Sunday, 3 May 2015

Shaily Patel: The ‘Starhymn' of Ignatius' Epistle to the Ephesians: Re-Appropriation as Polemic

The so-called ‘Starhymn' of Ignatius' epistle to the Ephesians 19:1-3 has garnered a great deal of scholarly attention. Its ambiguous wording and seemingly out-of-place Docetic flavor provide fertile grounds for debate. Indeed, articulating the precise Christological ideology from which the Starhymn emerged monopolizes most of treatments of the text, eliding discussions of theological significance altogether. Scholars such as and Heinrich Schlier and Hans Werner Bartsch see a Gnostic Hintergrund for the Starhymn. Others, such as William Schoedel, have looked to the miraculous birth narratives of Christ and apocalyptic Jewish texts in their search for a background. Despite the fruitful contribution of both schools' analyses to the study of the Ignatian epistles, their dependence upon compartmentalization (of both the Starhymn and the traditions which underlie it) obscures its function within Ignatius' polemic. In this paper, I aim to modify these schools' positions, and by doing so, re-contextualize Ignatius within his own syncretistic religious milieu. Doing so foregrounds his re-appropriation an already-existing hymn that is coded with Docetic language. He then deploys this language against Docetists. By doing so, Ignatius accomplishes a re-coding of this hymn for a proto-orthodox audience. As such, his Docetist opponents may appeal to similar astrological language to legitimate their Christology, but according to the bishop, they have miscalculated. It is Ignatius and the proto-orthodoxy who have interpreted the Christ event correctly.

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