Ignatius Progress

I worked quite a bit on my Ignatius paper today, and got quite a bit done. Today was devoted to his rhetoric, and I collected several pages worth of epithets, metaphors, antithesis, and other rhetorical features from his letter to the Romans. The man could certainly be rhetorical ;-).

I also learned that “Asianism” as a rhetorical school is a much more slippery term than I originally thought. I’ve read that Ignatius belongs to this school (and after today I’d agree), but what we know about this school seems to come mostly through critics. Cicero talks about it some, as he as accused of being an “Asianist.” Basically this school of rhetoric was particularly fond of emotional appeals. Their speeches were almost poetic, containing lots of antithesis, startling metaphors/epithets, and rhythm (the hardest word to spell ever!).

Ignatius definitely exhibits features of this school. He loves startling metaphors and antithesis. Just read Romans 5. If you highlight both of those features you’ve highlighted most of the letter. He can heap up epithets with the best of them (something John Chrysostom was fond of too). The salutation of Romans is almost entirely one big epithet (well, many epithets) describing the Roman Church. He also seems to use assonance, though I need to review my reconstructed koine pronunciation before I mention that ;-). I also particularly like his paronomasia, or word play.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Ignatius’ rhetoric is how he frequently directs his audience to Christ. Many of his metaphors evoke the liturgy. Wheat, Bread, and Drink come up quite often. He urges the Romans to become a chorus, singing by Jesus Christ to God the Father. These elements are brilliant rhetorical moves. After all, he’s drawing on a powerful set of shared experiences. However, I do think they’re theologically sound because they’re rooted in the Church’s practice, which is ultimately rooted in the Cross via the Bread and Wine.

That does, of course, bring me to the next task. Rhetoric its fine and dandy, but if what he’s arguing for isn’t sound, then the rhetoric is in vain! Fortunately, I think you can make a good theological case here from Paul’s letters. However, I need to finish the rhetoric first ;-).

Off to sleep!


Rhetorical Criticism

So I’m currently planning to follow my Ignatius/Paul paper with a more focused defense of Ignatius. The last paper focused a bit too much on Paul and not enough time on Ignatius. In doing so, I’m planning to defend him on rhetorical and theological grounds. Of course, this requires me understanding rhetoric and its function. I’ve found a terrificly useful rhetorical analysis of Ignatius here. I’ve also got my hands on some of the ancient writing on rhetoric, notably Aristotle’s “The Art of Rhetoric” and Quintilian’s work (Ars Rhetorica?).

That said, I’m curious to see other works on Rhetoric. What are some commentaries that do a good job with rhetorical analysis? Works on Pauline letters in particular would be useful. Or are there books which simply introduce rhetorical criticism that might be useful? I know this tool can be overdone, but I definitely recognize its usefulness when employed correctly.

Thoughts? Suggestions?


Ignatius’ Musical Metaphors

I stumbled across something in Ignatius today which I’ve found fascinating! The way he adapts Paul is intriguing, and quite beautiful if I may say so. In this post, I want to highlight Ignatius’ musical metaphor. He makes use of musical language several places, but here I’ll look at Ephesians 4 (Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians of course!).

Here’s a rather rough translation (and thus my own!):
“Thus it is proper for you to run to the mind of the bishop, just as you are now doing. Your elders are worthy of bearing this name, the worthy name of God, for they have been joined to the bishop as strings to a harp. Because of this, Jesus Christ is sung in unified, harmonious love. All of you must join this chorus, so that you may be unified and harmonious, receiving your pitch from God. In unity, sing in one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. Do this so that he may hear and know you, through the good you do as members (μέλη) of his son’s body.”

I find this metaphor stunning, especially since it was written by someone imprisoned and on his way to meet “wild beasts” in Rome. Ignatius imagines the bishop as a harp, and the priests/elders (Gk πρεσβυτέριον) as the strings of the harp. To this music the congregation sings Jesus Christ “in unified, harmonious love.” This chorus is joined together in harmony, receiving its pitch from God, singing to the Father through Jesus Christ. Clearly music is significant for Ignatius (and for the Early Church).

What I see here is a beautiful adaptation of 1 Corinthians 12. Scholars quibble over which of Paul’s letters Ignatius knew, but 1 Corinthians is one everyone agrees on. Here, Ignatius has taken over the theme of “diverse gifttings, unified Church” and expressed it with music. People have different roles, but they are all joined together in one “symphony” to God through Christ.

What especially strikes me is how Ignatius arrives this metaphor. I think there are two ways he comes to it. First, I’m sure it’s rooted in the liturgy of the earlier Church. Sacramental theology was already developing as early as Paul (1 Cor 10:14-17 as an example). Part of this liturgy contained “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” which Paul exhorts the Ephesians to in Eph 5. Perhaps the creeds and confessions of the Church were sung early on, just as the Eastern church does now. When Ignatius talks about “singing Jesus Christ,” I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a reference to the prayer sung at the Eucharist. Ignatius uses loads of liturgical language through his letters, and I’m positive that he had had profound experiences with Christ in the liturgy.

Second, Ignatius makes use of a play on words. In 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds the Corinthians several times that they are “members of Christ’s body.” The Greek word for “member” here is  μέλη, and it generally means “part” or “member.” However, it also has a musical sense as well. I don’t know nearly enough about music to identify what exactly it refers to (LSJ lists “melody of an instrument” or “music to which a song is put”), but the double entendre here is intentional on Ignatius’ part. In addition to being members of Christ’s body, they are God’s “chorus” or “symphony.”

Thus, I’m convinced that Ignatius of Antioch was a rather amazing figure :-). People are put off by his martyrdom language, but he has a lot of good stuff to say. His theological reflection is beautiful, and he has a lot to teach us about Christ.

