Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ignatius did not believe in Apostolic Succession. But he believed that “Christ was the (Old Testament) Word Made Flesh”

This is from John Behr’s introduction to Irenaeus of Lyons “Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching” (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, pgs 9-11). Note that while the book is devoted to Irenaeus, the Introduction discusses church history prior to Irenaeus. This is his discussion of Ignatius:
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.).

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.
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 …”

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.


The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

You have NO idea what Apostolic Succession is, do you?...

Anyway, doesn't matter: I've come in peace and good will, to hand you over some really compromising stuff about the Orthodox... -- (You can thank me later...) ;-)

John Bugay said...

Lvka, not sure if you noticed, but the above was written by the Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary and Professor of Patristics.

Kim said...

Lvka, not sure if you noticed, but the above was written by the Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary and Professor of Patristics.

Glad I wasn't drinking something when I read this!

John Bugay said...

Here you go Kim:

I'm sorry to have startled you :-)

It turns out this work was his Master's thesis. Although, Behr is the series editor ("Popular Patristics Series" and this is volume #17 of that series).

Irenaeus is known for two works. The one we hear about all the time is his "Against Heresies." That work is hard to understand because he goes into so much detail about what his adversaries believe and are teaching.

This work is the positive articulation of the "Apostolic Preaching," which as was noted above, was the "δόγματα" of the early church, "the teaching of the Apostles."

The thing that struck me about this little work was just how absolutely reliant it was on the Old Testament. Take a look through this:

Irenaeus "Apostolic Preaching"

The important thing to remember is that the "δόγματα" was the succession in those early generations. It is almost like a second century version of "Evidence that Demands a Verdict".

Kim said...

Thanks, John. I read a good chunk of the piece by Irenaeus and will read more later.

Lvka, wouldn't the Dean of an Orthodox seminary be expected to understand apostolic succession??

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

...and where exactly do you see the [Orthodox] author saying that "Ignatius didn't believe in Apostolic Succession"? :-\

All he said was that bishops don't create or invent dogma. Doctrine was given by Christ through the Apostles once and for all (Jude 1:3).

PeaceByJesus said...

While it is true that Christ is the fulfillment of the O.T., simply saying this does not seem to be much of a response if it is to those who would be looking for O.T. substantiation.

"For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. " (Acts 18:28)

"And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. " (Acts 28:23)

John Bugay said...

All he said was that bishops don't create or invent dogma.

He went far beyond this. He put a great gulf between the authority of the Apostles and his own as a bishop. Note, he cannot even "give orders" outside of his jurisdiction.

But from the perspective of follow-up, Sullivan confirms "Ignatius nowhere invoked the principle of succession to explain the authority of presbyters."

It is not enough simply to assert the distinction you are making. Roman Catholics, especially, want to see Bishops as "successors of the apostles" not in terms of their authority to to lay down the precepts or the teachings (δόγματα), but certainly in terms of their "collective authority" that they have now. There was no conception of that.

Certainly the process of naming someone as an "overseer" had no such thing as "sacrament" attached to it; Roman Catholics roll up "the authority the Apostles" with "the authority of their successors" being "handed on" in some sort of "sacramental" way.

When one can see clearly in the history of the Synagogue, the eldership there that I've already written about, there was no such "sacrament," and there was no such "authority" being handed on.

One of the reasons I've put so much effort into re-creating the Jewish synagogue background of elders is to put a bishop into context as "overseer" (I've got more to follow in this respect).

It's no kidding that the Apostles wanted responsible authority figures tending the churches they had founded. But there was nothing "sacramental" about it.

The process that I think the historical research will allow is that, later in the second century, some individuals had the idea to combine some of these elements and to call it a certain thing.

But if you look at the process, there is no way there was a "divine institution" of an all-authoritative episcopate, from which schism would be an ultimate heresy.

The Reformers were precisely correct in determining their responsibility to re-assert the primacy of "the precepts or the teachings (δόγματα) of the Apostles" as being "the true succession," in the face of an "unbroken lineage" that was largely corrupt for centuries.

Anonymous said...

It is clear from Scripture that God wants all His children to be successors of Christ:

Eph 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Eph 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.


