II. On the Text of the Seven Epistles of Saint Ignatius

(Begun in Notes of the date of 1828, completed in 1870.)

{95} IN my Essay on the theology of St. Ignatius (Essays, vol. i.), it was assumed that the controversy of the seventeenth century, in which Pearson bore so distinguished a part, had issued in a plain proof of the substantial genuineness of the text of the Medicean and Colbertine MSS. And it was inferred from this as a premiss, that apostolic Christianity was of a distinctly dogmatic character, it being impossible for those who resisted this inference to succeed in explaining away the text of Ignatius, as those MSS. contain it, and only open to them to take refuge in a denial of the premiss, that is, of the genuineness of that text. Then it was added as to such denial, "It is a curious speculation whether, in the progress of controversy, divines, who are determined at all risks not to admit the Church system, will not fall back upon it;—stranger things have happened."

So I wrote in 1838, and what I then anticipated has actually taken place since, though not in the way that I anticipated. I did not fancy that the controversy would {96} have been revived on grounds both new, and certainly at first sight plausible, as has been the case. Those new grounds do not change my own judgment on the matter in dispute; but they have a real claim to be taken into consideration. This I now propose to do.


In the year 1845, then, the late Dr. Cureton gave to the world, from a Nitrian MS. of the seventh century, a Syriac version of three out of the seven Epistles enumerated by Eusebius, viz., those to St. Polycarp, to the Romans, and to the Ephesians; and in this ancient version various characteristic passages, as they are found in the Greek, are absent, and among them some of those on which I have insisted in my Essay. Dr. Cureton claims for this Syriac version (Preface, p. xi.) to be the nearest representative of "what Ignatius himself wrote;" and in this claim he is supported by various critics of great consideration. Nor are the reasons which he and they assign for their judgment of slight account, nor indeed do they admit of a summary refutation in our present partial knowledge of the facts of the case. Before it is possible to close the controversy thus reopened, the Syriac version of the remaining Epistles has to be discovered; or again, it should become clear that there never was any Syriac version of them at all; nor is anything yet known of the history of this new MS., of its derivation, or of the circumstances under which the version it contains was made, such as might explain what may be called the dumb fact of its existence.

One important exception to this remark must be mentioned; {97} a second Nitrian MS. has also been discovered, containing one of the same three Epistles as are contained in the first, viz., the Epistle to Polycarp; and this MS. is of even an earlier date, viz., about A.D. 530-540, and with only so much difference of text from that of A.D. 600-700, as serves to show that the later MS. of the two was not copied from the earlier, and thereby to throw back the date of the version itself at least to the fifth century. The value, however, of this fact, in relation to the question before us, is not great, both because the Epistle to Polycarp anyhow contains little of a dogmatic character, and because, as regards this Epistle, the newly-discovered Syriac differs very little from the hitherto received Greek. Of course the coincidence of those MSS., two Syriac and one Greek, in one text, is a most satisfactory guarantee of the genuineness of that text; but it does not touch the difficulty, which lies in the important differences existing between the Syriac and Greek texts of the other two Epistles, to the Romans and to the Ephesians. In speaking of the agreement of the Syriac and Greek texts of the Epistle to Polycarp, I must not forget to mention that the two last chapters of the Greek are omitted in the Syriac; but these two chapters refer to what may be called personal matters, are of the nature of a postscript, and may have been really such, and thus may have been preserved in some copies, omitted in others, as the case might be, without prejudice to their genuineness. Yet the omission is not without its importance, as it shows that the Syriac copyist had no scruple in curtailing the text he was engaged upon. {98}

Putting aside then the Epistle to St. Polycarp, we come to the real question; that is, what is the force and value of the suspicion cast on the Greek text of the Epistles to the Romans and to the Ephesians, so long received, at least in English schools, by the fact of the omission of important parts of them both in the Syriac MSS.; a suspicion directly attaching to those two, but indirectly of course affecting the other four also, from the probability that, were the Syriac of these four forthcoming (if Syriac there ever was), parallel omissions would occur in them also, as compared with their text as it stands in the received Greek. It must be added, that the very circumstance that only three Epistles have been found in Syriac, is with some critics a reason for thinking that three only were written by Ignatius, or at least only three preserved, though Eusebius speaks in his day of there being seven.

Premising that after all the question, as I have now stated it, is not, in a doctrinal point of view, of extreme importance, inasmuch as the text of the two Epistles, as it is found in the Syriac, retains quite enough of dogmatic teaching, on the Incarnation and the Episcopal régime, to answer the purpose for which I have in my Essay used the Greek text, I proceed to state the arguments as they occur to me, in favour of the genuineness of the latter, that is, of the Greek, as contained in those Medicean and Colbertine MSS. which were brought to light by the industry of Isaac Voss and Ruinart.


I have been speaking as if there were only one Greek {99} text of the Epistles, but, as is well known, there are in fact two, and those two very different from each other. This at first sight would seem to be an additional difficulty, or rather an argument in favour of those who are suspicious of the received Greek, since, if there are three texts extant of one and the same collection of Epistles, differing from each other, there are, on the face of the matter, two chances to one against the correctness of any one of them. However, this primâ facie difficulty does not hold in the particular case, as a few words will show.

First, the Greek text, as first published by Valentinus Pacĉus in 1557 (in company with sundry spurious Epistles, of which I need not speak here), is very much longer than the Medicean, first published in 1646. Also it bears the marks of a doctrinal terminology, which in the fourth century would be called Arian; the Medicean or shorter edition, on the contrary, is strictly orthodox, as also is the Syriac, that is, so far as it contains passages of a doctrinal character.

Next, the relation of the longer edition to the shorter is this;—not that the two are absolutely divergent from each other, whether in structure or in subject-matter, but that the longer is a sort of paraphrastic enlargement of the shorter or Medicean. It has been usual to call the longer the "Interpolated Edition;" but, though there are passages in it, which, if the edition does not represent the true Ignatian text, (as I think it does not,) are rightly called interpolations, yet that word is far from conveying a just idea of the relation of the longer on the {100} whole to the shorter and orthodox. The longer Epistles are a continuous paraphrase or amplification of the shorter, unless indeed we please to say that the shorter were intended by their editor to be a compendium or abstract of the longer. Anyhow the two editions thus stand related to each other; they carry on one and the same succession of topics in each Epistle from beginning to end, with a continual, either enlargement or abbreviation of the one by the other, as we may see reason to determine. In both there are the same two prominent subjects—viz., our Lord's two natures, and the authority and sacramental virtue of the Episcopal rule. In the latter of these doctrines both editions speak alike; in the former, as I have already said, the shorter or Medicean edition is orthodox, but the longer edition Arianizes.


