Ignatius of Antioch
From "The Blood of Martyrs - The History of the Christian Church" by Leigh Churchill (2001). The author documents the persecution of Christians by non-believers, the fight against heresies that raged in the early church and the providence of God in strengthing his children and expanding his kingdom.
In particular, I will consider the recollection of Ignatius of Antioch. Why Ignatius of Antioch? Well, because I am Aramaic and Ignatius of Antioch (or more correctly Mor Ignatius of Antioch) is Aramaic. I believe he is also one of the Patriachs of the Syrian Orthodox Church. He is also a leader of courage. He stood up against the evil of Emperor Trajan and his distrust of "secret societies". For this he was sentenced to death (not in Antioch but in Rome).
Here is the extract:
In Antioch, a major crackdown on illegal clubs took place in about the year 107, and among those arrested was the city's bishop, Ignatius, one of the greatest of the apostolic fathers. The elderly minister was taken before the governor, and when he refused to deny Christ he was sentenced to be transported to Rome to be thrown to the lions in the ampitheatre. The reasons for the execution being removed from Antioch to distant Rome were various, chief among them the desire to prevent rebellion amongst Ignatius' flock and also to spread the fear of a similar fate to Christians all along the route of the martyr's last journey.
The bishop was sent to Rome with a guard of ten soldiers. The long road to the imperial capital passed through many important towns of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), and whenever the soldiers halted, the local Christians flocked to meet Ignatius. Rather than inspiring terror throughout the region, the bishop's presence became a source of encouragement and inspiration, and he composed a number of letters addressing issues within the local churches. We still possess these letters, seven in all, and they are among the most important writings of the early church.
The main topics in six of Ignatius' seven letters are two of the different perversions of Christian belief that were afflicting the church in his time. Ignatius' responses to these perversions are highly important - not only because of the power of his teaching in itself, but because his letters show how a very early Christian teacher, a discipke of the apostles, dealt with false belief. The errors that Ignatius tackles are departures from the truth in opposite directions - one moving the gospel toward Judaism (Judaizers), and the other towards paganism (Docetism).
Important as are Ignatius' teachings on false belief, it is actually his seventh letter, sent ahead of himself to the Romans which is his most famous contribution to Christian literature. It is a starkly new type of writing, a document such as the world has never before known. This seventh letter is a celebration of death - the author's own impending death.
'I would sooner die for Jesus' name than reign over all the earth. My desire is the One who died for us; He who rose again is all my care. True life lies before me and it will be no favour on your part to keep me from coming to birth. Allow me to attain the pure light, for I long to imitate the sacrificial passion of my God. If you have Him within yourself you will understand my eagerness...My desires have been crucified and no fire requires fuel, but within me I hear the voice of living water. "Come to the Father," it whispers.'
Ignatius' hopes were not disappointed. The bishop of Antioch became one of the church's most famous martyrs, and for centuries his letter to the Romans has proved a great encouragement to others faced with persecution.