To Each Their Own Letter : Structure, Themes, and Rhetorical Strategies in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch

University dissertation from Stockholm : Almqvist & Wiksell International

Abstract: The collection of letters by Ignatius of Antioch has until now mainly been treated as a coherent whole. This has been the case irrespective of analyses of the authenticity or theology of these letters, or of discussions about the identity of Ignatius’ opponents. The present work underlines that each individual letter should be read as a specific act of communication between a sender and his recipients, and emphasizes that Ignatius wrote different letters to different addressees.The five Ignatian letters to the churches at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Philadelphia, and Smyrna are studied in order to highlight the individual character of each letter. Tools from text linguistic analysis (discourse analysis) and rhetorical criticism are employed in order to allow the structure, the (main) themes, and the rhetorical strategy of each respective letter emerge.The five letters can be divided into two groups: letters to churches that Ignatius has visited (Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans), and letters to churches that have sent delegates to him during his stay at Smyrna (Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians). The difference between these two groups affects the structure and the (main) themes as well as the rhetorical strategies. Ignatius shows greater acquaintance with the situation prevailing in Philadelphia and Smyrna than with the other churches.The result has implications for several fields of Ignatian research: the systematic surveys of Ignatius’ theology and the question whether the letters reflect the situation in Antioch or that in the receiving churches, as well as the “eternal” question about the authenticity of these letters.

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