Vol.2, Chapter XIII (Cont’d) – The Pseudo-Clementine Works


The most complete collection of the genuine and spurious works of Clement in Migne’s Patrol. Graeca, Tom. I. and II.

The name of Clement has been forged upon several later writings, both orthodox and heretical, to give them the more currency by the weight of his name and position. These pseudo-Clementine works supplanted in the church of Rome the one genuine work of Clement, which passed into oblivion with the knowledge of the Greek language. They are as follows:

1. A Second Epistle to the Corinthians, falsely so called, formerly known only in part (12 chapters), since 1875 in full (20 chapters). It is greatly inferior to the First Epistle in contents and style, and of a later date, between 120 and 140, probably written in Corinth; hence its connection with it in MSS. It is no epistle at all, but a homily addressed to “brothers and sisters.” It is the oldest known specimen of a post-apostolic sermon, and herein alone lies its importance and value. It is an earnest, though somewhat feeble exhortation to active Christianity and to fidelity in persecution, meantime contending with the Gnostic denial of the resurrection. It is orthodox in sentiment, calls Christ “God and the Judge of the living and the dead,” and speaks of the great moral revolution wrought by him in these words (2Co_1:1-24): “We were deficient in understanding, worshipping stocks and stones, gold and silver and brass, the works of men; and our whole life was nothing else but death … Through Jesus Christ we have received sight, putting off by his will the cloud wherein we were wrapped. He mercifully saved us … He called us when we were not, and willed that out of nothing we should attain a real existence.”

2. Two Encyclical Letters on Virginity. They were first discovered by J. J. Wetstein in the library of the Remonstrants at Amsterdam, in a Syriac Version written a.d. 1470, and published as an appendix to his famous Greek Testament, 1752. They commend the unmarried life, and contain exhortations and rules to ascetics of both sexes. They show the early development of an asceticism which is foreign to the apostolic teaching and practice. While some Roman Catholic divines still defend the Clementine origin, others with stronger arguments assign it to the middle or close of the second century.

3. The Apostolical Constitutions and Canons. The so-called Liturgia S. Clementis is a part of the eighth book of the Constitutions.

4. The Pseudo-Clementina, or twenty Ebionitic homilies and their Catholic reproduction, the Recognitions.

5. Five Decretal Letters, which pseudo-Isidore has placed at the head of his collection. Two of them are addressed to James, the Lord’s Brother, are older than the pseudo-Isidore, and date from the second or third century; the three others were fabricated by him. They form the basis for the most gigantic and audacious literary forgery of the middle ages — the Isidorian Decretals — which subserved the purposes of the papal hierarchy. The first Epistle to James gives an account of the appointment of Clement by Peter as his successor in the see of Rome, with directions concerning the functions of the church-officers and the general administration of the church. The second Epistle to James refers to the administration of the eucharist, church furniture, and other ritualistic matters. They are attached to the pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions. But it is remarkable that in the Homilies James of Jerusalem appears as the superior of Peter of Rome, who must give an account of his doings, and entrust to him his sermons for safe keeping.


164. Ignatius of Antioch

Comp. §§ 17 and 45 (this vol.).



I. The Epistles.

W. Cureton: The Ancient Syriac Version of the Epistles of S. Ignatius to S. Polycarp, the Ephesians, and the Romans. With transl. and notes. Lond. and Berl., 1845. Also in Lightfoot II. 659-676.

C. C. J. Bunsen: Die 3 ächten u. die 4 unächten Briefe des Ignatius von Ant. Hergestellter u. verqleichender Text mit Anmerkk. Hamb., 1847.

W. Cureton: Corpus Ignatianum: a complete collection of the Ignatian Epistles, genuine, interpolated, and spurious; together with numerous extracts from them as quoted by Eccles. writers down to the tenth century; in Syriac, Greek, and Latin, an Engl. transl. of the Syriac text, copious notes, and introd. Lond. and Berl., 1849.

J. H. Petermann: S. Ignatii quae feruntur Epistolae, una cum ejusdem martyrio, collatis edd. Graecis, versionibusque Syriaca, Armeniaca, Latinis. Lips., 1849.

Theod. Zahn: Ignatii et Polycarpi Epistulae, Martyria, Fragmenta. Lips. 1876 (the second part of Patrum Apostolorum Opera, ed. Gebhardt, Harnack and Zahn). This is the best critical ed. of the shorter Greek text. Funk admits its superiority (“non hesitans dico, textum quem exhibuit Zahn, prioribus longe praestare.” Prol., p. lxxv.).

Fr. Xav. Funk: Opera Patrum Apost., vol. I. Tub., 1878.

J. B. Lightfoot: The Apost. Fathers. P. II. vol. I. and II. Lond. l885. English translations of all the Epistles of Ignatius (Syriac, and Greek in both recensions) by Roberts, Donaldson, and Crombie, in Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library, (1867), and by Lightfoot (1885).

Earlier Engl. translations by Whiston (1711) and Clementson (1827).

German translations by M. I. Wocher (1829) and Jos. Nirschl (Die Briefe des heil. Ign. und sein Martyrium, 1870).

