Ante-nicene fathers



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Ye husbands, love your wives; and ye wives, your husbands. Ye children, reverence your parents. Ye parents, “bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”36 Honour those [who continue] in virginity, as the priestesses of Christ; and the widows [that persevere] in gravity of behaviour, as the altar of God. Ye servants, wait upon your masters with [respectful] fear. Ye masters, issue orders to your servants with tenderness. Let no one among you be idle; for idleness is the mother of want. I do not enjoin these things as being a person of any consequence, although I am in bonds [for Christ]; but as a brother, I put you in mind of them. The Lord be with you!

Chapter X.—Salutations.

May I enjoy your prayers! Pray ye that may attain to Jesus. I commend unto you the Church which is at Antioch. The Churches of Philippi,37 whence also I write to you, salute you. Philo, your deacon, to whom also I give thanks as one who has zealously ministered to me in all things, salutes you. Agathopus, the deacon from Syria, who follows me in Christ, salutes you. “Salute ye one another with a holy kiss.”38 I salute you all, both male and female, who are in Christ. Fare ye well in body, and soul, and in one Spirit; and do not ye forget me. The Lord be with you!

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians

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Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church sojourning in Syria, which has obtained mercy from God, and been elected by Christ, and which first1 received the name Christ, [wishes] happiness in God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter I.—Cautions Against Error.



The Lord has rendered my bonds light and easy since I learnt that you are in peace, that you live in all harmony both of the flesh and spirit. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,2 beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”3 guarding against those heresies of the wicked one which have broken in upon us, to the deceiving and destruction of those that accept of them; but that ye give heed to the doctrine of the apostles, and believe both the law and the prophets: that ye reject every Jewish and Gentile error, and neither introduce a multiplicity of gods, nor yet deny Christ under the pretence of [maintaining] the unity of God.

Chapter II.—The True Doctrine Respecting God and Christ.

For Moses, the faithful servant of God, when he said, “The Lord thy God is one Lord,”4 and thus proclaimed that there was only one God, did yet forthwith confess also our Lord when he said, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord.”5 And again, “And God6 said, Let Us make man after our image: and so God made man, after the image of God made He him.”7 And further “In the image of God made He man.”8 And that [the Son of God] was to be made man [Moses shows when] he says, “A prophet shall the Lord raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me.”9

Chapter III.—The Same Continued.

The prophets also, when they speak as in the person of God, [saying, ] “I am God, the first [of beings], and I am also the last,10 and besides Me there is no God,”11 concerning the Father of the universe, do also speak of our Lord Jesus Christ. “A Son,” they say, has been given to us, on whose shoulder the government is from above; and His name is called the Angel of great counsel, Wonderful, Counsellor, the strong and mighty God.”12 And concerning His incarnation, “Behold, a virgin shall be with Child, and shall bring forth a Son; and they shall call his name Immanuel.”13 And concerning the passion, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before her shearers is dumb, I also was an innocent lamb led to be sacrificed.”14

Chapter IV.—Continuation.

The Evangelists, too, when they declared that the one Father was “the only true God,”15 did not omit what concerned our Lord, but wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”16 And concerning the incarnation: “The Word,” says [the Scripture], “became flesh, and dwelt among us.”17 And again: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”18 And those very apostles, who said “that there is one God,”19 said also that “there is one Mediator between God and men.”20 Nor were they ashamed of the incarnation and the passion. For what says [one]? “The man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself”21 for the life and salvation of the world.

Chapter V.—Denunciation of False Teachers.

Whosoever, therefore, declares that there is but one God, only so as to take away the divinity of Christ, is a devil,22 and an enemy of all righteousness. He also that confesseth Christ, yet not as the Son of the Maker of the world, but of some other unknown23 being, different from Him whom the law and the prophets have proclaimed, this man is an instrument of the devil. And he that rejects the incarnation, and is ashamed of the cross for which I am in bonds, this man is antichrist.24 Moreover, he who affirms Christ to be a mere man is accursed, according to the [declaration of the] prophet,25 since he puts not his trust in God, but in man. Wherefore also he is unfruitful, like the wild myrtle-tree.

Chapter VI.—Renewed Cautions.

These things I write to you, thou new olive-tree of Christ, not that I am aware you hold any such opinions, but that I may put you on your guard, as a father does his children. Beware, therefore, of those that hasten to work mischief, those “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose glory is in their shame.”26 Beware of those “dumb dogs,” those trailing serpents, those scaly27 dragons, those asps, and basilisks, and scorpions. For these are subtle wolves,28 and apes that mimic the appearance of men.

Chapter VII.—Exhortation to Consistency of Conduct.