έν φωνῆ μιᾷ τῳ πατρἱ,

Essay Excerpt: Ignatius and θεοφορός (Part One)

Here’s an excerpt from the essay I wrote on Paul and Ignatius. It concerns his use of the term θεοφορός, ‘God-bearer.’

We may begin our analysis of Ignatius by examining the term Θεοφορός, the title that Ignatius uses at the beginning of all letters: “Ἰγνάτιος, ὁ καὶ Θεοφόρος.” The term is a compound of the noun θεὸς and the participle φορὸς, meaning “God-bearer.” The interpretation of this term is controversial, but it has the ability to shed light on Ignatius’ self-understanding and the depth of his identification with Christ. Two interpretative options will be given, and then I will show the participatory implications of both.

The first option presents the term functioning as an additional name for Ignatius. Thus, Lightfoot translates the opening, “Ignatius, also called Theophorus,” and leaves the term untranslated. Supporters of the second option believe the word functions as a semi-technical cultic title that has been re-appropriated in a Christian way. Holmes thus translates the phrase this way, “Ignatius the Image-bearer.” The adaptation in this case would come from Greco-Roman epiphany processions. In these processions, an “image-bearer” would carry an image that was supposed to mediate the presence of a deity. Some argue that this is the material Paul is drawing on when he speaks of “always bearing (περιφεροντες) in our bodies the death of Jesus.” Likewise, it is argued that Ignatius is using Pagan cultic practices and redrawing them around Jesus.

Reading θεοφορός as an additional name readily coheres with what we know of early Christianity. Early Christian leaders regularly had name changes, or additional names given. Saul became Paul following his conversion in the narrative of Acts. Even more famously, Simon became Peter in Matthew 16:18. Names had important theological implications, in both the Old and New Testaments. There are copious examples to choose from, but one famous example comes from Isaiah 7:14 where the child was to be named “Immanuel” meaning “God with us.” Of course, this gets picked up by the New Testament writers and applied to Jesus. So even if θεοφορός is an additional name for Ignatius, it is still legitimate to explore the theological implications of the term. The idea of “bearing God” in his body certainly shaped Ignatius as he reflected on his approaching death.

The second option reads θεοφορός as a title that has been drawn from the Greco-Roman epiphany processions. Since a θεοφορός denoted the personal carrying an image of a deity in these Pagan practices, this reading argues that Ignatius draws on this practice, redefining it in Christian terms. Instead of mediating the presence of a god through an image, Ignatius as a θεοφορός would evoke notions of carrying the presence of God in his own body. He is the true “God-bearer”, over against the pagan θεοφόροι. This reading is particularly strong if Paul is doing the same thing in 2 Corinthians. For several reasons, I find this reading more plausible. Ignatius uses the term when referring to the Ephesian Church in Ephesians 9:2. Holmes notes that if θεοφορός is functioning as a name, “it would be the first instance of such a usage.” Finally, it may function as a parallel to Paul’s use of ἀπόστολος. However, we will see strong participatory significance in either case.

First, if θεοφορός is a name for Ignatius, then it is would have played a significant part in his self-reflection. It may have been given to him at his baptism, or at some other significant even in his life. It may have come out of a charismatic experience similar to what he describes in Philadelphians, or that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14. One cannot do much more than speculate about the source of the name, but if it were a name then it surely would have had significance.

On the other hand, if θεοφορός is a title, then Ignatius is deliberately making an ironic ploy. In this case, he defines himself over against the pagan image-bearers as the “image-bearer” of the one, true God. The image is not an idol made of gold, but rather his own body and ministry. The presence of God within him is best seen as he participates in the suffering of Christ. Indeed, he speaks of “rejoicing in the suffering of our Lord” (Ign Phld Salutation).

We may further note the similarity between θεοφορός for Ignatius and ἀπόστολος for Paul. Structurally, they come at nearly identical places in the letter. Paul most often begins his letters with, “Παυλος ἀπόστολος.” Ignatius begins every one of his letters with “Ιγνάτιος ὁ και θεοφορός.” The immediate difference is the presence of the article ὁ and the conjunction καὶ. Still, the similarities are significant. Paul’s self-understanding as an apostle of Jesus shaped and influenced everything he did. We see this throughout his letters, but especially in 2 Corinthians, which we examined earlier. I suggest that θεοφορός shares similar significance for Ignatius. This is a strong claim, and would take rather detailed exegesis to argue in full detail. For now it is sufficient to note the participatory significance of θεοφορός. At the present, we may finally turn to the texts in more detail.

Perhaps more to come…

Status Update

So I’ve dropped almost completely off the radar the past couple of weeks.  I’ve had tons going on at work and school (err, the typical excuse ;-) )  I’ve also been writing a rather large paper (it’ll end up being 25pgs probably)  for my Early Christianity class on Ignatius’ use of Paul, which has consumed lots of my writing energy.  On the plus side, I should be able to post more often now since things are slowing down *somewhat*.  I’ll likely blog portions of the essay I’ve been writing, which has been a blast so far.  I’m arguing that Ignatius’ understanding of martyrdom was shaped extensively by a “participatory” understanding of Paul.  Lot’s of good stuff :-)

more soon!


Good Ol’ Ignatius

I’m currently planning an essay on Ignatius and his understanding of his martyrdom. I’m going to be defending him as an interpreter and imitator of Paul (and through this, Jesus), but it won’t always be easy. He makes very strong statements about his impending death:

May I have the pleasure of the wild beasts that have been prepared for me; and I pray that they prove to be prompt with me. I will even coax them to devour me quickly, not as they have done with some, whom they were too timid to touch. And if when I am willing and ready and they are not, I will force them.” (Romans 5:2)

Not all of his statements about martyrdom are this strong, but still, yikes! It’s going to be fun writing this paper ;-)