Introductory Note to the Syriac Version
of the Ignatian Epistles
[N.B. Bunsen is forced to allow the fact that the discovery of the lost work
of Hippolytus "throws new light on an obscure point of the Ignatian
controversy," i.e., the Sige in the Epistle to the Magnesians (cap. viii.);
but his treatment of the matter is unworthy of a candid scholar.]
Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and
first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional
introductionary material and notes provided for the American
edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.
When the Syriac version of the Ignatian Epistles was introduced to the
English world in 1845, by Mr. Cureton, the greatest satisfaction was
expressed by many, who thought the inveterate controversy about to be
settled. Lord Russell made the learned divine a canon of Westminster Abbey,
and the critical Chevalier Bunsen  committed himself as its patron. To
the credit of the learned, in general, the work was gratefully received, and
studied with scientific conscientiousness by Lightfoot and others. The
literature of this period is valuable; and the result is decisive as to the
Curetonian versions at least, which are fragmentary and abridged, and yet
they are a valuable contribution to the study of the whole case.
The following is the original Introductory Notice:
Some account of the discovery of the Syriac version of the Ignatian Epistles
has been already given. We have simply to add here a brief description of
the mss. from which the Syriac text has been printed. That which is named a
by Cureton, contains only the Epistle to Polycarp, and exhibits the text of
that Epistle which, after him, we have followed. He fixes its age somewhere
in the first half of the sixth century, or before the year 550. The second
ms., which Cureton refers to as b, is assigned by him to the seventh or
eighth century. It contains the three Epistles of Ignatius, and furnishes
the text here followed in the Epistles to the Ephesians and Romans. The
third ms., which Cureton quotes as g, has no date, but, as he tells us,
"belonged to the collection acquired by Moses of Nisibis in a.d. 931, and
was written apparently about three or four centuries earlier." It contains
the three Epistles to Polycarp, the Ephesians, and the Romans. The text of
all these mss. is in several passages manifestly corrupt, and the
translators appear at times to have mistaken the meaning of the Greek
 See the extraordinary passage and note in his Hippolytus, vol. i. p.
The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp 
Ignatius, who is [also called] Theophorus, to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, or
rather, who has as his own bishop God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ:
[wishes] abundance of happiness.
Because thy mind is acceptable to me, inasmuch as it is established in God,
as on a rock which is immoveable, I glorify God the more exceedingly that I
have been counted worthy of [seeing] thy face, which I longed after in God.
Now I beseech thee, by the grace with which thou art clothed, to add [speed]
to thy course, and that thou ever pray for all men that they may be saved,
and that thou demand  things which are befitting, with all assiduity
both of the flesh and spirit. Be studious of unity, than which nothing is
more precious. Bear with all men, even as our Lord beareth with thee. Show
patience  with all men in love, as [indeed] thou doest. Be stedfast in
prayer. Ask for more understanding than that which thou [already] hast. Be
watchful, as possessing a spirit which sleepeth not. Speak with every man
according to the will of God. Bear the infirmities of all men as a perfect
athlete; for where the labour is great, the gain is also great.
 For "vindicate thy place" in the Greek.
 Literally, "draw out thy spirit."
If thou lovest the good disciples only, thou hast no grace; [but] rather
subdue those that are evil by gentleness. All [sorts of] wounds are not
healed by the same medicine. Mitigate [the pain of] cutting  by
tenderness. Be wise as the serpent in everything, and innocent, with respect
to those things which are requisite, even as the dove. For this reason thou
art [composed] of both flesh and spirit, that thou mayest entice 
those things which are visible before thy face, and mayest ask, as to those
which are concealed from thee, that they [too] may be revealed to thee, in
order that thou be deficient in nothing, and mayest abound in all gifts. The
time demands, even as a pilot does a ship, and as one who stands exposed to
the tempest does a haven, that thou shouldst be worthy of God. Be thou
watchful as an athlete of God. That which is promised to us is life eternal,
which cannot be corrupted, of which things thou art also persuaded. In
everything I will be instead  of thy soul, and my bonds which thou
 Cureton observes, as one alternative here, that "the Syrian
translator seems to have read paraxusma for paroxusmous."
