19: Martyrdom of Ignatius

“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”

Matthew 24:9

The martyrdom of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, in 107AD was the highest profile event, from a Christian perspective, during the reign of Trajan. Antioch in Syria had, since the days of Paul, replaced Jerusalem as the centre of Christianity. Ignatius, a one time pupil of the Apostle John, was one of the leaders of the Christianity worldwide in the post apostolic age.

When Emperor Trajan came to visit Antioch, the venerable Bishop was very elderly having passed his eightieth birthday. Nevertheless when the Emperor demanded that the population sacrifice to the gods,8

Ignatius boldly refused declaring that God was in his heart because he was a possessor of Christ.

Trajan, condemning Ignatius to be thrown to the lions in Rome had him bound in chains and transported by soldiers to the imperial capital. Tradition claims that he wrote letters to the churches as he travelled and interacted with Christian communities, especially Smyrna where he had fellowship with Polycarp.

On 20th December Ignatius was thrown to the savage hungry beasts in the Colosseum before a cheering mob. Face to face with such a cruel death tradition has it that he said:

I am God’s grain rice be ground between the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become a holy loaf for the Lord.

Sketches from Church History, S.M. Houghton

Although only bones remained, they were carefully gathered up by his faithful followers, who accompanied him on the long journey, and taken back to Antioch for burial, in sure and certain hope of a great resurrection.

So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see,
To spend, though it be blood to spend and spare not,
So send I you to taste of Calvary.

Margaret Clarkson / John W. Peterson

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