Archive for July, 2018

ANF – The Martyrdom of Ignatius

July 31, 2018

This post is one of a series of reviews of the early Church Fathers, who are technically referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers (before the Council of Nicaea).  To find other reviews of these ancient writings, use the search bar on my blog and search for ANF.


The precise author of this is unknown, though the work itself indicates that it was written by someone accompanying Ignatius to Rome and his martyrdom.  If this is the case, then traditionally the author is assumed to be Philo, Agathopus, or Crocus.  Each of these individuals are mentioned in various of Ignatius’ letters as accompanying him on all or part of his journey.

However some modern scholars are skeptical of the ancientness of this document, pointing out that there are no references to it before the seventh century.  However an absence of references on hand today does not mean that it wasn’t referenced in writings we don’t have.  The sparseness of the account also leads other scholars to presume that it really was written by a contemporary of Ignatius.

After his various letters describing his deep desire to be martyred for the faith, the actual report of Ignatius’ death is very brief and devoid of detail.  He was presented to wild beasts to be torn apart on the 20th of December during the reign of Trajan.  Scholars differ as to the precise year, though the early 2nd century is the most likely (perhaps AD 107 or 116).  His remains amounted to nothing more than a few bones which were collected and sent to Antioch for preservation.


Steps of Change

July 30, 2018

Yesterday my congregation made the first of what will likely be multiple steps towards substantive  change in their ministry condition.  They voted to allow a long-term lease to expire about a year from now.  Doing so will mean the parting of ways with a Christian organization that has had long-standing ties with our congregation over the last  30 years or so.  It was a mutually beneficial relationship, in the early days ministerially as well  as financially.  In later years, the primary benefit to both parties was financial.

Parting ways will  mean that we’ll lose almost a third of the income  that makes  up our annual budget.  Nothing to sneeze at, to be sure.  While we’re  blessed to be finanicially stable to operate without this income for  several years, it isn’t a situation that is tenable for the long term.  In other words, now there will be some tangible pressure on the congregation to determine what they want to do in terms of ministry, and what is necessary to accomplish it.

That excites me.

The lease arrangement was comfortable.  It provided reliable income, but required nothing of our people in terms of mission or ministry.  Now  they have the duty and privilege of charting a course for the congregation that hopefully will continue long after they have gone to glory.  Rather than choosing comfort for a few more  years at the cost of the ministry’s future, they’ve opted for the harder road that could lead to substantive change.  Perhaps even sacrifice.

These are good things, in my estimation.  Not easy things, but good and important.  The next year will be pivotal in determining what our course forward will be and how we accomplish it.  I look forward to seeing the Holy Spirit’s continued leading and guiding.  We’ve been here for over 100 years.  What a privilege to work with these people to ensure that  we continue to minister in our community and beyond for as many more years as possible – perhaps another century!

Reading Ramblings – August 5, 2018

July 29, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 5, 2018

Texts: Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 145:10-21; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:22-35

Context: The season of Ordinary Time focuses on the life of the Church, those who have been called in faith as part of the body of Christ. But what does this mean, and what does this look like? How is a congregation a faithful part of the body of Christ? Where does the focus lie? What are the measures of success or failure? Too often, we evaluate churches and congregations the way we do businesses. How big is it? How quickly is it growing? How many customers/parishioners are in attendance every week? What are the plans for growth or expansion in the future? Our American consumerist mentality leads us to judge congregations based on their size, the newness and expansiveness of their facilities, their annual budget size, their staff level, and numerous other criteria. Growth and size and power are the emphases. All in the service of the Gospel, to be sure, but at what cost? Unity, often, for one. We have been called to be part of the Body of Christ. We are not ourselves the body, but only parts of it, over whom Christ is the head. Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance of unity. Being together in heart and mind. Culturally this is often a woefully neglected emphasis. In a culture where every person is supposed to determine all aspects of their life, what they believe to be right or wrong, true or false, acceptable or unacceptable – unity is destroyed. The body of Christ is atomized when we emphasize personal agency. But what is the alternative? Focus on the sustaining power of God the Father. Not on what we want or like but rather what He provides us with, just as He fed his people manna in the wilderness. Only if He is our emphasis can we hope for the unity that He himself provides us in the abiding presence of God the Holy Spirit, in the sacramental presence of God the Son.