The intimate connection of the two editions is obvious at first sight, and need not be proved. What I have to show is, that the longer is a paraphrase of the shorter, not the shorter an abridgment of the longer.

Here, my first remark is this; that there is a grave conciseness in the shorter, which is far more natural in an old man going to martyrdom than the florid rhetoric of the longer, which savours of easy circumstances, plenty of time for words, and a temperament less stern, and a state of feeling less concentrated, than is generated by chronic peril and prospective suffering.

Again, it is never difficult to dilute a vigorous and sententious document, but seldom possible to condense {101} into a series of terse enunciations in logical sequence a composition which is verbose and ornate. Let us compare together several corresponding passages of these editions;—they will decide the point at once. I will put into italics those clauses of the longer, which form the whole text of the shorter.

1. First, from the Epistle to the Trallians, c. 11.

The shorter Edition.

"Flee therefore the evil scions, which bear a deadly fruit; of which, if a man taste, he presently dies. These are not the plants of the Father. For, had they been, they would have shown as branches of the Cross, and their fruit would have been incorruptible; by which (Cross) in His Passion He invites you, who are His members."

The longer Edition.

"Avoid those evil scions of his [the evil one], Simon, his first-born son, and Menander, and Basilides, and his whole crew of evil; the man-worshippers, whom also the prophet Jeremias calls cursed. Flee also the unclean Nicolaitans (without any right to Nicolas's name) the pleasure-lovers, the slanderers. Flee also the brood of the wicked one, Theodotus and Cleobulus, which bear a deadly fruit; of which, if a man taste, he presently dies, not the temporal death, but the eternal. These are not plants of the Father, but a cursed brood; and 'let every plant,' the Lord says, 'which My Father hath not planted, be rooted up.' For, had they been branches of the Father, they would not have been enemies of the Cross of {102} Christ, but of those who 'slew the Lord of glory.' But now, by denying the Cross, and being ashamed of the passion, they shelter the transgression of the Jews, those God-opposers, those Lord-slayers; for it would not be enough to say, prophet-slayers. And you Christ invites to His own incorruption, through His passion, and resurrection, who are His members."

2. So again, from the Epistle to the Ephesians, c. 9.

The shorter Edition.

"I have known of some, who passed by from thence, as having an evil teaching; whom you have not allowed to cast the seeds of it into you, closing your ears, so as not to admit the sowing, as being stones of the Father's Temple, prepared to be built up by God the Father."

The longer Edition.

"I have known of some who passed through you, as having an evil teaching of a malevolent and wicked spirit; to whom you have not given an opening to sow the cockle, so as not to admit the error which was preached by them; being persuaded that that people-misleading spirit speaks, not the things of Christ, but his own, for he utters lies. But the Holy Spirit speaks, not what is His own, but what is Christ's, and not from Himself, but from the Lord, as again the Lord preached to us what was from the Father. For He says, 'The word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me,' and concerning the Holy Ghost He says, 'He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He may hear from Me.' And concerning Himself He says {103} to the Father, 'I have glorified Thee on the earth; the work which Thou gavest Me, I have finished; I have manifested Thy name to men;' and concerning the Holy Ghost, 'He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine.' But the deceiving spirit heralds himself, speaks his own; for he is a self-pleaser. He glorifies himself, for he is full of arrogance. He is a lying, deceitful, wheedling, flattering, underhand, rambling, trifling, inconsistent, talkative, quibbling, startled thing, from whose force Jesus Christ will deliver you, who has founded you on the rock, as chosen stones, for the divine building of the Father."

3. Once more, from the Epistle to the Smyrnĉans. c. 6.

The shorter Edition.

"Let no one deceive himself. Heavenly things, and the glory of the Angels, and Rulers, whether visible or invisible, if they do not believe in the blood of Christ, even to them there is judgment. 'He who receives, let him receive.' Let no man's place puff him up. For faith and charity are all in all, of which nothing has precedence in judgment. But consider those who hold other opinions as regards the grace of Jesus Christ, which has come to us, how contrary they are to the mind of God. Charity is not their concern, nor the widow, nor the orphan, nor the afflicted, nor the prisoner or liberated, nor the hungry or thirsty."

The longer Edition.

"Let no one deceive himself. Unless he believe that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and confess Christ's {104} Cross, suffering, and blood which He poured out for the world's salvation, he shall not obtain everlasting life, be he king, or priest, or ruler, or private man, or lord, or slave, or man, or woman. 'He that receives, let him receive.' 'He that hears, let him hear.' Let not place, or rank, or wealth, puff up any one. Let not dishonour and poverty abase any one. For faith towards God, and hope in Christ, the enjoyment of goods in expectancy, and love towards God and one's fellow, are all in all. For 'thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.' And the Lord says, 'This is life eternal to know the only True God, and whom He hath sent, Jesus Christ.' And 'a new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another.' 'On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.' Consider then those who hold other opinions, how they lay it down as a principle that the Father of Christ cannot be known, and how they bear a faithless hatred towards each other. Charity is not their concern; they make no account of the promises we are expecting; they reckon on the present as if lasting; they neglect the commandments; they overlook the widow and orphan, they spurn the afflicted, they mock the prisoner."

Such a contrast, though not everywhere to the same extent, runs from first to last between the two editions; showing us, first their intimate connection, next, surely without need of formal proof, that the shorter is the basis of the longer, not the longer of the shorter.

A third hypothesis, indeed, might be made, to the {105} effect that they both come from some lost original; but to substantiate this, passages ought to be producible from the shorter edition which are not in the longer; whereas the longer may be said to gather up all that is in the shorter, and merely to add to it.

I shall take it for granted then that the writer of the longer Epistles had the shorter before him, when he wrote; and, on this assumption, several important conclusions follow:—1, That the shorter edition is prior in date to the longer. 2, That the writer of the longer considered the shorter to be the genuine work of Ignatius, for otherwise it would not have been worth his while to paraphrase and arrange it. 3, That this recognition of the shorter work at the date of the longer is of a very peculiar kind, having a breadth and force in it rarely found in the case of testimonies to authorship; for it is a testimony, not merely to a title or a heading, to its subject or its drift, or to particular passages in it, and nothing besides, but, being a paraphrase, it is testimony travelling along the entire text, and identifying and guaranteeing every part of it.

The testimony then borne by the paraphrastic edition to the genuineness of the shorter Epistles being so special, it becomes of great importance to ascertain its date.