II. The Martyria.

Acta Martyrii S. Ignatii (Μαρτύριον τοῦ ἀγίου ἱερομάρτυρος Ἰγνατίου τοῦ θεοφόρου), ed. by Ussher (from two Latin copies, 1647), Cotelier (Greek, 1672), Ruinart (1689), Grabe, Ittig, Smith, Gallandi, Jacobson, Hefele, Dressel, Cureton, Mösinger, Petermann, Zahn (pp. 301 sqq.), (Funk (I. 254-265; II. 218-275), and Lightfoot (II. 473-536). A Syriac version was edited by Cureton (Corpus Ignat. 222-225, 252-255), and more fully by Mösinger (Supplementum Corporis Ignat., 1872). An Armenian Martyr. was edited by Petermann, 1849. The Martyrium Colbertinum (from the codex Colbertinus in Paris) has seven chapters. There are several later and discordant recensions, with many interpolations. The Acts of Ignatius profess to be written by two of his deacons and travelling companions; but they were unknown to Eusebius, they contradict the Epistles, they abound in unhistorical statements, and the various versions conflict with each other. Hence recent Protestant critics reject them; and even the latest Roman Catholic editor admits that they must have been written after the second century. Probably not before the fifth. Comp. the investigation of Zahn, Ign. v. Ant., p. 1-74; Funk, Proleg. p. lxxix. sqq., and Lightfoot, II. 363-536.

The patristic statements concerning Ignatius are collected by Cureton, Bunsen, Petermann, Zahn, p. 326-381, and Lightfoot, I. 127-221.


Critical Discussions

Joh. Dallaeus (Daillé): De scriptis quae sub Dionysii Areopagitae et Ignatii nominibus circumferuntur, libri duo. Genev., 1666. Against the genuineness.

*J. Pearson: Vindiciae Ignatianae. Cambr., 1672. Also in Cleric. ed. of the Patres Apost. II. 250-440, and in Migne’s Patrol. Gr., Tom. V. Republished with annotations by E. Churton, in the Anglo-Cath. Library, Oxf., 1852, 2 vols.

*R. Rothe: Anfänge der christl. Kirche. Wittenb., 1837. I., p. 715 sqq. For the shorter Greek recension.

Baron von Bunsen (at that time Prussian ambassador in England): Ignatius von Ant. u. seine Zeit. 7 Sendschreiben an Dr. Neander. Hamb., 1847. For the Syriac version.

Baur: Die Ignatianischen Briefe u. ihr neuster Kritiker. Tüb., 1848. Against Bunsen and against the genuineness of all recensions.

Denzinger. (R.C.): Ueber die Aechtheit des bisherigen Textes der Ignatian. Briefe. Würzb., 1849.

*G. Uhlhorn: Das Verhältniss der syrischen Recension der Ignatian. Br. zu der kürzeren griechischen. Leipz., 1851 (in the “Zeitschr. für Hist. Theol.”); and his article “Ignatius” in Herzog’s Theol. Encykl., vol. vi. (1856), p. 623 sqq., and in the second ed., vol. vi. 688-694. For the shorter Greek recension.

Thiersch: Kirche im Apost. Zeitalter. Frankf. u. Erl., 1852, p. 320 sqq.

Lipsius: Ueber die Aechtheit der syr. Recens. der Ignat. Br. Leipz., 1856 (in Niedner’s “Zeitschr. für Hist. Theol.”). For the Syriac version. But he afterwards changed his view in Hilgenfeld’s “Zeitschrift f. wiss. Theol.” 1874, p. 211.

Vaucher: Recherches critiques sur les lettres d’gnace d’Antioche. Genève, 1856.

Merx: Meletemata Ignatiana. Hal. 1861.

*Theod. Zahn: Ignatius von Antiochien. Gotha, 1873. (631 pages.) For the short Greek recension. The best vindication. Comp. the Proleg. to his ed., 1876.

Renan: Les Évangiles (1877), ch. xxii. 485-498, and the introduction, p. x sqq. Comp. also his notice of Zahn in the “Journal des Savants” for 1874. Against the genuineness of all Ep. except Romans. See in reply Zahn, Proleg. p. x.

F. X. Funk: Die Echtheit der Ignatianischen Briefe. Tübingen 1883.

Lightfoot: St. Paul’s Ep. to the Philippians (Lond. 1873), Excurs. on the Chr. Ministry, p. 208-911, and 232-236. “The short Greek of the Ignatian letters is probably corrupt or spurious: but from internal evidence this recension can hardly have been made later than the middle of the second century.” (p. 210). On p. 232, note, he expressed his preference with Lipsius for the short Syriac text. But since then he has changed his mind in favor of the short Greek recension. See his S. Ignatius and S. Polycarp, London, 1885, Vol. I., 315-414. He repeats and reinforces Zahn’s arguments.

Canon R. Travers Smith: St. Ignatius in Smith and Wace III. (1882), 209-223. For the short Greek recensiona.

