Fall 2015

Religion and Spirituality

Fraud, or Just Misunderstood?

Mark J. Hulme

It is important to understand that many works bearing the name of Ignatius are thought by modern scholars to be forgeries of a much later date. Of the 15 or more works attributed to him, at least eight are generally regarded as fraudulent, having been written not around 110 CE, as claimed, but much later and by other writers. But the seven thought to be genuine are also widely considered unreliable by virtue of extensive additions by a later writer or writers eager to backdate the origin of developing orthodox views. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that “the genuine epistles were greatly interpolated to lend weight to the personal views of its author. For this reason they are incapable of bearing witness to the original form. . . . It is extremely probable that the interpolation of the genuine [and] the addition of the spurious letters . . . was the work of an Apollinarist of Syria or Egypt, who wrote towards the beginning of the fifth century.”

It may therefore be the case that the bulk of the writings said to be by Ignatius actually reflect the beliefs and practices of those living not at the end of the first century but much later. At the very least, the works attributed to him cannot be used as a reliable indicator of what the early church believed and taught.