Separation From The Bishop

Because you can never get enough Ignatius, here we go again. This time we are on chapter 5 of Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians. As is the norm, this text is from CCEL’s digitization of Lake’s text.

You will definitely want to refamiliarize yourself with the last post in the series before reading this post, as it follows on the theme of and uses some of the vocabulary of the previous.

5:1 Εἰ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἐν μικρῷ χρόνῳ τοιαύτην συνήθειαν ἔσχον πρὸς τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ὑμῶν, οὐκ ἀνθρωπίνην οὖσαν, ἀλλὰ πνευματικήν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς μακαρίζω τοὺς ἐγκεκραμένους οὕτως, ὡς ἡ ἐκκλησία Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ, καὶ ὡς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς τῷ πατρί, ἵνα πάντα ἐν ἑνότητι σύμφωνα ῇ; 5:2 μηδεὶς πλανάσθω· ἐὰν μὴ τις ᾖ ἐντος τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, ὑστερεῖται τοῦ ἄρτου τοῦ θεοῦ. εἰ γὰρ ἑνὸς καὶ δευτέρου προσευχὴ τοσαύτην ἰσχὺν ἔχει, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ἥ τε τοῦ ἐπισκόπου καὶ πάσης τῆς ἐκκλησίας; 5:3 ὁ οὖν μὴ ἐρχομενος ἐπί τὸ αὐτὸ, οὗτος ἤδη ὑπερηφανει καὶ ἑαυτὸν διέκρινεν. γέγραπται γάρ· Ὑπερηφάνοις ὁ θεὸς ἀντιτάσσεται, σπουδάσωμεν οὖν μὴ ἀντιτάσσεσθαι τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ, ἵνα ὦμεν θεῷ ὑποτασσόμενοι.

5:1 For if I, in such a brief period, such a fellowship as I had with your bishop, a fellowship not human but spiritual, how much more should I consider you blessed who are united with him, as the church is with Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ with the Father, so that all things might be a symphony in unity? 5:2 Let no one be deceived. If someone is not within the sanctuary, he lacks the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two has such power, how much more the prayer both of the bishop and of all the church? 5:3 Therefore the one who does not come to the church, this one is already proud and has passed judgment on himself, for it is written: "God opposes the proud." Therefore let us not oppose the bishop, in order that we might be obedient to God.

On The Translation

The text was pretty easy this time, so not many notes.

πόσῳ μᾶλλον ἥ τε τοῦ ἐπισκόπου καὶ πάσης τῆς ἐκκλησίας - So what is that stuck in there for? Is that the conjunction that often means "or"? Nope, wrong breathing mark. Well it’s a relative pronoun! Well, it has the write accent and breathing mark, but nope. It’s just an article, and it gets it accent from τε. Repeating this article here is shorthand, pointing back to the noun προσευχή in the previous clause. And if you’re using Bibleworks when you’re reading this text, they have this one marked incorrectly as .

ὁ οὖν μὴ ἐρχομενος ἐπί τὸ αὐτὸ - Why is that neuter? I am not sure, but it seems to be pointing back to the congregation, the church. The phraseology here in general strikes me as a little odd.

On The Meaning

The main point here is pretty clear. Onesimus is a great bishop. If you are not in line with him and his congregation, you are not being obedient to God. Of course it is spoken of more generally, so I will rephrase. If you are at odds with the bishop and his church, it is because you are prideful and not obedient to God.

There was a very different perspective on revelation, truth, and authority in the earliest church than there is now in most Protestantism. Revelation and direction from God were not coterminous with what was found in the Scriptures. Of course in the earliest church the makeup of Scripture was not even defined, from what we can tell. Instruction from God was passed on more through the teaching of the bishops and teachers of the church than through anything written down. I am sure most would not have had copies of anything written by an apostle. It is of necessity that things were as they were then, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The bread of God - There is one sub-point I want to bring out. "If someone is not within the sanctuary, he lacks the bread of God." This reference to "the bread of God" is probably not just a generic reference to not having sustenance from God; it is likely at least an implicit reference to lacking the Lord’s Supper. In most Baptist churches the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so rare I think few would notice if it just disappeared entirely. This is one particular practice of the Baptists that I think is truly heinous. The Baptists have much to learn from the rest of the church on the importance of communion to the life of the church and the individual Christian. Or turning this more generally, any tradition that does not see the Lord’s Supper as something that is very important for the life of the church has strayed and deserves to have its lamp stand taken away. You do not even need to leave the writings of the New Testament to see the importance of communion.