First, however, I will give two additional reasons in behalf of the chronological priority of the shorter edition.

1. That it is anterior in point of time to the longer is {106} proved by the scantiness of quotations from the New Testament in the shorter, and the profusion of them which is found in the longer, as the above parallel instances are sufficient to show. It is only in keeping with the date of Ignatius, that he should make few allusions to the Gospels and Epistles. The writers of these were almost or quite his contemporaries, and their friends were his friends. He knew them, or at least remembered them, rather by their conversations than by their writings. He would obviously be guided in his pastoral instructions rather by the lessons which they had once for all engraven on his heart, than by a reference pro re natâ to chapter and verse of the documents which they had been inspired to give to the world. And he wrote to those who in like manner would in his person contemplate the first preachers of Christianity, more directly and intimately than in books which, if they had ever seen, they had seen but occasionally and by accident. It would have been unnatural in him, writing to them, to have thought of enforcing his words by New Testament texts. In accordance with this anticipation, we find in the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians, hardly a single reference to any book of the New Testament, though his whole composition is redolent of St. Paul's spirit. The case is the same with the so-called Barnabas and Hermas. It is true that the Epistle of St. Polycarp, on the other hand, written shortly after the death of Ignatius, contains frequent references to both Epistles and Gospels: but then it must be recollected that the writer is not only the specimen of a new generation and a new usage, {107} but wrote at home, among his books, not, as Ignatius, a prisoner, chained to a rude soldier, and carried about from place to place, from Antioch to Philippi, Dyrrhachium, and Rome. It is difficult to suppose that Ignatius could have had at his fingers' ends the multitude of Scripture passages which flow so readily from the pen of the author of the longer Epistles. There are in them as many as ninety texts from the New Testament, and taken from as many as eighteen out of its twenty-seven books. In the shorter edition there are altogether only six of such quotations, and these consisting of but a few words each. If this absence of Scripture texts be a fair test of antiquity, we cannot well assign too early a date to the shorter edition. It will be prior to St. Polycarp.

2. A second reason for the priority of the shorter Epistles may be added, not so strong, yet not without force. I shall presently have occasion to insist upon the Arianisms of the longer; here, I will consider these Arianisms simply as phrases at variance with the phrases in the shorter, and I cannot but think that, at least in some cases, they are not mere fortuitous differences from the shorter text, but deliberate emendations and managements of it. Suppose, for instance, that in an anonymous Anglican sermon, which we fell in with in MS., we read, "His sacred Majesty is king by divine right, for every magistrate, even in a republic, is from God," we might fairly consider that the writer was of a date later than that of Elizabeth or James, because he recognised the then court doctrine of the Right Divine of kings by the very circumstance of going on to explain {108} it away; whereas no such inference could be drawn about the date of the sermon, supposing we merely read in it, "His sacred Majesty reigns in the hearts of his people," or, "All magistrates are ordained by God, and the king is the greatest of them." In like manner the theological statements in the longer edition of St. Ignatius imply in their language, more or less, a consciousness of an existing text, such as the shorter, which they are intended to correct or to complete.

For instance: in the Epistle to the Romans, in the shorter edition, Ignatius salutes the Roman Church "in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father;" in the longer, "in the name of God Almighty and of Jesus Christ His Son."—Init.

To the Magnesians: in the shorter we read, "Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the ages, and appeared in the end of time;" in the longer, "who, being begotten with the Father before age (or time) was the Word God, Only-begotten Son, and at the consummation of the ages continues the same."—C. 6.

And the Epistle to the Symrnĉans begins, in the shorter, "I glorify Jesus Christ, our God;" in the longer, "I glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

And so to the Ephesians: in the shorter, "There is one Physician, fleshly and spiritual, generate and ingenerate, God come in flesh, true life in death, from Mary and from God, first passible and then impassible." But in the longer: "Our Physician is the One True God, the Ingenerate and unapproachable, the Lord of all, and {109} Father and Generator of the Only-begotten. Also we have a Physician, our Lord God Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son and Word before all ages, and at last man also of Mary the Virgin, for 'the Word became flesh,' the incorporeal in a body, the immortal in a mortal body, the life in corruption," etc., etc.

Whatever be the force of this second argument, enough has been said without it to show that the longer edition recognises the shorter, and thereby, as I have said, recognises it as the writing of St. Ignatius.

It becomes of great importance then, I repeat, to ascertain the date of the longer Epistles; for at that date, whenever it was, the shorter Epistles were both extant as we have them now, and were considered, at least in certain literary and theological circles, to be genuine. To that inquiry I proceed.


Nor is it a difficult one, if we take the right means for pursuing it. Some critics indeed have recourse to a method highly uncritical, determining the date of the writer by the date of the authors who happen to mention him. If the longer Epistles are first quoted in the sixth or seventh century, that according to them is to be considered about the date at which they were written. On this principle the history of Paterculus must be considered a production of the sixth century, because Priscian, I believe, is the first and only of the ancients who speaks of it. Of course we are sometimes obliged to pursue such unsatisfactory modes of inquiry, because there {110} are no other available; but this is not the case with the longer Epistles ascribed to St. Ignatius: they bear on themselves the evidence of their date, and, though it is always desirable to add external evidence to internal, we have no need to ask of others what we can ascertain for ourselves.

These Epistles, I have said, are characterised by Arian phrases: let us determine then the date at which Arianism ceased to exist in the East of Christendom, its native seat, and we have the latest date which we can fix for these Epistles.

First, what was Arianism? It was the doctrine, that our Lord, though rightly called God, as being the God of the mediatorial system and of the New Covenant, was not the God of the universe; that He was a being separate from God, and therefore, though the sublimest of creatures, super-angelic, only-begotten, still necessarily with a beginning of existence, and with the duties of a minister and subject of His Father, not co-eternal and co-equal with Him. To express and maintain this doctrine, they brought together various terms, separately orthodox, and casually used by one or other of the Fathers before them; in themselves capable of a good sense, but involving a false doctrine in their combination. Now these watchwords of the heresy are found in the longer Epistles, and are sure evidence of the religious opinions of their paraphrast and editor.

