Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Ignatius of Antioch: A Martyr Bishop and the Origin of Episcopacy

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Ignatius of Antioch: A Martyr Bishop and the Origin of Episcopacy

Article excerpt

Ignatius of Antioch: A Martyr Bishop and the Origin of Episcopacy. By Alien Brent. (New York: Continuum,T&T Clark. 2007. Pp. xii, 180. $110.00. ISBN 978-0-56703-200-3.)

Allen Brent has a long-standing interest in the development of church order in the early Christian centuries, set against the background of culture and history in cities of the Roman world. His appraisal of Ignatius of Antioch has been an important part of his work, and readers familiar with it will recognize what is offered in this book.

Brent's is one response to questions that have dogged scholarship on the so-called Middle Recension of the Ignatian letters and have fueled partisan Christian interpretations of them. W. R. Schoedel's introduction in Ignatius (the commentary in the Hermeneia series) would make the questions known to a novice reader on Ignatius. Brent shows someone engaged with them, here bringing his work to a wider audience, i.e., to students of history, theology, and early Christian life who are not enmeshed in "the minutiae of patristic scholarship" (p. x).The writing remains firmly based in scholarship, nevertheless, albeit with the select bibliography, indices of source references, Greek words (firstly in transliteration), subjects, and modern authors condensed neatly into twelve pages.

He revisits topics such as the history of the recovery of Ignatius's genuine letters and renewed (late twentieth-century) challenges to their authenticity (chapters 1 and 5); the position of the bishop in Antioch and elsewhere (chapter 2); Ignatius's choreography of his own journey to death-in interplay with themes of Eucharist and the Christian mysteries (chapters 3 and 4); Ignatius and Polycarp.

Rising through the text is Brent's passionate interest in episcopal government and the idea of "cultural episcopacy," i.e., one not tied to territories but rather (such as modern missionary imperative has created for indigenous peoples) one with bishops "defined in terms of the corporate personality of their culturally defined communities" (p. …

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