The case of St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the first years of the second century, is especially revealing. He refers to the Epistles of the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 12:2), yet he never cites them. For Ignatius, it is Christ who is both the content and the ultimate source of our faith, as it has been laid down for us by the apostles. Ignatius goes far beyond the other writers of his period in exalting the role of the apostles. In the various typological parallels that he is fond of drawing between, on the one hand, the bishop, deacon and presbyters, and on the other, the Father, Christ and the apostles (e.g. Trallians 3), the apostles are always placed on the eternal, universal level, along with Christ and His Father. This eternal and universal level is then reflected [emphasis added] in the Church, in her historically and geographically specific existence, in the threefold order of bishop, deacon and presbyters. Accordingly Ignatius repeatedly states that as a bishop he, unlike the apostles, is not in a position to give orders or to lay down the precepts or the teachings (δόγματα), which come from the Lord and the apostles alone (cf. Magnesians 13; Romans 4:3; Ephesians 3:1 etc.).Behr concludes this section: “For Ignatius and the other apostolic fathers, the Christian Gospel, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, was essentially a christocentric reading of Scripture, as it has been delivered by the apostles …”
So strong is his emphasis on the apostolic revelation of Jesus Christ, that it is determinative for Ignatius’ reading of Scripture (the Old Testament). For instance, according to Ignatius, we are to give heed to the prophets, for they also lived according to Jesus Christ and were inspired by His grace (Magnesians 8:2). In a significant passage in Philadelphians chapters 8-9, Ignatius reports a discussion which he had perhaps had with some members of his community. After exhorting his listeners to do nothing apart from that which is “according to the teaching of Christ,” he describes how he heard some saying that “If I do not find [it] in the archives, I do not believe [it to be] in the Gospel” that is, they would only accept the Christian message insofar as it is in accord with the “archives,” that is, with what was already written, the Old Testament Scriptures. Ignatius’ reply was “it is written”; referring not to written New Testament texts, but to his conviction that the Old Testament does indeed contain the revelation of Christ. His opponents, however, were not persuaded by this Christological interpretation of the Old Testament. Realizing later on where the essential differences lay, Ignatius then restated his position much more clearly in his letter:
But for me the archives are Jesus Christ, the inviolable archives are His cross and death and His resurrection and the faith which is through Him-in these I desire to be justified by your prayers. The priests are noble, but greater is the High Priest, entrusted with the Holy of Holies, who alone is entrusted with the secret things of God, since He is the door of the Father, through which enter Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the prophets and the apostles and the Church—all these, into the unity of God. But the Gospel has something distinctive: the coming of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, His passion and the resurrection; for the beloved prophets made their proclamation with Him in view, but the Gospel is the completion of incorruption (Phil. 8:2-9:1)
Jesus Christ, His passion and resurrection is, for Ignatius, the only complete revelation of God; this alone is salvific. Hence it is only through this door, Jesus Christ, that the prophets, apostles, and the whole Church enter to the Father. When Ignatius states that “To me the archives are Jesus Christ,” he is not implying that Jesus Christ is a different, higher authority than Scripture; rather, for Ignatius, the Old Testament simply is Jesus Christ—the Word made flesh. All Scripture pertaining to the revelation of God is identical with the revelation of God given in Christ as preached by the apostles; and, in reverse, all that the Gospel proclaims has already been written down as Scripture.
The reason for this emphasis, I believe, is because, as Irenaeus relates it, the “Apostolic Preaching” as he describes it in this work is an intense review of the Old Testament Scriptures.
The Reformers, who for the first time in a thousand years began to understand the Hebrew Scriptures, were in a position to make this connection that had been lost for a long, long time in the church.