In an earlier post, I responded to the arguments of an online skeptic -- Quixie -- that 1 Clement showed awareness of none of Paul’s letters. He has since conceded that his analysis was greatly flawed and that the author of 1 Clement at least knew 1 Corinthians. Indeed, his “analysis” of 1 Clement can be fairly described as a massive failure of analysis because he simply ignored several of 1 Clement’s chapters. Nevertheless, Quixie appears to still claim that Ignatius lacked any knowledge of Paul’s letters except possibly a few allusions to the “opening” of 1 Corinthians.
As an initial matter, Quixie does not explain why Ignatius’ awareness of at least part of one of Paul’s letters is insufficient to sink the “Dutch Radical” ideas with which he is enamored. If Ignatius is clearly dependent on the “opening” of 1 Corinthians -- whether by allusion or quotation -- does that not mean that Paul is a historical figure and at least one or more of his letters took a prominent place in early Christian development? In any event, as with 1 Clement, Quixie is clearly wrong about the extent of Ignatius’ knowledge of Paul’s letters.
We must first note a few preliminary observations about Ignatius’ use of sources. With one exception, Ignatius does not identify his sources, whether from the Old Testament or the New. He cites many OT passages but only explicitly identifies one of them. Following Quixie’s logic, this might mean that the Old Testament did not exist at the time or that Ignatius was at least unaware of it. This failure to explicitly refer to sources itself undermines the notion that -- even if we found no clear allusions to Paul’s letters -- that we should then conclude that Ignatius did not know of any of Paul’s letters, much less that no such letters existed at the time.
Further, the circumstances under which Ignatius wrote his letters are relevant to judging his awareness of the Pauline corpus. Ignatius did not write from his Bishop’s office in Antioch, with his library spread out before him. Rather, he wrote while being transported as a prisoner to Rome where he faced execution. Ignatius referred to his captors as “wild beasts” and “ten leopards” against whom he was “fighting ... on land and sea, by day and night.” They were “malevolent” despite his attempts at kindness. Rom. 5.1-2. Accordingly, Ignatius wrote under difficult conditions and without the resources he normally would have access to.
Due to these circumstances, Ignatius’ allusions were likely based on memory rather than on close and recent readings of Paul’s letters. Nevertheless, many literary contacts with Paul’s letters are probable. All told, Ignatius’ letters demonstrates that he was likely familiar with at least 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians and Philippians, as well as 1 and 2 Timothy and perhaps Romans. These letters were circulating through churches unrelated to their province by the end of the first century. In this post, I will examine closer Ignatius’ awareness of Ephesians.
Quixie Ignores Explicit References to Paul and His Letters
Just as Quixie’s ignorance of most of 1 Clement was a stunning failure of analysis, so too is his failure to mention that Ignatius explicitly refers to multiple letters written by Paul. In his own letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius refers to Paul and multiple letters written by Paul which refer to the Ephesians:
You are a passageway for those slain for God; you are fellow initiates with Paul, the holy one who received a testimony and proved worthy of all fortune. When I attain to God, may I be found in his footsteps, this one who mentions you in every epistle in Christ Jesus. (Ch. 12, Loeb Ed.)
This passage reveals that Ignatius is familiar not only with a number of Paul’s letters, but with the story of Paul and his connection with Ephesus. The reference to the Ephesians being a passageway for those slain for God and Paul’s connection with that passageway is a reference to the Ephesian Church’s sending Paul out with knowledge that they would “never see his face again” -- a reference to his expected martyrdom that is recorded in Acts 20:38. As William R. Schoedel notes, the account in Acts 20:38 “probably suffices to explain the reference to Ephesus as a highway for martyrs. For the whole passage is highly idealized and tends to make sweeping claims on the basis of few instances.” Ignatius of Antioch, Hermenei, page 73.
Chapter 12 also reveals that Ignatius knew of other Pauline letters. The reference to Paul’s mention of the Ephesian church in “every epistle” is likely an idealized overstatement to a Pauline corpus. However, Paul does refer to the Ephesians explicitly in his letter to the Ephesians, in 1 Corinthians (15:32, 16:8), and in 1 and 2 Timothy.
Once again I am amazed that Quixie would ignore both the knowledge of Paul’s life and ministry demonstrated by this reference and Ignatius’ knowledge of multiple Pauline letters relating to the Ephesian church. But there is more. In Ignatius' letter to the Roman Church he again explicitly refers to Paul: "I do not give you orders like Peter and Paul, they were apostles...." Ign. Rom. 4:3. Ignatius knew that Paul was an Apostle and had interacted with the Roman Church (perhaps by his letter to the Romans or by his later stay in Rome). I suppose gross incompetence can explain these omissions along with his failure to read 1 Clement when Quixie “analyzed” that letter, but he clearly is a blogger whose biases dominate his analysis.
