Ignatius, bishop of Antich, wrote 7 letters on his way to be martyred in Rome, addressed to his friend Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and to the churches in Rome, Ephesus, Tralles, Smyrna, Philadelphia, and Magnesia. He appears to have died as a martyr around AD 110. In each letter, he refers to himself as “Theophorus,” which translator Michael Holmes renders “Image-bearer” and others have rendered “God-bearer.” Holmes argues that he is drawing on the image of pagan religious processions.
As Holmes’ introduction states, we don’t know why Ignatius was arrested, but he apparently escorted to Rome by 10 Roman soldiers. His letters are often used as sources for the history of the Church in the early centuries. Holmes writes that his three major concerns throughout the letters are the purity of doctrine against Judaism and Gnostic teachings; unity of the Church, especially under the bishops; and his coming martyrdom. (more…)