1. He declares his joy for their firmness in the Gospel. 4. He
amplifies on the person of Christ, against those who pretend that
Christ did not really suffer.
1. Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the church
of God the Father and of the beloved Jesus Christ, which God has
mercifully blessed with every good gift because you are filled
with faith and charity so that no gift is lacking in you, most
worthy of God and fruitful in saints, the church which is at
Smyrna in Asia: all joy through his immaculate spirit and the
word of God.
Smyrna (Izmir in modern Turkey) was, like Ephesus,
a beautiful and prosperous city with a strong
allegiance to Rome. A large and influential Jewish
population had actively opposed Christianity there,
which was why St. John addressed them in Revelation
Ignatius wrote his earlier letters to the churches
from Smyrna; now he is writing them from Troas (3:20).
2. I glorify God, truly Jesus Christ, who has given you
3. For I have observed that you are settled in an immovable
faith, as if you were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ both in the body and in the spirit, and that you are
settled in love through the blood of Christ because you are fully
persuaded of those things which relate to our Lord.
Compare with: "I am crucified with Christ:
nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in
me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live
by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave
himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
4. Who truly was of the race of David according to the
flesh, but the Son of God according to the will and power of God,
and truly born of the Virgin and baptized by John so that all
righteousness might be fulfilled by him.
That Christ was baptized by John the Baptist to
fulfill all righteousness is in Matthew 3:15.
5. He was also truly crucified by Pontius Pilate and Herod
the Tetrarch, being nailed for us in the flesh so that we are the
fruits of his most blessed passion.
6. That he might set up a token for all ages through his
resurrection to all his holy and faithful servants, whether they
be Jews or Gentiles, in one body of his church.
Compare with: "There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male
nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
7. Now all these things he suffered for us so we might be
saved. And he suffered truly, as he also truly raised up
himself, and not, as some unbelievers say, that he only seemed to
suffer, they themselves only seeming to be.
This could be understood to mean "they themselves
only seeming to be Christians," but see the note on his
Epistle to the Trallians 2:13.
8. And as they believe, so will it happen to them when they
are divested of the body and become mere spirits.
9. But I know that even after his resurrection he was in
the flesh, and I believe that he is still so.
10. And when he came to those who were with Peter, he said
to them, Take, handle me, and see that I am not an incorporeal
spirit. And straightway they felt and believed, being convinced
both by his flesh and spirit.
See Luke 24:39.
11. For this cause they despised death and were found to be
It is almost impossible for us to appreciate the
absolute certitude of those first disciples who saw,
touched, talked and ate with Christ after the
resurrection. It is worth meditating on, for it
explains so much. Consider the following:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have
heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have
looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of
life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen
[it], and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal
life, which was with the Father, and was manifested
unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we
unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and
truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his
Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:1-3)
St. John is believed to have been the youngest
Apostle and also "the beloved disciple" of Christ (John
13:23; 21:7, 20); on the cross Jesus entrusted his
mother, the Virgin Mary, to him; he witnessed the Roman
soldier pierce Christ's side and saw blood and water
come out (John 19:34, 35); he was "the other disciple"
who, being the younger, outran Peter to see the empty
tomb (John 20:2-8); he was present at the first and
third time (at least) Christ appeared after the
Resurrection (John 20:19-31; 21:7-14) and saw his
Ascension (Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51).
John was a "pillar" of the church in Jerusalem,
and later moved to Ephesus for the rest of his
ministry. During the reign of the tyrannical Roman
Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96), he was exiled to the
nearby island of Patmos, where he wrote Revelation
about A.D. 95. Upon the emperor's death he returned to
Ephesus to resume his episcopacy and to write his
Gospel about A.D. 96. The last remaining of the Twelve
Apostles, John was nearly a hundred when he died about
It was this last of the Twelve Apostles who
ordained Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, and Ignatius wrote
this epistle within a decade after his death.
