Reading History: John Chrysostom on Ignatius of Antioch

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.

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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

Reading History: Ignatius of Antioch

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.
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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. [1]

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

Justin Martyr: What we do in life echoes in eternity

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are looking at some of the people that have stood out in the history of the church. This past Sunday we focused on Justin Martyr.

Justin was probably a Roman Gentile, born early in the second century in the city of Flavia Neapolis located in Samaria. What we know of him comes primarily from his extant works or statements about him in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History

Justin was especially prominent in those days. In the guise of a philosopher he preached the divine word, and contended for the faith in his writings. (Eccl Hist 4.11)

Justin lived in the early 2nd century, spending most of his life under the reign of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Antonius Pius.

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Living in the early 2nd century, and traveling broadly as he studied philosophy, Justin would have learned about Christianity from people who were potentially taught by the apostles. Given his travels, he also would have a good understanding of the doctrines held across numerous locations. Thus, in Justin’s writings we find important descriptions of the practices and doctrines of the early church.

There are three extant works that are generally accepted as being written by him.

  • First Apology, addressed to Antonius Pius, and generally dated between 150 and 157
  • Second Apology, often considered as part of the First Apology
  • Dialogue with Trypho, which defends Jesus as Messiah to those who are Jewish. It is usually dated around 160.

Continue reading