On the chronology:

Jos. Nirschl: Das Todesjahr des Ignatius v. A. und die drei oriental. Feldzüge des Kaisers Trajan (1869); Adolf Harnack: Die Zeit des Ignatius und die Chronologie der Antiochenischen Bischöfe bis Tyrannus (Leipzig, 1878); and Wiessler: Die Christenverfolgungen der Caesaren (Gütersloh, 1878), p. 125 sqq.

On the theology of Ignatius, comp. the relevant sections in Möhler, Hilgenfeld, Zahn (422-494), Nirschl, and Sprinzl.


I. Life of Ignatius

Ignatius, surnamed Theophorus, stood at the head of the Church of Antioch at the close of the first century and the beginning of the second, and was thus contemporaneous with Clement of Rome and Simeon of Jerusalem. The church of Antioch was the mother-church of Gentile Christianity; and the city was the second city of the Roman empire. Great numbers of Christians and a host of heretical tendencies were collected there, and pushed the development of doctrine and organization with great rapidity.

As in the case of Rome, tradition differs concerning the first episcopal succession of Antioch, making Ignatius either the second or the first bishop of this church after Peter, and calling him now a disciple of Peter, now of Paul, now of John. The Apostolic Constitutions intimate that Evodius and Ignatius presided contemporaneously over that church, the first being ordained by Peter, the second by Paul. Baronius and others suppose the one to have been the bishop of the Jewish, the other of the Gentile converts. Thiersch endeavors to reconcile the conflicting statements by the hypothesis, that Peter appointed Evodius presbyter, Paul Ignatius, and John subsequently ordained Ignatius bishop. But Ignatius himself and Eusebius say nothing of his apostolic discipleship; while the testimony of Jerome and the Martyrium Colbertinum that he and Polycarp were fellow-disciples of St. John, is contradicted by the Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, according to which he did not know Polycarp till he came to Smyrna on his way to Rome. According to later story, Ignatius was the first patron of sacred music, and introduced the antiphony in Antioch.

But his peculiar glory, in the eyes of the ancient church, was his martyrdom. The minute account of it, in the various versions of the Martyrium S. Ignatii, contains many embellishments of pious fraud and fancy; but the fact itself is confirmed by general tradition. Ignatius himself says, in his Epistle to the Romans, according to the Syriac version: “From Syria to Rome I fight with wild beasts, on water and on land, by day and by night, chained to ten leopards [soldiers], made worse by signs of kindness. Yet their wickednesses do me good as a disciple; but not on this account am I justified. Would that I might be glad of the beasts made ready for me. And I pray that they may be found ready for me. Nay, I will fawn upon them, that they may devour me quickly, and not, as they have done with some, refuse to touch me from fear. Yea, and if they will not voluntarily do it, I will bring them to it by force.”

The Acts of his martyrdom relate more minutely, that Ignatius was brought before the Emperor Trajan at Antioch in the ninth year of his reign (107-108), was condemned to death as a Christian, was transported in chains to Rome, was there thrown to lions in the Coliseum for the amusement of the people, and that his remains were carried back to Antioch as an invaluable treasure. The transportation may be accounted for as designed to cool the zeal of the bishop, to terrify other Christians on the way, and to prevent an outbreak of fanaticism in the church of Antioch. But the chronological part of the statement makes difficulty. So far as we know, from coins and other ancient documents, Trajan did not come to Antioch on his Parthian expedition till the year 114 or 115. We must therefore either place the martyrdom later, or suppose, what is much more probable, that Ignatius did not appear before the emperor himself at all, but before his governor. Eusebius, Chrysostom, and other ancient witnesses say nothing of an imperial judgment, and the Epistle to the Romans rather implies that Ignatius was not condemned by the emperor at all; for otherwise it would have been useless for him to forbid them to intercede in his behalf. An appeal was possible from a lower tribunal, but not from the emperor’s.


II. His Letters

On his journey to Rome, Bishop Ignatius, as a prisoner of Jesus Christ, wrote seven epistles to various churches, mostly in Asia Minor. Eusebius and Jerome put them in the following order: (1) To the Ephesians; (2) to the Magnesians; (3) to the Trallians; (4) to the Romans; (5) to the Philadelphians; (6) to the Smyrneans; (7) to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. The first four were composed in Smyrna; the other three later in Troas. These seven epistles, in connection with a number of other decidedly spurious epistles of Ignatius, have come down to us in two Greek versions, a longer and a shorter. The shorter is unquestionably to be preferred to the longer, which abounds with later interpolations. Besides these, to increase the confusion of controversy, a Syriac translation has been made known in 1845, which contains only three of the former epistles — those to Polycarp, to the Ephesians, and to the Romans — and these in a much shorter form. This version is regarded by some as an exact transfer of the original; by others, with greater probability, as a mere extract from it for practical and ascetic purposes.

The question therefore lies between the shorter Greek copy and the Syriac version. The preponderance of testimony is for the former, in which the letters are no loose patch-work, but were produced each under its own impulse, were known to Eusebius (probably even to Polycarp), and agree also with the Armenian version of the fifth century, as compared by Petermann. The three Syriac epistles, however, though they lack some of the strongest passages on episcopacy and on the divinity of Christ, contain the outlines of the same life-picture, and especially the same fervid enthusiasm for martyrdom, as the seven Greek epistles.


