01.2.5 Ignatius Epistles Still only Call Old Testament Scripture

Continuing with the pattern that we saw in Clement’s epistle there are again no Scripture references to New Testament epistles in either the long or short versions of the epistles by Ignatius deemed to be genuine. In fact, there are no Scripture references at all in the short versions. In the long versions, as we have talked about in another post, there are numerous Scripture references seemingly given as elaborations, but in every case they either reference Old Testament verses or Gospel citations. The gospel citations, however, are not limited just to the words of the Lord. For example,

For says the Scripture, “Many bodies of the saints that slept arose,”[1]

This verse, a reference to Matthew 27:52, is part of the narrative by Matthew, and not any words spoken by Jesus. So the longer version of the epistles do reference the gospels as scripture. However, since they are not recognized as genuine, this doesn’t validate that people of Ignatius time recognized the gospels as scripture. But it does suggest that by the time that the forgeries were written the gospels were called scripture.

Again, these gospel citations are in the longer versions which are deemed to be spurious, but it is the first time that words of the Gospels other than Jesus’ are called Scripture in early Christian writings. It is still significant that even in the longer versions which are deemed spurious there are still no New Testament citations other than to the Gospels.

That is not to say that there are not some wordings in these epistles that are also found in the New Testament epistles, they are just not referenced as Scripture. Scholars call these occasions “allusions”. So while there are wordings used that are also in the New Testament epistles, they are not called Scripture, even in the longer version. That suggests that at the time of the forgeries, while the gospels were starting to be called “Scripture”, the New Testament epistles were not.

What we are witnessing is that the definition of “Scripture”, words identified as the Word of God, appears to have expanded by the time of the forgeries. In Clement the word “Scripture” was limited to the Old Testament writings. Additionally, Clement treated the words of our Lord as the word of God. In the longer versions of Ignatius “Scripture” now refers to the Old Testament and the Gospels, but it does not refer to the New Testament epistles from Peter, Paul and so forth. Of course, since Scripture was only referred to in the longer versions that means they were written sometime after the original Ignatian writings and how much longer is not known.

So, through the times of Clement, and now Ignatius (around 107 A.D.), “Scripture” only refers to Old Testament writings.

[1] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, Chap. IX. — Reference to the History of Christ, E-Sword Program

© copyright 2010 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

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