Did St. Ignatius of Antioch REALLY Believe in Transubstantiation in the 1st Century?


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Yes, just like his contemporary St Justin Martyr:

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
St. Justin Martyr, First Apology (100-165 AD).


I will ansswer in purely histórical View not a secular one .

And the answer is we have no idea

Catholicsuse this quote.

want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ who is of the seed of David; and for drink I want his blood…" (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans, Chapter 7).

Even by itself without no context this quote does not by its self supports transubstantiation. To simply call the bread the “flesh of Christ” or to call the cup “His blood” says no more than any Protestant would say.

The seventh chapter of the book is filled with metáporical language like:

The ruler of this age wants to take me captive and corrupt my godly intentions. Therefore none of you who are present must help him. Instead take my side, that is, God’s. Do not talk about Jesus Christ while you desire the world. Do not let envy dwell among you. And if upon my arrival I myself should appeal to you, do not be persuaded by me; believe instead these things that I am writing to you. For though I am still alive, I am passionately in love with death as I write to you. My passionate love has been crucified and there is no fire of material longing within me, but only water living and speaking in me, saying within me, ‘Come to the Father.’ I take no pleasure in corruptible food or the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ who is of the seed of David; and for drink I want his blood, which is incorruptible love,"

Really? Do Protestants commonly speak of the Eucharist as “the flesh of Christ,” or of the chalice as his blood?

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The only quote that really implies that ignatuis
Belived this is:

“…abstain from Eucharist and prayer because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up,” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnians, Chapter 6).

, this passage at least seems to assume that the Eucharist is literally the actual flesh that suffered for our sins and which the Father raised up.

however, it does not affirming transubstantiation. Since Lutheran would affirm that the body of Jesus is literally present in the supper and that, when one eats the bread, they literally eat the body of Christ. Yet they deny transubstantiation.

even if the Catholics were right about what Ignatius meant here, its not a solid confromation to the dogma.

Yet, when we look at the context a little closer, we realize that Ignatius is actually speaking of heresy.

the letter is an affirmation of Jesus’ bodily life, suffering, and resurrection, Ignatius goes says:

“For he suffered all these things for our sakes, in order that we might be saved; and he truly suffered just as he truly raised himself— not, as certain unbelievers say, that he suffered in appearance only (it is they who exist in appearance only!). Indeed, their fate will be determined by what they think: they will become disembodied and demonic,” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnians, Chapter 2).

, the error is the heresy that Jesus never actually took on a physical human nature and that, as a result, he only appeared to suffer and die on the cross. This theme continues throughout the letter., just before the quoted section

“Certain people ignorantly deny him, or rather have been denied by him, for they are advocates of death rather than of the truth. Neither the prophecies nor the law of Moses have persuaded them, nor, thus far, the gospel nor our own individual suffering; for they think the same thing about us. For what good does it do me if someone praises me but blasphemes my Lord by not confessing that he was clothed in flesh? Anyone who does not acknowledge this thereby denies him completely and is clothed in a corpse. Given that they are unbelievers, it did not seem worthwhile to me to record their names. Indeed, far be it from me even to remember them, until such time as they change their mind regarding the passion, which is our resurrection,” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnians, Chapter 5).

I suppose some do, but only in the symbolic sense. But I see no reason to understand St. Ignatious’ and St. Justin’s words as anything but literal.

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“Let no one be misled. Even the heavenly beings and the glory of angels and the rulers, both visible and invisible, are subject to judgment if they do not believe in the blood of Christ. Let the one who can accept this accept it. Do not let a high position make anyone proud, for faith and love are everything; nothing is preferable to them. Now note well those who hold heretical opinions about the grace of Jesus Christ that came to us; note how contrary they are to the mind of God. They have no concern for love, none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the oppressed, none for the prisoner or the one released, none for the hungry or thirsty. They abstain from Eucharist and prayer because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up,” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnians, Chapter 6).

The issue is not what these false teachers believe about the physical nature of the bread and wine during communion. It is what they believe about the nature of Jesus Himself and about His passion and resurrection.

Note the words that come right after this:

“Therefore those who deny the good gift of God perish in their contentiousness. It would be more to their advantage to love, in order that they might also rise up. It is proper, therefore, to avoid such people and not speak about them either privately or publicly. Do pay attention, however, to the prophets and especially to the gospel, in which the passion has been made clear to us and the resurrection has been accomplished,” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans , Chapter 7).

So ignatius here is responding to the docetist heresy. So yes secular wise no clue For a catholic and protestant to say he practiced or not is arguing from a presuposition

I don’t feel like Steve Ray actually responded to the objection, though, but to be fair the objection–at least what is presented–is not worded particularly well.

So let’s back up a bit and look at the applicable quotation from the Epistle to the Smyrnaeans. When writing about heretics, Ignatius writes:

“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes.”

However, the heresy Ignatius is condemning is not that they reject the real presence, but that they reject the idea Jesus had actual flesh at all. This is called docetism, the idea that Jesus only appeared human. Since they denied Jesus having real flesh, they would reject the Eucharist–even in a symbolic sense–because it affirmed Jesus as having flesh.

Thus the counterargument, which I believe is being raised, is that Ignatius is not saying they were heretics for not believing in the real presence, as the Eucharist was tangential to the actual point–the problem was their lack of belief that Jesus had flesh to begin with.

I agree with this to a point. Ignatius’s main point is in fact their rejection of the humanity of Jesus, not their rejection of a real presence doctrine. The mention of the Eucharist is quite secondary to what Ignatius is trying to say.

The problem, however, is that even if Ignatius’s main point isn’t to defend the doctrine of the real presence, he still affirms it. His words, after all, are to say that the heretics “abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” If the Eucharist was purely symbolic, then why write “the Eucharist to be the flesh”? Why not use a word like “symbolize” or “represent” instead of the quite emphatic “be”?

All that said, there is a hesitation I have to use this as absolute proof of Ignatius believing in the real presence, and that is the context in which he wrote it. This interpretation turns on the usage of him using one word rather than another. Ignatius was on his way to be martyred and probably didn’t have that much time to write the seven epistles (Smyrneans being one of them). Thus, it is entirely possible that in his rush, he did not phrase things as well as he could have, and with more time would have used a word other than “be.”

But that is speculative, and we can only work with the text we do have. And the text we do have has Ignatius say the Eucharist is the flesh of Christ.

…you know what’s annoying about Ignatius? His name is so similar to Irenaeus I kept accidentally writing “Irenaeus” in this post.

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