III. His Character and Position in History

Ignatius stands out in history as the ideal of a catholic martyr, and as the earliest advocate of the hierarchical principle in both its good and its evil points. As a writer, he is remarkable for originality, freshness and force of ideas, and for terse, sparkling and sententious style; but in apostolic simplicity and soundness, he is inferior to Clement and Polycarp, and presents a stronger contrast to the epistles of the New Testament. Clement shows the calmness, dignity and governmental wisdom of the Roman character. Ignatius glows with the fire and impetuosity of the Greek and Syrian temper which carries him beyond the bounds of sobriety. He was a very uncommon man, and made a powerful impression upon his age. He is the incarnation, as it were, of the three closely connected ideas: the glory of martyrdom, the omnipotence of episcopacy, and the hatred of heresy and schism. Hierarchical pride and humility, Christian charity and churchly exclusiveness are typically represented in Ignatius.

As he appears personally in his epistles, his most beautiful and venerable trait is his glowing love for Christ as God incarnate, and his enthusiasm for martyrdom. If great patriots thought it sweet to die for their country, he thought it sweeter and more honorable to die for Christ, and by his blood to fertilize the soil for the growth of His Church. “I would rather die for Christ,” says he, “than rule the whole earth.” “It is glorious to go down in the world, in order to go up into God.” He beseeches the Romans: “Leave me to the beasts, that I may by them be made partaker of God. I am a grain of the wheat of God, and I would be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread of God. Rather fawn upon the beasts, that they may be to me a grave, and leave nothing of my body, that, when I sleep, I may not be burdensome to any one. Then will I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world can no longer even see my body. Pray the Lord for me, that through these instruments I may be found a sacrifice to God.” And further on: “Fire, and cross, and exposure to beasts, scattering of the bones, hewing of the limbs, crushing of the whole body, wicked torments of the devil, may come upon me, if they only make me partaker of Jesus Christ … My love is crucified, and there is no fire in me, which loves earthly stuff … I rejoice not in the food of perishableness, nor in the pleasures of this life. The bread of God would I have, which is the flesh of Christ; and for drink I wish his blood, which is imperishable love.”

From these and similar passages, however, we perceive also that his martyr-spirit exceeds the limits of the genuine apostolic soberness and resignation, which is equally willing to depart or to remain according to the Lord’s good pleasure (Comp. Phi_1:23, Phi_1:24, and Mat_26:39). It degenerates into boisterous impatience and morbid fanaticism. It resembles the lurid torch rather than the clear calm light. There mingles also in all his extravagant professions of humility and entire unworthiness a refined spiritual pride and self-commendation. And, finally, there is something offensive in the tone of his epistle to Polycarp, in which he addresses that venerable bishop and apostolic disciple, who at that time must have already entered upon the years of ripe manhood, not as a colleague and brother, but rather as a pupil, with exhortations and warnings, such as: “Strive after more knowledge than thou hast.” “Be wise as the serpents.” “Be more zealous than thou art.” “Flee the arts of the devil.” This last injunction goes even beyond that of Paul to Timothy: “Flee youthful lusts,” (2Ti_2:22) and can hardly be justified by it. Thus, not only in force and depth of teaching, but also in life and suffering, there is a significant difference between an apostolic and a post-apostolic martyr.

The doctrinal and churchly views of the Ignatian epistles are framed on a peculiar combination and somewhat materialistic apprehension of John’s doctrine of the incarnation, and Paul’s idea of the church as the body of Jesus Christ. In the “catholic church” — an expression introduced by him — that is, the episcopal orthodox organization of his day, the author sees, as it were, the continuation of the mystery of the incarnation, on the reality of which he laid great emphasis against the Docetists; and in every bishop, a visible representative of Christ, and a personal centre of ecclesiastical unity, which he presses home upon his readers with the greatest solicitude and almost passionate zeal. He thus applies those ideas of the apostles directly to the outward organization, and makes them subservient to the principle and institution of the growing hierarchy. Here lies the chief importance of these epistles; and the cause of their high repute with catholics and prelatists, and their unpopularity with anti-episcopalians, and modern critics of the more radical school.

It is remarkable that the idea of the episcopal hierarchy which we have developed in another chapter, should be first clearly and boldly brought out, not by the contemporary Roman bishop Clement, but by a bishop of the Eastern church; though it was transplanted by him to the soil of Rome, and there sealed with his martyr blood. Equally noticeable is the circumstance, that these oldest documents of the hierarchy soon became so interpolated, curtailed, and mutilated by pious fraud, that it is today almost impossible to discover with certainty the genuine Ignatius of history under the hyper- and pseudo-Ignatius of tradition.


165. The Ignatian Controversy

Of all the writings of the apostolic fathers none have been so much discussed, especially in modern times, as the Ignatian Epistles. This arises partly from the importance of their contents to the episcopal question, partly from the existence of so many different versions. The latter fact seems to argue as strongly for the hypothesis of a genuine basis for all, as against the supposition of the full integrity of any one of the extant texts. Renan describes the Ignatian problem as the most difficult in early Christian literature, next to that of the Gospel of John (Les Évang. p. x).