1. For instance: Ingenitus ([agennetos]), "Ingenerate," was the philosophical designation of the First Cause, originally perhaps under the notion that all things {111} emanated from Him as a parent, and He from no one. It was applied by the Arians exclusively to the Father, by way of insinuating that the Son was not eternal. Hence in the passage quoted above, it was predicated of the Father, in contrast to the Son, that He is "the only True God, Ingenerate, and Unapproachable." "God of the Universe," or, "Lord of all things," is another specific title of the Father, in the Arian Creed, and accordingly the passage in question proceeds, "Unapproachable, Lord of the Universe." In the Epistle to the Philadelphians, c. 4, "There is one Ingenerate, the God and Father; and one only-begotten Son, the Word God, who is also man." And so in Trall., c. 4, it is made a mark of heresy to hold that "Christ was ingenerate." Vid. also Magn., c. 7; Smyrn., c. 8.

2. Another mark of Arianism was to insist on "the generation of the Son before all ages," which is of course a revealed truth, but was used by the Arians as a denial of His co-eternity with the Father, the "ages" being creatures of God, priority to which did not involve eternity à parte ante. Again, as generation in their mouths implied a beginning of existence, they preferred to say that our Lord "was begotten before all time," to saying "was before all time." Hence it is, that in another passage above quoted, the larger edition gives, "Jesus Christ, who was begotten before time with the Father, the Word God, the only-begotten Son," etc., while the shorter reads, "who was with the Father before the ages."—Magn., c. 7. And so in like manner Eph., c. 18, in the shorter, runs, "Our God, Jesus Christ, was borne in the womb by Mary, according to the economy of God," {112} etc.; but in the longer, "The Son of God, who was begotten before the ages, and has constituted all things by the mind of the Father."

3. This last clause brings us to another characteristic of the Arian system. It inculcated that our Lord was made by God in order to be His instrument in creating all things, and that he acted according to His Father's will, mind, or design; whereas the orthodox held that our Lord was Himself the very will, mind, design, Word, and Wisdom of God, and God acted according to His own Mind or Design in acting by Him. Hence, while in the shorter edition Ignatius says to the Ephesians, c. 3, "I exhort you to concur in the mind of God; for Jesus, our inseparable Life, is the Father's Mind," he is made to say in the longer, "for Jesus Christ does all things according to the mind of the Father."

4. Another Arianism in the longer Epistles is derived from Philo and the Platonists; viz., that our Lord is a priest, not as incarnate, but as the Word of God before all ages. In Magn., c. 4, He is spoken of as "the true and first Bishop, and the only Priest by nature;" whereas Catholics hold that He is Priest by office, as Mediator. So again, ibid., c. 7. "Come together as one man to the Temple of God, as for one Altar, for one Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the Ingenerate God." And in Smyrn., c. 9, "Christ Jesus, the First-begotten, and the Father's only Priest by nature."

5. Another Arianism occurs in Magn. 8, where "His Eternal Word" is omitted, and instead of it is inserted "the generated substance of a divine energy," words {113} which, after the Nicene Council, were a denial of the "consubstantial."

6. It was the doctrine of the Arians, Ĉtius, and Eunomius, A.D. 354, that the Almighty could be perfectly known and comprehended by us. "God knows not His own substance," they said, "more than we do. What He knows of it, that you will find without any distinction in us." Now the writer of the longer Epistles makes Ignatius say, "Consider those who are heterodox, how they are peremptory in saying that the Father of the Christ cannot be known."—Smyrn., c. 6, perhaps with an allusion to Acts xvii. 23.

7. Lastly, in the longer edition there seems to be a denial of our Lord's human soul, another doctrine of Arianism. The writer says, "He assumed a body."—Trall., c. 9. "Truly Mary gave birth to a body, which had God for its inhabitant."—Ibid., c. 10. "He made Himself a body of the seed of the Virgin."—Ibid., vid. also Smyrn., c. 2, and Phil., c. 6, where the writer seems to appropriate to himself the proposition "The God Word dwells in a human body, He the Word being in it, as a soul embodied, because that God, and not a human soul, dwells in it."

I should not have thought it necessary thus formally to draw out the proof of what seems to me so plain on the surface of the longer Epistles, had not great authorities disputed the fact. Such is Cardinal Baronius, who living before the discovery of the shorter Epistles, believed that the longer were written by St. Ignatius. "Ignatii esse germanas, easdemque sincerissimas, nemo {114} jure potest dubitare." Still more remarkable is the judgment of Father Morinus, who, writing after the discovery of the shorter edition, not only doubts of its genuineness (which is quite explicable), but actually prefers the larger to it; "Antiqua Ignatiarum Epistolarum editio," he says, "genuinum textum nobis exhibet, nova vera mancum et interpolatum."—Apud Pearson. There are cases where conclusions are imperious, and the most authoritative denial of them goes for nothing; such is that of the spuriousness of the longer edition.

But if, as is very clear, the longer edition is the work of Arian hands, we can determine at once its date. Arianism, more than other great heresies, is circumscribed and known in its duration. It had a hold upon the Eastern Church and the Greek language from the beginning to the end of the fourth century. It is not known there, in idea or in phraseology, before the second decade of that century, and it came to an end with the end of it. The longer Epistles then are the production of that century; and probably about the year 354 [Note 1], for then it was, according to Athanasius, that the Arians began to appeal to the Fathers, (note on the author's "Arians," i., 3 fin.). The shorter Epistles therefore were in existence in the middle of the fourth century, and were received, at least in some places, as the genuine work of St. Ignatius, that is, received as such only fourteen years after the death {115} of Eusebius. They easily might be, and perhaps were, superseded by the longer, in the course of time, in centuries during which criticism was unknown as a science, and the peculiarities of a dead heresy forgotten.


There are good reasons then for considering that the short Epistles, substantially as we have them, were extant, and received as genuine, at least in the first half of the fourth century. This I have argued from the testimony borne to them by the paraphrastic edition of them which was made in the middle of it; now let us see whether any other testimony is producible in their behalf.

Eusebius, writing in the first years of the fourth century, enumerates Ignatius's seven Epistles, and quotes passages from them. He seems to have known them well; those which he knew so well, evidently were received by him as genuine, and undoubtedly were genuine, for he was too learned a man to be deceived in this matter. And there was this guarantee of their genuineness, special to them, that upon Ignatius's martyrdom, St. Polycarp collected together those which he could obtain, and sent them to the Church of Philippi, with a letter, still extant, in which he stated what he was doing. Polycarp was martyred in (say) A.D. 166; Eusebius was born about A.D. 264, leaving an interval between the two of about a hundred years for a forgery. Eusebius knew nothing of garbled copies of them. We must reasonably believe then that those Epistles of which he spoke were copies, substantially faithful, of what {116} Ignatius really wrote and Polycarp edited. Moreover, in that interval references are made to them by Irenĉus (A.D. 180), and Origen (A.D. 230), those references being found in the text of the short Epistles. And the question is whether the Epistles which we now have, as they stand in the shorter edition, guaranteed as they are by the longer and interpolated, are those true ones of which Eusebius speaks, and from which Irenĉus and Origen quote, or whether in the thirty or forty years between Eusebius and the Arian interpolator, orthodox garblings had been made in the Epistles, and those so skilful as to deceive the interpolator, himself an adept and a judge in forgeries, into the persuasion that the work, which he thought it important to deface with Arianisms, was the genuine work of the primitive martyr. Such a supposition has been actually made and defended; viz., that, as the editor of the longer edition, after (say) 354, encrusted the shorter with Arianisms, so the editor of the shorter had already, before 354, made insertions in favour of orthodoxy, in the original document, such as Eusebius possessed it forty years before, and that the brief Syriac text of the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, as lately discovered, is the very and only text, which Eusebius had in his hands, and which Ignatius wrote.

