Only a few of the details of the life of Ignatius of Antioch are known, and they are almost entirely restricted to his journey from Antioch to martyrdom in Rome about 107 during the reign of Emperor Trajan. According to Eusebius, Ignatius was the 3rd bishop of Antioch, from about 69 AD, but we know nothing of his episcopate in the large and prosperous city of Antioch.
We also know nothing of the charges on which Ignatius was arrested, or exactly why he was sent to Rome for execution. Ignatius was sufficiently well-known and respected to receive deputations from local Christian churches as he passed on his way to Rome. Ignatius also took the opportunity of writing to the churches in Asia Minor along the way. His seven letters survive, and it is for these that Ignatius is justly famous. Once Ignatius had left Troas, we have no further certain information on him, though reports indicate that he was eventually thrown to the lions in the Colosseum in Rome.
The letters of Ignatius shed a lot of light on life in the early church, coming as they do from the leader of one of its significant centres. Several things concern Ignatius. One of the most interesting is his attitude to his own martyrdom. It is obvious that he regarded his impending death as the best way of demonstrating his faithfulness as a disciple. He wanted to follow the footsteps of his master completely, and warned his readers not to intervene with the authorities in an effort to seek a reprieve. Ignatius was also very concerned about correct teaching in the church. His letters indicate a high level of debate about the person of Christ. Ignatius had strong words for those who treated Christ as a kind of divine visitor who had no clear associations with humanity. He had equally strong words for those who seemed to remain locked into their Jewish traditions and customs, seeing Christ as simply a prophetic figure. The conflicts of the day also led Ignatius to place heavy emphasis on the authority of the bishop and clergy as the key to the unity of the church. Ignatius’ stress on his own position as sole bishop helped encourage the idea throughout the church.
BORN: 15 May 35 A.D.
Province of Syria, Roman Empire
DIED: 6 July 108 (aged 73) Rome, Roman Empire.