From Antioch to Today: Understanding Ignatius of Antioch's Christology and Legacy: Gregory Vall

Season 2 | Episode 15
40m | May 1, 2023

The (Re)Orhodox Theology podcast recently featured Dr. Gregory Vall, a professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary of New Orleans, to discuss the significance of Ignatius of Antioch and his Christology. Ignatius, a church father who lived around 113 AD, was a member of the church at Antioch, which was significant in the early days of Christianity due to its mixed community of Jewish and Gentile Christians. He was the first person to use the term Christianity and spoke clearly about the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Ignatius referred to himself as an Episcoposs and was the first to use the term Catholic Church.

Dr. Vall discussed Ignatius' role in the early Christian community at Antioch and his teachings on the structure of the local church. Ignatius studied the New Testament writings, including Matthew's gospel, John's thoughts, and Paul's letters, and synthesized them into a constructive theology that foreshadows the work of later church fathers.

The conversation then focused on Ignatius of Antioch's Christology. Ignatius emphasized the unique father-son relationship between Jesus and God, recognizing Jesus as divine. He referred to Jesus as the Son of God or the Son of the Father, establishing a unique sonship that differs from the adoption of sons and daughters of God that St. Paul speaks of. Ignatius never suggests that Jesus becomes the Son by being sent into the world, indicating that the Father-Son relationship is always present. Ignatius has a high Christology, referring to Jesus as God in Ephesians and Romans, but also emphasizes the father-son relationship, establishing strict equality and oneness between them.

The conversation also touched on the concept of high Christology, which recognizes Jesus as divine, and low Christology, which focuses on his humanity. However, in Ignatius and the New Testament, Christology is high and low because Jesus is God and man.

Dr. Vall then discussed Ignatius' rejection of docetism and his belief in Christ's true humanity through his conception of the Virgin Mary. Ignatius sees Mary as significant in His Christology because she is the one through whom and from whom he receives his humanity. The Passion and Resurrection are important moments in Christ's life, where his humanity is transformed.

The conversation explored how Ignatius reconciled the Old Testament passages that arguably could be referring to Christ manifested like the divine being wrestling Jacob or a divine being coming and visiting Abraham with two other angels. Ignatius also discussed Mary's role in Christology, referring to her as one of the figures in these statements that grounds the faith in historical reality and has a particular role vis-a-vis the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Vall explained that God is eternally happy and perfect in himself and creates out of generosity and love. Despite not needing to create the world or us, God wants to share his happiness with his creatures. The distinction between God in his inner life and God's action in the world, known as the economy of God, is important to understand in order to fully grasp Ignatius' Christology and the New Testament. Ultimately, God's action in creating and redeeming the world is part of his plan or economy, but he himself is eternal, unchangeable, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The conversation ended with the importance of reading Ignatius' work and interpreting Scripture faithfully. Ignatius' writings helped the speaker understand how Scripture and the church fathers went together. Dr. Vall pointed out that Ignatius' work provides insight into the church's reception of the New Testament and interpretation of scripture throughout history.


[0:00:07] Exploring the Christology of Ignatius of Antioch with Dr. Gregory Vall: A Discussion on the Significance of Early Christian Theology and Church Structure

[0:06:30] A Discussion on the Significance of Ignatius of Antioch in Early Christianity and His Influence on Theology

[0:08:47] Exploring Ignatius of Antioch's Understanding of the Father-Son Relationship in His Christology

[0:12:28] Exploring Ignatius' High Christology and the Revelation of God through Jesus

[0:15:12] A Discussion on Ignatius' Christology and His Rejection of Docetism

[0:17:50] A Discussion on Ignatius of Antioch's Christology and the Role of Mary

[0:21:07] A Discussion on the Presence of Christ in the Old Testament and Mary's Role in Christology with a Theologian

[0:26:10] A Discussion on Ignatius of Antioch's Christology and the Role of Mary in the Faith

[0:28:52] A Discussion on Ignatius and the Distinction between God's Inner Life and Action in the World

[0:35:53] A Discussion on God's Creation and the Importance of Reading the Work of Ignatius Today

[0:38:04] Interview with a Scholar on the Importance of Ignatius of Antioch in Early Christianity

His Book: Learning Christ

(Re)Orthodox Theology