Letter to the Romans (Ignatius of Antioch)

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The Letter to the Romans by Ignatius, an early-second-century Bishop of Antioch, was written during his transport from Antioch, Syria, to his execution in Rome. One of seven extant epistles written by Ignatius, Romans is Ignatius’ most detailed explanation of his views on martyrdom.


The exact year in which Romans was written is disputed; however, common consensus seems to be that Ignatius wrote concurrent with New Testament writings and likely under the rule of Roman Emperor Trajan. Scholars hypothesize that the text was written between “105 and 110 AD”,[1] as well as “prior to 117 CE”,[2] and “between the first year of Vespasian and the 10th year of Trajan” [3] Although we do not know which specific year Ignatius wrote this letter, he does provide the month and day: August 23.

Following his arrest in Syria, Ignatius traveled through many cities on his way to Rome for execution. Romans was written prior to his arrival in Rome, while he was in Smyrna. Our evidence for the Ignatius’ journey to Rome primarily comes from the fourth-century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea.[4]

Romans is part of a series of seven epistles that Ignatius wrote, each addressed to a different regional church. However, while the other letters addressed communities with whom Ignatius had already had contact (either in person or via representatives), Romans addresses Roman Christians prior to his arrival in Rome. It has been suggested that the letter (especially because it includes the specific day and month it was written) was intended to allow Roman Christians to prepare for Ignatius’ arrival.


Romans follows an epistolary format, addressing the regional Roman church. The text is often considered to be modeled after the Pauline epistles, while incorporating certain Hellenistic mores.


Romans follows this basic epistolary format:


Superscripto – “Ignatius, also called Theophorus.” Theophorus appears to be a familiar, or nickname, meaning “bearer of God” that Ignatius includes in all his letters.

Adscription A more detailed description of the church receiving the letter.

Salutario Includes circumstances of the letter and a greeting to the recipients.

Sections 1-8 are Ignatius’ request that Roman Christians not interfere with his martyrdom, as it is how he desires to be with God.

Sections 9-10 contain concluding remarks and greetings.

Jefford provides a nice acute summary (in clear, modern English) of Romans in the book Reading the Apostolic Fathers:

"Greetings to the Romans! Though I am unworthy, I long to see you. Pray for me. And when I arrive in chains, let me die a martyr’s death – eaten by wild beasts! I long for this proof that I am a true disciple of Christ. Let me follow in the footsteps of the Lord. I no longer take pleasure in life. Pray for the church in Syria."


While Romans is primarily significant for Ignatius’ discussion of his impending martyrdom, it is also important for serving as a representation of early Christian writing, though it does differ from the other six letters Ignatius wrote.

Ignatius implores the Roman Christians to allow him to be martyred, that they practice what they teach in regard to enduring suffering. The language Ignatius uses to discuss his death is frequently eucharistic, often referring to the consumption of his body as bread. Likewise, the language Ignatius uses is morbid, as the prospect of his death informs much of the letter. He claims that only through death can he attain true freedom, and that there is no longer any value in worldly things for him. Ignatius also likens his movement towards Rome to a victory march from battle. The various metaphors Ignatius uses glorify martyrdom. Overall, his rumination on martyrdom reflects the countercultural attitudes of Christianity during this post-apostolic era.

Also, it is important in how it differs from Ignatius’ other six epistles. This letter discusses martyrdom with a people Ignatius has not yet personally encountered (the Christian community in Rome), whereas the other letters primarily address issues such as church hierarchy, creeds and confessions, and maintaining Christianity. Thus, this letter places importance upon Rome as a vehicle towards martyrdom.

Finally, this text is also important because it provides a sketch of the emerging church hierarchy. We can see how the three-tiered church hierarchy (consisting of bishops, elders, and deacons) was coming into being, and how regional churches were gaining unity through it.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clayton Jefford (ed.). Reading the Apostolic Fathers: An Introductionp. 3
  2. ^ Wilhelm Pratscher (ed.) The Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction p.94
  3. ^ Wilhelm Pratscher (ed.) The Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction p.94
  4. ^ Wilhelm Pratscher (ed.) The Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction p.91
  • Paul Foster (ed.). The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers
  • Robert M. Grant (ed.). The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary
  • Clayton Jefford (ed.). Reading the Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction
  • Wilhelm Pratscher (ed.) The Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction
  • Timothy B. Sailors, "Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations". Retrieved 13 January 2017.

External links[edit]

Works related to Ignatius to the Romans at Wikisource