Archive for the ‘Ignatius’ Category

Henry Newcome on Ignatius and Transubstantiation

May 18, 2017

Henry Newcome, in 1705, tackled the question of Ignatius and Transubstantiation, in response to a Roman Catholic priest identified as T.B.:

He begins with Ignatius, concerning some Heretics, (Ignatius’ Epistle to the Smyrneans) that received not Eucharist or Oblations, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the Flesh of Christ. (T. B. Section 1)

The Heretics he means, were the Followers of Simon and Menander, who denied the reality of Christ’s Flesh, and for that Reason admitted not the Eucharist. And what is this to Transubstantiation, that some Heretics, because they did not believe that Christ was really Incarnate, would not admit the Eucharist, the Symbols whereof represented and supposed a real Incarnation? Heresy is prolific of Heresy, and their Disbelief of the Incarnation made them reject the Eucharist, lest they would be forced to confess the Flesh of Christ. For if they allowed the Symbols of a true Body, they would be obliged to grant a true Body, since a mere Phantom can have no Sign or Symbol. Thus your Cardinal Bellarmine answers for us (Bellarmine On the Eucharist, book 1, chapter 1, p. 400), Lest the Calvinists (says he) should Glory of the Antiquity of their Opinion, it is to be observed, that those ancient Heretics did not so much oppose the Eucharist as the Mystery of the Incarnation. For therefore (as Ignatius shows in the same place) they denied the Eucharist to be the Flesh of the Lord, because they denied the Lord to have Flesh. If then in the Judgment of your Cardinal these Heretics were no Calvinists, Ignatius in condemning them, neither condemns Calvinists, nor countenances Transubstantiators: What we teach, that the Elements are Sacramental Signs of Christ’s Body, is as inconsistent with the Sentiments of those Heretics as Transubstantiation, since such Figures of a Body (as Tertullian argues against the Marcionites) prove the Reality of Christ’s Flesh, and that it was no Phantom, which can have no Figure. I may add, That Theodoret, out of whose third Dialogue this Passage of Ignatius is restored (which was not to be found in former Editions of Ignatius) hath plainly declared against the Eutychians (as I have formerly observed) that the Symbols after Consecration recede not from their own Nature, but remain in their former Substance. And he must have a very mean Opinion of Theodoret’s Judgment, who can think he imagined this Passage of Ignatius inconsistent with his own Opinion; which would have been to have helped the Heretics instead of confuting them. To conclude, examine this Testimony by the latter part of my fifth Rule, and show us where Ignatius says a Word of the changing of the Substance of the Bread into the Substance of Christ’s Body: Which is the Doctrine of the Trent Council, and what T. B. was to prove.

(Part 1, “An Answer to Some Testimonies produced by T. B. from the Fathers of the Six First Centuries, for Transubstantiation,” pp. 49-50 – spellings modernized)

Theodoret’s Dialogue 3 “The Impasible” (mentioned by Bellarmine)

I should caution that I believe Bellarmine may, on some other occasion, have attempted to use Ignatius against a symbolic understanding of the Eucharist. In any event, however, Bellarmine (as alleged by Newcome) is correct in stating that the objection of the heretics to the Eucharist was a denial of Christ’s true humanity – not a denial of a change of the elements.


Dr Joe Mizzi on Ignatius and Transubstantiation

May 17, 2017

Dr Joe Mizzi has an interesting article (link to article) on the church fathers and transubstantiation, which includes the following:


Ignatius argued against the Gnostic Docetists. They denied the true physical existence of our Lord; thus they also denied his death and resurrection. Ignatius wrote:

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again.

The problem with the Gnostics concerned the person of Christ and not the nature of the Eucharist. The heretics did not participate in the Eucharist because they did not believe in what the Eucharist represents, namely the true, physical flesh of Jesus, who actually and really suffered on the cross, and who was really resurrected from the dead.

We do not have to take the phrase “the Eucharist is the flesh” in a literalistic manner. As in everyday speech, as well as in the Bible, it could simply mean that the Eucharist represents the flesh of Christ. To illustrate, take a similar argument by Tertullian. He is also using the Eucharist to combat Docetism:

Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, “This is my body,” that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body (Against Marcion, Bk 4).

