Allen Brent

Ignatius of Antioch and the Second Sophistic

A Study of an Early Christian Transformation of Pagan Culture

[Ignatius von Antiochien und die zweite Sophistik. Untersuchung einer frühchristlichen Abwandlung heidnischer Kultur.]

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Published in English.
Ignatius of Antioch was the earliest Christian writer to develop a theology of church order and ministry that bears comparison with what became normative in later Christendom as that of bishops, priests and deacons. Allen Brent has produced a new account of the origin of such a concept of ministerial order in the religious cults and civic institutions of the pagan Greek city-states of Asia Minor in the second sophistic.
The letters of Ignatius of Antioch, whether considered genuine or pseudonymous, have been generally understood as addressing concerns and issues within the Church. Consequently, his language has been read as an expression of second century Judaeo Christianity or as a reply to Valentinianism, with little direct contact or concern with the surrounding pagan culture. Allen Brent submits Ignatius' language to a comprehensive analysis and seeks to show that both conceptually, and in terms of the form of his arguments, his language game is clearly that of the pagan, Greek city-states of Asia Minor in the Second Sophistic. The author shows from a variety of evidence, both literary, epigraphic and iconographic, that Ignatius' cultural background is in the world of the discourse of Hellenic autonomy against Roman imperial power, in the image-bearing mystery cults of the cities to whom he writes, in their embassies and Homonia treaties, and in their ideal of unity in a common culture expressed by their constitutions and cultural practices. Ignatius emerges as a brilliant missionary strategist, able to reshape ecclesial order in terms of secular social order and its conventions, whose work was scarcely comprehended by his more conservative Christian contemporaries and only later canonized by means of a gross distortion that obscured his original meaning.

Allen Brent Born 1940; supernumary member of the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge.


The following reviews are known:

In: Theologische Literaturzeitung — 133 (2008), S. 56–58 (Horacio E. Lona)
In: Revue des Sciences philosophiques et theologique — 99 (2015), S. 302–304 (Bernard Meunier)
In: Revue d'histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses — 87 (2007), S. 348–349 (B. Pouderon)
In: Religious Studies Review — 33 (2007), S. 72 (Michael Holmes)
In: New Testament Abstracts — 50 (2006), S. 620
In: Mayeutica — 32 (2006), S. 241–242 (Enrique Eguiarte)
In: Vigiliae Christianae — 64 (2010), S. 89–94 (B. Dehandschutter)
In: The Expository Times — 120 (2009), S. 564–566 (Andrew Gregory)
In: Journal of Ecclesiastical History — 59 (2008), S. 86–87 (M.J. Edwards)