Leuven Encounters in Systematic Theology edition:5 location:Leuven, Belgium date:2-5 November 2005
The Didache, the Seven Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, and the Martyrdom of Polycarp all belong to the earliest extracanonical Christian testimonies dealing with the question of human suffering. Many scholars have pointed out how each of these documents, albeit in various ways, link the concept of suffering with Christology. This relation is presented most clearly in Ignatius’ Letters. They repeatedly emphasize the importance of the reality of Christ’s Incarnation and Passion for Ignatius’ own martyrdom. Although the Didache and the Martyrdom of Polycarp are less explicit on this connection, divergent scholarly interpretations of their respective concepts of suffering depend to a large extent on the particular Christology they advocate. Researchers have also drawn attention to the link between the concept of suffering and the references to the eucharist in these documents. Safe for the Letters of Ignatius, however, this link is very poorly explored in the secondary literature. This paper argues that eucharistic passages of the Didache and of the Martyrdom of Polycarp can help to elucidate important features of the concept of human suffering. In particular, it highlights the important connection between this notion and Christology. Furthermore, this paper surmises that differences among the presentations of suffering in these three documents must be traced back to diverse Christological teachings.