 Or, "flatter," probably meaning to "deal gently with."
 Thus the Syriac renders antipsuchon in the Greek.
Let not those who seem to be somewhat, and teach strange doctrines, strike
thee with apprehension; but stand thou in the truth, as an athlete 
who is smitten, for it is [the part] of a great athlete to be smitten, and
[yet] conquer. More especially is it fitting that we should bear everything
for the sake of God, that He also may bear us. Be [still] more diligent than
thou yet art. Be discerning of the times. Look for Him that is above the
times, Him who has no times, Him who is invisible, Him who for our sakes
became visible, Him who is impalpable, Him who is impassible, Him who for
our sakes suffered, Him who endured everything in every form for our sakes.
 The Greek has akmōn, "an anvil."
Let not the widows be overlooked; on account of  our Lord be thou
their guardian, and let nothing be done without thy will; also do thou
nothing without the will of God, as indeed thou doest not. Stand rightly.
Let there be frequent  assemblies: ask every man [to them] by his
name. Despise not slaves, either male or female; but neither let them be
contemptuous, but let them labour the more as for the glory of God, that
they may be counted worthy of a more precious freedom, which is of God. Let
them not desire to be set free out of the common [fund], lest they be found
the slaves of lust.
 The Greek has meta, "after."
 Or, "constant," "regular."
Flee wicked arts; but all the more discourse regarding them. Speak to my
sisters, that they love in our Lord, and that their husbands be sufficient
for them in the flesh and spirit. Then, again, charge my brethren in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, as our Lord His
Church. If any man is able in power to continue in purity,  to the
honour of the flesh of our Lord, let him continue so without boasting; if he
boasts, he is undone; if he become known apart from the bishop, he has
destroyed himself.  It is becoming, therefore, to men and women who
marry, that they marry with the counsel of the bishop, that the marriage may
be in our Lord, and not in lust. Let everything, therefore, be [done] for
the honour of God.
 i.e., "in celibacy."
 Or, "corrupted himself."
Look ye to the bishop, that God also may look upon you. I will be instead of
the souls of those who are subject to the bishop, and the presbyters, and
the deacons; with them may I have a portion in the presence of God! Labour
together with one another, act as athletes  together, run together,
suffer together, sleep together, rise together. As stewards of God, and of
His household,  and His servants, please Him and serve Him, that ye
may receive from Him the wages [promised]. Let none of you be rebellious.
Let your baptism be to you as armour, and faith as a spear, and love as a
helmet, and patience as a panoply. Let your treasures be your good works,
that ye may receive the gift of God, as is just. Let your spirit be
long-suffering towards each other with meekness, even as God [is] toward
you. As for me, I rejoice in you at all times.
 Literally, "make the contest."
 Literally, "sons of His house."
The Christian has not power over himself, but is [ever] ready to be subject
to God. 
 These are the only parts of chaps. vii. and viii. in the Greek that
are represented in the Syriac.
I salute him who is reckoned worthy to go to Antioch in my stead, as I
commanded thee. 
 These are the only parts of chaps. vii. and viii. in the Greek that
are represented in the Syriac.
 The inscription varies in each of the three Syriac mss., being in the
first, "The Epistle of my lord Ignatius, the bishop;" in the second, "The
Epistle of Ignatius;" and in the third, "The Epistle of Ignatius, bishop of
The Second Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 
Ignatius, who is [also called] Theophorus, to the Church which is blessed in
the greatness of God the Father, and perfected; to her who was selected
 from eternity, that she might be at all times for glory, which
abideth, and is unchangeable, and is perfected and chosen in the purpose of
truth by the will of the Father of Jesus Christ our God; to her who is
worthy of happiness; to her who is at Ephesus, in Jesus Christ, in joy which
is unblameable: [wishes] abundance of happiness.
