6 Ignatius: The Letter to the Church at Smyrna
FROM Ignatius, also known as Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and the Beloved Jesus Christ, which God has mercifully blessed with every good gift; as indeed you are continually filled with faith and love to the point that you come short in no spiritual gift. The Church at Smyrna, in Asia, is most worthy of God and fruitful in saints, and may all joy come to you through His perfect Spirit, and the Word of God.
2 I praise God, even Jesus Christ, who has granted you such wisdom; 3 For I can see that you are fixed upon an immovable faith, just as if you were nailed to the very Cross of Christ itself, both in flesh and spirit! Indeed you are established in love through the blood of Christ; and you are fully convinced of the things pertaining to our Lord, 4 Who was truly of David’s race according to the flesh, and yet the Son of God according to the will and power of God; and He was truly born of the Virgin and baptized by John so that all the requirements of righteousness might be fulfilled by Him. 5 He was also truly crucified by Pontius Pilate and Herod the Tetrarch, the body of His flesh being nailed in our place, and this blessed suffering has produced the fruit of salvation which has given us a place in Him. 6 Through His resurrection He has given a sign for all ages, and to all His holy and faithful servants, both Jews and Gentiles, who are one body in his Church. 7 He suffered all these things in our place that we might be saved. He truly suffered, and He also truly raised up Himself. It is not as some unbelievers say, that his Passion was a sham. It’s they who are a sham! 8 Yes, and their fate will fit their fancies — they will be ghosts and apparitions.
9 For myself, I am convinced and believe that even after the resurrection he was in the flesh. 10 Indeed, when he came to Peter and his friends, he said to them, “Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a bodiless ghost.” And they at once touched him and were convinced, clutching his body and his very breath. 11 For this reason they despised death itself, and proved its victors. 12 Moreover, after the resurrection he ate and drank with them as a real human being, although in spirit he was united with the Father.
I URGE these things on you, my friends, although I
am well aware that you agree with me. 2 But I warn you in advance against
wild beasts in human shapes. You must not only refuse to receive them,
but if possible, you must avoid meeting them. 3 Just pray for them that
they may somehow repent, hard as that is. Yet Jesus Christ, our genuine
life, has the power to bring it about. 4 If what our Lord did is a sham,
so is my being in chains. 5 Why, then, have I given myself up completely
to death, fire, sword, and wild beasts? 6 For the simple reason that near
the sword means near God. To be with wild beasts means to be with God.
7 But it must all be in the name of Jesus Christ. To share in his
Passion I go through everything, for he who became the perfect man gives
me the strength.
8 Yet in their ignorance some deny him — or rather
have been denied by him, since they advocate death rather than the
truth. The prophets and the law of Moses have failed to convince them —
nay, to this very day the gospel and the sufferings of each one of us
have also failed, 9 for they class our sufferings with Christ’s. What good
does anyone do me by praising me and then reviling my Lord by refusing
to acknowledge that he carried around live flesh? 10 He who denies this has
completely disavowed him and carries a corpse around. The names of
these people, seeing they are unbelievers, I am not going to write down. 11
No, far be it from me even to recall them until they repent and
acknowledge the Passion, which means our resurrection.
12 Let no one be misled: heavenly beings, the
splendor of angels, and principalities, visible and invisible, if they
fail to believe in Christ’s blood, they too are doomed. 13 “Let him accept
it who can.” Let no one’s position swell his head, for faith and love
are everything — there is nothing preferable to them. 14 Pay close attention to those who have wrong notions about the grace
of Jesus Christ, which has come to us, and note how at variance they are
with God’s mind. 15 They care nothing about love: they have no concern for
widows or orphans, for the oppressed, for those in prison or released,
for the hungry or the thirsty. 16 They hold aloof from the Eucharist and from
services of prayer, because they refuse to admit that the Eucharist is
the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and
which, in his goodness, the Father raised .