Col 3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
Col 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Now, how does God propose this will happen?


Php 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Php 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Now, of course, if your citizenship is not in heaven, then none of the above applies to you!

Now, of course, if none of the truth cited above applies to you then this is what applies to you:

Php 3:18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Php 3:19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Anonymous said...

And to underscore Christ's authority to transform our lowly bodies to fully become like His glorious body, I will give citations from John and Peter, too!


Joh 5:17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working."


Joh 5:19 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.


Joh 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
Joh 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,
Joh 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.


1Pe 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
1Pe 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1Pe 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1Pe 5:9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
1Pe 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1Pe 5:11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Hopefully you can come to see that just as there are men of God equipping and edifying the Saints there are men of the devil doing their best to do as Paul wrote there from Philippians 3:18-19?

Hopefully you can take assurance that both the Father and the Son are working together to see to it that you are restored, confirmed, strengthened and established?

And to add to this assurance, I would like to end with other quotable quotes from Jesus Christ, here:

Joh 5:43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
Joh 5:44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?


Joh 6:43 Jesus answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves.
Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Joh 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me--
Joh 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.


Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)


Joh 7:15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?"
Joh 7:16 So Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.
Joh 7:17 If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
Joh 7:18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

Joh 17:25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
Joh 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

Fullness of Christ, anyone?

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Who said that bishops have authority outside their jurisdiction?... :-\

Also, you don't seem to have any idea what "sacramental" means either... Here are a few passages to help you better understand what we mean by the word:

8:14-19; 9:17-18; 19:1-6; 20:28.

1 Timothy
2 Timothy 1:6;


PeaceByJesus said...

This would be relevant here:

Rome's meaningless claim of "unbroken succession

It may also be of note that although Rome's methods of selecting a pope has varied, it has never been that of Acts 1 with its requirements, and politics and vacancies of up to 3 years have resulted.

Viisaus said...

"The Reformers were precisely correct in determining their responsibility to re-assert the primacy of "the precepts or the teachings (δόγματα) of the Apostles" as being "the true succession," in the face of an "unbroken lineage" that was largely corrupt for centuries."

Or in other words, the Reformers pointed out that it was more important to be successors of apostles in SPIRIT rather than (to claim) to be their successor in FLESH.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Or in other words, the Reformers pointed out that it was more important to be successors of apostles in SPIRIT rather than (to claim) to be their successor in FLESH.

Too bad they had neither...

(at least not according to Saint Ignatius... and I think John Behr would concur...)

PeaceByJesus said...

Neither the Rome nor the EOs can claim to manifest the criteria by which the authority of the Biblical apostles were established.
(Acts 1:21.24-26; 2:43; 5:33; 1Cor. 9:1; 2Cor. 6:1-10; 12:12; Rm. 15:19)

Rome (i know not of the EO) does not even use the method of Acts 1 in choosing successors.

PeaceByJesus said...

John, how come the RefTagger is not working?

John Bugay said...

John, how come the RefTagger is not working?

It appears to be working now, in the main post, but not in the comments form here.

Viisaus said...

"Neither the Rome nor the EOs can claim to manifest the criteria by which the authority of the Biblical apostles were established."

Nor can they prove that their apostolic successions would have survived through congenital epidemics of high-level simony, which according their #own rules# should nullify the sacrament of ordination...

Viisaus said...

It is also noteworthy that RCs and EOs have not hesitated to speak ill about their each others' apostolic successions - for example, this article from 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia (by Adrian Fortescue) on "Eastern Schism" drips with contemptuous sarcasm:

"Let it be always remembered that the rise of Constantinople, its jealousy of Rome, its unhappy influence over all the East is a pure piece of Erastianism, a shameless surrender of the things of God to Caesar. And nothing can be less stable than to establish ecclesiastical rights on the basis of secular politics. The Turks in 1453 cut away the foundation of Byzantine ambition. There is now no emperor and no Court to justify the oecumenical patriarch's position. If we were to apply logically the principle on which he rests, he would sink back to the lowest place and the patriarchs of Christendom would reign at Paris, London, New York.

