Ignatius’ Epistle to the Romans

Sometimes good friends can do a bad thing out of the best of intentions.  Ignatius expresses this concern in his Epistle to the Romans when he pleads with the Roman Christians not to keep him from his inevitable martyrdom.  “Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favour upon me than that I be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared…”  Martyrdom, for Ignatius, meant finally being worthy of the name he has tried to carry:  “Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but [truly] will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one.  For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world.”  And later he states, “Now I begin to be a disciple.”

Ignatius is not guilty of being in the cult of martyrs.  His desire is less for martyrdom than for Christ.  In a moving passage he says, “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”  “Permit me,” he says in ch.6, “to be an imitator of the passion of my God.”

We find yet again an acknowledgment from Igantius that he does not posses apostolic authority:  “I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you.  They were apostles; I am but a condemned man: they were free, while I am, even until now, a servant.”

We also find a possible statement about Holy Communion in Ignatius, “I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.”  Regardless of what Ignatius sees in the Lord’s Supper, it is fairly clear that he did not hold a merely memorialist view.

The Epistle to the Romans is a moving and personal letter.  As his martyrdom approaches and as he addresses those who will witness his last moments, he steps away a bit from his strident stress on the offices of the church and looks instead at the moment of his own death, when he can finally attain Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *