Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ignatian Theology (Parts of a Dialogue)

I've tried to include the portions of the dialogue that directly bear on interpretations of Ignatius. Slight edits have been made for ease of reading, but the edited discussion is substantially identical to the original.

I've also named my interlocutor "Bob" to protect his identity. It now begins:

Bob on Magnesians 6.1: So clearly, the full meaning here is that Jesus was with the father before time even existed. To be above time, and to in fact create time is to not be bound by it. To not be bound by time and to be before the beginning is to, by definition, be God! The reason, there simply is no definition to how long (in time) Jesus existed with the Father before time even existed. It undefined [SIC].

Edgar: Ignatius' view may be that the one who became Jesus was with God before time began, however, this fact (if it is one) in no way implies that he imputes Godhood (in its fullness) to the Messiah. One thing you are overlooking is that Ignatius evidently thinks there is a divine hierarchy that is (imperfectly) reflected in the ecclesia of God on earth. His overall argument seems to be that monotheism implies that there should be a monepiscopacy (one bishop) in the church. That is no doubt why he urges his readers to submit to the bishop as if submitting to God:

"I exhort you to strive to do all things in harmony with God: the bishop is to preside in the place of God, while the presbyters are to function as the council of the Apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who before time began was with the Father . . ." (Magnesians 6:1-2).

He is promoting the notion of a divine hierarchy. While I do not think this particular concept is biblical, we know that one can believe Christ is a divine being hierarchically lower than the Father per his distinct grade of being without believing that he is fully/truly God (VERE DEUS). This idea is contained in the writings of Origen, Tertullian, and Justin. And it also appears to be a part of Ignatian thinking as well.

Bob on Magnesians 8:2:
there is one God who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word hOTI EIS QEOS ESTIN hO FANERWSAS hEAUTON DIA IHSOU CRISTOU TOU UIOU AUTOU hOS ESTIN AUTOU LOGOS

Once again Ignatius returns to the theme of the ONE TRUE GOD became evidential reality through the agency of Jesus. The
case becomes more and more overwhelming that Ignatius believed Jesus to be God in the unqualified sense more and more.

Edgar: I think you need to read this text more carefully. The "one God" who manifested Himself through the Son, according to Ignatius, is the Father. I thus do not think this passage serves as an effective prooftext for you. Please note:

"There is one God, who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ, His Son--who, being His Word, came forth out of the silence into the world and won the full approval of him whose Ambassador he was' (Magnesians 8).

Notice how the context of Magnesians 8 militates against your interpretation of this text.

Bob: 13:1 by faith and by love, in the Son and Father and in the Spirit PISTEI KAI AGAPH EN UIW KAI PATRI KAI EN PNEMATI

This passage may not be proof beyond reasonable doubt that Ignatius believed in the Trinity but it sure is a great piece of circumstantial evidence when one considers the balance of what he wrote about Jesus being God in the unqualified sense. Also, and interestingly all of Ignatius' writings are Jesus-centric.

Edgar: I am glad you recognize that just mentioning the "three" together does not mean one is affirming the Trinity. Furthermore, as I have tried to make clear in this series of posts, context is everything: each Ignatian passage must be read in context.

Bob: for the record, the name Jesus occurs 129 times in the writings of Ignatius and the Father only occurs 46 times. Additionall the tri-naming of the Son, Father, and Spirit it is the Son who's name appears first in precedence, may possibly indicting importance or relevance to the writer.

Edgar: I appreciate your submission, Bob, because it seems that you worked hard on it and you actually forced me to go back and read Ignatius again. But I think you need to be aware that the line of argumentation employed in the paragraph above is not probative in force. For instance, discourse analysts remind us that texts must be weighed, not simply counted. Sometimes folks are inclined to believe that just because a certain linguistic phenomenon [or word] occurs with relative frequency, the said phenomenon carries some kind of authoritative weight vis-a-vis the interpretation of the text. But discourse analysis has shown us that such is not the case: a text--in this case, terms--must be weighed and not counted (only).

Secondly, textual criticism teaches us the same lesson. Just because a number of manuscripts have a particular reading does not mean that the most common lectio is the preferred reading. I am sure that you have observed this principle at work when studying Scripture.

Lastly, using the Son's name so many times in no way suggests that Ignatius thinks the Son is preeminent in relation to the Father. For he consistently shows that the Son is not superior [or equal] to the Father:

"Likewise, let all respect the deacons as representing Jesus Christ, the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as God's high council and as the Apostolic college. Apart from these, no church deserves the name" (Trallians 3).


Matt13weedhacker said...

Thanks again Edgar for an interesting post.

To be honest I haven't looked at Ignatius seriously, (apart from re-reading that PDF I recommended the other day), for several years now.

Magnesian's 6:1 Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὃς πρὸ αἰώνων παρὰ πατρὶ ἦν καὶ ἐν τέλει ἐφάνη

6.1 Literally: "Jesus Chirst, who ( before ages ) was beside a Father, and in an end he appeared."


6.1 Lightfoot: "Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before ( the worlds ) and appeared at the end of time."

6.1 Hoole: "of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before ( the world began ), and was manifested in the end."

6.1 Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson: "of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before ( the beginning of time ),[668 Footnote: Literally, “before the ages.”] and in the end was revealed."

6.1 Cyril Richardson: “of Jesus Christ who was with the Father ( from eternity ) and appeared at the end.”

Edgar Foster said...

You're welcome, Matt13weedhacker. I'm glad that you analyze/read the Patristics since I don't spend much time reading them anymore. While I did not completely stop perusing these ancient works, what I now read, I read to glean certain points or for personal learning. At any rate, your analyses are appreciated.