Ignatius Demonstrates Other Knowledge of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
The initial likelihood of Ignatius’ knowledge of Paul’s letters to the Ephesians must be acknowledged in light of Ignatius’ awareness of Paul’s connection with the Ephesian church which he links to Paul’s reference to them in his letters. In addition to the explicit reference, however, there are strong signs of literary dependence. Packed into the first portion of Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians and Paul’s Ephesians 1:3-6 are the same or similar Greek terms referring to Jesus and God the Father, emphasis on Christians being chosen by God before creation, arguing that the pre-creation calling was related to showing the Glory of God, and emphasizing that this was all in accordance with the will of the Father. Edouard Massaux, The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature before Saint Irenaeus, Bk. 1, pages 105-06. Paul Foster, examining the same passages, notes at least 10 Greek terms that are shared or slightly modified by Ignatius from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Foster's analysis leads him to conclude that “while each of these terms occurs with different frequencies in wider Hellenistic literature, their occurrence in such close proximity in both passages makes literary dependence almost certain.” Foster, “The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch and the Writings that later formed the New Testament,” in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, page, 165.
Also coming from the first part of Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians is the phrase “imitators of God.” Ign. Eph. 1:1. This is similar to the way Paul uses the same phrase, “imitators of God.” Eph. 5:1 (exhorting the Ephesians to “be imitators of God”). Interestingly, Paul’s reference encourages the Ephesian church to aspire to be “imitators of God,” whereas Ignatius, writing decades later and full of praise for the Ephesian church, appears to be acknowledging that the Ephesians have reached the standard Paul put to them. They have become imitators of God by their godly behavior and character. Additionally, as Barnett notes, the reference to “imitators of God” in Eph. 5:1 is “its only occurrence in the New Testament. The context with its exhortation to kindliness and forgiveness strengthens this probability [of literary dependence].” Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, page 154.
Further, compare another passage in Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians, Ign. Eph. 20.1 (referring to “the new man Jesus Christ, involving faith in him”) with two passages in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Eph. 2.15 (referring to creating a “new man” through the cross) and Eph. 4:24 (referring to putting on the “new self” in righteousness). The Oxford Society notes that “St. Paul uses the phrase in a slightly different sense; but, as Lightfoot suggests, Ignatius may have taken ‘to put on the new man’ as meaning ‘to put on Christ,’ an explanation, we may add, which St. Paul would not have repudiated.” OSHT, op. cit., page 68. Foster also concludes it probable that there is a literary contact between these two passages. Op. cit., page 169.
All told, the case from Ignatius' letter to the Ephesians alone demonstrates a very high likelihood that he was familiar with Paul's own letter to the same church. This includes an explicit reference as well as several similarities in vocabulary, theme, and context that make an overwhelming case.
In addition to these additional contacts with Ephesians, there are other points of literary contact between Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and other Ignatian letters.
Compare Ign. Polycarp 5.1b (“In the same way command my brothers in the name of Jesus Christ to love their wives, as the Lord loves the church.”) with Eph. 5.25 (“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...”). Numerous studies have concluded that Ignatius is dependent on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians here. “Not only does this parallel show affinities in terminology between the two passages, but as the wider context in each epistle makes clear, both are addressed to husbands (or ‘brothers’ in the church), and both occur in the context of a wider household code.” Foster, op. cit., page 169. Massaux notes that “in addition to an absolutely parallel idea, the principal terms of Paul’s sentence are there.” Op. cit., page 113. A. Barnett and the Oxford Society of Historical Theology also rate the literary influence of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on Ignatius’ passage in his letter to Polycarp as highly probable. Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, page 165 (noting that Polycarp may also have borrowed terminology from Eph. 5:29), The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, page 67.
Next, compare Ign. Pol. 1.2 (“Bear with all people, even as the Lord bears with you; endure all in love”) and Eph. 4.2-4 (“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”). Massaux notes that Paul uses the same verb for “bears/bearing” and the same substantive for “love”. Op. cit., page 112 (noting that a literary influence seems probable). Foster also thinks this is a probable literary contact. Foster, op. cit., page 169.
Another likely literary contact is between Ign. Smyrn. 1.1-2 and Eph. 2.14-16. Both speak of the “blood of Christ” and “the cross” as bringing together Jews and Gentiles in “the one body.” “The context of both passages contains a reference to Isaiah, as well as the common idea of Jew and Gentile as one body.” OSHT, op. cit., page 68. Further, “[t]he parallel use of the phrase ev evi qwuati [“the one body”] to describe the church creates the strong possibility of literary acquaintance. The context of the passages strengthens this probability.” Barnett, op. cit., page 164. Foster also concludes there is probably a literary contact between the two. Op. cit., page 169.
There are other possible literary contacts between Ignatius' letters and Paul's letter to the Ephesians, including Ign. Polycarp 6:2 and Eph. 6:13-17 (discussing spiritual “armor”); Ign. Eph. 12.2 and Eph. 1:9; and Ign. Magn. 13:2 (admonishing the church to be subject to “one another”) and Eph. 5:21 (Paul admonishing the church to “be subject to one another”).
All told, the case for Ignatius' knowledge of Paul's life as an Apostle and his literary acquaintance with Paul's letter to the Ephesians is convincing.
Update: If you follow the third link you will find that Quixie's post about 1 Clement and Ignatius is no longer at the end of it. I am not sure what to make of this. It was removed shortly after I posted this piece and left a link for Quixie on his blog alerting him to my latest response. It is possible he is updating it -- again -- or that he has simply taken it down. Perhaps we will see.