Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ignatius Deploys the Christian Revelation

Ignatius of Antioch is executed in Rome
I've been talking lately about the Christian revelation or the "deposit" of Faith given once and for all to Christ's people, and I've identified it to an extent with the words of that marvelous little poem, the Apostles' Creed. But if you're checking up on me you will know that the Apostles Creed didn't reach the form we're used to until the early AD 700's. Just like our understanding of what Jesus revealed, the words we use to describe and remember it also developed over time. And we can trace that development all the way back to the days of his Apostles.

As we discussed the other day, the Apostle's Creed doesn't lay down rules, it tells a story. After the last Apostle died, one of the earliest places we find that main middle part of the story about Jesus is in a letter by a man named Ignatius. He was the main leader of the Christian Movement in the large Syrian city of Antioch and now found himself in chains on the way to a gory execution in Rome.

Along the way, dedicated leader that he was, he wrote 7 letters to groups of Christians in the towns he passed through. This was in AD 107 or a little later -- about 10 years after John had passed on (To find out when John died, click on Irenaeus, Against Heresies book 2 chapter 22 section 5). He wasn't trying to teach these people the basics of their Faith (they were already Christians, after all), but was more concerned with a fake Christian teaching called "Docetism."  It claimed that Jesus hadn't really been human -- that he only pretended to eat, drink, sleep, and other human things.

So in his Letter to the Trallians he used part of the Christian revelation to show that the Messiah actually was quite a real human being. If you remember how the Apostles Creed goes, it might sound a little familiar:

"So pay no attention, if anyone speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven, those on earth and those under the earth, who was truly raised from the dead. His Father raised him and in the same way will raise us too who believe on Him. His Father will raise us in Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not have true life."

(Letter to the Trallians chapter 9 verses 1 - 2)

For 'Meditation for a Sunday Morning' our guest blogger will be Irenaeus of Antioch. He will go into more detail on how the Christian Movement summed up Christ's revelation in his day.


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