There is nothing the modern Orthodox Christian resents more than any assumption of authority by the oecumenical patriarch outside his diminished patriarchate. The Byzantine see has long been the plaything of the Turk, wares that he sold to the highest bidder. Certainly now this pitiful dignity is no longer a reason for the schism of nearly 100,000,000 Christians."

PeaceByJesus said...

Viisaus, but what if you autocratically make the rules and need not be consistent?

PeaceByJesus said...

Yes Viisaus, and i think the estrangement and things that need to change for reconciliation is not as limited as the writer makes it. What about the Immaculate conception and Rome's purgatory, and PI?

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

You argued that Protestants have at least the Apostolic succession of true faith or correct teaching: now, this is evidently not so, according to the Saint himself: for him, monarchic bishops and belief in the Real Presence (for instance) were integral parts of such a succession, and -obviously- these teachings are denied by Protestants. -- QED.

John Bugay said...

You argued that Protestants have at least the Apostolic succession of true faith or correct teaching:

This is not correct. I'll argue that ONLY Protestants have correct teaching. Ignatius is a "witness" to the truth; he neither was an authority (according to his own word -- Q.E.D.), and nor would I say that he had the correct, Scriptural word on the role of the bishop.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

If this is indeed so, then why do you even bother mentioning him and his views?

John Bugay said...

Because he is an authority to RCs and EOs. And when he contradicts their own closely-held doctrines, that's an important statement.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Until now, he failed to do so, so what's your point?

John Bugay said...

You are just making an assertion here. I think there has been a lot of question over the centuries about Ignatius. There was a process of textual criticism over the years just to sort out those documents forged in his name, from those which might have been genuine. That's the first step.

Second, you mentioned "real presence". I'm sure every Calvinist could be said to believe in the "real presence" of Christ in the Lord's supper. Then you have to ask, what did he mean by that? And do either the RCs or the EOs mean the same thing that he meant? Or are they just equivocating on the words.

(Have you seen James White's video series that worked through Ignatius's letter where he mentions "real presence," and it turns out that Ignatius is far more concerned with dealing with Docetism than saying anything at all about what the composition of the Eucharist is.)

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Even so, you've failed to show how he contradicts anything.

(It's one thing to say "his words are open for interpretation", and quite another to say that he contradicts something).

So, again, what's the point of your post? -- Catholics couldn't care less what *Orthodox* priests say on *Protestant* blogs, so... I don't get it... :-\

John Bugay said...

Lvka -- I write for Protestants. I provide context and reasoning. I cite (in this case) the dean of an Orthodox seminary.

You are a scoffer. You come by here and say "nuh uh!" without any support whatsoever.

I'm willing to let the readers make up their own minds.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to depress you or anything, but:

it's hardly any surprise to anyone that Orthodoxy and Catholicism, while indeed very similar to one another, are not identical faiths:

so what is the shock value of the fact the two also differ in their definition of Apostolic succession?

(It's not like it's the only thing on which they slightly-differ).

John Bugay said...

Lvka, I know they different on significant things. I'm not sure if you have recently visited the "Called to Communion" website, but for them, the RC/EO relationship is all "happy-happy-joy-joy, we're almost reaching that blessed unity we've all wanted."

In many respects, I tend to address Protestants about Roman Catholic concerns, and, at least as far as I am concerned, what the EO think is irrelevant at that point. I'm much less familiar with it, (Although, some of what the Protestants write here also takes issue with the EO -- see Viisaus's items about image worship in the Character of God post which went up this morning.)

In the grand scheme of things, you are my ally, because my over-riding concern is to say "Rome is not what it says it is." "Rome's grand claims about itself are false."

To make this point is sufficient for me.

And I am much less concerned to state, "Rome is wrong, now here is the precisely correct Scriptural formulation," because I know that people who care about these things will have a much-facilitated discussion without the 800 lb Roman gorilla in the room, spouting its inanities.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Even the Sun has sun-spots every now and then... I can't for the life of me imagine Protestantism (save for Anglo-Catholics and/or Lutherans) as a real alternative to ancient Christianity in the West, over and against Roman Catholicism. Reformed-Evangelical critiques of Catholicism make me think of a shard criticising a broken pot... For all its broken-ness, the pot still has the upper hand... I don't understand how showing Catholics to be "only 90% true" will help you make your case for Protestantism, that's all.

