Saturday, 23 September 2017

Name-dropping in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch (Short, Middle and Long Recension)

Working on the final chapter (Ignatius of Antioch) of my new, forthcoming book on 'Retrospective Patristics - A Guide to Early Christians' (hence I have been less productive on the blog here as I did primary research), I noticed an interesting phenomenon, related to the appearance of names. I'd like to share this as a snippet to discuss this with you.

            In order to get a sense of links that are made through names (not listed are biblical names, and names of heretics), the following table lists the names that appear in the letters of Ignatius (often, but not exclusively in salutations) (x set in bold means that the name also appears in the Short Recension, x set in brackets means that the name only appears in the Long Recension where letters exist also in the Middle or Short Recensions):


Pol
Eph
Rom
Mag
Tral
Philad
Sm
Phil
Tar
Ant
Her
Mar
MarCIgn
Polycarp
x
x

x


x
x

x
x


Epitropus’ wife
x












Attalus
x












Alce
x





x






Crocus

x
x










Burrhus

x



x
x






Euplus

x











Fronto

x











Onesimus

x







x
x


Bassus



x









Apollonius



x









Sotio



x









Anencletus




x








Bitus/Philo





(x)/x
(x)/x
x
x
x
x


Gaius/Rheus





(x)/x
(x)/x






Agathopus





x
x
x
x
x



Damas



x
x





x


Polybius




x




x
x


Tavias






x






Daphnus






x






Eutecnus






x






Linus




(x)






x

Clement




(x)
(x)





x

Hero










x
x

Cassian









x
x
x

Maris









x


x
Evodius





(x)







Mary










x
x
x
Vitalius







x





Euphanius







x





Eulogius












x
Sobelius












x

The three main Ignatian Recensions are very different in their dealing with names. While the Middle Recension is a real name-dropper, the Short Recension only gives us three names: Ignatius himself (not listed here) as author of the letters and the two addressees, Onesimus, bishop of Ephesus, and Polycarp. Ignatius – his cognomen ‘Theophoros’, as shown above, seems to be a 6th c. addition – is introduced and right in the beginning of IgnEph 1 etymologically (ܪܬܚܢ; ἀναζωπυρήσαντες) explained. ‘Ignatius’ means the one who is ‘kindled’, ‘sparked’ or ‘heated’ by God’s blood. Likewise, the name of ‘Onesimus’ has an etymological meaning which is indicated by the way he is introduced when mention is made that Ignatius has ‘received your abundance in the name of God’, ‘Onesimus’ meaning ‘aiding, succouring, beneficial’ (LSJ). The only person’s name that is not etymologically explained is that of Polycarp, an indication that this might have been the only self-explanatory one with a historical figure behind it.

            In contrast to the sparse and particular use of names in the Short Recension, we see a sheer name-dropping in the Middle Recension, one of its characteristics. It gives us a network of twentyone different names. Interestingly, from the nine names that the Middle Recension has in the three letters that are also present in the Short Recension, IgnPol, IgnEph, and IgnRom, only those three names will re-appear in the Long Recension which can be found presicely in the three letters of the Short Recension, Ignatius, Onesimus and Polycarp – not a single one of the other six. Moreover, only three of the other twelve names that the Middle Recension has in the other four letters, will re-appear in the Long Recension (Agathopus, Damas, Polybius), two will be replaced by other names, Bitus by Philo, Gaius by Rheus, in both cases potentially based on misspellings during the transmission. It is certainly of importance that the Long Recension introduces a very different spectrum of names than those which are given by the Middle Recension, while the Long Recension only adheres to the names of the Short Recension. If the Short Recension had been an abbreviation of the Middle Recension this would be hardly explicable, whereas the redactor who expanded the Middle Recension into the Long Recension still must have known the Short Recension with the three names, and even taken this Recension as historically a more reliable reference text in terms of names than that of the Middle Recension. In any case, based on the occurence of names, the Long Recension appears as a competing version to that of the Middle Recension.