Sunday, February 10, 2013

Genesis 35-36 and The Letters of Ignatius [Ephesians 1-3]

Genesis 35 - Jacob is led by God to go to Bethel to build and altar “to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau” (35:1). He tells everyone to get rid of the household idols he has permitted to be carried by his family.  Bethel is south in Shechem (half way to Jerusalem)the place where Jacob had his dream on his way to Haran in flight from his brother.   Earrings worn as amulets associated with the worship of these idols are also buried under a great tree near Shechem.

God “appear[s] to him again at Bethel. God blessed him, saying, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.’ So God renamed him Israel” (35:9-10). God – El-Shaddai – blesses him yet again: “’Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Israel. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you’” (35:11-12). He sets up a stone pillar to “mark the place where God had spoken to him. Then he poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil” (35:14).

On the way to Ephrath (Bethlehem), Rachel dies in giving birth to Benjamin.  There is some confusion in places here because Rachel’s tomb is in Ramah, just north of Jerusalem and Ephrath is to the south.

Reuben offends his father by sleeping with Rachel’s maid (mother of Reuben’s half-brothers Dan and Naphtali).  They end up in Kiriath-arba (Hebron-Mamre) where Jacob grew up.  Jacob dies at 180.

Genesis 36 – Genealogies of Esau’s descendants are given. Esau’s family moves away from Jacob and his household. “There was not enough land to support them both” (36:7). Esau [Edom] settles in the hill country of Seir.

There were kings in Edom before any king is named to rule over the Israelites (36:31). Their line is given is great detail.

The Epistles of Ignatius
Introduction to Ignatius:
Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch during the reign of Trajan (r. 98-117 AD). He was like Polycarp a student of John the Apostle.

According the Catholic Encyclopedia, “in the ninth year of his reign, Trajan, flushed with victory over the Scythians and Dacians, sought to perfect the universality of his dominion by a species of religious conquest. He decreed, therefore, that the Christians should unite with their pagan neighbors in the worship of the gods. A general persecution was threatened, and death was named as the penalty for all who refused to offer the prescribed sacrifice. He was condemned as a Christian and sent to Rome where he would be martyred” (

On the way to Rome, he wrote a series of seven letters: four when he was at Smyrna – to Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, and Rome; three when he was at Troas – to Philadelphia, Smyrna and to Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna.

When he got to Rome, he was martyred in the Flavian amphitheatre by being thrown to beasts. Accounts of his actual martyrdom were all word of mouth. No documents exist describing it in any detail.

Ignatius’ letters were preserved by Polycarp and were widely known throughout the early Church. 
The editor notes too that another “striking thing about Ignatius is the way in which he seems to foreshadow the language of later Gnosticism (or reflect incipient Gnosticism): the ‘redemption machine’ in Ephesians 9 has a Gnostic ring about it, but more important is the significance he sees in sige, silence. Since, or the abyss that dwells in silence, is in some later Gnostic systems the ultimate origin from which everything proceeds. For Ignatius, silence is whence Jesus the Word comes (Magnesians 8); the silence that characterized his life is its creative source, and the indispensable quality of those who seek to understand him (Ephesians 15). It is also the characteristic of bishops, and in this way it seems that the authority of the bishop reflects directly the silent majesty of God (Ephesians 6, Magnesians 6, Philadelphians 1). There does not seem to be in Ignatius any idea of apostolic succession legitimizing ecclesiastical authority such as we find in Clement; rather Episcopal authority represents directly the authority of God. Much of this ‘gnostic tinge’ can be found in a form similar to Ignatius in apocryphal Jewish and Jewish-Christian writings, where the origins of Gnosticism itself may well be found” (56-57). There is no question that Ignatius rejects Docetism though.

It is in Ignatius that we find the “first extant use of the expression ‘the catholic Church’” (57). “In that Ignatius was prophetic, for the second century saw the establishment of Episcopal authority as the guarantee of unity and orthodoxy: it buttressed by an agreed canon of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, the rule of faith, a creed-like summary of the Christian faith, and faithfulness to the sacraments” (57)

Ignatius to the Ephesians
Introduction to the Epistle: Ephesus was one of the wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire. It had a magnificent Temple to Artemis – one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.” En route to Rome with Roman officials, there was a stop-over in Smyrna, forty miles from Ephesus. Some representatives from that church, led by their bishop Onesimus, came to visit him when he was there and he gave them this letter to take back.

1 – “Your visit to me was a godsend. The warm affection your name inspires is yours by right of nature, as well as by virtue of your faith and your love for our Savior Jesus Christ. Taking God as your pattern and example, you have indeed fulfilled to perfection the duties of brotherliness, with an ardor kindled into flame by the Divine Blood. For as soon as you heard that I was on my way from Syria, as a prisoner for the Name and the Hope we all share (and trusting through your prayers to be granted an encounter with the wild beasts at Rome—a boon that will enable me to become a true disciple), you were all eagerness to visit me” (61).

He praises Bishop Onesimus for his “endearing kindliness” in visiting with him, and tells them they are blessed to have him as their Bishop.

2 – He asks them if it might be possible for Deacon named Burrhus to remain with him. And he mentions other individuals who have been helpful and “shining examples” of their concern for him.

“Now, since Jesus Christ has given such glory to you, it is only right that you should give glory to Him; and this, if sanctification is to be yours in full measure, means uniting in a common act of submission and acknowledging the authority of your bishop and clergy” (61).

3 – “Not that this is an order I am issuing, as though I were someone of importance. It is true that I am a prisoner for the Name’s sake, but I am by no means perfect in Jesus Christ as yet; I am only a beginner in discipleship, and I am speaking to you as fellow-scholars with myself” (62).

He expresses his views because of his love for them. “For we can have no life apart from Jesus Christ; and as He represents the mind of the Father, so our bishops, even those who are stationed in the remotest parts of the world, represent the mind of Jesus Christ” (62).

No comments:

Post a Comment