 Another inscription is, "Epistle the Second, which is to the
 Literally, "separated."
Inasmuch as your name, which is greatly beloved, is acceptable to me in God,
[your name] which ye have acquired by nature, through a right and just will,
and also by the faith and love of Jesus Christ our Saviour, and ye are
imitators of God, and are fervent in the blood of God, and have speedily
completed a work congenial to you; [for] when ye heard that I was bound,
 so as to be able to do nothing for the sake of the common name and
hope (and I hope, through your prayers, that I may be devoured by beasts at
Rome, so that by means of this of which I have been accounted worthy, I may
be endowed with strength to be a disciple of God), ye were diligent to come
and see me. Seeing, then, that we have become acquainted with your multitude
 in the name of God, by Onesimus, who is your bishop, in love which is
unutterable, whom I pray that ye love in Jesus Christ our Lord, and that all
of you imitate his example,  for blessed is He who has given you such
a bishop, even as ye deserve [to have]. 
 Literally, "bound for actions."
 Cureton renders, "have received your abundance," probably referring
the words to gifts sent by the Ephesians to Ignatius.
 Literally, "be in his image."
 There is no Apodosis, unless it be found in what follows.
Chapter III. 
But inasmuch as love does not permit me to be silent in regard to you, on
this account I have been forward to entreat of you that ye would be diligent
in the will of God.
 The following clause is the whole of chap. iii. in the Greek, which
is represented in the Syriac.
Chapter VIII. 
For, so long as there is not implanted in you any one lust which is able to
torment you, behold, ye live in God. I rejoice in you, and offer
supplication  on account of you, Ephesians, a Church which is renowned
in all ages. For those who are carnal are not able to do spiritual things,
nor those that are spiritual carnal things; in like manner as neither can
faith [do] those things which are foreign to faith, nor want of faith [do]
what belongs to faith. For those things which ye have done in the flesh,
even these are spiritual, because ye have done everything in Jesus Christ.
 Chaps. iv. v. vi. vii. of the Greek are totally omitted in the
 Thus Cureton renders the words, referring in confirmation to the
Peshito version of Phil. i. 4, but the meaning is doubtful.
And ye are prepared for the building of God the Father, and ye are raised up
on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross; and ye are
drawn by the rope, which is the Holy Spirit; and your pulley is your faith,
and your love is the way which leadeth up on high to God.
Pray for all men; for there is hope of repentance for them, that they may be
counted worthy of God. By your works especially let them be instructed.
Against their harsh words be ye conciliatory, by meekness of mind and
gentleness. Against their blasphemies do ye give yourselves to prayer; and
against their error be ye armed with faith. Against their fierceness be ye
peaceful and quiet, and be ye not astounded by them. Let us, then, be
imitators of our Lord in meekness, and strive who shall more especially be
injured, and oppressed, and defrauded.
Chapter XIV. 
The work is not of promise,  unless a man be found in the power of
faith, even to the end.
 Chaps. xi. xii. xiii. of the Greek are totally wanting in the Syriac,
and only these few words of chaps. xiv. and xv. are represented.
 The meaning seems to be that mere profession, without continuous
practice, is nothing.
It is better that a man should be silent while he is something, than that he
should be talking when he is not; that by those things which be speaks he
should act, and by those things of which he is silent he should be known.
Chapter XVIII. 
My spirit bows in adoration to the cross, which is a stumbling-block to
those who do not believe, but is to you for salvation and eternal life.
 Chaps. xvi. and xvii. of the Greek are totally wanting in the Syriac.
There was concealed from the ruler of this world the virginity of Mary and
the birth of our Lord, and the three renowned mysteries  which were
done in the tranquillity of God from the star. And here, at the
manifestation of the Son, magic began to be destroyed, and all bonds were
loosed; and the ancient kingdom and the error of evil was destroyed.
