Saturday, 6 February 2010

New translation of Ignatius and Polycarp

St Ignatius of Antioch was martyred at Rome under the Emperor Trajan. His letters were therefore written between 98 and 117 AD. (If Eusebius was correct, he was martyred in 108 AD.) St Polycarp was martyred around 156 AD: as a boy, he knew St John, and in later life, he was an influence on St Irenaeus. Consequently these two Fathers form a most important witness to the faith and life of the Church in the immediate post-apostolic period.

Kenneth J Howell, Director and Senior Fellow of the St John Institute of Catholic Thought, has made a fresh translation of the letters of St Ignatius and Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, together with the later work The Martyrdom of Polycarp. A sensible and helpful note on the translation explains his interaction with existing translations and the occasional differences of interpretation.

Throughout the text, there are notes on both the language and the interpretation, making this a most useful text for the student. Also of great value are the introductory essays which deal with both historical and theological questions. St Ignatius is often quoted piecemeal in support of Catholic doctrine; while such selectivity is understandable, it is a pity if students are thereby deprived of an overview of how the theology of St Ignatius relates to and develops some of the themes from the new testament epistles which were written less than a lifetime before him. This book would make an excellent introduction to the study of the Apostolic Fathers and would assist the interested seminarian or theology student to get behind the proof texts.

The writings of Ignatius and Polycarp had a profound effect on Marcus Grodi, helping him to find his way into the Catholic Church. It is fitting that this new translation of their works is published by Grodi's Coming Home Network as the first in their Early Christian Fathers Series. I hope that the series continues in the same vein, producing editions of the Fathers that will open up their treasures in an accessible way.

Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna. A new Translation and Theological Commentary. (Revised and Expanded Edition) Kenneth J Howell. CH Resources (2009) viii+200 pages $11.95.

UPDATE: Contact Family Publications to order this and any other CH Resources books in the UK.
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