Ignatius On The Atonement

Neither the ends of the earth nor the kingdoms of this age are of any use to me. It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ than to rule over the ends of the earth. Him I seek, who died on our behalf; him I long for, who rose again for our sake. The pains of birth are upon me.

Ignatius | Epistle to the Romans, 6.1 (c. 110–117)


Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Fascinating quote – thank you

    Since ‘I die for Christ’ cannot be vicarious substitution, it does also beg the question whether ‘who died on our behalf’ has that Anselmic element.

    Since I am studying the (heretical) line of thinking (set out by Gerhard Forde) from Luther to Hofman to Harnack to Ritschl to Barth and to his modern Lutheran critics, I am finding interesting non-Latin, non-vicarious theories of atonement I previously knew not what of

  2. Richard, to your poser that “whether [Ignatius’s statement of] ‘who died on our behalf’ has that Anselmic element,” the answer is no. From the quote above, there is nothing ABSTRACT about the Atonement – sin, *suffering, trials and tribulation, humiliation, pain, anguish, alienation, etc.* are all part and parcel of the Atonement. IOW, the ANFECHTUNG that Luther suffered was not a medieval introspective hangover but “the servant is no greater than the Master.” NOT that that is comparable to the Atonement but that Jesus IDENTIFIED with us not only in sin but the WHOLE dimension of human existence.

    It wasn’t just the wrath of God that attacked Our Lord, but the (theological use of the) Law, sin, the demonic and the visible powers and the moral and legal order of the day, human/ civil righteousness (the political use of the Law).

    That, as *Victor,* Jesus was a VICTIM in EVERY sense of the word. (Contra the liberals, we did NOT identify with Him on the Cross). Instead, as Ignatius puts it elegantly, the Cross was DONE to him in death and resurrection so that he (i.e. Ignatius too) can only be reborn again.

    • Ignatius makes the remark in passing but to answer the earlier question, Ignatius says that he is prepared to die on account of Christ but he says that Christ died υπερ ημων These are different constructions with different meanings. I take him to be saying that Jesus died as our substitute. That would fit what he says elsewhere.

      Anselm did not invent the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement.

      There’s no reason to set Christus Victor against substitution. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

  3. Your point is well taken, Dr Clark (even though you meant to answer Richard). It’s both/ and. Personally, I do not reject PS (I doubt if Richard also completely reject PS); instead what I have come to see is that the centrality of the Atonement is the unconditional love/ mercy of God – rather than justice. This would fit better with the “flip-side” of the Atonement which is none other than *forensic* justification in that God *justifies* the *unjust.*

    • 1. I have never previously doubted PS other than a sneaking feeling that mercy as the centrality might fit better (again brought up by Forde)

      2. However G Forde (not to be dismissed lightly) goes further in writing ‘Law in Luther’s thinking, Haikola says, simply does not provide the kind of structure necessary to support a Latin theory of the atonement’…[because]..’Law is an existential power…’ and ‘Atonement is the actual end of the law through faith’. Reading on, I think Forde is going to be favor Haikola’s view..!

      3. Incidentally ‘dying for us’ does not necessarily mean ‘dying in our place’ but even when it does, must it carry a primarily penal element (presumably not), and even if it does, must that penal element arise solely from God’s wrath against man, or can His wrath lie on Sin, the Devil, Man and even the corrupted Creation? (in the Flood, God destroyed not just man but creation too). Just thinking aloud

  4. Thank you both (RSC and Jason) for your clarifications

    RSC, if I may, where (which Church Father) would you say vicarious substitution was first set forth as a specific doctrine in contradistinction to other doctrines? (though clearly the Bible is full of it). Secondly, if it is to hand, what is the greek for ‘to die FOR Jesus Christ’?

    Jason’s 2nd para follows G Forde’s book (Law and Gospel) and point to a richness in Jesus’ atoning death – a richness that can go beyond vicarious substitution without necessarily excluding it (though Forde argues that Luther did lay very much less store on VS)

Comments are closed.