Henceforward all things were moved together, and the destruction of death
was devised, and there was the commencement of that which was perfected in
 Literally, "the mysteries of the shout." The meaning is here confused
and obscure. See the Greek.
 Chaps. xx. and xxi. of the Greek are altogether wanting in the
Syriac. [N.B. See spurious Epistle to Philippians, cap. 4, infra. This
concealment from Satan of the mystery of the incarnation is the explanation,
according to the Fathers, of his tempting the Messiah, and prompting His
crucifixion. Also, Christ the more profoundly humbled himself, "ne subtilis
ille diaboli oculus magnum hoc pietatis deprehenderet sacramentum" (St.
Bernard, opp. ii. 1944). Bernard also uses this opinion very strikingly
(opp. ii. 1953) in one of his sermons, supposing that Satan discovered the
secret too late for his own purpose, and then prompted the outcry, Come down
from the cross, to defeat the triumph of the second Adam. (Comp. St. Mark i.
24 and St. Luke iv. 34, where, after the first defeat of the tempter, this
demon suspects the second Adam, and tries to extort the secret).]
The Third Epistle of the Same St. Ignatius 
Ignatius, who is [also called] Theophorus, to the Church which has received
grace through the greatness of the Father Most High; to her who presideth in
the place of the region of the Romans, who is worthy of God, and worthy of
life, and happiness, and praise, and remembrance, and is worthy of
prosperity, and presideth in love, and is perfected in the law of Christ
unblameable: [wishes] abundance of peace.
From of old have I prayed to God, that I might be counted worthy to behold
your faces which are worthy of God: now, therefore, being bound in Jesus
Christ, I hope to meet you and salute you, if it be the will [of God] that I
should be accounted worthy to the end. For the beginning is well arranged,
if I be counted worthy to attain to the end, that I may receive my portion,
without hindrance, through suffering. For I am in fear of your love, lest it
should injure me. As to you, indeed, it is easy for you to do whatsoever ye
wish; but as to me, it is difficult for me to be accounted worthy of God, if
indeed ye spare me not.
For there is no other time such as this, that I should be accounted worthy
of God; neither will ye, if ye be silent, [ever] be found in a better work
than this. If ye let me alone, I shall be the word of God; but if ye love my
flesh, again am I [only] to myself a voice. Ye cannot give me anything more
precious than this, that I should be sacrificed to God, while the altar is
ready; that ye may be in one concord in love, and may praise God the Father
through Jesus Christ our Lord, because He has deemed a bishop worthy to be
God s, having called him from the east to the west. It is good that I should
set from the world in God, that I may rise in Him to life. 
 Literally, "in life."
Ye have never envied any man. Ye have taught others. Only pray ye for
strength to be given to me from within and from without, that I may not only
speak, but also may be willing, and that I may not merely be called a
Christian, but also may be found to be [one]; for if I am found to be [so],
I may then also be called [so]. Then [indeed] shall I be faithful, when I am
no longer seen in the world. For there is nothing visible that is good. The
work is not [a matter  ] of persuasion; but Christianity is great when
the world hateth it.
 The meaning is probably similar to that expressed in chap. xiv. of
the Epistle in Ephesians.
I write to all the Churches, and declare to all men, that I willingly die
for the sake of God, if so be that ye hinder me not. I entreat of you not to
be [affected] towards me with a love which is unseasonable. Leave me to
become [the prey of] the beasts, that by their means I may be accounted
worthy of God. I am the wheat of God, and by the teeth of the beasts I shall
be ground,  that I may be found the pure bread of God. Provoke ye
greatly  the wild beasts, that they may be for me a grave, and may
leave nothing of my body, in order that, when I have fallen asleep, I may
not be a burden upon any one. Then shall I be in truth a disciple of Jesus
Christ, when the world seeth not even my body. Entreat of our Lord in my
behalf, that through these instruments I may be found a sacrifice to God. I
do not, like Peter and Paul, issue orders unto you. They are 
apostles, but I am one condemned; they indeed are free, but I am a slave,
even until now. But if I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus Christ,
and I shall rise in Him from the dead, free. And now being in bonds, I learn
to desire nothing.