17 Consequently those who
wrangle and dispute God’s gift face death. They would have done better
to love and so share in the resurrection. 18 The right thing to do, then,
is to avoid such people and to talk about them neither in private nor in
public. 19 Rather pay attention to the prophets and above all to the
gospel. There we get a clear picture of the Passion and see that the
resurrection has really happened. 20 Flee from schism as the source of mischief.
should all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father. Follow,
too, the presbytery as you would the apostles; and respect the deacons
as you would God’s law. 2 Nobody must do anything that has to do with the
Church without the bishop’s approval. 3 You should regard that Eucharist
as valid which is celebrated either by the bishop or by someone he
authorizes. 4 Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation
gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
5 Without the bishop’s supervision, no baptisms or love feasts are
permitted. On the other hand, whatever he approves pleases God as well.
In that way everything you do will be on the safe side and valid. 6 It is well for us to come to our senses at last,
while we still have a chance to repent and turn to God. 7 It is a fine
thing to acknowledge God and the bishop. He who pays the bishop honor
has been honored by God. But he who acts without the bishop’s knowledge
is in the devil’s service.
8 By God’s grace may you have an abundance of everything! You deserve
it. 9 You have brought me no end of comfort; may Jesus Christ do the same
for you! Whether I was absent or present, you gave me your love. 10 May God
requite you! If for his sake you endure everything, you will get to
him. 11 It was good of you to welcome Philo and Rheus
Agathopus as deacons of the Christ God. They accompanied me in God’s
cause, 12 and they thank the Lord on your behalf that you provided them
every comfort. I can assure you you will lose nothing by it.
13 Prisoner as
I am, I am giving my life for you — not that it’s worth much! You did
not scorn my chains and were not ashamed of them. Neither will Jesus
Christ be ashamed of you. You can trust him implicitly!
14 Your prayers have reached out as far as the church at Antioch in
Syria. From there I have come, chained with these magnificent chains,
and I send you all greetings. I do not, of course, deserve to be a
member of that church, seeing I am the least among them. 15 Yet it was will
to give me the privilege — not, indeed, for anything I had done of my
own accord, but by his grace. 16 Oh, I want that grace to be given me in
full measure, that by your prayers I may get to God!
Well, then, so that
your own conduct may be perfect on earth and in heaven, it is right
that your church should honor God by sending a delegate in his name to
go to Syria and to congratulate them on being at peace, on recovering
their original numbers, and on having their own corporate life restored
to them. 18 To my mind that is what God would want you to do: to send one
of your number with a letter, and thus join with them in extolling the
calm which God has granted them, and the fact that they have already
reached a haven, thanks to your prayers. 19 Seeing you are perfect, your
intentions must be perfect as well. Indeed, if you want to do what is
right, God stands ready to give you his help.
20 The brothers in Troas send their love to you.
From there I am sending this letter to you by Burrhus. You joined with
your Ephesian brothers in sending him to be with me, and he has
altogether raised my spirits. 21 I wish everyone would be like him, since
he is a model of what God’s ministry should be. God’s grace will repay
him for all he has done for me.
22 Greetings to your bishop (he is such a
credit to God!), and to your splendid presbytery and to my fellow slaves
the deacons, and to you all, every one of you, in Jesus Christ’s name,
in his flesh and blood, in his Passion and resurrection, both bodily and
spiritual, and in unity — both God’s and yours. 23 Grace be yours, and
mercy, peace, and endurance, forever.
24 Greetings to the families of my brothers, along
with their wives and children, and to the virgins enrolled with the
widows. I bid you farewell in the Father’s power. Philo, who is with me,
sends you greetings.
25 Greetings to Tavia’s family. I want her to be
firmly and thoroughly grounded in faith and love.
26 Greetings to Alce, who
means a great deal to me, and to the inimitable Daphnus and to Eutecnus
and to each one of you.
27 Farewell in God’s grace.