The Ignatian controversy has passed through three periods, the first from the publication of the spurious Ignatius to the publication of the shorter Greek recension (A. D. 1495 to 1644); the second from the discovery and publication of the shorter Greek recension to the discovery and publication of the Syrian version (A. D. 1644 to 1845), which resulted in the rejection of the larger Greek recension; the third from the discovery of the Syrian extract to the present time (1845-1883), which is favorable to the shorter Greek recension.

1. The Larger Greek Recension of Seven Epistles with eight additional ones. Four of them were published in Latin at Paris, 1495, as an appendix to another book; eleven more by Faber Stapulensis, also in Latin, at Paris, 1498; then all fifteen in Greek by Valentine Hartung (called Paceus or Irenaeus) at Dillingen, 1557; and twelve by Andreas Gesner at Zurich, 1560. The Catholics at first accepted them all as genuine works of Ignatius; and Hartung, Baronius, Bellarmin defended at least twelve; but Calvin and the Magdeburg Centuriators rejected them all, and later Catholics surrendered at least eight as utterly untenable. These are two Latin letters of Ignatius to St. John and one to the Virgin Mary with an answer of the Virgin; and five Greek letters of Ignatius to Maria Castabolita, with an answer, to the Tarsenses, to the Antiochians, to Hero, a deacon of Antioch, and to the Philippians. These letters swarm with offences against history and chronology. They were entirely unknown to Eusebius and Jerome. They are worthless forgeries, clothed with the name and authority of Ignatius. It is a humiliating fact that the spurious Ignatius and his letters to St. John and the Virgin Mary should in a wretched Latin version have so long transplanted and obscured the historical Ignatius down to the sixteenth century. No wonder that Calvin spoke of this fabrication with such contempt. But in like manner the Mary of history gave way to a Mary of fiction, the real Peter to a pseudo-Peter, and the real Clement to a pseudo-Clement. Here, if anywhere, we see the necessity and use of historical criticism for the defense of truth and honesty.

2. The Shorter Greek Recension of the seven Epistles known to Eusebius was discovered in a Latin version and edited by Archbishop Ussher at Oxford, 1644 (Polycarpi et Ignatii Epistolae), and in Greek by Isaac Vossius, from a Medicean Codex in 1646, again by Th. Ruinart from the Codex Colbertinus (together with the Martyrium) in 1689. We have also fragments of a Syrian version (in Cureton), and of an Armenian version apparently from the Syrian (printed in Constantinople in 1783, and compared by Petermann). Henceforth the longer Greek recension found very few defenders (the eccentric Whiston, 1711, and more recently Fr. C. Meier, 1836), and their arguments were conclusively refuted by R. Rothe in his Anfänge, 1837, and by K. Fr. L. Arndt in the “Studien und Kritiken,” 1839). It is generally given up even by Roman Catholic scholars (as Petavius, Cotelier, Dupin, Hefele, Funk). But as regards the genuineness of the shorter Greek text there are three views among which scholars are divided.

(a) Its genuineness and integrity are advocated by Pearson (Vindiciae Ignatianae, 1672, against the doubts of the acute Dallaeus), latterly by Gieseler, Möhler (R.C.), Rothe (1837), Huther (1841), Düsterdieck (1843), Dorner (1845), and (since the publication of the shorter Syriac version) by Jacobson, Hefele (R.C., 1847 and 1855), Denzinger (R.C., 1849), Petermann (1849), Wordsworth, Churton (1852), and most thoroughly by Ulhhorn, (1851 and ‘56), and Zahn (1873, Ign. v. Ant. 495-541). The same view is adopted by Wieseler (1878), Funk (in Patr. Apost. 1878, Prol LX. sqq., and his monograph, 1883), Canon Travers Smith, (in Smith and Wace, 1882), and Lightfoot (1885).

(b) The friends of the three Syriac epistles (see below under No. 3) let only so many of the seven epistles stand as agree with those. Also Lardner (1743), Mosheim (1755), Neander (1826), Thiersch (1852), Lechler (1857), Robertson and Donaldson (1867), are inclined to suppose at least interpolation.

(c) The shorter recension, though older than the longer, is likewise spurious. The letters were forged in the later half of the second century for the purpose of promoting episcopacy and the worship of martyrs. This view is ably advocated by two very different classes of divines: first by Calvinists in the interest of Presbyterianism or anti-prelacy, Claudius Salmasius (1645), David Blondel (1646), Dallaeus (1666), Samuel Basnage, and by Dr. Killen of Belfast (1859 and 1883); next by the Tübingen school of critics in a purely historical interest, Dr. Baur (1835, then against Rothe, 1838, and against Bunsen, 1848 and 1853), Schwegler (1846), and more thoroughly by Hilgenfeld (1853). The Tübingen critics reject the whole Ignatian literature as unhistorical tendency writings, partly because the entire historical situation implied in it and the circuitous journey to Rome are in themselves improbable, partly because it advocates a form of church government and combats Gnostic heresies, which could not have existed in the age of Ignatius. This extreme scepticism is closely connected with the whole view of the Tübingen school in regard to the history of primitive Christianity, and offers no explanation of the stubborn fact that Ignatius was a historical character of a strongly marked individuality and wrote a number of letters widely known and appreciated in the early church. Renan admits the genuineness of the Ep. to the Romans, but rejects the six others as fabrications of a zealous partizan of orthodoxy and episcopacy about a.d. 170. He misses in them le génie, le caractère individuel, but speaks highly of the Ep. to the Romans, in which the enthusiasm of the martyr has found “son expressio la plus exaltée” (p. 489).

