The Pastoral Epistles in Ignatius, Part III

[This post is part of a series on The Pastoral Epistles in the Apostolic Fathers. RWB]


Ign. Rom. 9.2 || 1Ti 1.13



(2) ἐγὼ δὲ αἰσχύνομαι ἐξ αὐτῶν λέγεσθαι· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἄξιός εἰμι, ὢν ἔσχατος αὐτῶν καὶ ἔκτρωμα· ἀλλʼ ἠλέημαί τις εἶναι, ἐὰν θεοῦ ἐπιτύχω.
(2) But I myself am ashamed to be counted among them, for I am not worthy, since I am the very last of them and an abnormality. But I have been granted the mercy to be someone, if I reach God.
Holmes, M. W. (1999). The Apostolic Fathers : Greek texts and English translations (Updated ed.) (174, 175). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.


13 τὸ πρότερον ὄντα βλάσφημον καὶ διώκτην καὶ ὑβριστήν, ἀλλὰ ἠλεήθην, ὅτι ἀγνοῶν ἐποίησα ἐν ἀπιστίᾳ· (1Ti 1.13, NA27)
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent, insolent man. But I was shown mercy, because I acted unknowingly in unbelief. (1Ti 1.13, my own translation)


The contact in this instance is slight. A relatively common word (ελεεω, 24x in NT, 16x in AF)* in common syntactic context. The syntactic context is the contrasting use of ἀλλὰ. In both situations, “but I was shown/granted mercy” i used to explain the previous statement.


In Ign. Rom., the previous statement has to do with Ignatius’ unworthiness of Christ. In what is perhaps a bit of faux humility, Ignatius pleads that he is not worthy to be counted among the church in Syria because he is an ‘abnormality’. This actually has more similarity with another area of Paul’s writing (particularly in the use of ἔκτρωμα, an NT hapax that only occurs here in the AF), 1Co 15.8-10 where Paul uses the same word in the same sort of argument. After establishing his unworthiness, Ignatius proceeds to contrast his unworthiness with the statement that, in spite of his unworthiness, he has been given mercy.


This basic idea is very similar to what is happening in First Timothy. Paul establishes his unworthiness to be a servant of Christ by appealing to his former life, where he was a self-described blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent and insolent man. In Paul’s eyes these are disqualifications for the service of Christ. But, says Paul, he was provided mercy. The contrasting use of the provision of mercy in spite of professed unworthiness is what echoes back to First Timothy.


Based on the similar contexts and usage (these two instances are the only instances in NT and AF of κατα + ελεεω), it seems as if Ignatius betrays knowledge of this area of First Timothy (and also First Corinthians) in his argumentation. This is not a loose quotation or even really an allusion. It does, however, seem feasible that Ignatius is making loose references to a few different Pauline thoughts in this one statement.


Next up: Ign. Smyrn. 4.2 || 1Ti 1.12





*The NT is approximately 2.5-3x the size of the AF corpus, so we can see that ελεεω is actually more common in the AF corpus if one compares frequency (24/138019 in NT, 16/~55000 in AF). Ignatius uses the word 6x in his letters, but three of those instances are in prologues (Rom, Phld, Smyrn).

Speak Your Mind

*