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Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch at the end of the first century and perhaps the beginning of the second century too. He was, according to early Christian tradition, apparently a disciple of the evangelist John. There are some later traditions that say that he was even installed as Bishop by Peter himself in Antioch when Peter was evangelizing in Antioch. And, another tradition still, says that when Ignatius was a child, he had met Jesus himself.
He’s important in Christian tradition because he’s one of the apostolic fathers. He’s sort of a bridge between the events of the New Testament and the early church. He’s best known as a martyr because he was sentenced to die and as he traveled from Antioch to Rome, he wrote a series of letters to individuals and churches in Asia Minor and also to Rome giving them instructions.
Now these instructions are really significant for our understanding of early Christianity because they provide some of our earliest evidence for church hierarchy and organization. How are bishops, presbyters, other individuals in Christian communities going to organize themselves in this period after the deaths of the apostles? What is liturgy going to look like? Can you hold a Christian meal with just two or three people or do you need a Bishop present? How will we run baptisms? He’s also, perhaps, most famously known as a very enthusiastic martyr.