Tertullian is even more emphatic than Ignatius. He says that Jesus made the bread his own body. But unlike Ignatius, Tertullian goes on to clarify what he meant. Rather than saying that the bread ceases to exist, he calls it the “the figure” of the body of Christ and maintains a clear distinction between the figure and what it represents, namely the “veritable body” of our Lord.

Mizzi is right. Ignatius was arguing against the Docetists, who denied that Jesus had flesh, who denied that he suffered, and denied that he was raised to life (because they denied he died). They said he only “seemed” to be a man. This explains, therefore, why they abstain from the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is a memorial specifically of Jesus body and blood.


Some Early Christian Writings on Justification

December 5, 2009

Clement of Rome on Justification:

And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever.

– Clement of Rome, (his, not Paul’s) 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 32

Ignatius on Justification:

But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.

– Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians, Chapter VIII (Short Version)

To such persons I say that my archives are Jesus Christ, to disobey whom is manifest destruction. My authentic archives are His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which bears on these things, by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.

– Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians, Chapter VIII (Long Version)

Mathetes on Justification:

But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!

– Mathetes, Letter to Diognetus, Chapter 9

Justin Martyr on Justification:

For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham. For when Abraham himself was in uncircumcision, he was justified and blessed by reason of the faith which he reposed in God, as the Scripture tells. Moreover, the Scriptures and the facts themselves compel us to admit that He received circumcision for a sign, and not for righteousness.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 23

Irenaeus on Justification:

And again, confirming his former words, he says, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.”47304730 Gal. iii. 6, etc. Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any 562 inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 32, Section 2

For the Lord is the good man of the house, who rules the entire house of His Father; and who delivers a law suited both for slaves and those who are as yet undisciplined; and gives fitting precepts to those that are free, and have been justified by faith, as well as throws His own inheritance open to those that are sons.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 9, Section 1

And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows,— that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, “believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.” Then, again, Lot, without circumcision, was brought out from Sodom, receiving salvation from God. So also did Noah, pleasing God, although he was uncircumcised, receive the dimensions [of the ark], of the world of the second race [of men]. Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man, and was translated, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgment of God, because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment, but the man who pleased [God] was translated for salvation. Moreover, all the rest of the multitude of those righteous men who lived before Abraham, and of those patriarchs who preceded Moses, were justified independently of the things above mentioned, and without the law of Moses. As also Moses himself says to the people in Deuteronomy: “The Lord thy God formed a covenant in Horeb. The Lord formed not this covenant with your fathers, but for you.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 16, Section 2

The Lord, therefore, was not unknown to Abraham, whose day he desired to see; nor, again, was the Lord’s Father, for he had learned from the Word of the Lord, and believed Him; wherefore it was accounted to him by the Lord for righteousness. For faith towards God justifies a man; and therefore he said, “I will stretch forth my hand to the most high God, who made the heaven and the earth.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 5

For “all men come short of the glory of God,”41834183 Rom. iii. 23. [Another testimony to the mercy of God in the judgment of the unevangelized. There must have been some reason for the secrecy with which “that presbyter’s” name is guarded. Irenæus may have scrupled to draw the wrath of the Gnostics upon any name but his own.] and are not justified of themselves, but by the advent of the Lord,—they who earnestly direct their eyes towards His light.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 27, Section 2

And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man [Editor’s footnote: That is, as Harvey observes, the natural man, as described in Rom. ii. 27.] is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. “For,” He remarks, “it has been said to them of old time, Do not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one who hath looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 13, Section 1


Devin Rose on Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and the Eucharist

December 2, 2009

Over in the over-flowing comment box at the Roman Catholic blog Called to Communion, Devin Rose has provided a comment that veers slightly off the stated topic for that box. I’m providing a response here instead of there both to keep that discussion on topic and because (for the moment) the CTC site is undergoing maintenance and the comment boxes are apparently all closed.

Devin Rose wrote (in part):

We were discussing the Eucharist: they both believe in the symbolic-only Eucharist (ala Zwingli and the Baptists) whereas I as a Catholic believe in transubstantiation. I asked them how can we know what the Apostles believed on this subject, given that we disagree with each other on how to interpret the Bible on this doctrine.

