Epistle to the Romans
St. Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son;
the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who formed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour;
the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit,
Or as in the shorter recension.
worthy of being deemed holy,
Or, “most holy.”
and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father, and is possessed of the Spirit, which I also salute in the name of Almighty God, and of Jesus Christ His Son: to those who are united, both according to the flesh and spirit, to every one of His commandments, who are filled inseparably with all the grace of God, and are purified from every strange taint,
abundance of happiness unblameably, in God, even the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Chapter I.—As a prisoner, I hope to see you.
Through prayer to God I have obtained the privilege of seeing your most worthy faces,
[Literally, “worthy of God.”]
even as I earnestly begged might be granted me;
for as a prisoner in Christ Jesus I hope to salute you, if indeed it be the will
that I be thought worthy of attaining unto the end. For the beginning has been well ordered, if I may obtain grace to cling to
[Literally, “to receive.”]
my lot without hindrance unto the end. For I am afraid of your love,
[He probably refers here, and in what follows, to the influence which their earnest prayers in his behalf might have with God.]
lest it should do me an injury. For it is easy for you to accomplish what you please;
but it is difficult for me to attain to God, if ye do not spare me,
[Some read γε instead of μή, and translate as in shorter recension.]
under the pretence of carnal affection.
Chapter II.—Do not save me from martyrdom.
For it is not my desire that ye should please men, but God, even as also ye do please Him. For neither shall I ever hereafter have such an opportunity of attaining to God;
nor will ye, if ye shall now be silent, ever be entitled to
[Literally, “have to be inscribed to.”]
the honour of a better work. For if ye are silent concerning me, I shall become God’s;
but if ye show your love to my flesh, I shall again have to run my race. Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favour upon me than that I be sacrificed to God, while the altar is still prepared;
that, being gathered together in love, ye may sing praise to the Father, through Christ Jesus, that God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be sent for
[Literally, “to be found and sent for.”]
from the east unto the west, and to become a martyr
[The text is here in great confusion.]
in behalf of His own precious
[Literally, “beautiful.” Some read, “it is good,” etc.]
sufferings, so as to pass from the world to God, that I may rise again unto Him.
Chapter III.—Pray rather that I may attain to martyrdom.
Ye have never envied any one;
ye have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed
[by your conduct], which in your instructions ye enjoin
[on others]. Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but
will, so that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really found to be one. For if I be truly found
[a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. Nothing visible is eternal. “For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
[2 Cor. iv. 18. This quotation is not found in the old Latin version of the shorter recension.]
The Christian is not the result
of persuasion, but of power.
[The meaning is here doubtful.]
When he is hated by the world, he is beloved of God. For says
[the Scripture], “If ye were of this world, the world would love its own;
but now ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it: continue in fellowship with me.”
[John xv. 19]
Chapter IV.—Allow me to fall a prey to the wild beasts.
I write to all the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless ye hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body;
so that when I have fallen asleep
[in death], I may not be found troublesome to any one. Then shall I be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. Entreat the Lord for me, that by these instruments
[i.e., by the teeth of the wild beasts.]
I may be found a sacrifice to God. I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles of Jesus Christ, but I am the very least
[of believers]: they were free,
[“Free,” probably from human infirmity.]
as the servants of God;
while I am, even until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again emancipated in Him. And now, being in bonds for Him, I learn not to desire anything worldly or vain.
Chapter V.—I desire to die.
From Syria even unto Rome I fight with beasts,
[Comp. 1 Cor. xv. 32, where the word is also used figuratively.]
both by land and sea, both by night and day, being bound to ten leopards, I mean a band of soldiers, who, even when they receive benefits,
[Probably the soldiers received gifts from the Christians, to treat Ignatius with kindness.]
show themselves all the worse. But I am the more instructed by their injuries
[to act as a disciple of Christ];
“yet am I not thereby justified.”
[1 Cor. iv. 4.]
May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me;
and I pray that they may be found eager to rush upon me, which also I will entice to devour me speedily, and not deal with me as with some, whom, out of fear, they have not touched. But if they be unwilling to assail me, I will compel them to do so. Pardon me
I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple, and have
[In the shorter recension there is ζηλώσῃ, and in the longer ζηλῶσαι;
hence the variety of rendering, but the translation is by no means certain.]
no desire after anything visible or invisible, that I may attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross;
let the crowds of wild beasts;
let breakings, tearings, and separations of bones;
let cutting off of members;
let bruising to pieces of the whole body;
and let the very torment of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.
Chapter VI.—By death I shall attain true life.
All the ends of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth,
[Literally, “this age.”]
shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die for the sake of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. “For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?” I long after the Lord, the Son of the true God and Father, even Jesus Christ. Him I seek, who died for us and rose again. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me in attaining to life;
for Jesus is the life of believers. Do not wish to keep me in a state of death,
[Literally, “to die.”]
for life without Christ is death. While I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of Christ, my God. If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened.
Chapter VII.—Reason of desiring to die.
The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God. Let none of you, therefore, who are
rather be ye on my side, that is, on the side of God. Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet prefer this world to Him. Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you;
nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be ye persuaded, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you. For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die for the sake of Christ. My love
[Some understand by love in this passage, Christ Himself;
others regard it as referring to the natural desires of the heart.]
has been crucified, and there is no fire in me that loves anything;
but there is living water springing up in me,
[Comp. John iv. 14.]
and which says to me inwardly, Come to the Father. I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham;
and I desire the drink, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.
Chapter VIII.—Be ye favourable to me.
I no longer wish to live after the manner of men, and my desire shall be fulfilled if ye consent. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;
yet no longer I, since Christ liveth in me.”
[Gal. ii. 20.]
I entreat you in this brief letter: do not refuse me;
believe me that I love Jesus, who was delivered
for my sake. “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits towards me?”
[Ps. cxvi. 12.]
Now God, even the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, shall reveal these things to you,
[so that ye shall know]
that I speak truly. And do ye pray along with me, that I may attain my aim in the Holy Spirit. I have not written to you according to the flesh, but according to the will of God. If I shall suffer, ye have loved me;
but if I am rejected, ye have hated me.
Chapter IX.—Pray for the church in Syria.
Remember in your prayers the Church which is in Syria, which, instead of me, has now for its shepherd the Lord, who says, “I am the good Shepherd.” And He alone will oversee it, as well as your love towards Him. But as for me, I am ashamed to be counted one of them;
for I am not worthy, as being the very last of them, and one born out of due time. But I have obtained mercy to be somebody, if I shall attain to God. My spirit salutes you, and the love of the Churches which have received me in the name of Jesus Christ, and not as a mere passer-by. For even those Churches which were not near to me in the way, have brought me forward, city by city.
Now I write these things to you from Smyrna by the Ephesians, who are deservedly most happy. There is also with me, along with many others, Crocus, one dearly beloved by me.
[Literally, “the name desired to me.”]
As to those who have gone before me from Syria to Rome for the glory of God, I believe that you are acquainted with them;
do ye make known that I am at hand. For they are all worthy, both of God and of you;
and it is becoming that you should refresh them in all things. I have written these things unto you, on the day before the ninth of the Kalends of September (that
[This clause is evidently an explanatory gloss which has crept into the text.]
is, on the twenty-third day of August). Fare ye well to the end, in the patience of Jesus Christ. Amen.