12. But after his resurrection, since he was flesh, he ate
and drank with them, although as to his spirit he was united to
Luke 24:42,43 says the risen Christ ate "a piece
of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb" with his
disciples. See also John 21:13.
1. He exhorts them against heretics. 8. The danger of their
1. I call these things to your attention, beloved, not
questioning but that you yourselves also believe that they are
2. But I arm you beforehand against certain beasts in the
shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be
possible, must not even meet with.
Compare with: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark
them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the
doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
(Romans 16:17); "Perverse disputings of men of corrupt
minds... from such withdraw thyself." (1 Timothy 6:5);
"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every
brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the
tradition which he received of us." (2 Thessalonians
See also note at verse 9.
3. Only you must pray for them so that if it be the will of
God they may repent, which yet will be very hard. But of this
our Lord Jesus Christ has the power, who is our true life.
4. For if all these things were done only in show by our
Lord, then I also only seem to be bound.
See his Epistle to the Trallians 2:13, where he
makes the same point.
5. And why have I given up myself to death, to the fire, to
the sword, to wild beasts?
6. But now the nearer I am to the sword, the nearer I am to
God. When I shall come among the wild beasts, I shall come to
7. Only in the name of Jesus Christ I undergo all to suffer
together with him, who was made a perfect man, strengthening me.
8. Whom some not knowing deny, or rather have been denied
by him because they are the advocates of death rather than of the
truth. Whom neither the prophecies, nor the law of Moses, nor
the Gospel itself even to this day, nor the sufferings of every
one of us have persuaded.
Compare with: "...If they hear not Moses and the
prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one
rose from the dead." (Luke 16:31)
9. For they think also the same things of us. For what
does a man profit me, if he praises me, and blasphemes my Lord by
not confessing that he was truly made man?
Compare with: "Beloved, believe not every spirit,
but try the spirits whether they are of God: because
many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that
confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of
God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus
Christ is come int he flesh is not of God: and this is
that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that
it should come; and even now already is it in the
world." (1 John 4:1-3); "For many deceivers are entered
into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is
come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an
antichrist.... Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not
in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that
abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the
Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and
bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your]
house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth
him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2 John
10. Now he that does not confess this, in effect denies him
and is in death. But since those who do this are unbelievers, I
thought it not fitting to write their names to you.
11. Yes, God forbid that I should make any mention of them,
till they will repent to a true belief of Christ's passion, which
is our resurrection.
12. Let no man deceive himself: both the things which are
in heaven, and the glorious angels and princes, whether visible
or invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, they
will be condemned.
Compare with: "But though we, or an angel from
heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that
which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
13. He that is able to receive this, let him receive it.
Let no man's place or state in the world puff him up, for nothing
is to be preferred to faith and charity.
Compare with: "And now abideth faith, hope,
charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is]
charity." (1 Corinthians 13:13)
14. But consider those who are of a different opinion from
us, how contrary they are to the design of God as to what
concerns the grace of Jesus Christ that is come to us.
15. They have no regard to charity, no care of the widow,
the fatherless, the oppressed, the bond or free, or of the hungry
16. They abstain from the Eucharist, and from the public
prayers, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh
of our Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, and whom
the Father of his goodness raised again from the dead.
17. And for this cause contradicting the gift of God, they
die in their disputes; but much better would it be for them to
receive it, that they might one day rise through it.
18. It will therefore be right for you to abstain from such
persons and not to speak with them, neither in private nor in
19. But to pay attention to the prophets, and especially to
the Gospel, in which both Christ's passion is manifested to us,
and his resurrection perfectly declared.
20. But flee all divisions as the beginning of evils.
Compare with: "Perverse disputings of men of
corrupt minds.... But thou, O man of God, flee these
things; and follow after righteousness, godliness,
faith, love, patience, meekness." (1 Timothy 6:5,11)
1. He exhorts them to follow their bishop and pastors, but
especially their bishop. 6. He thanks them for their kindness,
11. and acquaints them with the ceasing of the persecution at
1. See that you all follow your bishop as Jesus Christ does
the Father, and the presbytery as the Apostles. And reverence
the deacons as the command of God.