(d) We grant that the integrity of these epistles, even in the shorter copy, is not beyond all reasonable doubt. As the manuscripts of them contain, at the same time, decidedly spurious epistles (even the Armenian translation has thirteen epistles), the suspicion arises, that the seven genuine also have not wholly escaped the hand of the forger. Yet there are, in any case, very strong arguments for their genuineness and substantial integrity; viz. (1) The testimony of the fathers, especially of Eusebius. Even Polycarp alludes to epistles of Ignatius. (2) The raciness and freshness of their contents, which a forger could not well imitate. (3) The small number of citations from the New Testament, indicating the period of the immediate disciples of the apostles. (4) Their way of combating the Judaists and Docetists (probably Judaizing Gnostics of the school of Cerinthus), showing us Gnosticism as yet in the first stage of its development. (5) Their dogmatical indefiniteness, particularly in regard to the Trinity and Christology, notwithstanding very strong expressions in favor of the divinity of Christ. (6) Their urgent recommendation of episcopacy as an institution still new and fresh, and as a centre of congregational unity in distinction from the diocesan episcopacy of Irenaeus and Tertullian. (7) Their entire silence respecting a Roman primacy, even in the epistle to the Romans, where we should most expect it. The Roman church is highly recommended indeed, but the Roman bishop is not even mentioned. In any case these epistles must have been written before the middle of the second century, and reflect the spirit of their age in its strong current towards a hierarchical organization and churchly orthodoxy on the basis of the glory of martyrdom.

3. The Syriac Version contains only three epistles (to Polycarp, to the Ephesians, and to the Romans), and even these in a much reduced form, less than half of the corresponding Greek Epistles. It has the subscription: “Here end the three epistles of the bishop and martyr Ignatius,” on which, however, Bunsen lays too great stress; for, even if it comes from the translator himself, and not from a mere transcriber, it does not necessarily exclude the existence of other epistles (comp. Petermann, l.c. p. xxi.). It was discovered in 1839 and ‘43 by the Rev. Henry Tattam in a monastery of the Libyan desert, together with 365 other Syriac manuscripts, now in the British Museum; published first by Cureton in 1845, and again in 1849, with the help of a third MS. discovered in 1847; and advocated as genuine by him, as also by Lee (1846), Bunsen (1847), Ritschl (1851 and 1857), Weiss (1852), and most fully by Lipsius (1856), also by E. de Pressené (1862), Böhringer (1873), and at first by Lightfoot.

Now, it is true, that all the considerations we have adduced in favor of the shorter Greek text, except the first, are equally good, and some of them even better, for the genuineness of the Syrian Ignatius, which has the additional advantage of lacking many of the most offensive passages (though not in the epistle to Polycarp).

But against the Syriac text is, in the first place, the external testimony of antiquity, especially that of Eusebius, who confessedly knew of and used seven epistles, whereas the oldest of the three manuscripts of this version, according to Cureton, belongs at the earliest to the sixth century, a period, when the longer copy also had become circulated through all the East, and that too in a Syriac translation, as the fragments given by Cureton show. Secondly, the internal testimony of the fact, that the Syriac text, on close examination, by the want of a proper sequence of thoughts and sentences betrays the character of a fragmentary extract from the Greek; as Baur (1848), Hilgenfeld (1853), and especially Uhlhorn (185l), and Zahn (1873, p. 167-241), by an accurate comparison of the two, have proved in a manner hitherto unrefuted and irrefutable. The short Syriac Ignatius has vanished like a dream. Even Lipsius and Lightfoot have given up or modified their former view. The great work of Lightfoot on Ignatius and Polycarp (1885) which goes into all the details and gives all the documents, may be regarded as a full and final settlement of the Ignatian problem in favor of the shorter Greek recension.

The only genuine Ignatius, as the question now stands, is the Ignatius of the shorter seven Greek epistles.


166. Polycarp of Smyrna

Comp § 19 and the Lit. there quoted.

S. Polycarpi, Smyrnaeorum episcopi et hieromartyris, ad Philippenses Epistola, first published in Latin by Faber Stapulensis (Paris 1498), then with the Greek original by Petrus Halloisius (Halloix), Duaei, 1633; and Jac. Usserius (Ussher), Lond. 1647: also in all the editions of the Apost. Fath., especially those of Jacobson (who compared several manuscripts), Zahn (1876), Funk (1878), and Lightfoot (1885).

Martyrium S. Polycarpi (Epistola circularis ecclesix Smyrnensis), first completed ed. in Gr. & Lat. by Archbp. Ussher, Lond. 1647, then in all the ed. of the Patr. Apost., especially that of Jacobson (who here also made use of three new codices), of Zahn, and Funk.

