Sweatin' To The Bishop

And we continue in our series working through the text of Ignatius' letter to the Ephesians. The title is built on the starting imagery, "running with the bishop". When I read that tonight I thought of those really bad "Sweatin' To The Oldies" Richard Simmons tapes. If you need a little nostalgia, you can see an anniversary video on youtube. He has such great hair. Anyway, we are in chapter 4. Here is the text. The text is from CCEL's digitization of Lake's text (with fixes).

4:1 Ὅθεν πρέπει ὑμῖν συντρέχειν τῇ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου γνώμῃ ὅπερ καὶ ποιεῖτε. τὸ γὰρ ἀξιονόμαστον ὑμῶν πρεσβυτέριον, τοῦ θεοῦ ἄξιον, οὕτως συνήρμοσται τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ, ὡς χορδαὶ κιθάρᾳ. διὰ τοῦτο ἐν τῇ ὁμονοίᾳ ὑμῶν καὶ συμφώνῳ ἀγάπῃ Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἄδεται. 4:2 καὶ οἱ κατ’ ἄνδρα δὲ χορὸς γίνεθε, ἵνα σύμωνοι ὄντες ἐν ὁμονοίᾳ, χρῶμα θεοῦ λαβόντες ἐν ἑνότητι, ᾄδητε ἐν φωνῇ μιᾷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῷ πατρί, ἵνα ὑμῶν καὶ ἀκούσῃ καὶ ἐπιγινώσκῃ, δι’ ὧν εὖ πράσσετε, μέλη ὄντας τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. χρήσιμον οὖν ἐστὶν ὑμᾶς ἐν ἀμώμῳ ἑνότητι εἶναι, ἵνα καὶ θεοῦ πάντοτε μετέχητε.

4:1 For this reason it is proper for you to run with the mind of the bishop, which you are doing even now. For your elders, worthy of the name, worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop as the strings of a harp. That's why in your harmony and symphonic love Jesus Christ is sung. 4:2 And to a man you have become a choir, in order that, being symphonic in your harmony, being in key with God, you might sing in unity in one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, so that he can hear and know you, through whom you do well, being members of his Son. Therefore it is beneficial for you to be in unblemished unity, in order that you might always have a share in God.

On The Translation

Ὅθεν πρέπει ὑμῖν συντρέχειν τῇ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου γνώμῃ - See the last post on the verb συντρέχω.

τὸ γὰρ ἀξιονόμαστον ὑμῶν πρεσβυτέριον - Is this "for your worthy-of-the-name elders" or "for the elders worthy of your name"? What does ὑμῶν modify? This is the only instance of ἀξιονόμαστος I could find, unfortunately, so I can't see how it interacts with genitives elsewhere. In 2:1 we already saw ἄξιος with a genitive, "worthy of God and of you". But should the same rules apply here? Perhaps I'll have to think about this more at some point.

καὶ οἱ κατ’ ἄνδρα δὲ χορὸς γίνεθε - Two things here. First there is that distributive κατά. I just seem to keep seeing this usage all over the place. Anyway, I translated it in the very non-gender-nazi-friendly way "to a man". It doesn't only pertain to men, but I like the way it sounds. I like the force of it. Sue me. Second, do you translate γίνεσθε as "you must join" like Holmes (3rd edition) or "you became" like I did above? In my opinion the latter is preferable due to context. They are already in harmony.

χρήσιμον οὖν ἐστὶν ὑμᾶς ἐν ἀμώμῳ ἑνότητι εἶναι - what is the meaning of ἀμώμῳ? Blameless in the sense of "without moral defect" or in the sense of "without imperfection"? The former is probably correct, but I'm leaving it ambiguous so the reader can decide for themselves.

On The Meaning

This is definitely one of the most poetic things I have ever read in Greek. The musical imagery is beautiful, and is appropriate for such an important point.

So if the bishop is in the mind of God, and therefore would be his special representative, you better "run together with the mind of the bishop". You better agree. But are modern bishops authoritative like those bishops? That post will probably wait till after I finish chapter 6. Right now I'm thinking of calling it "Bishops, Bibles, and Baptists". Watch for it. Anyway, the language here is pretty strong. It ends with the point that having unity with the bishop relates to having a share in God. That's pretty serious. This is not unlike the point of the statement in verse 2, "you might sing in unity in one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, so that he can hear and know you". To be in unity with the bishop is to be heard and known by God. I am sure to most of my protestant brethren that sounds rather Catholic :). Though I do agree with Protestantism that the Catholic church during the Reformation was quite off, I think we can still embrace this idea of Ignatius. I promise...more later.

I think the big take away here, at the very least, is that we ought to have unity with our church leadership. The musical analogy here actually works really well. How beautiful, to the world and to God, will a church be that lacks unity...within its people and with its leadership? I have attended several churches in my short life. I have been able to respect the leadership in some, but not in others (right or wrong). That is not good. I have never had the respect for and unity with church leadership that I have for my own church's. I love the church and its leadership deeply. Do you have suspicions about your church's leadership? Do you lack absolute respect for it? Do you have a new pastor and you're curious if he's going to be any good? If so I genuinely pity you. This is such a sad but understandable consequence of how churches find and choose their leadership.


Chuck Grantham 2008-03-02 02:42:53

Checking the pdfs of Lightfoot's set on the Apostolic Fathers, he translated "honorable presbytery" and opined that Ignatius was so fond of azios that he coined new forms of it, which BDAG seems to agree was the case. He also went with "form yourselves into a chorus".

I appreciate the blog. I need all the encouragement I can get to improve my ninety-eight pound weakling Greek.

Eric 2008-03-02 08:39:31

Thanks for dropping by. When this series is done I'm going to be revising and presenting it again but in one piece. I'll have to come back and revisit this. Thanks for your thoughts. I will certainly keep them in mind.