Sunday, 3 May 2015

Dominika Kurek-Chomycz: ‘… the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins’ (Smyr. 7.1): Use and significance of the early Christian ‘dying for’ formula in the Ignatian corpus

Ignatius’ familiarity with at least a part of the Pauline corpus is beyond debate. Moreover, when speaking of his own suffering and imminent death, Ignatius models it on Paul’s apostolic self-understanding. The references to the death of Jesus in the Ignatian corpus, however, differ to some extent from traditional early Christian formulas. Ignatius seems to be the first writer to refer to the passion as πάθος. The verb παραδίδωμι, on the other hand, attested both in Paul and in the Synoptics, is absent from Ignatius. He uses the ‘surrender formula’ only once, but in reference to himself, not Jesus (Smyr. 4.2). While he appears to have been familiar with the Sterbensformel ‘to die for’, he does not treat it as a fixed formula. The only time when Ignatius alludes to the kerygmatic statement ‘Jesus died for our sins’, he paraphrases it (see Smyr. 7.1), making the ‘flesh’, rather than Jesus Christ, the subject, and replacing the verb ‘to die’ with the verb ‘to suffer’ (cf. 1Pt 3.18). In this paper I examine how Ignatius uses the early Christian Sterbensformel in his letters, and how he changes it to fit the context. I include also a brief discussion on Ignatius and 1Peter, as there are some striking similarities between the two in this regard. Ignatius’ reworking of the traditional formula is best understood in the context of the controversies concerning the reality of Jesus’ suffering. This, in turn, I suggest, leads to a significant re-interpretation of the ancient noble death motif.

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