Interview Questions For A Martyr

I just have a few questions for you, Ignatius, if you
don’t mind.  Why is it that you thought it was
necessary for you “become like wheat” and be
chewed up by the lions in order to reach the
kingdom of God?  You were, after all, once the
bishop of Antioch in Syria, and in your position,
even if you were somewhat of a late convert it
must be admitted, you did not do anything that
was worthy of you being denied entry into the
kingdom, right?  If other Christians could enter
into that kingdom through being godly people
living according to the Spirit by the laws and ways
of God, why would it be different for you?

Is there a reason why you did not write to the
bishop of Rome when you made it a specific
point to write to the bishops of everywhere else
that you traveled along your road to martyrdom
in Rome?  You may have been an important leader
in ruling over the Church of God in Antioch, which
was no doubt an important city, but given that you
wrote a letter specifically for the bishop of Smyrna
as well as letters to the Ephesians, Magnesians,
Trallians, and Philadelphians that all commented on how
bishops and elders and deacons should be obeyed
and treated with respect, why is it that you did not
comment on this very important fact with the Church
at Rome?  Did you think that they already were
obeying their bishop or did you find their bishop too
powerful already, as he would later become, or was
it simply that you were too focused on the death by
martyrdom that you were seeking to think of questions
of mere church authority while that was on your mind?

There is one more thing I am curious about as well if
you don’t mind answering me.  Why is it that you thought
you were doing a favor to people by trying to coerce them
into no longer obeying the Sabbath?  If you were following in
the footsteps of the Apostles, and you were no doubt aware
of how they loyally kept the Sabbath as was recorded by Luke
in the Acts of the Apostles, how could it be that remembering
the Sabbath day and keeping it holy would be a matter of
judaizing for anyone else?  Are you not aware that the Lord and
Savior who you thought to imitate through your own
martyrdom was Himself Lord of the Sabbath and that He
claimed no other day as His own that would be acceptable
for fellowship and for worship during the week?  How then
did you think that following the example of Christ Jesus would
be inappropriate in that way if it was appropriate to seek His
manner of death at the hands of the heathen for yourself as
a way of entering into His kingdom?


Sometimes when we look at people from ancient history, and this is definitely the case when I look at the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, we imagine ourselves in the point of view of somewhat obnoxious interviewers seeking answers to questions.  Some of the writers among the Apostolic Fathers [1] are people I think I would find friendly.  For example, Polycarp strikes me as someone with whom I would have a great conversation about his faith and example, and Papias was someone who collected the stories of the Apostles and someone who loves good conversation about the Bible and its people will definitely be welcome to talk to for myself.  Clement strikes me as someone who would be a gentle person to talk to and very witty, and the fragments of Quadratus, that most obscure of people, would indicate that he was someone who was deeply interested in biblical history and aiming at a persuasive appeal to stop persecution against Christians, all of which is welcome by me.  These are all people I think I would relish knowing personally among the writers of the Apostolic Fathers.

It is different, however, when we look at Ignatius.  I see Ignatius as someone who would not be the nicest of people or the easiest of people to get along with.  Certainly during his life he was someone who had a great deal of conflicts over his holding a position as overseer of all of the churches of Antioch, and his belief that he had to suffer martyrdom in order to enter into the Kingdom is more than a little bit intense for the tastes of many people.  For me, though, Ignatius’ seeming hostility to the Sabbath (if this indeed is a genuine writing of his and not some sort of fraudulent later interpolation) is really the clincher as to why we would not get along.  After all, I had a pastor in my teenage years who made it clear that he did not view the Sabbath with respect, and though I found his son friendly enough, the pastor himself was not someone whose authority I could respect given his hostility to God’s ways, and there was soon a parting of the ways between us so that I could attend a church that maintained a practice of godly Sabbathkeeping.  Obviously, then I would not be able to respect Ignatius as an authority, and in that light I think it is possible that we would not get along in a friendly way considering the fact that his hostility to the Sabbath and my resulting denial of any godly authority on his part would mean that there was nothing we could agree upon concerning his place.

It is one thing to ask questions, even pointed questions such as I imagine myself asking Ignatius when he is raised in the general resurrection (presumably) with the great mass of people who lived and died without following God’s ways.  It would be another thing to answer these questions.  Given that I do not know Ignatius personally and that his only record to posterity is seven relatively short letters written as he was on his way to death, or at least that is the only aspect of his life that I am familiar with at any rate, I did not feel that it was appropriate for me to imagine the answers that Ignatius would give to my questions, although I feel confident that his answers would be somewhat pointed and combative.  I do not know, though, if Ignatius would be a person that other people would care to ask questions to, or if his general obscurity as a writer of the early Second Century AD would mean that few people would care about his life and death at all, despite his best efforts to die in a memorable fashion.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Interview Questions For A Martyr

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    Sometimes people chose this method to gain their 15 minutes of fame. But one thing you can point out when you meet him is that, without the I Corinthian 13 governing model, his chosen exit from this life meant nothing.

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