Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers

By Andrew F. Gregory; Christopher M. Tuckett | Go to book overview

13
Ignatius, ‘the Gospel’, and the Gospels

Charles E. Hill


INTRODUCTION

The conclusions drawn by Inge for the Oxford Committee a century ago with regard to the question of Ignatius’ use of the canonical gospels were very measured, though generally positive. While careful not to claim certainty, Inge wrote that the parallels supported the probability of Ignatius’ knowledge of Matthew, Luke, and John.1 His assessment was more optimistic than many later ones would be, particularly after the publication in 1957 of Helmut Köster’s landmark book, Synoptische Überlieferung bei den Apostolischen Vätern,2 which argued that Ignatius’ synoptic parallels do not signify his knowledge of any of our written gospels, but only his use of (usually older) ‘free tradition’. Not only did this book establish a method for approaching synoptic parallels in the Apostolic Fathers, it also gave an authoritative interpretation of Ignatius’ use of the term ‘gospel’, which Koester has maintained ever since, now with many others. When Ignatius uses the term ‘gospel’, Koester concludes, it ‘certainly does not refer to any written text enumerating the basic topics of Jesus’ appearance. It is rather the message of salvation in general of which the center is Christ’s death and resurrection.’3

1 W. R. inge, ‘Ignatius’, in A Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology, The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), 63–83 ‘Ignatius was certainly acquainted either with our Matthew, or with the source of our Matthew, or with a Gospel very closely akin to it… the indications on the whole favour the hypothesis that he used our Greek Matthew in something like its present shape’ (p. 79); ‘The balance of probability seems to be slightly in favour of a knowledge of the Third Gospel’ (p. 80); ‘Ignatius’s use of the Fourth Gospel is highly probable, but falls some way short of certainty’ (p. 83). inge found no strong Marcan parallels. For a more recent assessment, see P. Foster, ‘Ignatius of Antioch and the Writings that later formed the New Testament’, Ch. 7 in the companion volume.

2 H. Köster, Synoptische Uberlieferung bei den Apostolischen Vãtern, TU 65 (Berlin: AkademieVerlag, 1957).

3 H. Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press international; London: SCM Press, 1990), 8; ‘Ignatius never implies that he is speaking of a written text when he uses this term’ (p. 7); ‘Ignatius employs the term exclusively… as a designation of the proclamation

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