 Literally, "I am ground."
 Literally, "with provoking, provoke."
 Literally, "they are who are."
From Syria, and even unto Rome, I am cast among wild beasts, by sea and by
land, by night and by day, being bound between ten leopards, which are the
band of soldiers, who, even when I do good to them, all the more do evil
unto me. I, however, am the rather instructed by their injurious treatment;
 but not on this account am I justified to myself. I rejoice in the
beasts which are prepared for me, and I pray that they may in haste be found
for me; and I will provoke them speedily to devour me, and not be as those
which are afraid of some other men,  and will not approach them: even
should they not be willing to approach me, I will go with violence against
them. Know me from myself what is expedient for me.  Let no one 
envy me of those things which are seen and which are not seen, that I should
be accounted worthy of Jesus Christ. Fire, and the cross, and the beasts
that are prepared, cutting off of the limbs, and scattering of the hones,
and crushing of the whole body, harsh torments of the devil let these come
upon me, but  only let me be accounted worthy of Jesus Christ.
 Literally, "by their injury."
 Literally, "and not as that which is afraid of some other men." So
Cureton translates, but remarks that the passage is evidently corrupt. The
reference plainly is to the fact that the beasts sometimes refused to attack
their intended victims. See the case of Blandina, as reported by Eusebius
(Hist. Eccl., v. 1.).
 Cureton renders interrogatively, "What is expedient for me?" and
remarks that "the meaning of the Syriac appears to be, I crave your
indulgence to leave the knowledge of what is expedient for me to my own
 Literally, "nothing."
 Literally, "and."
The pains of the birth stand over against me. 
 The Latin version translates the Greek here, "He adds gain to me."
And my love is crucified, and there is no fire in me for another love. I do
not desire the food of corruption, neither the lusts of this world. I seek
the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ; and I seek His blood,
a drink which is love incorruptible.
Chapter IX. 
My spirit saluteth you, and the love of the Churches which received me as
the name of Jesus Christ; for those also who were near to [my] way in the
flesh, preceded me in every city.
 [Now therefore, being about to arrive shortly in Rome, I know many
things in God; but I keep myself within measure, that I may not perish
through boasting: for now it is needful for me to fear the more, and not pay
regard to those who puff me up. For they who say such things to me scourge
me; for I desire to suffer, but I do not know if I am worthy. For zeal is
not visible to many, but with me it has war. I have need, therefore, of
meekness, by which the prince of this world is destroyed. I am able to write
to you of heavenly things, but I fear lest I should do you an injury. Know
me from myself. For I am cautious lest ye should not be able to receive
[such knowledge], and should be perplexed. For even I, not because I am in
bonds, and am able to know heavenly things, and the places of angels, and
the stations of the powers that are seen and that are not seen, am on this
account a disciple; for I am far short of the perfection which is worthy of
God.] Be ye perfectly strong  in the patience of Jesus Christ our God.
Here end the three Epistles of Ignatius, bishop and martyr. 
 Chap. viii. of the Greek is entirely omitted in the Syriac.
 The following passage is not found in this Epistle in the Greek
recensions, but forms, in substance, chaps. iv. and v. of the Epistle to the
Trallians. Diverse views are held by critics as to its proper place,
according to the degree of authority they ascribe to the Syriac version.
Cureton maintains that this passage has been transferred by fabrication by
introducing a part of the genuine writing of Ignatius; while Hefele asserts
that it is bound by the "closest connection" to the preceding chapter in the
Epistle to the Trallians.
 Or, as in the Greek, "Fare ye well, to the end."
 [N.B. The aphoristic genius of Ignatius seems to be felt by his
Syrian abbreviator, who reduces whole chapters to mere maxims.]
 Another inscription is, "The Third Epistle."
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