Let this hypothesis be a reserved point, on which I will speak presently; meanwhile, as I am here gathering together the external evidence in favour of the genuineness of the shorter edition, I add, first, that Athanasius, writing in 359, quotes an important passage from the Epistle to the Ephesians, as it stands, not of course in {117} the longer, but neither as in the Syriac (for it is omitted there), but as we now find it in the shorter, without any suspicion of its not being the genuine writing of Ignatius.

Nor is Athanasius the only post-Nicene Father who thus bears witness to the genuineness of the shorter Epistles. Passages are quoted as Ignatius's, by Chrysostom one, by Jerome two, by Theodoret nine; and all are found in the shorter Epistles, none of them agreeing (at least in their doctrinal expressions) with the longer, which those Fathers either did not know of, or simply put aside as one out of various forgeries, of which the Arians had the discredit.

It may be added that Dr. Cureton has published between twenty and thirty extracts from Ignatius's Epistles as in the works of Syrian theologians, all of which are found in the short Epistles, not in the longer, not in the Syriac Epistles.

These Epistles then, substantially such as they are found in their short Medicean and Colbertine form, had possession of the Eastern Church, as if really written by Ignatius, from 359, twenty years after the death of Eusebius; again, the real Epistles of St. Ignatius were extant, and known to ecclesiastical writers from the time of Polycarp to that of Eusebius' history; and the sole question, I repeat, is whether those which were received as genuine from the year 354 or 359, and which we have now, the shorter Epistles, were those genuine ones which Eusebius used in his History A.D. 310, and which Polycarp had edited;—that is, whether there was a substitution {118} or an extensive garbling and depravation of them, in the interest of orthodoxy, in the first half of the fourth century, between 310 and 354 or 359. To this question I now direct my attention.


The question to be answered is this, whether the seven Epistles, as they were found in the shorter edition, and were received as St. Ignatius's by the interpolating Arians in the fourth century, and by Athanasius, Jerome, and Theodoret, are substantially those very Epistles which the holy martyr, going to martyrdom, actually wrote; or, on the other hand, are forged, garbled, and corrupted by the orthodox, and in no true sense his writing. And the obvious mode of answering it, is, as in the case of the longer and Arianised edition, by a reference to the internal characters which the short Epistles present to our notice.

It is not at all easy to succeed in a forgery, or in altering and garbling on a large scale. A man must have much acuteness, much learning, and much wariness to carry through such an enterprise without detection. At least he must be very clever and very ingenious, to be able to maintain the genuineness of a spurious document, against the criticism of a learned and inquisitive age. In such a composition we may be certain there will be blots of some kind or other, doctrinal incongruities, confusion of times or persons, or mis-statement of facts, which extraordinary astuteness cannot altogether {119} guard against, which ordinary sharpness will be sure to detect.

The authors and the champions of supposititious works in ancient times do not seem to have been alive to this;—they were not commonly learned or able men, and in consequence their detection at the present time is easy. Nor, at first sight, is there any reason why the interpolator of these shorter Epistles, if they are interpolated, should be better provided for his task than his fellows. The works, for instance, attributed to the Areopagite, have been rightly rejected as spurious, not to say heretical, in spite of the sanction of ages, as soon as a sufficient knowledge of theology was brought to bear upon them. So again as regards certain works attributed to Dionysius of Alexandria, to Hippolytus, and to Methodius; these have been received as genuine by great divines, but that was only till the history of dogma and of the rites and discipline of the Church was properly studied. Let us see then how much can be brought from the learning of this day against the short Epistles, as they are contained in the Medicean and Colbertine MSS.

It has been imagined, as I have said, that, as interpolations in an Arian sense were made during the Arian controversy, by the Arian party, so prior interpolations were made by the orthodox during the same controversy on the side of orthodoxy, and that the shorter Epistles represent these orthodox corrections and additions. Moreover, this was done, as it would seem, in the interval between Eusebius and the Arian interpolators, so that up to Eusebius (say) A.D. 310 the real Ignatius would have {120} held his ground, and that after (say) A.D. 354 or 359 down to the present time, the world has had nothing better than first the orthodox or Nicene Ignatius, and then the Arian Ignatius following close upon the orthodox, neither of them the real Ignatius. Let us see if this hypothesis will stand.

1. We know the Arian Ignatius, by the definite Arianisms which are found in the longer edition, as I have shown above, such as "before all worlds," "ingenerate," "God of the universe," etc.; now are there any parallel (what may be called) Athanasianisms in the shorter edition, which may be evidence of an orthodoxised Ignatius? I will venture to say there are none at all. The chief mark of Nicene orthodoxy is the word "consubstantial" (homoüsion); does this term occur in the shorter Epistles? It does occur in the spurious Areopagite, in the spurious Dionysius of Alexandria, in the spurious Methodius; it does not occur in these shorter Epistles. Another Nicene symbol is "from the substance;" the Arians introduce "a generated substance" into the longer Epistles, but "from the substance" is not in the shorter. Another mark of the Nicene era is the use of the word hypostasis, or Person; this again is found in the pseudo-Areopagite, but not in the shorter Epistles. That animus then of partisanship, which we find in the language of the longer Epistles on the Arian side, is wanting in the shorter Epistles in favour of orthodoxy.

2. What was still more likely than the introduction of the orthodox symbols, was some expressions in reprobation, direct or indirect, of the formal Arian symbols {121} condemned in the creed of Nicĉa; but not a word is to be found levelled against "those poisonous shoots of the evil one," as a forger might have made Ignatius say, who assert that the Son of God was "out of nothing," or "of another substance not divine," or "once He was not," or "was of an alterable nature." Just those heresies are mentioned which were in existence at the end of the first century, and no other. It was playing with edged tools in an impostor thus to manipulate heresies, at a day when little or anything was known of the history of heresies, their authors, tenets, localities, fortunes, and duration; he might escape detection in the fourth century, but he would not escape detection now, if there was anything to detect.