2. Let no man do anything of which belongs to the church
separately from the bishop.
3. Let that Eucharist be looked upon as well established,
which is either offered by the bishop, or by him to whom the
bishop has given his consent.
4. Wherever the bishop will appear, there let the
congregation also be; as where Jesus Christ is, there is the
There was no other church; the split between the
Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church
did not occur until 1054, or the Protestant movement
5. It is not lawful without the bishop, neither to
baptize, nor to celebrate the Holy Communion; but whatever he
will approve of, that is also pleasing to God; that so whatever
is done may be sure and done well.
6. For what remains, it is very reasonable that we should
repent while there is yet time to return to God.
7. It is a good thing to have a due regard both to God and
to the bishop, for he that honors the bishop will be honored of
God. But he that does anything without his knowledge, ministers
to the devil.
8. Let all things therefore abound to you in charity,
seeing that you are worthy.
9. You have refreshed me in all things, and so Jesus Christ
will refresh you. You have loved me both when I was present with
you, and now being absent, you cease not to do so.
10. May God be your reward, for while you undergo all
things, you will attain to him.
11. You have done well in that you have received Philo, and
Rheus Agathopus, who followed me for the word of God, as the
deacons of Christ our God.
12. Who also gave thanks to the Lord for you because you
have refreshed them in all ways. Nor will anything that you have
done be lost to you.
13. My soul be for yours, and my bonds which you have not
despised nor been ashamed of. For that reason neither will Jesus
Christ, our perfect faith, be ashamed of you.
14. Your prayer is come to the church of Antioch in Syria.
From where being sent bound with chains that flatter God, I
salute the churches. I am not worthy to be called from there,
for I am the least among them.
By "not worthy to be called," he means to have
been called as the bishop of the church at Antioch.
15. Nevertheless by the will of God I have been thought
worthy of this honor, not that I think I have deserved it, but by
the grace of God.
16. Which I wish may be perfectly given to me, that through
your prayers I may attain to God.
17. And therefore that your work may be fully accomplished
both upon earth and in heaven, it will be fitting for the honor
of God that your church appoint some worthy delegate to come as
far as Syria, so he may rejoice together with them that they are
in peace and restored to their former size and greatness.
This and "your prayer is come to the church of
Antioch" (verse 14) refers to the news he had just
received that persecution had ended at Antioch. Now it
can regain members and thus be "restored to their
former size and greatness."
18. So I should think it a worthy action to send someone
from you with an epistle to congratulate them on their peace in
God, for through your prayers they have now gotten to their
19. For to the extent you are perfect yourselves, you ought
to think those things that are perfect. For when you desire to
do well, God is ready to help you do it.
20. The love of the brethren who are at Troas salute you;
from where I write to you by Barrhus whom you sent with me,
together with the Ephesians your brethren, and who has in all
things refreshed me.
21. And I request God that all would imitate him as a
pattern of the ministry of God. May his grace fully reward him.
22. I salute your very worthy bishop, and your venerable
presbytery, and your deacons, my fellow-servants, and all of you
in general, and every one in particular, in the name of Jesus
Christ, and in his flesh and blood, in his passion and
resurrection both bodily and spiritually, and in the unity of God
The "worthy bishop" at Smyrna was Polycarp.
23. Grace be with you, and mercy, and peace, and patience,
24. I salute the families of my brethren, with their wives
and children, and the virgins that are called widows. Be strong
in the power of the Holy Spirit. Philo, who is present with me,
The "virgins" were the deaconesses, a rather
honorary designation to the devout widows who served
the poor in that office.
25. I salute the house of Tavias and pray that it may be
strengthened in faith and charity, both in body and spirit.
26. I salute Alce my well-beloved, together with the
incomparable Daphnus, and Entechnus, and all by name.
27. Farewell in the grace of God.