Mike Aquilina

The Difference

Tuesday July 21st 2009, 6:20 pm

A week or so ago, I wrote about Kenneth Howell’s new translation of Ignatius of Antioch (with theological commentary), commenter Kevin Scull asked: “I was wondering how Howell’s commentary compares to Schoedel’s Hermeneia volume. Although my specialty is Paul of Tarsus, I find Ignatius to be of tremendous importance and have been looking for an update to Schoedel’s great volume as 1985 is starting to be a bit dated. (Yikes that’s a hard pill to swallow!) I would appreciate any comparisons you could provide.”

I asked Dr. Howell himself, and he replied:

Bill Schoedel, who was a professor here in my department for many years, did a lot of fine work on the earliest fathers of the church. His commentary on Ignatius in the Hermeneia series sought to address a different audience from my book.  The Hermeneia series was designed to address the thorniest historical and hermeneutical issues known to scholars. As scholar who loves detailed questions, I have profitably  used many commentaries in the Hermeneia series.

But there are two major differences between Schoedel’s commentary and my own. One is simply audience. I sought to make the theology of Ignatius more accessible to a wider audience i.e. the educated non-specialist. I did address some disputed points but I was not trying to address the concerns of scholars. Therefore, I had to be selective about what issues I chose to address. Secondly, Schoedel’s commentary does not always portray Ignatius as a representative of the wider faith of the church in the 2nd century. This is characteristic, as I explained in my preface and at several points in my five introductory chapters, of professional historians of early Christianity who often treat particular fathers as individuals without seeing them as representatives of a mainstream faith handed on from the apostles. I, on the other hand, translated and commented on Ignatius by explicating the underlying theology of the Antiochean bishop and especially his connections with Paul and other NT writers.

BTW, we are soon to have a second, expanded edition with the addition of Polycarp (his Letter to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp) as well as an introductory chapter on him.