Exodus 16:2-15 – God the Father provides his people with what they need. Not necessarily what we want, but what we need. He does so in myriad ways, but we are inclined to always seek for more, different, or what we consider to be better. How quickly we forget God’s deliverance, as He delivered his people from the genocidal Egyptians! Instead, we focus only on the moment’s lack or uncertainty, or the future’s lack of definition. How often we are willing to settle for a certain awfulness, rather than an uncertain hope and promise! We are anxious and irritable when we are not in control, when the illusion of control we cling to so desperately is removed and we are forced to consider how supremely and completely dependent we are upon our Creator. This might inspire terror if we know only God the Creator, and not God the Redeemer or God the Sanctifier. But we should be unified by our dependence on God’s provision, and the bond of common need and dependence that only the faithful can truly share.

Psalm 145:10-21 – Unity is found not in glorifying ourselves but in glorifying God. Unity is found not in emphasizing our personal wisdom or insight or strengths, but in recognizing all of these things as blessings of our Creator God to be used towards his glory alone through love and care of his creation and our fellow creatures. This psalm emphasizes how the Lord provides, and He chooses more often than not to provide through our fellow human beings. Rather than raining manna from heaven He leads some to tend the soil, some to raise animals, some to drive trucks and others to build grocery stores. We are all necessary parts of the way God cares for his Creation, and in seeing ourselves and one another in this way we are better able and hopefully more willing to seek unity rather than dominance, to value and prize one another simply for their existence as part of God’s marvelous creative activity and not simply as means to our ends, allies or opponents. If God has given me my neighbor, how can I mistreat them, or speak poorly of them, or seek to use them only for my personal advantage? How much more proper that I seek a unity of heart and mind with them in praise of our common Creator?

Ephesians 4:1-16 – Unity is the main emphasis here. Having prayed that God would bless the church in Ephesus with all his good gifts, Paul prays that they would exhibit this blessing in their unity. How can we fight with those around us whom God has blessed alongside of us? How can we criticize or blame or speak ill of these whom God has blessed us with as brothers and sisters in Christ in the very tangible sense rather than some abstract manner? We may disagree with one another, and have different perspectives and ideas. But all such perspectives and ideas are themselves gifts of God the Father! What is most important – more important than being right or being successful by the world’s definitions is how we seek unity with one another above all. How we would rather concede our point of view than allow Satan a place at the table by talking ill of others. We must value our brothers and sisters in faith not conceptually but actually. Not abstractly but concretely. And we must do so at any and all cost – other than the Truth of God’s Word, which must never be compromised or set aside! God has given us our differences to make us stronger, just as He has provided a variety of gifts and roles to be fulfilled among his people. Not to our glory but to his, and always towards the sole goal not of material prosperity or even growth but rather love of God through love of neighbor.

John 6:22-35 – Elect a king based on a free meal? Sounds silly, doesn’t it. What a small conception of God and what He offers to us! Yet how often are we equally presumptuous about what God should do for us? Good health? Financial security? Economic or social policies we agree with? How often do we want a God that will do the things we want him to do, but not a God that demands everything we are and have be submitted to him? Those people on the hillside were happy with a free meal but likely wouldn’t have been interested in taking up crosses and following Jesus to Golgotha. Are we any different? All too often, not. All too easily we presume God exists to satisfy us, rather than the Biblical assertion that we exist to worship and praise God. To rely on him for everything in good times or in bad. It is this shallowness of faith that Jesus calls us from. Jesus continues in this episode to insist that life is found only in partaking of him, something even his disciples exclaim is a hard teaching, difficult to hear and accept. But Jesus settles for nothing less. There is nothing less to be had. Either all or nothing. And either Jesus is the necessary aspect of every day of your life that He really is, or He really isn’t much of anything to us.

The Unexpected Tithe

July 22, 2018

I’m on vacation this week.  Which means I’m not leading worship and not writing out our weekly tithe check.  Part of me feels bad about this.  I try to fight against this part of me.  Not because I don’t value tithing but because I don’t like the legalistic guilt it inspires in me if I happen to miss a week.  If my comfort comes from putting a certain amount in the collection plate I’m sorely and dangerously mistaken.  I prefer the feeling of uncertainty that reminds me that my life and all I have belongs to the God who created and saved me and lives within me striving to make me holy.  Taking that reality for granted, as though I could pay off God with a certain amount each week is dangerous.  Deadly dangerous.