L. Duchesne: Vita Sancti Polycarpi Smyrnaeorum episcopi auctore Pionio Primum graece edita. Paris 1881. The same also in the second vol. of Funk’s Patr. Apost. (1881) pp. LIV. -LVIII. 315-347. It is, according to Funk, from the fourth or fifth century, and shows not what Polycarp really was, but how he appeared to the Christians of a later age.

Zahn: Ign. v. Ant. p. 495-511; and Proleg. to his ed. of Ign. and Pol. (1876), p. XLII-LV.

Donaldson: Ap. Fath. 191-247.

Renan L’église chrétienne (1879), ch. ix. and x. p. 437-466.

Lightfoot: S. Ign. and S. Polycarp, (1885), vol. I. 417-704.

Polycarp, born about a.d. 69 or earlier, a disciple of the apostle John, a younger friend of Ignatius, and the teacher of Irenaeus (between 130 and 140), presided as presbyter-bishop over the church of Smyrna in Asia Minor in the first half of the second century; made a journey to Rome about the year 154, to adjust the Easter dispute; and died at the stake in the persecution under Antoninus Pius a.d. 155, at a great age, having served the Lord six and eighty years. He was not so original and intellectually active as Clement or Ignatius, but a man of truly venerable character, and simple, patriarchal piety. His disciple Irenaeus of Lyons (who wrote under Eleutherus, 177-190), in a letter to his fellow-pupil Florinus, who had fallen into the error of Gnosticism) has given us most valuable reminiscences of this “blessed and apostolic presbyter,” which show how faithfully he held fast the apostolic tradition, and how he deprecated all departure from it. He remembered vividly his mode of life and personal appearance, his discourses to the people, and his communications respecting the teaching and miracles of the Lord, as he had received them from the mouth of John and other eye-witnesses, in agreement with the Holy Scriptures. In another place, Irenaeus says of Polycarp, that he had all the time taught what he had learned from the apostles, and what the church handed down; and relates, that he once called the Gnostic Marcion in Rome, “the first-born of Satan.” This is by no means incredible in a disciple of John, who, with all his mildness, forbids his people to salute the deniers of the true divinity and humanity of the Lord (2Jo_1:10); and it is confirmed by a passage in the epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, where he says: “Whoever doth not confess, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist (Comp. 1Jo_4:3), and whoever doth not confess the mystery of the cross, is of the devil; and he, who wrests the words of the Lord according to his own pleasure, and saith, there is no resurrection and judgment, is the first-born of Satan. Therefore would we forsake the empty babbling of this crowd and their false teachings, and turn to the word which hath been given us from the beginning, watching in prayer (Comp. 1Pe_4:17), continuing in fasting, and most humbly praying God, that he lead us not into temptation (Comp. Mat_6:13), as the Lord hath said: ‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”

This epistle to the Philippians consists of fourteen short chapters, and has been published in full since 1633. It is the only document that remains to us from this last witness of the Johannean age, who wrote several letters to neighboring congregations. It is mentioned first by his pupil Irenaeus; it was still in public use in the churches of Asia Minor in the time of Jerome as he reports; and its contents correspond with the known life and character of Polycarp; its genuineness there is no just reason to doubt. It has little merit as a literary production, but is simple and earnest, and breathes a noble Christian spirit, it was written after the death of Ignatius (whose epistles are mentioned, c. 13) in the name of Polycarp and his presbyters; commends the Philippians for the love they showed Ignatius in bonds and his companions, and for their adherence to the ancient faith; and proceeds with simple, earnest exhortation to love, harmony, contentment, patience, and perseverance, to prayer even for enemies and persecutors; also giving special directions for deacons, presbyters, youths, wives, widows, and virgins; with strokes against Gnostic Docetic errors. Of Christ it speaks in high terms, as the Lord, who sits at the right hand of God to whom everything in heaven and earth is subject; whom every living being serves; who is coming to judge the quick and the dead; whose blood God will require of all, who believe not on him. Polycarp guards with sound feeling against being considered equal with the apostles: “I write these things, brethren, not in arrogance, but because ye have requested me. For neither I, nor any other like me, can attain the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who was among you, and in the presence of the then living accurately and firmly taught the word of truth, who also in his absence wrote you an epistle, from which ye may edify yourselves in the faith given to you, which is the mother of us all (Gal_4:26), hope following after, and love to God and to Christ, and to neighbors leading further. For when any one is full of these virtues, he fulfills the command of righteousness; for he, who has love, is far from all sin.” This does not agree altogether with the system of St. Paul. But it should be remembered that Polycarp, in the very first chapter, represents faith and the whole salvation as the gift of free grace.

The epistle is interwoven with many reminiscences of the Synoptical Gospels and the epistles of Paul, John and First Peter, which give to it considerable importance in the history of the canon.

