Obedience To The Bishop

Now that I can setup series properly on the blog, it is time to begin this series again in earnest. I have no intention of making this series last all year :)

In getting to chapter three of Ignatius’ epistle to the Ephesians, we are getting to the first meat of the epistle. The theme that occupies Ignatius in this chapter will last for several: obedience to the bishop.

The Text

3:1 Οὐ διατάσσομαι ὑμῖν ὡς τις. εἰ γὰρ καὶ δέδεμαι ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, οὔπω ἀπήρτισμαι ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ· νῦν γὰρ ἀρχὴν ἔχω τοῦ μαθητεύεσθαι, καὶ προσλαλῶ ὑμῖν ὡς συνδιδασκαλίταις μου. ἐμὲ γὰρ ἔδει ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ὑπαλειφθῆναι πίστει, νουθεσίᾳ, ὑπομονῇ, μακροθυμίᾳ. 3:2 ἀλλ’ ἐπεὶ ἡ ἀγάπη οὐκ ἐᾷ με σιωπᾶν περὶ ὑμῶν, διὰ τοῦτο προέλαβον παρακαλεῖν ὑμᾶς, ὅπως συντρέχητε τῇ γνώμῃ τοῦ θεοῦ. καὶ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, τὸ ἀδιάκριτον ἡμῶν ζῆν, τοῦ πατρὸς ἡ γνώμη, ὡς καὶ οἱ ἐπίσκοποι, οἱ κατὰ τὰ πέρατα ὁρισθέντες, ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ γνώμῃ εἰσίν.

3:1 I am not commanding you as if I were someone special. For even if I am bound because of the name, I have not yet been made complete in Jesus Christ. For I am now just beginning to be a disciple, and will speak to you as my fellow students. For it was necessary for me to be anointed by your faith, instruction, and patience. 3:2 But since love does not allow me to be silent in regard to you, I undertook the task of encouraging you so you would run together in harmony with the mind of God. For Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the mind of the Father, as also the bishops scattered even to the edge of the the world are in the mind of Christ.

On The Text

The translation is mine, but the Greek text is Lake’s, taken from ccel and corrected. I’ll note the corrections here so I can remember to email them when I’m done with the series. This case the only transcriptional error was having the iota subscript wrong on μακροθυμίᾳ. In terms of text, its only different with Holmes’ recent edition is the inclusion of ὤν between ὡς and τις in the first sentence.

On The Translation

νῦν γὰρ ἀρχὴν ἔχω τοῦ μαθητεύεσθαι - This is an interesting idiom. Literally it could be rendered "I have a beginning to be discipled" as the infinitive seems to be functioning epexegetically in regard to ἀρχήν. Basically, it is a way of saying "I am beginning to become a disciple."

διὰ τοῦτο προέλαβον παρακαλεῖν ὑμᾶς - The διὰ τοῦτο is a little redundant when translated into English since the ἐπεί in the previous phrase already sets up the expectation that this clause is causal, so I left them out. The verb προλαμβάνω can mean "to undertake", and when you "undertake" you undertake a task, so I supplied those words.

ὅπως συντρέχητε τῇ γνώμῃ τοῦ θεοῦ - The verb συντρέχω means generally "to run together with", but metaphorically means "to agree", which is how BDAG lists it. But I think Holmes’ approach in this case is best, and leaves the literal in the text with metaphorical interpretation, translating it "so that you may run together in harmony with the mind of God".

οἱ κατὰ τὰ πέρατα ὁρισθέντες - Literally (and badly) this could be translated "who are appointed according to the edges", but that clearly won’t do. The idea isn’t that only the bishops who are at the edge of the empire/world are appointed, but those who are appointed include even those who are the furthest away. Just because you’re a bishop far away from the central clusters of Christianity doesn’t make you less in the mind of Christ.

On The Meaning

A few things. First, Ignatius is being a little humble here as no one would say he was just beginning to be a disciple.

Second, and getting to his point, is the connection between God and Jesus, and then Jesus and the bishops. First, God and Jesus. Does this strike anyone else as "Wisdom Christology"? You could certainly take it that way. Jesus is God thinking and willing, which obviously can be seen in John’s λόγος and Paul’s idea of Christ as agent of creation.

The bishops being in the mind of Christ is reminiscent of 1 Cor 2:16, where Paul says ἡμεῖς δὲ νοῦν Χριστοῦ ἔχομεν, "but we have the mind of Christ." However, note that the word for "mind", νοῦς, is different. Related? I am not sure. That being said, the meaning of this text is pretty clear. Where Ignatius is going here is that the bishops are in the mind of Christ, who is the mind of God; therefore; they are by extension authoritative representatives of the mind of God. Obviously everyone is in a sense in the mind of God, but the bishops are especially so.

So what is the relationship between "running in harmony with the mind of God" and the bishop. Tune in next time when you’ll see this idiom yet once again...