The High Priest and the Temple: Metaphorical Depictions of Jesus in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch

Author: Lookadoo, Jonathon

Date: 2017

Publisher: University of Otago

Type: Thesis

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University of Otago


Taking seriously Ignatius of Antioch’s composition of his letters as individual documents sent to separate communities, this thesis explores the high priestly and temple metaphors in Ephesians 9.1; 15.3, Magnesians 7.2, and Philadelphians 7.2; 9.1. It begins by considering Ignatius’s representation of his opponents in order to understand better some of the polemical purposes for which Ignatius utilizes temple imagery. Immediately afterward, it addresses the singular references to Jesus as high priest as well as door and considers his mediatorial role. Noting that the high priestly metaphor is employed in the same argument as a temple metaphor pushes the analysis to examine the relationship between the two images in Philadelphians 5–9. Jesus’s cross plays a similar mediatorial role in the temple metaphor of Ephesians 9.1 and suggests that Ignatius’s high priestly conception of Jesus extends beyond his single use of the word. Yet Jesus is depicted as the God who deserves worship in the temple in Ephesians 15.3, which suggests that Jesus’s role in the temple is more complex than mediator alone. Jesus’s connection to and identity with the Father in the temple metaphor of Magnesians 7.2 provides a helpful way to understand Jesus’s role in the temple. Here, he is the Magnesians’ example, mediator, and God as they run together to the temple. This study thus explores Ignatius’s pairing of high priestly and temple metaphors in order to come to a clearer understanding of Jesus’s identity. In so doing, it allows for a better view of how three of Ignatius’s audiences were to demonstrate unity. Such a focus is distinct from previous studies of Ignatius’s cultic language by Legarth and Kieffer, which seek to be comprehensive but skew the rhetorical purpose for which the metaphors are used. A second matter of interest in the study involves the comparison of Ignatius’s imagery with that of the surrounding early Jewish and early Christian literary environment. Ignatius’s temple and priestly imagery is different from but can be situated alongside similar metaphors in some early Jewish and early Christian texts. However, the primary focus here remains on the relationship between Jesus and the people of God that Ignatius depicts in the paired metaphors of high priest and temple. Jesus is able to function as mediator between the Father and his people because he is God and human. As the one priest, who is capable of unifying the people with the Father as both God and mediator, Jesus provides the basis of unity for the Ephesian, Magnesian, and Philadelphian temples.

Subjects: Ignatius of Antioch, temple, high priest, Ephesians, Magnesians, Philadelphians

Citation: ["Lookadoo, J. (2017). The High Priest and the Temple: Metaphorical Depictions of Jesus in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from"]

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