IGNATIUS TO THE TRALLIANS
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the holy Church at Tralles in Asia,
loved by God the Father of Jesus Christ; elect and an honor to God;
enjoying inward and outward peace through the Passion of Jesus Christ, who
is our hope when we rise to be with Him. I salute her in Apostolic fashion
with the fullness of grace and offer her heartiest good wishes.
1. Beyond reproach, I hear, and unshaken in patient endurance is your
disposition--not an acquired habit, but a natural endowment. I was informed
of it by Polybius, your bishop, who by the will of God and Jesus Christ
came to Smyrna and so heartily shared my joy at the chains which I bear in
Christ Jesus, that in his person I beheld your whole community. Welcoming,
then, your God-inspired goodwill, I burst into thanks and praise, finding
that you, as I learned, were patterning yourselves after God.
2. Surely, when you submit to the bishop as representing Jesus Christ, it
is clear to me that you are not living the life of men, but that of Jesus
Christ, who died for us, that through faith in His death you might escape
dying. It is needful, then--and such is your practice--that you do nothing
without your bishop; but be subject also to the presbytery as representing
the Apostles of Jesus Christ, our hope, in whom we are expected to live
forever. It is further necessary that the deacons, the dispensers of the
mysteries of Jesus Christ, should win the approval of all in every way; for
they are not dispensers of food and drink, but ministers of a church of
God. Hence they must be on their guard against criticism, as against fire.
3. Likewise, let all respect the deacons as representing Jesus Christ, the
bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as God's high council
and as the Apostolic college. Apart from these, no church deserves the
name. In these matters I am convinced that such is your attitude; for I
have received, and have with me, the embodiment of your affection in the
person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a powerful sermon, his
gentleness a mighty influence--a man whom even the unbelievers, I am sure,
respect. From love for you I spare your feelings--though I might write more
sternly in this regard. But I do not think that I, a man condemned, should
give you orders like an Apostle.
4. Many thoughts are mine when I take God's view of things; yet I keep
within due bounds, that I may not perish through boastfulness. Right now I
must fear the more, and pay no heed to those who flatter my vanity. Really,
those who speak to me in this strain torture me. True, I am in love with
suffering, but I do not know if I deserve the honor. My passionate longing
is not manifest to many, but it grips me all the more. What I need is
equanimity, by which the Prince of this world is undone.
5. Am I not able to write to you about heavenly things? I am; but I fear to
inflict harm on you who are mere babes. Pardon me, then you must not be
choked by what you cannot assimilate. It is the same with me: just because
I am in chains and able to grasp heavenly things--the ranks of the angels,
the hierarchy of principalities, things visible and invisible it does not
immediately follow that I am a disciple. Plainly, we are yet short of much
if we are not to be short of God.
6. I exhort you therefore--no, not I, but the love of Jesus Christ: partake
of Christian food exclusively; abstain from plants of alien growth, that
is, heresy. Heretics weave Jesus Christ into their web--to win our
confidence, just like persons who administer a deadly drug mixed with
honeyed wine, which the unsuspecting gladly take--and with baneful relish
they swallow death!
7. So, then, beware of such! And you will do so if you are not puffed up
and cling inseparably to God Jesus Christ, to the bishop, and to the
precepts of the Apostles. He that is inside the sanctuary is pure; he that
is outside the sanctuary is not pure. In other words: he that does anything
apart from bishop, presbytery, or deacon has no pure conscience.
8. Not that I have discovered any such thing in your midst; no, I merely
warn you betimes since you are dear to me and I foresee the devil's snares.
Take up the practice, then, of kind forbearance and renew yourselves in
faith, which is the Flesh Of the Lord, and in love, which is the Blood of
Jesus Christ. Let none of you bear a grudge against his neighbor. Give no
pretext to the pagans, so that, because of a few foolish persons, God's own
people may not be reviled. For woe unto him through whom my name is reviled
among some out of folly."
9. Stop your ears therefore when anyone speaks to you that stands apart
from Jesus Christ, from David's scion and Mary's Son, who was really born
and ate and drank, really persecuted by Pontius Pilate, really crucified
and died while heaven and earth and the underworld looked on; who also
really rose from the dead, since His Father raised Him up, His Father, who
will likewise raise us also who believe in Him through Jesus Christ, apart
from whom we have no real life.
10. But if, as some atheists, that is, unbelievers, say, His suffering was
but a make-believe--when, in reality, they themselves are make-believes--
then why am I in chains? Why do I even pray that I may fight wild beasts?
In vain, then, do I die! My testimony is, after all, but a lie about the
11. Shun these wildlings, then, which bear but deadly fruit, and when one
tastes it, he is outright doomed to die! Surely, such persons are not the
planting of the Father. For if they were, they would appear as branches of
the Cross, and their fruit would be imperishable--the Cross through which
by His Passion He calls you to Him, being members of His body. Evidently,
no head can be born separately, without members, since God means complete
oneness, which is Himself.
12. I greet you from Smyrna together with the Churches of God present here
with me. They comfort me in every way, both in body and in soul. My chains,
which I carry about on me for Jesus Christ, begging that I may happily make
my way to God, exhort you: persevere in your concord and in your community
prayers. It is certainly fitting for you individually, but especially for
the presbyters, to give comfort to the bishop in honor of the Father and
Jesus Christ and the Apostles. I beg you to listen to me in love, so that I
may not, by writing to you, prove witness against you. But also pray for
me, who stand in need of your charity before the mercy seat of God. Thus I
shall be granted that portion on the obtaining of which my heart is set,
and shall not be found a reprobate.
13. The love of the Smyrnaeans and the Ephesians sends you greetings.
Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria, to which I do not deserve to
belong, being the least of her members. Farewell in the name of Jesus
Christ. Be obedient to the bishop as to the commandment, and so, too, to
the presbytery. And love one another, man for man, with undivided heart. My
spirit is consecrated to you, not only now, but also when I have happily
made my way to God. For I am still in danger. But then, the Father is
faithful and will, in Jesus Christ, answer both my and your prayer. May you
in union with Him be found above reproach.