3. One passage indeed there is, anti-Arian in doctrine, though not in its phraseology, which furnishes a good instance of the maxim "exceptio probat regulam." A serious controversy has long been carried on upon the words "not proceeding from Silence (Sige)" in the shorter edition in Magn., c. 8, predicated of "the Eternal Word" by the writer, in the sense that He was not like human voices, an utterance breaking in upon a state of stillness, but one that had no beginning. The larger edition simply leaves the passage out, and naturally, for its doctrine is inconsistent with Arianism; but its presence in the shorter has been noted as a sign that, whereas Sige was one of the Valentinian Ĉons, therefore the author wrote after the rise of Valentinus, that is, after the date of Ignatius. This was the only point discoverable in the text of the shorter Epistles which really had to be reconciled with the maintenance {122} of their genuineness. "Illud non negaverim," says Voss, "si locus hic sit sanus, et hĉc desumpta sint ex hĉresi Valentinianâ, actum videri de Epistolis Ignatianis." Accordingly Pearson devotes as many as forty-six folio columns of his great work to solve the apparent difficulty, at the end of which he says, "Quatuor assertiones attuli, omnes exploratĉ veritatis, ita tamen comparatĉ, ut si vel una earum vera sit, ea unica omnem argumenti adversariorum vim elidat".—P. 390. And after Pearson, Bull devotes another series of twenty columns to complete the explanation. In our time the difficulty has solved itself; and consistently with the arguments of those Anglican divines. From the newly discovered work on Heresies, commonly attributed to Hippolytus, we find that, before Valentinus, the doctrine of Sige was taught by Simon Magus and Menander, in the first century, that is, prior to the date when St. Ignatius wrote his Epistles. Accordingly, M. Bunsen, a fierce adversary, of course, of the genuineness of the shorter Epistles, says candidly, "We must certainly ascribe to pure Simonianism, that is, to the Simonian heresy unmixed with Valentinianism, the system of Gnostic evolutions, of which Sige, Silence, is a primitive element ... Ignatius, who certainly may have read 'the Great Announcement' [of Menander] as well as he read St. John, might have alluded to it in a letter to the Magnesians, if he ever wrote it."—Hippol., vol. i., p. 356.

4. It may be objected that the strong and abrupt assertions of our Lord's divinity have the appearance of being directed against Arianism; as when the writer speaks of {123} "the Blood of God" (Eph. c. 1, Rom. c. 7), and of "Jesus Christ our God, conceived in the womb of Mary" (ibid. c. 18, Smyrn. c. 1-10, Rom. init. c. 3). But it must be recollected that the Arians freely gave our Lord the divine name and authority, and made a boast of doing so, as we see by the longer Epistles (vid. Eph. 7, 19, Trall. 9, Rom. init. 6, Phil. c. 6, Smyrn. c. 3, Pol. c. 3, etc.); it is la Croze's notion that even "theotocos" is of Arian origin; while doing this they reserved the high prerogatives of being "God of the Universe," "Ingenerate," "Self-existing," "Eternal," to the Father. As to the abruptness, or harshness, of the language in which the shorter Epistles ascribe divinity to our Lord, it is only what occurs again and again in Scripture, if Middleton's canons are well founded—vid. Eph. v. 5, 2 Thess. i. 12, Tit. ii. 13, 2 Pet. i. 1, Jud. 4.

5. So much on the theology of the shorter Epistles; as to the emphatic language in which they enforce the episcopal rule, startling as it is at first sight, it admits of an easy explanation. It must be recollected that Ignatius witnessed and took part in the establishment of diocesan Episcopacy, and in consequence it is as natural that his letters should be full of it at the date when they were written, as that Pastorals now should insist on the Immaculate Conception, or protest against mixed education. It was the subject of the day. Hitherto Bishops often lived in community, the Apostles exercising a jurisdiction over the whole Church. As time went on, local jurisdiction came into use. In his last years St. Paul placed local ordinaries in Crete and Ephesus, and {124} St. John in other cities of Asia Minor, if the seven Angels of the Churches in the Apocalypse are Bishops. He too was now gone, and doubtless the loss of an apostolic presence would at first be grievously felt in the neighbourhoods which had hitherto been blessed with it. The Greek cities of Asia Minor, in consequence, would be the very places above others where a reactionary disorder was most likely to show itself. Even he, at the end of life, had found the prestige of his name insufficient to cope with the self-will of Diotrephes. He left to his successors a double conflict; as against the Ebionite and Gnostic heretics in defence of the Incarnation, so against the opponents of ecclesiastical discipline. And of these two tasks the latter was the more arduous, for it was not so much the enforcement of a tradition, as the carrying out of a development. Hence it is that Ignatius appeals to his own authority, and claims a divine mission in enforcing the claims of the hierarchy. "I cried out, while I was with you," he writes to the Philadelphians, "I spake with a loud voice, 'Give heed to the Bishop, to the Presbytery, and the Deacons.' Now some suspected that I spoke this as knowing beforehand the division of some. But He is my witness, for whom I am in bonds, that I knew it not from flesh of man; but the Spirit proclaimed, saying, 'Apart from the Bishop do nothing,'" etc.—Phil., c. 7.

Here the well-known words of St. Jerome are in point. "Presbyter and Bishop," he says, "are the same; and ere yet, at the instigation of the devil, there were parties in religion, and it was said among the people, {125} 'I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas,' the Church was governed by the common counsel of Presbyters; but when each began to account his converts as his own people, and not Christ's, then it was decreed through the whole world that one of the Presbyters should be elected and put over the rest, to whom the whole care of the Church should belong, and that thus the elements of schism should be removed." [Note 2]

6. While speaking of the internal character of the shorter Epistles, I will make an additional remark on a point of some obscurity, though on the whole corroborative of their genuineness. Ignatius writes in them to six Churches—five of them are Eastern. He warns each of them against heretics, and exhorts them to unity; sometimes even he mentions by name the Bishop of the Church which he is addressing, and in every case commends him to its obedience. But in the case of the sixth, the Roman Church, he does nothing of the kind. He does not say a word about heresy or schism; he does not refer to its Bishop, or take him (as it were) under his wing. He hardly does more than ask the Romans for their prayers, and he entreats them not to interpose and to prevent his martyrdom. Instead of exhorting them, as he does the other Churches, he says, "I make no commands to you, as though I were Peter and Paul;" and he salutes them as "the Church, which has in dignity the first seat of the city of the Romans, all-godly, all-gracious, all-blessed," etc., passages which {126} remind us of St. Irenĉus's well-known reference to the "greatest, most ancient, most conspicuous Church founded and constituted at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul," and to its "potentior" or "potior" "principalitas".