Ye have been the disciples of Paul and Peter; do not lose what was committed to your trust. Keep in remembrance Euodias,29 your deservedly-blessed pastor, into whose hands the government over you was first entrusted by the apostles. Let us not bring disgrace upon our Father. Let us prove ourselves His true-born children, and not bastards. Ye know after what manner I have acted among you. The things which, when present, I spoke to you, these same, when absent, I now write to you. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema.”30 Be ye followers of me.31 My soul be for yours, when I attain to Jesus. Remember my bonds.32

Chapter VIII.—Exhortations to the Presbyters and Others.

Ye presbyters, “feed the flock which is among you,”33 till God shall show who is to hold the rule over you. For “I am now ready to be offered,”34 that I “may win Christ.”35 Let the deacons know of what dignity they are, and let them study to be blameless, that they may be the followers of Christ. Let the people be subject to the presbyters and the deacons. Let the virgins know to whom they have consecrated themselves.

Chapter IX.—Duties of Husbands, Wives, Parents, and Children.

Let the husbands love their wives, remembering that, at the creation, one woman, and not many, was given to one man. Let the wives honour their husbands, as their own flesh; and let them not presume to address them by their names.36 Let them also be chaste, reckoning their husbands as their only partners, to whom indeed they have been united according to the will of God. Ye parents, impart a holy training to your children. Ye children, “honour your parents, that it may be well with you.”37

Chapter X.—Duties of Masters and Servants.

Ye masters, do not treat your servants with haughtiness, but imitate patient Job, who declares, “I did not despise38 the cause39 of my man-servant, or of my maid-servant, when they contended with me. For what in that case shall I do when the Lord makes an inquisition regarding me? ”40 And you know what follows. Ye servants, do not provoke your masters to anger in anything, lest ye become the authors of incurable mischiefs to yourselves.

Chapter XI.—Inculcation of Various Moral Duties.

Let no one addicted to idleness eat,41 lest he become a wanderer about, and a whoremonger. Let drunkenness, anger, envy, reviling, clamour, and blasphemy “be not so much as named among you.”42 Let not the widows live a life of pleasure, lest they wax wanton against the word.43 Be subject to Caesar in everything in which subjection implies no [spiritual] danger. Provoke not those that rule over you to wrath, that you may give no occasion against yourselves to those that seek for it. But as to the practice of magic, or the impure love of boys, or murder, it is superfluous to write to you, since such vices are forbidden to be committed even by the Gentiles. I do not issue commands on these points as if I were an apostle; but, as your fellow-servant, I put you in mind of them.

Chapter XII.—Salutations.

I salute the holy presbytery. I salute the sacred deacons, and that person most dear to me,44 whom may I behold, through the Holy Spirit, occupying my place when I shall attain to Christ. My soul be in place of his. I salute the sub-deacons, the readers, the singers, the doorkeepers, the labourers,45 the exorcists, the confessors.46 I salute the keepers of the holy gates, the deaconesses in Christ. I salute the virgins betrothed to Christ, of whom may I have joy in the Lord Jesus.47 I salute the people of the Lord, from the smallest to the greatest, and all my sisters in the Lord.

Chapter XIII.—Salutations Continued.

I salute Cassian and his partner in life, and their very dear children. Polycarp, that most worthy bishop, who is also deeply interested in you, salutes you; and to him I have commended you in the Lord. The whole Church of the Smyrnaeans, indeed, is mindful of you in their prayers in the Lord. Onesimus, the pastor of the Ephesians, salutes you. Damas,48 the bishop of Magnesia, salutes you. Polybius, bishop of the Trallians, salutes you. Philo and Agathopus, the deacons, my companions, salute you, “Salute one another with a holy kiss.”49

Chapter XIV.—Conclusion.

I write this letter to you from Philippi. May He who is alone unbegotten, keep you stedfast both in the spirit and in the flesh, through Him who was begotten before time50 began! And may I behold you in the kingdom of Christ! I salute him who is to bear rule over you in my stead: may I have joy of him in the Lord! Fare ye well in God, and in Christ, being enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

The Epistle of Ignatius to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch

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Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Hero, the deacon of Christ, and the servant of God, a man honoured by God, and most dearly loved as well as esteemed, who carries Christ and the Spirit within him, and who is mine own son in faith and love: Grace, mercy, and peace from Almighty God, and from Christ Jesus our Lord, His only-begotten Son, “who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from the present evil world,”1 and preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom.

Chapter I.—Exhortations to Earnestness and Moderation.