I walked out of my hotel about 1:30pm today.  I slept in – a Sunday luxury I very rarely have.  Again, the faint tug of guilt about not finding a church to attend.  Church is not my salvation,  though.  Christ is.  The Church points me to Christ and therefore the Church is beautiful and necessary and critical, but it is not in and of itself the answer, as though checking off an attendance box can put my soul at ease.  It shouldn’t, but it often tries to.

She was sitting by the entrance to the hotel I’m staying in.   I noticed one of the employees handing her a handful of granola bars as I searched for a newspaper, to no avail.  I exited the building, saying hi to her as she opened the granola bar.

Why was I thinking about her?  I crossed half the parking lot but there she was,  still in my mind.

Young-ish, but not too young.  Blonde hair showing brunette roots.

I turned around and went back to her. Are you hungry?   She nodded.  I’m heading to Denny’s, you can come with me and I’ll buy you a meal.

We walked the few hundred feet to Denny’s.   It was crowded.  She had a hospital bracelet on her arm and a taped pad to her upper arm from some sort of injection or blood withdrawal.  People watched us as we came in and waited.   I suppose that’s pretty impressive for a place like Vegas, where you assume people  have seen pretty much everything.  But here was something a bit out of place a few miles off the strip, this man in his slacks and this young woman in her shorts.  She pulled a long-sleeve white shirt on that covered the bandage.

So began the next four hours.

I don’t know if any of what she told me was true.  I pray I know someday.  We ate a breakfast lunch at Denny’s before walking a few blocks in 100+ degree heat to the CVS to fill her prescription for antibiotics for the kidney infection she had been discharged with this morning.  Food and coffee helped perk her up a bit for the walk.

Over breakfast-for-lunch it emerged that home, such as it was, is Reno.  Vegas is where she served a jail term, got her first job (at 28 years old), and been homeless for the past two months.  She’s been doing drugs for  15 years, with meth being her current choice.   I Googled and tried to figure out options.  The Greyhound for Reno left at 5:30pm.  It was 2:30 pm when we got out of the CVS with a prescription and enough snacks and necessity to tide her over on the nearly 24-hour bus ride to Reno, through LA and other parts in between.

The Greyhound folks weren’t encouraging.  We Ubered to the main bus station.  Along the way we picked up a couple from a now-famous pawn shop.  In town from Florida for a few days.  Complaining about a few meth-heads in the pawn shop,  and gushing about their gourmet meal the night before.  Jamie laughed along as we squeezed into the small car together.  I doubt the couple realized she was a meth-head.  I wonder what they would have said or thought?  At the Greyhound station we were told the bus was sold out, but we could try and get on it if someone didn’t show up.  We had two hours to kill at this point.  She ate half a Subway chicken sandwich and a McDonald’s shake and we sat.

And sat.  And sat.

Food and sugar had livened her up, and she was very talkative.  In the course of four hours she never asked a single question of me, inquired as to any aspect of my life.  I presume none of that mattered.  I was the source of free food and the possibility of a bus ticket out of Vegas.  What more did she need to know?  What more  could possibly matter to a young woman with three children from three different fathers, all of whom were adopted out?  Did I actually expect her to make polite conversation?  I was a sucker.  She was willing to go along with it for as long as the gravy train lasted, or until I said or did something she didn’t like, at which point I  have no doubt she would have cursed me out and stalked off in righteous indignation.

But we sat, and sat, and sat.  I didn’t say much, and she didn’t seem to mind.

She went off for a smoke and took all her gear with her.  I didn’t  really expect her to show back up, but she did a few minutes later.  We walked the block to the bus station and bought a ticket for the 7:30pm bus.   She could try to get on the 5:30pm bus after all the other passengers boarded, and if the driver said he still had room.   Everything she owned was in a single small bag given her the night before by a church whose name she couldn’t remember.  We sat in the lobby, waiting the last 15 minutes to the bus departure.

If we had been back home I could have connected her to resources.   I half considered sending her that way anyways, calling on some people I know to see if they would be willing to admit her to a long-term recovery program.  But there were no guarantees.  No guarantees the residential program would have space at the moment.  No guarantee that she would be willing to try it.  No guarantees at all.

At 5:25 I shook her  hand.  Either she was going to get a seat on that 5:30 bus or she would have to wait for the 7:30 bus.  She had what she needed to get home, where she felt she had a support system of sorts.  A better chance than she stood in Vegas.

I prefer to think she got on that 5:30 bus.  That she’s en route to Reno right now.  That by tomorrow, she’ll be with people who know her.  That there might be a chance that she’ll get help.  That life can be different tomorrow than it was this morning when she had nothing to look forward to but getting through a day in triple-digit  heat with a prescription she couldn’t pay to fill.

I don’t know that for sure, but I prefer to think so, and pray so.  It’s no more in my control than what happens to the check I write on Sunday mornings.  But it sure looked and felt a lot different.


Simon & Garfunkel’s Bus Experiences

July 22, 2018

I grew up loving Simon & Garfunkel.  I inherited the love listening to some of my parents’ albums, and their stories of the world and the country, of life and of the individual experience were formative for me.

I think I connected with their sense of adventure, of a wider world beyond the narrow boundaries of youth and adolescence.  One of their haunting songs I’ve always loved is America, a story of journeys both internal and external, personal and interpersonal.  And it centers around a bus journey of exploration.  It starts with boarding a Greyhound bus in Pittsburgh with a girl named with Kathy.

It seemed so beautiful and simple.  Jump on a Greyhound bus and the country opens before you.  It sounds so simple.  You just buy a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner Pies and you head off to discover America.

Have you ever been to a Greyhound bus station?  In a big city?  Perhaps like Pittsburgh?  Or Las Vegas?  Not so romantic.

Not at all.

Security was preventing an intoxicated woman from re-entering when I first arrived.  While a woman shouted nearly incomprehensibly into a public address system and I waited to conclude my question to the customer service agent less than 3 feet away from me, a guy ran in to ask him to charge his cell phone.  You know we’re not responsible for this? he said as he plugged it in.  When we returned two hours later the police were there on an unrelated incident.  Security was present but polite.  The looks they gave the two of us clearly indicated that their politeness was mostly due to me.

I pray she’s on the bus.  I wish I could have done more, but I know that the options were limited at best.

Please be on the bus, Jamie.  Please be going home.  To your brother and a support system and social services network that might be able to save you.


The Miracle Whip Jar

July 16, 2018

In the cabinet in the sacristy where we keep the wine and wafers for Holy Communion locked up there is a Miracle Whip jar.  I am no expert on Miracle Whip jars, but I suspect that this is an old one.  At least 30 years old.  Probably more in the neighborhood of 40 years old.  Possibly 50 years old.

It does not have mayonnaise in it any longer, in case you’re worried.

When a package of Communion wafers is opened but not all of them are needed for that Sunday’s consecration, the remainder are put in this jar to keep them as fresh as possible.  Frankly, this to me is an oxymoron, as there are few things in this world as un-fresh as Communion wafers.  The  irony is more than tragic,  in my opinion.

So for 30, or 40, or 50 years, the people who set up Communion for my congregation have used this jar.  This jar pre-dates my pastorate considerably.  There is a possibility the jar is older than I am.  But I almost invariably smile when I unlock the cabinet and see it there.

It’s a reminder to me.  This is not my church.  As pastor, I don’t own this place, I don’t get to dictate what happens here.  In matters of theology and practice I of course have a distinct voice.  Not infallible, though.  Not necessarily.  But in other matters of the life of the church and the future of the congregation, I am not the one who should call the shots.  This congregation has been around since 1915.  They have had a variety of pastors, some better and some worse, depending on who you ask.  I pray to be one of the better ones but also realize that I am always a slipped word,  an angry outburst, a prideful disdain away from becoming one of the worst.

I came to serve and I continue to serve, as our Lord served his disciples, washing feet – even the feet of the one who would shortly betray him.  I have my ideas about things, my dreams and hopes and worries and visions  for this place and these people.  But my first job is to serve.  To serve as long as God keeps me here.  As long as the people will have me.  As long as I’m physically and mentally and spiritually able to.  Not in a glorious way, always, but in a necessary one.  Like an old empty mayonnaise jar.  Knowing that, barring some monumental mistake, there will be another man in my office someday, another man opening the sacristy cupboard.  Just as there were other men before me opening and closing the lid on that jar.

May whatever  the future holds be pleasing to God and a blessing to his people – past, present, and future.  And whether my ideas carry the day or someone else’s, may I keep perspective with the help of an old mayonnaise jar and continue to do my job as faithfully as I can.

Book Review – Confessions of a Pool Hustler

July 12, 2018

Confessions of a Pool Hustler by Robert LeBlanc

I like to play pool.  It’s my hobby, and one I’ve enjoyed for over 30 years.  I picked this book up on a lark, a signed hardback cover in the local billiards supply store.  I didn’t know Robert LeBlanc before I started reading it.  A third of the way through, I think I know all I need to.

Robert makes it clear that he insisted on telling his story in his own words, and that those who helped him, editorially, did so with this key goal in mind.  I suspect that they succeeded.  The book is a collection of stories and anecdotes from Robert’s life on the road playing pool.  He comes off as a stellar player who survived more in his life than dozens of the rest of us ever would.  Fights, robberies, death threats, wild women – if you felt like pool was a seedy business to be involved with, this book would certainly confirm all of your worst fears and stereotypes.

Unfortunately, while insisting on telling his own story his own way, LeBlanc just isn’t a very good storyteller.  After a while the anecdotes all start sounding the same.  There’s no real progression in the story beyond a loose chronological one.  He drops a lot of names.  I don’t know any of them.  I play the game, I don’t spend much time learning all of the big names in the sport.  If you have a good handle on the great players of the last 50 years or so, perhaps this book will be more entertaining to you.  It was lost on me.

I’ll keep playing the game, but I won’t be finishing the book.  I’ll also be grateful that it’s possible to play and love the game of pool without living the kind of life LeBlanc chose to.  Undoubtedly my pool life is a lot more boring than LeBlanc’s, but I can live with that!

Book Review – Authentic Christianity

July 11, 2018

Authentic Christianity – How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World

by Gene Edward Veith Jr. and A. Trevor Sutton

I enjoy and respect Gene Veith’s thoughtful writing and thinking.  This book is no exception.  He sets forth his ideas in easy to understand language, bypassing technical jargon for the most part or explaining it so that a seminary education isn’t required to understand what he’s talking about.

I’m just not sure who this book is intended for.

It purports to demonstrate how Lutheranism, of all Christian flavors, is best suited to the particular needs of our day.  I think I’d even agree with this premise, but such a statement in and of itself is addressed more to the religiously inclined than the non-religious.  Is this a book intended to sway lukewarm Christians towards Lutheranism?  Perhaps.

But much of our culture is increasingly coming to the conclusion that worship and a life of faith within any kind of church setting is unnecessary, and this book does not seem aimed at changing their mind.

It’s a wonderful refresher on basic Lutheran theology, the kind of stuff I wish more catechism and confirmation classes touched on because it has to do with how we live our lives, rather than just how we worship on Sunday mornings.  Perhaps this book is intended for Lutherans, to refresh us on what we believe and why we believe it?  Perhaps.

If that’s the case, I think it does an admirable job.  But I purchased this book thinking that it was going to focus on how to connect Lutheran theology with an increasingly unchurched population, and the book doesn’t really do that.  There are places where it could do more, particularly in the chapter on justification, or the reality that we all want to justify our stances, statements, behaviors, and lives to others and ourselves and ultimately God.  Really good potential here but it doesn’t really connect strongly.

This text would make a good book study for a Lutheran congregation.  It might be helpful in discussion with lukewarm Christians of other stripes, or folks who are disenchanted with their current worship home and looking for another.  But if you’re trying to figure out how to explain why what you believe really matters to someone who is thoroughly post-modern in their approach to these things (meaning they’re happy you believe what you believe but don’t feel that it necessarily has any bearing on what they do or should believe), this book probably won’t be of much help.

Christian Advance in America?

July 10, 2018

I found this article reprinted recently through a Facebook contact.  The basic gist is that Christianity is not shrinking in America.  It  is growing and it is redistributing.  Mainline, traditional denominational churches continue to lose members rapidly, but not because they are leaving the faith.  Rather, they are migrating to non-denominational churches.  Furthermore, the article asserts that  these non-denominational churches tend to be more conservative, challenging their members to authentic Christianity instead of the watered-down, cultured conditioned faith  that liberal mainline churches have gravitated towards.

It was a surprising article.  I’m not sure what to make of it..   Belonging to a very conservative mainline denomination, I can attest that our numbers are shrinking but certainly not because of shallow  theology or liberally conditioned exegesis.  The article tends to paint all mainline denominations as liberal icons that in caving to cultural demands have lost their authority and their people are going places where the Bible is taken more seriously and the Christian faith is a more vibrant thing.  But that isn’t an accurate description of all mainline denominations.

