IGNATIUS TO THE SMYRNAEANS
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and the
beloved Jesus Christ; a church mercifully endowed with every gift;
overflowing with faith and love; lacking in no gift; radiant with God's
splendor, and fruitful mother of saints. To the Church at Smyrna in Asia I
send best wishes for irreproachableness of sentiment and loyalty to the
word of God.
1. I extol Jesus Christ, the God who has granted you such wisdom. For I
have observed that you are thoroughly trained in unshaken faith, being
nailed, as it were, to the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ both in body and
in soul, and that you are well established in love through the Blood of
Christ and firmly believe in Our Lord: He is really of the line of David
according to the flesh, and the Son of God by the will and power of God;
was really born of a virgin, and baptized by John in order to comply with
every ordinance. Under Pontius Pilate and the tetrarch Herod He was really
nailed to the cross in the flesh for our sake--of whose fruit we are, in
virtue of His most blessed Passion. And thus, through the Resurrection, He
raised a banner for all times for His saints and faithful followers,
whether among the Jews or the Gentiles, that they might be united in a
single body, that is, His Church.
2. All these sufferings, assuredly, He underwent for our sake, that we
might be saved. And He suffered really, as He also really raised Himself
from the dead. It is not as some unbelievers say, who maintain that His
suffering was a make-believe. In reality, it is they that are make-
believes: and, as their notion, so their end: they will be bodiless and
3. For myself, I know and believe that He was in the flesh even after the
Resurrection. And when He came to Peter and Peter's companions, He said to
them: "Here; feel me and see that I am not a bodiless ghost." Immediately
they touched Him and, through this contact with His Flesh and Spirit,
believed. For the same reason they despised death and, in fact, proved
stronger than death. Again, after the Resurrection, He ate and drank with
them like a being of flesh and blood, though spiritually one with the
4. I am urging these things on you, beloved, although I know that you are
of the same mind. I am cautioning you betimes, however, against wild beasts
in human form, whom you ought not only not to receive, but, if possible,
even avoid meeting. Only pray for them, if somehow they may change their
mind--a difficult thing! But that is in the power of Jesus Christ, our true
Life. Surely, if those things were done by Our Lord as a mere make-believe,
then I in my chains, too, am a make-believe! Why, moreover, did I surrender
myself to death, to fire, to the sword, to wild beasts? Well, to be near
the sword is to be near God; to be in the claws of wild beasts is to be in
the hands of God. Only let it be done in the name of Jesus Christ! To
suffer with Him I endure all things, if He, who became perfect man, gives
me the strength.
5. Some disown Him through ignorance, or, rather, were disowned by Him,
being advocates of death rather than the truth. They were not convinced by
the prophecies or by the Law of Moses; no, not even to this day by the
Gospel or the sufferings of our own people; for they entertain the same
view of us. Really, what good does anyone do me if he praises me, but
blasphemes my Lord by not admitting that He carried living flesh about Him?
He who does not admit this, has absolutely disowned Him, and what he
carries about him is a corpse. Their names--names of unbelievers they are!-
-I do not think advisable to write down. In fact, I even wish I did not
remember them, until they change their mind concerning the Passion, which
is our resurrection.
6. Let no one be deceived! Even the heavenly powers and the angels in their
splendor and the principalities, both visible and invisible, must either
believe in the Blood of Christ, or else face damnation. Let him grasp it
who can. Let no rank puff up anyone; for faith and love are paramount--the
greatest blessings in the world. Observe those who hold erroneous opinions
concerning the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how they
run counter to the mind of God! They concern themselves with neither works
of charity, nor widows, nor orphans, nor the distressed, nor those in
prison or out of it, nor the hungry or thirsty.
7. From Eucharist and prayer they hold aloof, because they do not confess
that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered
for our sins, and which the Father in His loving-kindness raised from the
dead. And so, those who question the gift of God perish in their
contentiousness. It would be better for them to have love, so as to share
in the resurrection. It is proper, therefore, to avoid associating with
such people and not to speak about them either in private or in public, but
to study the Prophets attentively and, especially, the Gospel, in which the
Passion is revealed to us and the Resurrection shown in its fulfillment.
Shun division as the beginning of evil.
8. You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed
that of the Father; follow the presbytery as you would the Apostles;
reverence the deacons as you would God's commandment. Let no one do
anything touching the Church, apart from the bishop. Let that celebration
of the Eucharist be considered valid which is held under the bishop or
anyone to whom he has committed it. Where the bishop appears, there let the
people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It
is not permitted without authorization from the bishop either to baptize or
to hold an agape; but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God. Thus
everything you do will be proof against danger and valid.
9. It is consonant with reason, therefore, that we should come to our
senses, while we still have time to change our ways and turn to God. It is
well to revere God and bishop. He who honors a bishop is honored by God. He
who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop worships the devil.
May all things, then, be yours in abundance through grace, for you deserve
it. You have brought relief to me in every respect, and may Jesus Christ do
so to you! Whether I was absent or present, you have shown me love. Your
reward is God, to whom you will come if you endure all things for His sake.
10. As to Philo and Rheus Agathopus, who accompanied me in the name of God,
it was good of you to give them a warm reception as to servants of Christ
God. For their part, they thank the Lord on your behalf, because you
offered them losers. A ransom for you are my life and my chains, which you
did not despise and of which you were not ashamed. Neither will Jesus
Christ, our consummate hope, be ashamed of you.
11. Your prayer made its way to the Church at Antioch in Syria. Coming from
there in chains radiant with divine splendor, I send greetings to all. Not
that I deserve to belong to that community, being the least of its members;
but by the will (of God) I was granted this favor--no, not because of any
conscious deed, but because of the grace of God. Would that this grace were
given me in perfection, that through your prayer I may make my way to God!
Now, that your own work may be made perfect both on earth and in heaven, it
is proper, for the honor of God, that your Church should send a God-
empowered delegate to go to Syria and congratulate the people on enjoying
peace, having recovered their normal greatness, and having their full
status restored to them. It therefore appears to me to be a God-inspired
undertaking to send one of your number with a letter for the purpose of
joining in the celebration of their God-given tranquillity, and because
they have, thanks to your prayer, at last made port. Be perfect, therefore,
and devise a perfect method. You need only be willing to do well, and God
is ready to assist you.
12. In their affection the brethren at Troas wish to be remembered to you.
It is from here that I send this letter through the kindness of Burrus,
whom you conjointly with your brethren, the Ephesians, commissioned to
accompany me. He has given me every possible comfort. And would that all
might imitate him, for he is a pattern of what a minister of God should be.
God's grace will reward him in every way. Greetings to the bishop, that man
of God, to the God-minded presbytery, to the deacons my fellow servants, to
the whole community, individually and collectively, in the name of Jesus
Christ, in His Flesh and Blood, in His Passion and Resurrection, both
corporal and spiritual, in unity with God and with you. Grace be to you and
mercy and peace and patient endurance forever.
13. Greetings to the families of my brethren, including their wives and
children, and to the virgins who are enrolled among the widows. Farewell in
the power of the Father! Philo, who is with me, wishes to be remembered to
you. Offer my respects to the household of Tavia, and I pray that she may
be firmly rooted in faith and love, both carnal and spiritual. Give my
regards to Alce, that most dear friend of mine, and to the incomparable
Daphnus, and to Eutecnus, and to all the rest by name. Farewell in the
grace of God!