I Exhort thee in God, that thou add [speed] to thy course, and that thou vindicate thy dignity. Have a care to preserve concord with the saints. Bear [the burdens of] the weak, that “thou mayest fulfil the law of Christ.”2 Devote3 thyself to fasting and prayer, but not beyond measure, lest thou destroy thyself4 thereby. Do not altogether abstain from wine and flesh, for these things are not to be viewed with abhorrence, since [the Scripture] saith, “Ye shall eat the good things of the earth.”5 And again, “Ye shall eat flesh even as herbs.”6 And again, “Wine maketh glad the heart of man, and oil exhilarates, and bread strengthens him.”7 But all are to be used with moderation, as being the gifts of God. “For who shall eat or who shall drink without Him? For if anything be beautiful, it is His; and if anything be good, it is His.”8 Give attention to reading,9 that thou mayest not only thyself know the laws, but mayest also explain them to others, as the earnest servant10 of God. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier; and if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully.”11 I that am in bonds pray that my soul may be in place of yours.

Chapter II.—Cautions Against False Teachers.

Every one that teaches anything beyond what is commanded, though he be [deemed] worthy of credit, though he be in the habit of fasting, though he live in continence, though he work miracles, though he have the gift of prophecy, let him be in thy sight as a wolf in sheep’s clothing,12 labouring for the destruction of the sheep. If any one denies the cross, and is ashamed of the passion, let him be to thee as the adversary himself. “Though he gives all his goods to feed the poor, though he remove mountains, though he give his body to be burned,”13 let him be regarded by thee as abominable. If any one makes light of the law or the prophets, which Christ fulfilled at His coming, let him be to thee as antichrist. If any one says that the Lord is a mere man, he is a Jew, a murderer of Christ.

Chapter III.—Exhortations as to Ecclesiastical Duties.

“Honour widows that are widows indeed.”14 Be the friend of orphans; for God is “the Father of the fatherless, and the Judge of the widows.”15 Do nothing without the bishops; for they are priests, and thou a servant of the priests. They baptize, offer sacrifice,16 ordain, and lay on hands; but thou ministerest to them, as the holy Stephen did at Jerusalem to James and the presbyters. Do not neglect the sacred meetings17 [of the saints]; inquire after every one by name. “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example to the believers, both in word and conduct.”18

Chapter IV.—Servants and Women are Not to Be Despised.

Be not ashamed of servants, for we possess the same nature in common with them. Do not hold women in abomination, for they have given thee birth, and brought thee up. It is fitting, therefore, to love those that were the authors of our birth (but only in the Lord), inasmuch as a man can produce no children without a woman. It is right, therefore, that we should honour those who have had a part in giving us birth. “Neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man,”19 except in the case of those who were first formed. For the body of Adam was made out of the four elements, and that of Eve out of the side of Adam. And, indeed, the altogether peculiar birth of the Lord was of a virgin alone. [This took place] not as if the lawful union [of man and wife] were abominable, but such a kind of birth was fitting to God. For it became the Creator not to make use of the ordinary method of generation, but of one that was singular and strange, as being the Creator.

Chapter V.—Various Relative Duties.

Flee from haughtiness, “for the Lord resisteth the proud.”20 Abhor falsehood, for says [the Scripture], “Thou shalt destroy all them that speak lies.”21 Guard against envy, for its author is the devil, and his successor Cain, who envied his brother, and out of envy committed murder. Exhort my sisters to love God, and be content with their own husbands only. In like manner, exhort my brethren also to be content with their own wives. Watch over the virgins, as the precious treasures of Christ. Be long-suffering,22 that thou mayest be great in wisdom. Do not neglect the poor, in so far as thou art prosperous. For “by alms and fidelity sins are purged away.”23

Chapter VI—Exhortations to Purity and Caution.

Keep thyself pure as the habitation of God. Thou art the temple of Christ. Thou art the instrument of the Spirit. Thou knowest in what way I have brought thee up. Though I am the least of men, do thou seek to follow me, be thou an imitator of my conduct. I do not glory in the world, but in the Lord. I exhort Hero, my son; “but let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord.”24 May I have joy of thee, my dear son, whose guardian may He be who is the only unbegotten God, and the Lord Jesus Christ! Do not believe all persons, do not place confidence in all; nor let any man get the better of thee by flattery. For many are the ministers of Satan; and “he that is hasty to believe is light of heart.”25

Chapter VII.—Solemn Charge to Hero, as Future Bishop of Antioch.

Keep God in remembrance, and thou shalt never sin. Be not double-minded26 in thy prayers; for blessed is he who doubteth not. For I believe in the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His only-begotten Son, that God will show me, Hero, upon my throne. Add speed, therefore,27 to thy course. I charge thee before the God of the universe, and before Christ, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and of the ministering ranks [of angels], keep in safety that deposit which I and Christ have committed to thee, and do not judge thyself unworthy of those things which have been shown by God [to me] concerning thee. I hand over to thee the Church of Antioch. I have commended you to Polycarp in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter VIII.—Salutations.