John Bugay said...

I am not all that big a fan of "ancient Christianity." If you think I'm even trying to be such a thing, I apologize for leaving you with that impression.

I am more in favor of understanding "Biblical Christianity." "Ancientness" conferred no advantages in that category, and some real disadvantages. Just as we understand Rocket Science today, better than they did, we've also got a much better understanding of the grand sweep of God's interventions in human history, as recorded in the Scriptures.

That's what we'll really be held accountable for in the end. Not how near we came to imitating Chrysostom's liturgy, or anything like that.

That's good history to know, just in the same way I want to know about my Grandfather's trip to the US from Bulgaria in 1906, but I won't want to pattern my life after that in any way. I'm sure he made many mistakes that we, in our world, don't even have to consider making. He suffered many things that we, in our world of antibiotics, have long forgotten about.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

The faith was given to the saints once and for all (Jude 1:3).

Science advances, but revelation (dogma) doesn't: there's no comparison between the two.

That's why it's called revelation: because God reveals it; it's not like the advance of science, where we discover by our own natural powers the visible and material world around us.

You've just fallen under your own Tower of Babel criticism (man rising up to God by their own efforts).

John Bugay said...

You're mixing categories. I didn't say revelation changed; our ability to understand it better, is what changed.

And I'm not trying to "rise up to God" by any means. I fully understand that He stooped low to rescue me.

But we've got tremendous resources at our fingertips -- understanding of both Greek and Hebrew, various translations, the collective "wisdom of the ages" in biblical commentaries that give a fuller and richer understanding of what the texts say, and have been interpreted to mean, by whom, and by what means, than anyone say in the 6th century had access to.

The Orthodox, on the other hand, (and in general), seem eager to imitate the externals, while missing what God is truly saying.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Understanding both Greek and Hebrew was hardly a problem for the Fathers (like Chrysostom, whom you've just mentioned).

Viisaus said...

"Understanding both Greek and Hebrew was hardly a problem for the Fathers (like Chrysostom, whom you've just mentioned)."

I believe you are quite wrong about this. In fact, this is one of best examples of why we should not have TOO worshipful attitude towards the opinions of church fathers - for the church fathers were, generally speaking, amazingly ignorant about Hebrew language.

It really seems that out of important writers of the early centuries, only semi-heretical Origen and Vulgate-translator Jerome knew the Hebrew language adequately!

"Among Christian scholars there was no independent school of Hebraists before the revival of learning. In the Greek and Latin Church the few fathers who, like Origen and Jerome, knew something of the language, were wholly dependent on their Jewish teachers, and their chief value for us is as depositaries of Jewish tradition.

Similarly in the East, the Syriac version of the Old Testament is largely under the influence of the synagogue, and the homilies of Aphraates are a mine of Rabbinic lore. In the middle ages some knowledge of Hebrew was preserved in the Church by converted Jews and even by non-Jewish scholars, of whom the most notable were the Dominican controversialist Raymundus Martini (in his Pugio fidei) and the Franciscan Nicolaus of Lyra, on whom Luther drew largely in his interpretation of Scripture.

But there was no tradition of Hebrew study apart from the Jews, and in the 15th century when an interest in the subject was awakened, only the most ardent zeal could conquer the obstacles that lay in the way."

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

All Syriac Fathers spoke Aramaic: Syriacs still do until today. They are Eastern or Oriental Orthodox: none of them is Protestant.

(And Greeks are, of course, Greek Orthodox; and Romans, obviously, are Roman-Catholic). -- Funny how none of them turned out to be Reformed Evangelical Calvinists...

Jon said...

How on earth can you come to such bizarre conclusions when Ignatius spoke of Authority of Bishops in the following way?

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. […] Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. […] Whatsoever [the bishop] shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Ch 8)

John Bugay said...

Maybe you're misreading it. The writer was dean of St Vladimir's seminary and a patristics scholar. Have you seen any of the studies of the word "bishop" during that era? Have you read Ignatius himself on the great gulf between Apostles and bishops?