How is all this to be accounted for? We evidently find the writer in a different position of mind, when he addresses the Roman Church, from that in which he addresses others. Would any one so write in the fourth century? At that time there were serious jealousies between Rome and the East, the continuation of those which show themselves in earlier centuries in the history of Polycrates, Firmilian, and Dionysius. A partisan of Rome in the fourth century would not have been so indirect and implicit in his deference to that Church, but would have introduced the doctrine of Roman supremacy with the energy of the contemporary Popes. And an Oriental, however orthodox, would together with St. Basil have been sore at their supercilious indifference, or, with St. Meletius, at their interference in the dioceses of Asia.


So much at first sight; Pearson, however, reviews the internal characters of the shorter Epistles more carefully, and I will translate some of his remarks.

"It is simply incredible," he says, "that an impostor, who lived at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century, should forge Epistles for Ignatius, without betraying himself by some peculiarity or other of {127} his own age, without allusion to any post-Ignatian rite whatever, or later heresy, or any teaching alien to the mind of the Apostles, or any doctrine borrowed from the schools of Plato, which others were so prompt in professing, or any departure from primitive simplicity—Epistles, on the contrary, which correspond so uniformly to what might be expected of so great a martyr, and which bring out so vividly the tokens of his spiritual gifts. I say emphatically, that there is nothing discoverable in these Epistles, known to Eusebius, which savours of the age suggested by Daillé, or by Blondel, or by Salmasius; nothing of the then existing heresies, nothing of manners or institutions of Christians, then materially changed from what they had been, or of later rites, or ecclesiastical usages, such as led to the detection of the pretended Areopagite. On the contrary, everything in them is strictly conformable to the age immediately following the Apostolic, and very different from an impostor's age ...

"As to Bishops, he calls them simply by the name of their office or order; he gives them no extraordinary title; not that of 'high priests,' 'priests,' or 'rulers,' as they were afterwards called. (The 'Priests' in the Epistle to the Philadelphians are, he says, Jewish priests, p. 414.) Nor does Ignatius make mention of episcopal throne, of ordination, election, or succession, of prerogatives of particular sees, or of appeal to any particular Church to the exclusion of other Churches, or of precepts of obedience, except indeed such as were necessary to avoid schism and to preserve unity. He does not lower {128} Presbyters, but always associates them with Bishops, declares their dignity and authority, and gives them the most honourable titles. He touches upon no heresies, but those of Ebion and the Docetĉ, which, as Theodoret, Jerome, and Epiphanius teach us, were actually prevalent in Asia in Ignatius's day …

"He teaches nothing about festivals, or stated times of fasting, or of the mode of celebrating Easter, or of the observance of Pentecost or the Sabbath, or of any other rite of which the antiquity is controverted. Such are of frequent occurrence both in the interpolated Epistles, and in the other spurious ones—not in these. Moreover, he speaks of gifts as then ordinarily found in the Church, and of the Holy Ghost speaking sometimes to the writer, which later writers are not accustomed to do. He is very sparing in his quotations from Scripture. He everywhere follows St. Paul's Epistles, which were from the first freely received by all the Churches; but he quotes the Gospels rarely, which were received and discriminated from spurious writings at a later date, while in the second and third century they were in common use among ecclesiastical writers.

"Moreover, the style of these Epistles is one of the most striking evidences of their primitive origin. There is nothing from foreign sources, from Gentile learning; whereas later writers introduced into Christian teaching the sentiments, not to say the dogmas, of the Greeks."—Vind. Ign., pp. 358-360. {129}


Such being the general state of the evidence, external and internal, in behalf of the genuineness of the shorter or Medicean, Greek text of St. Ignatius's Epistles, we are brought at length to the question which has led to the foregoing remarks, and which, after those remarks, is not difficult to determine; viz., how far that text is compromised by the still shorter Syriac text, which has been lately found, of three out of the seven Epistles which were known to Eusebius. I answer as follows:

1. Three out of the seven Epistles have been found among the Nitrian MSS.—viz., in MS. ii. (Cureton) those to Polycarp, to the Romans, and to the Ephesians; again in MS. i. the Epistle to Polycarp. Now we cannot fairly argue, as some have argued, from the fact of there being in MS. ii. only three Epistles, that therefore the remaining four named by Eusebius, (to the Magnesians, to the Trallians, to the Smyrnĉans, and to the Philadelphians,) were not written by Ignatius, or have been lost, and that the Medicean Greek of them is spurious; for, if the Medicean MS. is not to be trusted because it contains four Epistles which are not in the Nitrian MS. ii., then the Nitrian MS. ii. is not to be trusted, because it contains two Epistles which are not in the Nitrian MS. i. Ignatius's Epistles then remain seven as far as the Nitrian MSS. are concerned, for the simple reason that those MSS. cannot destroy the authority of the Medicean on that point, without at the same time implicitly destroying their own. {130}

2. Again: there are two copies in the Syriac of the Epistle to Polycarp, and they agree together in their text. This agreement of two MSS. may seem formidable to the solitary Medicean Greek;—so it would be supposing the Greek materially differed from them; but it so happens that its text, except in a few words, is identical with the text of the Syriac. Thus, in the only instance in which the Syriac text seems to have authority as being that of two independent MSS., it does but confirm the trustworthiness of the Medicean Greek.

3. Further: in those cases, on the other hand, in which the Syriac edition differs from the Greek, viz., as regards the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, in which it omits passages contained in the Greek, in those cases it differs also from other Syriac editions, not indeed extant, or known to be extant, but which appear once to have existed, because extracts are made from them by writers whose works are contained in Syriac in these same Nitrian MSS. These writers, viz., Severus, Timotheus, and others, quote Ignatius as he stands in the Medicean Greek, not as in the Nitrian Syriac. For instance, the celebrated passage in Ephes. c. 7: "There is one Physician," as is quoted above, p. 108, which is garbled in the longer or Arian Epistles, pp. 108, 109, and omitted in the Syriac, is found, just as in the Medicean MS., in the Monophysite work, in MS. vi., and in the work against Julian, MS. viii., and in MS. ix. Again, the striking passage from the same Epistle, contained in the Medicean, "Our God, Jesus the Christ," etc., c. 18, vid. supr. p. 111, which is omitted in the Nitrian text, is {131} contained in the MS. v. Again: "Suffer me to copy the Passion of my God," contained in the Medicean (Rom. c. 6), omitted in the Nitrian, is quoted by Severus in MS. i., by Timotheus in MS. v., and by the anonymous writer in MS. vii. And further: in these and other Syriac MSS., as was implied above, p. 117, passages are quoted from the Epistles to the Magnesians, Trallians, Smyrnĉans, and Philadelphians, showing that all seven, and (as far as the quotations go) all of them as in the Medicean text, must have been at one time extant in Syriac, perhaps are extant still, though, as yet, only three have been discovered in that language.

