Polycarp and Ignatius - a Second Century model for Christian unity or not?
What are or should the core shared beliefs for Christians be? How much diversity can there be? These questions are complicated, especially in the 21st century! I'm busy reading an engaging book on the early church by Josef Lössl (The Early Church. History and Memory). In one section he discusses the unity and diversity to be found in Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch (both early second century bishop's). Ignatius clearly comes from a Hellenistic background where the liturgical processions and social order of the Greek city state receives a prominent place. Polycarp on the other hand comes from a Jewish background which colors his interpretation of among other things apostolic tradition and church liturgy. It is safe to say that at least in some sense Polycarp and Ignatius represent two radically distinct forms of ecclesiology and liturgy. But what binds them together, that Polycarp can call Ignatius his brother?
Just before being martyred Polycarp allegedly prayed: "I bless you... for the resurrection of eternal life of both soul and body in the incorruption of the Holy Spirit" (14:2).
Also on the resurrection, Ignatius writes in his letter to Smyrna: "For I know and believe that after the resurrection he [Jesus] was in the flesh...even though he was spiritually united to the father" (3:1-3).
Apparently, they agreed on the "central tenets". This included "Jesus Christ [was] 'truly' born, crucified, dead and risen from the dead, against those who believed that Christ had suffered and died 'in appearance' only" (Lössl, 2009:87).
What should constitute Christian unity today? Can the above "central tenets" be re-negotiated or not?
News from New Testament at Radboud University, Nijmegen: Johan Fourie from Tzaneen, South Africa is here for a few weeks to work on his PhD. His dissertation title is: "The Vine and the Body - A metaphorical-ecclesionlogical study on the unity and the essence of the church".