The First Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to Polycarp of Smyrna

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Chapter One

1 Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, overseer of Smyrna; or rather, to he who has, as his own overseer, God the Father, and our Lord Yeshua the Messiah: wishes of abundant happiness.

2 Because your mind is welcome to me, as it is established in God, as if it were on an immovable rock, I glorify God all the more, since I have been counted worthy of seeing your face, for which I have, in God, long hoped for. 3 Now I plead with you, by the grace with which you are clothed, to make haste in your course, to pray for all men that they may be saved. 4 Diligently make demands for things which are prudent, both of the flesh and of the spirit. Be mindful of unity, of which nothing is more precious. Bear with all men, even as our Lord bears with you. 1 5 Show patience toward all men in love, as indeed you already do. Be steadfast in prayer. Ask for more understanding than that which you already have. Be watchful, as if you possessed a spirit which does not sleep. 6 Speak with every man, according to the will of God. Bear the infirmities of all men as a perfect athlete, for where the labor is great, the gain is also great. 7 If you love the good disciples only, you do not possess grace; but rather bring calmness to those who are evil by means of gentleness.

8 Now most wounds are not healed by the same medicine. Mitigate the pain of cutting by tenderness. “Be wise as the serpent” in everything, “and innocent,” with respect to those things which are requisite, “even as the dove.” 2 9 For this reason you are made up of both flesh and spirit, that you may entice 3 those things which are visible before your face, 10 and may ask about the things which are concealed from you, that they too may be revealed, in order that you may be deficient in nothing, and may abound in all gifts.

11 As a pilot does a ship, or as one facing a storm does a haven, the time demands that you should be worthy of God. 12 Be watchful as an athlete of God, for that which is promised to us is eternal life, which cannot be corrupted; of these things, you are already convinced. In all things my soul will be for yours, and my bonds also, which you have loved.

13 Do not be apprehensive about those who seem credible, but teach strange doctrines. Stand in the truth, as an athlete who is smitten, for it is the place of a great athlete to be smitten, and yet conquer. 14 It is even more especially fitting that we should bear everything for the sake of God, that He also may bear us. 15 Be even more diligent than you already are. Be discerning of the times. Look for He who is above the times, He who has no times, He who is invisible, He who became visible for our sakes, He who is beyond the scope of our comprehension, He who is unsurpassed, He who suffered for our sakes, He who endured all things in every form for our sakes.

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Chapter Two

1 Do not overlook the widows; rather, on account of our Lord, be their guardian. 2 Let nothing be done without your will, even as you yourself do nothing without the will of God. Stand rightly. 3 Let there be frequent assemblies, and ask every man to them by name. 4 Do not despise slaves, either male or female, nor let them be scornful; but let them labor as for the glory of God, that they may be counted worthy of a more precious freedom, which is of God. 5 Let them not desire to be set free out of the common fund, lest they be found the slaves of lust.

6 Flee from the wicked arts; but educate concerning them. 4 7 Speak to my sisters, that they love in our Lord, and that their husbands should be sufficient for them, both in the flesh and the spirit. 8 Then, again, instruct my brethren in the name of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, that they love their wives, as our Lord loves His Assembly. 5 9 If any man has the ability to continue in purity, to the honor of the flesh of our Lord, let him continue to do so without boasting; if he boasts, he is undone; if he becomes known apart from the overseer, he has corrupted himself. 10 It is right, therefore, for men and women who marry, that they marry with the counsel of the overseer, so that the marriage may be in our Lord, and not in lust. 11 Let everything, therefore, be done for the honor of God.

12 Look to the overseer, that God also may look upon you. My soul will be for theirs, of those who respect the overseer, and the elders, and the servants; may I have, with them, a share in the presence of God! 13 Labor together with one another, contend together, 6 run together, suffer together, rest together, and rise together. 14 As stewards of God, as sons of His household, and as His servants, please Him and serve Him, that you may receive from Him the wages promised. Let none of you be rebellious. Let your baptism be as armor, and your faith as a spear, and your love as a helmet, and your patience as a complete array of armor. 15 Let good works be your treasures, that you may receive the gift of God, as is right. Let your spirit be long-suffering towards one another with meekness, even as God is toward you. 16 As for me, I rejoice for you at all times.

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Chapter Three

1 A Christian does not have power over himself, but is ever-ready to be subject to God. 2 As such, I salute he who is counted as worthy to go to Antioch in my place, as I have commanded of you to supply.

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End Notes

1 Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:17.

2 Matthew 10:16, Thomas 39.

3 Literally, “flatter.” Figuratively, “deal tenderly with.”

4 Some Greek texts say, “…do not educate concerning them.”

5 See Ephesians 5:25.

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