The bishops, Onesimus, Bitus, Damas, Polybius, and all they of Philippi (whence also I have written to thee), salute thee in Christ. Salute the presbytery worthy of God: salute my holy fellow-deacons, of whom may I have joy in Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit. Salute the people of the Lord, from the smallest to the greatest, every one by name; whom I commit to thee as Moses did [the Israelites] to Joshua, who was their leader after him. And do not reckon this which I have said presumptuous on my part; for although we are not such as they were, yet we at least pray that we may be so, since indeed we are the children of Abraham. Be strong, therefore, O Hero, like a hero, and like a man. For from henceforth thou shalt lead28 in and out the people of the Lord that are in Antioch, and so “the congregation of the Lord shall not be as sheep which have no shepherd.”29

Chapter IX.—Concluding Salutations and Instructions.

Salute Cassian, my host, and his most serious-minded partner in life, and their very dear children, to whom may “God grant that they find mercy of the Lord in that day,”30 on account of their ministrations to us, whom also I commend to thee in Christ. Salute by name all the faithful in Christ that are at Laodicea. Do not neglect those at Tarsus, but look after them steadily, confirming them in the Gospel. I salute in the Lord, Maris the bishop of Neapolis, near Anazarbus. Salute thou also Mary my daughter, distinguished both for gravity and erudition, as also “the Church which is in her house.”31 May my soul be in place of hers: she is the very pattern of pious women. May the Father of Christ, by His only-begotten Son, preserve thee in good health, and of high repute in all things, to a very old age, for the benefit of the Church of God! Farewell in the Lord, and pray thou that I may be perfected.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians

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Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God which is at Philippi, which has obtained mercy in faith, and patience, and love unfeigned: Mercy and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, “who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.”1

Chapter I.—Reason for Writing the Epistle.



Being mindful of your love and of your zeal in Christ, which ye have manifested towards us, we thought it fitting to write to you, who display such a godly and spiritual love to the brethren,2 to put you in remembrance of your Christian course,3 “that ye all speak the same thing, being of one mind, thinking the same thing, and walking by the same rule of faith,”4 as Paul admonished you. For if there is one God of the universe, the Father of Christ, “of whom are all things; ”5 and one Lord Jesus Christ, our [Lord], “by whom are all things; ”6 and also one Holy Spirit, who wrought7 in Moses, and in the prophets and apostles; and also one baptism, which is administered that we should have fellowship with the death of the Lord;8 and also one elect Church; there ought likewise to be but one faith in respect to Christ. For “there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is through all, and in all.”9

Chapter II.—Unity of the Three Divine Persons.

There is then one God and Father, and not two or three; One who is; and there is no other besides Him, the only true [God]. For “the Lord thy God,” saith [the Scripture], “is one Lord.”10 And again, “Hath not one God created us? Have we not all one Father?11 And there is also one Son, God the Word. For “the only-begotten Son,” saith [the Scripture], “who is in the bosom of the Father.”12 And again, “One Lord Jesus Christ.”13 And in another place, “What is His name, or what His Son’s name, that we may know? ”14 And there is also one Paraclete.15 For “there is also,” saith [the Scripture], “one Spirit,”16 since “we have been called in one hope of our calling.”17 And again, “We have drunk of one Spirit,”18 with what follows. And it is manifest that all these gifts [possessed by believers] “worketh one and the self-same Spirit.”19 There are not then either three Fathers,20 or three Sons, or three Paracletes, but one Father, and one Son, and one Paraclete. Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,”21 not unto one [person] having three names, nor into three [persons] who became incarnate, but into three possessed of equal honour.

Chapter III.—Christ Was Truly Born, and Died.

For there is but One that became incarnate, and that neither the Father nor the Paraclete, but the Son only, [who became so] not in appearance or imagination, but in reality. For “the Word became flesh.”22 For “Wisdom builded for herself a house.”23 And God the Word was born as man, with a body, of the Virgin, without any intercourse of man. For [it is written], “A virgin shall conceive in her womb, and bring forth a son.”24 He was then truly born, truly grew up, truly ate and drank, was truly crucified, and died, and rose again. He who believes these things, as they really were, and as they really took place, is blessed. He who believeth them not is no less accursed than those who crucified the Lord. For the prince of this world rejoiceth when any one denies the cross, since he knows that the confession of the cross is his own destruction. For that is the trophy which has been raised up against his power, which when he sees, he shudders, and when he hears of, is afraid.

Chapter IV.—The Malignity and Folly of Satan.




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