4. Moreover, as was said above, Athanasius, Jerome, and Theodoret, as well as the above Monophysite writers in Syriac, when they quote Ignatius, quote him as we read him in the Medicean Greek; instead of favouring the Nitrian version of him.

5. Nor were the Arians acquainted with the Nitrian Ignatius any better than Athanasius and the other Catholics, or than Severus, Timotheus, and the Monophysites;—else why did not the interpolator use the Nitrian? Why the Medicean? He creates for himself a superfluous difficulty, in selecting the Medicean text for the basis of his edition. It would have been a far easier task to garble the Nitrian text, which has less specially doctrinal in it, than to alter and deform the Medicean, which has much; yet he follows the Medicean.

6. Moreover, Eusebius and Jerome both inform us, that Ignatius wrote his Epistles to warn his brethren "against the heresies, which were springing up and prevailing."— {132} Eus. Hist. iii. 36. Now there is hardly one allusion to false doctrine in the Syriac; whereas there is much on the subject in the Medicean. The Syriac text then was not the same as that which Eusebius and Jerome knew; on the other hand, the Medicean does answer to it.

7. Such then is at present the position of the Nitrian MSS. of St. Ignatius. They are without history, without vouchers, without location, without correlations; they do not tell their own tale, and there is no one to tell their tale for them.


If, under the circumstances, I am called to do so hypothetically, I should observe as follows:—Nothing, as we all know, is more common in literature, than for an author to introduce into his work large extracts from the works of others. This is the very characteristic of literary history, as we see in Athenĉus, Eusebius, and Photius in ancient times, and in Assemanni's Bibliotheca Orientalis, or Bayle's Dictionary in modern. Such works not only embody large fragments of former writers, but often are the very instruments by which those fragments are conveyed and authenticated to later times. Sometimes these are appended to some abstract of the whole to which they belong; sometimes they are such as to hang together as a whole; sometimes they have with them the opening prefaces or salutations and the formal terminations which belong to them. Then, as time goes on, if it is worth while, those passages which are ascribed to one and the same author are brought together from the {133} various works in which they have been preserved, and are edited as his "opera quĉ supersunt." Lectionaries and Catenas are similar receptacles of such large portions of ancient works. Such again in modern times are those selections, which are commonly entitled the "spirit," or the "beauties," the "wit and wisdom" of some popular or valuable writer. Sometimes, on the other hand, such collections are fortuitous. Before the use of printing, the industrious transcriber went on copying whatever came to hand, not on any logical principle, but in order anyhow to preserve what otherwise would be lost. Thus No. ii. of these Nitrian MSS. begins with an anonymous fragment of a letter of consolation on the death of a child,—then come the three fragmentary Epistles of St. Ignatius,—and afterwards a letter of St. Gregory Nazianzen, sermons of Mar Jacob, and other writings.

This being borne in mind, it is not unnatural to conjecture that the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians in the extant MS. were taken as they stood in some lectionary or other collection of ecclesiastical authors. Their headings were preserved on principle, in the books from which they were copied; as now in the Catholic Church, though only small portions of Prophets and Apostles are found in the Breviary, never are the titles and opening words omitted, whether in the Ordo de Tempore itself, or in its actual recitation.

In like manner, though Eusebius does not extract the whole of the celebrated Letter of the Gallic Churches concerning their martyrs in A.D. 177, still he gives the {134} formal heading. And so in his quotation from the work of Apollinaris against the Cataphrygians, and from the Letter of the Antiochene Council against Paul of Samosata, Hist., v. i. 16, vii. 30. Thus it is that I would account for the preservation of the initial salutations in the Nitrian text of Ignatius. As to the absence of any decided internal indications of its fragmentary character, this might be admitted to be a difficulty, were not the holy Bishop's style abrupt and sententious in the Medicean also; and it is scarcely possible to say what is completeness and what is not, in compositions which are neither argumentative nor narrative in their character.

Pearson's proof then of the genuineness of the Medicean text of St. Ignatius's Epistles does not seem to me to be affected by the discovery in our day of the Nitrian MSS. In saying this, of course I am contending, as Pearson contended, for its substantial genuineness, not for the fidelity of every word or clause in it.


The above remarks upon the genuineness of the Ignatian Epistles have been drawn up from notes which I made as long ago as the year 1828, except, of course, the first and last portions, which are on the subject of the Syriac text of the three which were published in 1845 by Dr. Cureton.

Since finishing them for the press, I have read the observations on Dr. Cureton's discovery by the learned Dr. {135} Hefele, now Bishop of Rotenburg, in the Prolegomena to his edition of the Apostolical Fathers.

He confirms what I have myself suggested in explanation of the Syriac text, as it stands in the Nitrian MSS., maintaining it to be "non nisi epitomen Ignatiarum epistolarum à monacho quodam Syriaco in proprios usus pios seu asceticos confectam."—lxi. Also, in direct opposition to Dr. Cureton, he insists that the continuity of context is less close in the Syriac than in the Greek, referring in proof to as many as thirteen passages in the three Epistles. The apparent argument from Dr. Cureton's new (third) MS. he meets by considering it of one family with the former two. He refers, moreover, to an Armenian version published by Dr. Petermann in 1849, which on the whole agrees with the Medicean, but was made, as the latter considers, from the true Syriac, not a fragmentary edition, such as Dr. Cureton's, but from a translation of the whole and complete Greek, such as the Medicean represents. The learned writers Denzinger and Uhlhorn, the latter a Lutheran, have written powerfully on the same side.

Top | Contents | Works | Home


1. In the title of the longer Epistles, Ignatius is called Bishop of "Antioch Theopolis." As this title was given to Antioch under the reign of Justinian, the existing MS. of the longer Epistles must have been made from a copy not earlier than that date.
Return to text

2. Ad Tit. i. 5.
Return to text

Top | Contents | Works | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright İ 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.