John Chrysostom (347-407) was an influential Christian leader during the fourth century. He was known as an eloquent speaker and writer. His “last name” means “golden mouthed” and in 392 was included in Jerome’s collection On Illustrious Men (link #129). That would essentially make him a “legend in his own time”. He served as a leader in Antioch (~386-397), under bishop Flavian, until he was kidnapped and taken to Constantinople to become its arch-bishop (link).
In Antioch a day was set aside to to commemorate their hero Ignatius. On one of these occasions, John Chrysostom gave a noteworthy homily that we still have today (link). As John gave this speech, he and those who heard him enjoyed “deep peace on all sides”. This was in contrast to Ignatius and the early Christians who faced “precipices and pitfalls, and wars, and fightings, and dangers” during the first two centuries of its existence. This was also a time when the Arian controversy, which has consumed nearly a century of debate and the attention of two ecumenical councils, has finally started to fizzle out.
Antioch, envisioned as the whole world
This speech, as much as it is about remembering Ignatius, is also reminding people about the place that Antioch holds. In commending Ignatius, John lauds the size and history of the city in which he is speaking. Continue reading
I could make a decision
not bound by decreed precision
I’m certain to fulfill.
Nor would I be a puppet,
strings pulled like Jim Henson’s muppet
if I only had free will
I’d unravel just whose to blame,
when life goes down in a flame
And people rape n’ kill
No evil ordained in Dort,
means not taking God to court
If we only had free will
Oh, I would tell you why,
The future still is sure
Or why God is light and still remains pure
For no evil he can endure
Permit would not mean nuthin’
An arg’ment full of stuffin’
Goin’ to a land fill
Cuz choices I’d be makin’
‘sponsibility be takin’
If I only had free will
Some of the earliest extant writings of the church, after the apostles, were written by Ignatius of Antioch. Unfortunately very little is known about him. At least not with much certainty.
We can, with reasonable confidence, know that he lived in the first and second centuries during the reign of Trajan (98-117). This is based on the following set of evidence:
- Polycarp, a contemporary of Ignatius, is a recipient of one of the extant letters written by Ignatius. Writing his own Letter to the Philippians, Polycarp mentions Ignatius as a role model (chap 9). With this letter, Polycarp also attaches some of Ignatius’ letters, esteeming them because they explore “faith and patience, and all things that tend to edification in our Lord” (chap 13).
- Irenaeus, writing in the late second century, anonymously quotes a portion of Ignatius’ Letter to the Romans (chap 4) in Ad Haer (V.28.4).
- Origen, writing in the third century, quotes Letter to the Romans (chap 7) and Letter to the Ephesians (chap 19) in two of his commentaries. 
Martyrdom for the Faith
Ignatius is remembered for his courage as he faced martyrdom for his faith in Christ, sometime between 105 and 115 AD. He was arrested, taken into military custody, and taken from Syria across Asia Minor to Rome. In Rome he would be executed, being torn apart by wild beasts. It is on this journey that he wrote the letters that we have in our possession today. Continue reading