantasy refuses to take its flight if a non-believer steps onto it.[1]

The Catholic Church tries to take refuge in the historicity of her belief system or dogma and alleges that all the other views in early Christianity were heresies and distortions of the original.  This, however, is not true and there were several competing views in the first two centuries and one of them won the battle politically and not on its religious, philosophical or spiritual merits and came to be called the Catholic Church over time.  The existence of multiple competing Christologies, understanding of nature of Jesus, existed from the very beginning, from the moment of crucifixion of Jesus.  Several proofs can be cited from the New Testament itself.  Another resource to establish multiple early Christianities are the letters of Ignatius and Prof. Bart Ehrman has fully exploited that resource in his lecture series, After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers.  For example he says:
We have already seen that the Letters of Ignatius raise the problem of heresy and orthodoxy in early Christianity.  One type of ‘false teaching’ that Ignatius addresses involves a Judaizing form of Christianity, especially in his letters to the Magnesians and the Philadelphians.  A second type of false teaching involves an entirely different impulse, one that deals with an evolving understanding of Jesus that became quite popular in some circles of early Christianity.  This view is known to scholars as docetism, from the Greek word dokeo, which means ‘to seem’ or ‘to appear.’ Docetic understandings of Jesus indicated that he was not really human but only appeared to be.  The Docetists set up this view in direct contrast to the adoptionist view of the Ebionites. Because they were strict monotheists, the Ebionites could not accept the concept of Jesus’ divinity. Instead, they insisted that Jesus was a man who had been adopted by God.
We can find the roots of docetic teachings already in the writings of the New Testament.  Most of our New Testament authors understand Jesus as completely human (for example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke). But some writers also portray Jesus as divine. We see this as early as the writings of Paul (cf. Philippians 2:6-11 ). It is a clear emphasis in the Gospel of John (1:1; 10:30; 20:28).
During the period of the New Testament, some Christians had apparently come to think that Jesus was so much divine that he could not be human. We see evidence of this already in the letter of 1 John. Evidently there were theological differences in the community that led to an actual split (1 John 2:19). The issue had to do with the nature of who Christ was, because some denied that he was actually a human made of flesh and blood (cf. 1 John 4:3-4).  This explains why the author began his letter with an emphasis on Christ’s real physicality (1 John 1:1-3).
Some of the opponents of Ignatius took a similar docetic line. This can be seen in his attacks on false teaching in his Letter to the Smyrneans (Smyr. 2-3). It was also evidently a problem in the church of Tralles (Trail. 9-10).[2]
The article about Ignatius in the Encyclopedia Britannica is based on false assumptions, for example it states:
Ignatius apparently fought two groups of heretics: (1) Judaizers, who did not accept the authority of the New Testament and clung to such Jewish practices as observing the Sabbath, and (2) Docetists (from the Greek dokein, “to seem”), who held that Christ had suffered and died only in appearance. Ignatius untiringly affirmed that the New Testament was the fulfillment of the Old Testament and insisted upon the reality of Christ’s human nature. For him, Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection were a vital guarantee of “life everlasting” in the risen Christ. Ignatius believed that, had Christ died only in appearance, his own suffering and his readiness to sacrifice his life for Christ would have no meaning.[3]
Firstly, the New Testament was not compiled at that time, the books only existed separately, and secondly what is labelled as heretics were competing groups.  These false presumptions on part of many highlight the importance of a book of Prof. Bart Ehrman:
Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew
If your rationality is not comfortable with the paradoxical and contradictory ideas, enunciated by Ignatius, as summarized in the introduction, then you owe it to yourself, to review my collection of more than 100 knols on different aspects of Christianity:
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia — My additions and highlights are in red color:

Ignatius of Antioch (Ancient Greek: Ἰγνάτιος, also known as Theophorus from Greek Θεοφόρος “God-bearer”) (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117)[1] was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle.[2][3] En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

Ignatius’ feast day is observed on 20 December in the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, he is commemorated, according to its Synaxarium, on the 24th of the Coptic Month of Kiahk (which currently falls on January 2, but is equivalent to December 20 in the Gregorian Calendar due to the current 13-day Julian-Gregorian Calendar offset). In Western and Syriac Christianity his feast is celebrated on 17 October.[4] He is celebrated on 1 February by those Roman Catholics following the General Roman Calendar of 1962.



Early life

St. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter and St. Evodius (who died around AD 67). Eusebius[5] records that St. Ignatius succeeded St. Evodius. Making his apostolic succession even more immediate, Theodoret (Dial. Immutab., I, iv, 33a) reported that Peter himself appointed Ignatius to the see of Antioch.

Besides his Greek name, Ignatius, he also called himself Theophorus (“God Bearer”), and tradition says he was one of the children Jesus took in His arms and blessed.[2] St. Ignatius is one of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers). He based his authority on being a bishop of the Church, living his life in the imitation of Christ. It is believed that St. Ignatius, along with his friend Polycarp, with great probability were disciples of the Apostle St. John.[6]


Epistles attributed to St. Ignatius report his arrest by the authorities and travel to Rome:

From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated. —Ignatius to the Romans, 5.

Along the route he wrote six letters to the churches in the region and one to a fellow bishop.

He was sentenced to die in the Colosseum, to be eaten by lions.[7]

In his Chronicle, Eusebius gives the date of his death as AA 2124 (2124 years after Adam), which would amount to the 11th year of Trajan, i.e. 108 AD.[8]


The seven letters considered to be authentic are:

By the 5th century, this authentic collection had been enlarged by spurious letters, and some of the original letters had been changed with interpolations, created to posthumously enlist Ignatius as an unwitting witness in theological disputes of that age, while the purported eye-witness account of his martyrdom is also thought to be a forgery from around the same time.

A detailed but spurious account of Ignatius’ arrest and his travails and martyrdom is the material of the Martyrium Ignatii which is presented as being an eyewitness account for the church of Antioch, and as if written by Ignatius’ companions, Philo of Cilicia, deacon at Tarsus, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian. Though James Ussher regarded it as genuine, if there is any genuine nucleus of the Martyrium, it has been so greatly expanded with interpolations that no part of it is without questions. Its most reliable manuscript is the 10th century Codex Colbertinus (Paris), in which the Martyrium closes the collection. The Martyrium presents the confrontation of the bishop Ignatius with Trajan at Antioch, a familiar trope of Acta of the martyrs, and many details of the long, partly overland voyage to Rome. The Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria says that he was thrown to the wild beasts that devoured him and rendered him into pieces.[3]

After Ignatius’ martyrdom in the Flavian Amphitheatre, his remains were honorably carried back to Antioch by his companions, and were first interred outside the city gates, then removed by the Emperor Theodosius II to the Tychaeum, or Temple of Tyche which was converted into a church dedicated to Ignatius. In 637 the relics were translated to the Church of St Clement in Rome.

The letters of Ignatius have proved to be important testimony to the development of Christian theology, since the number of extant writings from this period of Church history is very small. They bear signs of being written in great haste and without a proper plan, such as run-on sentences and an unsystematic succession of thought. Ignatius is the earliest known Christian writer to emphasize loyalty to a single bishop in each city (or diocese) who is assisted by both presbyters possibly elders and deacons. Earlier writings only mention either bishops or presbyters, and give the impression that there was usually more than one bishop per congregation. Template:Philippians 1:1 For instance, while the offices of bishop, presbyter and deacon appear apostolic in origin, the titles of “bishop” and “presbyter” could be used interchangeably.

Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest —Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1

Ignatius is known to have taught the deity of Christ:

There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord. 7 Roberts-Donaldson translation.

Ignatius stressed the value of the Eucharist, calling it a “medicine of immortality” (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20:2). The very strong desire for bloody martyrdom in the arena, which Ignatius expresses rather graphically in places, may seem quite odd to the modern reader. An examination of his theology of soteriology shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus to bravely face martyrdom[citation needed].

Ignatius is claimed to be the first known Christian writer to argue in favor of Christianity’s replacement of the Sabbath with the Lord’s Day:

Be not seduced by strange doctrines nor by antiquated fables, which are profitless. For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace…. If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny … how shall we be able to live apart from Him? … It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity — Ignatius to the Magnesians 8:1, 9:1-2, 10:3, Lightfoot translation.

He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning “universal,” “complete” and “whole” to describe the church, writing:

Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid. — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8, J.R. Willis translation.

It is from the word katholikos (“according to the whole”) that the word catholic comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word catholic, he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation Catholic Church with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the 1st century.

On the Eucharist, Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes. — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1

Saint Ignatius’s most famous quotation, however, comes from his letter to the Romans:

I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.— Letter to the Romans

Letters of Pseudo-Ignatius

Epistles attributed to Saint Ignatius but of spurious origin include:[9]

  • Epistle to the Tarsians
  • Epistle to the Antiochians
  • Epistle to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch
  • Epistle to the Philippians
  • The Epistle of Maria the Proselyte to Ignatius
  • Epistle to Mary at Neapolis, Zarbus
  • First Epistle to St. John
  • Second Epistle to St. John
  • The Epistle of Ignatius to the Virgin Mary


  1. ^ See “Ignatius” in The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, ed. Jerald Brauer (Philadelphia:Westminster, 1971) and also David Hugh Farmer, “Ignatius of Antioch” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).
  2. ^ a b The Martyrdom of Ignatius
  3. ^ a b Synaxarium: The Martyrdom of St. Ignatius, Patriarch of Antioch.
  4. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Vatican City, 1969).
  5. ^ Historia Ecclesiastica, II.iii.22.
  6. ^ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07644a.htm
  7. ^ EWTN St. Ignatius of Antioch
  8. ^ From the Latin translation of Jerome, Chronicle, p. 276.
  9. ^ newadvent.org: Spurious Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch

External links

Wikisource has original works written by or about: Ignatius of Antioch
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ignatius of Antiochie


  1. http://www.alislam.org/library/books/christianity_facts_to_fiction/index.html
  2. Professor Bart D. Ehrman. After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Teaching company course Guidebook, 2005. Page 26-27.
  3. “Saint Ignatius of Antioch.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2011. ca.com/EBchecked/topic/282296/Saint-Ignatius-of-Antioch>.
%d bloggers like this: