User Rating: / 1



W. D.

A Reply to The Right Rev. Dr. Lightfoot Bishop of Durham.


Professor of Ecclesiastical History and
Principal of the Presbyterian Theological Faculty Ireland.

"As the account of the martyrdom of Ignatius may be justly
suspected so too the letters which presuppose the correctness
of this suspicious legend do not wear at all a stamp of a distinct
individuality of character and of a man of these times addressing
his last words to the Churches."



This little volume is respectfully submitted to the candid
consideration of all who take an interest in theological
inquiries under the impression that it will throw some additional
light on a subject which has long created much discussion. It has
been called forth by the appearance of a treatise entitled "_The
Apostolic Fathers_ Part II. S. Ignatius S. Polycarp. Revised
Texts with Introductions Notes Dissertations and Translations
by J. B. Lightfoot D.D. D.C.L. LL.D Bishop of Durham."
In this voluminous production the Right Reverend Author has
maintained not only that all the seven letters attributed by
Eusebius to Ignatius are genuine but also that "no Christian
writings of the second century and very few writings of
antiquity whether Christian or pagan are so well authenticated."
These positions advocated with the utmost confidence by the
learned prelate are sure to be received with implicit confidence
by a wide circle of readers; and I have felt impelled here openly
to protest against them inasmuch as I am satisfied that they
cannot be accepted without overturning all the legitimate
landmarks of historical criticism. I freely acknowledge the
eminent services which Dr. Lightfoot has rendered to the Christian
Church by his labours as a Commentator on Scripture and it is
therefore all the more important that the serious errors of a
writer so distinguished should not be permitted to pass
unchallenged. All who love the faith once delivered to the saints
may be expected to regard with deference the letters of a martyr
who lived on the borders of the apostolic age; but these Ignatian
Epistles betray indications of a very different original for they
reveal a spirit of which no enlightened Christian can approve and
promulgate principles which would sanction the boldest assumptions
of ecclesiastical despotism. In a work published by me many years
ago I have pointed out the marks of their imposture; and I have
since seen no cause to change my views. Regarding all these
letters as forgeries from beginning to end I have endeavoured in
the following pages to expose the fallacy of the arguments by
which Dr. Lightfoot has attempted their vindication.

July 1886.




The critical spirit stimulated by the Reformation--The Ignatian
Epistles as regarded by Calvin Ussher Vossius Daille Pearson
Wake and Cureton--Dr. Lightfoot as a scholar and a commentator--
The valuable information supplied in his recent work--His estimate
of the parties who have pronounced judgment on the question of the
Ignatian Epistles--His verdict unfair--His introduction of Lucian
as a witness in his favour--The story of Peregrinus--Dr. Lightfoot's
cardinal mistake in his treatment of this question.



Dr. Lightfoot makes a most unguarded statement as to the Ignatian
Epistles--The letter of Polycarp better authenticated--The date
assigned for the martyrdom of Ignatius--The date of Polycarp's
Epistle--Written in the reign of Marcus Aurelius--Not written in
the reign of Trajan--The Epistle of Polycarp has no reference to
Ignatius of Antioch--It refers to another Ignatius of another age
and country--It was written at a time of persecution--The postscript
to the letter of Polycarp quite misunderstood--What is meant
by letters being carried to Syria--Psyria and Syria two
islands in the Aegaean Sea--The errors of transcribers of the
postscript--The true meaning of the postscript--What has led to
the mistake as to the claims of the Ignatian Epistles--The
continued popularity of these Epistles among High Churchmen.



Dr. Lightfoot's strange reasoning on this subject--The testimony
of Eusebius Jerome and others--Eusebius and Jerome highly
competent witnesses--Dr. Doellinger's estimate of Jerome--The basis
on which Dr. Lightfoot rests the whole weight of his chronological
argument--Aristides and his _Sacred Discourses_--Statius
Quadratus the consuls and proconsuls--Ummidius Quadratus--Polycarp
martyred in the reign of Marcus Aurelius--His visit to Rome in the
time of Anicetus--Put to death when there was only one emperor--
Age of Polycarp at the time of his martyrdom--The importance of
the chronological argument.



The testimony of Irenaeus quite misunderstood--Refers to the dying
words of one of the martyrs of Lyons--The internal evidence
against the genuineness of the Ignatian Epistles--The contrast
between the Epistle of Polycarp and the Ignatian Epistles as
exhibited by Dr. Lightfoot himself--Additional points of
contrast--Dr. Lightfoot quite mistaken as to the origin of
Prelacy--It did not originate in the East or Asia Minor but in
Rome--The argument from the cases of Timothy and Titus untenable--
Jerome's account of the origin of Prelacy--James not the first
bishop of Jerusalem--In the early part of the second century the
Churches of Rome Corinth and Smyrna were Presbyterian--Irenaeus
conceals the origin of Prelacy--Coins the doctrine of the
apostolical succession--The succession cannot be determined even
in Rome--Testimony of Stillingfleet--In what sense Polycarp may
have been constituted a bishop by the apostles.



We have no positive historical information as to the origin of the
Ignatian Epistles--First saw the light in the early part of the
third century--Such forgeries then common--What was then thought
by many as to pious frauds--Callistus of Rome probably concerned
in the fabrication of the Ignatian Epistle--His remarkable
history--The Epistle to the Romans first forged--It embodies the
credentials of the rest--Montanism stimulated the desire for
martyrdom--The prevalence of this mania early in the third
century--The Ignatian Epistles present it in its most outrageous
form--The Epistle to the Romans must have been very popular at
Rome--Doubtful whether Ignatius was martyred at Rome--The Ignatian
Epistles intended to advance the claims of Prelacy--Well fitted to
do so at the time of their appearance--The account of Callistus
given by Hippolytus--The Ignatian letters point to Callistus as
their author--Cannot have been written in the beginning of the
second century--Their doctrine that of the Papacy.

APPENDIX I.--Letter of Dr. Cureton.
II.--The Ignatian Epistle to the Romans.





The question of the genuineness of the Epistles attributed to
Ignatius of Antioch has continued to awaken interest ever since
the period of the Reformation. That great religious revolution
gave an immense impetus to the critical spirit; and when brought
under the light of its examination not a few documents the
claims of which had long passed unchallenged were summarily
pronounced spurious. Eusebius writing in the fourth century
names only seven letters as attributed to Ignatius; but long
before the days of Luther more than double that number were in
circulation. Many of these were speedily condemned by the critics
of the sixteenth century. Even the seven recognised by Eusebius
were regarded with grave suspicion; and Calvin--who then stood at
the head of Protestant theologians--did not hesitate to denounce
the whole of them as forgeries. The work long employed as a text-book
in Cambridge and Oxford was the _Institutes_ of the Reformer
of Geneva; [Endnote 2:1] and as his views on this subject are
there proclaimed very emphatically [2:2] we may presume that
the entire body of the Ignatian literature was at that time
viewed with distrust by the leaders of thought in the English
universities. But when the doctrine of the Divine Right of
Episcopacy began to be promulgated the seven letters rose in the
estimation of the advocates of the hierarchy; and an extreme desire
was manifested to establish their pretensions. So great was the
importance attached to their evidence that in 1644--in the very
midst of the din and confusion of the civil war between Charles I.
and his Parliament--the pious and erudite Archbishop Ussher
presented the literary world with a new edition of these memorials.
Two years later the renowned Isaac Vossius produced a kindred
publication. Some time afterwards Daille a learned French
Protestant minister attacked them with great ability; and
proved to the satisfaction of many readers that they are utterly
unworthy of credit. Pearson subsequently Bishop of Chester now
entered the arena and in a work of much talent and research--the
fruit of six years' labour--attempted to restore their reputation.
This vindication was not permitted to pass without an answer; but
meanwhile the dark prospects of the Reformed faith in England and
the Continent directed attention to matters of more absorbing
interest and the controversy was discontinued. From time to time
however these Epistles were kept before the eyes of the public
by Archbishop Wake and other editors; and more recently the
appearance of a Syriac copy of three of them--printed under
the supervision of the late Rev. Dr. Cureton--reopened the
discussion. Dr. Cureton maintained that his three Epistles are the
only genuine remains of the pastor of Antioch. In a still later
publication [3:1] Bishop Lightfoot controverts the views of
Dr. Cureton and makes a vigorous effort to uphold the credit of
the seven letters quoted by Eusebius and supported by Pearson.
Dr. Lightfoot has already acquired a high and deserved reputation as a
scholar and a commentator and the present work furnishes abundant
evidence of his linguistic attainments and his perseverance; but
it is somewhat doubtful whether it will add to his fame as a
critic and a theologian. In these three portly octavo volumes--
extending to upwards of 1800 pages of closely printed matter--he
tries to convince his readers that a number of the silliest
productions to be found among the records of antiquity are the
remains of an apostolic Father. He tells us in his preface that
the subject has been before him "for nearly thirty years;" and
that during this period it has "engaged his attention off and on
in the intervals of other literary pursuits and official duties."
Many we apprehend will feel that the result is not equal to such
a vast expenditure of time and labour; and will concur with
friends who as he informs us have complained to him that he has
thus "allowed himself to be diverted from the more congenial task
of commenting on S. Paul's Epistles." There is not we presume an
evangelical minister in Christendom who would not protest against
the folly exhibited in these Ignatian letters; and yet it appears
that the good Bishop of Durham has spent a large portion of his
life in an attempt to accomplish their vindication.

To Dr. Lightfoot may be justly awarded the praise of having here
made the reading public acquainted with the various manuscripts
and versions of these Ignatian letters as well as with the
arguments which may be urged in their favour; and he has thus
rendered good service to the cause of historical criticism.
Professor Harnack in a late number of the _Expositor_ [4:1]
states no more than the truth when he affirms that "this work is
the most learned and careful Patristic Monograph which has
appeared in the nineteenth century." To any one who wishes to
study the Ignatian controversy it supplies a large amount of
valuable evidence not otherwise easily accessible. Some indeed
may think that without any detriment to ecclesiastical
literature some of the matter which has helped to swell the
dimensions of these volumes might have been omitted. Everything in
any way associated with the name of Ignatius seems to have a
wonderful fascination for the learned prelate. Not content with
publishing and commending what he considers the genuine
productions of the apostolic Father he here edits and annotates
letters which have long since been discredited by scholars of all
classes and which he himself confesses to be apocryphal. The
_Acts of Martyrdom of Ignatius_--which he also acknowledges to be
a mere bundle of fables--he treats with the same tender regard.
Nor is this all. He gives these acts or large portions of them
in Latin and Greek as well as in Coptic and Syriac; and annotates
them in addition. He supplies likewise English translations.
It may be argued that the publication of such a mass of legendary
rubbish is necessary to enable the student to form a correct
judgment on the merits of the subject in debate; but surely the
question might be settled without the aid of some of these

Dr. Lightfoot has long been known as one of the most candid and
painstaking of scriptural commentators; but it must always be
remembered that he is an Episcopalian and the ruler of an English
diocese. He would be something almost more than human were he
to hold up the scales of testimony with strict impartiality when
weighing the claims of his own order. It strikes us that in
the work before us his prejudices and predilections reveal
their influence more conspicuously than in any of his other
publications. He can see support for his views in words and
phrases where an ordinary observer can discover nothing of the
kind; and he can close his eyes against evidence which others may
deem very satisfactory. Even when appraising the writers who have
taken part in this controversy he has presented a very one-sided
estimate. He speaks of those who reject the claims of these
Epistles as forming "a considerable list of _second and third
rate_ names;" [6:1] and he mentions Ussher and Bentley among those
who espouse his sentiments. According to our author there cannot
be a "shadow of doubt" that the seven Vossian Epistles "represent
the genuine Ignatius." [6:2] "No Christian writings of the second
century" says he "and very few writings of antiquity whether
Christian or pagan are so well authenticated." [6:3] He surely
cannot imagine that Ussher would have endorsed such statements;
for he knows well that the Primate of Armagh condemned the
Epistle to Polycarp as a forgery. He has still less reason
to claim Bentley as on his side. On authority which Bishop Monk
the biographer of Bentley deemed well worthy of acceptance it is
stated that in 1718 "on occasion of a Divinity Act" the Master
of Trinity College Cambridge "made a speech _condemning_ the
Epistles of S. Ignatius." His address created a "great ferment" in
the university. [7:1] It is further reported that Bentley "refused
to hear the Respondent who attempted to reply." We might have
expected such a deliverance from the prince of British critics;
for with the intuition of genius he saw the absurdity of
recognising these productions as proceeding from a Christian
minister who had been carefully instructed by the apostles.
Bentley's refusal to hear the Respondent who attempted to reply to
him was exactly in keeping with his well-known dictatorial
temper. Does Dr. Lightfoot bring forward any evidence to
contradict this piece of collegiate history? None whatever.
He merely treats us to a few of his own _conjectures_ which simply
prove his anxiety to depreciate its significance. And yet he
ventures to parade the name of Bentley among those of the scholars
who contend for the genuineness of these letters! He deals after
the same fashion with the celebrated Porson. In a letter to the
author of this review [7:2] Dr. Cureton states that Porson
"rejected" these letters "in the form in which they were put forth
by Ussher and Vossius;" and declares that this piece of
information was conveyed to himself by no less competent an
authority than Bishop Kaye. Dr. Lightfoot meets this evidence by
saying that "the _obiter dictum_ even of a Porson" in the
circumstances in which it was given might be "of little value." [7:3]
It was given however exactly in the circumstances in which
the speaker was best prepared to deliver a sound verdict for it
was pronounced after the great critic had read the _Vindiciae_ of

It would be hopeless to attempt to settle a disputed question of
criticism by enumerating authorities on different sides as after
all the value of these authorities would be variously discounted.
We must seek to arrive at truth not by quoting names but by
weighing arguments. Not a few however whose opinion may be
entitled to some respect will not be prepared to agree with
Bishop Lightfoot when he affirms that those who reject these
Ignatian letters are with few exceptions only to be found in the
"list of second and third rate names" in literature. [8:1] We have
seen that Bentley and Porson disagree with him--and he can point
to no more eminent critics in the whole range of modern
scholarship. If Daille must be placed in the second rank surely
Pearson may well be relegated to the same position; for there is
most respectable proof that his _Vindiciae_ in reply to the
treatise of the French divine was pronounced by Porson to be a
"very unsatisfactory" performance. [8:2] "The most elaborate and
ingenious portion of the work" is as Bishop Lightfoot himself
confesses "the least satisfactory." [8:3] Dr Lightfoot we
believe will hardly pretend to say that Vossius Bull and
Waterland stand higher in the literary world than Salmasius John
Milton and Augustus Neander; and he will greatly astonish those
who are acquainted with the history and writings of one of the
fathers of the Reformation if he will contend that John Calvin
must be placed only in the second or third class of Protestant
theologians. In the presence of the great doctor of Geneva
Hammond Grotius Zahn and others whom Dr. Lightfoot has named as
his supporters may well hide their diminished heads.

In the work before us the Bishop of Durham has pretty closely
followed Pearson quoting his explanations and repeating his
arguments. Some of these are sufficiently nebulous. Professor
Harnack--who has already reviewed his pages in the _Expositor_
and who to a great extent adheres to the views which they
propound--admits notwithstanding that he has "overstrained" his
case and has adduced as witnesses writers of the second and third
centuries of whom it is impossible to prove that they knew
anything of the letters attributed to Ignatius. [9:1] As a
specimen of the depositions which Dr. Lightfoot has pressed into
his service we may refer to the case of Lucian. That author wrote
about sixty years after the alleged date of the martyrdom of
Ignatius and his Lordship imagines that in one of his works he
can trace allusions to the pastor of Antioch under the fictitious
name of Peregrinus. "Writing" says he "soon after A.D. 165"
Lucian "caricatures the progress of Ignatius through Asia Minor in
his death of Peregrinus." [9:2] This Peregrinus was certainly an
odd character. Early in life he had murdered his own father and
for this he was obliged to make his escape from his country.
Wandering about from place to place he identified himself with
the Christians gained their confidence and became as is
alleged a distinguished member of their community. His zeal in
their cause soon exposed him to persecution and he was thrown
into prison. His incarceration added greatly to his fame. His
co-religionists including women and children were seen from morning
to night lingering about the place of his confinement; he was
abundantly supplied with food; and the large sums of money given
to him as presents provided him with an ample revenue. After his
release he forfeited the favour of his Christian friends and
became a Cynic philosopher; but he could not be at peace. He at
length resolved to immortalize himself by voluntary martyrdom.
Meanwhile he despatched letters to many famous cities containing
laws and ordinances; and appointed certain of his companions--
under the name of death-messengers--to scatter abroad these
missives. Finally at the close of the Olympian games he erected a
funeral pile; and when it was all ablaze he threw himself into
it and perished in the flames. "There is very strong reason for
believing" says Dr. Lightfoot "that Lucian has drawn his picture
at least in part from the known circumstances of Ignatius'
history." [10:1] The bishop returns again and again to the
parallelism between Ignatius and Peregrinus and appears to think
it furnishes an argument of singular potency in favour of the
disputed Epistles. "Second only" says he to certain other
vouchers which he produces "stands this testimony." [11:1]
From such a sample the judicious reader may form some idea of the
conclusiveness of the bishop's reasoning. Peregrinus begins life
as a parricide and dies like a madman; and yet we are asked to
believe that Lucian has thus sketched the history of an apostolic
Father! When Lucian wrote Ignatius had been dead about sixty
years; but the pagan satirist sought to amuse the public by
sketching the career of an individual whom he had himself heard
and seen [11:2] and who must have been well known to many of his
readers. About the middle of the second century the Church was
sorely troubled by false teachers especially of the Gnostic type;
and it may have been that some adventurer of popular gifts and
professing great zeal in the Christian cause contrived to gather
around him a number of deluded followers who for a time adhered
to him with wonderful enthusiasm. It may be that it is this
charlatan to whom Lucian points and whose history he perhaps
exaggerates. But there is nothing in the life of Peregrinus which
can fairly be recognised even as a caricature of the career of one
of the most distinguished of the early Christian martyrs. Were we
to maintain that the pagan satirist was referring to the Apostle
John we might be able to show almost as many points of resemblance.
The beloved disciple travelled about through various countries;
acquired a high reputation among the Christians; was imprisoned
in the Isle of Patmos; wrote letters to the seven Churches of Asia;
and was visited in his place of exile by angels or messengers
who probably did not repair to him empty-handed. John died only
a few years before Ignatius and was connected with the same
quarter of the globe. We have however never yet heard that
Lucian was suspected of alluding to the author of the Apocalypse.
If Bishop Lightfoot thinks that he can convince sensible men of
the genuineness of the Ignatian Epistles by bringing forward such
witnesses as Lucian and his hero Peregrinus we believe he is very

< Prev   Next >

Custom Writing Service

Writeforce.com - custom writing service.


Best free books directory here - enjoy

Paypal Donate

Search PDFbooks

Web pdfbooks.co.za

Who's Online

We have 16 guests and 7 members online