They said it comes down to their belief in the Bible and how clearly it teaches the symbolic-only Eucharist. I told them that, since we disagree on the interpretation, what if we looked at other sources, say, two of the early Christian leaders whose writings we know are authentic: St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Justin Martyr. I am sure you are familiar with what they wrote about the Eucharist. In short, they unequivocally speak of the bread and the wine becoming the body and blood of Christ. Even if one were to try to interpret their words in the most Baptist-leaning way possible, they fall much closer to the Catholic (and Lutheran and even Calvinist) belief on the Eucharist than the Zwinglian/Baptist symbolic belief.


I have four main responses:

1) Yes, your friends are right to go to the Scriptures. Since Scripture dates to the time of the apostles, is inspired, and (in many cases) was penned by an apostle, it is the best possible evidence as to what the Apostles believed. Going to an apostolic father (like Ignatius) or to a very early Christian writer (like Justin Martyr) is only second and third best (Ignatius was in an overlapping generation with the apostles and Justin Martyr was in one of the first generations that did not overlap with the apostles). Similarly, while we know the text of Scripture with high confidence for virtually all its verses, the text of Ignatius is actually open to significant doubt at many places. Not only are many of the letters attributed to him inauthentic, but the authentic letters have been variously interpolated over the years so that we have, in essence, two versions – a long version in which we have little confidence that it is fully authentic – and a short version in which we have higher confidence that it is authentic. The text of Justin Martyr is substantially less controversial, but again – the textual transmission of Justin Martyr is nowhere near as good as the textual transmission of the Scriptures, especially the New Testament.

2) In point of fact, the Scriptures are sufficient to resolve the matter as to what the Apostles believed. But if you will insist that the Scriptures are ambiguous or somehow lack sufficient authority, we can examine with you the historical record of tradition. Nevertheless, the historical record shows that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is something developed rather late. The term itself doesn’t come around for about a thousand years or so. The concept without the word is also not found. In other words, we don’t find the accidents/substance distinction being enunciated by the fathers of the church significantly prior to the development of the term.

3) As to the specific instances of Ignatius and Justin Martyr, they do use expressions that are frequently used in this sort of discussion. The two most popular quotations alleged from Ignatius are the following (taken from an article on the Real Presence at – link to the article):

“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

(I’ve previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn’t teach transubstantiation.)

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

(Similarly, I’ve also previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn’t teach transubstantiation.)

As noted above, I’ve previously demonstrated that these quotations don’t teach transubstantiation. However, I could have gone further. Note that Ignatius uses words that sound like a literal identification between the bread and the flesh. But consider that Ignatius elsewhere makes a similar identification:

Not that I know there is anything of this kind among you; but I put you on your guard, inasmuch as I love you greatly, and foresee the snares of the devil. Wherefore, clothing yourselves with meekness, be renewed in faith, that is the flesh of the Lord, and in love, that is the blood of Jesus Christ. Let no one of you cherish any grudge against his neighbour. Give no occasion to the Gentiles, lest by means of a few foolish men the whole multitude [of those that believe] in God be evil spoken of. For, “Woe to him by whose vanity my name is blasphemed among any.” [Isaiah 52:5]

– Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians, Chapter 8 (Short Version – both versions available here)

Notice how, in this passage, Ignatius calls “faith” the “flesh of the Lord” and calls “love” the “blood of Jesus Christ.” If he had said this about the bread and the cup, you might have thought he intended a transubstantial sense to his words. Here, however, you can plainly see that he does not intend such a sense. Instead, is employing metaphor.

Similarly, with Justin, the typical quotation is this (using the same article identified above):

“We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

(I’ve likewise previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn’t teach transubstantiation.)

And again, I can do more than simply point out that the quotation used doesn’t teach transubstantiation. I can show that Justin viewed the Eucharist as literally bread:

And the offering of fine flour, sirs, which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord: but you profane it.’ [Malachi 1:10-12] [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 41 (link to source – most footnotes at source omitted above)

Notice how in this passage, Justin explains that the oblation of flour for the purification of leprosy pre-shadowed the bread of the Eucharist. And how the sacrifice of the bread and cup (for Justin) are a sacrifice of bread, similar to the oblation of fine flour in the Old Testament administration there. Notice as well that Justin views the sacrament as a “celebration … in remembrance” but not a re-presentation.