Also interesting is the focus on what I’ll call the very devout – people who attend church more than once a week.  The author mentions other identifiers such as daily prayer and accepting the Bible as “deeply reliable” but I think it’s the more than once a week worship that makes the difference.  The percentage of Christians who identify these traits in themselves has remained constant over the last 50 years.  I don’t find this surprising.  People who take their faith seriously are likely to continue in that faith and pass it on to their children more effectively than those with a faith life mainly consisting of corporate worship.  But I worship once a week, not more than once a week, so I wouldn’t fall into this category.  Interesting.

Or is it condemning of me and the assumed practices of mainline churches?  I genuinely wonder.  Yet my anecdotal experience with those attending non-denominational churches is that they only worship once a week.  In fact, the only people I’ve ever known to attend more than one worship service a week (outside of specific liturgical seasons such as Lent or Advent) are Roman Catholics.  Curious again.

In reviewing the actual research this article summarizes, some of these points are more clear.  The number of mildly affiliated Christians is declining.  The number of non-affiliated Christians is growing.   But the number of strongly committed Christians remains steady.  Similarly, the number of Christians attending worship occasionally is decreasing and the number of people who never go to church is growing, but those who worship multiple times per week remains constant (at just under 10% of respondents).

In fact, the data seems to contradict the article’s implied conclusion.  You might deduce from the article that evangelical non-denominational churches are growing by leaps and bounds, but the research doesn’t show this either, at least in terms of self-described affiliation (Figure 5).

The study’s actual conclusion is that for the moderately religious, church is not becoming too weak, but rather they are finding traditional, faithful Biblical teaching – which is now decried and subverted by our culture – to be too jarring, too much at odds with the rest of the world around them.  It is moderate  Christians who are migrating away from traditional, conservative mainline congregations, not the uber-faithful.

Though I may be reading the research wrong, I don’t think the article’s summary of it is accurate.  The deeply faithful remain a consistent subset of the religious (Christian) in America, while those with moderate or weak faith (defined in the study, I think, as not praying as much or worshiping as often) move away from any active participation or affiliation with churches.  True, not attending worship is not the same thing as abandoning the faith, but it’s a potentially dangerous scenic vista en route to that final destination.


ANF – Who Are You?

July 9, 2018

In addition to the seven previously summarized letters of Ignatius, there are an additional eight letters purporting to be from his hand.  Very few – if any – scholars seriously believe that Ignatius wrote these.  Even a casual reading of them reveals drastically different style and substance, and while these things in and of themselves are not necessarily indications of alternate authorship, there seems little solid evidence upon which to argue that they are authentic.  We don’t know who wrote these next eight letters, whether it was one person or several.  I’ll go ahead and briefly summarize them as well.  They are ancient documents, even if they aren’t what (or who) they claim to be.  This phenomenon is known as pseudepigrapha.  Writings in this genre include those who claim to be by someone they aren’t, or those that are incorrectly or falsely attributed by others to be from someone they aren’t.  They can be an interesting study in what other people in history thought were important things to convey, perhaps choosing to write as another person in order to lend greater weight or authority to their importance.

I’ll deal with all eight of these writings here.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians

After a perfunctory exhortation to faithfulness and complaint about his treatment en route to his death, this letter immediately dives into the issue of false doctrine and those spreading it.  Multiple heresies are dealt with or mentioned, including the idea that Jesus was not actually physical but only spiritual, that He is not the Son of God, or that God the Son and God the Father are actually identical and one in the same (different from Trinitarian theology), or that Jesus was human but not divine and finally that there is no resurrection of the dead.

The rest of this short letter deals with these ideas by quoting extensively from Scripture, something  that the other letters of Ignatius did very sparingly.  It concludes with an exhortation to duties similar to Ignatius’ letter to Polycarp.

I have no difficulty agreeing that this is not the same kind of writing as the previously reviewed letters of Ignatius.  It demonstrates the growing concern with heretical ideas that contradict the eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, a concern that has hardly subsided in the centuries since this was penned!

