The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians

This epistle, like the others of Ignatius, exist in two editions, a longer and a shorter. We will be looking primarily at the shorter. There are three English translations available on the web: Roberts-Donaldson, Lightfoot, and Hoole. CCEL has a beautiful Greek font edition of the letter. And the PG link is here (the letter in question starts on column 673).

An outline of the epistle can go as follows: I. Beneficent greeting (1); II. Honor the officers of the church (2-3); III. Warning against the Docetists (4-11); IV. Final Exhortations and Greetings (12-13).

There are some very interesting things to note in this letter: Presbyterianism can find historical support in chapter 2: “It is therefor necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ.” Note also the strong emphasis that Ignatius places on the diaconate: “the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire. 3. In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no church” (chapters 2-3).

There is no doubt that the meat of the epistle has to do with Docetism, a heresy that believed that Jesus only appeared to be human, and wasn’t actually human. Therefore, Ignatius spends a great deal of time (chapters 9-10) propounding the reality of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

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1 Comment

  1. June 30, 2012 at 6:59 am

    The letters of Ignatius have proved to be important testimony to the development of Christian theology , since the number of extant writings from this period of Church history is very small. They bear signs of being written in great haste and without a proper plan, such as run-on sentences and an unsystematic succession of thought. Ignatius is the earliest known Christian writer to emphasize loyalty to a single bishop in each city (or diocese ) who is assisted by both presbyters possibly elders and deacons . Earlier writings only mention either bishops or presbyters, and give the impression that there was usually more than one bishop per congregation. Philippians 1:1 For instance, while the offices of bishop , presbyter and deacon appear apostolic in origin, the titles of “bishop” and “presbyter” could be used interchangeably.


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