The Letters of Ignatius: Originally Written By a Follower of an Ex-Marcionite?

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by Roger Parvus

In 2011 Roger Parvus posted a series here arguing that the letters of Ignatius were in fact composed by a follower of a breakaway sect from Marcionism. Roger’s thesis builds upon ideas advanced by earlier scholars that the letters of Ignatius show signs of the teachings of someone closely related to Marcionism, such as Apelles, a former disciple of Marcion. Roger also revisits and develops an idea that first appeared a century ago in scholarly publications that the author of the original letters was in fact that colorful character Peregrinus, the subject of a satire by Lucian.

Since then, Roger has nuanced some of those posts, and I also have learned a little about more effective ways to present lengthy posts in a relatively quick-and-easy-to-follow layout on a blog page. So I will be posting a new series of the revised version of Roger’s posts over coming months. I will also add another easy-reference index page in the right-hand margin similar to the one I have set up for Earl Doherty’s responses to Bart Ehrman.


I am genuinely grateful to Neil for allowing me to present on his blog a series of posts explaining my theory about the letters commonly attributed to Ignatius of Antioch. It should be understood that his permission does not imply that he concurs with the theory or any part of it. These posts will be a condensed, revised version of the main arguments contained in my self-published book A New Look at the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch and other Apellean Writings.

In particular I will argue

Author: Peregrinus

Religion: follower of Apelles (ex-Marcionite)

Reviser: an unknown proto-Catholic

  1. that the seven Ignatian letters that comprise the middle recension were originally letters written by Peregrinus c. 145 CE,
  2. that he was an Apellean Christian i.e. a follower of the ex-Marcionite Apelles, and
  3. that later, towards the end of the second century, the letters were modified by a proto-Catholic Christian.
The authenticity of the letters has been questioned by many in the last three hundred years . . . Christian pseudepigraphical writing was not rare.

By way of preliminaries I would first point out that the kind of scenario I am proposing for the letters should not be dismissed out of hand. The authenticity of the letters has been questioned by many in the last three hundred years.

And it is a fact that there exist versions of them that are acknowledged as spurious by all (e.g. the longer recension of the letters) and that early Christians at some point composed entire Ignatian letters that all scholars recognize as spurious (e.g. the letters of Ignatius to Mary; and to Hero; and to the Tarsians). It is likewise a fact that already in the second century many Christians, with perhaps the best of intentions, were engaged in less-than-straightforward literary efforts. Christian pseudepigraphical writing was not rare and even produced works that made it into the New Testament.

The scenario I am proposing for the Ignatians is similar. I am proposing that some letters written by Peregrinus were later reworked, so that the lofty sentiments they contain would be safe and suitable to inspire other Christians facing persecution by the state. Continue reading “The Letters of Ignatius: Originally Written By a Follower of an Ex-Marcionite?”