Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies


B. F. Meyer


The present dissertation is addressed to a single question: how did Ignatius of Antioch understand his death? Our question is not a new one. On the contrary, it is one that has attracted scholarly attention for over a century. Nevertheless, it is one for which a satisfactory answer is still lacking. Most recent commentators are agreed that Ignatius understood his death in terms of a number of individual themes, images and conceptions. Moreover, the clear tendency of scholarly opinion is to identify the themes of discipleship, sacrifice and imitation as most fundamental to understanding the shape of this aspect of Ignatian thought. In its understanding of each of these three themes, however, scholarship continues to propose views which we do not believe to reflect the thinking of Ignatius himself.

Our dissertation is composed of two parts. In Part I, attention is focused upon the content of present scholarly thinking on the subjects of discipleship, sacrifice and imitation within Ignatian thought and the development of scholarly thinking over the last one hundred years. In the case of each of these themes, we conclude that a reevaluation of each theme is presently called for. In Part II, each of the three themes is studied individually. In discussing discipleship, we conclude that Ignatius actually used the key term μαθητης in a more complex way than that presently supposed. UltimateIy, a new view of how Ignatius used this term in reference to himself facing death emerges--one which understands the term in the light of the themes of endurance and devotion. Secondly, a more cautious definition of sacrifice is presented. Here our view of the problem attempts primarily to be more sensitive to the limitations of the available data and aware of possible alternative lines of interpretation. Finally, Part II approaches the theme of imitation as a question of meaning within Ignatian thought. In particular, Ignatius' associations with the persons of Paul and Christ are examined as parts of Ignatius' understanding of his death.

In brief, the present dissertation supports the contention of scholars that the themes of discipleship, sacrifice and imitation were important parts of Ignatius' understanding of his death. It proposes new understandings for each of these themes.

The essential contribution of this thesis is that it proposes a more adequate foundation for the understanding of Ignatius' view of his death. It critically confronts present scholarly thinking on the issue and proposes a new solution of great consequence to this major question within the field of Ignatian scholarship. A more remote significance of the thesis lies in its subverting certain common generalizations about "early Catholicism," insofar as they are grounded in mistaken assumptions about Ignatius of Antioch and his stance toward his own imminent death.

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