Ignatius' Letter To The Ephesians, Pt 2

We began our discussion of Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians the other day. Despite the fact that we only got through the introduction, we nevertheless saw some interesting material. Now we will actually get on to the body of the letter. Here is the text of the salutation (in my rather unidiomatic translation) followed by the text of chapter 1:

0:1 Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the church who is blessed in greatness in the fullness of God the Father, who was predestined before the ages for an enduring and unchangeable glory through all things, united and elect in true suffering by the will of the Father and Jesus Christ our God, to the church, who is worthy of blessing, in Ephesus of Asia, many blessings in Jesus Christ and in blameless joy.

1:1 Having welcomed in God your much-beloved name, which you obtained by your righteous nature, (which is) according to faith and love in Christ Jesus our savior, being imitators of God, being renewed by the blood of God, you completed perfectly the work that is perfectly suited for you. 1:2 For having heard --being bound from Syria on behalf of the common name and hope, hoping by your prayer to obtain in Rome to the beastfight, in order that through the obtaining I might be able to be a disciple -- you hurried to see me. 1:3 Therefore since I received your congregation in the name of God in Onesimus, indescribable in love, indeed your bishop in the flesh, about whom I pray that you love (him) according to Jesus Christ and you all would be in agreement with him. For blessed is the one who has graciously given to you (who are worthy) to obtain such a bishop.

In this post we will stick with notes on the translation. There are some interesting tidbits in this text.

  1. "(which is) according to faith...": There is no relative clause there. The phrase κατα πιστιν και αγαπην is describing their faith, and rendering it as such made sense in English. In other words, their righteous nature has both faith and love.
  2. "being renewed" is an interesting word. It looks like it is a compound of ανα, ζαω, and πυρεω, and basically means "to cause to burn again." Is this a renewal of Spirit like a revival or a kindling of the spark of life in Christ? Good question. Holmes goes with the latter, and I tend to agree for now.
  3. "the work that is perfectly suited for you" is a very roundabout way of translating συγγενικον εργον. It is the first word that is so troublesome. It means something like "kindred" or "related". It takes a lot of words to do it, but I think the translation captures the idea.
  4. The morphology of participles proves to be the mortal enemy of so many beginning Greek students, but the rich morphology lets you do some nice things with your language. The entire middle section of verse two is surrounded by dashes because, morphologically, it is separated from what comes before and after. The case and number of the participle ακουσαντες, which is the first word, is different from the case number of the participle which is the third word, δεδεμενον (the first three words are ακουσαντες γαρ δεδεμενον), so the subjects doing the action of the participles are different. Those doing the hearing are not picked up again till the last two words of the verse, ιδειν εσπουδασατε, "you hurried to see me." Thus the dashes.
  5. There is one great word in verse two, and that is θηριομαχησαι. I have to put it in my favorite Greek words list. It means, literally, to beastfight or to have a fight with animals. ψυχαγωγεω ("I lead souls to the nether-world") is still my favorite word, however.
  6. In verse three I think it is best to understand, and render, αξιοις ουσιν as essentially parenthetical. I don’t think he is saying grammatically that they are worthy to obtain such a great bishop, though he does think they are worthy. He is saying blessed is the one who granted that they obtain. In other words the infinitive κεκτησθαι modifies χαρισαμενος, not αξιοις.

That’s all for now. Next post in the series we’ll talk about some of Ignatius’ thinking which we find in this chapter.