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians

This letter makes little to no mention of martyrdom, unlike Igantius’ other writings,  but dives almost immediately into warning against heretical teachings.  Once again these warnings are heavily substantiated with Biblical quotes from both the Old and New Testament.  Like the last false letter, it also  mimics the exhortations to proper duties from Ignatius’ letter to Polycarp, perhaps indicating that this was another area in addition to doctrine that was of concern to the author and the audiences of  their day.

The Epistle of Ignatius to Hero

This is a personal letter to a deacon by the name of Hero.  This letter begins with cautions to Godly living and behavior on Hero’s part, and then moves on to warnings against teachers of false doctrine.  He seems to refer to those who might push for observing Jewish law, as well as to those who deny the humiliating crucifixion of Jesus.  Hero is exhorted to mind his duties as deacon faithfully and in purity of faith, and also seems to indicate that Ignatius is recommending him to Polycarp for the bishopric of Antioch.  If this was a real person, we have no further historic record of them.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians

Again this letter dives almost immediately into defending Christian doctrine, including the Trinity and the Incarnation.  There is an interesting section that theorizes how Satan machinated the execution of Jesus, only at the last minute to change his mind and try to prevent it from happening.  He talks about Satan bringing Judas to repentance and then encouraging him to suicide.  There’s also an interesting line about how Satan “terrified also the silly woman, disturbing her by her dreams”.  Initially I thought this referred to some early story of a woman plagued by demonic dreams, but I now think it refers to Pontius Pilate’s wife, as mentioned in Matthew 27:19.

The letter goes to great detail to show how Satan is either inconsistent or ignorant or foolish or audacious or any number of other unpleasant attributes.

The Epistle  of Maria the Proselyte to Ignatius

This is interesting in that it purports not to be from Ignatius but to him, written by a woman named Maria.  This is interesting in that I’m not aware of any copies remaining of letters to the Apostles, only their responses (such as Paul’s two responses to the Corinthians).  The only information we have on this alleged author is that she is from Cassobelae, although others (based on a scarcity of geographical knowledge of where such a place might be) think that a better interpretation would be Maria Cassobolita or Castabalitis, as Castabala was a well-known city in Cilicia.

Her letter entreats Ignatius to facilitate the transfer or  movement of three people -Maris, bishop of Neapolis, Eulogius, and a presbyter by the name of Sobelus to Maria and the congregation she is apparently a part of.  She then goes on to anticipate a possible concern of Ignatius – that these three men are rather young.  She embarks then on a discourse to demonstrate, Biblically, how their mere youth alone should not disqualify them (presumably for official service in the church).  At the end of her defense, she dutifully defers to Ignatius’ position as leader as well as all other clergy, not wanting to appear presumptuous.

The Epistle of Ignatius to Mary at Neapolis, Near Zarbus

This would be Igantius’ response to the letter from Maria, and provides reason why some presume that the previous letter’s heading is read incorrectly as Maria being from Cassobelae.

Ignatius salutes Mary as a woman of wisdom, and indicates that he has agreed with and complied with her request.  Ignatius goes on to mention that this Mary was in Rome with Linus, the second bishop or pope of Rome (after Peter), and then mentions Linus’ successor, Clement, who also had the opportunity to hear and learn from Peter and Paul.

The Epistle of Ignatius to St. John the Apostle

This brief letter purportedly written to St. John, the Apostle of Jesus, asks for John to come, and to bring with him Mary the mother of Jesus, reaffirming the tradition that Mary and John continued  to stay together after Jesus conferred them to one another’s care (John 19:25-27).  The letter mainly praises Mary and her attitude and disposition in all situations both good or bad, and seems to be arguing for a supernatural amount of grace and purity in her, perhaps anticipating or supporting an already existing doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity and her own virgin birth.

A Second Epistle of Ignatius to St. John

This letter is a request from Ignatius that John allow him to go to Jerusalem, where he might meet with Mary the mother of Jesus as well as Jesus’ brother James.  This would raise the question of date of authorship, since all  of the other letters (including some of the spurious ones) are written by Ignatius during his final journey towards martyrdom.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Virgin Mary

The final of the eight spurious or pseudepigraphical writings is actually two writings – a very brief letter from Ignatius to Jesus’ mother, Mary, and an equally brief response from her.  Ignatius seeks to hear from her firsthand things that he has heard and learned from St. John regarding the life of Jesus.  Mary responds that she will come to him, but that in the meantime he should trust everything that John taught him.