In fact, we see this stated even more clearly in a later chapter:

But I must repeat to you the words of Isaiah referred to, in order that from them you may know that these things are so. They are these: “Hear, you that are far off, what I have done; those that are near shall know my might. The sinners in Zion are removed; trembling shall seize the impious. Who shall announce to you the everlasting place? The man who walks in righteousness, speaks in the right way, hates sin and unrighteousness, and keeps his hands pure from bribes, stops the ears from hearing the unjust judgment of blood closes the eyes from seeing unrighteousness: he shall dwell in the lofty cave of the strong rock. Bread shall be given to him, and his water [shall be] sure. You shall see the King with glory, and your eyes shall look far off. Your soul shall pursue diligently the fear of the Lord. Where is the scribe? Where are the counsellors? Where is he that numbers those who are nourished—the small and great people? With whom they did not take counsel, nor knew the depth of the voices, so that they heard not. The people who have become depreciated, and there is no understanding in him who hears.” [Isaiah 33:13-19] Now it is evident, that in this prophecy [allusion is made] to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 70 (link to source – most footnotes at source omitted)

Notice how Justin suggests that bread is given not as the flesh and blood as such, but rather in remembrance of those things.

4) Consider finally the absurdity of assuming that every time “[X] is [Y]” is used of things having two different substances, we should view this in a transubstantial sense.

1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Will Mr. Rose try to suggest that the Rock was Christ in substance under the accidents of Rock? Surely no one would be so foolish as to make such a suggestion. May I further suggest to you that the only reason that you view the statement “This is my body” in a transubstantial sense is that you have been taught this tradition. It is not something found in the text or learned from it. Furthermore, the tradition itself is not a tradition that comes from the apostles. The historical evidence shows us that not only the term “transubstantiation” but the idea behind it were later developments, not the original apostolic teaching.


This is Catholic Internet Apologetics and a Reasonable Response thereto

March 6, 2008

GNRHead posted a two-part diatribe broadsiding Dr. White with a significant number of accusations, even taking time to wave his finger at the camera and insist that Dr. White should be ashamed of himself.

Dr. White posted the video that I have embedded below that makes short work of the bulk of GNRHead’s argument. There is certainly more that could be said, and there are unaswered (though not unanswerable) allegations.

The main point, though, is a good one. It is important for apologists to have a reasonably broad knowledge of church history, because there are all sorts of absurd claims that float about on the Internet.

Here is the video:

I hope you enjoy.

Sola Deo Gloria,


Another Calvinistic Jewel in the Apostolic Fathers

March 3, 2008

CAVEAT: “Calvinistic” is an anachronism. Calvin wasn’t born yet. The proper chronological way to describe the situation is to say that Calvin was being Ignatian — or (better yet) that both Calvin and Ignatius were being Scriptural.

As I was concluding my reading of one book of selections the apostolic fathers, I read through the Syriac versions of Ignatius (in English translation) and came across this Calvinistic gem, taken from Ignatius’ Second Epistle to the Ephesians:

Ignatius, who is Theophorus, to the Church which is blessed in the greatness of God the Father, and perfected; to her who was separated from eternity to be at all times for glory that abideth and changeth not, and is perfected and chosen in the purpose of truth, by the will of the Father of Jesus Christ our God; to her who was worthy of happiness; to her who is at Ephesus in Jesus Christ in joy unblamable; much peace.



Gems of Calvinism from the Early Church: Ignatius

March 1, 2008

CAVEAT: “Calvinistic” is an anachronism. Calvin wasn’t born yet. The proper chronological way to describe the situation is to say that Calvin was being Ignatian — or (better yet) that both Calvin and Ignatius were being Scriptural.

In my reading of the Apostolic Fathers, another gem from the Apostolic Fathers caught my eye, this one from the Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians (opening sentence):

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus in Asia, deservedly thought happy, blessed in the greatness and fulness of God the Father, predestinated before the worlds to be for ever for a glory abiding, not to be overturned, united and elect in the true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God, much joy in Jesus Christ and in blameless grace.



%d bloggers like this: