December 30, 2007

From the Letter to the Magnesians..

~by St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians

Since I have met the persons I have just mentioned and seeing and embracing them I have seen and embraced your whole congregation, I exhort you — be zealous to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and the presbyters in the place of the Council of the Apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ, who was from eternity with the Father and was made manifest at the end of time.

Be all in conformity with God, and respect one another, and let no man judge his neighbour according to the flesh, but in everything love one another in Jesus Christ. Let there be nothing in you which can divide you, but be united with the bishop and with those who preside over you as an example and lesson of immortality...

Ignatius was born about AD 50, and probably died in AD 107. He was sent to Rome to be killed as an example that would discourage Christians. But the result was exactly the opposite. On the way he met with many Christians, and sent out a series of letters that can still be read with profit today.

As a historical note, Antioch in Syria was then the third largest city of the Empire, and Ignatius, who was its Christian bishop for about 40 years, would have been a high-value target. High value if one assumes, like the Roman authorities, that a cult would melt away if its leaders were killed.

One should also realize that the bureaucratic efficiency with which we deal with prisoners did not exist before the Industrial Age. Prisoners in the past were almost always accessible; a small payment to the guards would get your friends in to bring you comforts and have a nice visit. It is not at all surprising that John the Baptist, while in Herod's dungeon, could send his disciples to question Jesus.

Posted by John Weidner at December 30, 2007 9:31 AM
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