I came across this rather interesting play on words in Ignatius’ letter to the Smyraeans the other day and thought it might be fun to share it with you. I have bolded the words in Greek and the corresponding translation. The passage is from 5.2, which is concerned with Ignatius’ opposition to the Docetists—a heretical Christian sect that claimed Christ only appeared in the flesh. Here is the passage:
τί γάρ [με] ὠφελεῖ, εἰ ἐμὲ ἐπαινεῖ τις, τὸν δὲ Κύριόν μου βλασφημεῖ, μὴ ὁμολογῶν αὐτὸν σαρκοφόρον; ὁ δὲ τοῦτο μὴ λέγων τελείως αυτὸν ἀπήρρνηται, ὢν νεκροφόρος.
For what does it benefit me if someone praises me but blasphemes my Lord by not confessing that he is a flesh-bearer. And the one who does not say this denies him completely being a corpse-bearer (or clothed in a corpse).
This poignant little play on words illustrates what Ignatius claims throughout the letter: Jesus’ possession of a physical body and his real sufferings are both the source of our salvation and the hope of our resurrection. Thus, the one who denies that he lived in the flesh has no hope of life but bears about himself his own corpse.
Speaking of Ignatius and the Apostolic Fathers, you should check out the work that Brian Renshaw and Shawn Wilhite are doing over at Apostolic Fathers Greek Reader.