Ignatius of Antioch’s Proclamation of the Essential Deity of Christ

Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostles and the Bishop of the churches in Antioch, Syria, where believers were first called Christians (cf. Acts 11:26). On his way to being martyred at Rome, this beloved Bishop of the Lord Jesus wrote seven letters to various churches (c. 107-112 AD) in which he affirms the eternal, divine nature of the risen Christ, and his personal distinction from both the Father and the Holy Spirit. The quotes that I am about to share from the writings of this glorious martyr of the risen Lord will prove that true believers, who were disciple by the very eyewitnesses of the historical Jesus, all believed in and testified that Christ is the eternal God that became a flesh and blood human being for our salvation. All bold and/or capital and/or italicized emphasis will be mine.


Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the ages of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, OUR GOD (TOU Theou hemon – lit. THE God of us): Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and His undefiled grace.

Chapter 1. Praise of the Ephesians

I have become acquainted with your name, much-beloved in God, which you have acquired by the habit of righteousness, according to the faith and love in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves BY THE BLOOD OF GOD, you have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you. For, on hearing that I came bound from Syria for the common name and hope, trusting through your prayers to be permitted to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by martyrdom I may indeed become the disciple of Him “who gave Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God,” Ephesians 5:2 [you hastened to see me ]. I received, therefore, your whole multitude in the name of God, through Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love, and your bishop in the flesh, whom I pray you by Jesus Christ to love, and that you would all seek to be like him. And blessed be He who has granted unto you, being worthy, to obtain such an excellent bishop…

Chapter 7. Beware of false teachers

For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom you must flee as you would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom you must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured. There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made AND NOT MADE (gennetos kai agennetos – lit. born and unborn); GOD EXISTING IN FLESH; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible — even Jesus Christ our Lord

Chapter 18. The glory of the cross

Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block 1 Corinthians 1:18 to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. “Where is the wise man? Where the disputer?” 1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For OUR GOD, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Chapter 19. Three celebrated mysteries

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, GOD HIMSELF MANIFESTED IN HUMAN FORM for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death. (Epistle to the Ephesians)

Chapter 6. Preserve harmony

Since therefore I have, in the persons before mentioned, beheld the whole multitude of you in faith and love, I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was WITH THE FATHER BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF TIME, and in the end was revealed. Do all then, imitating the same divine conduct, pay respect to one another, and let no one look upon his neighbour after the flesh, but continually love each other in Jesus Christ. Let nothing exist among you that may divide you; but be united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality.

Chapter 7. Do nothing without the bishop and presbyters

As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Therefore run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one.

Chapter 8. Caution against false doctrines

Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. For the divinest prophets lived according to Christ Jesus. On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by His grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His [eternal] Word, not proceeding forth from silence, and who in all things pleased Him that sent Him. (Epistle to the Magnesians)


Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON (tou monou hyiou autou); the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that wills all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ OUR GOD (TOU Theou hemon – lit. THE God of us), which also presides in the place of the region of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father, which I also salute in the name of Jesus Christ, THE SON OF THE FATHER: to those who are united, both according to the flesh and spirit, to every one of His commandments; who are filled inseparably with the grace of God, and are purified from every strange taint, [I wish] abundance of happiness unblameably, in Jesus Christ OUR GOD (TO Theo hemon – lit. THE God of us)

Chapter 3. Pray rather that I may attain to martyrdom

You have never envied any one; you have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed [by your conduct], which in your instructions you enjoin [on others]. Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but [truly] will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one. For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. Nothing visible is eternal. “For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” For OUR God, Jesus Christ, now that He is WITH THE FATHER, is all the more revealed [in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness. (Epistle to the Romans)

Chapter 1. Thanks to God for your faith

I Glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom (Doxazo ‘Iesoun Christon TON Theon ton houtos hymas sophisanta lit. “I glorify Jesus Christ THE God who made you so wise”). For I have observed that you are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if you were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit, and are established in love through the blood of Christ, being fully persuaded with respect to our Lord, that He was truly of the seed of David according to the flesh, Romans 1:3 and the Son of God according to the will and power of God; that He was truly born of a virgin, was baptized by John, in order that all righteousness might be fulfilled Matthew 3:15 by Him; and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed [to the cross] for us in His flesh. Of this fruit we are by His divinely-blessed passion, that He might set up a standard Isaiah 5:26, Isaiah 49:22 for all ages, through His resurrection, to all His holy and faithful [followers], whether among Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of His Church. (Epistle to the Smyrnæans)

Chapter 3. Exhortations

Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, 1 Timothy 1:3, 1 Timothy 6:3 fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him WHO IS ABOVE ALL TIME, ETERNAL and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes

Chapter 8. Let other churches also send to Antioch

Inasmuch as I have not been able to write to all the Churches, because I must suddenly sail from Troas to Neapolis, as the will [of the emperor] enjoins, [I beg that] you, as being acquainted with the purpose of God, will write to the adjacent Churches, that they also may act in like manner, such as are able to do so sending messengers, and the others transmitting letters through those persons who are sent by you, that you may be glorified by a work which shall be remembered for ever, as indeed you are worthy to be. I salute all by name, and in particular the wife of Epitropus, with all her house and children. I salute Attalus, my beloved. I salute him who shall be deemed worthy to go [from you] into Syria. Grace shall be with him for ever, and with Polycarp that sends him. I pray for your happiness for ever in OUR GOD, Jesus Christ, by whom continue in the unity and under the protection of God. I salute Alce, my dearly beloved. Fare well in the Lord. (Epistle to Polycarp)

Note how Ignatius unhesitatingly affirms that the Lord Jesus is not only THE God of us all (and not merely A god) and the only-begotten Son of the Father that shed his blood, but this blessed saint also testifies that Christ is the One who is above time and therefore eternal, who was invisible and became visible in order to suffer for our salvation.

Seeing that these are the statements of an individual who personally knew and learned from the very Apostles of Christ, and who willingly died for his belief that Christ is God Almighty, can there be any doubt left as to what the historical Jesus and his eyewitnesses taught concerning his essential Deity and union with the Father and the Holy Spirit?

Further Reading

Justin Martyr’s Witness to Christ’s essential and eternal Deity

Tertullian and the Doctrine of the Trinity

Were the Early Church Fathers Trinitarians?

Did the Ante-Nicene Fathers Worship the Holy Spirit as God Almighty?

The Early Church’s Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible’s Use of Plural Pronouns for God

Origen’s Christology

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