Ignatius of Antioch in Context

Back in the year 2004, I attended a seminary class taught by Dr. James White on the Early Church Fathers (also known as Patristics). It was fascinating to read the writings of precious men of God from the first few centuries who hold to the same faith as I do. Yet it has to be said, the Early Church Fathers were indeed a mixed bag.

Just as if you or I would go to a Christian bookstore today, we would find good books, scholarly books, and books that propagate shoddy scholarship and even false doctrine; so it was in the Early Church. Yet in studying their writings we learn a great deal about how the early Christians worshipped, what was important to them, what the issues were that were causing controversy and of course, what they believed about a whole host of issues.

I have a Roman Catholic friend named Steve. He told me some years back that he was considering quitting his full time job to seek training so that he might one day enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. As you might imagine, he and I have often had lively debate with each other, centering mostly on the subject of justification by faith alone, but on other issues too.

Just today Steve wrote to me challenging me to deal with the subject of Ignatius, an Early Church Father, who was discipled by the Apostle John. Because of his direct link to John, Ignatius is one of the most important Church Fathers.

The apologists of Rome often make the claim that Ignatius taught the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist (the term “eucharist” simply means “the giving of thanks”) and of transubstantiation (that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine, it becomes the literal blood, body and divinity of Jesus Christ). But is this true? Did Ignatius actually teach this? Or have Ignatius’ words been taken out of context?

Because the issue of Ignatius is an oft repeated claim of Rome, Dr. White put some of his class (dealing with Ignatius specifically) onto youtube videos. Because of time restraints (each video lasts only a few minutes) there are five videos. They are well worth the effort to watch them. I recommend them very highly.