The Martyrium S. Polycarpi (22 chs.), in the form of a circular letter of the church of Smyrna to the church of Philomelium in Phrygia, and all “parishes of the Catholic church,” appears, from ch. 18, to have been composed before the first annual celebration of his martyrdom. Eusebius has incorporated in his church history the greater part of this beautiful memorial, and Ussher first published it complete in the Greek original, 1647. It contains an edifying description of the trial and martyrdom of Polycarp, though embellished with some marvellous additions of legendary poesy. When, for example, the pile was kindled, the flames surrounded the body of Polycarp, like the full sail of a ship, without touching it; on the contrary it shone, unhurt, with a gorgeous color, like white baken bread, or like gold and silver in a crucible, and gave forth a lovely fragrance as of precious spices. Then one of the executioners pierced the body of the saint with a spear, and forthwith there flowed such a stream of blood that the fire was extinguished by it. The narrative mentions also a dove which flew up from the burning pile; but the reading is corrupt, and Eusebius, Rufinus, and Nicephorus make no reference to it. The sign of a dove (which is frequently found on ancient monuments) was probably first marked on the margin, as a symbol of the pure soul of the martyr, or of the power of the Holy Spirit which pervaded him; but the insertion of the word dove in the text suggests an intended contrast to the eagle, which flew up from the ashes of the Roman emperors, and proclaimed their apotheosis, and may thus be connected with the rising worship of martyrs and saints.

Throughout its later chapters this narrative considerably exceeds the sober limits of the Acts of the Apostles in the description of the martyrdom of Stephen and the elder James, and serves to illustrate, in this respect also, the undeniable difference, notwithstanding all the affinity, between the apostolic and the old catholic literature.



I. Of all the writings of the Apostolic Fathers the Epistle of Polycarp is the least original, but nearest in tone to the Pastoral Epistles of Paul, and fullest of reminiscences from the New Testament. We give the first four chapters as specimens.

I. “Polycarp and the presbyters with him to the congregation of god which sojourns at Philippi. Mercy and peace be multiplied upon you, from God Almighty, and from Jesus Christ our Saviour.

1. “I have greatly rejoiced with you in the joy you have had in our Lord Jesus Christ, in receiving those examples of true charity, and having accompanied, as it well became you, those who were bound with holy chains [Ignatius and his fellow-prisoners, Zosimus and Rufus; comp. ch. 9]; who are the diadems of the truly elect of God and our Lord; and that the strong root of your faith, spoken of in the earliest times, endureth until now, and bringeth forth fruit unto our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, but whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the pains of Hades [Act_2:24]; in whom though ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory [1Pe_1:8]; into which joy many desire to enter; knowing that by grace ye are saved, not by works [Eph_2:8, Eph_2:9], but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

2. “Wherefore, girding up your loins, serve the Lord in fear [1Pe_1:13] and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave him glory [1Pe_1:21], and a throne at His right hand [comp. Heb_1:3; Heb_8:1; Heb_12:2]; to whom all things in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil-speaking false-witness; not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling [1Pe_3:9]; or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus [comp. Act_20:35] in His teaching: Judge not, that ye be not judged; forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again [Mat_7:1,Mat_7:2; Luk_6:36-38], and once more, Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God [Luk_6:20; Mat_5:3,Mat_5:10].

3. “These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything on myself, but because ye have invited me thereto. For neither I, nor any such as I, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive; and when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, is the mother of us all [Gal_4:26]. For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, be has fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that has love is far from all sin.

4. “But the love of money is a beginning [ἀρχή instead of root, ῥιζη] of all kinds of evil, [1Ti_6:10]. Knowing, therefore, that as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out, [1Ti_6:7], let us arm ourselves with the armor of righteousness; and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next teach your wives to walk in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God [comp. Eph_6:11, Eph_6:13, Eph_6:14]. Let us teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil; knowing that they are the altar of God, that He clearly perceives all things, and that nothing is hid from Him, neither reasonings, nor reflections, nor any one of the secret things of the heart.”

II. From the Martyrium Polycarpi. When the Proconsul demanded that Polycarp should swear by the genius of Caesar and renounce Christ, he gave the memorable answer:

“Eighty and six years have I served Christ, nor has He ever done me any harm. How, then, could I blaspheme my King who saved me” (τὸν βασιλέα μου τὸν σώσαντά με)? Ch. 9.

Standing at the stake with his hands tied to the back, as the fagots were kindled, Polycarp lifted up his voice and uttered this sublime prayer as reported by disciples who heard it (ch. 14):

“Lord God Almighty, Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the grace of knowing Thee; God of angels and powers, and the whole creation, and of the whole race of the righteous who live in Thy presence; I bless Thee for deigning me worthy of this day and this hour that I may be among Thy martyrs and drink of the cup of my Lord Jesus Christ, unto the resurrection of eternal life of soul and body in the incorruption of the Holy Spirit. Receive me this day into Thy presence together with them, as a fair and acceptable sacrifice prepared for Thyself in fulfillment of Thy promise, O true and faithful God. Wherefore I praise Thee for all Thy mercies; I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, through the eternal High-Priest, Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom to Thyself and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and forever. Amen.”

For a good popular description of Polycarp, including his letter and martyrdom, see The Pupils of St. John the Divine, by the Author of the Heir of Redcliffe, in Macmillan’s “Sunday Library.” London 1863.